Q. We had a major winter storm in the upper Midwest last week, and I noticed many Protestant churches canceled services, but Masses seem to never be canceled. Why is that?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The third of the Ten Commandments reminds us “The seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord” (Ex 31:15). The Catechism of the Catholic Church expands on this by teaching, “The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship ‘as a sign of his universal beneficence to all’” (No. 2176).
The Church takes this obligation so seriously that it includes the commandment among its precepts (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation”), thus providing the minimum foundation for our spiritual growth.
Obviously, the obligation is lessened — or canceled — when circumstances prevent the faithful’s attending Mass, or when celebrants cannot preside at a liturgy. Illness offers one such reason, severe weather another. In urban areas, bad weather generally poses less of a threat to Catholic worship than to Protestant services, simply because the priest’s residence is generally so near the church. This is not the case in “mission” areas, where a priest must travel some distance, perhaps over poor roads. Likewise, Catholics who live in suburban neighborhoods might find themselves “snowed in” and thus unable to attend Mass during bad weather.