ASK FATHER: Sunday obligation and Saturday vigil Masses, revisited

From a priest…


I was not at peace with the Sunday-obligation-Saturday-evening question and answer. HERE

Imagine a penitent:

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

Three weeks ago I was leaving on a anonruise, which was for fun, but I had to get to the airport early, for a flight to the ship, and there was no? way to get to mass. So I missed Sunday mass.

Um, um…

Yes, my son.

Well I live beside the church, and they have a Saturday evening mass at five and another at seven. Although all packing was done, I didn’t feel like going, so I didn’t.

Don’t worry about it, it’s not a sin [Ummm….]

* * *


I have admittedly painted an extreme situation. But here is a grave obligation of the Natural Law (public, corporate worship of the Divine Majesty), of the Divine positive Law transmitted through the Apostles, and regulated, but not created by Canon Law.

In the, scenario I present how can there be no sin?

Admittedly I have broadened the question from a merely canonical question.

The obligation to worship God is a natural law obligation, binding upon everyone. The obligation to worship God on the Sabbath is divine positive law. The obligation to worship God by hearing Holy Mass on Sunday is ecclesiastical law, binding all Catholics.

As a matter of ecclesiastical law, the Church has the authority to define the parameters by which the faithful are bound. Holy Church, in Her mercy, grants the faithful the ability to fulfill the mandate to attend Mass on Sunday by attending Mass on Saturday evening. The Church has not seen fit to oblige Saturday evening Mass upon those faithful who cannot attend on Sunday. She could, very easily, write a law requiring all Catholics to attend Holy Mass at some point from 4:00 p.m. on Saturday until midnight on Sunday, but She hasn’t. She has, rather, enshrined in Her law the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday (midnight to midnight), whilst granting an accommodation to those who wish to fulfill that obligation on Saturday.

But again, as was stated in the post in question, woe to me, I am a worthless servant. I have only done what is expected of me.

If someone is lazing about on Saturday, perfectly able to get to Mass but choosing not to do so, all the while aware that attending Mass the following day is going to be an impossibility, then that person might not be committing a canonical crime, and might not be committing the mortal sin of failing to meet the Sunday obligation, but that person ought to wonder if she is morally astute and right with God.

The larger obligations, to worship God, and to worship God on the Sabbath, remain binding.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’m scratching my head regarding the reasoning of thr mythical (I hope) priest in the hypothetical. The way I would interpret the Canon Law, admittedly as a lay person, but a civil lawyer, is that the obligation is non-waivable, but can be met through the accommodation of the Saturday evening vigil Mass. The fact that the penitent, unoccupied at the relevant times, knowingly chose not to attend the readily available Saturday vigil Masses makes this a pretty much slam-dunk Mortal Sin (assuming he understands that missing Mass is undeniably a grave matter).

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I disagree.

    First, I too think ‘anticipatory Masses’ are a bad idea, they cause more problems than they solve, but they are the law now, so we have to deal with them; second, I (along with the whole non-American world, as far as I can see) hold for the prior day noon-onward period for satisfaction of Mass obligation, but those issues are not germane to your point here. So.

    You describe the anticipatory Mass period as an ‘accommodation’; that is not a canonical term, but I take it you mean something like it’s a ‘privilege’ or a ‘quasi-dispensation’, or ‘concession’ or ‘favor’ or something. Now, prior to the 1983 Code, you would have a point, Saturday masses for Sunday obligations were favors allowed by way of indult. As such, no one was bound to make use of the option (e.g., c. 71) and so, yes, he could sit on the front steps of church drinking beer on Saturday afternoon while Mass is going on, and then miss every Mass on Sunday because he was flying to India, if he wanted to. And still be within the law.

    But, the Saturday option is no longer offered by way of indult, it is now part of LAW (c. 1248.1). A grave canonical obligation, rooted in Sunday tradition, yes, but LEGALLY defined as requiring satisfaction from “vespere” the day before to midnight the day of. So, one is bound by law to attend Mass during that longer period. Not on Monday, not on Saturday morning, but during the period set for satisfaction by LAW.

