Is Missing Sunday Mass a Mortal Sin?

Dear Father Bloom,

Hi! You don't know me but I hope you can help me with this question. My name is Mary Beth and I am a first year CCD teacher at my local parish and I teach 6th & 7th graders. I don't pretend to know all there is about the catholic Religion. As a matter of fact I find that I am learning as much as I am teaching. This past week one of my students sayed that they had read in a Catholic bulletin that in order to be considered a good practicing Catholic you only need to attend mass once a year during the Easter Season. I told him I was taught that missing any mass was a sin. I am not very computer friendly and have been looking for the answer via the internet with no luck, but then I came accross your name and email address. I hope you can please help me clarify the rules for attending mass and receiving the sacraments so I can share these with my students

Yours in Christ,
Mary Beth


Dear Mary Beth,

Good to hear from you - and your challenging work teaching CCD to 6th & 7th graders. A priest here used to say that those who teach junior high will go straight to heaven, no purgatory.

About Sunday obligation to attend Mass: It was clearly reaffirmed in the Catechism. "Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin." (# 2181) I encourage you to read paragraphs 2180 - 2183 with your students. It not only explains the obligation, but some of the reasons for its importance.

The Holy Father also made a statement about this obligation:

Sunday Mass Is a Serious Obligation
(Pope John Paul II Angelus, August 9, 1998)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In the recent Apostolic Letter Dies Domini on keeping Sunday holy, I wrote that the Eucharistic assembly is the heart of the Day of the Lord. Therefore to observe Sunday properly, our first task is to take part in Holy Mass. This is a serious obligation, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church has recalled (n.2181), but, yet more important, it is a deep need which cannot but be felt by Christian souls.

The sacrifice made once and for all on Golgotha is renewed in every Eucharist, and the Church, uniting her sacrifice to that of the Lord, announces his death and proclaims his Resurrection as she awaits his coming. If this is true for Holy Mass celebrated on any day, it is especially true with regard to Sunday, since Sunday is particularly associated with the commemoration of Christ's Resurrection.

2. Sunday is the day when the whole community is called together; this is why it is also called dies Ecclesiae, the day of the Church.

On this day, the Christian assembly listens to the Word of God, proclaimed in abundance and with solemnity; thus in the first part of Mass there is a true dialogue of the Lord with his people.

Then, through participation in one banquet, communion is deepened among those who are united in the Spirit of Christ. The Sunday Eucharist is thus the privileged place in which the Church manifests herself as a sacrament of unity, "sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen gentium, n. 1).

There is an urgent need for the Lord's disciples to offer this witness of fraternal unity in a world that is frequently fragmented, torn and scarred by outbreaks of division, violence and war.

3. May Mary most holy who was with the Apostles in prayer on the day of Pentecost, obtain for our Eucharistic assemblies the gift of effectively showing the presence of the risen Christ and of his Spirit. May her constant intercession ensure that the faithful live as "one heart and soul" (cf. Acts 4:32), eve ready to respond to anyone who asks them to account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15).

The Apostolic Letter he refers to (Dies Domini) is well worth reading to appreciate the full meaning of the Lord's Day.

Good luck, Mary Beth. My prayers are with you. God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom