It’s happened to a lot of us. You have the best of intentions to get to Mass on time, but one thing or another delays you, and you arrive with the Mass already halfway over.
You may have wondered in such instances whether or not that Mass ‘counted,’ or whether you should receive Communion if you missed the Liturgy of the Word.
Recently, a listener attended daily Mass, but was late and arrived after the proclamation of the Gospel. He had heard that if you do not arrive at Mass to hear the Gospel, you should abstain from receiving Communion. He did so, but called in to Go Ask Your Father™ to ask Msgr. Stuart Swetland if he did the right thing.
Msgr. Swetland began by saying, “Let’s make some distinctions. What you’ve heard is correct when talking about fulfilling your Sunday obligation. Since it is a requirement, we have to say what the minimum is for someone to be able to say they attended Mass.”
So how late is too late? Msgr. Swetland explained, “To attend Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation or a Sunday, you have to be there, minimally, from the proclamation of the Gospel through the priest receiving Communion. That’s the absolute minimum that you must be there for it to count as attending Mass.”
However, he clarified that there is a difference between a Sunday Mass and daily Mass, saying, “When it comes to receiving Communion on a weekday, because you can receive Communion even in a Communion service where many parts of the Mass don’t take place (because it’s not a Mass), you are able to receive Communion even if you haven’t fully attended the Mass. It’s not recommended as a regular practice, of course. That would be an abuse.”
So in the situation the caller found himself in, he could have received Communion because he was late for a daily Mass. Had it been a Sunday Mass, though, he would have needed to find another Mass to fulfill his Sunday obligation.
So if it’s a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation and you’ve missed the Gospel proclamation, should you head right back out the door? Msgr. Swetland advised that even if one is not able to receive the Eucharist at Mass, there are still many spiritual benefits that can come from staying and making a spiritual communion.
“When you’re in that situation, make a good spiritual Communion,” he suggested. “The desire to receive the Lord is itself efficacious. It’s very, very fruitful. Thomas Merton famously said, ‘The desire to pray is prayer itself.’ The Lord wants us to desire to be in communion with Him. He wants us to desire to communicate to Him. And so, that desire to pray, that desire to receive the Eucharist is itself very, very efficacious.”
“That day we all miss Mass (because we don’t celebrate Mass on Good Friday or Holy Saturday up until the Vigil) can foster that Eucharistic hunger that we shouldn’t take for granted. It’s a reminder of the great privilege we have to be able to receive the Lord each day, and to never take this great gift for granted.”
Listen to the full conversation below: