QUAERITUR: Sunday obligation when at sea

From a reader:

My Grandparents are convinced that they are excused from their Sunday mass obligation because they will be out to sea on a Sunday without access to a Catholic priest. I’m worried that because they chose to go on this ship of their own free will without investigating the availability of a priest that they will fall into mortal sin if they go…your thoughts?

My thought is that if there is no priest, there is no Mass.  If there is no Mass, then there is in that occasion no way to fulfill the obligation.  Since no one is bound to do what is not possible, they on this occasion are not obliged to attend a Mass which is not taking place where they are.

However, when they return to shore, and if there is a Mass, and if it is a day of obligation, then they should go.

Keep in mind, dear reader, that when people are traveling, depending on the circumstances, the obligation on a day of precept is somewhat attenuated.

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77 Responses to QUAERITUR: Sunday obligation when at sea

  1. marajoy says:

    but, Father… It doesn’t seem to me that you really answered the question–
    Should one *avoid* doing things that would put them in a position where there is no priest/Mass on a HDoO?

  2. o.h. says:

    Thanks for addressing this question, Father. My oldest child went with grandparents on a trip out to the boonies of Wyoming, where there was no Mass available (one had to take a snow tractor just to reach the resort), and our parish priest insisted that this was impermissible without a dispensation in advance, as she had gone voluntarily. I never understood that; it would seem to imply that a Catholic could never travel abroad if there were a probability of being unable to attend Mass on a day of obligation.

    Didn’t Stephen Maturin voluntarily go asea without a priest?

  3. DavidJ says:

    I would think that it also depends on the intent. Are they intending on doing this _in order_ to miss Mass? Probably not. Were they going on the cruise with the thought “as a bonus, we can sleep in because there’s no Mass on Sunday morning!” I would say that’s a different story.

    We also quickly get to the absurd if we say that one can never be in a position to miss Mass.

  4. TNCath says:

    Be aware as well, that often cruise lines often hire suspended/laicizied/married without being laicized priests as “chaplains” for their cruises, saying Mass illicitly for their passengers.

  5. JPManning says:

    Sometimes when I go on holiday I fly on Sunday and miss Mass. It makes me feel a bit uneasy with myself but I don’t really know if it’s wrong. My intent is to have an extra day’s holiday, when I put it as baldly as that it does seem that Mass would have been more important. What do people think?

  6. APX says:

    @TNCath

    That’s in interesting point. While I’ve never been fortunate enough to go on a cruise yet, we did a lot of camping growing up and used to get dragged into the nearest town for Mass every Sunday, except once when we were with some friends who knew about a resort at one of the beaches at the lake that had Mass on Sundays. I was young, so I didn’t know at the time, but the Mass was invalid. Not illicit, but invalid. The priest used leavened bread, and I suspect it wasn’t pure wheat bread, as it very dark, dry, and crumbly (sounds like rye bread) as he broke pieces off it at communion time. Now I’m starting to wonder about the priest.

  7. joslire says:

    I fly trans-Pacific often & regularly have no Sunday. Depart hometown Saturday (before Vigil Mass) & arrive in SE Asia early Monday morning. Sometimes I miss Sunday Mass after arrival because of jetlag (it is sometimes crippling.) But I make a point of attending a daily Mass as quickly as I am able and try to attend one where confession is available (confession is almost always available before Mass in SE Asia!)

    While we’re on this topic, I’ll be in-transit from SE Asia to Houston this Sunday. Please pray for my safe travels. I cannot wait to return to Our Lady of Walsingham. I feel that part of my soul is missing when I am away from my parish home.

  8. MarkJ says:

    Father Z., I have to disagree with you on this one. I don’t understand how sightseeing or cruising or any other vacation plans could EVER be considered more important than fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation to assist at Mass. There are so many choices these days in vacations, that there really is no excuse… Personally, I would never agree to a vacation that excluded Sunday Mass. Our eternal destiny depends on the importance we give to our Lord… do we take a vacation from Him or with Him?

  9. Mike says:

    I’m not a huge traveler, but once in Alaska–in Wasilla, actually–and once St. Martin’s–a couple of quick questions to a tour guide got me to Mass.

    I know this doesn’t directly bear on the issue, but usually it’s not so hard to find a RCC.

  10. APX says:

    Mike says:
    I know this doesn’t directly bear on the issue, but usually it’s not so hard to find a RCC.

    I think it’s a little more difficult when you’re in the middle of the ocean. If you’re in a port and there’s time, and you can get to it, but decide to go jet-skiing instead, I believe that would be different.

  11. Papabile says:

    The issue of Mass attendance at sea has a long canonical history due to the issue of canonical jurisdiction and diocesan boundaries. One could spend boundless hours reading through the old canonical manuals and the decisions of the SCR as to when one is obliged to attend, or offer Mass while at sea.

    The principle offered by Father is a sound one.

  12. sophiamarie3 says:

    In a world where people are willing to suffer great pains and even die to attend the Holy Mass, it saddens me that people would sacrifice attending mass for simple and fleeting pleasure. I understand missing for an emergency or if necessary travel makes Sunday Mass impossible, however, a cruise planned months ahead of time just doesn’t seem important enough to miss.

  13. Bryan Boyle says:

    I was taught, a long time ago, that the Church’s obligations, bound under pain of sin, were not there to place you in an impossible situation. By the same token we are obligated to do our best (as in not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good…) to meet those obligations.

    If we are being so scrupulous as to avoid going on a vacation because the cruise line may not have Mass available a thousand miles off the coast of any country or the camp in the middle of the Montana woods is a hundred miles from the nearest parish with one Mass on Sunday…well, a word with the pastor, who has the authority to dispense you from the Sunday Obligation, would probably suffice. That is within their authority and rightful exercise of their office to do so. They can obligate you to attend another day when it is possible, assign you an alternative obligation (mine, when I have asked, has offered that a Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and prayerful meditation of the Sunday readings would be appropriate), or dispense you altogether (although, a good pastor will require some alternative).

    Enjoy your trip, IMHO.

  14. frfrancis says:

    This is why you should always invite a priest to go with you on vacation.

  15. Maxiemom says:

    I’ve been on two cruises and both times there was a priest on board. Besides the fact that there are many Catholic passengers, many crew members on our cruises were Filipino and Catholic. The priest said mass for them late in the evening and offered daily mass in addition to Sunday mass.

  16. Bender says:

    The greater problem is considering Mass attendance in terms of “obligation” rather than “opportunity.”

    One should not be going to Mass merely because he “has to go,” he should go because he “wants to go.” If your body is present there at Mass out of duty, but your heart is felt put upon and obligated while there, rather than being in a spirit of loving gift and reception of gift, then it is as if one is not there at all.

    To be efficacious, Mass attendance must be a freely-made act of love. As such, there never can be any “obligation” to attend and participate at Mass — no one is forced to go. We are all free to go or not go. It is a matter of free choice of the will. Either we want to be with God or we do not. But there is no “obligation.” There is no “requirement.” There is no force. That is as it has been set out by God Himself since “the beginning.”

