What Part of “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day” Don’t You Understand?


Ah, Summertime!

Time to kick back, forget to set the alarm clock, enjoy a leisurely breakfast over the morning paper….


BUT WAIT!  The clock is ticking….


and if you don’t hurry, you’ll NEVER make it to Mass on time!

What, you can pray as well out in nature, you say?  Blah, blah….


But here’s the thing:

God told us, in the Third Commandment, to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day.”  That’s “holy” as in “pray.”  Devote that one day each week to God in a special way.  Make it a day of rest.  GO TO CHURCH.

Jesus showed us by his example the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy.  Jesus went to church on a regular basis.  Luke 4:16 says,

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom.

It was his custom to attend weekly services.  If Jesus made it a priority to attend services with other believers, shouldn’t we–his followers–do the same?


BUT WAIT:  There’s another reason.

Jesus founded His Church, and gave to the apostles and their successors authority to lead his followers, and to instruct them in the way they should go.

And the Church, knowing that people need one another, need to come together, and knowing that God Who is all-powerful and all-good asks this of us, imposes a requirement upon its adherents.  Catholics MUST attend Mass on Sundays.  You may go on weekdays, too, if you like–and that’s a good thing; but you MUST attend on Sunday.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the God-given authority of the Magisterium, the pope and bishops:

2033 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the works of theologians and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to generation, under the aegis and vigilance of the pastors, the “deposit” of Christian moral teaching has been handed on, a deposit composed of a characteristic body of rules, commandments, and virtues proceeding from faith in Christ and animated by charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our Father, the basis for this catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of moral life valid for all men.

2034 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.” The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.

So what the Church teaches, we must believe.  And when the Church imposes a discipline (such as mandatory attendance at the liturgy on Sundays), we must obey–understanding that it is our greater good that motivates the pope and bishops to make this demand.

There’s more:  The Catechism defines certain precepts to which faithful Catholics must adhere.  What’s a precept?

2041  The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.

And right at the top of that list of Precepts of the Church is this one:

2042  The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.

*     *     *     *     *

So there you go:

God orders you….

Jesus shows you….

The Church requires you….

…to get out of bed a little earlier and get thee to Mass, and to take full advantage of all those blessings and graces which are availed to you in the Sacraments.

*     *     *     *     *

Oh, by the way…. I don’t want to hear about how it’s “boring” or you don’t “get anything out of it.”

  • First, if that’s the case, it’s your fault:  You are not fully participating, fully engaged in the miracle of the liturgy which is manifest before your eyes.  
  • But secondly, going to church is not something that you do in order to “get something”.  It’s not about YOU, it’s about GOD, and you attend Mass to GIVE something–to give all of yourself in prayer to a Heavenly Father who is deserving of our worship and praise.

See you in Church?



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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I am impressed that you have the courage to simply rewrite the Bible to conform with your beliefs. Most would quote it accurately, and then make a convoluted argument trying to show that Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is a legitimate equivalent or even the new covenant replacement for Saturday, the seventh day, mentioned in the commandment setting it aside as a day of rest, the sabbath.

    • Catholic & loving it

      St. Paul the Apostle & other early Church authorities claimed Sunday (when Resurrection occurred) as the Lord’s Day. This moving of day was a symbolic way to commemorate & make central our Lord Christ Jesus. In English (Germanic language), it’s “Sunday”, but in practically every other language (especially the Latin-based Romance languages like Spanish, Italian, French, etc.) it clearly shows the link. In Spanish, Sunday is “Domingo” & Italian “Domenica” from the root word Lord. Saturday is “Sabado” & “Sabato” (from the root word Sabbath). As well as “Easter” (English/Germanic), in other languages (including my own-Spanish & Italian) we say Easter “Pascua” & “Pasqua” (from the Hebrew root Pasch meaning the Hebrew Passover. In historically Catholic countries & officially Holy Catholic Church liturgy, the new Sabbath for the new Everlasting covenant actually officially starts on SATURDAY evening; we also have several Masses on Saturday that fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation. James, my friend, I don’t know why “Seventh Day Adventist” Protestants (who have been very wrong numerously in predicting the days of the End of World, like Jehovah’s “Witnesses”, even when our Lord says no one knows the hour) make a big deal about it. Also look up Ethiopian Orthodox Christians worship on Friday & Sunday; the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians have followed both the Jewish & the Christian customs since way before the “Adventists”. Look up Sabbath & Sunday on The Official Catholic Catechism to learn more. May the Peace of Christ that only He can give be with you.

      • vegemouse

        Seventh-day Adventist have NEVER predicted a date for the end of the world. The Sabbath commemorates Gods creation. It is written in stone and will never and has never been changed. That was an act by man not God. Nor is it a Jewish Sabbath only. It was instituted at creation.

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    I seriously doubt that there are any Catholics, from the most traditional to the most skeptical, who don’t already know that the rules say that we’re supposed to go to mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening). What possible value can be served by repeating, in severe, schoolmarmish tone, what everybody already knows?

    In fact, the tone of this blog post is exactly why so many Catholics don’t bother with mass anymore. Who wants to spend any time with a bunch of humourless automatons whose only reason for getting together once a week is a noxious combination of mindless obedience, tortured sense of duty and superstition?

    Yes, you should go to mass at least on Sunday/Saturday. But you should also expect to get something out of it for yourself (although it is true that you’ll only get out of it as much as you put into it.)

    The worst reason for going to mass every weekend is precisely the one presented here: because you have to! It’s a reason, but not a very persuasive one.

    If you already go to mass every week, but only because you have to, do yourself a favour and explore the liturgy and your involvement in it more carefully. Take the time to read the day’s texts before you go to mass, so you’ll fully appreciate how all the components of the liturgical texts fit together. You’re also likely to get more out of the homily that way. Ask yourself, How do these lessons touch me, and my relationships with Christ and others around me? What can I take away from this that will make me a more effective agent of Christ?

    Don’t go to mass just to be there. Go to mass to be there, in community with your fellow parishioners and your God!

    … and take the time to visit these sites, which list good reasons for going to mass: Why go to mass?; Top 10 reasons to attend mass.

  • gigi4747

    Thanks for this. I like especially that you point out that Mass is not about what we’re “getting out of it,” a although ideally we are of course getting some sustenance from it. It’s really about what we are putting into it. We need to keep repeating that. Perhaps using the accurate terminology, ie, we *assist* in the Mass (as the priest *offers* it), instead of saying, “attending,” all the time, would help to remind people of the correct way to approach the Mass.

    I’m okay with the fact that we have been OBLIGATED to assist in the Mass. Just like I’m obligated to go to my job. I don’t get to not go because I think I won’t get anything out of it that day.

    As far as the criticism you got below, it’s not your fault that some people don’t fulfill their obligation to assist in the Mass, regardless of what kind of a “tone” you use. It’s their own fault. We could all find any variety of excuses not to go to Mass if we wanted to. That said, “what part of such and such don’t you understand?” Is a bit offputting.