ASK FATHER: How do we fulfill our Easter Duty in this time of pandemic lockdown?

From a reader…


Hi Father – my question is about how to fulfill the Easter duty during this time of quarantine. Does a spiritual communion during a “parking lot mass” on Easter Sunday count?

Also, our pastor has insisted that we stay in our cars and not receive Holy Communion.


Let’s have a look at Canon Law for the Latin Church.

Can.  920 §1. After being initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, each of the faithful is obliged to receive holy communion at least once a year.

§2. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at another time during the year.

See what’s going on there?

Catholics are obliged to receive Communion at least once a year.  They are no obliged to receive more often… by law.   And the canon says that this is to be done during the “Easter season” – which lasts from Easter until the 50th day, Pentecost.

Moreover, notice that “for a just cause at another time during the year”.

You have a just cause right now.  The lockdown orders during time of pandemic have made it virtually impossible for people to attend Mass at all, much less receive Eucharistic Communion.

Also, it may be that your local bishop has issued addition local legislation about this.

There are a couple of principles in law which help us understand our obligations.  First,  ultra posse nemo obligatur… no one is obliged to act beyond his powers.  Put another way, nemo ad impossibilia tenetur… no one is held to the impossible.

If there is no Mass to attend, or if there is no way to make a confession or to receive Eucharistic Communion, then there is not obligation.   You can’t go to Masses that are not available.  You can’t receive Communion when it is not being distributed.   No one is obliged to the impossible.

Be at peace about your Easter obligation.   Soon enough this will pass.     Let’s pray that it passes while we are in the Easter season.

I invite everyone reading this to pray my prayer asking God for a miracle: the total, sudden, and lasting elimination of the Coronavirus.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thanks, Father, for the clarification. I was wondering about this issue.

  2. Ms. M-S says:

    Thanks for this prayer, Fr. Z.

  3. Hidden One says:

    Hmm. I expect that most people concerned about this obligation have, like me, received Holy Communion at least once during 2020, prior to everything being locked down in whatever places we happen to live, work, or be stuck in. Now, we know that if a Catholic is unable to receive Communion from now until the next calendar year due to the pandemic, said Catholic hasn’t failed the obligation. But I would like to confirm whether, in such a case, a Catholic who already received Communion this year at least once prior to the Easter Season has in fact already fulfilled the obligation under the condition that it remains impossible for that Catholic to receive Communion for the remainder of the year, rather than that said Catholic would simply be dispensed from the obligation in virtue of its impossibility.

  4. Mariana2 says:

    I went to confession yesterday, and Father gave me the Holy Eucharist from the Tabernacle. Mass itself will be streamed, and Father says an Act of Spiritual Communion after he has communed, that we can join in at our computers.

    Lots of lovely Masses being streamed, too. Can’t really complain.

  5. We have to find other ways to observe Easter.

    As for me, if these winds we’re having settle down tonight, I think I will light my own Easter Fire in my fire pit, in memory of St. Patrick’s Easter Fire in defiance of the Chief Druid. I’ll have to ignite it cheater-style, with matches or a lighter, as I don’t have a flint and tinder and can’t get them now (plus I don’t know how to use a flint and tinder). If the winds don’t settle down, then I will light some blessed candles inside.

  6. surritter says:

    Hidden One — the obligation is that Holy Communion be received during the Easter season, so having received it earlier this year does not fulfill the obligation. However, as Father explained, most of us probably won’t have an obligation unless this craziness ends within 50 days.
    So referring to your last sentence, it will most likely be a case of being “dispensed from the obligation in virtue of its impossibility.”

  7. Hidden One says:

    surritter — So it would seem. Yet if a Catholic, perhaps one living in the depths of the Amazon, were only to see a priest once per year and have (on that occasion) his only chance to receive the Eucharist, he would presumably be fulfilling the obligation “for a just cause at another time during the year.” If that annual visit was in February….

  8. Pingback: EASTER SVNDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  9. gouletdrg says:

    Outstanding post! Thank-you Fr. Z. Fortunately, in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, we have a bit more wiggle room as the local senior commander has the authority regarding quarantine, and where possible encouraged the Chaplains to continue religious support. Some installations were able to provide Sacraments on a limited basis. I was able to offer Confessions twice and (with permission and clear guidance from the Archbishop), have the Eucharist available today.

  10. Elizium23 says:

    This article from Columbia explains that the Easter Season is broadly defined as the First Sunday of Lent through Trinity Sunday. I know there is a USCCB document to this effect… somewhere. (Their search engine leaves much to be desired). If KofC is correct that the “Easter Duty” may be fulfilled during Lent, then the vast majority of us have already satisfied our Easter Duty.

    And it is doubtless that astute bishops, possessed of a calcium-rich spinal column, will issue more dispensations and waivers as the clock ticks onward toward Pentecost. If only they could… find a way for us to receive. I am gorging on delivery food but my soul is starving for Jesus.

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