ASK FATHER: Training classes on Sundays

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I need to take various training courses (ie: first aid, CPR and AED training, as well as Suicide Intervention training, etc) to meet the qualifications for more gainful employment. It used to be they would hire you and pay for and send you to do the training on company time and money. I’m on the cusp of low income (having to cut back drastically and save for training hasn’t helped) and life is stressful making ends meet.

Unfortunately the courses are only offered during the day when I normally work, requiring me to take two days off of work each time, which I can’t really afford, or on weekends, requiring me to attend Mass Saturday evening, but spend Sunday in a class rather than “keeping the day holy”.

I asked our priest if it’s permissible to do the weekend courses due to financial hardship of taking two days off work without pay each time and he said if the courses are available outside of the Sunday, one must take the courses that don’t coincide on Sundays even if it means some inconvenience. He also said that it would only be permitted to take the courses on the Sunday if they were absolutely necessary to keep one’s employment, suggesting that it wouldn’t be permissible to take courses needed to obtain employment, just to keep it.

He has also said in times past that Catholics are not to work at jobs that involve working on Sundays, which seems even stricter than what the Catechism says, so I’d like a second opinion. Can I take training courses on Sundays if taking them during the week would cause undue financial hardship (not to mention inconvenience my co-workers and manager who would have to work harder without me at work)?

I am not always pleased to have one priest pitted against another in these practical questions which have no clear answer.   I think that Father’s answer was not a bad one.   I have a slightly different take.

Yes, I think you can take those classes on Sunday, even though they are offered on other days.  You describe the need to take days without pay if you take them on those other days.  You say that your income is borderline now and that you are having a hard time.  Meanwhile, if you take the classes – albeit on Sunday – you have the chance to get a better income down the line.

Since you are clearly able to fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation, and because classes by their very nature are a temporary reality, yes, I think you can take those classes on Sunday.   You won’t be taking them together and you have the opportunity to advance as a result, and not just in any job, but in a job wherein you may save lives.  Yes, I think you can take the classes on Sunday.

Be mindful, as I am sure you will be, of the sacred nature of Sunday’s time.   It maybe that during some Sunday down time, between classes, etc., you might find a quiet corner and consider the Sunday Gospel reading or say a decade of the Rosary.

Let Sunday be the Dies Domini.  Let us also remember that Our Lord would say that we should pull our oxen out of holes if they are stuck, even on the Sabbath.  Pulling oxen isn’t an all day event and it is not an every Sabbath event.  We do what we must do.

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26 Responses to ASK FATHER: Training classes on Sundays

  1. Defender of Truth says:

    Fr. Z:
    When I log onto your website I receive a message “not secure”. This is the first time that has happened in many years. Now I am reluctant to use your site. What is the explanation for this?Thank you.

    [First, this doesn’t have anything to do with the topic, and could have been covered in an email inquiry. Second, there is nothing wrong with this site: I am trying to get this worked out, but the fix is, at the moment, beyond my expertise and those who have expertise are hard to motivate.]

  2. Imrahil says:

    Well, this is “Ask Father” and I am no priest, so I’ll keep my opinion short. At least as possible.

    First: I think our reverend host gave a sound answer.

    Second: I think the priest that was asked first, though our reverend host defended him while disagreeing, gave a less than sound answer. I even think that he his answer, such as we have got to know of it, has a rather non-Catholic undertone – by which I do not mean “in itself heretic”, but if I had to put my finger on it, I’d suggest there is some (charismatic?) outdoing-the-Protestants-in-morality subconsciously behind.

    One reason for me to think this way is not the particular answer to the particular question – whether something is an “inconvenience” or “morally impossible” is admittedly a question with a lot of room for leeway. But he also said

    Catholics are not to work at jobs that involve working on Sundays

    which excludes the waitress, the flight attendant and (taken literally) even the policeman, soldier and firefighter. (I have a feeling that he would give a pass to the firefighter, but not to the waitress.) This is simply an unquestionably wrong assertion.

