Dear Corpus Christi Family,
From time to time while growing up in my household my father would call the meeting-house-to order. It generally had to do with us kids getting a bit lax around household and school responsibilities, as well as extracurricular activities. I remember my father saying to me one time while I was trying to negotiate a dinner time with my mom, “Son, dinner is at 6:00 p.m., if you’re not here so sad – too bad, we’re not running a hotel.”
It’s time for us as a church family to revisit exactly what it means to be dispensed, until further notice, from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass during this pandemic known as COVID-19. Below is the most recent update/clarification from the Diocese of Orange. The update begins with “Since the beginning of March 2020, Bishop Vann continues to generously concede a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to people who fall into various categories.” If you do not fall into one of the categories, you are under the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Furthermore, no one is dispensed from honoring the Lord’s day whether they attend Mass or not. The Bishop doesn’t have the authority to dispense from Divine Law.
Perhaps an example would help. My parents are in their nineties and my father has Parkinson’s Disease. If I were their primary caretaker, though I’m in overall good health and quite capable of attending Mass, would choose not to attend Mass for the safety and protection of my parents. The Church would respect my choice not to attend Mass and would greatly encourage me not to for the good of my parents. However, my parents and I are to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
No one is ever dispensed from the keeping holy the Lord’s Day.
Even on vacation after all efforts have been made and exhausted to attend Mass but unable to, we’re to honor the Lord’s Day. I remember hiking the John Muir trail in 1968 with the Boy Scouts and my father was one of the adults who participated. One of the hiking days was on a Sunday. After finishing the day’s hike and settling into camp, my father took me aside and we prayed the rosary together honoring the Lord’s Day.
So how do we honor the Lord’s Day when we’re unable to attend Mass, or choose not to because we fall under one the categories that dispenses us from the obligation of attending Mass during this pandemic? The below update from the Diocese suggests ways that one can keep holy the Sabbath.
The Diocesan Update Regarding the Dispensation from the Obligation to Attend Sunday Mass:
Since the beginning of March 2020, Bishop Vann continues to generously concede a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to people who fall into various categories. Specifically, those who are over the age of 65; those who have an underlying health condition; those who are truly fearful that they might contract the virus; and those who are sick, including those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and those who were exposed to them for fifteen consecutive minutes or more.
While the diocesan bishop has the authority to dispense one, for good reason, from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, he does not have the authority to dispense one from a Divine Law – in this case, from the commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
A member of the faithful who avails him/herself of the dispensation for legitimate reasons may fulfill this Divine Law by viewing Sunday Mass on television or on-line on Saturday evening or Sunday; he or she may visit the Corpus Christi Church YouTube Channel to view the 10:30 am Sunday Mass either live or recorded or www.rcbo.org for a list of live-streaming services throughout the Diocese of Orange.
If viewing Mass in this way is not possible for whatever reason, one may be faithful to the Divine Law by worshiping God on Sundays in other ways, including spending at least thirty minutes in prayer, saying the Rosary either individually or as a family, reading the Scriptures for thirty minutes, or by means of some other pious activity. Moreover, the faithful are expected to adhere to the expectations laid out in Canon 222 §1, that is, “To assist with the needs of the Church.”
Please remind your parishioners that if they do not meet the conditions listed above, they are bound by the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and are always bound to observe Divine Laws.
My blessing is being your pastor now, and for many years to come.