Hello, I know that the Church teaches that Sunday Mass is a requirement, and can fall under mortal sin for missing, without a good reason to miss (health, etc.).
Question: Occasionally I am on a weekend trip, in the country at a cousins hunting lodge, 30 miles from nearest church, and we usually hunt in the morning, he cooks breakfast, etc. Am I under an obligation to forego the hunt, and drive to local town for Mass, and miss the breakfast he prepared for us? I don’t feel like this was a mortal sin, as I was not purposely missing Mass.
I would bring the matter to confession. Say what happened at the time.
2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.
You may seek a dispensation in the future (though one would want to avoid scandal to other Catholics or cooperation in anyone’s sin -so let others know I would think beforehand)
I myself would not consider 30 miles as being far to go…when I go camping we just find beforehand the local churches and times (see masstimes) and plan ahead. We often go to the vigil Mass on Sat. evening -such is better in the case of our camping.
(I set aside the aspect of hunting - my response is only about Mass attendance…I am not a hunter and do not get involved in that …have not hunted since I was a kid.)
If the town was reasonably close, then yes, I think that objectively speaking, you may be culpable. Missing a friend’s breakfast is not sufficiently serious reason to miss Sunday Mass. If in fact he’s a true friend, he would understand your religious obligations and support you.
I cannot pass judgment, and neither can anyone else here. But I’m of the mind that confession is warranted.
I am a bit hesitant to answer your question in this forum because what you present is open to several interpretations, which bear on the answer I would give. As presented, you have left the situation, frankly, too speculative.
Let me explain. A weekend trip could mean that you are going out after work on Friday and returning after supper on Sunday. If that were the case, I would counsel you to investigate the possibility of attending Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday evening as you returned home. An absence is less noticeable over such a period.
Conversely, if this “weekend trip” involves getting to a remote destination late on Saturday (and there is no possibility of finding an anticipated Mass en route) and the return is on Sunday afternoon (again with no possibility of coordinating with an available evening Mass) and such that you are actually at the lodge for 24 hours or even less…while the main focus of your hosts’ hospitality is the hunt, which you would not be able to participate at in order to get to the one available Mass a significant distance away…all that would directly impact my evaluation.
If this is such a rural area that there is no anticipated Mass (which happens) and no Sunday evening Mass where you are (which happens) those facts matter.
As it is, you leave me a scenario in which I am left to assume you have access to one and only one Mass and that one is critically situated at a point so as to make you miss the hunt that, I have to assume, is really the main purpose of a trip to a hunting lodge.
If it is, however, that your custom is to attend Mass on Sunday morning but you could reasonably adjust your routine in this trip to attend Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday evening, either coming or going, then that would be a reasonable accommodation for you to make in having this weekend getaway and so the obligation should abide.
The mere fact of being in transit does not excuse from the obligation; it is the relative burden that the obligation imposes that eventually reaches the point of being excused – and that is actually a significant variable.
You say that the church is thirty miles away but that does not tell me whether you can get there in a half-hour or less (should you have access to the autobahn – although I assume you are American!) or, as would be the case where I am from, thirty miles can easily take an hour or more to travel. If this latter is the case, we are talking about three hours away to fulfill the obligation, and I would certainly lean toward saying you had reached the threshold of being excused, given the various concomitant circumstances you present.
As an aside, I had a friend who was going to a cabin on an island with friends for the weekend. Mass was only available once on Sunday morning at the nearest church…but it meant using a boat to get to his car and since it was not his boat and he did not know how to operate it, it would mean the hosts would have to both take him to shore and then coordinate to return to pick him up and this in the absence of mobile phone reception and the logistics became such that he was certainly excused from the obligation given all the particular circumstances.
In other words: If the burden to attend Mass is also such that a reasonable host would conclude “this is so disruptive to us and our hospitality; why did we bother inviting you to an occasion a significant portion of which, and actually the main event of, you had to miss?”…then I would also certainly say you were excused from the obligation. But there are other reasonable scenarios I could construe from what you relate that I would not be able to make that finding.
In any event, there are two relatively quick ways that I can conclude this.
The criteria for a serious sin is: the matter is serious, you have to know it is serious, and you have to fully and freely consent. In this circumstance, you state that you lacked sufficient knowledge of how the obligation bound you in the light of the circumstances to arrive at a decision and you ask advice; you think you were excused from the obligation. Since you assert you did not know how the law applied here, moral theology would cause me to say that in this instance you could not incur the penalty of moral guilt regardless of whether or not these circumstances, which I can’t really and accurately determine, excused you from the obligation. You can certainly mention it in your next confession but I do not make the determination based on what you have said that you would have to make that confession before you approach Communion, given that what you assert involves honestly lacking sufficient knowledge to decide.
Going forward, rather than wonder whether or not this particular array of circumstances is at the threshold to excuse you from the obligation and seeking advice in such a forum, I would earnestly counsel you to simply ask your pastor (or a vicar general of your diocese, should you have the good fortune to know him) to either dispense you from the obligation or at least to commute it to something else for these occasions. (Canon 1245) Provided I had a few more details, which I surmise is what is actually the case here, I would grant the dispensation.
I always make every effort to figure out how to attend mass.
Last month my father (non-Catholic) and I were driving across country over the weekend and I told him I had to attend Mass either Saturday night or Sunday morning. It was very difficult to determine exactly what town we would be in at a given time (especially since I didn’t know exactly how early we would be leaving). So I had quite a bit of anxiety over this. Anyway I prayed ahead of time that I would be able to find a mass.
Luckily I had a smart-phone with me so when it approached 4:00 pm Saturday (while my father was driving). I used various aps to search for masses and determine distances to those churches. I was able to find a church within just a couple of miles from the highway we were on and we pulled in just 10 minutes before mass. My dad was able to relax for an hour while I attended Mass. It gave me quite a bit of joy and even my dad was thrilled that we did not have to travel far out of the way or spend a lot of time waiting.
I think the only time I missed mass in the last 7 years was when I flew to Athens and could not find an evening mass after arriving around 11:00 AM.
Hi, thanks for the thoughtful and detailed reply. I think the 3 hour window from time to leave to return to the camp would have been a little excessive. However, with more planning I could have gone to Sunday evening Mass back home. Next time that is what I would do.