ASK FATHER: Sunday obligation and career conflicts

From a reader…


I read your recent answer to a man whose work schedule keeps him from attending Mass.

I’d like to go down that road a little further. I’m a commercial pilot. My schedule (which is written in stone) keeps me on the road 7 days at a time. I miss Mass every other Sunday because my duties do not allow me to attend during the 7 days I am “on duty”.

However, I am now at a point in my life where I “could” retire at some significant monetary loss. My wife and I are living on my income, but could live on social security and savings (401K/IRA) at this point.

Question: Does my obligation to attend Mass on Sunday dictate that I quit my job and retire?

At my age, the chance of landing another flying job that would allow me to attend Mass on Sunday approaches zero, but one never knows.

Being a Christian requires certain sacrifices. Being Catholic requires even more sacrifices.

Being a member of Holy Catholic Church allows one freely to request, from the treasury of grace the Church has built up, some accommodations.

Ironic, isn’t it?  We live in a secular world, which makes fewer and fewer concessions to those attempting to live according to the dictates of the Church.

To determine the exact line between reasonable sacrifice and foolhardiness is difficult. Certainly, one should never put one’s family in an unnecessary state of financial uncertainty. Additionally, one should never place an undue burden on the State to provide!

If you can work, work, rather than rely on government assistance or charity.  (εἴ τις οὐ θέλει ἐργάζεσθαι μηδὲ ἐσθιέτω! – 2 Thess 3:10)

Giving up one’s job in order to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation can cause readjustment of priorities in life. If it is too much of a burden, don’t do it. Yet, if it’s the difference between eating hamburger or dining on prime rib six nights a week, the sacrifice might be spiritually appropriate. Consider that the earthly “banquet” is temporary, while the heavenly is eternal.

Before making such a decision, talk the matter over with your wife, check with your accountant, and consult with your pastor or a trusted priest in order assess the situation.

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, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pigeon says:

    The common answer to a lot of these questions is simple: prudence and prayerful discernment.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I suppose there are fewer and fewer “airport Masses,” what with all the security hurdles and such. That stinks.

    Good airline/commercial pilots with lots of hours do perform valuable and lifesaving services, though.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Oh, and of course it’s always good to pray a novena for discernment and job search! St. Therese’s mom, who is now going to be canonized, found out her next step by praying a novena for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Summer is a good time for novenas, and don’t forget to pray thank you prayers too!

  4. Phil_NL says:

    Pray, and be prayed for.

    But also use reason: given that a retirement would likely be irreversible in this profession after some time, ask yourself if it’s prudent. Not just financially, but also in other ways.
    One can do this for love of God and the Mass, a love which would sustain you in such a choice. Or one can do this out of respect for the obligation. There’s nothing wrong with the latter – quite the contrary – but if a life-changing choice is made for the purpose of ‘ticking the box’ on your list of obligations, it’s quite possible one would start to resent that choice. Especially if one enjoys one’s job or would have trouble adjusting to a new state of life. I’d not underestimate this aspect, there may be spiritual dangers in that as well.

  5. Titus says:

    People have always traveled, and canon law has long had provisions for people who do. I don’t see why a pilot who travels today and is thereby away from a place where Mass is offered on certain Sundays is any more obligated to cease being a pilot (rather than to take advantage of the provisions found in the law for his situation) than a trapper, sailor, or Fuller Brush man of yesteryear was obligated to give up his place.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    I’m certainly not surprised to learn that organizations exist that make no accommodation for religious practice. I wonder, though, if your particular situation is legal. It stirkes me at if the company is large enough (50+ employees being the usual detemining factor) that they are required to make what is termed “reasonable accommodation” for the employee. Before making such a life-altering and irrevocable decision as retiring, check not just with your parish priest but also with a labor lawyer.

  7. Imrahil says:

    Does the obligation dictate retirement?

    The answer is simple.


    – All the same, I’m not into the thing at all, but flying seven days in a row without even the possibility to slip out for short time (three and a half hours to attend a Saturday evening or Sunday morning Mass, including going there and returning – less if the Mass is at an airport, as usual and as should be) seems to be even problematic even from the mere point of flying security.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    There might even be some “weird” Masses that aren’t listed at or the diocesan webpage, like Masses at a nursing home or hospital or monastery/convent chapel near the airport.

  9. slainewe says:

    “Additionally, one should never place an undue burden on the State to provide!”

    How bad must things become before it can be seen as a act of Christian Resistance to deliberately fall below the poverty level in order to avoid paying the taxes that feed the beast?

  10. Raymond says:

    This dilemma have existed long before the “jet age.”

    Think of the sailors at sea during the Age of Exploration 500 years ago. On some voyages, there was a priest on board, but not always.

    My suggestion to the pilot: Get yourself a Daily Missal (or access them online from your tablet or smartphone) from which you could at least get the Sunday readings and set aside a quiet time on Sunday to read, pray and reflect on them. God does not ask for the impossible–just do your best.

  11. Terentia says:

    I was a hospice nurse whose schedule was to work every weekend: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. When I was originally offered the position, I was assured that I could flex my time to attend Mass on Sundays. That lasted about 6 months. For the past 18 months, I have been working 10-14 hours a day without even a lunch break and could only attend Sunday services by taking vacation, which was limited to 4 times/ yearly. I did finally decide to retire. For me, it wasn’t just a matter of having a dispensation from Sunday obligation. My faith was being eroded. It was like watching a train wreck from the inside. I could feel myself becoming luke warm. Retirement was the best decision I had made in a very long time.

  12. bookworm says:

    I have a similar though perhaps not as serious question. My husband and I have started a self-publishing business that sells copies of two original Western novels that he wrote, plus reprints of public domain works from the late 19th/early 20th centuries. We will be setting up a booth and attending several fairs/festivals this fall to sell our books. This is an endeavor we have both been working on and have sunk lots of money into this year…. so we’re hoping these festivals will pay off.

    Two of the fairs take up an entire weekend (Saturday and Sunday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are both in small towns that have Catholic churches but there are only one or two Masses available each weekend. In one case, there is an 8 a.m. Sunday mass available, but my husband will want us to be setting up our booth for the festival at that hour. In the other cases, the Masses are right during the hours we have to be at the festivals. (Saturday night mass falls right when we have to be taking down the booth for the evening.)

    Add to the mix the fact that my husband has not attended Mass for years and he thinks my insistence on attending every Sunday is “fanatical”. Normally he doesn’t object to my attendance but I have a feeling that in this case, with a lot riding on the success of our book sales, he is really not going to be happy with me insisting on taking our only vehicle to Mass when we “should” be setting up the tent.

    So my question is: should I consider myself dispensed from my Mass obligation on those weekends, or not? I plan on asking this question of the priest at my parish the next time I go to confession, which hopefully will be soon… :-)

Comments are closed.