Dear Father Bellon,
On these Sundays of quarantine in the family, we watch the masses on TV in connection with the Sanctuary of Divine Love.
My eldest daughter, on the other hand, does not join us or watch other Masses in streaming or on social networks.
When I asked if she participated in Mass, she replied that, having read together with her prayer group via videoconference, without a priest, the readings of the day, and having received spiritual Communion with them, she considered the Sunday Mass obligation fulfilled.
Unfortunately, I did not know how to convince her that this was not the case.
Dear Father, I appeal to you to suggest the right arguments to propose to my daughter in the belief that your answer may interest other Catholic families in the same situation as ours in these times of great confusion and uncertainty.
I ask for your blessing
The Priest’s answer
1. About the third commandment which in the catechetical formulation sounds like this: “Remember to sanctify the feasts”, two things must be remembered.
The first: it is necessary that “man allocates a given time of his life to divine things.
In fact, the natural inclination leads man to allocate a given time to everything necessary: so he does for food, sleep and other similar things.
Therefore, according to the dictates of natural reason, man must also set aside time for spiritual refreshment, satisfying his soul with God. Hence the designation of a given time to attend to divine things constitutes a moral precept ”(St. Thomas, Sum theological, II-II, 122, 4, ad 1
2. The second thing: that sanctification of the feast takes place with the participation in the Holy Mass.
This is not prescribed by natural law, but it is the discipline of the Church which in this prescription remains faithful to the apostolic Tradition, according to which Christians celebrate the Eucharist together every eight days.
3. Of course, the obligation to participate in Holy Mass is serious.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “For this reason the faithful are required to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless they are justified by a serious reason (for example, illness, nursing infants or are exempted from their pastor) “(CCC 2181).
It also says that “those who deliberately fail to comply with this obligation commit a grave sin” (Ib.).
4. In our case, which is that of the scourge of the coronavirus epidemic, in which it is not possible for reasons of force majeure to attend Mass, the precept does not apply.
In this case, the proverbial maxim of moral theology applies: “Ad impossibilia nemo tenetur”: no one is obliged to do the impossible.
In our case it is impossible because of a justified prohibition.
5. What to do then?
Keeping in mind that this day is dedicated to nourishing one’s soul with God, it is right that – if it cannot be done through participation in the Holy Mass – it be done in another way.
For this reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church again says: “If for lack of a sacred minister or for some other serious cause it becomes impossible to participate in the Eucharistic celebration, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word, if there is any in the parish church or in another sacred place, celebrated according to the directives of the diocesan bishop, or towait for a suitable time to pray personally or as a family, or, as appropriate, in groups of families “” (CCC 21835.
6. So that for purposes of the precept, given this impossibility, one is exempted.
And it is not mandatory to replace this precept with another practice.
7. However, taking into account the meaning of the feast day, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “it is highly recommended”.
With these words it does not impose, but exhorts in the warmest possible way not to remain undernourished.
On how to fulfill this recommendation, the same Catechism says: “They should wait for a suitable time to pray personally or as a family, or, as appropriate, in groups of families.
8. Therefore to your daughter, who said “having read together with her prayer group in videoconference, without a priest, the readings of the day, and having received spiritual Communion with them, she considered the festive precept fulfilled” you must agree with her.
9. This does not mean that it is okay to do it only with your group.
It’s okay to do it together with your family too.
It is a way of being of one heartand of one soul sharing such a solemn moment.
In this sense, your daughter should understand that her absence is a cause for regret for you who feel the need that everyone be nourished together with God, just as you all do many other less important things together.
I wish you a happy and Holy Easter, which continues all this week in albis.
I entrust you to God and I gladly bless you.