Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Darn, We Have to Miss Mass": Really?

I was a part of this comment-conversation a couple of weeks ago, on Father’s Day. The young woman initiating the conversation by her “status” is the mother of two small children, and is a graduate of the Catholic high school where I taught briefly.

Initiator: Darn, guess we're not making it to the 7:15 Mass before our Father's Day activities!

Commenter 1: I guess the sleep in memo was sent

Initiator: Yep. That throws off our plans though, unless we don't go to Church today!

Me: I'm sure you wouldn't skip the most important part of the day, and give thanks to Our Father Who Art in Heaven!
True. But don't miss Mass.

[Am I a killjoy, or what?! Who says these things on FB?!]

Commenter 2:  I'm sure God will be listening if you give thanks from your home this morning. Church is just a building; our Creator is everywhere. As the apostle Paul said,"for it is in Him we live, we move, we have our being."

I exited the conversation at that point. What’s the use? Commenter 2 was the young woman’s father-in-law, and I wasn’t about to get in the middle of that. 

But I think a silent partner in all this was God, whose entry might have been:

God: Enjoy Father's Day and sort all this out later in Hell.

Let’s face it…as we have many times before: Most Catholics don’t believe it is a mortal sin to intentionally miss Mass on Sunday. Heck, I’m not sure most priests believe that any more! It seems that most people subscribe to the principle of theological decency, the essential premise of which is: “God is at least as decent a person as you or I.” So, if I wouldn't treat people harshly, then God wouldn't either. We are, after all, "created in the image and likeness of God" and, therefore, we can understand a lot about God just by observing ourselves. Right? 

Actually, this really is a partial truth; we can understand something of God through the prism of understanding ourselves as “created in the image and likeness of God”. However, obscured by this "partial truth" is the fuller truth that the self we understand is fallen and corrupted by the effects of original sin; because of this, we must be very careful projecting what we observe in ourselves on to God. But most people don’t want to let such thoughts get in the way of enjoying Father’s Day fun…which surely is a “prayer” to God anyway (wink, wink).

No. Father’s Day Fun (or any other "fun" outing) doesn’t take precedence over Our Father’s day – the Sunday obligation.

What we must do is grow in our knowledge of God so that we can grow in our understanding of ourselves. Then we have at least a chance of grasping (without ever hoping to fully understand) what a human being is from God’s point of view, and we can work to overcome, through grace, the effects of original sin. The “principle of theological decency” is, really, ourselves worshipping ourselves, God created in the image and likeness of man. This helps ME understand better the "gods" of Greece and Rome who were, if nothing else, VERY human but with a lot more power and authority. No wonder the Caesars could entertain the conceit that they were gods!

That whole Face Book conversation is so typical, probably acted out every Sunday by countless millions. Given their state of mind, there's almost nothing one can say that will make any difference – nothing that will pierce the self-protective shell of a false “what would Jesus really do” mentality. There’s the tendency to discount those pesky commandments and precepts, and go with the “real” Jesus of the Gospel – you know, the down-to-earth kinda guy who’s just like us.

But we have to say something. If people don't take Hell seriously, they won't take sin seriously, and it becomes trivial whether one goes to Mass on Sunday or not. If those who excuse themselves from Mass (for trivial reasons) complete their current journey to Hell – that is, if they arrive at the destination their current itinerary suggests – it seems to me that they will have a special hatred for all the priests who told them it was okay and not a sin to miss Mass on Sunday. Maybe we can hope that God gives them a pass because they were so woefully misled. But you can only go so far with the excuses of “we didn't know”, or “our priest told us it was okay”, or “I was told in Confession that it wasn't a sin”.  

People making these excuses already show enough brainpower to be able to rationalize well, so their own excuses will appear flimsy to them at Judgment.


  1. People seem determined to rely on invincible ignorance, but it's the "invincible" part that makes it tough for me to rely on. And it is true that family attitudes make things like this easier or harder. Nobody minded or commented when some of my late-sleeping children left my father's house for a 5pm Mass on Father's Day, but it was easy because everybody knew where my father would prefer they be.

  2. It helps to know your Confessor (at least when possible), especially if he hears your child's confession too. I once went to a priest who told me after I listed my sins and their number, "you are focusing too much on the sin." Really??? Needless to say, I never went back to him.

  3. We actually had to re-arrange retreat sessions for my son's preparation for First Communion because ONE mother tearfully stated that her son couldn't miss baseball on Saturdays and it would be so unfair for him not to make his First Communion because he "couldn't" make it to the retreats.

    Baseball is a higher priority than making your First Communion?!

    David - Fredericksburg, VA


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