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Dear father Angelo,

I’m writing to you about something that has been concerning me for a while. 

In the past few years, I’ve traveled abroad a lot. However, it is only in recent times that I had my full conversion and reached some maturity of faith. It has never crossed my mind that traveling abroad, especially in non-catholic countries, might be wrong, even if only in part. I recently booked with a friend a holiday in Asia, scheduled for next year. Since then, I’ve been having a weight on my heart; I wish I didn’t organize anything. I started thinking that maybe it’s not a good thing to be far away for that long because I fear that during that period (about two weeks) I’ll be estranged from God and almost certainly won’t be able to participate in Sunday Mass. I almost see this trip as a conscious distancing from God and therefore a grave sin. It is only now that I realize that a good Christian should put God first and thereby organize appropriate holidays, maybe not too long in order to have the possibility to participate in Holy Mass and avoid losing sight of the important things. Sadly, I’ve already booked this trip: should I give it up or go anyway and feel bad about it?

I’m sorry if I’m wasting your time with a trivial concern. 

My kindest regards,


The answer from father Angelo

Dear Michele,

Here’s what I wrote in another answer:

1.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this: “Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (CCC 2181). The adverbial form ‘deliberately‘ should be noted. Therefore, given the fact that you will take this holiday in a distant country not to neglect the participation in Sunday Mass but for other reasons, no grave sin is committed.

2.  However, it must be noted that in the third commandment “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” two precepts intersect each other: one pertaining to the moral law and one to ecclesiastical law.

Saint Thomas wrote that the third commandment “is a moral precept in the point of commanding man to set aside a certain time to be given to Divine things. For there is in man a natural inclination to set aside a certain time for each necessary thing, such as refreshment of the body, sleep, and so forth. Hence according to the dictate of reason, man should set aside a certain time for spiritual refreshment, by which man’s mind is refreshed in God. And thus to have a certain time set aside for occupying oneself with Divine things is the matter of a moral precept. But, insofar as this precept specializes the time as a sign representing the Creation of the world, it is a ceremonial precept” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 122, 4, ad 1).

3. This means that one can be exempted from the ceremonial precept which commands the observation of holy days through the participation in Holy Mass, but not from the moral precept of divine worship.

Therefore, whoever goes on holiday in faraway places, where there is no possibility to participate in Mass, shall make up for this shortcoming by dedicating an equivalent amount of time to prayer, meditation and reading of Sacred Scripture. 

Or using Saint Thomas’s words, it must be set aside at a certain time for spiritual refreshment, by which man’s mind is refreshed in God.

4.  Nevertheless, I would like to share the beautiful testimony of Pier Giorgio Frassati. He knew that a journey or a multi-day trip that also falls on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation would exempt him from the precept to attend Mass.

However, Pier Giorgio didn’t want to use this exemption.

For him, the encounter with Christ was primary and irreplaceable.

Here’s what Carla Casalegno wrote in a beautiful biography of Pier Giorgio.

“First of all, the commitment to Mass.

If we want to comprehend how important Holy Mass was for Pier Giorgio and the place that the life-giving presence of the Lord had in his daily life, suffice to say that as he was a high school student at the Istituto Sociale, he resolved to receive Holy Communion every single day. Study commitments, sea and mountain holidays, travels to Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia: nothing could divert him from his intent.

Not even one of the two great and noble passions of his life, alpinism (the other one being charity) led him to outshine the primacy of Christ: with an admirable intransigence of conscience, he never wanted to lose Mass for a trip to the mountains.

Even though some clerics would agree to the setting off for a climb on Saturday night under certain circumstances (e.g., to restore mind and body from the toil of work and study with a prolonged mountain hike), therefore risking to miss Sunday Mass, if there was no priest available for the celebration, Pier Giorgio would never accept it. In order to participate in the sacrifice of the altar, he would firmly give up  hiking instead. To those who would restate the case of a legitimate ecclesiastical dispensation, in order to convince him, he used to answer confidently and resolutely: «I know I can have it, but I prefer not to take part  in the hike».

He didn’t think only about himself, but he also took care of his friends: during a time when evening Masses weren’t yet celebrated, he endeavored to pick them up by car even at four a.m. to give them the possibility to  go to Mass before departure” (C. Casalegno, Pier Giorgio Frassati, pp. 228-229). 

5.  Therefore in terms of the precept you’re exempted.

But Pier Giorgio aimed higher.

I wish you every good, bless you and will pray to the Lord for you.

Father Angelo