Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What is The Sunday Mass Obligation?

Q - My question is about what the Sunday obligation for worship is. I used to think it was one had to recieve communion but I don't think this is correct, is it? Isn't the obligation to attend mass, not receive Communion? Is it acceptable to attend another Christian church? Last Sunday I attended Mass and then went  to a "community church" service with a friend, which was a quite different experience. Frankly, I found the experience to be lacking in liturgy,which was quite disappointing, and the obvious absence of the Eucharist left me feeling as though I had just attended a Wed. night praise and worship service and not church - thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting but nothing truly substantial.

A - Thanks for the questions.  Your instincts are right on track and while I will answer your questions about the obligations that we have as Catholics, the Church (and Christ) want us to desire more than just fulfilling our obligations. From your questions, I know that you do desire more than just fulfilling your obligations, and you are just asking the questions for the sake of clarification.

Catholics have obligations to meet in regards to both attending Mass and receiving Communion, but unlike what many Catholics believe, they are not necessarily the same thing.  This obligation began with the ancient Israelites - "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day."

1 - Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.
2 - Catholics are obligated to rest (spiritually and physically) from labor on these same days.
3 - Catholics are obligated to receive Communion once a year (Easter Duty).

So, it isn't that we have to receive Communion every time we go to Mass.  In fact, there are too many people who are receiving in most parishes.  Why do I say this?  Because not every Catholic is spiritually disposed to receive Communion.  To receive Communion we must be in good standing with the Church, free from any impediments to receiving Communion (e.g. divorced and remarried without Church an annulment), be baptized, and be in the state of grace (i.e. no unconfessed mortal sins).

There is nothing wrong with going to a non-Catholic church as long as you fulfill your obligation by going to Mass.  A non-Catholic church service would not fulfill your obligation.  It is no surprise that you didn't find the other service fulfilling.  That is because our longing for the grace we receive in the Eucharist can be fulfilled in no other manner.

I hope this helps.  Here are some past posts that might shed more light on these issues:
**Why Can't Non-Catholics Receive Communion in a Catholic Church?
**What is The Sabbath Rest?
**Does Having an Infant Excuse One From Sunday Obligation?
**How Is Jesus Present In The Eucharist?
**The Eucharist and Grace.


Jamie said...

Just to clarify, in your example of being in a state of grace, did you mean no un-confessed mortal sins?

I've recently read a lot about what it means to be in "full communion" with the church, as I am preparing to have my civil marriage convalidated (after years of not knowing that this was a mortal sin and simply being certain I made a good confession before taking communion). I'm going to lengths to arrange for confession right before the convalidation happens as well, so I can begin to receive the Eucharist again.

While at first I felt so sad and angry and then left out that I could not receive the Eucharist, I now am thrilled and excited. I know that receiving it in full communion will be a very fulfilling experience.

Marcel said...

Thanks for the catch. The "un" part makes a big difference.