    Rather, if we want to be with God, He will be with us. And if we do not want to spend some time with God one measly hour a week, if we do not want go to Mass, we don’t have to, but then He will then not be with us. But if one is forced to go, if one is obligated to go against his will, then it is not a free choice of the will. It is not an act of love for God.

    The problem is not that someone might say “I don’t have to go to Mass because I’ll be at sea or travelling elsewhere.” The problem is that the person is not saying “I will be unable to go to Mass if I am at sea even though I want to go.” It is the wholly lack of personal desire to go to Mass out of love for God that is the problem, not the presence or nonpresence of some loophole or exception that gets us out of being required to go.

  17. pelerin says:

    Interesting to read Brian Boyle’s comment that the Church’s obligations were not there to place you in an impossible situation. I still remember the Priest explaining the Sunday obligation to me years ago by saying that if I had decided to attend the Sunday evening Mass and a long lost cousin from Australia turned up unannounced just before I left, then it would actually be wrong of me to shoot off to Mass and ignore him. This understanding impressed me greatly at the time and I have never forgotten it although happily I have never had to put it in practise.

  18. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Z is absolutely correct here (not that that should surprise anyone!), when one is unable to make it to Mass on a day of precept, one is not obliged to attend. Of course, other interlocutors are also correct, that one should not needlessly place oneself in a position where one misses Mass, but that “needlessly” is open to a certain amount of interpretation. There’s no need to be a rigorist here and say one must avoid all travel that would inhibit one’s fulfillment of one’s obligation – the Church does not say that, and there is considerable danger in attempting to be more Catholic than the Church. Even vacations and relaxation have their place in a well-rounded Christian life. Scrupulosity can be a very dangerous spiritual disease.

    Yet, there also remains another option here, especially if the inability to hear Mass is foreknown. Canon 1245 gives to priests the ability to give a dispensation from the obligation to observe a holy day or a day of penance, or – (and here I’d like to highlight something that is seldom invoked) to commute the obligation into some other pious works. If one is going to be travelling and will miss a Sunday Mass, or not be able to do penance on a Friday, one can always approach one’s pastor and request a commutation – perhaps he will ask you to attend Mass during the week, or abstain from meat on Thursday, or pray 15 decades of the rosary while you travel, or assist in the burial of the dead. The definition of “other pious work” is tremendously broad and gives the priest much pastoral leeway to take into consideration the gravity of the situation and the ability of the one requesting the commutation. Personally, I must confess, I like the concept of a commutation much better than a dispensation in these circumstances.

    The mercy and care of the Church is as deep as that of the Lord to Whom She is wedded.

  19. Tim Ferguson says:

    And in response to the notion that one should view hearing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days as an opportunity rather than an obligation, that might be a pious thought, but it really is not consistent with the teaching of the Church. The virtue of religion requires us to worship God and the Church places an obligation on baptized Catholics to assist at Mass on such days. It is certainly nice and virtuous and salubrious to do so out of desire, but the efficacy of the Mass is not dependent upon our feelings at the time. Nor should we avoid going to Mass if we don’t *want* to go. We are baptized. We have an obligation. That is independent of our emotional state on Sunday morning.

  20. There was never any obligation on holy Catholic hermits that they live in a wilderness retreat within walking distance of Sunday Mass, or that they all be priests. So clearly, there are plenty of good reasons for arranging one’s entire Catholic way of life such that one missed Mass almost all the time.

    Moving along… people really are allowed to make prudential decisions about how and where they go on vacation or on business. Worldly prudential reasons really are good enough reasons in this case, as long as you’re not combining them with sin. (Obviously, “I’m going out to the waybacks to murder somebody!” wouldn’t be prudential, to say the least.) The Church really is very generous, and we shouldn’t try to bind burdens on people in these matters.

  21. MisericordiasDomini says:

    We need to be clear about what is of divine precept and what is of ecclesiastical precept concerning the sanctification of Sundays.
    -Of divine precept (i.e., God commands us, in this case, in the Ten Commandments) is the obligation to ‘keep holy the Sabbath day’ and to abstain from servile labor.
    -Of ecclesiastical precept (i.e. the Church binds us) is the obligation to assist at holy Mass. The Church imposes this obligation upon us in order to determine precisely *how* we should ‘keep holy the Sabbath day.

    Four causes dispense us from assisting at Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day: physical impossibility (e.g. sick people, prisoners, sailors who have no chaplains, *travelers who have no access to a priest*), moral impossibility (e.g. those who live at a very great distance from a church, soldiers, in the discharge of their calling, those who have been entrusted with the care of small children, nurses and those who care for the sick, those who have to care for cattle, etc. Granted, now that most people have access to multiple Sunday Masses, it is forseeable that most people in this category could probably go to Mass. If the shift work of a nurse prevents him/her from attending in the morning, there is the evening Mass. If a couple absolutely cannot bring a child to church, one parent could go to the early Mass, and one to a later Mass. But in places where there is only one Mass, the obligation to certain duties of state could legitimately dispense a person from hearing Mass), charity (e.g. those who, though not bound by duty to do so, have reasons for remaining at the bedside of the sick; those who have to assist a neighbor in some great calamity such as a flood, a fire, or other natural disaster; those whose presence at Mass could cause some grievous wrong, such as a huge quarrel, a theft, a duel, etc.), and, last but not least, custom (e.g. -and this is kind of dated, but. . . those who, according to the custom of a country, cannot go out without exciting comment and remark: widdows in those countries where it is not usual for them to go out for a month after their husband’s death, or persons who cannot appear in church without serious embarrassment).
    Now those people who are impeded from going to Mass are still obliged to avoid unneccessary servile work; and they are still obliged to sanctify the day, i.e. to keep it holy. This they could (and should) do through extra prayers, and engaging in the works of mercy.
    God’s command still endures, even when we are unable to fulfill the command of the Church.

    Now, as to whether or not we can legitimately take a vacation which would forseeably place us in a physical impossibility to hear Mass, the moral theologians tell us that we can indeed do so. Recreation is a legitimate physical and mental need for everyone, especially in our workaholic society. Recreation allows us to go back to our duties with a fresh mind and new energy, ennabling us to better fulfill our duties of state. (Remember that doing your duties of state well is part of being holy. If your duty of state involves shoveling garbage into a truck, shoveling garbage can be holy if you do it in the proper spirit.) The theologians would admit that if one’s vacation should forseeably prevent one from hearing Mass, one is still permitted to take this vacation, so long as one is not taking this vacation for the express purpose of avoiding Mass. One should not, however, take such vacations more than once or twice a year.

    Let us remember that we cannot be ‘holier than the Church,’ and if holy Mother Church, Christ’s Mystical Body, tells us that we are excused from hearing Mass for certain reasons, then we are excused from Mass. End of story. If you, personally, would rather go to Mass than take a vacation that would prevent it, then so be it. That would be a sacrifice which, I’m sure, would be very pleasing to the Sacred Heart, even a heroic act of virtue, perhaps; but it would a sacrifice freely given on your part. One cannot bind another to make such a sacrifice.