    (My instinct, which I like to call “layman prudence” but which maybe is something more egoistic than that would tell me, at any rate: Let’s rather not ask this priest that question after he has given this answer to this question. But that’s just me.)

    Third:

    It was once explained to me by a priest – or rather, I heard him talk about a sermon he had before given – that “hallowing the Sunday” chiefly means “acting in concord with the Church’s objective Sunday traditions” – which means, for one thing, the Catholic Church’s, not some Protestant congregations, and for another the focus is on objective. Hence: Whether someone experiences something subjectively as “work” is much less relevant than whether the Church objectively considers it as “work” in the Sunday sense.

    Now this objective Church practice is, apart from attending Mass, not doing (without need more than two hours of) manual labor. Learning is explicitly allowed, even if it is one’s job – how much more, should I say, when it isn’t (as yet).

    Now this course didn’t sound like manual labor when I read it.

    (Hence the well-known practice of students to do the weekly share of housework – washing, drying, cleaning and so forth – on Saturday, but their homework on Sunday evening, is surprisingly rather in concord with Church tradition.)

  3. TonyO says:

    I would add my two cents to what Fr. Z said and what Imrahil said above. In particular, I would take very strong issue with the other priest’s comment about Catholics not taking any job that requires work on Sunday. This is completely inappropriate advice. In addition to police and firefighters (and soldiers), it would also exclude doctors and nurses and the REST of hospital staff that must work on Sundays. And given the extensive presence of Catholic hospitals in the world which “work on Sundays”, it is clear that around the world, the Catholic Church does not agree with this priest’s notion.

    But of course, health care isn’t just any job. It is a work that coincides quite nicely with Jesus’s dictum about rescuing an ox on Sunday: it is not a job that CAN wait for Monday. Not all jobs are like that, and so not all jobs stand equally with regard to working on Sunday. Janitorial work in a hospital needs to be done on Sunday, whereas janitorial work in an office building need not, so even a janitor or orderly at the hospital (i.e. even one not directly engaged in caring for patients) is doing work that cannot wait for Monday.

    Note also that the Catholic rule spoke in such a way as to distinguish between servile labor and other sorts. Not all labor is servile. Servile labor implies work that one would assign to servants, if one had servants available. There are many other works that don’t fall into that category. In particular, studying and school “work”, especially in the subjects that would have been (back in the day) part of “liberal education” is not servile, because the content of liberal education is that suited to the “free man”, i.e. not one who is servile but one who is free. It is education worth having for its own sake, and thus working for not merely for the sake of a job or career, and thus again not servile. Other “work” is also excluded, especially the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and this covers (as above) both health care and emergency services – which, by the way, are often (still) volunteer services in many communities. Their being (either recently, or still, depending on where you live) volunteer activities manifests their being not fundamentally servile in nature.

    Thirdly, the rule specified that the work proscribed is unnecessary servile labor. While there are many subjectively inappropriate attitudes about “necessity”, what is pertinent here is that “necessity” is subject to an objectively valid hierarchy of goods which are more or less necessary as they ascend the scale of goodness. And many things are necessary given some preliminary condition that would otherwise not be necessary. So, a person who is scraping by on barely making ends meet, and intends to better his condition so that he can afford a family, but must “work” on Sunday in order to reach the qualifications for such better career, has a “need” that is present to him but is not present to someone who already has that better career. Because that need is ordered to a higher-order good rather than a lower-order good (being able to be the bread-winner for a family, rather than, say, to provide recreation to others), it is objectively more necessary. Similarly, there is more and less necessary according to conditions out of your control (such as when classes are offered).

    So, all told, the priest in the quaeritur seems to miss on several counts here. The question was not about just ANY work, it was about studying and classes. It wasn’t about just any classes (say, biology, or economics), but about emergency services. And it wasn’t about just a slight incremental improvement in income from decent to slightly better, but about getting out of poverty. The failure to reflect on all these factors reasonably shows a serious lack of prudence.

