Missing Mass


I suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which causes intestional discomfort, severe bloating, and bad diarrhea. (sorry if that is TMI–but some don’t know what IBS is).

When it acts up in a major way, I do not feel guilty for missing Mass.

However, regardless of how I am feeling, I intentionally do not go to Mass when I know that it’s going to be extremely crowded where finding parking, a seat, etc is going to be a problem–basically it’s Christmas and Easter.

Going anywhere is stressful for me because if the IBS hits, I have to find a bathroom pronto. With many places closed on Christmas/Easter–it limits my options for “pit stops”. Then, if I can’t find parking at the church, and the IBS hits, that would be a disaster. Providing I make it into the church–I have to sit on the aisle and can’t stand for the entire Mass–so if I can’t find a place to sit or stuck in the “middle” of a pew–that would be problematic if the IBS hits.

I make every effort to go/get to Mass for the most part…it’s only Christmas and Easter that I intentionally don’t go, because of the fears of the IBS hitting. I know that the stress/anxiety of it happening does contribute to it happening, but about parking, crowdedness, and lack of pit stops makes me to fearful to leave my home.

My reason for not going to Mass is solely due to the IBS. I’ve tried to control my IBS–and have gotten better by eliminating wheat/gluten, dairy, egg, and soy from my diet. I do not stress out as much as I used to…but traveling anywhere by car produces stress that I haven’t been able to control. I don’t go to concerts, movies, etc. for the same reason–it’s not just Mass. I avoid freeways (traffic), crowded malls, etc and so crowded Mass/church is part of that.

I want to know if me not going to Mass, given my IBS, would be considered a sin? I suffered from depression (still do) for many more years beyond the IBS–and I still went to Mass with the depression. But the IBS interferes with my life in a more physical manner.

I hope I am making sense.


Hi Barb,I feel for you…what you might think about is attending a mass later in the day like a noon mass or Saturday evening mass you might consider going to those when the IBS isn’t acting up as much. You might also try this which I learned from someone who has the same problem and swears it has been a life changer. The bouts still come but they aren’t nearly as frequent. Start every morning with a bowl of oatmeal or Cream of Wheat (mostly oatmeal) and add in honey, chopped walnuts and about a quarter to a third teaspoon of 'Flax USA brand milled organic ground flax seed. You can make yourself a bowl in the microwave, so pour in about a half cup of quick cooking Oatmeal with just under a cup of water mixed in and cook for a minute, stir, than another 45 sec or so.

I know this is an awful thing to deal with but the mass will help too. When you receive the Eucharist offer it up to God! and ask Jesus to heal you… I’m sending up prayers for you right now! I hope you get some relief as I understand that it is an awful thing to deal with. God bless, Karen


Morning. My wife struggles with IBS as well. It took her a while to find a gastroenterologist who was both willing and competent enough to provide her some assistance (a low Fodmap diet helped along with some different meds that seem to have made a real difference).

Anyway, I do not believe that there is any obligation for a sick person to go to Mass while he/she is sick. I understand that, while this can be done without guilt for those who are occasionally sick or occasionally in the hospital, it is not terribly satisfying for those who have chronic conditions (it’s one thing to be sick as a dog and in bed…missing Mass one or two weeks because you physically can’t get there. It’s another thing to miss Mass while being able to do activities, but needing to be within 50 feet of an available toilet just in case)

Likewise, I’m sure you’d feel embarrassed to have an EMHC come to your house with Holy Communion and see you puttering about the house or the yard when he/she arrives. (“If you can do that, why can’t you come to Mass?”)

Frankly, I would talk to your pastor about the situation. He will likely say “if you can’t go, you can’t go…don’t worry about it.”

While he would be correct in his statement, it still doesn’t help with the guilt you’d be feeling inside.

What I would suggest might work in your situation is that you request to have your obligation officially commuted to another day of the week in accordance with Canon 1245:

Can. 1245 Without prejudice to the right of diocesan bishops mentioned in ⇒ can. 87, for a just cause and according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop, a pastor can grant in individual cases a dispensation from the obligation of observing a feast day or a day of penance or can grant a commutation of the obligation into other pious works. A superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life, if they are clerical and of pontifical right, can also do this in regard to his own subjects and others living in the house day and night.

(Refer to the comments in the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law…this particular page can be read online at Google Books at this link)

In that way, you could have the satisfaction of regularly meeting your obligation, but would be able to do so on a different day…one where you wouldn’t have to be worried about being blocked on the way to the toilet if something came up.


Karen–I am allergic to honey, but appreciate your advice.


I would suggest that you print off your post and send it in to your local bishop and ask him what alternatives there might be. Then wait for his reply. Many bishops have a website.

Some priests might feel a little bit at odds about giving a dispensation. The local bishop is the law and can make such decisions within his authority.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.


If you are feeling bad before Mass, you definitely are allowed to stay home. However, if you feel fine beforehand, I think you should try to go to Mass. Pray to God that you will have no problems during Mass, and then trust in God that he will get you through Mass safe and sound. If you are worried about parking, you can always get there really early before the parking lot is full. That will also guarantee you an aisle seat. Maybe an hour before Mass starts or even two hours. If you are going alone, bring a jacket or coat to hold your seat in you need to use the bathroom.

Alternatively, you can go with friends and family. They can worry about parking while you go to the restroom if needed. They can also save an aisle seat for you. I hope you have not hidden this condition from your friends and family in real life. They are there to help you. Lean on them for support. We humans are not meant to be alone. Hope you find a solution that works out. =)


Barb, I was suprised to find a Mass last Christmas that was no busier than a normal weekday Mass. It was a noon Mass at a church that is close to where I live but that I don’t usually attend at Christmas. The parish has a lot of families, and I suspect the mid-day Mass is less convenient for them. When I was growing up my family always went to a 4pm vigil Mass that was packed and is still packed today. My point being that maybe you should experiement with local churches and different times to find one that is not so stressful for you. Not just for the sake of the obligation, but because going to Church on Easter and at Christmas is a real joy and a celebration of the most important events in our Christian faith.

God bless.


Your reason for missing mass seems reasonable based on medical limitations.

If missing mass continues to trouble you, you may speak to your priest; he is permitted to give you a “dispensation” such that your obligation to attend mass every Sunday is suspended. This dispensation may give you more peace of mind.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.