    As a priest, the Mass is the center of my life; and fortunately for me, where I go, the Mass goes with me. The Mass should, nay, must be the center of every Christian’s life. But sometimes there is a legitimate reason for not assisting at Holy Mass. Let us strive to love, revere, and desire the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as it ought to be loved, revered, and desired; and let us strive to live in the spirit of that Holy Sacrifice every moment of every day in our life, even if we spend the day shoveling garbage.

  22. xgenerationcatholic says:

    I’ve had three situations where I honestly thought I’d be at Mass while on vacation, but then couldn’t find one (Tennessee, Switzerland – that one was a holy day I missed) or was on a train all day Saturday night through Sunday. I did feel pretty bad. I wouldn’t plan a vacation where I knew I couldn’t go to Mass – I’d find that unacceptable, but if I thought I was going to find one and didn’t get there because I planned poorly or didn’t realize the kind of area I was going to be in wouldn’t have a Mass, I’d hope I wasn’t committing a mortal sin.

  23. MJ says:

    There have been two or three times I haven’t made it to Mass while on vacation. One time in particular, my aunt and I were in Barcelona, Spain, and we had done our research before hand and located an EF Mass. We got there 1/2 hour early, but the doors were locked, no one answered our knocks or the bell, and we waited an hour outside but no one else came…so we walked to a nearby church and caught the tail end of an OF Mass. I felt bad, but we had tried.

    We shouldn’t be “more Catholic than the Pope” when it comes to these things. We should do our research and try to find a Mass to attend while on vacation, but if none is to be found we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it either.

  24. jkm210 says:

    I don’t think you can legitimately miss Mass for vacation plans. The kind of “traveling” implied is of the necessary kind. I don’t think the average person began taking vacations until probably the late 19th century at the earliest, so I don’t think this is probably what the Church had in mind.

    Of course, things happen. If you contacted the cruise line ahead of time, asked if there was going to be a priest and was told there would, and then there wasn’t, or if you found out that he was of the illict rent-a-priest type, you would certainly be excused from your obligation.

    My husband and I went on a cruise for our honeymoon, and I honestly never even thought of this ahead of time. Fortunately for us, we were in a port of call on the Sunday of the cruise, and were able to attend Mass at St. William’s on Tortola, BVI. It was a very moving and memorable Mass which definitely enhanced our trip. I think trying to select a cruise where you’re on land on a Sunday is probably the way to go.

  25. ccrino says:

    Two things: 1) We sometimes forget how spoiled we are to have multiple options for mass in walking distance. It is a modern convenience. Think of anyone who set out into the wilderness centuries ago and who, in the absence of a chaplain, might not have been able to attend mass for months at a time. As was stated, we can only do what is possible.

    2) Just today I was making extensive travel plans. I try and be careful to put myself where I can go to mass, but sometimes it is just impossible. And in some countries it is still impossible. So, I look for options, such as perhaps attending an Orthodox church and not receiving communion. Or, just spending time in prayer with the readings of the day. I’m one of those people who always tries to get there, but if you can’t, you can’t. And then relax and enjoy the Day of the Lord.

  26. dcs says:

    I don’t think you can legitimately miss Mass for vacation plans.

    You can as long as it is not more than once or twice per year. That is what Fr. Jone (moralist whose manual was widely used in the first half of the XXth century) says at any rate. Leisure time is important, too, and while it is true that most people probably did not take vacations a couple of centuries ago, the nature of most jobs today all but requires that one take vacation to be able to enjoy leisure time.

    Sometimes our grandparents know better than we do.

  27. ray from mn says:

    I remember a variation on this theme from fourth grade catechism class. “S’ter, what if you were crossing the Pacific on the way to Japan and unbeknown to you while you slept you crossed the International Date Line and when you went to bed it was Saturday night, but it would be Monday when you woke up. Would that be a mortal sin, S’ter?” [They had no Saturday vigil Masses in those days].

  28. jfm says:

    My grandmother would often watch the mass for the shut-ins on EWTN.

    Are there DVD/iPod/You Tube masses that one can watch and pray while one is on vacation?

    I haven’t been at sea for vacations, and I usually like to check out the local churches wherever I go, so I’ve been able to attend Mass on vacation. (Sadly, I have often been more excited about going to a new church in a new city or country than I sometimes am on Sunday morning in my own church. I know this is terrible and people die for masses, etc — once I’m there, I usually revitalize quickly.)

  29. Supertradmum says:

    I personally cannot understand wanting to go on a holiday where there is no Mass available.

  30. MarkJ says:

    @Supertradmum: I completely agree.

  31. restoration says:

    I’ve used the “traveling dispensation” for years when visiting family where no Tridentine Mass was readily available. I looked at it the same way an Eastern Catholic would where his rite is not available. People of goodwill may differ on how to apply the dispensation, but my conscience is clear.

  32. Brad says:

    I agree with jkm210: the difference between the modern, decadent concept of vacation versus the traditional concept of travel and its connotation of necessity. I would think the latter is what is codified in Catholic “rule books”, which are now a world away from being able to address the former.

    Also what she said about calling ahead to perform due diligence about the presence of a priest on board. Rather like that thing called a telephone that helps us arrange supposedly unobtainable confession.

  33. Ed the Roman says:

    Supertradmum, I guess you can’t understand wanting to go to Philmont Scout Ranch, then, because what with the bus trip you will not necessarily have access to a mass each Sunday.

  34. Ed the Roman says:

    And if we want an example of the ridiculous in avoiding religious obligation, consider the long lines for pay phones in Saudi Arabia at prayer time: travelers are dispensed from prayers, and a phone call is considered travel, as is waiting for the phone.

    Probably not kosher to be seen taking a cell call while on line, though.

  35. Jason says:

    So if it’s ok to take holiday even when we know it will mean we won’t be able to fulfill our Sunday obligation to assist at Mass, how often can we do that?

  36. pseudomodo says:

    Is this really the case???

    Suppose we mention to our pastor that we are:

    a) Going on a backpacking trip across the Rockies. or
    b) Travelling to (insert here some country where the church has no official presence). or
    c) etc. etc. etc.

    Is a good and holy priest going to tell you, ‘sorry, you can’t go. you have to cancel your trip.’? Are there canon laws regarding travel restrictions for Catholics now? I think that a good catholic is free to travel anywhere they want to regardless whether mass is available or not.

    I went all through Italy and Greece on a guided tour and we went to many, many catholic churches, but we had no opportunity for mass. It was not part of the itinerary. We were travelling and we ccould not find a mass even on our free hours which the exception of stumbling upon an orthodox service in Athens.

    We did not deliberately avoid mass. There was no plan to avoid on our part. We were simply travelling and siteseeing. We could not go.

  37. jasoncpetty says:

    This post has given me new perspective. While I would not voluntarily schedule anything that caused me to miss a Sunday or Holy Day, I will no longer begrudge others that freedom.