  4. Sol says:

    There is some good stuff in the comments already, I would only add the following:

    1. It seems to me that maybe (maybe!) the Father who had been asked this question first was not given the full picture of the situation – it strikes me as odd that anyone (much less a priest) would be so harsh on a guy who is on borderline income and is clearly struggling.

    2. A great point by TonyO – it is my understanding as well that we are to restrain ourselves from work that is unnecessary or unduly demanding, as that would draw us away from the holy purpose of Sunday. This means that if you have 10 guests for dinner then yes, you do need to wash up afterwards, even though it’s a Sunday. And yes – if, a s a student, you did not do your homework or the reading for an upcoming lecture, then yes, you do have to do that on Sunday. We do not get a day off from all of the duties of our state in life. How much more this applies to the situation of our reader! This guy/gal deserves a medal – (s)he is sacrificing a day off to learn more so that (s)he can save more lives!

    I second Fr Z’s advice – finding even if only 10 minutes on a “class” Sunday to say a short prayer and/or reflect on the day’s Gospel would be great (as would, of course, attending a Sat anticipatory Mass) I faced similar struggles myself as a student, when I was in a full time job and a near-full time course load at the university, which, in my country, involved two days of back to back classes every second weekend of the month.

    Lastly, our good Lord says: “For the Son of Man is the Lord even of the Sabbath day” and “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”.

  5. grumpyoldCatholic says:

    In the early Church, great feasts were begun with a vigil the previous night which continued through the morning when Holy Mass was offered. Saturday anticipatory Masses didn’t occur before Vatican II. Major feasts had a penitential vigil often accompanied by Fasting and/or Abstinence, but the vigil Masses were said in the morning and didn’t count for the Sunday obligation. There were Vigil Masses for Christmas, the Ascension, Pentecost, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter & Paul, St. Lawrence, and the Assumption. Saturday anticipatory Masses counting for the Sunday obligation began around 1965. It was originally, meant for those who couldn’t make it to Mass on Sunday (cops, hospital workers, et cetera). However, it eventually became okay for anyone to fulfill their Sunday obligation at the Saturday anticipatory Mass. The Saturday anticipatory Mass can begin any time after Vespers. In most American diocese, this is about 4:00pm. Any Mass after this time until Sunday midnight counts for the Sunday obligation.

  6. Kent Wendler says:

    Way back when, in my CCD study, the phrase I learned was “no unnecessary servile work on Sunday”.

    This seems to me to be a situation which meets neither condition. It strikes me as *necessary*, given the circumstance; plus it is not *servile* (serving another) – in the classes the person is working for himself. (I also think that with the right “frame of mind”, taking the classes might be considered as giving glory to God.)

  7. cpdog says:

    Fr. Jone’s moral theology book says, “Liberal and artistic works are also lawful: ***studying***, teaching, drawing, architectural designing, playing, music, writing (also typing), painting, delicate sculpturing, embroidering, taking photographs. These works are lawful ***even if done for remuneration***.”

  8. Ellen says:

    I grew up back in the 50’s and 60’s when almost all stores were closed on Sunday. We did have some people who had to work: Firefighters, police, farmers and the nurses and doctors in the hospital. There was one pharmacy that stayed open on Sunday for emergencies. Otherwise people didn’t work on Sunday. It was a more leisurely time.

  9. Gerard Plourde says:

    Just to add my understanding as taught by the old Baltimore Catechism. The rule was “no unnecessary servile work” and the example given was “washing one’s car just for something to do”. Obviously if one is working because it is required for one’s job which one has in order to survive and feed one’s family, it stands to reason that it is necessary and licit.

  10. KateD says:

    We are pretty strict about not working on a Sunday. Both my husband and I have starred down the barrel of being terminated for sticking to our values in this matter. That is to say, we both had an ultimatum leveled at us: “work on Sunday or you’re fired”. We said, “I cannot work on Sunday for religious reasons. Do what you have to do and we will do what we have to do.” We were lucky and it worked out for us. We are not as rigerous about it as some of our friends who also won’t shop on Sundays (not even for doughnuts! Pfthbt?!?), because it causes someone else to work…We also push buttons and turn keys…lol

    As father said about the oxen, it sounds to me like the modern day equivalent of going after ones lost sheep. Sheep were a shepherd’s livelyhood, and loosing one represented a significant financial hit. Not taking the training on a Sunday would cause you to loose an opportunity which would constitute a financial loss for your family…so it sounds to me like you are good to go….

