Summer Sunday Mass: Obligation or Option?

May 23, 2019


Sunny day over Sava river

Sunny day over Sava river. Creative Commons license by Marko Cvejic

Sunday is the Lord’s Day. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning, so Sunday is reserved as the “Lord’s Day,” the day to remember the Resurrection and to offer our praise and worship. God gave us the Third Commandment as a solemn obligation, not a suggestion or an option:  “Keep holy the Sabbath day” (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15) (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Numbers 2174 – 2178).

Regular Sunday worship dates back to the first generation of the Church.  Early Christians instinctively gathered to study the teachings of the apostles and to break the bread (Acts 2:42).  The Letter to the Hebrews gets straight to the point:  “We should not stay away from our assembly [i.e., the liturgical assembly, the Eucharist], as is the custom of some” (Heb 10:25).

It is shocking the number of people who say that they believe they are excused from Sunday Mass when they are on vacation or traveling.  This is not the case!  Church teaching is clear:  “On Sundays the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass” (Canon 1247).

There are a few legitimate reasons to miss Sunday Mass: illness or disability, serving as the sole caregiver for someone in need of constant attention, a natural disaster like a flood or a blizzard, or the absence of a priest.  There is no exception for vacation or traveling (Catechism, Nos. 2180-2188).

All we have is a gift from God, so God is entitled to our weekly thanks. Time is a precious commodity, and how we spend it is a clear indication of our priorities.  There are one hundred and sixty-eight (168) hours in a week, and one hour spent in worship barely puts a dent in the praise that we owe our God.

We need to put first things first, and for Christians, God comes first!  If there ever was a time that God deserves extra thanks, it would be vacation time.  It is a huge blessing to be able to take time off, to have the resources to travel, to have the wherewithal to enjoy a cabin or a RV or a lake home, to be blessed with the beauty of the lakes and the forests, to be able to go fishing or boating, and to have the leisure time to spend with family and friends.

The common error is to make recreational activities the starting point in building one’s weekend vacation schedule, and to relegate God and Mass to an afterthought, something to fit in if there is time left over or to be skipped entirely.  The proper way is to decide on a Mass time and place first, and then figure out the rest of the weekend’s activities.  God never goes on vacation when it comes to providing for us; we should never go on vacation from offering God our thanks and praise.

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St. Gregory the Great (540-604), Pope and Doctor

August 30, 2011


St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great in stained glass window at St. Clement in Minneapolis.

September 3 is the anniversary of Pope St. Gregory the Great’s ordination as Bishop of Rome in 590 AD. His feast is not celebrated on the anniversary of death because March 12 falls in Lent.

Gregory was born in Rome in 540 into a prominent family. His father was a senator, and he followed him as a public servant, first in a number of lesser offices, then as Prefect. Gregory desired to enter religious life, resigned his post, and left government work altogether.

Gregory converted his family home to a monastery and began to liquidate much of his personal wealth, using some to fund seven different monasteries in Rome and Sicily, and a large amount was distributed to the poor. For the next few years he was a monk in seclusion, and he spent his time in prayer and meditation, living simply, rigorously observing the Rule of St. Benedict.

Gregory was ordained a deacon by Pope Pelagius II in 578 and then sent by the pope as his personal legate to Constantinople (579-585). He returned to Rome in 586 and became abbot of St. Andrew’s Monastery. After a brief missionary venture to England and a stint as papal secretary, Pope Pelagius died in 590, and Gregory was elected unanimously as his replacement. He vehemently protested, finally relented, and he was consecrated on September 3, 590.

Pope Gregory was a tremendous leader and organizer. There was a plague in Rome; he spearheaded the relief effort. There were many poor and starving; he coordinated a food distribution network. The Lombards attempted to invade; he negotiated a treaty, appointed the highest military officers, and insured that the soldiers would be paid properly.

He worked diligently to reorganize the Church. He helped to establish the Papal States, developed a code of conduct for bishops, enforced clerical celibacy, replaced irresponsible clergy, facilitated better cooperation between the churches of Spain and France, and sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and a number of other monks as missionaries to England.

Gregory had a deep love for the liturgy, particularly liturgical music. He promoted “plainsong,” a form of chant which became known as Gregorian Chant. He placed the Lord’s Prayer within the Mass, developed other texts for the Eucharistic Prayer, and wrote a number of Prefaces, especially for Easter, Christmas, and the Ascension.

