Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Mass Tourism

Posted by universalis on 5 May 2006

One of the earliest things I remember learning from my friends about the law of the Church was the useful fact that travellers were exempt from the obligation of attending Mass on Sunday. (This is just the sort of thing that shocks pious Protestants and gives rule-dodging Catholics a bad name).

Leaving the question of obligations aside, and not going too deeply into whether a tourist is a “traveller” anyway, I’d like to recommend Mass tourism as an excellent exercise, both deepening one’s piety and bringing one closer to the people where one is staying. We are forever complaining about guidebook-clutching tourists lifting their noses from their books just long enough to verify that yes, they have visited this or that Sight, before rushing on to the next Sight on the list: we complain even when we do it ourselves. We complain about the theme-parkification of the places we visit, of history and culture packaged up into easy-to-digest undemanding chunks. We complain, above all, of how we exist in a vacuum, invisible, uninteracted-with, isolated from the locals and unable to meet them.

And all the time the churches are sitting there, waiting to fulfil our needs, and we pay no attention to them except as monuments.

I’m not holding myself up as an example of piety. There are times when I’ll find any excuse not to go to Mass (“God will understand”) and I am a master of being late for Mass without having intended to. But – the times I have been to Mass while on holiday have yielded an amazing number of uplifting, moving and simply enjoyable moments, and in future postings I’ll tell the story of some of those moments as an encouragement to you to take up Mass tourism as an activity.

10 Responses to “Mass Tourism”

  1. Linda said

    Mass Tourism!! Amen to that! Having travelled to a country that isnt very “catholic friendly”, i found it absolutely awesome to discover a little catholic church with a vibrant congregation and yes, it is absolutely spiritually lifting to attend mass on holiday! Even if it is conducted in a foreign language…………… thats the beauty of being Catholic………….you can still follow the Mass!
    Mass Tourism? OOh yes!

  2. Elizabeth said

    A friend on another site I frequent mentioned that he was praying the Divine Office at Universalis as a Lenten discipline, and a while later I gave it a try a few times, when I remembered. It took me a little while to get into it, but it’s started to grow on me. I tend to have a hard time stilling my thoughts at night and I find the Compline gives me a sense of peace that helps me sleep. I go to Mass almost every day but on the days I don’t go, I look up the Mass readings here. Thanks for the work you do on this site, which has become a welcome part of my life.

  3. Nate said

    Another piece of advice for travellers (I am currently in France for a few months) use Universalis to print out the mass readings! Being able to follow the Word read in a foreign (to me) tongue is a big help.

  4. Joe Egerton said

    When Fr Michael Ashworth SJ celebrated a weekday mass at Corpus Christi, Brixton (where the church, designed by Bentley, he of Westminster Cathedral) places the congregation close to the sacristy, he used to invite the congegration to add their own bidding prayers – and there never was anything inappropriate said. Most of the prayers were for something that directly affected the parish or directly affected some community in the parish. Occasionally somebody would produce a prayer from a Society to which they belonged. The lesson, perhaps, is that in the House of God people do put aside unworthy concerns.

  5. Paul Ho said

    hi there,

    is it true that the canon law exempts “travellers” from attending Mass on Sunday. i travel often for work and have been bothered by not being able to attend Mass sometimes. Can someone direct me to a reference to canon law?

    many thanks!

  6. Chris I said

    This is the first I have ever heard of some kind of exemption. Please provide the specifics. It sounds like an “catholic urban myth” to me. I dont attend weekly services because I have to I attend because I want to.

  7. Steve K said

    Mass tourism brings back some great memories, especially hearing the liturgy in modern Aramaic, realizing that as I heard the Gospel, I might be hearing it the way Jesus himself spoke it! I have heard the liturgy in many languages but it remains the same no matter what the venacular. I must say that being RC has given me many advantages but in terms of Mass tourism, it is nice to know that I don’t have to wander about when traveling to find ‘what I like’ when what God likes comes to me wherever I am.
    As for the ‘exemption’, I believe the present code, which greatly pares down earlier versions of the Code, makes no such mention of an ‘exemption’. This code, while trying to be more ‘pastoral’ may leave such matters up the the individual (formed) conscience, or the local epicopate. Perhaps the perusal of an earlier code might shed some light on earlier code teachings.

  8. Pat said

    Assisi, The American choir I belong to sang at Mass in the lower church of St Francis. It was a magic moment as we took our places in this old church. Resting our arms on the choir stalls one had to think of all those who had gone before to raise their voices in praise of our God. In spite of the cold January night, we exited the church with the warmth of God’s love.

  9. Donna said

    We will be in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in the state of Moreles, this summer, and would like to attend mass. Does anyone know of a Catholic church that they would recommend?

  10. Gordon said

    For those of you talking about exemption from the Sunday obligation for travellers, have a look at what the catechism on the Vatican website has to say (in the section on the ten commandments, keep the sabbath holy). If I recall correctly, it says that there is an obbligation which is excused in serious circumstances. If I recall correctly (and check for yourself)travelling is listed as an example in parenthesis, along with care of infants and sickness.

    Personally when I travel I make an effort to fit Mass into my travel plans on a Sunday and holy days, because I consider it important.

    Can anyone recommended a Catholic Church in Cape Town (South Africa) city centre?

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