Ask a Franciscan

Missing Mass on Sunday

As an 80-year-old Catholic, I was taught that missing Mass through your own fault is a mortal sin that, if unconfessed and unabsolved, could send you to hell forever. I know friends and other Catholics who are good people but no longer go to Mass. How could a merciful God condemn them to hell forever?

The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is serious but must be understood in relation to other serious obligations. Caring for a terminally ill spouse or child is a greater obligation than attending Sunday Mass. It’s wonderful if healthy people have time and energy to do both, but that may not be possible.

What kind of God would fail to understand that? Does that accurately describe the God you have adored throughout your life?

God wants no one to be lost forever, but some people seem so full of themselves that there is no room for God in that person’s life. Being in God’s presence forever but unwillingly might well be a greater suffering than being apart from God forever.

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