By Father Kenneth Doyle, Catholic News Service
Q. I am a lady who is almost 81 years old. All my life I have been a very strict Catholic. I raised seven children and took them to Mass every Sunday and holy day. I always thought that, as I got older, I would become even closer to the church -- but the opposite has happened because of the way the church has changed.
In my town, we used to have three Catholic churches and three priests; but now we have one church and one priest. This has caused Sundays and holy days to be so crowded and the parking situation so bad that it is very scary for an old woman to attend.
So I decided a couple of years ago to start going to church during the week instead. Now, every Tuesday, I get up at 5:30 a.m. and go to the 6:45 Mass. It's peaceful, easy to park and I feel holy when I'm there.
As much as I would like to, I don't go on Easter or Christmas anymore because it's a madhouse. Yesterday, I had a disagreement with a close friend about not going to Mass on Sundays and holy days. Am I committing a serious sin by not going? (North Hampton, New Hampshire)
A. Sunday has always been set aside for Christians to gather and worship the Lord at Eucharist; the choice comes, of course, because that was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead -- and this is the center of our faith.
Interestingly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on some of the other ways by which we should make Sundays special:
“Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life” (No. 2186).
In your own circumstance, though, I do not believe that you are sinning by choosing a different day for worship; your fear of crowds is as real as any illness and could well dispense you from the Sunday obligation.
If there is no quieter parish within reasonable reach, then the option you have chosen may well be worthy and wise. So that you will feel comfortable, though, why not discuss your situation with a local priest?
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.