    I think, too, this is the only way section 2 of c. 1248 makes sense, ie, if ‘participation’ at Mass [when? originally, on Sunday from midnight to midnight, but now, by law, from Saturday afternoon to Sunday midnight] is impossible for the whole time, then one is encouraged to do something else.

    In short, Saturday Mass is no longer an exception to law, it IS the law. I wish it weren’t, frankly, but it is, and I think it binds thus.

    [So, in effect, you square the circle by calling a chunk of Saturday, Sunday. Sunday is now, 36 hours long in some places, 32 in others, etc.]

  3. LarryW2LJ says:

    “In the, scenario I present how can there be no sin?”

    I’m no theologian or canonist, but I have to agree. How can there be no sin here? You knew you couldn’t make Mass on Sunday, but you had a perfectly good chance on Saturday, to fulfill the obligation. You chose not to, admittedly by your own free will.

    Seems to me, if anything fits the bill for a sin against the Third Commandment, this would be it. Which begs the question – when did Common Sense leave the building?

  4. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Thank you, Ed Peters!

    “[So, in effect, you square the circle by calling a chunk of Saturday, Sunday. Sunday is now, 36 hours long in some places, 32 in others, etc.]”

    Actually, liturgically, Saturday evening, from Vespers on, has always been part of “Sunday.” That is why the Vespers on Saturday are called “First Vespers of Sunday.” And so they have been from time immemorial. [Yes Yes. We know this. But I don’t think that solves the problem.]

    By the way, I don’t like Saturday vigil Masses either.

  5. Michelle F says:

    I also think the hypothetical penitent committed a sin by violating willfully the spirit of the Law (3rd Commandment, and probably 1st Commandment), even if he did not break the letter of the Law (cf. St. Matthew 5:27-28, 1 St. John 3:15, etc.).

    As for Sunday being 32-36 hours long….

    It is my understanding that the appropriate day and time for offering the Mass of the Day is supposed to follow the canonical hours. Sunday begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) on Saturday evening, and it ends with Second Vespers (Evening Prayer II) in the late afternoon on Sunday. Sunday’s Mass may be said immediately before or immediately after First Vespers on Saturday evening. I also read somewhere that the Mass of the Day (in our case here, Sunday) should not be offered later than noon on the day.

    So in short, the canonical day “Sunday” runs from sunset on Saturday to sunset on Sunday, and the Mass of the Day can be offered from sunset on Saturday to noon on Sunday.

    I know many dioceses and parishes ignore the canonical hours when deciding when they are going to offer the Mass of the Day, but abuses don’t mean the practice of starting the liturgical day on the evening of the preceding calendar day is wrong or contrary to Catholic practice.

  6. jkking says:

    Dr. Peters, I too am not a canonist, but a civil lawyer. I read c. 1248.1 (admittedly in English) and I wonder about your comment.

    The way I read it, the text of c. 1248.1 doesn’t set forth the obligation, but only sets forth the means of satisfying the obligation contained in c. 1247 to attend Mass “on Sundays and other holy days of obligation.” So, the obligation would be to attend on Sunday (i.e. midnight to midnight), but the means of satisfying that obligation extend into Saturday evening, which fits with Fr. Z’s answer.

    I realize I’m out of my element, but I’d be interested to hear your comment.

  7. benedictgal says:

    My father and I got into a fight over just this matter, only, it was about the time when the Mass actually begins. As Dr. Peters notes, here in the United States, the Sunday clock begins at 4PM on Saturday. My father has gotten into what I believe is the bad habit of going to what he considers a Sunday Mass at 2:30PM Saturday at the local orphanage. I told him that this is not the Sunday obligation even though the Sunday readings are used. It’s bad all around because the kids are not getting the real picture of what Sunday is. Furthermore, there are quite a few people, including some nuns outside the order that staffs the orphanage, that are going there on a regular basis.

    I posted my consternation on Facebook and I got a lot of name-calling because I do not want to take my Dad to this Mass anymore. I was hoping that Dr. Peters would weigh in on this as I have had folks tell me that I am wrong and that the 2:30PM Mass does, in fact, fulfill the Sunday obligation.

