Mass attendance guidelines

forgive the basic question here, but how often must a practicing catholic attend mass, and under what circumstances is this need mitigated? If one goes to mass, but doesn’t receive the eucharist, does that affect validity of attendance?

Catholics must attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.

Its not necessary to receive the Holy Eucharist in order to meet the obligation.

God Bless

We have a Sunday obligation to Mass as well as all Holy days of obligation. If one misses Mass *deliberately *(no extenuating circumstances (in a wreck on the way, in the hospital, can’t get out of bed, ect.) one must confess this ASAP. If one is conscious, one can request a priest to visit and receive that way.
Mass attendence is mandatory but receiving the Eucharist is a matter of conscious between the supplicant and God Himself. If one chooses to not receive, his prescence still fulfills his obligation.
P.S. NO question is ever too simple or “basic” to be ignored. :slight_smile:


A Catholic is bound to assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. The Holy Days of Obligation are governed by the particular national episcopal conference (in our case, it is the USCCB).

We are only obligated to receive Holy Communion once a year. If one goes to Mass, but, does not receive Holy Communion, that does not affect the validity of the attendance.

I hope this helps.

From the Catechism:

The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principle liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.82

The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year.") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.83

The third precept ("**You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season**") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.84

As you can see, there are two different requirements. We need to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, but there is no requirement to receive communion at every Mass we attend. We need to receive communion at least once a year.

I have a question related to this topic. I’m Orthodox, and my girlfriend is Catholic, and we attend each other’s parishes on alternating Sundays. Is this considered breaching her mass obligation? We’re doing this to better understand and appreciate each other’s churches, and because we feel there’s a spiritual closeness between our two communions.

I will have to speak to a priest. My son’s behavior, and my wife’s physical needs, both affect mass attendance. I am hoping to find some accomodations or something.


dcointin, it’s a very good idea that you both have an understanding of and appreciation for each other’s Church, but your girlfriend is still obligated to attend Sunday Mass at a Catholic Church; for her to attend only your church on a Sunday all of the following would have to be “in play”: (From Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law).

a. necessity or genuine spiritual advantage
b. when the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided
c. it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister
d. a church which has valid sacraments

Having to take care of an sick relative is also a valid excuse. However, if your wife can never make it to mass, I suggest that you try to make arangements to have someone sit with her. As far as your son, depending upon his age, if your church has a cry room, you can sit in there with your son or you can leave him with the person who is sitting with your wife.

If having someone stay with your wife is impossible, it may be permissable for you to ‘attend’ Mass by watching it on TV, as long as you are actively participating to the best of your ability. You may also find a service which can deliver Holy Communion, or there may be an EMHC at your parish who can bring it to you (and/or your wife). Speaking to your priest about these possiblities is probably your best bet. :thumbsup: I’ve never known a priest to not be helpful and understanding.

Unfortunately it is. For Catholics the precept is to attend a Catholic Mass (or equivalent Eucharistic Liturgy). Canon Law is clear that it must be Catholic.

Thank you for the responses. I’ll inform her of this, though she’s quite headstrong and I’m not sure how she’ll react lol. :thumbsup:

I just texted her this information, and her response was “Pffft”!

What is the penalty for not fulfilling this obligation? Is it considered a sin, a breach of canon law, etc.?

EDIT: She responded again:

“I know its an EXPECTATION. Most any church expects you to show every week. No one can tell me just because I attend somewhere else it doesn’t count”

If she is of the Latin Church then canon 1248 (below) applies to her. “Catholic rite” does not include Orthodox, rather Mass or Divine Liturgy of a Eastern Catholic Church sui iuris, so it is a sinful matter, not merely an expectation.

1983 CIC - 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.

The Ecumenical Directory (1993) is also very specific about why:

“115. Since the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day is the foundation and centre of the whole liturgical year, [120] Catholics – but those of Eastern Churches according to their own Law [121] – are obliged to attend Mass on that day and on days of precept. [122] It is not advisable therefore to organize ecumenical services on Sundays, and it must be remembered that even when Catholics participate in ecumenical services or in services of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, the obligation of participating at Mass on these days remains.”

Well, yes, the Church most certainly can tell its members when and where to attend church on Sunday. You might remind her that Christ teaches through His Church not through her particular whims. And it’s far more than an “expectation” - it is a mortal sin to willfully miss Mass when one has no impairment that makes doing so impossible.

To be a bit more precise, missing Mass is grave matter. If it is also done with full knowledge and consent then it would also be a mortal sin. It doesn’t sound like the woman concerned knew about this teaching before now.

No, she didn’t. Although she was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, this was the first time she was made aware of it, perhaps because she stopped attending services after highschool until recently (about 7 years). She’s in the process of finding a parish, and we recently attended one that she liked and is located close to where she works and would like to move, and she’ll need to start getting to know the priest and talking about her spiritual life with him. This arrangment was our way of compromising, and I admit that I’m sad to hear that it’s not approved of considering the positive things the Catholic Church has had to say about Orthodoxy in modern times, e.g. we’re sister churches, have valid sacraments, little separates us, etc.

It is an Orthodox teaching that Eucharist communion must be preceded by unity of faith, so how, from the Orthodox perspective, can a Catholic receive the Eucharist from the Orthodox?

Catholics could theoretically receive from Orthodox under certain conditions, but are also to respect the Orthodox practices.

You also might want to check in and find out what the rules are for you, as well, since I’m fairly certain that the Orthodox are expected to attend Divine Liturgy at least every Sunday.

Your girlfriend won’t be allowed to receive Holy Communion again until she goes to Confession and starts making a sincere effort to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day.

I’m under the impression that the same applies to Orthodox Christians who miss Divine Liturgy without a good reason.

Another way to go about this might be to pick a weekend Mass that doesn’t conflict with Divine Liturgy, and then also go to Divine Liturgy, and make it a two-fer every weekend. :slight_smile:

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