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Two Mass obligations means two Masses, but …

December 2, 2012

Saturday, Dec 8th, 2012, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (of Our Lady), is a holy day of obligation (1983 CIC 1246) observed in the United States. Now, every time an observed holy day of obligation falls on a Saturday or a Monday, some people think they’ve figured a cool way make one Mass count for two obligations, namely, by attending an evening Mass on the first of the two days and counting it toward both days—you know, as if evening Mass were some sort of “Super Rite! Able to slay two obligations with a single Mass!” Not.

Two Mass obligations require two Mass satisfactions. Period.

That said, a few folks who correctly remind others that there are two attendance obligations coming up seem also to assert that the type of Mass attended determines which attendance obligation can be satisfied thereat, as in, for example, a Mass of Anticipation for the Second of Advent, celebrated at 5 pm next Saturday, can only be applied toward one’s Sunday obligation, not toward Immaculate Conception. That’s an error arising from confusing the canonical obligation on people to attend Mass with the liturgical obligation on priests to celebrate the Mass called for by the rubrics.

The people’s canonical obligation to attend Mass is satisfied by their “assisting at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite on the [day required] or in the evening of the preceding day…” (c. 1248 § 2). The law says nothing about what type of Mass is celebrated, only, that it must be a Mass in a Catholic rite. Let’s consider a weird hypothetical.

One could attend a funeral Mass at 5 pm next Saturday and count it toward one’s obligation to attend Mass for the Immaculate Conception, and then at 7 pm attend a wedding Mass and count it toward one’s Sunday obligation—and yes, holy Communion could be taken at both Masses in accord with c. 917. See CLSA New Comm. at 1445 (for the principle at issue, not for my weird example!) Now, I’m not recommending such like, of course (important liturgical values are better served by worshiping in accord with the calendar) but, for canonical purposes—nothing to sneeze at, I need hardly say—such Masses unquestionably satisfy the obligations to attend.

In short, anyone who attends an evening Mass next Saturday, counting it toward the Immaculate Conception obligation, does so in accord with law even if said Mass is that of the Second Sunday of Advent.

Same day follow-up:

Okay, here’s an example of how confusion arises: the USCCB states (at p. 28): “The obligation [for Immaculate Conception] is fulfilled by attending a vigil Mass on Friday evening, December 7, or Mass during the day on Saturday morning.”

Now, strictly speaking, that’s right, the Immaculate Conception obligation is satisfied by attending Mass on Friday evening or Saturday morning of Dec 8th. But here’s the problem: the obligation to attend Mass for the Immaculate Conception is also satisfied by attendance at any Mass in a Catholic rite on that Saturday afternoon, or that evening, or even up to midnight on that Saturday, regardless of the characterization of the Mass celebrated, if that is how a member of the faithful wishes to apply it. Satisfying the two Mass obligations for Immaculate Conception and for the Second Sunday in Advent is simply a matter of attending two Masses within the allotted time periods for each obligation, regardless of the characterization of the Masses one attends.

Update 4 Dec 2012: Want more discussion? Click here.

Update 6 Dec 2012Third look at issue.

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