When does Saturday Evening Vigil fulfill Sunday Obligation?

We must fulfill the Sunday obligation.
However, it seems that the Saturday evening vigil can fulfill this obligation.
The question is when does it fulfill this obligation?

Is it either…

  1. only when we cannot make the Sunday Mass for real reasons such as travel or impossibility, and then the Saturday evening vigil fulfills the obligation.

  2. regardless of why the person cannot or will not make the Sunday Mass, in every scenario does the Saturday evening vigil fulfill the obligation.

I ask this because my friends want to go to the city this Sunday. However, it’s possible I won’t be able to make Mass on Sunday if I go. If I were to then go on Saturday, will it fulfill the obligation? I mean, I could just skip the trip on Sunday and go to Mass on Sunday. It’s just that the reason I wouldn’t be able to go to Sunday Mass is because of a trip for “fun” and isn’t what I’d call a serious reason for missing Sunday Mass, and I don’t have to go on the trip either. So does missing Sunday Mass for Saturday vigil only apply for serious things or can it be for any reason such as for our convenience or because we want to do something else on Sunday?

Is the obligation fulfilled by going on Saturday because I missed Mass on Sunday for something like a trip to the city with friends?

You don’t need a particular reason to attend Mass on Saturday rather than Sunday.

Can. 1247 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and aVairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.

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.

Liturgically, Saturday evening is already part of Sunday so there’s no problem. Also, some Solemnities like Easter, Pentecost and Christmas should have different readings during vigils. I say should because many parishes just use the Sunday one.

The Lord’s Day (dominici) begins on Saturday evening (vespere), according to JPII.

Not to be confused with the midnight to midnight definition of the English Sunday.

The others are correct. The Church requires no reason for you to make use of the Saturday Vigil Mass. So go to Mass on Saturday evening. Have fun with your friends on Sunday. Be at peace. :slight_smile:

It is not a vigil unless the propers and readings are designated as a “Vigil” liturgy, such as that for Christmas Eve or the night before Pentecost. A Saturday evening Mass is the Mass of Sunday, and not “anticipated” or “vigil”.

Being raised Catholic, I was taught that going to mass on either Saturday evening or Sunday was good enough to fulfill your weekly obligation. There is no preference for one over the other. When we read Genesis, we see that a day starts at sundown…not at midnight. Thus, going to mass on Saturday night is the same as Sunday. This is still how Jews view the start and end of the Sabbath as well. The Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday but technically, Shabbat begins Friday night at Sundown and ends the next night when three stars are visible in the sky.

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.

So, if I were to attend a liturgy in an Orthodox church, would my obligation be fulfilled?

Canon 1248 does specify that one assist at Mass in a “Catholic rite”. I would think this means no.

But, if the primary reason you are attending any Mass is “obligation”, you need to do some soul searching. Hopefully, you are attending Mass out of desire to give praise, thanks, glorification, and take part in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and not obligation!

If I recall the OP’s situation correctly, he is a pre-convert, and is not even bound by the obligations of a baptized Catholic yet, so I would say yes, he definitely is doing that already.


I apologize to the OP.

My use of “you” was not pointed to the poster or the poster’s situation, but to many who while concerned with obligation forget what is simply right and just, regardless of obligation.

Well stated :thumbsup:

Not for a Catholic. (But, also we abstain from labors and business.) Evening may be as early as noon, based on the changes made in 1983, but normally about 4 PM, which is well before sunset. It was not intended to match up with the Jewish start of the day, but to make it easier to fulfill the obligation with various schedules.

This is the full text for 1247 and 1248 from CIC:
Canon 1247
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass; they are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body.

Canon 1248

  1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.
  2. If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the liturgy of the word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.

Also according to Akin, the obligation is not met.


Thanks for all the answers. I understand that the obligation isn’t something we should feel forced to do and instead is that we want to go to Mass. I guess my question is whether going to Saturday evening vigil to fulfill the obligation can only apply for serious reasons for not being able to make the Sunday Mass, and that for reasons such as going to the city for a trip would not count as serious.