    Besides…

    It’s a class, and if instruction is work then would we be having homilies on Sundays(OMGosh! How much shorter Mass would be!)? Catechism classes and bible studies?

  11. Fallibilissimo says:

    I really wish we had MUCH clearer marching orders when it comes to our Sunday Mass obligation. What constitutes “grave” for “grave obligation”? Some texts, like the catechism, say “serious”. Is there a difference? How about people who have the flu and want to prevent infecting others? Some may scoff at the idea of not going to mass because of the sniffles, but flu season is no laughing matter, especially if your congregation is suffering from other diseases and/or are of a certain age (as so many are evermore “grey”). If it were possible, I wish an age limit be put on the obligation of attending Mass and I would make a HUGE call to younger Catholics to remind them how important it is for their salvation and those they love to get their backsides on those benches…not to mention, not miss out on the amazing wonder of being in the presence of sweet Lord in a moment too mysterious and awesome for my poor words to express.

    Of course, as with so many things these days, you ask one priest and you get one answer and when you speak to another, a totally different and contradicting answer. For anybody “gravely” concerned about one’s soul or about the souls of loved ones, it just causes lots of anxiety. It does for me when I think about it. Maybe I’m missing something here.

    Jimmy Akin once said how the demands of certain Catholics (like ME!) on some matters are so detailed that you’d think there were a specific way Canon Law prescribes the eating of an Oreo cookie -I think there should be, darn it! I hear those Lutherans believe in eating the creamy center alone…pfff.

    However, for something so serious, I would wish there were clearer and more prescriptive rules. This is the 3rd commandment we’re talking about! Taking this day seriously (thanks to St JPII, Dies Domini) had a profound impact on me, and we should be talking about this far far more often!

  12. hwriggles4 says:

    Earlier this year (January 2018) I took defensive driving on a Sunday from 3 to 9 PM at a restaurant. Why that time? I didn’t have to take time off work. Besides, I was able to go to Mass on Sunday.

    If you see someone in a uniform at Sunday Mass (nurse, fire, police, restaurant, etc.) please note that this person took the time to make Mass. Nurses often work 12 hour shifts, which narrows down their schedule, and several firefighters work 24 on, 48 off, which limits time they can take to come to Mass (a nurse or a police officer assigned 7 am to 4 pm shift could reasonablly make 5:30 pm Mass).

    I see some Reservists come to my parish in uniform, and I thank them. Many of these men and women may have a Protestant chaplain available for Sunday service, but not always a Catholic priest. My mother would get mad at me as a kid when our Boy Scout troop was at a camporee and while we had Church service, it was usually a Protestant service, and we didn’t have a Sunday evening Mass until I was in high school.

    Some of us do work on Sundays when we have to. I worked at a grocery store in high school and part of college, and I would go to the early Sunday morning Mass before working an 8 hour shift. I dated a nurse who worked Sundays frequently, and she was able at the end of shift to go to the 7 PM Sunday Mass not far from her hospital.

  13. As some commentators have pointed out, there are some jobs, like policing and firefighting and healing the sick, that must continue to be done even though it’s Sunday. I’ve had Sundays that I have had to spend preparing for court, or getting a brief out to meet a deadline. That said, there can be no doubt that the devil has gotten us to put ourselves on an endless and ever faster treadmill of noise and activity (and I’d include the new Mass in this), and it’s as bad for us as it is unjust to God. We do need to be more conscientious about Sunday as a day of rest.

