Understanding the Reasons Roman Catholics Go to Mass Every Sunday

Extreme Cases When You Can Be Excused From Attending

Mass at Church of St. John the Baptist, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
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The Catholic Church teaches that you have an obligation to go to Mass every Sunday. Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist, or transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Many people do not understand why the Church requires mass every Sunday. The answer is found within the Ten Commandments passed on to Moses several millennia ago.

The Sunday Obligation

The Ten Commandments, which were the believed to be the laws and moral code handed down by God, tells believers in the Third Commandment to “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”

For the Jews, the Sabbath was Saturday; Christians, however, transferred the Sabbath to Sunday, which was the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The Church says that you have an obligation to fulfill the Third Commandment by refraining from unnecessary work on Sunday and by participating in Mass, your chief form of worship as Christians.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor." The obligation is binding every Sunday. It is a holy day of obligation, a day for you to grow in your faith, and you are required to attend to the extent that you are able to do so.

Private Worship Is Not Enough

From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have understood that being a Christian is not a private matter. You are called to be Christians together. While you should engage in the private worship of God throughout the week, your primary form of worship is public and communal, which is why Sunday Mass is so important.

Can You Be Excused From Sunday Mass?

The precepts of the Church are the requirements of the church that are deemed necessary for you to fulfill upon pain of mortal sin. Mass is one of those requirements, but there are a few situations, where you may be excused from Mass.

If you have a debilitating illness, you may be excused from Mass, or if there is extremely bad weather that would make your attempt to getting to Church unsafe, you are excused from attending. The bishop from some dioceses will announce a dispensation from attending on Sunday if travel conditions are unsafe. In some cases, priests may cancel Mass in order to preemptively protect parishioners from harm.

If you are traveling and you cannot find a Catholic Church nearby or cannot make it for a good reason, then you may be excused from attending Mass. You should check with your priest to make sure that your reason was valid and that you did not commit a mortal sin. You are required to be in a state of grace when you attend your next Mass and to participate in Holy Communion. If your reason was not acceptable by the Church, you will require absolution by your priest.