Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Mass Attendance - How Late is Too Late?

Mass Attendance - How Late is Too Late? QUESTION from Veronica on February 4, 2003 It is my understanding that one must be at church in time for the reading of the Gospel and that, otherwise, a person has missed his/her Mass.
Am I correct or not? If not, I would appreciate being informed of the point at which one must be at church in order to have fulfilled their Sunday Obligation.
Your help would be greatly appreciated.
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on February 9, 2003 Dear Veronica,
There is no point at Mass by which you must arrive in order to fulfill your obligation. The obligation is to keep the day holy and respectful, which means arriving to Mass on time, and if at all possible a little early to help rid yourself of distractions and to pray.
The Gospel is a point established in common belief. I have no taste for it at all since it supports a casual attitude in attending Mass; it makes it permissible to be a little late.. this is terrible. It is not official at all. I only know of once instance in which arriving late is mentioned in the documents; it applies to concelebrating priests, stating that they may not be admitted to concelebrate if they arrive late.
So, what is keeping you from arriving on time? I do not ask you Veronica specifically but rather anyone who asks the question. It seems that if there are conditions that would make you late, then maybe you would not need to attend at all. Suppose you have a long distance to drive and there is a blizzard that will make you late, then it probably would be a good idea to turn around and go home before the storm gets worse.
Suppose there is a super long train and you end up arriving after the Gospel.. don't worry about it, after all the Lord governs the movements of the trains as well.
But, there are many people who just are always late wherever they go, they are late to church, to work, meetings, appointments, whatever. This is not excusable at all; you need to remove that which is keeping you from church. I can't think of much that happens on Sunday mornings that should so occupy your time. Perhaps you are in a family with many children.. still many parishes offer Mass in the late morning or early afternoon. I don't mean to lecture or judge, but maybe you need to buy a watch.
It just seems to me that anyone who is habitually late enough to have to ask the question how late it too late needs to reevaluate their commitment to Holy Mass.
Veronica, you did not specify any details in your question so I am not sure why or even if you are arriving late, so I invite you to write to our spirituality forum for advice if you need help in this area.
Thank you,
Mr. Slavek
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