From a reader:
Father please clear up for me our obligations for mass attendance.
Many times we hear that we are obligated to attend mass only twice a year, Christmas and Easter. Yet we also hear that we must attend every week. Which is correct and why?
I will be brief.
Unless there are some serious extenuating circumstances (e.g., infirmity, extreme distances, moral or physical impossibility, etc.) Catholics are obliged to go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of obligation.
However, they are obliged to receive Holy Communion once a year (i.e, the so-called Easter Duty). This usually also means going to confession, for there are precious few people who do not commit a single mortal sin in a year’s time.
The 3rd Commandment of the Decalogue covers both of these, and especially the first point. So does the virtue of religion, which obliges us to give God is His due. Reception of Holy Communion seems to have been considered important by Our Lord for our salvation (cf. John 6) which is a good enough reason for me to suggest Communion more often than once a year. Also, the Lord Himself gave His own power to His bishops and priests to forgive sins, which leads me to think that that is how He wants us to be forgiven for our sins. We should not receive Holy Communion when conscious of mortal sin, so confession before Communion is reasonable and, usually, necessary. Holy Church, the greatest expert on humanity that there is, understands that some people have a hard time getting to Mass. Think of centuries past, heck – mere decades past – when it was harder to get around, when men were on long journeys aboard sailing vessels, who were on the march in the military, who were explorers and pioneers. Once a year seems a reasonable minimum to keep people attached to the Sacrament of Penance and Communion on the most gossamer thin tether. Also, a year’s time is often reasonable for getting many canonical problems resolved to a point where a person can receive again. That is a true wonderful carrot which ought to motivate every Catholic to work on resolving, for example, problems with a non-canonical marriage situation.
Mass – every Sunday and Holy Day – even if you should not, must not, receive Communion.
Communion – at minimum once a year, usually around Easter.