He wrote extensively on moral and theological subjects. His best known works are Moralia, a mystical and allegorical exposition of the Book of Job; Dialogues, the miracles and deeds of the saints of Italy; Pastoral Care (Rule), his treatise on how the bishop should serve as a shepherd; Forty Homilies on the Gospels; and Homilies on Ezekiel, a discourse for clerics and monks.

He died on March 12, 604. He is one of the four great doctors of the church, along with Sts. Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome. He called himself the “servus servorum Dei,” the servant of the servants of God. He is best known as the patron saint of music. He is also the patron saint of singers, popes, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, and the victims of plague.

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Little Teacher of our Souls: Peter Kellett

August 29, 2011


Mary and Peter Kellett

Mary and Peter Kellett

The arms of Mary and Don Kellett are aching for their son Peter these days because on August 20 their sweet child, age six and a half, was called home. He is now wrapped in the arms of the Holy Family. This disabled boy was somehow able to sprinkle lessons and blessings to people all over the world–even though he couldn’t walk or talk. Fr. Jim Livingston, who has known the Kellets since Peter was born, told me, “I’ve talked to people who have held him and they felt God’s presence. When I was blessing him once, I felt like I was reaching my hand into a pool of living water, and that I was the one receiving the blessing.”

Miraculous Life

When he was born, Peter’s doctors said he wouldn’t live two weeks; he was born with a chromosomal defect called Trisomy 18. Frustratingly, his parents were encouraged to abort him. Some people even had the gall to say, “Just wrap him in a blanket and let him die.”

From the beginning, Peter was a fighter and object of many prayers. He gained strength during his five weeks of neonatal intensive care. “I just dreamed of the day when I could hold him. I joked to the nurses that I was going to Superglue him to me,” said Mary to The Catholic Spirit, which in 2005 and 2006, featured their family’s journey.

During the years that Peter’s siblings had with him, they were great helpers and smothered him with kisses galore. And I’m told that Don is the St. Joseph-figure for the family; a very patient and loving man who would probably have to pry Peter out of Mary’s arms in order to have a turn holding him.

Prenatal Partners for Life is born

Peter’s family predicted that when his time came he would leave a lasting legacy–and he has. His life inspired his family, members of St. Raphael in Crystal, to found a website called Prenatal Partners for Life ( which matches families who receive an adverse diagnosis with families who’ve given birth to a child with a similar condition. The experienced parents help the others embrace life and offer accurate information, support and encouragement. Mary stated:

There is a place in the world for children with special needs. We all are ‘differently-abled,’ with flaws and gifts. These children are teachers of our souls, and society desperately needs the lessons and blessings they bring.

Peter the Teacher

Like the child Jesus instructing the elders in the temple, so did tender Peter teach the young and old. “He achieved much in his life–he gave his family and those who knew him many teachable and touchable moments. That was his vocation,” said Deacon Sean Curtan, who along with his wife, Joan, is the coordinator of the Archdiocesan Outreach for Persons with DisAbilities. “God reaped a rich harvest from Peter’s life, not a drop of it was wasted. We can be sure he is surrounded by love as he was on Earth. Peter’s legacy lives on.”

His legacy is seen in a pamphlet Mary wrote for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2007 titled: Peter’s Story: Discovering Hope and Love after an Adverse Prenatal Diagnosis (To read, click here)This work is distributed to Catholics nation-wide and has helped many families. In it, Mary States so beautifully:

We are grateful for Peter, whom we call our “little teacher.” Even though he may never speak a word, he has taught us many important lessons about love, sacrifice, compassion, patience, hope and faith. He has transformed the way we look at life and has broadened our view on the deeper meaning of the sacredness of all human life made in the image of God. Peter is teaching us what Jesus taught, and he is a tremendous source of grace. He is a sweet, happy little boy who knows and loves his family. In many ways he is my easiest child out of the eleven.

Fr. Livingston said that the most important thing about Peter is that he was the face of meekness. “Often we are so proud and strong that we don’t appreciate the blessedness of this gift Peter taught us. We live in a fast-paced, high-powered world. We have super-charged engines and he taught us to yield.”

Deacon Sean said, “We know he walked right into heaven.”

And I have a feeling that as soon as he got there, everyone lined up to hold him!

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Ready for your close-up?

