Do you still have to attend Mass during a hurricane? — UPDATE

A friend from my parish called, wondering if there was any policy about Mass and bad weather, or if any of the three dioceses in our region had issued a statement on Hurricane Irene.

Here’s what I found. All three have  statements on their websites from their respective bishops.

From Nicholas DiMarzio in Brooklyn:

“In light of the serious threat posed by Hurricane Irene, which is due to hit our area over the weekend, I urge the faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn to use caution and prepare for this dangerous storm.

It goes without saying that for those areas of the Diocese under mandatory evacuation, the obligation to attend Mass this Sunday has been lifted, as well as for those areas where travel is considered dangerous due to weather conditions, age, or infirmity. The Sunday obligation remains in place for all those who can reasonably attend services this weekend.

Above all else, please exercise common sense and caution as we encounter the effects of Hurricane Irene. Please join me in praying to the Lord that all human life will be spared the worst effects of this natural occurrence.”

From William Murphy, in Rockville Centre on Long Island:

“We are all united in prayer for all those who have suffered through this storm already and we pray through the intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother and Saint Agnes our patroness, in asking God’s protection over all of us, our families and all those who stand in the path of the storm.”

The statement adds:

Parishioners should understand that parish Mass schedules may need to be adjusted and Mass times cancelled due to the storm.  Parishioners may consider attending the Saturday evening anticipatory Mass.

If the storm eventuates as predicted, we must all exercise prudence in making the decision to attend Mass during the height of the storm on Sunday morning.  Catholics are encouraged to stay home if their trip to Church might place themselves, their families and others at risk.  We do hope to broadcast the Mass from Saint Agnes Cathedral on Telecare (Cablevision Channel 29/Verizon FiOS 296) on Sunday at the usual times of 11:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M.

While at home, Catholics are encouraged to use the time to reflect on the readings and Gospel for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time.

And from Archbishop Timothy Dolan in New York:

“With all of our friends and neighbors here in the community we love, we in the Catholic family are united in prayer for protection from the impending storm, and eager to offer refuge and help to those who may be endangered or harmed.

Catholics take Sunday mass very seriously, but the Church never asks us to risk our health or safety to get to church on the Lord’s Day. Please be careful! Do not take any chance with your safety and health if things get dangerous.

Our extensive network of parishes, schools, Catholic Charities, health care institutions, and residential facilities are cooperating fully with our public safety officials, and stand ready to assist in all efforts of outreach and help.”

UPDATE: A reader sent along this prayer, for those who may be unable to make it to Mass:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.

I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.

Never permit me to be separated from You.


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29 responses to “Do you still have to attend Mass during a hurricane? — UPDATE”

  1. Deacon Greg,

    I received a call from my pastor today saying that he received a directive from Bishop Di’Marzio’s office saying that all Sunday masses were cancelled in the Diocese of Brooklyn…

    Peace and safe tidings…

  2. This just seems like basic common sense to me! If emergency services are saying to evacuate or not venture outside before or during the storm, that directive takes precedence over Mass attendance. Personally, I would be at home saying the Rosary and praying that a tree didn’t fall on my house!

    I am keeping the Eastern Seaboard in my prayers for no loss of life and no terrible damage due to Hurricane Irene.

    Batten down your hatches and stay safe!

  3. Dcn. Alex…

    Well, that’s a bit different from the statement on the diocesan website …

    Are you guys in the evacuation zone?

    Batten down the hatches!

    Dcn. G

  4. While certainly it makes sense that if conditions make it unreasonably dangerous one should not venture out to try to attend Mass, it also seems reasonable that if one has evacuated to a place of relative safety Mass can be attended there, even though it may not be your usual parish.

  5. re: Jim Miller #5

    “. . . it also seems reasonable that if one has evacuated to a place of relative safety Mass can be attended there, even though it may not be your usual parish”

    I had to do a “double-take” on this comment. Since when has it ever been a disciplinary requirement in Roman Catholicism that one’s Sunday obligation could only be met in one’s home parish ?

