Summer is here! We wake up to the tweeting and twittering of birds and our faces awash in the sunlight! We blink at opening our eyes and, possibly, recollect the lines from Robert Browning’s “Pippa Passes” (1841):
God’s in his Heaven –
All’s right with the world!
God has gifted us with a vibrant, active season with burgeoning and blooming life all around us. He has also given us a season for vacations. Children are out of school and need to expend some energy. Parents need a break from the routines of daily life. People in retirement are looking forward to the days in the sun. In such circumstances, what is better than planning a vacation and going through with it? The location is selected, the travel arrangements are made, all the details of packing are checked, leisure activities are noted, and ‘presto’, we are ready!
Wait! We are Catholics!
Are we away on a Sunday? What about Mass? Are we away from civilization? Are we going to the Metropolis? Is the destination away from Catholic churches and Liturgy?
Getting away for vacation does not mean getting away from one’s faith. Attending Mass on Sunday is not a mere suggestion, but a solemn obligation to a Catholic. The only legitimate exceptions are illness, disability, natural disaster, and the absence of a priest. The regular Sunday worship dates back to the early Christians who gathered together to ‘break bread’ and to study the teachings of Jesus as they filtered through His Apostles. So, it is imperative that a vacation for a Catholic must be inclusive of the participation in the Holy Mass.
In these days when cyber space has brought all information to our fingertips in faster and faster modes, browsing through the internet is not the tedious process of earlier times. In the pre-Internet era, finding a Catholic Church in remote locations involved the tedium of checking the map minutely, making calls, asking local residents for directions and Mass schedules, etc. But, now, a query in any browser will bring the desired information in minutes. In any search engine, type in, “Catholic Church in (near) … … …”. Make sure to fill in the place name. Often a Google search is quite efficient.
The website, http://www.masstimes.org, lists Mass schedules, church addresses, and interactive map locations of more than 115,000 churches in 201 countries around the world. The founder of this website, Robert Hummel, created the site as a reaction to the frustrations he experienced in finding churches and Mass schedules. The effort has been continuing for seventeen years. The site was launched before the Internet fever and had been more difficult to navigate. But, now, it gets forty million hits a year. At present, it is partnered with parishesonline.com which is a directory of US Catholic parishes that provide web services.
So, where is the excuse for a Catholic to omit attending the Mass on a Sunday? Only in the tundra and remote wilderness is there a difficulty in finding a church. Unlike some people’s confirmed beliefs, there is no “traveler dispensation “ from attending Mass. Vacationing is not a legitimate excuse applicable to a Catholic to abstain from this Sunday Liturgy. According to Msgr. Anthony Sherman, the Executive Director for the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, a dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation simply does not exist because of travel or vacation. His opinion is that, the vacation time would be an especially appropriate time to attend Mass so that one can give thanks to God for the opportunity to get away.
Enjoy the Summer, but let God be with you always!