How much of the Mass must one be present for?

In order to fulfil one’s Mass obligation on Sundays and HDOs, how much of the Mass must one be present for? Are there certain parts of the Mass that one must be present for to fulfil one’s Mass obligation.

I’d be grateful if you can back up your response with appropriate sources.

In all honesty, I think this comes down to intent. If you intend to stay for the whole Mass, but have to leave for an extreme emergency of some sort, I’m sure you must fulfill your obligation.

The mindset shouldn’t be “how little Mass can I get away with?” but “how much of Mass am I lucky to participate in?” :slight_smile:

Unfortunately there is no official source which absolutely says how much of a Mass we must be present for so that we would fulfill our obligation.

I’ve heard many variations. Some priests would say (and I agree) that every part of the mass is important (varying degrees of importance, but imporant nonetheless). I’ve heard some say you have to be there for the Gospel, others for the Homily. One priest told me that the parts you should absolutely not miss is the Offertory until the time the priest receives the Eucharist, which would be the Sacrifice of the Mass. Also, on our Liturgy of the Word for Children, the person conducting it for the children have been told by our priest that he/she will not fulfill their Sunday Obligation for that Mass and would have to attend another Mass, even though they would be gone only for the readings and homily and possibly the creed.

But officially the Vatican hasn’t come out with any statement or canon law or any authoritative teaching how much of the Mass we should be present in to actually fulfill our obligation.

Just to be clear, my question is academic. I’m interested in what the “rules” are. My family and I arrive on time for Mass and don’t leave until it’s finished. So, it’s not intended to be: “what can I get away with?”

OK, thanks for that. I’d assumed there must be some rule. I agree with you and those priests who say you should be there for the whole Mass.

I thought there might be certain parts that you had to be present for, e.g. Eucharistic Prayer as that’s when the Eucharist is confected and as you say until the priest’s communion, i.e. for the Sacrifice of the Mass.

I have to say it annoys me when people arrive late and even more so those who receive communion and then immediately leave church before the Mass is over.

Of course, my apologies–I had no intentions to offend :slight_smile:

I know what you mean about the “rules” though. I personally also find it interesting as to what the official norms are for the Church.

No need for the apology but thank you for offering it. I wasn’t offended. I thought about saying my question was academic in the OP but didn’t and now realise it would have been better to do so.

There does seem to be an official stance on this, which I find rather bizarre.

I think the stipulation about the Liturgy of the Word for Children may be your pastor’s interpretation, as that is not the case at our parish. Or it may come from your Bishop.

People ask this question all the time, but I’ve never heard a standard answer.:shrug:

From the start to the finish.
What if GOD said, well what is the easiest way I can make these humans, how long do they have to last…

I think the Church takes it for granted that everyone is trying to arrive at Mass in time for the opening hymn, and has allowed sufficient time in their Sunday schedule to permit them to remain until the singing of the Recessional - and that emergencies do come up (especially when children are involved), both just as you are trying to get out the door to get to Mass, and toward the end of Mass.

Most of the people I notice arriving late and leaving early have very small children with them, and in all charity, one must assume that, in caring for their child, the family has a hard time getting organized to arrive on time (I am sure it happens to more than one family and to more than one child in every family, that you only just finish dressing the child in his Church clothes and his winter gear, when he suddenly mentions the fact that he needs to use the bathroom, thus necessitating undressing him, waiting for him to finish his business, and then re-dressing him) and then toward the end of Mass, more than one child has made a break for it, or broken down in tears, making it necessary to take them home straight away.

With regard to the Children’s Liturgy of the Word, just from the point of view of wanting to get every benefit you can for your spiritual life, I would at least consider it a good idea for Catechists to attend a different Mass, as well, to hear their Pastor’s homily and to pray the Creed with the rest of the congregation, rather than simply rely on the idea that they are getting the full benefit of the Liturgy of the Word based on the children’s version of it.

There have been a few other threads on this topic and the consensus seems to be that there is no “official” rule as to how much of the Mass one must be present for for it to fulfill your obligation.

If anybody asks me the ideal is to be there for the whole Mass. I certainly understand that sometimes people arrive late through no fault of their own or must leave early for one reason or another. But, then there are others who intentionally time their entry and exit at Mass to make sure they spend as little time there as possible. Those are the people whose thinking I have a real problem with. I know a guy who doesn’t particularly care for the priest’s homilies so he has his entry to mass timed to come in at the end of the homily, he’s there for the offertory, consecration and communion and then he’s out the door. In his mind he fulfills his obligation and he’s only there for maybe a total of 15 or 20 minutes. That strikes me as not being right at all.


I usher at the Sunday evening mass which changed to an hour earlier about six months ago. So it does not fail that we still have people (especially this time of year) who are traveling into town who come for Mass at the wrong time and who are intending to arrive early - arrive halfway through mass. We usually quietly tell them it is the intent that counts and that they are welcome to join us for the rest of Mass as well as the Daily Mass the next morning at 8am and remind them that we will be distributing bulletins at the end of mass so they will have all of the updates. Most people in the situation already feel bad enough. The habitual people - well - that is between them and God.

Canon 1247 says:On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.
Some other quotes:56. The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation.
[RIGHT]- Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium

“The two parts which in a sense go to make up the Mass, namely the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist Liturgy, are so closely connected that they form but one single act of worship.” ** A person should not approach the table of the Bread of the Lord without having first been at the table of His Word**.
[RIGHT]Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Inaestimabile Donum (1980)(AAS 72 p 331-346) [/RIGHT]
So the way I read it is that if you haven’t been through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, you haven’t met your Sunday/Holy Day obligation. You most certainly should not present yourself to receive Holy Communion unless you have been to both, as well.

Having said that, God knows your heart. God knows if you were late for no fault of your own or if you were late due to something that you could prevent. You may try to fool yourself and rationalize being late. You may try to fool yourself and try to rationalize leaving early. You may fool others and even yourself, but you won’t fool God.

(Yes, I know that this is an academic exercise)

Thanks Mark - great references!

Jimmy Akin of CA:

I agree, that priest is indeed quite strict about things. But I guess its one thing being late to Mass, its another to be there at the beginning then miss a huge chunk in the middle.

Curiously the Vatican has avoided making such specific statement on which part of the Mass one should be there for. I guess its making a fine line between, “I tried my best to get to Mass but for one reason or another, I was late,” and, “Oh, I can skip all these parts and still fulfill my obligation. I’ll just arrive just in time for that.”

So they don’t tell so that people will always be there for the entire Mass, but at the same time not penalize anyone who tried their best to come on time but somehow still arrived late.

I agree 100%, but in some cases and in some instances (I’m not saying this is the reason here) people ask this question precisely so they believe they can remain in good graces of the Church, fulfill their obligation and not lose too much of their Sunday by “going to church.” Which if you really think about it is Mass all that long and are you really able to do that much more by skipping all the readings and coming in just for Communion? I really, really doubt it.


Baltimore Catechism

Q. 932. What are the chief parts of the Mass?

A. The chief parts of the Mass are:

   1. The Offertory, at which the priests offers to God the bread and wine to be changed at the Consecration;
   2. The Consecration, at which the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the substance of Christ's body and blood;
   3. The Communion, at which the priest receives into his own body the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of both bread and wine.

Based on this (an similar notes in other Catechisms) the common traditional view was that the Offertory, Consecration and the Communion of the priest are the required parts to avoid mortal sin, to miss the previous and following parts was considered venial sin.

Implicitly the Sacrosanctum Concilium too corroborates this opinion

  1. The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation.

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