How much of the Mass must one be present for?

What may be the case is that this is meant to “exhort” Christians to be for the whole Mass …the “should not” being perhaps the language of exhortation.

(This is a first take on the whole thing…so make sure you read the “may” part in the answer)

For taken in the way it seems to be taken in this thread…one should not receive Communion if one has not heard the Word of God. I do not think this is the intent here. But rather to exhort people to see the unity of the Mass and to attend the entire Liturgy (on the norm).

For later …in the Code of Canon Law which came out some 3 years after… notes:

Can. 918 It is highly recommended that the faithful receive holy communion during the eucharistic celebration itself. It is to be administered outside the Mass, however, to those who request it for a just cause, with the liturgical rites being observed.

…it specifically notes that one may for a just reason even receive Holy Communion “outside” of Mass entirely…after highly recommending one receive during the Mass.

And one could ask…from how it seems to sound…it would mean --if taken as a ‘commandment’ that one can not receive if one has not been there for the Liturgy of the Word…which is not the case…for in addition to the above CL later notes:

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.

Which implies that one can receive not only outside Mass for the first occasion but also at a Mass where one just happens to say “walk through” at the time of Communion …hence it notes that the second Communion must be at a Mass one partcipates in (that is does not just walk in on…but Mass one is actually attending…)

So it seems to that it can argued that the “should not” here in the 1980 doc is not meant to say “one does not fulfill ones obligation” nor that one “is not to” receive Holy Communion if one misses the readings …but rather as an emphatic exhortation to not willy nilly miss them…but to see them as forming a whole…for Christ speaks and we need to listen! (often times Americans read these things from an “American approach to Law etc”)

So given the fact that theology manuals from the first part of the 20th century will even note that one still fulfills ones Obligation if one misses the readings…so long as one is there from the offertory onwards …and from the fact that the Church has not come out and said one must attend the whole Mass to meet the obligation…or given any “lines”…but rather seems to exhort one to attend the whole Mass and has Pastors exhort he faithful to do so…it seems perhaps reasonable to judge that one still fulfills ones obligation …even if one misses the readings…

(of course remember there can be also venial sin…say missing the first reading without good reason…etc)

BUT be mindful of the fact that the Mass is meant to be a Whole…and Christians are to be at the entire Mass…listening to the Word of God (go read the new doc Verbum Domini from Pope Benedict XVI!)…

But sometimes things prevent this…traffic…kids…etc

I checked further with Jimmy Akin of CA (after the post above…read it first) regarding what I posted just above…

He replied (and I have permission to post this):

The question of whether one is able to receive Communion is a separate question from whether one has fulfilled one’s Sunday obligation.

The Sunday obligation is to participate in Mass, which has two parts: the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. It is envisioned that the person participates in the whole Mass. At the same time, it is understood that there can be legitimate reasons for missing part or even all of Mass. In such cases, the Sunday obligation is not violated.

When part or all of Mass is missed without a legitimate reason the severity of the offense will depend on how much and how important a part was missed (e.g., leaving during the announcements is not as serious as missing the consecration of the Eucharist).

Since the liturgical and canonical reforms that followed the Council, the Church has not offered any norms regarding the evaluation of this matter, no doubt out of a desire to focus the attention of the faithful on the overall attendance of Mass and not on “How much can I get away with?”

That said, principles found in older books of moral and pastoral theology may provide useful guidelines, keeping in mind the principles employed at and since the Council.

Regarding the reception of Communion and Inaestamabile Donum, it would be very difficult to argue that one cannot receive Communion if one missed the liturgy of the word. First note that this is not a statement about Sunday liturgies. It is a statement about all liturgies of the Eucharist. It therefore has nothing to do with one’s Sunday obligation.

Concerning the statement itself, this is an isolated expression that may have hortatory rather than normative value. It has not been taken up and repeated in subsequent works. Inaestamabile Donum, while valuable in its time, has been superseded by subsequent documents, most notably the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, and the third edition of the Roman Missal.

The third edition of the Roman Missal (and specifically its General Instruction) does not repeat this statement.

The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, which is the most direct successor document to Inaestimabile Donum contains a parallel passage which omits the statement about not receiving Communion. This passage reads:

“[60.] In the celebration of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are intimately connected to one another, and form one single act of worship. For this reason it is not licit to separate one of these parts from the other and celebrate them at different times or places.[135] Nor is it licit to carry out the individual parts of Holy Mass at different times of the same day.”

Most fundamentally, the 1983 Code of Canon Law provides that

“Can. 18 Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.”

Anything appearing to limit one’s right to receive Holy Communion–established later on in the Code–must be interpreted strictly (meaning: in favor of the exercise of the right). In view of this, it would be virtually impossible to see the 1980 document’s passing statement as creating a legal norm that today would prevent one from receiving Communion at a Mass (Sunday or otherwise) based on not having been there for the liturgy of the word.

At a minimum, we are in a doubt of law situation, and the Code also provides,

“Can. 14 Laws, even invalidating and disqualifying ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt about the law.”

