QUAERITUR: Can I fulfill my Sunday Mass obligation by going to Mass on Monday evening?

From a reader:

Does attending mass on a Monday evening fulfill my Sunday mass obligation? I was out of town and not able to attend mass on Sunday. I have a friend who regularly attend this mass when she does not attend on Sunday.

Sorry… but… Sunday is Sunday and Monday is Monday. Right?

“But Father! But Father!”, some will interject, “We can fulfill our obligation on Saturday evening and Saturday is Saturday, not Sunday. Right?”

Yes and no.

When we interpret the Church’s law, we interpret it in such a way that most favorable to people. Since we Catholics follow to a certain extent in the footsteps of our Jewish forebears, when we think about liturgical time, we accept that a liturgical day begins on the evening, the vigil, before the day. Therefore we say that an evening Mass on Saturday is really already on liturgical Sunday. However, since we interpret law favorably, we can also look at Sunday as extending beyond its own evening, Sunday evening, until midnight between Sunday and Monday. In fact, we can even consider it still “morally” Sunday in a way if you are up late, past midnight. Thus, a priest doesn’t have to stop his car and try to get his Office said while reading in front of the headlights or with the dome light because the minute had is at 11:53 pm. He can finish his Office before going to bed even through it is technically Monday. Let’s leave aside the issue of civil time and solar time.

Whichever way of legitimately calculating time that is favorable to the person is the one we can follow.

That said, I cannot imagine anyway that Monday evening is Sunday. Thus, NO, you cannot fulfill your Mass obligation on Monday evening.

Let’s keep in mind what the Catechism of the Catholic  Church says:

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.

Note that the paragraph mentions being “dispense”.

According to the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church in canon 1245, pastors of parishes have the ability to dispense your obligation in individual instances or commute your obligation to some other pious work. That pious work might even be attending Holy Mass on Monday evening. In this case, you can’t just assume that you have the dispensation or commutation. You have to receive it. Moreover, the liturgical year and our obligations are important for our Catholic identity and spiritual lives. We should adjust our lives as much as way can according to the calendar and not adjust the calendar to suit our lives. Nevertheless, Holy Church recognizes that life is messy. That is why she has canons such as can. 1245.

Sunday is the Lord’s Day.  It is important.   Keep it as a holy day.  Be part of the congregation and participate well at Holy Mass.  We need to have everyone there.

Let Sunday be Sunday!

And just that we stress not only the obligation but also the benefits of Sunday observance, you might look at John Paul II’s Dies Domini.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tealady24 says:

    This is typical cafeteria Catholicism at its best!

    [Let’s not be too hard on people who may just be unaware of what our Catholic responsibilities are. I think there may be parishes where the world “obligation” hasn’t been uttered in respect to liturgy except when trying to force everyone to shake hands at the optional sign of peace. It seems to me that there are a lot of Catholics for whom the news that there are obligations would come as a surprise.]

  2. Mary Jane says:

    If one is truly unable to get to Mass on Sunday due to traveling or whatever, one can always ask one’s priest for a dispensation…

    As Fr Z said, Sunday is Sunday and Monday is Monday!

  3. wolfeken says:

    I can’t blame the questioner, given the crazy 1967 “anticipatory” rules made up by Paul VI.

    In Novus Ordo Land, perhaps this Monday evening Mass should be the Tuesday propers.

  4. ContraMundum says:

    But Father! But Father!

    If I can fulfill my Thursday obligation on a Sunday, can’t I fulfill my Sunday obligation on a Thursday? ;-)

  5. ContraMundum: You are being jocular, of course, about the transfer of Ascension Thursday to Sunday. I knew someone would bring it up!

  6. Sixupman says:

    The English & Welsh Bishops’ Conference issued a statement to the effect that ‘Sunday Duty’, in these times, was not binding and any day of the week would do. Then again they issued a document stating that one could fulfil the said ‘Duty’ by attendance Protestant churches. Of course these are the very people who can grant or withhold ‘Faculties’! [another argument]

  7. pelerin says:

    I see sixupman mentions our Bishops in England saying that we can fulfil our Sunday obligation by attending Protestant churches. I vaguely remember someone mentioning this way back but could not believe it was true and presumed someone had ‘got the wrong end of the stick.’ If it was true does it still stand? I live a few yards away from an Anglican church. However even if this were true I shall carry on attending Mass in a church an hour’s walk away.