August 29, 2011


Here’s a valuable lesson for budding actors — and for you and me

By Michelle Martin

Each afternoon when I pick Caroline up from her theater camp, the students perform short pieces from the plays they will be presenting for the other campers and their parents.

What impression do we give everyday to the people you see -- and see you -- all day long? "Remember," Catholic mom and columnist Michelle Martin writes, just as young actors learn, "you are always auditioning."

It gives them a chance to work on new pieces in front of a small and friendly audience, without the high-stakes pressure of it being their one and only on-stage performance, and it gives the parents a chance to see what their kids are doing all day.

It also is a teaching situation, both in terms of the actual pieces being worked on — the teachers don’t hesitate to stop the music and remind the children exactly how they are supposed to be singing or to correct a dance move — and in terms of general life lessons.

So when a camper asks when the auditions for the next play are, the answer is, “You’re always auditioning.” That includes when they are supposed to be watching and listening to other campers perform.

When campers are practicing how to introduce themselves for auditions, they are reminded that the audition doesn’t start when they walk out onto the stage and say, “Hello, my name is … . “ When they are waiting in the wings, that’s part of the audition too, so they should projecting a sense of calm and confidence, not fidgeting with their clothing and poking the camper next to them.

That’s a valuable lesson, for people who want to be on the stage and for the rest of us.

Sure, there are times in your life when you know you will be evaluated or tested or have to prove yourself. There are exams and job interviews and tests of faith and courage.

Character counts. Everything counts.

But those aren’t the only times when you have to comport yourself well, with grace and dignity and kindness. Everything counts. Character is what you do when no one is watching — a line that has been attributed to half a dozen speakers, but most often to legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Because, of course, someone always is watching. It seems trite to say that God is always watching, but that’s what Jesus tells us. In Chapter 6 of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Nearly as often, people are watching, but they might not be the people you think about trying to impress. Ask anyone who is the primary caregiver for a toddler: Is there any time those eyes aren’t trained on whatever you are doing, or those ears aren’t straining to catch what you have to say? I remember watching Caroline play with her dolls when she was small, and seeing her repeat interactions I had with her word for word.

What about all the people you see every day, the waitstaff and store clerks and bus drivers? What impression do you give them as you go about your day?

Remember, you are always auditioning.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Contact Martin at

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Grief for guys — a man writes about the loneliness of loss

August 27, 2011


Bill Cento was called “the last hard-nosed newsman” at the St. Paul daily paper he helped to edit, so he surprised me with his amazingly sensitive book — most of it in poetry, of all things.
Cento has updated the first version of this short work, adding 22 pieces, yet it’s still only 90 some pages in small, paperback form.
It’s a unique book uniquely written and uniquely packaged to be helpful to others — perhaps men in particular — who have lost the love of their life.
The poetry is from the gut guy stuff, hard, honest and edited to the evisceral. Cento puts his anger and his ache into words like you’ve never read before. You’ll be wiping the wetness from your eyes.

Behind the hurt, hope

Each poem gets the briefest of introductions, with Cento usually explaining what was going on in his life that he had to get out.
He admitted that the writing was therapuetic for him, but his real reason for publishing it — and he’s self-publishing at this point — is to help others see that they are not alone, that they can get through their grief — and loneliness, especially the loneliness.
It’s a frankness we don’t get from most men, which makes “Alone: For All Those Who Grieve” valuable reading for those suffering a loss. But read it just for the beauty of the writing.

Few have written about the love in a marriage like this.

Many will appreciated the hope he offers to all who ache for a loved one who has left too soon.

Order it now on

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10 questions to increase your Catholic IQ

August 26, 2011


question marks

Image by Valerie Everett. Licensed under Creative Commons.

A newly-ordained priest said during a homily recently that when he left seminary he realized he didn’t know everything.

He was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but his comments made me think about how much there is to know about the Catholic Faith.  No matter how many questions we answer, I think we’ll always have more because ultimately, God is a mystery.

Here are 10 intriguing questions about the Faith–not in any order–that readers and other inquiring Catholics have sent in for this blog. I’m curious about which ones you’re most interested in or if there are others (and I’m sure there are) that didn’t make the list.

  1. What is a miracle?
  2. Why do we baptize babies?
  3. What is an indulgence?
  4. What does the Church teach about cremation?
  5. Why do we need to confess our sins to a priest?
  6. What is penance and is it just for Lent?
  7. What does the Church teach about polygamy?
  8. What is natural law?
  9. What is intinction?
  10. Why do we pray to saints?