    BUT: if you’re traveling, even abroad, and you don’t know about Mass Times dot org, now you do! If you can’t find a Mass this way (and you can even search by additional criteria such as language, e.g., Latin!), it’s probably only because you’re backpacking in Mongolia.

  38. albinus1 says:

    I wouldn’t plan a vacation where I knew I couldn’t go to Mass – I’d find that unacceptable, but if I thought I was going to find one and didn’t get there because I planned poorly or didn’t realize the kind of area I was going to be in wouldn’t have a Mass, I’d hope I wasn’t committing a mortal sin.

    If I recall my Baltimore Catechism, committing a mortal sin requires all three of the following conditions:
    A) a grave offense,
    B) sufficient reflection, AND
    C) full consent of the will.

    Finding yourself in a spot where there was less access to Mass that you had anticipated would seem to fail conditions B) and C). It might be evidence of less-than-thorough planning, but I don’t see how it rises to the level of mortal sin.

  39. Nonny says:

    Just my own two cents’ worth:

    Once a long time ago I went on a camping trip and the Lord by a gentle but clear series of events made it eminently clear that He wanted us to go to Mass, not to skip it…this was before I loved Him enough to plan everything around the Mass, and before I knew about asking for a dispensation. That was the last time I did that!! I felt sorry later that I took so little consideration…

    Now I say: I think that if we knew what it really is to receive Him, we would never desire to take a vacation where He cannot be had. I am not saying the Church says you never can–I leave that to priests/canonists to tell us. But who would want to? Is Jesus first or not? Is He not EVERYTHING? I can’t imagine wanting to go anyplace or do anything so much that I would want to miss Mass. What is any of it compared to Him? There are many ways to recreate…and plenty of options or ways to schedule things that do not involve missing Mass. You like to hike? Go Monday to Saturday… You need to travel? Most times you can find a way to go without missing Mass. With Saturday p.m. and Sunday Mass options, is it really impossible? I bet for most of us, here and now, it is possible with a little planning. If you are faithful, He will get you to a Mass somewhere if one is to be had…

    If you find yourself in a situation where Mass simply cannot be had in a place that you must go, and there is no alternative, my feeling is that I would feel awful unless I asked a priest for a dispensation and he gave it to me. I bet most people don’t know about that possibility. Not that it should be asked for for frivolous reasons, but for a real reason… Even if I were obliged somehow to travel to a place without Mass (like I have a relative in some foreign country where there’s no Mass and I have to go there to help them, or maybe lay missionaries run into this problem…), I would ask for a dispensation just to show the Lord I care! Not judging or saying the Church is necessarily this strict, I personally don’t know exactly, but why not make the effort?

    OK, that’s more like 10 cents’ worth! LOL.

  40. Laura R. says:

    MisericordiasDomini and Fr. Z, thank you for your comments on this topic; you’ve been very helpful.

  41. bookworm says:

    It seems to me — just my opinion — that missing Mass because of a once-in-a-lifetime event or unexpected circumstance (e.g. a long lost relative suddenly drops in, your car breaks down, the parish you had hoped to attend canceled Mass that week for some reason) that’s not likely to be repeated in the foreseeable future would NOT be a sin, whereas missing Mass because of a readily avoidable or preventable circumstance that is likely to recur again (such as simply oversleeping or not bothering to check Mass times in the area you are visiting) MAY be sinful.

    For most people who are not wealthy, going on an overseas trip or cruise would probably fall into the first category — particularly if it is a dream trip they have been anticipating and setting aside money for for many years, or doing in observance of a special occasion such as a 50th wedding anniversary. However, if you are wealthy enough to go on a cruise every year and never take the time to investigate whether Mass may be available, that’s a different story.

  42. CatholicDRE says:

    I see this person’s point. I get kids in our program all the time who sign up for sports or activities knowing full well that these obligations will keep them out of class or Mass on Sunday. At what point is that voluntary obligation sinful? I always get a dispensation myself just to be safe.

  43. moconnor says:

    Interesting that someone mentioned Tennessee. I grew up there and remembered that Catholic churches were uncommon in some places, but I recently traveled to East Tennessee and found that within the area I was traveling, there were several churches with ONLY a Saturday anticipated Mass and the others had only one Mass on Sunday. Missionaries are needed there.

  44. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    It seems to me that anything besides an actual physical or moral impossibility of going to Mass on a Sunday/Holy Day of Obligation would require a formal, individual, dispensation from the pastor as in CIC 1245, which is only valid when it is for “a just cause”. It is not impossible for me to schedule my travel to my vacation destination for a day other than Sunday; it is not impossible for me not to take my vacation in the boonies 100 miles away from a church; it is not impossible for me not to take a vacation at all. It is not impossible for me not to go on a 3 week camping trip, or a hunting trip (unless, of course, I must do so to eat). Neither is it a moral impossibility. If such ‘relaxation’ were taken so seriously as to eclipse the obligation, why could not the relaxation of sitting on my couch watching football equally apply? But it doesn’t, therefore, etc.

    The reason CIC 1245 exists is precisely for these “just causes” listed above, and in so many other posts. Clearly, grave reasons need no dispensation. But freely chosen travel does not qualify. I do not see any other way of reading the CIC or the spirit of the law that would permit one to purposely schedule a non-essential absence from Holy Mass on a day of precept without receiving dispensation from the pastor. I would also add that one should approach one’s pastor prepared to submit to his direction should he refuse to grant the dispensation.

  45. Jason says:

    @AnonymousSeminarian: “If such ‘relaxation’ were taken so seriously as to eclipse the obligation, why could not the relaxation of sitting on my couch watching football equally apply? But it doesn’t, therefore, etc.”

    Exactly. My question above was, “So if it’s ok to take holiday even when we know it will mean we won’t be able to fulfill our Sunday obligation to assist at Mass, how often can we do that?”

    It was admittedly a leading question to which nobody responded. The exact point you made was the destination.

    Vacation and rest are necessary. There are myriad vacation options, the vast majority of which do not require that you miss Mass.

  46. Tom says:

    I really am quite disturbed to hear people advocating the missing of Sunday Mass in order to go on vacation. And as I read the various posts, I see some intermingling of various reasons for the missing of Mass while traveling.
    One being the person, in the planning of their vacation, made note of a church and Mass times, only to get there and find the church locked and no Mass. Surely, there is no fault in that person for not attending Mass.
    Another reason, a person is made to travel, ad hoc, by business and is in no way (reasonable or otherwise) able to attend. This absence is, to an extent, acceptable. However, maintaining employment at a place where this is a constant and manifest possibility, is questionable.
    Finally, there are cases where people plan a “vacation” or travel, knowing full well they wont be able to fulfill their Sunday Obligation, and yet, go anyway. This is what disturbs me. How can one justify missing the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, for a VACATION? Don’t we all lament how Jesus was abandoned by all but 3 of his followers, while on the cross? The Holy Apostles all fled in fear, and Peter himself denied Christ before also fleeing. So, if we think it was so sad for the Apostles to have left Jesus alone on the cross – because of fear for their lives – how can we be so supportive of letting others do so because they want a Caribbean cruise?