  14. APX says:

    We are not as rigerous about it as some of our friends who also won’t shop on Sundays (not even for doughnuts! Pfthbt?!?), because it causes someone else to work…We also push buttons and turn keys…lol

    I’m one of those people who, for years, got stuck working on Sundays because of Catholics like you. [WOAH!]
    It’s very difficult to explain to your manager that you’re Catholic and as such are not permitted to work non-essential jobs on Sundays when fellow Catholics decide to do their shopping on Sundays. And btw, it’s a sin to go shopping on Sundays unless it’s of grave necessity (ie: a plumbing emergency, your traveling and need gas, etc). Your donut is not of grave necessity and I find your attitude disturbing.

    [Please breathe deeply and back off a little. For many people, the income is necessary for their families. Also, keeping in mind that the Church’s commandment about Mass obligation was also a way to protect people’s rights, there are very few jobs today that fit the servile labor standards of yore, at least in these wealthy and tidy USA. It seems to me that sweeping condemnations are out of order.]

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear Gerard Plourde,

    well, actually, washing one’s car just for the fun of it might be a (venial) sin from an ecological point of view (which is not an anathema, even though we believers tend to be politically conservative), but speaking Sunday-rest-wise, might quite possibly be a good example of what would be permitted on the Sunday (in good measure).

    After all, it is quite permissible to do a fitness workout or the like on the Sunday.

    It is washing the car because it needs washing that might be incompatible to the Sunday rest. Sunday rest, at least as I understood it, is precisely not about not doing unnecessary things (which belongs generally to the rather weekdayish virtue of temperance), but about not doing the necessary things to have, if you pardon the imprecision for the sake of the pun, time to do the unnecessary things.

    Which of course does not forbid doing the very necessary things. If the car is so dirty that the motor won’t start (and I mean that literally), then I guess you can wash it; and if it’s clean and you like the fun of it, you possibly may as well (barring ecological grounds against), but (I guess) not if it is in the middle.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear APX,

    whether or not it is a sin to go shopping on Sundays (an interesting question for the moral theologian, but one of the old casuist nature so regrettably neglected these days), buying a donut is not shopping. Buying a fresh donut is enhancing Sunday festivity, and working to supply those buyers is certainly legitimate under the principle that “work for the Sunday” is okay. As is eating out, waitressing to those who eat out, going to the movies, selling tickets to those who go to the movies, and so forth.

  17. Fr. Kelly says:

    While I won’t presume to judge the particulars of this case, since we do not have all the personal details. I would presume that the original priest may have had more details than we do here.

    I would like to point out something that is relevant to the case here:
    various training courses (ie: first aid, CPR and AED training, as well as Suicide Intervention
    training, etc)
    The classes mentioned are training for tasks that would be allowed on Sunday, since they are equipping people to handle emergencies that can and do happen on any given day (including Sundays). If the tasks are of such importance that they are allowed on Sunday, then certainly the training for them is equally important. So, if they cannot feasibly be held on a different day, then they could certainly be done on Sunday.

  18. TonyO says:

    Imrahil, while I largely agree with your point, I would suggest (not demand) that in a truly Christian country, perhaps making use of those things would be reduced to minimal levels, and that this would enable employers to staff their stores / restaurants at lower levels, which would allow many more to not work Sundays. For example: nurses and doctors need gas to get to work, and while one might hope that they would attend to filling up on other days of the week (orthodox Jews insist on this), they might not always succeed. So it makes sense that there be gas stations open. But by and large most of us most of the time CAN arrange to get our gas on other days. (Not so much for travelers.) Wouldn’t it be better if gas station managers could put on a skeleton staff for Sunday, and rotate his employees through so everyone got at least 2 Sundays off each month? Perhaps not quite the same can be said about restaurants; and perhaps going to a park on Sundays is a particularly suitable Sunday activity even if it does require there be park rangers and attendants. While I am not aware of the Church speaking with precision about such things as going to restaurants, movies, and parks, it does seem hard on those workers if they never get Sunday off to treat it as a day (WHOLE day) of rest to devote to the better things, such as prayer, contemplation, the arts, family, and even recreation.

