“Ask a Priest: It Is OK If My Job Keeps Me From Sunday Mass?”

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Q: I am starting a new job with hours 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday through Tuesday. This being said, I will be unable to fulfill my Sunday obligation at any of the Masses within an hour of my home. I desire deeply to go to Mass, but I also feel like this job is the right move for me. I accepted the job prayerfully and thoughtfully. Will I still be able to receive the Eucharist if I attend Mass on my days off during the week? Thank you. – Rachel

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You ask whether you can still receive the Eucharist if you take this job and miss Sunday Mass. That seems to indicate that you suspect that missing Mass might not be OK.

This kind of suspicion usually doesn’t arise when someone has arrived at a decision “prayerfully and thoughtfully.” To arrive at things prayerfully implies that the Holy Spirit is leading the way. But it’s unlikely that the Spirit would guide people into situations that they suspect might keep them from being able to receive Communion.

I mention this first in order to show that we need to be careful about the conclusions we embrace.

Now, there are times when work can be a legitimate reason for missing Sunday Mass. This is especially the case when the work is an essential service dealing with public safety, such as doctors and nurses and police and fire protection.

Here you might want to keep a few things in mind.

First, it is laudable that someone attends Mass on a weekday. But technically that isn’t a substitute for a Sunday Mass. The precept of the Church asks us to honor the Lord’s Day.

Second, is there no alternative to the Sunday work? Is it an essential service that you are providing?

Part of the idea of the Sunday precept is that we give God special time on that day.

You might ask yourself, in the big scheme of things, whether this job should have priority over Sunday worship. If you are providing for a family (children to feed) and there is no ready alternative, that is one thing. But if others aren’t heavily dependent on your paycheck, that is a different kind of situation.

Also, you might ask what kind of precedent you are setting for yourself. If today you are willing to forgo Sunday Mass for the sake of a job, what else might prompt you to forgo Mass in the future?

I don’t want to get you discouraged with these questions. But it would be good to step back and look at the big picture of your life and ask what kind of priorities will guide you.

Remember, too, that the decisions you make might sooner or later impact the lives of loved ones and the way they live their faith.

For related reading, see Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Dies Domini (The Lord’s Day).

It might be a good idea to speak with your pastor. He might be able to guide you further.

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