I’d also like to know if anyone ever asks you questions about the faith–either other Catholics or non-Catholics. Are there topics for which you’d like to have an answer ready, in case they come up again? Do you ever wish you could engage Mormons or evangelical groups in conversation about faith when they come to the door, but don’t quite know how to express your beliefs?

These are good reasons to keep asking questions about the Catholic Faith. Look for answers to the 10 intriguing questions in future posts. And email in what you’ve been wondering about!



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Saint Monica – Mother, Wife, and Widow

August 26, 2011


St. Monica with young Augustine

St. Monica with young Augustine at St. Patrick in Mauston WI

St. Monica is most remembered as the mother of St. Augustine, and her feast day is August 27, the day before her son’s feast day on August 28

Monica was born in 332 in Tagaste, North Africa, in the region of modern-day Algeria.  She was born into a Christian family and raised as a devout and pious believer.

Monica had an arranged marriage.  While she was still a young lady, her parents chose her husband for her, Patricius, a pagan.  He was basically a good man, but he had a bad temper, drank heavily, was prone to tantrums, and was unfaithful in marriage.  Monica’s home life was further aggravated by the fact that her mother-in-law lived with them, and she was both emotionally and verbally abusive to Monica with her scorn and deriding comments.

Despite the ill treatment that Monica received, she persevered in prayer for both of them.  She did her best to be a good wife.  She completed her household tasks and she tried to be as kind and pleasant as possible to her husband, even if he did not reciprocate.  She longed for his conversion and the day that they would both be able to go to church together.  Because Monica was so patient, cheerful, and charitable, Patricius was touched by the sincerity of her love, softened his resistance, converted a year before his death, and was baptized in 371 a short while before he passed away.  Remarkably, Monica’s mother-in-law also converted and was baptized.

Monica and Patricius had three children and Augustine was their eldest.  He was born in 354 but was not baptized as an infant.   Monica tried to raise her firstborn in the Catholic faith and he became a catechumen as a teenager, but his father’s influence prevailed, he rejected Christianity and became an adherent of the Manichean heresy.   Meanwhile, he also slipped into reckless, immoral living, frequented the baths, had a mistress and a son out of wedlock.  Monica was so distraught that she threw her son out of the house for a time.  It was in 370 with many tears that she began her campaign of prayer and fasting for her son’s conversion.

Augustine was brilliant and a tremendous orator.  He studied secular philosophy, but he could see that some aspects were deeply flawed.  In his desire for truth and meaning, and wanting to be a master of rhetoric, he moved to Rome in 383.  His mother objected, but followed him.  After an illness Augustine moved north to Milan, and Monica was not far behind.  It was there that Augustine listened to the preaching of Bishop Ambrose, and through his mother’s prayerful intercession, the Holy Spirit softened his heart, he reconsidered his former way of life, took instructions from Ambrose, and was baptized on Easter, 387, with his mother Monica present.  Her son became a Catholic Christian, and eventually a priest, bishop, and Doctor of the Church.

Monica stormed heaven for seventeen years, and she is an outstanding model of piety and prayerful perseverance.  Sometime later in 387 Monica died in Ostia, Italy, before she was ever able to return to African, and she is now entombed at the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.  She is the patron saint of mothers, wives, parents with difficult children, troubled marriages, widows, and alcoholics.

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2011 Catholicon Expo begins today

August 26, 2011


Later today, the first-ever CatholiCon Expo begins down in Houston, Texas.

From their site:

What is CatholiCon?

Since the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago, she has always sought to use all forms of human communication to advance Our Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations. CatholiCon brings all of the traditional forms in which The Church communicates as well as the new forms of media that bring the Gospel to the emerging Digital Continent.

In July, I interviewed two members of the Catholic Underground, Father Chris Decker and Joshua LeBlanc, and they shared some of the goals and hopes for the Expo.

A recent video – loaded with techie-humor – provides a taste of what’s in store for the weekend.

If you’re not attending, you can follow the action via Twitter on the #CatholiCon hashtag.

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Eucharistic flash mobs

August 25, 2011


YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

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Catholics, imagine if St. Paul had had e-mail

August 23, 2011


Just think how much the Evangelist Paul would have been able to accomplish if there had been e-mail back in his day.

That’s just what Kathleen T. Choi did. Check out her clever column from the Hawaii Catholic Herald at

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