    For now, I told my Dad that I will take him, but, I will continue keeping my Sunday obligation. Am I being a bad daughter for not wanting to go with him? In fairness, he has not been feeling well, of late, and is getting slightly weaker. I don’t want to be seen as mean or cruel (which is what some folks were implying on Facebook–someone even called me a pitbull).

  8. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. Z: [So, in effect, you square the circle by calling a chunk of Saturday, Sunday. Sunday is now, 36 hours long in some places, 32 in others, etc.]. No, Sunday is 24 hours long, but we are not talking about the definition of Sunday, we are talking about defining the period time in which to satisfy a LEGAL obligation of Mass attendance.

    Michelle F: you make several small but cumulative mistakes, but, bottom-line, we must distinguish between LITURGICAL law (re choice of liturgy) and CANONICAL law (re obligation of attendance).

    jkking: I don’t know what in your question I have not addressed, but you might have to do some background reading to realize that.

  9. jkking says:

    Fr. Thompson, is that long-standing traditional practice (of starting the liturgical day at I Vespers on the prior evening) part of the CIC’s definition of “day?” My thought would be that when the code says “Sunday or other holy day of obligation” it would have to specifically spell out “this means the liturgical definition of ‘day’ which starts at Saturday evening?”

    Also, in the Oakland diocese where I live, everyone knows about the UC Berkeley Newman Hall “last call” mass at 10pm on Sunday. But following the logic of your comment, wouldn’t that be after I Vespers of the following day (whether it’s I Vespers day or not, if it makes a difference)?

    Again, I acknowledge I’m out of my element, but my layman’s opinion is that “day” means what it ordinarily means (midnight to midnight) unless otherwise stated.

    And since everyone else is saying it, I feel obliged to say that I don’t like vigil masses either. :)

  10. jkking says:

    Dr. Peters: the part not yet addressed is where you find the canonically-rooted obligation to attend starting on the evening before a Sunday/holy day. Instead, I find an obligation to attend “on Sundays and other holy days [midnight to midnight]” (1247) and a means of satisfying that by assisting “on the holy day itself [midnight to midnight] or the evening before.” (1248.1)

    By the plain text, the obligation is narrower than the means of satisfying it, which fits with Fr. Z’s answer that the law allows some leniency here. So I’m just wondering where in the code the broader obligation is that you’re putting forth, and if it’s in 1248.1, what’s the logic for saying that this imposes an obligation not included in the plain text of 1247.

    Thanks! :)

  11. Father G says:

    The Saturday Vigil Mass has given rise to the “Seventh-day” Catholic.

  12. benedetta says:

    I’m not at all interested in sacrificing my good obligation and obedience just because others do not appreciate what we have in the Faith. However, I think on certain occasions it is a worthwhile activity to consider that when it comes to our shared worship, there are several obligations at work which must all contribute on balance to the “experience” or the communion which derives from fulfilling obligations, and not just fulfilling to some outward manifestation or criteria or to the letter only but in entirety, from the inside out, so to speak. An experience or two I have had recently have caused me to consider more how these all interact to contribute to the question of whether or nor or how one fulfill’s one’s obligation. For instance, does a priest who incessantly changes the wording of the rubrics help or hinder one attempting to fulfill their obligation? Does that priest do something that in fact works against the grace inherent in what he has been entrusted with celebrating, for the good of all? Further, when criminals attend Mass, as I had the experience of observing and having to deal with on Tuesday, openly committing a crime, and then cheerfully as could be receiving communion, with the priest just as blithely doling it out to all, how does that affect or alter our communion? How does that play into the obligation? What is the priest’s role when some in his congregation are crime victims? How does he know whether just anyone at all is receiving, or not on any given day? As I understand it, in some congregations, if the priest saying Mass cannot vouch for the spiritual state of those in attendance, he does not have to “give out” communion just to anyone who presents himself. Is it my job to point out to father that some are receiving in sacrilege, assuming that my security is properly attended to before I let him know. What would be the protocol for letting father know? For someone in my situation, staying away from the churches until some of these items can be hammered out, notwithstanding my deep desire and need to assist at the Holy Sacrifice, seems prudent.

