A northern Virginia bishop is giving Catholics in his diocese the OK to stay home from Mass on Sunday, when the region is expected to be buried in snow. Most Rev. Paul Loverde, the bishop of Arlington, said in a statement released Thursday that Catholics in the diocese aren’t obligated to attend Mass this Sunday as usual because of serious concerns about travel conditions. The National Weather Service estimates a blizzard could bring 2 feet of snow to Washington. Washington Archdiocese spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi says that archdiocese, which covers the nation’s capital and five southern Maryland counties, will remind people Friday that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse from fulfilling their Sunday Mass obligation. Both encourage Catholics who can’t safely attend Mass to watch a televised Mass.
The official statement:
In a statement released on January 21, 2016, Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, said the following: “Due to the impending storm which is predicted to be severe, and bearing in mind that Governor Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia, all Catholics in the Diocese of Arlington are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, January 24, 2016. Such inclement weather and poor road/travel conditions which may jeopardize safety are serious concerns. “I encourage all Catholics to keep the Sabbath holy. Please consider spending some time in prayer with the Lord, perhaps by meditating on the readings of the Sunday liturgy, or by making an act of spiritual communion. You may also watch the TV Mass from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which airs at 10:30 a.m. on CW50 or check EWTN for televised Mass scheduling. Be assured of my prayers for your health, safety, and well-being.”
We run into these kinds of issues whenever serious storms strike; inevitably, some people will put on their boots, bundle up and try to brave the elements, feeling that they have to go to Mass.
When the weather is dangerous and a hazard to your health…no, you don’t.
As Fr. Kenneth Doyle noted:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that teaching clearly in No. 2181: “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, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants). Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” Gravity of matter, of course, is just one of the three necessary conditions for a mortal sin — the others being complete consent of the will and full knowledge of the sinful character of the act or omission. Certain circumstances can excuse one from attendance at Mass on a particular Sunday. The catechism mentions illness and the care of infants, but others might be: unavoidable work obligations, lack of transportation or inclement weather sufficient to put one’s safety at risk. (To skip Mass to go shopping, to play golf or to get a couple extra hours of sleep clearly does not qualify and shows that other priorities have been allowed to replace the Lord.)
If you get hit by this storm, use common sense. Please.
UPDATE: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia at midday Friday issued this statement:
“No one can dispense from the divine law, and in this case, the Third Commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day. However, individuals because of a variety of legitimate circumstances, for example, sickness and poor health, can and do excuse themselves from the obligations of this same Commandment, without offending God and incurring any serious sin. In the face of the impending storm, Catholics – of all ages but especially the elderly – are advised to use extreme caution when making the decision about attending Mass. An individual is free to make a prudent decision to remain at home and not venture outside this Sunday, especially for their safety and the safety of others. Pastors throughout the Archdiocese will maintain as much as possible the regular Sunday Mass schedule for those who are able to attend Mass. “Sunday remains the Lord’s Day even when an individual cannot attend Mass. These individuals are encouraged to view the Mass on television, if possible. Also, reading the Word of God, especially the biblical readings for Sunday, easily found on the Internet, praying the Holy Rosary, and/or making use of other devotional prayers could take place in the home to keep in a fitting way the Lord’s Day.”