- The Contents
- Regular Sections
- About us
- Misyon Forum
Is it alright if I skip Sunday Mass and just have my own personal reflection during the height of winter when it is extremely cold if I have no means of transport? (The question came from a Filipino studying in the USA but the situation is representative of many others, eg, having to travel, having to deal with an emergency such as the illness of someone in the family, etc).
I remember an incident when I was still at school. My father was the breadwinner and out the whole day working on a construction site while my mother was a housewife, taking care of everything at home. In those days there was clarity about roles in the family and there was nothing ‘second class’ about being a housewife, certainly not in our home. Both my parents took a quiet pride in their roles and work.
Every morning after coming home from Mass and before going to work my father would prepare my mother’s breakfast and bring it to her in bed. (Many consider breakfast in bed a luxury. I connect it only with hospitals and illness!) Without fail, my mother would have my father’s dinner ready for him when he came home in the evening. She, my brother and I used to have our mail meal at lunch time, the practice in those days.
One evening my mother was quite upset because she didn’t have my father’s dinner ready on time. Something had turned up and delayed her but she felt a real sense of kahiya. However, my father just laughed and wasn’t in the least upset. He knew that every single day of his married life my mother, his wife, had his dinner ready on time, except when she was sick. This was one of the ways she showed her love for him, just as he did by preparing her breakfast every morning, even when relations were a little strained.
If, on the other hand, my mother had seldom prepared my father’s dinner, even though he worked to bring home the money to buy the food, he might have had reason to question her love for him. But that was not the case. So on the one evening in his married life that his dinner wasn’t ready when he came home he happily waited and smiled.
I think that the way my father acted reflects how God the Father looks on us. When our normal practice is to make Sunday Mass central to our lives – and in my father’s case it was central to his daily life – when we miss it on occasion for a serious reason God understands.
We have a serious obligation to take part in Sunday Mass. Canon 1247 reads:
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass; they are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body. (Canon Law is the Church’s body of laws)
Canon 1248 reads: 1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.
2. If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the liturgy of the word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.
Here in the Philippines many places where there is no Sunday Mass have a liturgy of the word led by a lay person. The readings of the Sunday or holyday are read and sometimes a homily prepared by the bishop or priest is read also.
In the spirit of Canon 1248, 2, I would think that when you can’t go out to Mass a time of personal reflection and prayer should be set aside for the Lord. If there is Mass on TV or on the radio the person could tune in and be there in spirit.
I often wonder if Filipinos who employ domestic staff or who own businesses give proper time off to their workers to attend Mass. Since the obligation applies to all Catholics I would think that Catholic employers in particular have a serious responsibility to enable their staff to be free for Mass, though they can’t force them to go. They also have a serious obligation in justice to give their workers proper free time, apart from the question of Sunday Mass. Employers who deny their workers their right to their own time commit a serious sin against justice.
When we participate in Holy Mass we listen to God’s word being solemnly proclaimed to the community and, when we are free from mortal sin, that is sin involving grave matter, full knowledge that it is wrong and full consent, we can and should receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. We can hear the word of God proclaimed when we view Mass on TV or listen to it on the radio, but we cannot receive the Body of Christ.
Under ‘Sunday Reflections’ in our Online Forum we carry these two quotations: ‘We cannot live without Sunday’: Martyrs of Abitene, Italy, AD304. 'Without Sunday, without the Eucharist, the Christians in Iraq cannot survive': Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni, Martyr of Iraq, 3 June 2007.
Here is a recording of Father Ragheed singing a hymn to our Blessed Mother, used as a background to a video of his funeral.