  13. Elizabeth R says:

    Unlike pretty much everyone else, I do like vigil Masses – but only in case of necessity. I remember a time when work required me to travel on a Sunday, and the devout Protestant traveling with me was upset about having to miss church. I was grateful that I was able to attend Mass, even though the timing was not ideal.

    Understanding whether it is a requirement or not is beyond me, but I am grateful it is an option.

  14. I’m not a fan of the Saturday vigil Mass, especially if we’re defining Sunday as 3 PM Saturday to midnight Sunday. Sundown to sundown, okay. Midnight to midnight, okay– but not what we have now, which is silly.

    That said, I don’t think one needs to be particularly learned or holy to know that going to Mass on Saturday evening is better than not going at all, regardless of what canon law actually says (and I am a fan of canon law). Or, as Father Z likes to say, the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. As a matter of fact, I have all sorts of preferences about how and when Mass should be offered, but I don’t let those stand in the way of my going in the first place.

    I think we also need to remember that the priest who serves multiple, geographically disparate parishes is not at all uncommon today. In such cases, Saturday evening may be the only time that priest can get to one of those parishes.

  15. Gerard Plourde says:

    Like jkking, I applied a common law-trained legal analysis to the question [Different kind of law.] as if my client were charged under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code to get to the result I reported above. This may differ from the analysis used in Canon Law, so I’ll sketch it out, if you’ll bear with me.

    The Code requires attendance at Sunday Mass, so the first question I’d ask my prospective client charged with the violation of the Canonical Law would be:

    Q: Did you attend Sunday Mass?

    A: No.

    Q: Were you able to avail yourself of the accommodation permitted to attend a Vigil Mass on Saturday to satisfy the obligation?

    A: Well, there were two Vigil Masses available at the Catholic Church next door, but I didn’t feel like going, so I didn’t.

    Q: I see. So the answer is no. Are you willing to accept a plea bargain? I’ll have to consult with opposing counsel to determine what he’s willing to offer. With luck, I might be able to convince him to let you plead to a Venial Sin. The Prosecution has to prove that you possessed a mental state of knowledge of the gravity of the offense. If I can proffer to him that you would be able to testify convincingly that you were unaware of the 3rd Commandment and the 1st Precept of the Church, he may agree. Otherwise, I’d strongly suggest you throw yourself on the mercy of the Court.

  16. Aquinas Gal says:

    Whatever the technicalities of the law, a true Catholic will WANT to go to Mass out of love for Jesus Christ and the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist. It would be painful to not be able to go.

  17. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    jkking ,

    No, the liturgical calendar of Sundays and major feasts includes a Second Vespers. So the Vespers of Sunday night is the Second Vespers of Sunday and has always been so.

    Fr. Z, Salva reverentia, Pater, but I was not attacking any of your views or trying to trip you up. And I don’t know what “problem” you think I am trying to “solve.” My sole point was that today the liturgical day for Sundays and solemnities begins with Vespers the night before. Nothing more, nothing less.

    And, as you know, in the middle ages before the 1909 calendar reform, all liturgical days began the evening before, and, before 1909, a Second Vespers was what only the highest feasts had. (Would we might return to that ancient way of counting days. . .)

    And, thanks to Ed Peters for again helping those who know little or nothing about canon law to understand these issue.

  18. Mr. Graves says:

    I’m following this discussion with interest. As expats in a formerly (very, very formerly) Catholic country, DS and I attend one of the very few TLMs available in our region. My understanding of the reasoning behind Vigil Mass, gleaned from a somewhat iffy RCIA program and never further investigated, was that the Jewish day ended at sundown, therefore masses held on Saturday at or near sundown were effectively Sunday masses. (The logical question is why this tradition would be retained when the actual Jewish Sabbath [Saturday] was not. It’s fuzzy reasoning, yes.) In order to attend the TLM here, we drive on Sunday evening to a 1700 (moved forward from 1800 originally) mass, which is currently after sundown. So by the RCIA reasoning, we are actually attending mass on Monday. LOL.