I have no problems whatsoever on missing out on the trip to go to Sunday Mass. My question is whether my choice to go to a Saturday evening vigil to fulfill the obligation due to something nonserious in nature (like going on a trip) should not apply to fulfill the obligation and could be sinful to do so. I say this because I understand the Saturday vigil obligation fulfillment was for the purpose of helping people fulfill their obligation for those that can’t on Sundays. If this is true, I feel that maybe it’s sinful in a way on my part to go to Saturday vigil instead due to something nonserious and something I don’t have to do (like going on a trip to NY).
A trip to a city is non serious and is something I can choose not to do, but maybe going on this trip and instead go to Mass on Saturday makes me selfish for not going to Mass on Sunday and is just me taking advantage of the fact that Saturday can fulfill the obligation, so I am being selfishly sinful?

*And I understand that Jewish customs say the day starts at evening, but for purpose of the evening vigil fulfilling the obligation, supposedly it had nothing to do with the church’s decision to determine that evening vigil fulfills the obligation, and was really just so people busy on Sundays can fulfill the obligation. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Sunday should still be seen as midnight to midnight. So the “day starts at evening” doesn’t seem to help me as the evening vigil should be an exception and not necessarily the rule for fulfilling Sunday obligation. Unless of course I’m wrong and the evening+day explanation actually was part of the Church’s decision :smiley:

My understanding is that the Saturday night vigil fulfills the Sunday obligation completely and we do not require any reasons to prefer attending it to attending a Sunday Mass.

However, one thing that most Catholics forget is that hearing Mass is not the only thing we are obliged to do on a Sunday. We are also obliged to refrain from unneccessary work and from causing others to have to work unneccessarily. The fact that many people have abandoned both Catholicism and Protestantism and so wish to work on a Sunday does not mean we can do things that cause others to have to work. Catholics are obliged to do what we can to establish Sunday as a day of rest, even officially, and shopping or unneccessary eating out at restaurants is opposed to this.

Sunday is meant to a day of prayer, thinking and learning about God, and rest from distracting worldly activities.

The Catholic Church makes no distinction between the Sunday Mass on Saturday evening and the Sunday Mass on Sunday morning. There is no difference.

Some history here: prior to the 1983 Code of Canon Law (in other words, according to the 1917 Code) attending Mass on Saturday evening was an exception (note the past tense).

Because that could be implemented (but was never required) by individual bishops, the actual dates which these Masses began varied anytime from 1953* to 1983. In 1983, that changed and it became available for every parish (indeed, every priest who wanted to have Mass on Saturday evening). A priest no longer needed the bishop’s permission (after '83). The other significant difference was that before 1983, one needed to have a reason to attend on Saturday. After 1983, no such reason is needed. I hesitate to post that because the laws of the past are no longer binding. The only reason I mention it is because even after 30 years, some Catholics still cling to the idea that one needs a reason to attend on Saturday evening.

One reason for this is that the Church has returned to a more biblical understanding of the day. In the biblical method the next day begins when the previous day ends—i.e. at sunset. From the perspective of the Liturgy, the say of Sunday begins when evening begins on Saturday (i.e. approximately 4 PM) St. John Paul II, who promulgated the 1983 Code of Canon Law explains this in his letter Dies Domini. This only applies on Sundays and Holy Days (in the Western Church).

Yes, it was done to make it easier for the faithful to fulfill the obligation, but this is not the only reason. The fact that it’s the biblical method, and the one followed by the early Church, and the one constantly in use by Eastern Christians is also a significant part of the reason.

Here’s the bottom line:

If you choose to attend Mass on Saturday evening rather than on Sunday morning. There is nothing improper about that. You do not need any reason. It’s is nothing more than a choice, and that choice is entirely yours to make. Choosing the 5 PM Mass on Saturday is no different than choosing the 9 AM Mass on Sunday. It makes no difference whatsoever.

I cannot stress that enough to you: it makes no difference, none whatsoever, if you choose the Sunday Mass on Saturday evening (according to the secular calendar) or the Sunday Mass on Sunday morning, or a Sunday Mass on Sunday afternoon. It is your choice to make, and all of them are equal.

  • There is no point in getting into the whole history of when and how this came about since the 1983 Code makes all of that immaterial, except from a scholarly perspective.

*Obligation *is not a bad word. :ehh:


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