Minimum Mass obligations

I suspect that a good number of such nuns and priests had not devised these ideas themselves but had gotten these ideas from moral theologians. (I am not claiming that any particular idea is authoritative or binding enough to count as a “rule,” now or in the past.)

I don’t have specific theologians or sources in mind, but here are a few online mentions and a few different views:

Communion for Late Arrivals at Mass? (Fr. Edward McNamara)

It is true that before the Second Vatican Council some moral theology manuals placed arrival before the offertory as the dividing line in deciding whether one fulfilled the Sunday obligation of assistance at Mass. But after the liturgical reform, with its emphasis on the overall unity of the Mass, modern theologians shy away from such exactitude.

QUAERITUR: After what point of lateness can I no longer receive Communion, fulfill obligation? | Fr. Z’s Blog

There were different views about limits on lateness, or presence at Mass. In one view, moral theologians thought that you had to be there at least for the reading of the Gospel onward. A good view. The Gospel is important. In another view, you had to be there from offertory onward at least under the purification of the chalice after Communion.

Others will say that you have to be there from the first words of Mass to the very end. A laudable approach, though a little inflexible.

(Fr. Z prefers “the old chalice veil to chalice veil idea” and gives reasons, but he is also “not comfortable with the minimalist approach” in terms of “our involvement.”)

I arrived late to Mass after a 3 hour car trip, because my rental car had some complications that I had to attend to. I arrived VERY late, and I was unaware of any ‘later’ Masses than this one where I was headed. This was late on Sunday afternoon. I had planned to arrive 30 minutes before Mass started. Instead, it was 30 minutes after Mass began. Given that I was driving, I was unable to look up anything on the internet. Stopping to do so would have made me even later.

Add to this the fact that despite being a Sunday Mass, it moved QUICKLY. Given the time of my arrival, I normally would have arrived before the Consecration during the Eucharistic Prayer. Instead, it was after the Lord’s Prayer! I know I met my obligation. God knows my heart.

And that’s the bottom line!

I concur that writings of moral theologians were the basis of these various guidances. However, writings of theologians are neither laws nor doctrines of the Church. Writings and speculations of theologians also brought us Limbo and queries as to the number of angels that fit onto the head of a pin. Their role (theologians) is quite different than that of pastor. And their writings very different from Church law.

The Church herself has nerver stated anything other than attendance at mass as the requirement. Not part of the mass, simply the mass.

In my defense, I never claimed that these rules were “doctrines” nor that they were canon laws. But whether they were in a handbook or a local directive, they were still ‘rules’. They were stronger than speculation and were less than Church law. They were promulgated by authorities at the parish and diocese level and not just by well-intenitoned nuns and priests acting on their own.

It’s a moot point anyway since no such rules currently exist as far as I know. :slight_smile:

This question comes up often, and just as often there are responses that assume the worst about the motives of one who would ask such a question or speculate on the answer.
But there are very practical concerns for people with the best intentions.

For instance when ccmcmg was traveling, and knew for certain she would be 5 minutes or more late for the Sunday afternoon mass, should she have simply abandoned any effort to attend mass at that church? She could have stopped at McDonalds to log onto the wifi, and put all her marbles on the slim chance that there was a later mass somewhere nearby? Surely she doesn’t want to go to only part of a mass, and miss out on discovering a full mass somewhere searching on the internet.

Or if a parent knows he has to leave right before the announcements and final blessing to pick up his child, is he just as well not to go to that mass at all, and instead take the 50% chance he can squeeze a full mass into his chaotic schedule later.

I would suggest that such approaches are a bit inflexible as Fr. Z suggested. On the other hand, if the rule truly is inflexible, then the above approaches are the correct ones, and it’s good for people to ask so they can make the proper decision when such a crisis arises.

I’m not sure if this applies to the “obligation” part, but I asked my priest how late was “too late” to receive Eucharist at Mass. I asked because I really wanted to attend the Pentecost Vigil Mass (with all the readings - my first time:D) but I was coming from work and would more than likely be late. He said in order to receive, I needed to arrive before the Collect (which is the prayer after the Gloria in a Sunday Mass). I would think that for a Mass to meet the Sunday obligation, that implies that you are receiving the Eucharist (as long as you are in a state of grace, of course). Then logically, the latest would be to there before the Collect, which means before the first reading.
Leaving early should never happen, unless it is unavoidable. Sometimes I have to do the (much-hated) receive and leave at a daily Mass because things ran long and I have to get to work. Otherwise, one should never leave before the Recessional (please, give the altar servers a chance to get the cross and the candles back to the Sacristy before flooding the aisles;))
It’s kind of fun to speculate on this stuff, and you never know when the knowledge might come in handy, even if we would never do it in an idea world - but sometimes the world isn’t ideal.

No, one doesn’t need to receive the Eucharist to meet the Sunday obligation. If you’re not in the state of grace or otherwise aren’t disposed to receive (not fasting, etc.) you can still meet your Sunday obligation by assisting at Mass.