    I stopped scratching my head about it awhile back. Given the choice of attending the NO in the morning or the TLM at night, I’ll take the TLM any day.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    Oh, please. It is very clear that there is, obviously, an Ordinary Form Sunday and an Extraordinary Form Sunday. We, clearly, need a document entitled, Sunday Pontificum, to settle the matter.

    The Chicken

  20. dans0622 says:

    Canon 1247: “On Sundays…the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God….” This seems straightforward. Certainly, the faithful are not obliged to abstain from work on Saturday afternoon/evening. It is also clear that “Sunday” in the canon means the day itself and does not include the prior day. The obligation, however, can be fulfilled on the evening of the prior day (c. 1248). I don’t know of any official statement which said or even implied that the obligation to attend Mass begins to bind before the day of obligation begins. There is a recent article in The Jurist which touches upon this topic: Fr. R. Bona, “The Canonical Day and the Liturgical Day…”, v. 74/2, pp. 353-398. He concludes that the obligation binds only on the day itself (p. 397).

  21. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    There are few times when I find myself on a different side of the question than the esteemed Dr. Peters, and those few times are times when I have to check and double-check my position, because chances are, I’m wrong and he’s right.

    That said – along with the near mandatory statement about disliking Saturday vigil Masses, the obligation that’s laid out in canon 1247 speaks only of Sunday’s and Holy Days of obligation. As we all know, canon 202 makes it clear that a day is to be reckoned as one twenty-four hour period starting at midnight.

    But, I may be going too far in reading canon 1247 in isolation. Canon 1248 isn’t merely an instruction showing how c. 1247 is to be interpreted, but is, as Dr. Peters points out, true law. The wording, also, would seem to support Dr. Peters’ view – praecepto…satisfacit – the obligation is satisfied, not may be satisfied.

    In the end, I agree fully with our host that, whatever the canonical obligation, the moral obligation is clear – we are to worship God on the Sabbath.

    I also think that anyone who is looking for an “out” to avoid Sunday (or Saturday evening) Mass ought to do some serious introspection. It is so little that the Lord asks of us.

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” It is also clear that “Sunday” in the canon means the day itself and does not include the prior day.”

    Is it clear? It was never the intention of the apostles to deviate from certain aspects of the Jewish Law (such as worshiping on the Sabbath – a the apostles re-defined it, of course). Given that, the understanding of the apostles would have been that the Sabbath starts 18 minutes before sunset on the day before (or, when 3 stars are visible) and ends on the following evening when 3 starts are, again, visible. In fact, Sunday as the Sabbath day, does not have its outline precisely defined in Canon Law (or does it?), hence, as per Cans. 17, and 27:

    Can. 17 Ecclesiastical laws must be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse must be made to parallel places, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator.

    Can. 27 Custom is the best interpreter of laws.

    Given the history of the Sabbath celebration as well as the history of the Divine Office, I think that when Sunday starts is, probably up to the individual, since that is how it is defined for the Liturgy of the Hours (which ever version of Sunday being advantageous).

    I am probably wrong, but hey, fools and chickens rush in…

    The Chicken

  23. jkking says:

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse.


    Fr. Thompson: My only point was, if Monday is a Solemnity then a 10pm Sunday mass would fall after 1st Vespers of Monday. In that situation, all those people would be fulfilling Monday’s obligation, but would have missed Sunday’s, because it’s now “Monday.” Unless you apply BOTH rules (liturgical and literal definition of day). In that case you would fulfill both obligations with one mass attendance, which I’m pretty sure is not a thing.

    Also, I’m hesitant to even take the I Vespers thing as the marker of a literal beginning of a “day” because after all, after I Vespers you have Saturday Compline (not I Compline of Sunday).