    NOW, maybe, just maybe, that is more of a cultural thing of the “big city.”

  6. Just use common sense. Don’t put yourself in danger. I’m sure our merciful and gracious LORD will understand.

  7. ref: #6 Fiergenhont

    Hope you feel better now, my friend. Your remark concerning #5 Jim Miller is totally uncalled for here.

    ‘Lord keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over……………’

  8. I am a very faithful Catholic and would never miss Mass but I am disappointed that in NYC we are not given a definite explicit dispensation. The statement I read here puts many into a troubling quandary over what to do…we don’t need added stress when we are already overwhelmed.

  9. Anne, why do you need a “definite dispensation”? The Archbishop is telling everyone to use their common sense which seems to be in short supply. He is giving people a little credit. Also, if he dispensed the obligation how many do you think would excuse themselves who could easily get to church?As it is, I think many will excuse themselves even if they live next door to their church.

  10. @RomCath: Archbishop Tobin issued a formal dispensation in Providence. So my comment about formal dispensation is not unreasonable. Some of us might live one block from church but are terrified about falling trees, lightening etc. even before the full force hits. So please don’t make judgements about people who have NEVER missed Sunday mass but also are of a generation with very sensitive consciences, lacking “common sense.” Perhaps it just impossible for you to understand what some people living in the direct path are going through right now. Please pray for us.

  11. @Don Jones (#8): Thank you for the defense, but I don’t see Fiergenholt’s comments as an attack. I believe he was merely flabbergasted that it needed to be said, and his comment was simply a more direct way of stating what I had tried to lead people to realize on their own.

  12. Anne, I live in the direct line of Irene. If the church tells people what to do they don’t like it, if they don’t tell people what to do they don’t like it. They can’t win.
    If your fear for your safety the don’t go. Simple.

  13. Seems to me the smartest thing would be for the USCCB to just lift the obligation for all those dioceses impacted by the hurricane, and leave it at that.

    The statements by the bishops I quoted all imply that, unless you’re being evacuated, you’re still expected to go to mass. Well, I’m not being evacuated, but attending mass tomorrow will mean braving 90-mile-an-hour winds and horizontal rain. On foot. (I don’t have a car.) I’ll be going tonight, and then battening down the hatches …

  14. …or
    you could attend Mass vicariously, like Clare of Assisi, by watching a televised Mass, that is, if you still have electrical power.

  15. Each parish should designate one weekday mass during next week as a kind of Sunday substitute that meets the obligation. That would ensure safety and allow those who are serious about Sunday mass attendance the reassurance they need about the obligation. Just an idea.

    Those who have access to a missal at home can follow the mass for this week in their missal. Another possibiity is to pray either the Divine Office or the Little Office.

    As the bishops said, God does not want people to wiind up in hospitals or worse.

  16. Deacon Greg,

    It’s really very simple. Common sense dictates that if it is unsafe to be out then you do not have to go to Mass. Period. There is NO teaching in the Church that says Catholics are obligated to attend Sunday Mass no matter what. Illness or unsafe weather conditions excuse you.

    The Bishop is the chief legislator for his diocese. This issue is NONE of the USCCB’s business. The Conference is not the “federal government” for Catholics in America. It has NO authority to dispense anyone from the obligation to attend Mass.

  17. Thank you for your clarifications, Fr. Selvester.

    I thought that was true of the USCCB, but I was hesitant to contradict the reverend deacon; he is more learned than I.

  18. Thanks, Fr. S.

    I just thought since the USCCB is so generous and carefree in moving around and supressing other days of obligation (like, say, the Assumption) it might feel compelled to do the same for a stormy Sunday. 🙂

    I still think the bishops involved could have been more explicit in offering a widespread dispensation for all the people in the dioceses affected. I know a lot of folks who shouldn’t be out in this weather will try to go out anyway, because they’ll still consider it a sin to miss Mass, no matter what. (And a lot of those will be elderly.)