    Abandoning Christ on the cross out of fear for your life = lamentable
    Abandoning Christ on the cross out of a “need” for a vacation = perfectly ok
    Really, now?

  47. RCGuerilla says:

    This reminds me of the George Carlin bit “I used to be an Irish Catholic”. What if your on a ship, and you haven’t performed your Easter Duty? It’s the last day. The priest has gone into a coma. BUT.. you cross the International Date Line …

  48. Jenny says:

    xgen,

    I’m curious where you were at in TN that didn’t have Mass. We have churches around here, but they are pretty spread out and most do not have Sunday evening Mass. So if you were looking for a Mass on Sunday evening, I’m not surprised you didn’t find it. This is why I always get a good chuckle at my more Northern brethren stating how they pass by the local parishes (multiple) and drive 30 minutes! to the Mass with good liturgy. Around here the local parish(singular) IS 30 minutes away. :)

  49. MisericordiasDomini says:

    For those of you who insist that Catholics do not have the right to go on a vacation that would prohibit them from assisting at Mass on a particular Sunday,
    Please cite an approved manual of moral theology (or at least an approved catechism!) that states this.

    Remember that, as Catholics, it is not our personal opinion that makes up the Catholic Faith. Rather, we ought to “sentire cum ecclesia,” to “think with the Church.” This means that we must not only believe the Creeds and declarations of the ecumenical councils and the infallible pronouncements of the Holy Father, but that we must also hold to the common sentence of the approved theologians (see Pius IX “Tua Libenter”, DZ 1683).

    To hold an opinion contrary to the common sentence of the approved theologians (not just things that they say are “de fide,” but even things which they define as “theologically certain”) would be, at very least, rash and temerarious, if not sinful. Even worse would be to try to hold others to this opinion.

    To equate not attending Mass to “abandoning Christ on the Cross” (cf. Tom’s post), is a little absurd, for that would be to say that a person gravely ill and bedridden is “abandoning Christ on the Cross.” Even though it against the sick person’s will to “abandon” Him, because he is physically incapable of getting out of bed, he is nevertheless forced to “abandon Christ on the Cross” because apparently that’s what non-attendance at Mass entails. (If not going to Mass is “abandoning Christ on the Cross,” then absolutely nothing could excuse us from Mass!)

    I’m sorry, but our good God would not put His creatures in such a position.

    Again, we cannot be “more Catholic than the pope.” I am very edified by the deep devotion of many people here to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If I were a layperson, I would not want to take a vacation which prevented my attendance at Holy Mass. But I will not say that it is not the right of another to take such a vacation, or that they commit sin by doing so. We cannot presume to bind others to that to which the Church does not bind them!!!

    I understand that many of us are disgusted by the complete disregard of many people for the Sunday obligation, for the sacredness of the Holy Mass and of the Blessed Sacrament. I understand that many of us are wary of liberal pastors. But we cannot impose on others what the Church does not teach. If we do, then we become like the Pharisees who criticized Our Divine Lord for healing on the Sabbath. Remember, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” St. Mark ii. 27.

  50. Jason says:

    @MisericordiasDomini:

    Then I go back to my original question: how often can we do it? And if you could cite where the Church says it’s ok that would be appreciated as well.

  51. Mdepie says:

    Two comments, first we have 2 experts Father Z and MisericordiasDomini both stating that for vacation travel, one is permitted to miss mass if the nature of the travel was such that you could not go and otherwise would have to cancel the trip. MisericordiasDomini seems to be quoting directly from a very old but well respected manual of Moral Theology (FR. Jone’s work “Moral Theology” ) Very refreshing ! Back in the day… when one actually had a moral dilemma the Church actually had an answer! I think it makes little sense to burden consciences with a kind of rigorism based on ones own personal opinion. One would need to butress this argument with something a little more substantial. It goes without saying that if one is going on the standard vacation.. to the beach, to disney world or what have you, if you can get to mass you still have the obligation. On the other hand if you are flying to India on a once in a lifetime tour of the middle east can really can not reasonably get to Mass the obligation is gone. Its that simple. A reasonable person who really intends to go to Mass weekly will make the right call, because they will “want to go”.

    All that said what I find interesting and a little disturbing, is how many people would take issue with the obviously conservative Fr. Z , and argue for a “stricter” position. I have been seeing more and more Catholics becoming confused and actually not trusting well established positions of the Church for fear they are too lax. Of course this is under the radar screen because of the much more pressing problem of open apostasy all over the place, but it remains a problem still. An example of this confusion on the “right” includes disputes in the pro-life community ( Of which I am a member) regarding the vaidity of “brain death” ( A concept endorsed by orthodox Catholic Theologians for many years, and most recently by Blessed John Paul II) There are other issues as well. I think actual dissent ( woman priests, the CCHD donating money to pro-abortion groups, liturgical anomalies.. etc etc etc) have so shaken people and created an atmosphere of distrust that that those of us trying to live according to the traditional teachings of the Church can easily get rattled and not trust anything. At some level we start making it up ourselves. Remember this is just as much dissent whether from the right or the left.

    Those of us on the “right” need to be especially worry about traps which will distance us from the Church, that we tend to have an emotional affinity for. We are not likely to succumb to the things the “We are Church Crowd likes, not simply because we are so brillant to see them as wrong, but because they are so unattractive in and of themselves. Having merely to listen to the local DRE lady talk about community and Jesus loving us where we are at is enough to set my teeth on edge. We just “dont pray that way”. We are more likely to be trapped by a kind of Jansenism, or sedevacantist kind of idea that everyone but me is too lax… Mainly because a lot of the time its true, but not all of the time.

    Anyway I am inclined to take Fr. Z at face value and think he is probably a lot more likely to be correct regardless of my opinion, and then if its confirmed by the Fr. Jone manual, well case closed…

  52. Tim Ferguson says:

    Thank you, MisericordiasDomini for your wise interpellations here. There does seem to be a bit of unnecessary narrowness in some of the comments. Holy Mother Church, like Our Lord Himself, does not prescribe for us every iota of our life schedule, and any attempts to detail with precision things that the Church permits a broader approach should be avoided. While the Church calls us to perfection, the Church is magnanimous in recognizing human frailty.

    A minimalist approach to the Christian life asks the question – what is the most I can possibly get away with and still be saved? To which Christ responded with the maximalist – sell everything you have, give to the poor and come follow me. Does that mean that anyone who does not sell everything is not saved?

    There is a bit of a conflation of canon law, moral theology and devotion in some comments as well. While the three are most certainly not alien disciplines, there are distinctions that need to be made. Canon law (my area of competence) does not give specifications on how many times a dispensation can be given. Since a dispensation is a relaxation of the law in a particular case, one could presumably ask for a dispensation 70 x 7 times, recognizing that it is a favor, and not a right, and the dispensation might not be granted.

