ASK FATHER: I work on Sunday. Can I go to Mass on another day?

From a reader…


Never dreamed I’d be asking this, but I suppose I had better: Due to my current job or the job that I’m hoping to take soon, getting to Mass on Sunday can be difficult. If I’m up until 3, 4, or 5 AM at work, but must be at work by 4 or 5 on Saturday and Sunday, being at Mass at 9:30 Sunday–or Sunday evening–isn’t a practical option. I would, however, like to get to Mass during the week anyway.

Are we required to attend Mass on Sunday, in particular, or are we required to get to Mass at least once each week? (Within the next 5-7 years, it’d be nice to have a job that left evenings and weekends free, but right now, I need to be at work when we’re busy. (I hate that we’re so secularized!))

Good question.

I’m sorry for your difficult hours at work. In our increasingly secular society, employers have little to restrain them from impinging on their worker’s obligations to worship God.

The Church’s law is clear.  As Catholics, we are obliged to hear Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. We can fulfill that obligation by either attending Mass on the Sunday or Holy Day itself, or on the evening of the day before each.

If it is truly impossible for you to attend Mass on Sundays or Holy Days, because of work obligations or Mass times, then the obligation to attend Mass is lifted. Remember though, God is not mocked, nor is He deceived (Galatians 6:7).  If it’s merely difficult to attend Mass, or inconvenient, do not skip Mass and then think you are justified.

Think of our brothers and sisters in other countries, some of whom travel many miles on their feet in order to hear a holy Mass.

If you truly can’t make Mass on Sundays or Holy Days, but you can make Mass on another day, it would be salubrious for you to do so. It doesn’t fulfill the Sunday obligation, but it would be a meritorious thing to do.

Finally, speak to your pastor about your situation.  Do this for a couple reasons.  Firstly, he may have good advice or direction for you.  Also, your predicament may also be helpful to him in making adjustment to (the Scylla and Charybdis of parochial ministry) weekend Mass times!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Paul M. says:

    Pastors also have the authority to “give a dispensation from the obligation of observing a holyday or day of penance, or commute the obligation into some other pious works.” Canon 1245. This gives a third reason for the original poster to speak to his pastor: the pastor could commute the Sunday obligation into some other pious work, such as the Rosary, part of the Hours, or even attendance at Mass and prayerful rest on another day of the week.

    [A good additional point, and one made here numerous times, as in HERE.]

  2. APX says:

    Has the reader talked to his/her employer about accommodating his/her religious requirements? At least where I live in Canada, employers are legally required to accommodate an employee’s bona fide religious needs including accommodations to their work schedule to allow them time off for their need to observe their sabbath or equivalent.

  3. Sliwka says:

    Related question: would one be guilty of mortal sin if you deliberately make it impossible to hear Mass for non-grave matters (eg camping, backcountry hiking)? [It is not really related if you are doing something recreational.]

  4. suedusek says:

    Just a few thoughts: I attend adoration at 4 a.m. on Fridays for an hour. Basically, I get up around 3:15, throw myself together, get in the car and go. I usually arrive home around 5:15, at which time I go back to bed for about an hour and a half. Then, I get up and get ready for work.

    I’m not a morning person so it’s hard–a sacrifice, I guess. That’s partly why I chose that time slot. But once I’m up and at it, my tiredness fades and I manage to get through the day and recoup on sleep by going to bed a little earlier. It’s not ideal, but it’s doable.

    Consider coming home from work, sleeping a little, attending a mid- to late- morning Mass, and then catching a few more Zs before you go back to work. It’s not perfect, but you can probably recoup on sleep throughout the week. It’s only one day a week.

    At least try it for a few weeks to see if you can do it.

  5. I work offshore, on boats. It is truly impossible for me to go to Mass while working, and offshore. When I am in our home port, my port captain allows me to go to Mass as long as my captain is cool with it.

  6. Sliwka, I wonder about this as well. I want to do a Kilimanjaro climb, and it will cover at least 1 Sunday out in the bush, probably 2. That is a good follow up question!

  7. tgarcia2 says:

    I can somewhat relate, and it’s been a struggle since working for an airline and it being shift work. If I work an AM (6-2 CST) I can attend an evening Mass. A PM (2-10pm) I can attend a Morning Mass. Difficulty lies with midnights (10pm-6am) and being able to stay up, go to the first Mass at 8am and drive back home safe or with a double (1am/1pm). So far so good, and Fr is understanding.

