Are you traveling this summer? Will you be going to Mass when you’re away?
In my pre-catholic years the idea of going to Church on vacation was never anything I, or my family, really ever thought about. As a protestant, your Church wasn’t universal; your Church was in effect your local congregation. Your Church was the place you went to get “fed.” So when you went on vacation, the idea of going to Church while traveling became a somewhat practical, and often more conceptual, impossibility. You had those that occasionally would, of course; but outside of attending with family or friends most who did so were being opportunistic travelers visiting a “spiritual place” or celebrated church of note. For the average traveling family, however, this was not usually the case. So as a Catholic, the often debated urban legend of the “Traveler’s Pass” for not attending Mass while traveling is something I continue to find fascinating.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1389 that The Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season. But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily.
Our friends at Catholic Answers (www.Catholic.com) responded to this more practically by saying, “It depends on the availability of Mass while you are traveling. If there is no Mass available in an area in which you are traveling, or if just reason exists while traveling that makes attending Mass that Sunday or holy day not possible (e.g., illness, job requirements, unfamiliarity with the area), then you are dispensed from the requirement to attend Mass that Sunday or holy day…
…As a rule of thumb when traveling, it is good to try to make provision for Mass attendance before your trip. That way you have opportunity to find a local church, work a Mass time into your schedule, and make arrangements for transportation to the church. If Mass attendance is made a travel priority — at least as high a priority as leisure tours and/or business meetings — it is less likely that scheduling and transportation predicaments will derail Mass attendance while traveling.” (Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers, 10/10/2007)
So how did Mass become optional to so many Catholics while traveling?
Who really knows? It’s fair to question where many things came from pre-Vatican II and pre-Catechism. I have heard many Bishops within the Church, when publicly interviewed, admit the lack of Catechesis that permeated the American Catholic Church over the last two generations. Much true understanding has fallen from many.
We could blame it on the Protestants, of course. It’s a fair argument in the face of un-catechized generations. One could easily imagine a husband-wife conversation such as, “Honey, the neighbors don’t go to church when they go on vacation, why do we have too? And don’t tell me it’s because of your mother!”
We could blame our parents because they never instituted the practice for us on our family vacations when we were kids; but we blame them for everything else.
We could blame it on our spouse, but it’s our responsibility to get them to Heaven – not the other way around.
Regardless of our rationale, I think the more important question we should ask ourselves though is….Why Not? Why not go to Mass while traveling?
Father Robert Barron (www.WordOnFire.org) produced a DVD series released prior to Christmas in 2013 simply called, “Catholicism.” (www.CatholcisimSeries.com) The series is a fantastic overview of the depth, breadth, and historical scope of our Catholic faith. Not only is the cinematography very eye catching, but the ever expanding context of the series reveals an underlying belief most dedicated Catholics share; there isn’t enough life to learn all you can learn about the faith. Being a Catholic is a daily journey and learning about the faith is something you can only do in little bits one day at a time.
Stephen K. Ray (www.catholic-convert.com) in his book Crossing the Tiber described our faith and his conversion to it in this way:
“The ‘something’ we had once militantly resisted, the Catholic Church, was found to be glorious, beautiful, and splendid – like a massive creature, too grand and colossal to comprehend fully, yet modest and personal enough to put affectionally in your pocket. It was fullness. Why the term fullness? Because the Catholic Church encompasses so much more than we had ever known in our Protestant past – the fullness of the faith carefully preserved and nurtured through the centuries. We are not going from Cristian to Catholic, as though we are leaving the ‘Christian’ part behind. We are developing and experiencing the Christian faith more fully by becoming Catholic Christians. Catholicism is ancient, yet forever young; it is constant and firm, yet forever lively and robust; it is old, yet always new and vital. It is simple enough for a mouse to wade in, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in.”
So…if you are curious at all about understanding your Catholic faith more, and you don’t attend Mass while traveling, you are missing what is arguably your greatest and easiest opportunity to do so. Whether it be different nuances within the Mass, the construction of the Church, the age of the Church, the placement of the Altar, the placement of the pews, the name of the Church, the location of the Church within the community you are visiting, the congregation that welcomes you, the Priest, the music, the art work, how the liturgy is presented, the communal prayers, and even the Mass times can all help you understand so much more about what it means to be Catholic.
Though far from attending Mass one hundred percent of the time while traveling, I have had the pleasure of participating in the Mass in many different cities, states and even in other countries. Going always – always – becomes a highlight of my trip. Even when I have to drag protesting family members with me, we always leave glad we came and that we made Mass a priority. Oh and the kids – which is the best part – are like freshmen on campus, especially in the older Churches. Their eyes are glued to the art and design of the building and They are curious as to where the people and the sounds of the Mass come from. To them, a new church is like a new car, they want to check it all out and see what is different.
One of the great things about being Catholic is its Universal nature, and that the Eucharist is available to you nearly everywhere in the world through a service you understand and can participate in. How could you not appreciate access to the Eucharist wherever you are?
Now as a traveler, might I ask if you know what a Basilica is? A Basilica is a Catholic Church with special privileges conferred on it by the Pope. Did you know that there is a Basilica in many of the major cities throughout the United States? Some US cities even have two or more. St. Louis has two and New York has four. Several cities in Europe and South America have six to nine. Basilica’s are amazing places with a public mission and breathtaking art work. Many Basilica’s even show up on the top 25 places to visit in a city on web tools like Trip Advisor. Did you know that you can attend Mass at a Basilica? They usually have multiple Mass times daily, and if you do attend Mass there you’ll likely brag about it when you come home. It’s hard to keep the phone on your camera put away as many of them offer tours in between Mass times.
Don’t like Basilica’s; how about a Cathedral? Every diocese has one. It’s the main church of the diocese where the Bishop normally resides. They aren’t too shabby either. You might check one out. Have you ever checked out your own?
Another thought; does your Priest give good homilies? Not that it truly matters, but how do you know? Compared one lately? My favorite Priest to listen to is at my in-law’s parish where they live. It’s a small country parish on the outskirts of small town America. All of the music is played by a single guitarist, the singing sounds like someone strangled a cat, and the Altar Servers all wear high-water jeans and hand-me-down Air Jordan’s under their garments. But the homilies…the homilies are off the chart’s incredible and move your heart to the Eucharist every time.
So why not add value to your summer trip this year? Go to Mass somewhere.
How about you brother? Do you plan Mass attendance into your vacation? Why not? Have you thought about what your missing?