August 17, 2021
May God bless you! In light of our return to in-person worship many months ago, the increase in vaccines, and in consultation with our COVID-19 Pastor Committee, I am restoring the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
The general obligations to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is reinstated as of the weekend of September 4-5, 2021. Your pastor will be communicating with you about this development. Today, I would like to share some reflections about why the Eucharist is so important in our lives as Catholics and what we mean by “obligation.”
First, I want to remind everyone that illness, caring for those who are ill and significant emotional or physical vulnerabilities, especially in light of COVID-19, exempt you from this obligation (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181). This obligation does not apply to those who are:
- Have a serious health risk or live in a household with those at risk.
- Serve as primary caregivers to those at risk.
- Have serious anxiety or concerns about being in a large-group setting due to COVID-19.
- Are unable to attend Mass in person.
- In addition, prudent caution may be exercised about Mass attendance for those who are unable to be vaccinated, such as children under the age of 12.
I also want to encourage all Catholics who are eligible to obtain a vaccine. Our Holy Father said that taking a vaccine “is about a moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.” This action is an act of love and a contribution to the common good.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith because this is where we encounter Jesus Christ, present in the Sacred Body and Precious Blood. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest, something happens! Jesus gives Himself to us in this way because He loves us and wants us to be joyful. He also wants us to share this extraordinary gift of joy with the world through our witness and acts of service. While I was very grateful for the creativity of our parishes in offering live-streaming and other virtual options for Mass when we could not attend or had limits on attendance, there is no substitute for our physical presence at Mass.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith because this is where we pray with our brothers and sisters, members of the Christian community, who also reflect the real presence of Christ. As Catholics, we believe that salvation is a journey that we take together as members of the Body of Christ. Together, we ask forgiveness for our sins, listen to the Scriptures relating our salvation history, offer our gifts, experience the transformation of Christ truly present and receive his body and blood as nourishment for the journey and as inspiration as we take Christ into the world. There is no greater gift!
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith because the church is our home, where we are nourished and where so many important events in our lives take place. God does not ask us to worship because of His need to be worshipped but because of our need for prayer, renewal and formation. Worship is God’s gift for our spiritual well-being, for growth in our relationship with God and others and for our eternal salvation.
Obligation is sometimes seen as a negative word, evoking a sense of grudging drudgery. I invite you instead to reflect on the obligations you have in your lives…to your children, spouses, parents, colleagues, neighbors. Why do you fulfill these obligations? I would guess that most of these stem from a sense of responsibility, commitment, gratitude and love. Our obligation to attend Mass is a requirement of the Church…a requirement that calls us into a deeper relationship with God and others. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving, and our faithful participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass builds our capacity for faith, hope and love.
I invited a few directors of archdiocesan offices to develop some video messages about the obligation of love and about the Mass as the center of our lives. These short spots feature a variety of parishioners from throughout the Archdiocese. I invite you to listen and reflect on their inspiring messages. These spots will begin to be released the week of August 22 and can be found at www.archlou.org/taste-and-see. This page also contains other resources about these topics.
Finally, I want to offer a word of encouragement. I know that many of you are dealing with burdens from your own illness, the illness and deaths of family members, loss of jobs, and increased anxiety because of this devastating pandemic. Please allow our community of faith to support you in your healing. Many pastors have spoken to me about their concern for their parishioners, and we will be reflecting together about how to provide pastoral care for those in need.
As we take this next step of the journey, let us take inspiration from our Blessed Mother, whose trust in God and deep love sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith. Please know of my constant prayers for all of you!
Sincerely yours in our Lord,
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville