My Dear Friends:
On March 15, Archbishop Wenski promulgated a letter that I would like to share with you today. In it he ends the dispensation that has been in place since the pandemic began and restores the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. The letter starts off with a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation …. Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and being faithful to Christ and to his Church.” (Cf CCC 2181, 2 I 82)
Effective Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022, the obligation to participate in the Eucharist in person on Sundays and other holy days of obligation is restored. Unless excused for a serious reason (illness, care of infants or elderly, etc.) those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.
The Palm Sunday date was chosen to give pastors adequate time to prepare their parishioners and perhaps readjust Mass schedules, etc. As already published, mask requirements as well as requirements for social distancing have been lifted. In March 2020, because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the Corona virus pandemic, the obligation of the faithful to participate in the Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation was suspended – although all were encouraged to participate in Mass via livestreamed or by “keeping holy the Lord’s Day” through prayer and reflection on the Scriptures personally or with their families. Sincerely yours in Christ, Most Reverend Thomas Wenski
Having read the Archbishop’s words, let me add a few reflections of my own:
Sunday Mass is the highlight and cornerstone of our week as a parish. All that we do, every ministry, every act of service flows from the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. We have seen Mass attendance rise significantly since Lent began in quite a few of our Sunday Masses. It has been so encouraging and joyful for the priests of your parish. As I mentioned two weeks ago in this space: we need to start preparing as a community to welcome the big crowds that will join us for Mass on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This means getting used to sitting together again. Yes, that includes squeezing into the pews. I understand that some may not be comfortable with that just yet, but if we can squeeze into a plane or a movie theater, we can do it in church in the presence of our Lord. Remember, that masks are still optional and many of our parishioners are still wearing them. The Eucharist is a sacrament of encounter not only with our Lord, but with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lent is a time to turn away from bad habits, and yes, many of us have fallen into the habit over the last two years of putting other things ahead of Sunday Mass because we knew the dispensation was in place and we could watch the livestream any time of the day. We must once again realize the seriousness of this obligation because it is putting God first in our lives and the lives of our family, and it would be a dereliction of duty on my part as your pastor if I did not underscore what the Archbishop so clearly states: “those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”
If I can add one more bit of wisdom on the Sunday Mass from Pope St. John Paul II:
Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction. He is the One who knows the secret of time and the secret of eternity, and he gives us “his day” as an ever new gift of his love. The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human. (Dies Domini 7)
Again, I implore you, announce it far and wide to all you meet: it’s time to come home for Mass!
God bless you all,