    Either way, thanks to all for a rousing discussion on what has proven to be a pretty interesting topic, IMHO. :)

    – John

  24. David Meyer says:

    I have a young family and one of the parents usually misses mass this time of year probably 2 out of 5 weeks due to taking care of children. I also try to go to a FSSP mass because I find it far less distracting and more edifying for my children and their parents. There are times when a child is sick on Saturday afternoon and we know one of us will have to miss mass Sunday morning. So when this happens, we invariably think of the clown mass Church down the road that has a Saturday evening mass (the FSSP of course does not have one). This very progressive style congregation has evangelical style praise and worship music with full drum kit, altar girls… you know the drill. It infuriates me. I told my wife that there is no way one of us are obligated to go to that mass. Sunday is Sunday. I hope I am right. It seems FrZ agrees?

    [I think that you should make every reasonable effort to fulfill your Mass Obligation.]

  25. Michelle F says:

    Dr. Peters,

    Thank you for mentioning my comment in one of your replies. I admit I find the rules regarding the Catholic calendar a bit confusing. Your pointing out there is a difference between Liturgical Law and Canonical Law, and giving me simple definitions/examples of each, helps to make things a little more clear in my mind.

    For myself, this is one of the few times when I don’t worry too much about the strict interpretation of the rules. If a parish is offering a Mass which it says fulfills my Sunday or Holy Day obligation, and it’s within the 32-hour window of opportunity the Church offers us, I will trust that the Mass does fulfill my obligation. Sometimes we just have to have faith. :)

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear jkking,

    You do apply both definitions. Or rather, you only take the canon in question; that the day is liturgically begun is merely its theological justification.

    The law is clear that you can choose to fulfil either obligation with your Sunday evening Mass. Our reverend host here did, in fact, precisely opine once that when really looking at the letter of the law, the mass would suffice for both obligations; that is obviously not in concord with the spirit of the law, but I’m still not sure about the letter; Dr Peters, at any rate, disagreed back then. But that you can fulfil one obligation, and choose which, regardless which texts were chosen – so much is clear.

    By the way, Sunday of course does have a first and second Compline, too. “Saturday compline” is merely a shorthand for “first compline of Sunday”. You just don’t recognize it because there is no day-specific collect or lesson in a Compline anyway, and because for Sundays – other than for feasts, afaik – First (Vespers and!) Compline take their specific psalms (which may then conveniently be listed under “Saturday”).

  27. Daniel W says:

    Fr Z,
    I now think you are right about the Dr Peter camp and the definition of a Sunday. After all, it makes perfect sense for the law to provide a different way of calculating a day depending on the purpose of the definition (can. 202 and 200). The law now computes a holy day of obligation as beginning with the evening of the feast day in question, when calculated for the purposes of satisfying the obligation to participate in Mass (c.1248). Since c.1248 only expressly deals with the duration of time with respect to assisting at Mass, it would be interesting to consider how this affects abstaining from work.
    There is nothing new about this. We all know about the school day (it might begin at 8am and finished at 3pm) and the business day. Regarding overlapping days, the day for train travel where I live is the full calendar day plus until 3am the next morning (for the purposes of ticket validity). For the purposes of those employed on the train whose shift over laps, their rates are calculated according to the calendar day.
    Calculation of months can be particularly complicated in canon law. The pope can define days, months and years as he sees fit, and that has been a major factor in the evolution of our current calendar!

  28. hwriggles4 says:

    After reading these comments (and last weeks) I had to respond since I grew up going to Saturday evening Mass as a child. My brother and I were regular altar boys at that Mass (we also threw newspapers on Saturday and Sunday mornings), and I do remember that even though the priest scheduled confessions before Mass, most of the time he would be having a cigarette outside the rectory when we arrived (i.e. – I recall confession in the late 70s and early 80s not being emphasized – at one point, I didn’t go for 13 years).

    Yes, I agree that I did feel at the parish where I grew up there not as much “community” at the Saturday evening Mass as there is on Sundays, and I did feel that there was too much “get in and get out”, as well as people taking Mass very casually. Then again, the two pastors back in those days was essentially a “Fr. Nice” or a “Fr. Yeah, Whatever”. It’s a no brainer why several Catholics like myself who grew up in the 70s and 80s called CCD “Central City Dump” and confirmation was treated like a “graduation exercise” from the Church.

