obligation to go to Mass on holy days

Is it always an obligation to go to Mass on holy days

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I would like to know if it is an obligation to attend Mass when you are on a trip in a county whose principal or official religion is not Catholicism making it very difficult to find a Catholic Church to attend. And also if it would be necessary to confess it


1. The Precept

The positive ecclesiastical law determines the days in which acts of the worship of God (that are of the natural law and of the divine positive law) must be performed. The Church determines as a precept the attendance of Mass on Sundays and on four other solemnities: January 1st (Solemnity of Mary Mother of God), August 15th (Assumption), December 8th (Immaculate Conception) and December 25th (Nativity). The precept of hearing Mass obliges all of the faithful that have use of reason and have completed seven years of age. In order to complete this precept, the Mass should be heard entirely and with attention.

2. Causes of Exemptions

The excuse from the precept to hear Mass is any moderately grave reason. The principal reasons usually put forward are:

1) Moral impossibility: in the case of sickness or a period of recuperation; old age or physical disability; the possibility of an extraordinary and unexpected gain if working that day, most especially, when dealing with a person of scarce resources; or a considerable distance to the church.

2) Charity that obliges us to help our neighbor; whether having to do with a corporal work of charity (to assist the sick), or spiritual (when the presence of one in a certain place could prevent a grave sin).

3) The obligation of certain lands, like mothers and nannies in charge of children, guards, soldiers, etc. These must seek to hear Mass at least a few times.

It follow from all this that the difficulty of finding a place where the Mass of a holy day of obligation is celebrated in a non-Catholic country, would excuse sin (and therefore, of confessing). However, unless it was imprudent (for example, in a country where Catholicism is being persecuted), some means of finding out must be employed, for example, asking if there is a Catholic Church.

Fr. Miguel A. Fuentes, IVE

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