Attending mass is an obligation that’s required in the ten commandments as well as the five Precepts of the Church. That’s why missing mass knowingly and without a valid reason is considered a mortal sin.
What You'll Learn Today
Are We Obligated To Attend Mass?
The Catholic Church’s requirement that the faithful attend mass every Sunday comes from the ten commandments, specifically the third commandment.
Here’s Exodus 20:8-10
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
Jesus himself was careful to accord respect to the Sabbath day, while dispensing with the onerous requirements of the Old Testament.
In Mark 2:27, Jesus says to the Pharisees,
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Later in Mark 3:4, he asks them,
“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
Sunday is set aside, not just as a day of rest from work and the pursuit of money, but also a day of worship and remembrance.
The obligation to attend mass also comes from the 5 Precepts of the Church, also called the Commandments of the Church.
Here’s what the first precept states:
You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
This, plus the other four precepts, make up the minimum requirements for the practice of Christian life and being part of the communion of the Catholic Church.
Is Missing Mass A Mortal Sin?
Missing mass may not seem like a big deal. After all, it’s just one day and it’s not like you’ve done grievous harm against anyone.
But remember where the obligation to attend mass comes from: the ten commandments and the Precepts of the Church.
Going against either one of them is considered, depending the particular circumstances, to be a mortal sin.
There are three requirements for a sin to be considered mortal: it has to be grave, you have full knowledge that it’s wrong, and you’ve committed it deliberately.
Missing mass goes against the third commandment and the first Precept of the Church, so it’s a grave sin.
If you do it knowing it’s a sin and there’s no valid reason for you to miss mass, then you’ve committed a mortal sin.
You cannot take part in the Eucharist and other Sacraments until you seek forgiveness and absolution from a priest.
When Is Missing Mass Not A Sin?
Under which circumstances can you skip mass without committing a mortal sin?
If you have a valid reason for not going to mass, then you’ve skipped mass deliberately. That’s not a sin.
A good example of this is if you are sick and don’t have the strength to attend mass or there’s a risk you could make other people sick.
In such a case, you get an automatic dispensation from Sunday mass. The same applies if there’s bad weather or some other emergency that you have no control over.
If you are not sure whether your reason for missing mass is valid, ask your priest for guidance. If they say it’s not valid, you have no choice but to confess to a priest and seek forgiveness.
If you know beforehand you are not going to be able to attend mass, it’s a good idea to check with the priest and seek dispensation. It’ll give you peace of mind that you are not commiting a sin.
Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the matter:
The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.
Is Missing Mass Because of Bad Weather A Sin?
One of the most common reasons people miss mass is inclement weather.
If the weather is bad or dangerous to drive or walk in, then you can miss mass without worrying that you’ve committed a mortal sin.
That’s a valid reason to skip mass. Never put your safety and that of your family at risk.
So whether it’s a snowstorm, heavy rain, or a heat wave, exercise caution. If the local authorities recommend people stay home, follow those directives.
Sometimes, it’s safe for most people to go out in fairly bad weather. But you could have a bad ankle that makes it easier to slip on ice or you are at an age where extreme temperatures are a serious health risk.
Again, your safety is a priority.
In some extreme cases, the priest could issue a mass dispensation, which makes it easier for people to stay home.
If the situation is really bad like a tornado or a storm, the priest could cancel mass completely. This can also happen because of health reasons like the ongoing pandemic.
Note that even if you are not able to attend mass, you should try to observe the Sabbath by reading the scripture, meditating and spending time in prayer.
Is It A Sin If You Miss Mass When Traveling?
The Precepts of the Church do not allow missing mass because you are away from your home parish. No matter where you are, you are supposed to attend mass at the nearest church.
Of course, this is not always possible.
Say you’ve gone on holiday or a business trip and realized there’s no church in the area. In that case, it’s not a sin to miss mass since you’ve not done it deliberately.
But if you miss church because you’ve gone for brunch, then that’s a sin.
To avoid even the hint of sin, make every effort to attend mass whether you are at home or away. If you can, select destinations that have a Catholic church nearby.
Does TV or Online Mass Fulfill Sunday Obligation?
Some faithfuls will deliberately miss mass at the parish and instead attend a virtual mass online while at home or watch a mass broadcast on TV.
Unless you have a valid reason for staying home (illness, caring for someone, weather etc.) or the priest has issued a dispensation, watching mass on TV or attending mass online doesn’t fulfill your Sunday obligation.
You’ll be committing a mortal sin by not going to mass. Mass involves physically going to church to commune with fellow believers.
But if there’s a reason you can’t go to mass, it’s actually a good idea to watch a mass service online or on TV to help you connect with God.