    Moral theology (and I’m on shakier ground here, as I do not pretend to be a moral theologian) is going to take into consideration one’s motive. Is one purposely chosing a place for vacation where attendance at Mass is impossible precisely because of that reason? Does one habitually chose to vacation where Mass is impossible? Does one lightly excuse oneself from Mass when one is on vacation – Mass might be at an inconvenient time, or available only in a foreign language? While there might be no canonical penalty imposed on one for missing Mass on vacation, one might definitely be morally culpable depending on one’s motives.

    Devotionally, (and again, I make no pretense to expertise. I merely muddle along as a very bad Catholic, desperatelyhoping for the mercy of the Lord) one should be careful not to apply the standards of one’s own devotion to everyone else. While it may be gravely sinful for Simon to vacation somewhere where attendance at Mass is impossible, either because of the frailty of Simon’s faith, or because of the fervency of his devotion, is may not be gravely sinful – or not even sinful at all, for Betty to do the same, either because Betty is still a neophyte in the spiritual life and not yet accustomed to the strictures of the more devoit, or because Betty is inordinately devoted and therefore permitted a certain laxity.

    Simply said, the Church permits those who are unable to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days “for a just reason” (note, not a grave reason, but a “just reason”) to ask for and receive a dispensation or a commutation. And those who fail to ask for a dispensation, but still find themselves in a situation where attendance at Mass is impossible, are not bound to do that which is impossible. Our God is just, merciful and reasonable.

  53. jkm210 says:

    Looking at both the Catechism and the Code of Canon Law sections on this topic, I can’t even find anything that pertains to traveling at all. It only mentions “grave reasons.” No matter what other evidence you might have on either side of this debate, I don’t think it carries water, unless it was a pope speaking infallibly on this topic.

    I think the only thing really up for discussion is how you might define the “lack of a sacred minister” in CCC 2183. Certainly there is a lack of sacred ministers in China, Africa, and other remote locales. The people who live in those places likely have no recourse to the sacraments and would automatically have their obligation dispensed. If you have to travel for grave reasons to a place where no sacramental minister is available, your obligation would be dispensed.

    However, if you wet your pants because you decide to leave your home with a bathroom to travel (for leisure) to a place with no bathroom, can you really say that you wet your pants because there was no bathroom available to you? It seems to me that the same would be true for the “lack of a sacred minister” clause.

    If you choose to travel willingly for a non-grave reason, you could certainly request the dispensation from your priest. If he gives it, fine. Honestly, most priests I know would probably give it (whether they should or not), and then you wouldn’t have to worry. If you purposely didn’t bother to seek the dispensation, or if it was denied, and you chose to place yourself in a position where it would be impossible for you to attend Mass anyway, I can’t see how this would not be a sin (though certainly at different “levels” of sinfulness, depending on the individual).

    With every case of determining sinfulness, intent plays a vastly important role. There are probably a lot of people who genuinely don’t know they should attend Mass while traveling. There are probably a lot of people that got incorrect information on this topic in one way or another. You can’t sin if you don’t know that what you are doing (or not doing) is wrong. But I don’t see how it is “scrupulosity” to make an effort to determine what the right thing is and do it.

  54. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    @MisericordiasDomini: Because you asked, CCC 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.” In Dies Domini 49, Bl. JPII writes “the faithful are obliged to attend Mass unless there is a grave impediment.” Here we see the age-old distinction between grave (requiring no dispensation) causes and just ones (requiring dispensation). This is reflected in CIC 1245 and 1247. It is further elucidated in the moral manual you first cited, which accords exactly with Tanquerey. But Tanquerey makes no mention of vacations, or relaxation; surely these were not foreign concepts to him. I see not how anyone can conclude, from any of the above sources, that vacation is a grave cause and not simply a just one. It is not at all being “more Catholic than the Pope” or pharisaical to reach this conclusion. The subjective importance of a vacation (oh, but this is my only chance to see India!) is a non-issue, as one could just as strongly feel the subjective importance of the Superbowl (oh, but this is my only chance to see Superbowl XXXIII on live tv!). As you pointed out, the manuals include certain very important customs as objectively grave reasons, but one would be hard pressed to define a vacation, or watching a football game, as a custom worthy of such distinction. One would also be hard-pressed to find any documentation, which I, along with others, now ask of you, explicitly including this.

    I believe the burden of proof lies on those who want an exception not mentioned by the manuals, and at first glance irreconcilable with both the CCC and CIC.

  55. MJ says:

    If one asks one’s priest for a dispensation from the Sunday obligation and provides the reasons for asking, the priest should be able to say whether or not the reasons are legitimate…and either grant or deny the dispensation. For example…

    “Father, I really want to watch the Superbowl XXXIII on live TV! This is like totally my only chance. Can I have a dispensation from my Sunday obligation so I can stay home and watch?”

    Versus:

    “Father, I will be traveling on a ship out in the middle of the ocean for a week and I won’t have access to Mass on Sunday…there is no priest aboard the ship. May I be granted a dispensation from my Sunday obligation?”

    There’s a difference.

    Now one can always ask, “Why would anyone want to take a vacation where there is no access to a priest?” That’s another question entirely. It seems like the two issues – whether one can miss Mass because of a grave reason and why anyone would want to put themselves in a situation where missing Mass might be a possibility – are being confused.

  56. It seems as if some people think that one is only permitted to travel “for a grave reason”.

  57. MJ says:

    Right. What Fr Z said. :)

  58. oddfisher says:

    From Jenny:
    “I’m curious where you were at in TN that didn’t have Mass. We have churches around here, but they are pretty spread out and most do not have Sunday evening Mass. So if you were looking for a Mass on Sunday evening, I’m not surprised you didn’t find it. This is why I always get a good chuckle at my more Northern brethren stating how they pass by the local parishes (multiple) and drive 30 minutes! to the Mass with good liturgy. Around here the local parish(singular) IS 30 minutes away. :)”

    Ditto here in Western North Carolina. The parish is the whole county and has 1 Catholic Church.

  59. Jason says:

    That’s a muddling. The issue is not permission to travel, it’s permission to miss Mass. I think the anonymous seminarian put it perfectly.

    And the good priests who posted on this who all have my prayers and too many Rosaries to count from me have yet to state how often can we do this.

    At what point does skipping Mass for a vacation cease to be ok and crosses the line into mortal sin? Those who choose this option should know, lest they go “overboard” and imperil their souls.

    Call me a pharisee or scrupulous or “conservative” or whatever else, but a vacation doesn’t really amount to anything and choosing one over Mass is a confusion in priorities that probably manifests itself in other ways as well.

    How many of the Saints would have done such a thing?

  60. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    I agree with Jason and if I may respectfully disagree with Fr.Z, I do not think the central issue is traveling. I believe the issue is how one spends leisure time. The manuals, and common sense, will tell us that emergency travelling, or traveling as part of a duty (say, military service), exempts one entirely. The question is whether or not leisure activities that conflict with the Sunday obligation constitute either grave or just causes. Whether the leisure activity is playing a football game, watching one on TV, going hang-gliding, camping, or taking a ship to the Antarctic is irrelevant. Are some leisure activities more ‘noble’ than others? surely. But leisure is leisure is leisure.

