In the aftermath of hurricane Charlie in 2004, St. James Cathedral was closed on Sunday due to a curfew that had been imposed to keep people off the streets. Since the Cathedral was closed, Mass was not celebrated and many parishioners later visited the confessional, because they felt they had violated the 3rd commandment. Fast forward to 2017, the Cathedral will be closed this Sunday, and the same question has come up again, “Is it a sin to miss Mass due to the hurricane?”
This simple answer in both of these cases is NO. To understand why, we must refer to the Catechism with special attention paid to the section in bold below and all of paragraph 2183 (yes, that’s what those big numbers refer to).
2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.
2183 “If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.”
To be sure, a hurricane the size of Irma, and Charlie, constitutes a serious reason and with the closing of the Cathedral we have, in effect, been dispensed by our pastor. As for paragraph 2183, I can’t imagine there will be any of us not devoting much of our time Sunday to prayer!