Here too is an older post from him on the subject

“The Mass isn’t over until the Priest leaves the alter”

My Mom


All of it!!. From the first welcoming comments to the last note sung.
As a matter of fact, the mass for each individual should begin at home, in preparation for the mass and joining in the great processecion of all attending. It contiunes after ward as we go as commanded to love and serve the Lord.

See these two posts:

which contains also Jimmy Akin’s Answers


Yes, indeed. Mass should not be just one more thing on a long list of things to do on Sunday. It should be the main focus of our day. When we wake up, shower, and get dressed, our focus should be on making ourselves presentable for Mass. When we say our morning prayers, our focus could very appropriately be on the readings of the week, and we could even include the opening prayer of the Mass in our Sunday morning prayer routine. :slight_smile:

I believe that in the Middle Ages some people would attend Mass, but leave after the Elevation of the Host, then run down the street to another church, stay at that Mass through the Elevation, then run to another church, and so on. (Sorry, I don’t have any references) Silly? Perhaps, but God knows our hearts and serial Masses must be better than serial football games!

My mother told me there was a time, I don’t know when, the church doors were closed when Mass had started and no one was allowed in after the Mass had begun.

I know that we should be there for all of it! My family and I are always there for the whole Mass.

My question is academic. I just wondered if the Church had said you must be present for at least x, y and z, especially say to fulfil the Sunday obligation. Clearly, she hasn’t.

In some of the Eastern churches the ancient practice of guarding the doors remains part of the liturgy, although I think it’s mostly symbolic now. This occurs right before the creed.

[quote]Deacon: The doors! The doors! In wisdom let us attend!

At this time the curtain behind the Royal Doors is opened and the celebrant lifts the aer from the precious Gifts, and gently waves it over them in expectation of the descent of the Holy Spirit.

“The doors! The doors!” in ancient times reminded the doorkeepers to watch carefully at the doors of the church, that none of the catechumens or unbelievers enter. These words remind the faithful to close the doors of their souls against the assault of thoughts. The “doors” also reminds us that from this point until the end of the Liturgy no one is to leave the church. The Fathers condemned the transgression of this requirement, writing in the ninth Apostolic Canon, “All faithful who leave the church … and do not remain at prayer until the end, introduce disorder into the church, should be separated from the church community.”


That would have been the sacrifice of the Mass that I was talking about. From offertory to Communion. Actually not even to Communion, just until the priest receives. By then the Sacrifice is completed for the Mass.

Since the Baltimore Catichism is no longer valid in a number of ways, it’s only useful for a past reference guide. Even though it gives key parts of the mass, the faithful were always requred to be at the full mass.

I have noticed that a lot of people seem leave while the last song is being sung.

yes of course one is required to attend the whole Mass. I think one can say they were required to be at the full Mass in the past too…

The question is if one does not make it for the first readings…does one still fulfill the obligation …

Hence Jimmy Akin’s answers

Since it’s after the final blessing, and the priest or deacon has already announced that the Mass has ended, it’s probably not wrong to do this.

Those who are looking after the coffee and donuts certainly need to leave as soon as possible after the priest, along with those who are handing out the bulletins at the end of Mass, so as to take up their stations in the narthex to welcome the people and offer them something to eat and drink as they linger to greet one another in fellowship - I see nothing wrong with this. :slight_smile:

Hi Matthew,

Yes, there isn’t a norm of canon law that gives the minimum. To my knowledge, there never has been such a canonical norm. Nevertheless, the clear obligation is that we are to be present/participate/assist at Mass (cc. 1247-1248). It is clear what the Mass is: the entrance antiphon through the dismissal.

If it so happens that someone misses part of Mass, the question of whether or not the obligation was fulfilled–or if a sin was committed–will depend on the circumstances which led to the absence. If there was a cause which truly prevented a person from being at Mass, then there is no longer an obligation since no one is bound to the impossible. The same is true if only a part of Mass was missed. Beyond that, the question is not really in the purview of canon law but has passed over to that of moral theology/confession.

Thanks for your time.

Give a Catholic and inch and they will take a mile. My question is why is this even a question? What is so difficult about getting to church on time and staying until the last not of the last song is sung? At one time I had 5 children at home, we made it on time.
What is more important than spending this time with our Lord?

This is just an observation. There was a time when I attended different Protestant services over a period of years. Almost no one left early. Seriously. Everyone hung on until the dismissal by the pastor. When I returned to the Church a few years ago, I immediately began hearing about ‘how early one can leave Mass.’ Also, so many people leave right after communion–they receive, then walk right out.

I heard some priest remind people not to leave until after the Final Blessing. For me that is the earliest I can leave Mass if I am in a hurry. Some people leave early to beat the traffic rush.

That’s true, it is after the Priest’s “The mass has ended…” But it feels like more than just donut and bulletin crew are in motion.

It reminds me a little bit of Ray Bradubury’s short story “The Anthem Sprinters”. The story is set in Ireland and it involves characters sprinting for the door of the movie house before the national anthem is played.

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