Beloved Obligation: Returning to Sunday Mass

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Beloved Obligation:

Returning to Sunday Mass

Find Fr. Paul Turner’s slides at Archdiocese of New York, March 20, 2021







Staying Home

• Working is working

• No commute

• More family time

• Household projects

• Comfort with the digital world • Staying healthy


Motivations to Return

• Appealing to obligation when desire is diminished

• Individuals who feel disconnected will feel unmoved • Some will respond, such as certain ethnicities

• The stay-at-home order awakened hunger for the eucharist • Obligation + Desire


From my blog: August, 2020

Q: Do other Christian Churches/communities have Holy Days of

Obligation? Do you envisage a time when going to mass for

Catholics might not be obligatory, in the hope of promoting a more adult approach to being members of one’s community; in other

words participating because of love, not obligation? Blessings.

A: I think we’re pretty unique in the holyday of obligation category.

The obligation to participate at Mass comes from canon law, not

from liturgical law, so I’m not sure what the future thinking may be. For sure, we hope everyone comes out of a sense of love, even


Q: Regarding Holy Days of Obligation, with respect to Sundays at least,

the Catholic Church is not unique. Title II. Canon. 1 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church states that, “All persons within this

Church shall celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, by regular participation in the public worship of the Church, by hearing the Word of God read and taught, and by other acts of devotion and works of charity, using all godly and sober conversation.” By the way, far from

implying a lack of love, love itself is a duty, the very summary of the law. 

Covenanted love always imposes obligations. The obligations imposed by the marriage covenant, for example, are essential — and in thoroughly

practical ways — to the unconditioned love of marriage. Just a thought.


Code of Canon Law

• Canon 1247: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the

faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable

relaxation of mind and body.

• In 1917, canon 1248: On feast days of precept, Mass must be

heard, and one must abstain from servile works and acts of

commerce, and similarly—unless legitimate customs or special

indults pertain—from the public market, festivals and other public buying and selling.


Pope Pius XII, 1941

• Bishops and priests should instruct the faithful in “The grave

obligation of all who have the use of reason to hear Mass on

Sundays and other feasts of obligation (c. 1248), since this is the principal act of that external and public worship which we owe to God, by which we acknowledge the supreme dominion over us of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Savior.”


Pope Pius XII, 1941

• Citing the Council of Trent Session XXII, cap. 6: “This Sacred Synod

would wish that in every Mass the faithful who are present should

commune, not only spiritually by desire, but also by the sacramental reception of the Eucharist, so that the most holy fruits of this


49 Martyrs of Abitinæ (304)

—It is true that in your house you celebrated the meeting in spite of the edict of the Emperor?

—[Emeritus:] Yes, in my house we celebrated the day of the Lord. —Why did you allow so many people to participate?

—Because they are my brothers and sisters and I couldn't refuse them. —You should have refused them.

—No, I couldn't have done that because we had to celebrate the liturgy of the day of the Lord.


Code of Canon Law

• If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible

because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a

liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.


Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

• 14: Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be

led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical

celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a

royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.


General Instruction of the Roman

Missal (GIRM) 95

• In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people

of God’s own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves.


• They should, moreover, take care to show this by their deep

religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.

• They are consequently to avoid any appearance of singularity or

division, keeping in mind that they have only one Father in heaven and that hence are all brothers or sisters one to the other.


• 96. Moreover, they are to form one body, whether in hearing the

Word of God, or in taking part in the prayers and in the singing, or above all by the common offering of the Sacrifice and by

participating together at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully

apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful.

• 97. The faithful, moreover, should not refuse to serve the People

of God in gladness whenever they are asked to perform some particular service or function in the celebration.



• Prayer over the Offerings 2,

Ritual Mass for the Celebration of Marriage

Receive in your kindness, Lord, the offerings we bring in

gladness before you, and in your fatherly love watch over those

you have joined in a sacramental covenant. Through Christ our



• Preface 3, Ritual Mass for the

Celebration of Marriage

For you willed that the human

race, created by the gift of your

goodness, should be raised to such high dignity that in the

union of husband and wife you might bestow a true image of



• Prayer over the Offerings,

December 22

Trusting in your compassion, O Lord, we come eagerly with our offerings to your sacred altar,

that, through the purifying action of your grace, we may be

cleansed by the very mysteries we serve. Through Christ our



• Collect, Saturday, Fifth Week of Lent

O God, who have made all those reborn in Christ a chosen race and a royal priesthood,

grant us, we pray, the grace to will and to do what you command, that the people called to eternal life may be one in the faith of their hearts and the homage of their deeds.


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

• Reading 2 Romans 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who

loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not

covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as

yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.


Beloved Obligation

• Be patient with people

• Gathering out of love for God,

the Church, the parish, and the Mass

• “I love your commands”

• Obligation does not always

lead to love, but love leads to obligation


Reflection Questions

• Who do I love the most?

• What obligation do I feel toward them? • It that a beloved obligation?

• What is my attitude about participating at the Eucharist? • What love do I owe God?




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