  61. Jason says:

    One more with your kind indulgence, Father and I’m done.

    I’m not a Priest but, by God’s grace I am a father. How do you explain this one to your 12 year old?

    “Gee dad, we’re going to be on a boat on Sunday, what about Mass?”

    Well you see dear, ummm….

    Six months hence, when you’re waking her up for Mass on Sunday and she says she is tired and doesn’t feel like it. And you go into your standard lecture of the Mass being an obligation for Catholics and how the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith and our very lives, to which she responds, “but you and mom ditched Mass to go on a cruise!”

    Checkmate.

    Twenty years down the line will you be remembering that dopey cruise? Maybe. But it will be eclipsed by a more haunting memory of teaching your daughter a crappy lesson in an incident of less than laudable fatherhood.

  62. RJS007 says:

    @marajoy Don’t be silly here. They have the right to go where they choose. If they go on a vacation and there is no priest, like the Father said, there is no Mass. A Mortal sin has to have Full Consent, Full Knowledge and Full Awareness of The Will. I don’t think your grandparents are eager to fullfill a Mortal Sin by going on a boat ride in The Summertime. Can we try to have some logic and read the Catechism again and be a little less “SCRUPULOUS”? Maybe?

  63. radtradbabs says:

    My husband and I took a cruise for our honeymoon. We set up parameters when we were planning it so that our 7-night cruise departed and arrived on Sundays, so we could attend Mass on either end of the trip. We were able to hear two of the best and most edifying homilies I’ve ever heard both of those Sundays. I think it was God giving us just a little nod for remembering Him first, even while traveling.

    I’ve never had difficulty arranging vacations so that Mass was a priority. I mean, it’s a vacation! What would rest and relaxation be apart from Christ? Isn’t that the point of taking a vacation? It is to rejuvenate and have some time for leisure; it should be an opportunity to spend MORE time with God, not less!

    I think the thing to remember sometimes is that God does not command us to find loopholes in Canon Law in order to satisfy our own desires just as long as we do what is *absolutely* required. Instead, He says to ‘be perfect, as my Heavenly Father is perfect.’ Is it technically permissible to miss Mass for leisure? I’m sure we can always find the loophole or the reason or the priest who will give us the dispensation. But really, is that how we ought to view either our leisure time or our Sunday obligation?

  64. o.h. says:

    Jason,
    Perhaps instead it will (did!) go more like this.
    Child: So if I’m in a dorm on a college campus for the whole [academic] camp, how do I get to Mass?
    Parent: I’ve Googled, and there’s a campus chapel with morning Mass; and if that’s closed over the summer, there’s a parish church a block further on, right next to campus, which definitely won’t be closed.
    [.... weeks later, at camp orientation ....]
    Camp director: Students absolutely cannot go off of campus for any reason.
    Parent: My daughter has to go off campus to go to Mass on Sunday. The campus Catholic chapel is closed.
    Camp director: I don’t think that’s going to work [begins reasons why not]
    Two other parents: Our children have to go to Mass too. You can find someone to drive them.
    Camp director: Oh, yes, okay, I’ll drive them myself. Did you say every Sunday?
    —————————
    Now if this had ended with impossibility, the child would at least have gained the lesson that you do everything you can to get to Mass; without having to learn that a Catholic can’t do exciting and special things in circumstances where Mass turns out to be unavailable, even foreseeably unavailable.

  65. Charles E Flynn says:

    There is a bit more to the concept of “leisure” than we might think, if we have not had the leisure to read:

    Leisure, The Basis Of Culture, by Joseph Pieper.

    A newer edition is available from Ignatius Press.

  66. monie1952 says:

    I went on a cruise a couple years ago at Christmastime. We left on 12/27, but flew into Ft. Lauderdale before Christmas to be sure we wouldn’t have any issues with winter flight delays :) Christmas was on a Saturday. We attended Mass on Saturday for Christmas and again on Sunday for our weekly “obligation, aka opportunity” However, we were at sea the following Sunday and on Jan 1. There was not a Catholic Mass on board. Did it bother me? Yes. I missed not having the opportunity to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. Did I consider whether it would be a sin? Yes. Did I feel in my heart that it was excusable? Yes. Did I confess it when I got home? Yes. I think we need to beware of falling into the Pharisee approach to our faith. They followed the letter of the law, rather than considering the meaning of the law. Would I have gone to Mass on the ship if offered? Absolutely!!! Did I take the trip to avoid Mass? Absolutely NOT!!! Thank you, Fr. Z for your reasonable response. I don’t believe you are not advocating taking vacations to miss Mass. Somehow I don’t really think Christ would say you can only travel on weekdays unless you travel where there is Mass available on Sunday/holy day of obligation. And we aren’t all able to bring along our own personal priest on vacation with us. Just my thoughts. God will judge me, and I trust he will be merciful.

  67. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Bender,
    If your body is present there at Mass out of duty, but your heart is felt put upon and obligated while there, rather than being in a spirit of loving gift and reception of gift, then it is as if one is not there at all.
    Well, no. This would take any sense of the Sunday obligation away. Of course mere bodily presence is non-presence. But the situation you’re drawing has nothing to do at all with the body and soul distinction. It is the division between fear and love, and it is a reverent fulfilment of the obligation if one is there, reverently fulfilling the obligation.

    Dear @MarkJ, Supertradmum,
    I’m sorry to say but there is no reason to suppose that what you cannot understand a pious man to do is an act of impiety. Granted at once that the thought “I want a holiday where I can have Holy Mass” is a pious and meritful thought. I rather doubt – forgive my insolence – that “whoever does not do so, even if doing all that concrete law requires, must obviously sin” is. There is a level of things done out of “pure charity” in the sense of not coming under obligation (though in ordinary circumstances Sunday Mass does not belong to it), and what comes not under obligation comes not under obligation.

    At the very least there should be the possibility of asking the parish priest. In this case, one should remember how Brother Christopher rebukes Lucia’s scruples about asking for a dispensation in Manzoni’s The Betrothed.

    Dear @Jason,
    I think the situation would be one to put out the good old Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi out of the bag… Seriously, we are not put under a bigger obligation for the reason to better explain the smaller obligation to our children.

  68. Imrahil says:

    Please read the words after “in ordinary circumstances” as not in italics. Sorry.

  69. sparks1093 says:

    Anonymous Seminarian quoted the Canon “CCC 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. ”

    The “or dispensed by their own pastor” is key- if one is traveling and does not have the opportunity to attend Mass then it is clear that a dispensation from their pastor must be sought. If it is granted then the matter is resolved.

    Also remember that Fr. Z said: “Keep in mind, dear reader, that when people are traveling, depending on the circumstances, the obligation on a day of precept is somewhat attenuated.”

    Note the key words “depending on the circumstances” and “somewhat attenuated”.