    Now, that said, I have been to some reverent Saturday evening Masses. There’s one near my house in the Novus Ordo that sings Gregorian Chant, and the Church is packed at the 5:00 p.m. Mass. Confessions begin at 3:30 p.m., and the lines are long. Most people are properly dressed. However, at some other parishes (and other dioceses), I’ve witnessed too much of the “casual” at Saturday evening Mass, people leaving after Eucharist, a priest purposely giving a 45 minute Mass (and people complaining because it was “too long”) with a “status quo homily” (as a man, I look for meat and potatoes), and I even once witnessed a Jesuit priest in the middle of a homily on a Saturday night saying, “I know I’m going too fast, I’m supposed to do a wedding in 45 minutes”. (Sidebar: I didn’t go to Saturday night Mass at that parish for a long time. A few years later, a new pastor arrived and after witnessing some of the antics of this Jesuit priest, he forbade him to say Mass at this parish).

    I do agree that the intent of the Saturday evening Mass was to have a vigil Mass that people could attend if they could not make it on Sunday. This would be for someone who is scheduled to work on Sunday, such as a nurse or a police officer. Someone who getting on a plane at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, Saturday night Mass is appropriate. As kids, when my brother and I were the age of reason, my mom would take us to Saturday night Mass, and my dad would stay home with my baby brothers – my dad would go to his church every Sunday. I dated a nurse who often worked weekends, and she was normally able to make a Sunday night Mass, and she would attend daily Mass as her schedule allowed. There was a time I worked 10-12 hour days six days a week, and I would sometimes attend Saturday evening Mass if I had to work on Sunday, or if I just wanted to get a little sleep, or catch up on things at home. A few times (and other men I know have done this) I have set up a Saturday night date where our date would begin with Mass, and then she and I would go out to dinner or something – I don’t see anything wrong with that every now and then either, although I do agree that those who attend Saturday night Mass regularly just to “sleep in” or “get Mass out of the way”, are creating an abuse.

    However, I do know some CCD teachers who attend Saturday evening Mass because it frees them up to teach CCD on Sunday, and gives them time to concentrate on teaching and lesson plans. By the same token, I know some choir people who attend an extra Mass (like Saturday or Sunday evening) because it gives them time to concentrate on the Mass and the readings. I have been an usher, and even as an altar boy, I sometimes felt like I was “employed” at Mass, and I was concentrating on the next task. While choir adds to the congregation, choir members are often thinking “what’s the next song”, and it’s harder to concentrate on the Mass, so there are several that will attend an extra Mass (sometimes the Saturday evening Mass) outside of the one where they are singing, because it gives them an opportunity to sit in the pew and concentrate on the Mass – I have no problem with that. I also know some liturgical ministers who are regularly scheduled for Saturday night Mass, so they always attend that Mass. I have a few family members that do this, in part because their ministry is at Saturday night Mass.

    Today, as an adult and a Catholic “revert”, I rarely attend Saturday night Mass, and prefer to go on Sunday. I do sometimes attend Sunday evening Mass, and I always try to avoid the “teen Masses” on Sunday nights – I’m glad to see that many parishes have gotten away from the “happy clappy” and I’ve seen more reverent youth Masses. Glad to see “Fr. Nice” putting his foot down.

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  30. robtbrown says:

    Morally, the genus of the Sunday mass obligation is a weekly obligation, whose species has been established to be Sunday (for various obvious reasons). Thus, anyone not able to attend Sunday mass is under the moral obligation to try to attend another mass during the week.

    Obviously, for anyone not being able to attend on Sunday, a Saturday anticipatory mass (pre or post 1983 CIC) would be more appropriate than, say, a mass during the week. And so pre 1983 it would not be a matter of attending Sunday mass or not at all but rather of attending Sunday mass or the best alternative (which would be the anticipatory mass. To say anything else is little else than casuistry.

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