  19. un-ionized says:

    Gerard Plourde, I’ve gone much farther than that, I’ve clayed my car on Sunday. Big sedan, lots of sheet metal. Took long enough to pray an entire rosary.

  20. APX says:

    With today’s technology, gas stations don’t even really need to be staffed on Sundays.
    They can be left on pay at the pump mode. Many small towns don’t have gas stations open on Sundays, not even pay at the pump making it difficult if you misjudged your fuel mileage while traveling and need gas asap. Nothing quite like going door to door asking if anyone has a jerrycan of gas you can buy off of them, and they don’t ever have change for a $20 bill so you pay $5/litre (not gallon, but litre. There’s approximately 4 litres in a US gallon).

  21. Fallibilissimo said:

    I really wish we had MUCH clearer marching orders when it comes to our Sunday Mass obligation. What constitutes “grave” for “grave obligation”? Some texts, like the catechism, say “serious”.

    In a dictionary definition, probably; but in terms of moral theology? No; at least, the Catechism intends them to be synonymous.

    Is there a difference? How about people who have the flu and want to prevent infecting others? Some may scoff at the idea of not going to mass because of the sniffles, but flu season is no laughing matter, especially if your congregation is suffering from other diseases and/or are of a certain age (as so many are evermore “grey”). If it were possible, I wish an age limit be put on the obligation of attending Mass and I would make a HUGE call to younger Catholics to remind them how important it is for their salvation and those they love to get their backsides on those benches…not to mention, not miss out on the amazing wonder of being in the presence of sweet Lord in a moment too mysterious and awesome for my poor words to express.

    I can appreciate your desire, but here’s how I suggest you answer your question about why such specific guidance is not provided. As an exercise, and just for your own perusal, not for anyone else to see, I suggest you sit down at a computer and attempt to write out exactly what you wish someone else would provide. Try just answering your own question regarding Mass obligation, and see how many pages and pages you generate before your fingers cramp.

    Then, I suggest you consider that your work of, perhaps 20 or so pages, answering a single question about Mass obligation, then needs to be replicated for all questions of grave matter, down the list of the Ten Commandments and Precepts of the Church. Quite a book you’re going to produce, eh?

    But wait, there’s more! As soon as your book is published, there will be new questions arising from your document; needing yet more specific direction…

    My point, friend, is that what you are asking for is a rather monumental task, can you see that? Not to mention, potentially counter-productive.

    The Catechism gives very clear guidance, but the expectation always is that you, as the steward of your soul, must use the reason, judgment and common sense God gave you. If you do so, well informed by the Faith, and in integrity of heart, you will be fine.

    For example: a faithful Catholic has the sniffles and thinks, “this may get worse; it usually does, and I will be much sicker when I get to Mass later. So I will stay home. Then, to her surprise, her sniffles go away; and now she thinks, “I sinned!” Answer? Meanwhile, another faithful Catholic looks at the weather forecast at 6 am, and looks outside, and thinks, “the roads look bad; my neighbor skidded off the road last year in just this sort of weather. So I will stay home Mass.” But then, to his surprise, the sun comes out, the roads are clear, and there are no problems; only it is now too late to go to Mass. He fears for his soul!

    Both faithful Catholics have nothing to fear. They acted in good faith, they made a well reasoned, prudential judgment. They are not expected to be omniscient; not by God, at any rate. What Bishop Jansen thinks at this late date, I know not.

  22. APX:

    I can’t stop you if you wish to impose moral obligations on yourself that the Church does not. But I advise against it.

    That is to say: before you say something is certainly a sin, regarding keeping the Lord’s Day holy, I will challenge you, politely, to substantiate it. What you say above is not substantiated by Church teaching, to my knowledge. I am open to a rebuttal.

  23. Fallibilissimo says:

    Fr Martin Fox, thank for your comment! I really appreciate it and you helped flesh out some of this issue.

    On the serious vs grave issue, I bring it up because some years ago I remember respected apologists discussing the difference between grave and serious in an area of moral theology which I don’t want to mention to avoid any potential rabbit holes (as Fr Z would call it). If in this context, there is no difference, then that’s very helpful and good to know!

    Yes, I fully agree with you. As it is the case in so many other places which concerns regulations (laws) the balance between general and specific, or where one is appropriate and the other isn’t, is not always easy to establish. Indeed, that’s why I brought up the “Oreo cookie” because I understand how, as you said, some overly specific regulations can worsen the situation and create needless problems (not to mention, become totally silly). One may not get this impression from my previous post, but I generally tend to abhor overly specific rules in most contexts.

    However, here I’m not just concerned with Oreo cookie scenarios (if you get my drift). I’m operating on a potential mistake, but a change I would like to hear discussed in the rules is the placing of an actual age limit on the obligation of going to Mass on the interested days. If for whatever reason this is impossible or bad, then obviously, forget it. We live in a time when many church-going Catholics in Western countries are approaching a certain age and going to Mass can pose a problem. As I see it, the problem would never arise if there were greater consistency in the advice received, unfortunately (and I assume no ill-will whatsoever here, on the part of those offering the advice) it is not, from what I can see. That something that ought not have to concern itself with the rules per se, but just simple clarity in the “marching orders”.

    This is not an abstract thought exercise for me. When discussing with loved ones, it becomes something which elicits very serious concern. A lot of guilt can play into a 65-70+ year old who just doesn’t know because of no singular factor but a real mesh of factors. When different authorities give different, even contradictory, answers that just causes great anxiety for me out of concern for them. If the obligation (of going to Mass) were lifted for certain age groups, that would render the decision making process more serene.

    Maybe I’m generalizing too much from my own limited experience. Fr, in your experience do you find the advice on this issue to be fairly consistent?

    Finally, regarding the flu, would you say that it is legitimate not to go, if the concern is about the fellow parishioners/contagion and not about one’s own symptoms?

    I hope I’m not putting you out with my tedious questions Fr. Thanks again!

  24. michaelthoma says:

    Surely your parish priest has carved out *some* exceptions for “work,” as he is himself at “work” in service of the Lord and his people on Sunday especially. Also the deacons, servers, lectors, readers, EMHCs, ushers, drivers of the congregants, parents, whoever cleans up, the coffee maker, the parish secretary, snow plowers if there are any, not to mention the usual medical cadre, soldiers, police/fire/ems, etc..

  25. Fallibilissimo:

    We all meet people who want ever more exacting moral guidance on ever more obscure questions. This is part of the landscape. One term for this phenomenon is scrupulosity. I am not assigning that term to you or to any specific person you have in mind, because I cannot know. But I mention it to say this: someone who is on the path to scruples cannot be satisfied. There is something else at work. Persons with scruples should seek out a wise and holy priest in person (not online), whom they trust, for ongoing guidance.

    As far as illness and the Mass obligation. This applies to more than the flu. If you have any illness or unwellness — call it what you want — and you have a genuine concern for someone else getting sick, or your own discomfort will be more than you can bear, or simply that you think you may get overtired or your condition may worsen…

    Go or don’t go, but don’t agonize about it! Not being well is a sufficient reason to excuse yourself from Mass, for all kinds of sensible reasons (not making others sick; not making yourself worse; not being a distraction with all the sneezing, wheezing, sniffing, dripping, wiping and coughing). Whose job is it to decide if you are not well enough? Not the pope; not your bishop; not your priest; not someone online. No, that job is YOURS. There is zero indication that God expects you to pass some sort of test before you apply for the “stay home from Mass” exemption, so why create one? Make an honest judgment and move on.

    Look: all this presumes good faith. If someone is looking for every possible reason to skip Mass, this advice is not for that person. Is that person you? Is it? No, I didn’t think so.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  26. Fallibilissimo says:

    Thank you Fr, that helps a lot!

    Indeed, this isn’t about me since I’m thinking about my experience with others. I do get the flu every here and then, so what you said certainly aids me as well.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to answer this.