  8. jesusthroughmary says:

    Sixupman –

    Please provide a source for those claims.

  9. mike cliffson says:

    This side of the pond, on more than one time that Ive FELT guilty about missing Sunday mass , although not objectively imputable (sick children, car breakdowns and the like) one feels one could have managed better , and confess it,(different priests, different countries, even different continents) in those very words ,going to a weekday mass I wouldn’t normally be able to go to has been suggested to me – as penance, reparation , or just because, I dont know and dont care, and I dont know when any extra mass ever goes amiss anyway, and if it means getting up earlier or missing supper or some teensy sacrifice, so much the better!
    I know others with the same experience.
    I can see it’s easy to say ” Whenever I confess this Father just says go to mass on manday to make up, so Ill do that without bothering to go to confession” – others may be purgatoryless heavenbound saints , but I know who’s behind MY EVER avoiding confession by natural reason alone, what with ten commandments, seven deadly sins, and sins of ommision , there aint NEVER nothing I ve got to confess, and if I confess scruples in with the sins, so be it. If Fr, on scruples, tells me not to be such a fool, wont be the first time!
    We gotter get back into frequent confession.

  10. rcg says:

    Well you just wait until you go for your class 3 and have to explain GMT!!! (J/K)

  11. onearmsteve says:

    I was interviewing for a trauma sales rep job (they are 365/24/7 on call jobs) & during the interview I told the gentleman that I had no problem trying the schedule but only concern was Mass on Sunday (he told me that weekends are their busiest days) & he responded with “it is ok we are Catholic we can go to Mass anytime we want!” To which I was a loss for words with b/c I never ever heard anyone ever say that (I was shocked with fear that this guy has missed Sundays a lot) so knowing this was not right I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament that “if this job would cause me to miss 1 Mass do not let them offer me this job” .. an email came a few days later saying an emergency came up & they needed to hire from within.
    Deo gratias.

  12. RichardC says:

    It would have been very easy to answer that question in some insulting way for laughs. Father Z., I salute you for not doing that.

  13. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I thought this question was going to be about timezone/day change. Like, if Father on the airplane is saying Sunday Mass and it turns into Monday before he can finish, does that fulfill the obligation?

  14. Daria says:

    My son, who is serving at a navy base in the Persian Gulf, told me that in Arab countries, the Sunday liturgy is offered both on Sunday, And on Friday, which is the Muslim sabbath and for most people the only day off from work. I had never heard of this before. Does anyone have more information on this particular dispensation/permission/whatever you call it?

  15. brotherfee says:

    Agreed, mass on Sunday. I go to mass on Saturday if I cannot attend mass on Sunday, such as having to work Sunday. Mass on Saturday just does not feel the same, however, seems more like a daily mass then a Sunday mass to me. Monday is definitely a daily mass, no question about that.

  16. I’ll presume that “not able” truly means “not able” in this case and that a just cause intervened. That said, I will add that being away from home does not in itself mean that one is not able to attend Mass. Today, with the resources of modern technology at our disposal, locating a suitable Sunday Mass is almost trivial, unless one is hiking in Antarctica or stuck in a country where Catholics must worship underground for fear of persecution. If one does not have those resources at his disposal himself, he almost certainly knows of someone who does. More than once, I called my mother and asked her to locate a church for me while I was driving across the country alone and unable to do it easily on my own. And if all else fails, say a prayer to St. Anthony for help “finding” a church and drive to a big city and look for a steeple and some statues nearby.

  17. rujx says:

    Yay!!! Thanks Father. I have been going for Saturday evening masses held at my church since past 3 years and had recently got into an argument with a staunch catholic friend of mine who just wouldn’t agree that I was attending Sunday liturgy and my obligation was done. Nope! He kept on calling me a sinner for missing my Sunday obligation.

    I am so sending this post to him!!!

    Thanks again father! :)

    [HURRAY for YOU! It is better to go to Mass on SUNDAY! And you know that!]

