Somewhat long Mass question, please help


Now, you see, I on a regular basis serve at the altar at a small campus ministry at a secular school in Southern California. Now usually, Fr. J, S.J. would be celebrating the Mass - but his superiors sent him abroad for a week to lead a retreat (which he obeyed; we’re talking about Jesuits here). Now he had told us that Fr. A., from a nearby parish in the diocese, would celebrate the one Mass this Sunday at 6:30PM (because most of the college students are out of town on spring break). So I and the other servers go to the Church, ready to assist at Mass, and 6:30 comes, but Fr. A is not there. 7:00, still not there. We try calling Fr. A’s cellphone, no answer. Finally, at 7:45ish, Fr. A tells us that Fr. J. told him he did not have to say Mass because it had been canceled to low attendance, and that he was about to administer Last Rites to someone. (One of the other altar servers, out of earshot, here comments that he personally witnessed Fr. J. tell Fr. A that he needed his help to celebrate Mass when he was giving the retreat abroad). We told the parishioners, who had just finished saying the Rosary waiting for Fr. A., that Mass was canceled. There were no other nearby parishes that would have been offering Mass at this time.

First question: I’m OK obligation-wise, no? I could not have anticipated Fr. would be unable to celebrate Mass, though if I had known he would not have, I would have gone to an earlier Mass than the one I usually serve.

Second question (assuming that I’m OK obligation wise). After we closed up, one of the fellow altar servers’ sister began to cry, like she had committed some horrible sin by missing Mass through no fault of her own. I have a feeling she might be scrupulous. What advice should I give my fellow altar server?


No one missed Mass through their own fault, so no worries there. In situations like this however, it is acceptable for the lay ministers to organize a communion service for the congregation. A communion service has all the elements of the Mass but the consecration. When the regular priest returns, you can ask him about it for next time.


Both priests need to go to confession. All who attended the expected Mass fulfilled their obligations.


Two of the conditions of mortal sin were not met: full knowledge and deliberate consent. You were under the impression that you would fulfill your Sunday obligation. Your will to to fulfill your Sunday obligation, and you did all in your power according to your knowledge that you could have done. There was no sin.

What I’d have done after this would have asked everyone present to say an act of spiritual communion in common.

God bless.


Why would you assume the worst of both priests, when it could have been a simple misunderstanding? Fr. J apparently secured a substitute for the Mass. We don’t really know what happened with Fr. A, but can’t we assume the best?


I would not actually be sure about the former assertion, at least for the regular priest. He had left in the supposition that there would be someone to say Mass.

Of course, in all likelihood he regularly confesses to his confreres, so…:shrug:

EDIT: Ninja’d.

And how would you advise someone who seems a little scrupulous about this? Not me, because I did have a strong feeling that this couldn’t have been a sin. I’m talking about my friend’s sister, who was sobbing at the news, like she wanted to scour the county for the nearest confessional.


I assumed that the facts presented were accurate. Low attendance is NEVER an excuse to cancel a priest’s OBLIGATION to the faithful.


A Communion Service can’t just be thrown together. It has to be done according to the directives of the Bishop and under direction of the pastor.

It’s a good idea for any parish (or campus ministry) that has only one priest to get a plan in place for the possibility of a Sunday with no priest available just as a precaution against situations like this.


Right. And in any case, there were no previously consecrated hosts, left, anyway, and we all know laymen can’t confect the Eucharist.


Read the post, the substitute priest was adminstering last rites to someone. in other words, he was taking care of someone that was dying. Sorry but with a shortage of priests, these types of things are going to be more common than not. Op didn’t say how many regularly attend this late Mass and if there was an emergency, that is going to take priority over a late Sunday Mass on a college campus with low attendance. All of this is over reaction on the part of this small group of kids. It’s sad but reality. they didn’t know and there also seems to be a miscommunication between the sub and the regular priest and what the group of colleges kids were led to believe.


I was unsure about the usual attendance on a spring break Sunday. Assuming the people who did attend would regularly do so, it was about 40 persons, not including myself and the other servers.


None of those present committed sin in missing mass. You could tell your friend that God does not require us to do the impossible, and since it is impossible to predict the future or to produce a priest out of thin air, that there is nothing that God could have expected of her (or anyone there) other than what was done - show up for mass under the good faith assumption that there would be one.

I think it is probably fruitless to try to determine whether Fr. A was justified in canceling or not (especially over the internet). If you wanted to pursue that line though, it would probably be best to discuss things with Fathers A and J to determine what happened, but I’m not sure it wouldn’t just be best to let this one go. It sounds like there was some confusion and that’s unfortunate, but stuff happens.


Pastors are obliged to apply one mass each Sunday for their parish. Anything beyond that is done for the good of the faithful, but not obligatory. In this case the priest in question was not the pastor and we are not even certain, based on the limited information provided here, if this campus mass is a regular parish mass. It may very well be simply a chapel.


exactly. Likewise, we do not know if there was a shortage of priests from the order due to the fact that others could have been away on the same retreat as the regular priest. It seems like a big miscommunication with priest stretched too thin to cover too many things. It probably would have been better if the regular guy was on retreat and it was spring break to have just cancelled the Mass and then those that regularly attend make other arrangements. I always concern me that people assume the worst of our priests instead of the best.


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