Archbishop lifts Mass obligation until Nov. 23, but Catholics must still keep Sundays holy

MICHAEL STECHSCHULTEAUG 14, 2020LOCAL

Fr. James Grau offers Communion to a man at the Basilica of Ste. Anne in southwest Detroit on July 26. In a new directive issued Aug. 14, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron extended the dispensation for Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit to attend Sunday Mass until at least Monday, Nov. 23, as the coronavirus continues to spread in Michigan. (Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic) 

Dispensation extended from original expiration of Sept. 6, but Catholics who engage in other risks ‘should begin to return to Sunday Mass’

DETROIT — Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit are dispensed from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass until at least Monday, Nov. 23, according to a new directive issued by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.

The dispensation was extended from its original expiration of Sunday, Sept. 6, in light of the continued spread of COVID-19 in Michigan and the “impossibility for parishes to safely accommodate all Catholics for Mass on Sundays,” the directive states.

While in-person Masses are still being offered, the dispensation relieves the burden of conscience on those who have legitimate grave fears of contracting COVID-19 or who care for vulnerable individuals, the directive states.

However, “Catholics who engage in other activities which would present a similar or greater risk of contamination (eating out at restaurants, traveling, non-essential shopping, widening one’s circle of contacts, etc.) should begin to return to Sunday Mass as they are able,” said Fr. Stephen Pullis, who authored the message on behalf of the archbishop.

“While one does not commit a mortal sin by absenting one’s self during these days due to the dispensation, one would be deprived of the immeasurable spiritual graces Christ desires for his faithful when they actively participate in the Mass,” it said.

While Catholics are not obliged to attend Mass in person, they still have a “grave necessity” to keep holy the Lord’s day, the directive reminds the faithful.

“When it is not possible to participate in person in the Sacrifice of the Mass, it is vitally important for every member of the Catholic Church to nourish his or her soul during these days,” Fr. Pullis said. “This means cultivating a prayer life in their homes, reading Sacred Scripture — especially the prescribed readings for the Sunday Mass — and making Christ the center of one’s home and being his disciple the central identity of one’s life.”

This is especially important on Sundays, with or without the obligation to attend Mass.

“As the day of the Resurrection of our Lord, Christians from the earliest days set Sunday apart as a day unlike others,” he continued. “This means activities on Sunday should be different from the pursuits of the rest of the week. Prayer and time for God, time for family, and works of charity should be central to a Catholic’s Sunday.”

The obligation to attend Mass, when not dispensed, “is a grave call for us who have been incorporated into Christ by our baptism to share in the sacrifice of Christ to the Father,” Fr. Pullis wrote.

“While the dispensation remains in effect, it is imperative that we remember what awesomeness it is to participate at Mass, particularly in receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist. To lose the centrality of the Mass in our lives would be a spiritual tragedy.” 

The Archdiocese of Detroit continues to provide a list of livestream Mass opportunities for the faithful, and many parishes have beefed up their online offerings.

A year ago, Archbishop Vigneron wrote a pastoral note, “The Day of the Lord,” about Catholic families’ obligation to observe Sunday as a day of rest set apart for God.

For a list of ideas for families to spend Sundays together in prayer, activities and reflection, visit unleashthegospel.org/spiritualcloseness.

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