Obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days returns on Pentecost Sunday

After a long delay, the Bishops have finally decided together to restore the obligation to attend Mass regularly on Sundays and holy Days. I shall present some quotes from a recent ‘plenary resolution’ – what the Bishops decide en masse, I suppose. Here’s the first paragraph:

“A beautiful hallmark of the Catholic faith is the profound desire to participate in the Holy Mass and share in the Eucharist. We do so with deep gratitude and joy. The Eucharist gives the Church her identity – ‘The Eucharist makes the Church, and the Church makes the Eucharist.’ It enables us to worship Almighty God, to support each other on our journey of faith, and to be a visible sign of faith in the world. This hallmark is supported and strengthened by the precept that our fundamental Christian duty is to worship God by participating in the celebration of Mass. Attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is the greatest of all privileges, sometimes referred to as ‘the Sunday Obligation.'”

Spring Plenary 2022 Resolution

It shouldn’t really be necessary to tell the Catholic Faithful that it is a privilege to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. Back in the day, the Martyrs of England and Wales gave their lives to ensure that the Mass continued in these countries. For centuries the recusant families struggled to maintain the priests and the liturgy, in the face of grave opposition and continuous penalties. From the nineteenth century, the Irish came across to build up the Catholic Church in these countries and many of them and their families continue to attend regularly, and have done so even across the last two years, during the public health crisis. People felt that they should attend Mass where possible, even after the Bishops had removed the legal obligation to do so. They were conscious of a privilege lost for a while. The Bishops talk about those with health concerns who will still refuse to come even after tomorrow, but this has always been the understanding of the Church, who doesn’t ask her children to come to Mass when they are physically unable to. The priests and deacons – and lately the extraordinary ministers of holy communion – have worked hard to bring the Sacraments to people in their homes.

“We understand there will still be some members of our congregations who, for reasons of health, do not feel safe enough to return to Mass. It has always been the understanding of the Church that when the freedom of any Catholic to attend Mass in person is impeded for a serious reason, because of situations such as ill health, care for the sick or legitimate fear, this is not a breach of the Sunday Obligation.”

Spring Plenary 2022 Resolution

The general outcome of this statement then is the judgement that it is time to return to physical attendance at Mass, if at all possible. Think of Moses and his covenant meetings, organised to establish and renew the covenant of God with the people of Israel – Moses had commanded every man, woman and child to attend these meetings, by which their relationship as a people with the God they belonged to could be solidified. Every man, woman and child should attend physically, if possible. And watching Mass on TV or on the internet does not count, any more than watching a game of football on TV means that we are at the stadium.

“In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, the Lord Jesus entrusted to us the precious gift of Himself. With humility, we glory in being a Eucharistic people for whom attendance at Mass is essential. Looking forward to the forthcoming feast of Pentecost, we now invite all Catholics who have not yet done so to return to attending Mass in person.”

Spring Plenary 2022 Resolution