    Something as simple as canceling all the Masses in the diocese, to encourage people to stay home and stay safe, would have been wise.

    Dcn. G.

  19. If I was used to attending Mass on Sunday, I think I’d either go to Saturday Mass or just pray at home during the storm on Sunday. Around here (Providence) most of the churches—Catholc and non-Catholic, are not having services tomorrow morning.

  20. A vwery stupid question and even crazier answers. No wonder some Catholics just laugh ion dersion at the nonesensical questions and answers given on some sop-called “Catholic’ sites.
    get a life!

  21. Pagansister, I was curious about what was going on in Providence:

    The Diocese of Providence has this posted the following statement from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, on its website:

    “In light of the predicted arrival of Hurricane Irene and the dangers associated with that storm, and in accordance with Canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law, Catholics in the Diocese of Providence (i.e., the State of Rhode Island) are hereby dispensed from the obligation of attending Holy Mass on the weekend of August 27-28, 2011. If local conditions are dangerous, Catholics may wish to stay home, remain safe and spend time in personal prayer and reflection.”

    I looked up Canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law:
    Can. 87 §1 Whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual welfare, the diocesan Bishop can dispense the faithful from disciplinary laws, both universal laws and those particular laws made by the supreme ecclesiastical authority for his territory or his subjects

    The Diocese also posted a link to its website where there is a video of this Sunday’s Mass that the faithful and others may view online.

  22. I can’t believe someone even asked this question. Since the parishioners are human beings, including the priest, without super natural powers, I am sure they are evacuating
    instead of worrying about Sunday Mass.
    North Carolina and Virginia residents more than likely did not attend Saturday Mass especially in the eastern coast and outerbanks. Flooding, trees down, torrential rain are all signs for not leaving your home for anything.
    It’s called common sense which doesn’t seem to be common anymore.
    Those of us who can attend Mass this weekend should be praying for those in harms way.

  23. Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Sunday obligation
    2180 The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.”117 “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.”118
    If conditions are dangerous, streets are impassable, authorities have declared a curfew etc. you do not have to attend mass.
    Sometime I think we act like a the junior high kids I teach ERE to in my parish. Beginning each semester I tell them that they need to take notes to study from. In elementary school they have been told what to do and how to do it. It never fails I get same questions every year about these their notes. What kind of note book, single or double spaced, should I use pen or pencil? I tell them, I don’t care, I am not going to use the notes you are and you can use any kind if pen, pencil or notebook you want.
    If the bishop tells you to use your own judgement, do so.
    I do know one thing for sure, I and I have this on the highest authority, God doesn’t want you to risk your life or the lives of others to attend mass this Sunday in the middle of a hurricane or in its wake.
    Say a rosary make a spiritual communion you will be fine.

  24. It had cleared up enough to consider going to mass today, and I intended until I went to check on my basement and found it flooded. I spent all day trying to pump out several inches of water. I hope that constitutes as an emergency. I really had no choice. 🙁

    I always enjoy seeing pagansister around these Catholic blogs. One of these days P-S you’re going to convert. 😉

  25. God would not like anyone to get into trouble in oblivious circumstances. The Bishop is right, anyone in danger should use his/her common sense. Afterall if the road is washed away and the visibilty poor, how does one expect to find his Church? Lets just sit back and pray. God knows it all. Afterall dont we all believe that God is everywhere? Thanks you for the nice prayer on top of the page, “My Jesus I believe that you…………” I trust Jesus will be received in the souls of those being affected and He will stay with them until lady Irene ceases. Amen.

  26. Elijah in a fierce storm just listened for the still small voice of God.

    After reading the scriptures that still small voice said not to bother anymore with mass.

    Instead now have a direct relationship with Him via Jesus my Lord and my God

    Religion is useless to God….

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