Thank you for clarifying what I was trying to say about receiving not necessarily being required as part of meeting the Sunday obligation. What I was saying (really badly) was that if that is the minimum requirement for receiving the Eucharist, then, logically, it would follow that it would also be the minimum for meeting the Sunday obligation. Thanks for clarifying.

I agree that we all try to attend the whole Mass, i.e. priest should be last one in and first one out. However, the Church does not say we must attend the whole Mass for our obligation to be fulfilled. Canon Law states we must participate in the Mass. It does not define what period “participation” means. We cannot say to anyone that their obligation is not fulfilled if they are not present for the entire Mass. That is presumptuous and simply a personal opinion.

When people discuss whether a person has fulfilled the obligation after arriving late or by leaving early, it normally gets back to a question of fault or of choice. If there’s an accident or something, by all means get there when you can. When it’s a habit, that’s another thing altogether.

At the main parish in a town I visit, it is unusual to see either arriving late or leaving early. With rare exception, people are in place when the procession begins and are there until the final blessing.

At another parish I visit, quite a few people casually walk in well into the mass. That church has clear windows that face a parking lot. It is not at all unusual to be in line to receive and to see people walking straight out and chatting in the parking lot before getting into their cars. I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt on getting there late, but I can’t help feeling that anyone who has time to chat in the parking lot has time to wait for the mass to end.

We once had a pastor who said that the obligation to assist at the mass included being there on time, not leaving early, saying the responses, and singing. I suspect that his position is not the majority view.

I feel odd about the responses. Several times lately, I have heard my own voice in a full church when so few people participated. The first time it happened, I did a started look around to see if I were mistaken. No, it was just that only a portion of the people seemed to be doing other than looking at the priest.

While I was reading these responses I thought of a family who comes late EVERY Sunday. They sit in the front rows and during the reading of the gospel, start with the “excuse me, excuse me” litany as they climb over people standing, listening to the gospel. EVERY Sunday. In three years they have never been on time. Winter, Summer, Spring, Fall.

This behavior has a tendency to infuriate me so I spend most of the LIturgy of the Word with my eyes closed.

If it’s the only Mass you will be attending to meet your Sunday obligation, then, yes, the priest’s response is correct. You need to meet your obligation to be in a state of grace to receive, so you would have to attend enough of the Mass to meet your obligation.

But we can receive Communion without attending Mass as long as it’s the first time in the day that we are receiving. So if you were going back to Mass on Sunday, thereby meeting your obligation, there is no minimum you would have to attend of the Vigil Mass to be able to receive as long as you hadn’t already received that day.

Not sure about meeting minimum requirements to fulfill obligation, but our priest has noted that if you arrive after the creed you cannot commune.

That is wrong. Fulfilling your obligation and receiving Communion are two different things. Anyone in a state of grace and properly disposed can walk into Church directly into the Communion line and receive Communion.

Offertory to the priest’s communion was the consensus before Vatican II. Today, there’s no consensus. The obligation probably isn’t for the entire Mass. If you miss the entrance chant through your own fault, you haven’t fulfilled your obligation and need to attend a later Mass? That doesn’t sound right. The rule I like to follow is analogous to the Lenten fast rules. The minimum is no meat on Fridays but most Catholics self-impose a tougher fast from candy or alcohol or whatever. So for the Mass obligation, the minimum I go by is the old offertory to priest’s communion but I self-impose attendance at the entire Mass from entrance chant the priest’s exit. I know the priest’s exit isn’t even technically part of Mass but it’s just good manners.

If you would not consider being deliberately late for a meeting with, say, a committee at the office, why would you for Our Lord? Would you leave that meeting the instant your part was over? Would you mind letting others know you were looking to do the minimum?

The habitual lateness, the non-participation, the bolting out the door on receiving, all diminish reverence. Try as we might, we cannot hold our minds where they should be when people are climbing over us, distracting us, or not assisting in worship. Not only does it shortchange those who get into those habits, it pulls our minds away from the mass. If something happens to make a person late, that’s fine, but making a choice to be late Sunday after Sunday is selfish.

The more I see significant and growing numbers of people arriving late and leaving early, the more I think my former pastor had a point. He felt your obligation began with being there on time and ended with leaving after the final blessing. That was only his opinion, but I wonder if some official position will one day be needed.

OTOH, at one parish I used to attend Mass, once the priest had the doors closed the moment Mass began and you should have heard the reaction later from those who were shut out. And they still didn’t learn.

At another parish (at a Spanish Mass) because there are only a handful of people in the pews at 7pm (scheduled Mass time) the priest is starting later and later until enough people fill the pews. That’s only pushing them to come in later.

Bad habits begat bad habits, I guess.

There are cultures where time is pretty stretchy. There is a native community near my parish that has a loose interpretation of time. When the priest schedules anything there he usually says, “That’s on my time, not Innu time.” Of course in this community, a liturgy is never rushed. It takes as long as it takes. Funerals can last 6 hours from the time of Reception of the Body to the first shovel of dirt on the coffin.

I can imagine the bulletins stating “call rectory for Mass times” or “sometime on Sunday.” :slight_smile:

Maybe better than “come whenever you feel like it,” though. :slight_smile:

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