EDITED: "Only Mass that counts is one intended for specific Sunday/HDO" is wrong


In the Light of the Law by Dr. Edward Peters

Have you been told that only the Mass intended for a specific Sunday or holy day of obligation counts for the satisfaction of your obligation to attend Mass on that day? If so, I’m afraid you’ve been told wrong.

Canon 1248 § 1 states that one who “assists” (or “attends” or “participates”, etc.) at a Mass “in a Catholic rite … satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.” Notice, there is no requirement in the law that the Mass be the “correct” Mass for the day, or that it be celebrated licitly (or that it be celebrated in a church, or on a certain type of all altar, concerns that at various times in history impacted satisfaction of the Mass attendance obligation), in order for assistance at that Mass to satisfy one’s Mass attendance obligation. It only has to be Mass “in a Catholic rite”.

Sure, priests are supposed to say the ‘correct’ Mass for the time they are celebrating, but the choice of which Mass to say is a matter of liturgical law, while Mass attendance obligations are a matter of canon law. The faithful have virtually no control over a priest’s choice of Mass, or about how he celebrates it, and so they should not be, and are not, held hostage by a priest’s choice of rites in fulfilling their own attendance obligations. This point was made during the revision of the canon law and the Mass attendance norm was revised with this concern in mind. As a result, the CLSA Comm (1985) 854 said, “Participation in any Eucharistic celebration fulfills the obligation” and, in even more detail, the CLSA New Comm (2000) 1445 says: “The precept [of attending Mass] may be satisfied at any Catholic Mass, i.e., not only when the texts are those of the Sunday or holy day. For example, attendance at a wedding Mass . . . on a Saturday [evening] fulfills the Sunday obligation.” Okay?

So, get to Mass for Sunday (even if it’s not ‘Sunday’s’ Mass), and get to Mass for Immaculate Conception (even if it’s not ‘Immac. Conception’s’ Mass), and you’ll be fine.


Interesting. Though perhaps attending a Mass that is licit as opposed to “just” being sacramentally valid, is not something anyone should discourage!

A question I have often wondered about is that, a Saturday evening Mass counts for Sunday, in terms of obligation, sure - but if I attended two masses on the Sunday itself, would the Saturday one count in terms of receiving Holy Communion (so that one going to those 3 masses, could only receive at one of the Sunday ones, assuming they did on Saturday evening) ?


No. You may receive twice in one day at Masses you attend. The Saturday evening Mass, while fulfilling the Sunday obligation, is still celebrated on Saturday.



Waiting for the inevitable “Saturday counts for Sunday, so don’t go to Communion” argument in 3… 2… 1… :wink:


Thanks - not that this happens all that often, sadly, in my case, but it’s nice to know!


But what about the “dominici dies,” or the Lord’s Day, which JPII has defined to begin with Saturday’s vespers, not to be confused with the midnight-to-midnight Sunday?


What’s the point of this? Why swing canon law around like a stone ax to scare and upset people?


The following situation, per the canons, would be perfectly legal.


  1. Bertha attends a wedding Mass for her friends, Brunhilde and Steve, on Saturday during the day, at noon. She receives Holy Communion. At this point, because the Mass was celebrated before the evening, she has not fulfilled her obligation to attend Mass on the day of precept or the evening before.

  2. The wedding and reception over, it is now going on 4:30 and Bertha is still on the grounds of the parish, and the anticipated Mass for Sunday is about to begin. She decides to attend, reasoning that that way she can sleep a little extra tomorrow morning to recover from the wedding festivities. She attends Mass at 5:30 and receives Holy Communion a second time that day. She has now fulfilled her obligation to attend Mass on the day of precept or the evening before.


  1. Bertha remembered in the car on her way home that she was scheduled to read at Mass on Sunday morning, so she simply smiles, makes the coffee double-strength, and arises early in the morning with plenty of time to get to Mass and practice the readings beforehand. She receives Holy Communion during this Mass, since a new day began at midnight, and she has not yet received during this day. The question of her obligation is moot, as it was already fulfilled last evening.

  2. Bertha is again on her way home when the phone rings, and she, pulling the car to the side of the road to answer (safety first!) hears from Sally that she is sick and cannot cantor this evening, and Bertha has such a lovely voice, would she be willing to come back into town and cantor at Mass this evening? Bertha, generous soul that she is, replies in the affirmative without hesitation. She goes to the 5:30 PM Mass on Sunday and cantors beautifully. She receives Holy Communion again during this Mass. Again, the question of obligation is moot, as it was already fulfilled last evening, and even if it hadn’t been, it would have been this morning.

So the obligation is fulfilled by attendance at Mass on either the day of precept itself, or the evening before.

The reception of Holy Communion is limited to twice in one day, and one of those two times must be in the context of Mass (i.e. if you’d received at a Communion service for some reason earlier in the day, and then attended Mass, you’d still be fine to receive again). In this case, “one day” means a calendar day, midnight to midnight. The idea behind the canon in this case is that people don’t become superstitious about the Eucharist–one doesn’t get more grace simply by multiplying Communions, as it were; the canon prevents someone from attending, say, five or six Masses in one day so as to attempt to gain more grace. This ensures proper respect of the Eucharist.



I don’t think that’s the intention here. There’s a misconception among some that in order to satisfy the obligation to attend Mass on a certain day, that Mass must be according to the texts provided in the liturgical calendar for that day. However, this is not the case–the canon is to be interpreted broadly here. Attendance at any Catholic rite on the day of precept or the evening before satisfies the obligation. So if you’re bound to attend Mass on a day, and you go to any Mass, regardless of what liturgical texts are used (as sometimes the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form do not line up)–regardless, even, of which rite is used, as one could satisfy his obligation to attend Mass at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy or a Maronite Qurbono or any other Eastern liturgy–the obligation is satisfied simply by attendance at the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Far from swinging around canon law like a stone ax, what is being done here is to ensure that people can satisfy their obligation more easily. The canons are to be interpreted so as to favor the one upon whom an obligation has been made–the principle of charity is the first thing at work in Canon Law.



I’m not saying you’re wrong but the argument goes that JPII made the statement on “dominici dies” after the Canon laws were written. Don’t forget, the Pope has the final say on interpreting Canon law. In some cases, a valid Catholic Mass does not satisfy the obligation.


What? This clarification makes things easier for people, not harder. It’s saying “as long as you attended a valid Mass on the right day or prior evening, you’re good. It doesn’t matter what kind of Mass it was or what the readings were.”


Great post! :thumbsup:

Can I offer one quibble, though? :blush:

The reception of Holy Communion is limited to twice in one day, and one of those two times must be in the context of Mass (i.e. if you’d received at a Communion service for some reason earlier in the day, and then attended Mass, you’d still be fine to receive again).

It’s not that “one of those two times must be in the context of Mass,” strictly speaking. The second reception of Eucharist must be in the context of Mass. That is, your example works, but swap them and it does not (if you attended Mass and then later attended a Communion service, you would not be able to receive the Eucharist in that service).


That is a very lucid and helpful post. Thanks.


Upon reading Dies Domini of St. John Paul II, we find this:

  1. Because the faithful are obliged to attend Mass unless there is a grave impediment, Pastors have the corresponding duty to offer to everyone the real possibility of fulfilling the precept. The provisions of Church law move in this direction, as for example in the faculty granted to priests, with the prior authorization of the diocesan Bishop, to celebrate more than one Mass on Sundays and holy days,(85) the institution of evening Masses(86) and the provision which allows the obligation to be fulfilled from Saturday evening onwards, starting at the time of First Vespers of Sunday.(87) From a liturgical point of view, in fact, holy days begin with First Vespers.(88) Consequently, the liturgy of what is sometimes called the “Vigil Mass” is in effect the “festive” Mass of Sunday, at which the celebrant is required to preach the homily and recite the Prayer of the Faithful.

However, two things are important here. One, he is still talking about the beginning of the liturgical day, which takes place before the midnight-to-midnight “day.” There is a distinction in the law.

Can. 202 §1. In law*, a day is understood as a period consisting of 24 continuous hours and begins at midnight unless other provision is expressly made*; a week is a period of 7 days; a month is a period of 30 days, and a year is a period of 365 days unless a month and a year are said to be taken as they are in the calendar.

The other provision made, in this case, is that the liturgical day, i.e. the day on which one can fulfill the obligation, covers the day itself and the evening before. The canon for the number of times one may receive communion in one day simply says “one day.”

The other important thing to note here is the nature of the document. Dies Domini is a teaching document, and not a law making document. If St. John Paul II had intended to change what was in the 1983 Code of Canon Law regarding the Sunday obligation, he would have issued a Motu Proprio to that effect.

My question then, would be: when would “attendance at a valid Catholic rite” on the day of precept or the evening before not satisfy the obligation?



Quite right. I also did not include the situation of if one had already received twice in one day, but then received Holy Communion as Viaticum–as Viaticum can be received anytime.



The Latin states otherwise. Check the genitive case especially. *


What’s important here is “dominici dies,” the Day of the Lord, or the Lord’s Day, is not to be confused with midnight-to-midnight Sunday. Nor “anticipated” nor “eve” nor “vigil” on Saturday either for that matter.

  • “diei” is the genitive form of “dies” and has to agree with the other elements of that clause, difficult to do in English.


What we’re talking about is two separate issues, though.

When does one fulfill his obligation to attend Mass on a day of precept, be it Sunday or any other Holy Day of Obligation?

On the day itself, or on the evening of the previous day.

How many times may one receive Holy Communion in one day? (The Canon does not say “liturgical day” or “Sunday” or “day of the Lord,” but simply “day,” which means "24-hour period)

Up to twice, provided that the second reception is within the context of Mass.

So one can receive at a daytime Mass on Saturday, a vigil/anticipated Mass on Saturday evening, and then two Masses on Sunday, and still have fulfilled the obligation attend Mass and licitly received Holy Communion.

And once again, Dies Domini is not a legislative document. There is nothing contained therein that indicates that St. John Paul II was changing the Church’s law.



Indeed it does.

Can. 202 — § 1. In iure, dies intellegitur spatium constans 24 horis continuo supputandis, et incipit a media nocte, nisi aliud expresse caveatur;
Can. 202 §1.
In law, a day is understood as a period consisting of 24 continuous hours and begins at midnight unless other provision is expressly made.

The question then is “dominici dies,” beginning on Vespers of the previous day, another such provision?

I’m not a Canon lawyer enough to answer that question.


Again, these are two separate issues–how many times one may receive communion in one day, which would mean a civil, 24-hour day, and when one fulfills the obligation. Where it talks about reception of Holy Communion, the canon only refers to “day,” and not to any other provision.

Can. 917 A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time* on the same day* only within the eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 921, §2.



I would also point this out, from the Canon on Mass attendance:

Can. 1248 §1. A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.

So “Saturday evening” is still “the evening of the preceding day” when it comes to talking about time, even though the “liturgical day” began with I Vespers of Sunday on that evening.

I would like to know, though, returning to the earlier point–when would attendance at a valid Catholic rite not fulfill one’s obligation, as you mentioned earlier?


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