  70. Twice in my five short years as pastor I have been asked to dispense a parishioner (to be clear the same individual had asked two years in a row) from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for reasons of “leisure” – in his case, a hunting trip in the wilderness of Montana or Wyoming. The requestor had made due inquiries into the availability and proximity of the Holy Sacrifice and determined that it would be an unreasonable burden to get to Mass. In granting the dispensation (now maybe I am in mortal sin, eh?) I asked him instead to spend an hour (about the time it takes me to say a Sunday Mass with homily and the distribution of Holy Communion) in prayer – including a meditative read on the Proper Scripture readings for that day. I was impressed that he was so conscientious. I don’t think any less of the man for taking said vacation (in fact, my respect for him increased based on the fact that he had the wherewithal to inquire). That may make me a terrible priest in the eyes of some here.

    That said, I am sure, despite my reminders, that there are some among my parishioners who take vacation from God altogether – actually going someplace in which it would NOT be a burden at all to go to Mass, but they choose to forego it for the sake of sleeping in or going to brunch instead – they are on vacation, after all!!!! This latter position would certainly be grave matter, and if the other conditions (freedom of the will and knowledge) are present, would constitute mortal sin.

    In my “old age” I guess I am becoming a “liberal” since I have to agree with Fr. Z. and his clerical interlocutor misericordiasdomini regarding the permissibility of this trip. Unfortunately, anonymousseminarian, your tone, and that of others on this thread, approaches that of the scribes and pharisees!

  71. Ed the Roman says:

    “You like to hike. Go Monday to Saturday.”

    So Philmont and Boundary Waters are out of the question. Must not go.

    Perhaps we should leave national defense to the Protestansts as well, like shabbes goyim.

  72. MarkJ says:

    A comparison: It is perfectly within Catholic guidelines to receive Holy Communion just once per year. But why would anyone choose to do this? I feel the same way about planning a vacation – why would I ever choose to miss Holy Mass for the fleeting pleasures of a particular vacation? It has nothing to do with “I’m OK because I’m within Church guidelines” or “I’m OK because I’m living up to the letter of the law”… THAT would be like the scribes and pharisees! And considering the current crisis in the Church, maybe more of us should be taking the opportunity of going to Holy Mass MORE while on vacation rather than less… now wouldn’t that be rejuvenating for the soul?

  73. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I have vacationed at a cabin in a remote area for the purpose of making a two week Ignatian retreat with a little flatwater kayaking on the side. The Mass at the local parish was so bad it was penance. I went to confession there and got an open-ended impossible penance, etc. Once I went and asked for and got a dispensation so the retreat wouldn’t be unsettled by Fr. Heresy and the Hootenanny Band. Once I didn’t ask for a dispensation and endured the same. Christ was present always of course.

    I am with Fr. Totten on this, we are far too ready to judge other people’s actions, motives, and engage in God-like mind-reading.

  74. Imrahil says:

    Dear @MarkJ,
    the point of interest is that all your argument in your last post is, and is restricted to, consideration how to conduct oneself. (And even there with an easy conscience. We Christians may be supposed to act beyond what is able to be formulated as law. We are not to make a law out of this; it’d be a selfcontradiction.) However, the consideration is out of the question if applied to someone else.

    On a side note, the scribes and pharisees were rebuked by Our Lord for some quite concrete transgressions of the law (read Mt 23,23), which they indeed could have avoided. To fulfil the law and do nothing else is not the action of a pharisee, but of the priest and levite in the Good Samaritan parable (if we don’t say this is “only” about insufficience of the positive law itself: we have a duty of rescue legislation now*, but I disgress again…). The crime of the Pharisees was to leave away justice (!), mercy and faithfulness, all three quite clearly prescribed in the Old Law.

    And do you really mind St. Elizabeth communicating only thrice a year (if I learn that correctly)?

    [* I have German law in mind. I'm quite astonished at checking up in wikipedia that apparently a person need not go to prison or be subjected to heavy fine for doing nothing while another one is in peril.]

  75. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    @Father Totton: I find it unfortunate that you perceive “my tone” as pharisaical. I have only been trying to make the following distinctions: A grave cause excuses one from the Sunday obligation without necessity of dispensation. The examples of grave causes found in the CCC and in the moral manuals are all serious impediments placed upon one from an outside force. Any leisure activity, by definition, is both non-essential and freely-chosen, and almost always of subjective value. These definitions are mutually exclusive. This does not mean that all leisure activity is of the same value, however. Some leisure may be considered a ‘just cause’ (as the example you mentioned seems to be), while some may not (watching tv). But the just causes must be judged as such by the pastor, who decides which merit dispensation. The example you gave seems to accord exactly with what I have set out here. If there is a flaw in my logic, please demonstrate it.

  76. Melody says:

    I’m away several times a year because my hobby is attending and helping run anime and sci-fi conventions. Admittedly, I have missed mass a number of times due to poor planning and other factors.
    So just a few tips:
    1. Find the address of your hotel or the port where you will be docking. Use http://www.masstimes.org to find the nearest church.
    2. Call the church before you leave to ensure that the mass information is current.
    3. Print out transit/driving directions from the place you are staying to the church.
    4. Consider your Saturday evening plans. My mistake a few times has been to stay up late on Saturday, and then sleep past the time I could get to mass on Sunday.
    5. If you speak English as your primary language but also go to a TLM, mass in Spanish is not that hard to follow along with. Also the Spanish translation has lovely gems like “Y con tu espiritu.” Spanish communities also tend to be react more kindly when they see a veil, and like their churches non-wreckovated.
    6. Even if your friends/roomies aren’t Catholic, let them know you will be busy Sunday morning. Invite your Catholic friends to come with you.
    7. Attending mass always makes a vacation that much better. Trust me. The spiritual consolation is worth whatever you missed. Plus, I’ve visited some truly beautiful old churches this way.

  77. Margaret says:

    Wow. We are a “never miss Mass” kind of family, and have found Mass in National Parks, outside of DisneyWorld, etc. etc… Sundays and HDOs (up at the wee early hours to get Mass in before school if it’s a weekday.) We are also by-and-large “daily Mass” people, although I must admit we have to sometimes lay that aside because of what some would deem frivolous reasons (like camping, the frightful cost of theme park tickets coupled with frightfully long lines, etc…)

    That being said, SOMEDAY, God willing, my dh & I are getting out on a cruise all by ourselves. I have no idea when that will be, as we have nine children, and nobody in their right minds would watch them for such an extended period of time. But someday, we will, and I am dearly looking forward to at least one full week of no laundry, no cooking, no breaking of squabbles or catfights or wrestling matches, nobody knocking on the bedroom door at 3 AM announcing they have wet the bed or thrown up, etc. etc. etc.

    IF we cannot make cruise plans that will permit Mass attendance (and the good Lord knows we will try very very hard, as we always have) I find it rather shocking that there are some here who can take such a sniffy attitude towards those who would miss Mass for such “frivolity.” This isn’t about frivolity, actually. I just hope dh & I can pull it off and “get away from it all” while we are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it. And yes, of course we would speak to our pastor ahead of time about a dispensation…