  8. APX says:

    Perhaps it’s time to start having a 7:00 am Sunday Mass to accommodate those who either work all day or all night? We have a 7:15 am low Mass on Sundays that a number of the people who attend complain about it being “too early” (and then complain the mid-day high Mass is too late). I’m pretty sure it’s the only early morning Mass on Sundays in the city. I think we’ve forgotten that some people really do need to work Sundays and would still like to be able to attend Mass on Sundays. Sunday’s aren’t a day of rest for everyone (and Catholics really need to stop shopping on Sundays so that stores are forced to either be closed or have shorter hours on Sundays requiring less employees to work that day).

  9. Paul M. says:

    Sliwka said: . . . if you deliberately make it impossible to hear Mass for non-grave matters (eg camping, backcountry hiking)

    That may be one of the reasons for Canon 1245. In other words, if one expects to be putting themselves in a voluntary situation where they will not have access to the Mass (e.g. hiking the Appalachian Trail), one should talk to their parish priest and get a dispensation or commutation of the obligation to hear Mass.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    APX, American employers do not have to nor do some make room for religious observance. I know of one young Protestant lad who was told by the manager of his local McDonald’s that if he did not want to work on Sunday, there were plenty of people willing to do so.

    He faithfully goes to his service every Sunday.

  11. drohan says:

    Depending on the size of the community, you may be able to get a mass at some fairly odd times.

    Where I grew up, there were a number of Catholic parishes and many had an afternoon mass. At the University where I went, they had a 6:30 p.m. mass and a 10:00 p.m. mass for Sunday obligation for students but also late shift industrial workers in the area. I’d investigate a bit. You might be surprised at what you find.

  12. TWF says:

    In my Archdiocese, at various parishes, you can find masses at 1 PM, 3 PM, and 4 PM (just off the top of my head) – this individual may want to investigate to see if an afternoon mass is available and whether it would work within his schedule.

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    I will be traveling across country (literally, 2500 miles) from Friday to Sunday on a Greyhound bus to attend a conference. I hope to be at my destination by 1:00 pm pm on Sunday (the other schedule got me in at 1:00 am on Monday). If I can find a Church with a late Sunday Mass, I will go, but traveling normally excuses from the obligation, since it might be difficult to find a Church (I have scoped out the city, but I won’t have a car and cabs are expensive). My point is that scheduling travel that is avoidable on Sunday does not, normally, excuse from the obligation, but necessary traveling, probably, does. I plan to attend Mass, anyway, if the bus doesn’t breakdown or I don’t breakdown (if you’ve never traveled across country by bus, it is a, “unique,” experience which should serve as penance for some dastardly crime, but it is the cheapest way to travel that’s legal.

    The Chicken

  14. ChesterFrank says:

    I would also have to ask, does watching a broadcasted ( such as EWTN) Mass meet the obligation?

  15. Traductora says:

    Just a minor point. When I was a child in NYC, they used to have something called the “Printers’ Mass” at about 4 am in the newspaper district. This was to accommodate people who got off work when they finished putting the paper to bed, around 3 am or so.

    Also, most parishes had a 6:00 a.m mass for shift workers who were expected to be in at 7:00. There were many masses that were celebrated at particular times because it helped the people who worked near the church. Around a hospital or a precinct, it would coincide with shift changes.

    Of course, there were more priests in those days. But I also think they cared more and realized what their job was.

  16. Hidden One says:

    ChesterFrank: No, it does not.

    APX: As a fellow Canadian, I don’t think I’ve ever had a non-Catholic employer who cared about such things as employees getting to Mass. If you won’t work Sunday, most places won’t hire you. Asking about weekly availability is–quite reasonably–a legal question for a job application or interview.

  17. MouseTemplar says:

    When I worked nights, I called all over the Diocese and found a Sunday 7am Mass. I’d stagger in after work and may have nodded off once in a while, but I made that obligation all those years. Do some investigating and you might find a Mass time that would work for you.

  18. APX says:

    Hidden One,

    I have always states upfront when giving my availability and taking time off for Holy Days of obligation and the Triduum, etc that it was for religious reasons and have never had an issue.

  19. Giuseppe says:

    I worked at a hospital where a number of nurses worked 12 hour shifts on Sat/Sun (days) or Fri/Sat (nights) or Sat/Sun (nights). The day shifts make going to a mass nearly impossible, and one nurse spoke with her pastor, who told her to go on Monday and then spend time before or after mass reading the readings from Sunday and reflecting on them. The short weekday mass (20 minutes) + the reading/reflection (20 minutes) came close to a typical OF mass length.

    EWTN typically has mass televised every midnight. Given a bad work schedule and the lack of resources to quit one’s job, I think asking one’s pastor if the midnight mass could count. I do think that the Monday + reflect on Sunday’s readings is the most reasonable alternative.

