Keeping Holy the Sabbath
17th Sunday after Pentecost
My upcoming trip to Kansas City this
week made me think of those unfortunate folks, victims one and all
of Vatican II, who find themselves too far from the traditional Mass
to be able to fulfill their Sunday obligations. That got me
thinking about the nature of these obligations, when exactly they
apply, and what we should do if we are unable to meet them.
First of all, it should be said that
the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is not one of
the Ten Commandments. The Third Commandment tells us to
remember to observe the Sabbath, which is the seventh day of the
week, on which God “rested” after his work of Creation. It
does not tell us we have to go to Mass on Sunday. The Apostles
changed the day on which we are commanded to give external worship
to God from Saturday to Sunday in honor of the Resurrection and of
Pentecost, both of which occurred on the first day of the week.
It was also deemed more fitting to give honor to God on this first
day, that is before all other works are begun. The “opus Dei”,
or Work of God, should come first.
In making Mass attendance a precept of
the Church, a grave obligation was imposed upon the faithful to obey
it. Going to Mass has never been an option that should be
decided upon when you wake up on Sunday morning. The
obligation is grave, and should never be ignored for superficial
reasons. We have six days to complete all the other
obligations we feel we may have in life, but surely, we can give to
God one day of the week? The Church does not ask this
question, she answers it. And we know the answer.
Sporting events, social occasions, political or business meetings
are, or should be banned on Sundays, and Catholics should never
participate in them on this day. The reason is simple, that
they distract us from our primary duty, which is to give honor to
God. Attendance at Mass is part of that duty, but by no means
the only one. We must also refrain from any idle servile work,
from shopping, from doing business—in short, from anything that
takes us away from what we belong doing.
Recreation is not banned, and indeed
may be considered quite appropriate. Family picnics, a drive
in the country, an informal game of soccer, suitable video games,
these are all things that may be done as part of our Sunday
relaxation. But more formal sports, where some kind of
obligation is imposed on participating, that’s a different story.
When may we legitimately miss Mass?
When the distance from our home is so inconvenient that it becomes a
legitimate burden on us or our family. Even then, care must be
taken not to abandon the Holy Sacrifice altogether, but rather we
should make the long trip as often as we think prudent and
justified. The sick are excused of course, as well as those
who must stay home to take care of them. Those who work in
jobs that must be performed on Sundays, such as nurses, police
officers, bakers, and so on, are also excused, but they should try
and manipulate their shifts so as to be able to attend if possible.
Working at MacDonald’s is not a legitimate reason for missing Mass,
so get a job at Chick-Fil-A instead.
Finally, we must “remember to keep the
Sabbath”. This is most definitely one of the Ten
Commandments, and even if we can’t attend Mass, we are still obliged
to give worship to God on this day, no matter what. To disobey
this commandment is to defy the law of God himself, and that
may never be done!
FR. BERNARD G. HALL
Dean of Chapter
Guild of St. Peter