  18. Sixupman says:


    I have a copy of the Bishops’ Conference Document, but only a newspaper report regarding anyday Mass and have lost that copy.

    I believe I did let Fr. Z have a copy of the former document.

    You could contact me at: http://www.engin6eman@yahoo.co.uk and I could copy or fax document to you.

  19. Luke Whittaker says:

    Lately I have been thinking about just how difficult it is to live out our faith in this secular world. The gospel tells us that we have been called out of the world and set apart to follow after Jesus. But this secular world has a hypnotizing pull that would make one forget easily enough the meaning of the word obligation. It is no wonder that saints are sometimes referred to as “moral miracles.” May those who have been so gifted pray for the rest of us.

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Friday Masses in Muslim countries — Probably you got the garbled version. The real version is probably something like, “Of course we have Sunday Mass on Sunday. Catholics who can’t come on Sunday because the working conditions here are cruddy, are dispensed from Sunday Mass. They are encouraged to come on Friday to daily Mass, since that’s the only time they can come. Plus that way, you automatically get your First Fridays in!”

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: people who pile burdens on other people by pretending that the Church’s canon law somehow isn’t legal enough, as opposed to having opinions about what’s best and doing it —

    rujx, It’s amazing how many sedevacantists-save-in-name there are, and how eager they are to name themselves bishops and popes. It’s also amazing that you haven’t brought down the Hammer of God on this person’s face, and still call him friend instead of Holy Roman Emperor Jerkface.

    Yeah, I can’t really see me getting hired as an apologist _or_ a canon lawyer. :)

  22. SoliDeogloria says:

    My fiancee is from India and lived in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a number of years. Your comment yesterday about Sunday Masses on Friday in Arab countries piqued my curiosity so I asked her about it. This is what she told me:

    1) Sunday is not only a work day, but a school day for children as well, so neither the parents nor the children would be able to attend Mass on Sunday.
    2) She and her family would attend Sunday Mass on Friday. The Sunday readings would replace the Friday readings. There was a dispensation from the bishop to do this. On Easter Sunday, the dispensation did not apply; they were obliged to attend Mass on Sunday (presumably because no Masses can be celebrated on Good Friday)

    I’m sure they had regular Sunday Mass as well, but I’m not sure how many people had the ability to attend, given their circumstances.

    I hope this helps! God bless you!

  23. bombermac says:

    Father, I’m in the US military. While deployed to Iraq a couple of years ago, I was assigned to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) that only got visited by a priest once per week (and that’s if his helo was able to fly) on Wednesdays. Other FOBs had it worse, with some only seeing a priest twice a month or less. I think the longest we ever had to go without a priest was a month.

    The priest/chaplain who visited us also serviced most of the other FOBs in Iraq. On whatever day he made it to your FOB, he celebrated Mass as if it were Sunday (using Sunday readings, etc. and not the daily Mass readings). This must have gotten pretty confusing (especially considering his constant lack of sleep due to traveling every day), and on one occasion I’m pretty sure he said the same Sunday Mass for us two Wednesdays in a row.

    I’ve often wondered how “legit” this was. While it’s true that we had absolutely no way of attending Mass on Sunday, Sunday Mass on Wednesday seemed a little odd. What do you suppose happened here? Do you think that maybe Archbishop Broglio (of the Archdiocese of Military Services) laid a “blanket” dispensation for military personnel in a combat zone, so that Mass was a bonus if possible but not required? Would it have been possible to allow the Sunday Mass to be celebrated on Weenesday or any other day and have that count towards a Sunday obligation (if the priest actually made it out to your FOB, of course)?

    One thing’s for sure: after my deployment ended, I had a newfound appreciation for being able to freely and peacefully attend Mass every Sunday and any other day of the week I chose. I pray this freedom is not taken from us!

    [I am pretty sure that the Military Archdiocese gets these things right. I wouldn’t worry in the least about your Sunday obligation in that situation. There is no question of “making it count” on a day other than Sunday, because you were certainly excused from the obligation by the impossibility of Mass on Sunday: no priest, no Mass, no problem with the obligation.]

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