  20. Giuseppe says:

    Oh and my nurse friend who worked the night shift often went to mass on her way home and dozed on and off throughout the whole mass. It’s not easy after 12 hours of a night nursing shift to stay awake when given the chance to finally sit down. But she did it and didn’t do the Monday option because she felt bad about missing an attend-able Sunday mass.

  21. St. Rafael says:

    Is there a parish somewhere in his diocese that has a 6am or 7am Mass? Maybe not at his parish, but some church has to have an early morning mass. A 1pm-3pm Mass also has to be available somewhere. Heck, even if it’s not an English Mass! The Mass is the Mass.

  22. Imrahil says:

    Dear Sliwka,

    I have a unclear remembering that on this blog on a similar question, some commenter mentioned that the manualists of old held that, in a very limited number per year, Sundays can be missed for recreational activity also. (Which surprised me, on reading it.)

  23. TawdryPenitent says:

    I work for a company that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including all holidays except Christmas. We shut down at midnight on Christmas Eve and open again at 12:00am on the 26th.
    It is a retail business, not even heathcare, which would necessitate this kind of schedule. One loses all sense of time and especially of what day it is. The natural rhythm is destroyed. But, in this economy I am grateful for the job.
    I’m one of the lucky ones who works days, I can be scheduled anytime from 7am to 7pm. After a few months when I became more secure in my position, I was able to get Sunday mornings off until 11:ooam which does allow me to get to a Sunday morning Mass.
    You should have heard the laughter when I tried to get off on Good Friday, big sale you know.

  24. poohbear says:

    If there is a Catholic hospital near the questioner, he might find Mass there scheduled at odd times. Another option worth looking into.

  25. slainewe says:

    This discussion makes me heartsick. How will we face all the martyrs who DIED offering and attending Mass when we will not even take a lesser job in order to fulfill our privilege of worshipping the Lord God Almighty and defend His Sabbath. We belong to the Church MILITANT! Who of us DARES not to show up for battle!

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Slainewe – The obligation for Catholics to try to support their families and themselves by their own labor is not a light one, and those of us who have spent months not being able to find any job understand how tight the job market is. It is not a matter of a lesser job; it is any job at all versus no job at all.

    I am excited to have been able to find a part time job where it looks like they will hire me. I will have trouble making rent and food bills stretch, but I may actually get some income. Of course I intend to get to Mass and have asked for the time, but as Paul said, If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Dear slainewe,

    1. why are you assuming there is a lesser job?

    2. In the army, you know, there may be some who reproach people for taking provisions more often than others even though not counteracting any orders (“that is not soldierly”), but if you are a good commander, you make sure they don’t do that.

  28. slainewe says:


    1. I feel rather confident that a country to which millions of immigrants continue to come for work has some job for an able-bodied native that does not require working both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. After all, there are 50 States to choose from. In a nation where more and more citizens do not keep holy the Sabbath, it is important that those who know how to worship make the sacrifice to do so. How many jobs will there be if the Arm of God comes down on our nation?

    2. I am not sure of your army analogy but, if you are reproaching me for challenging us to greater sacrifice in these devastating times, I cannot be sorry. I pray I had courage to do more.

  29. Imrahil says:

    1. The problem is that each of the employers seems to be able to choose from all the unemployed workforce.

    2. I don’t mind “challenges”, if they are presented as such (though I can’t say that I particularly like them, especially in times already devastating). I was firmly opposed to treating non-sins as sins, though. And, especially where there is a huge battle between good and evil on the horizon, I don’t think a preliminary battle between the good and the better is of any help.

  30. Elizabeth M says:

    Isn’t this the reason the Saturday Vigil Mass was first allowed? To let those nurses, firefighters, doctors, other emergency workers etc fulfill their Sunday Obligation?

    If it’s not, then I completely misunderstand the logic behind Saturday vigil.

    Some use the Saturday Vigil not “If it’s merely difficult to attend Mass, or inconvenient,” but because their parish has scheduled a concert -type Mass with the kiddos and now the family breaths a sigh of relief thinking “Well, now we don’t have to go on Sunday morning!”
    Whole other kettle of fish…

  31. Imrahil says:

    Dear Banshee,

    what St. Paul actually said is “those who do not want to work, let them not eat”.

    I think a Catholic whose only job oppurtunity includes Sunday work, and who says “I want to work, really do, so I may eat, but Sunday Mass is as important to me that I choose not to accept” as morally allowed to do so (and apply for welfare). Whether many would do that is another story. But there isn’t always only one choice.

  32. Hidden One says:

    APX, thou hast been more blessed in that area than I.

Comments are closed.