Not being able to go to Mass on a Sunday can be very distressing, but over a long period of time it can also take its toll on your spiritual life. To prevent that from happening, here are some things you can do when you can’t go to Mass.
Make a Spiritual Communion
(The following information comes from A Simple Prayer Book.)
Spiritual Communion is the heartfelt desire to receive Our Lord, even when we are unable because of the distance or for some other reason. This desire to receive him through spiritual Communion is an act of love which prolongs our thanksgiving even when we are not in the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord. The wish to live constantly in his presence can be fuelled by acts of love and desire to be united with him and is a means of drawing more deeply from the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within our souls in the state of grace.
‘The effects of a sacrament can be received by desire. Although in such a case the sacrament is not received physically … nevertheless the actual reception of the sacrament itself brings with it fuller effect than receiving it through desire alone’.
(St Thomas Aquinas)
Act of Spiritual Communion by St Alphonsus Liguori
My Jesus, I believe that You are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as being already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Watch Mass live:
It may not be the same as being there, but if you can watch a Mass online it will help you to maintain your Sunday routine and to remind yourself that Sunday is the Lord’s day. Some options for watching Mass online:
👉 ChurchServices.tv is a website listing live-streamed Mass and other prayers and liturgies from Catholic churches and religious organisations. You might prefer to find a time that suits you and choose from the selection of Masses offered at that time, or you may prefer to find a church you like.
👉 Mass Online and Live Mass offer links to Mass being streamed in many churches across the world. Both websites give a schedule of when Masses take place local time and allow you to save them to Google Calendar in advance to remind you.
👉 The National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham offers live-streamed Mass, Adoration, Rosary, the Divine Office and talks.
👉 Join beloved YouTube priest Fr Mike Schmitz for Mass every Sunday.
This is a great opportunity to “go” to Mass anywhere in the world! Find a church you love and stick to it, or go somewhere new every time!
Read the Mass readings of the day
Even when you can’t attend Mass, following the prayers and readings of the Mass at home is helpful to make Sunday holy. If you don’t already have a Sunday Missal, you can choose between our affordable paperback missal for the current liturgical year, or treat yourself to a hardback missal that you can keep forever.
(Note that the 2021 missal does not come into effect until the new liturgical year begins on Sunday 29th November. Prior to that, the affordable paperback version is The CTS New Sunday Missal 2020 which is just £1, but finishes on the feast of Christ the King on Sunday 22nd November.)
More of a digital person? The Magnificat App is currently free to help all those unable to attend Mass. The UK edition is available on Android and on iOS. Meanwhile, Universalis is a great purchase if you can afford it as it contains Mass readings, Lectio Divina, and the Divine Office in full. It costs £10.99 to buy. Available on Android and iOS.
Meditate on the Mass readings
Spend time meditating on the Sunday Mass readings and discerning what God might be telling you through them, using Lectio Divina an ancient method of prayer. There are great resources on how to do this, such as this a helpful video, and this written guide on IgnatianSpirituality.com, and our own our Lectio Divina booklet.
Watch or read a homily on the Sunday Gospel
If you’d prefer something to read, the Dominican Friars publish a homily every week on their blog, Torch, while Fr Mike Schmitz’ homilies are archived on the website of the American university where he resides as chaplain. Meanwhile, Scott Hahn also offers reflections on the weekly Sunday Gospel.
Mark the Lord’s day
Without Mass to go to on Sunday, you may find it harder to notice that it’s a Sunday as it becomes just the same as every other day. It’s more important than ever then to mark the Sabbath. You might like to make an effort to wear your “Sunday best” even if you’re not leaving the house, or to have a day free from screens, pray the rosary together as a household, or something else. Perhaps, if your circumstances allow, you could make a special effort to do something nice for someone in self-isolation, whether that’s a relative or a neighbour.
If you are unable to get to Mass, you are not committing a sin by not going.
Very often when people can’t get to Mass because of sickness or some other reason, people worry that they are committing a sin. As Catholics, we know the importance of going to Sunday Mass which is why the Church tells us that not going is a grave sin. However, this does not include those who are physically unable to get to Mass through no fault of their own. This means if you are unwell, in self-isolation, or for some other reason you cannot get to Mass, you are not committing a sin because in those instances you are not required to attend Mass
There are many reasons why you might not be able to get to Mass, but please be assured that in that case, it is not sinful. God is a Father who loves us dearly, not a fearful dictator waiting to punish us.
Finally, some general advice for your spiritual life when you can’t get to Mass…
Have a spiritual game plan
When you can’t get to Mass, it’s more important than ever to work at the rest of your spiritual life. Having a plan and making some general rules for your spiritual life is a useful way of keeping you close you to God. Find our suggestions here.
If you can, go to confession.
Confession is important because it is a way of dusting off the cobwebs of our spiritual lives. In this sacrament, God pours His grace down upon us and we find our determination to stay close to Him renewed. Find our answers to common questions about confession here, including how to go to confession.
If you can, go to adoration.
When you can’t go to Mass, spending some time in adoration is the only way of being physically in the presence of Jesus and is therefore incredibly important. Even if you can’t physically go to adoration, you can go to adoration online (see our Mass links above or “go” to perpetual adoration at Tyburn Convent). He is physically present there behind the camera and He will not let the physical distance between you be a physical barrier. If you want something to read to keep your prayers on track during a Holy Hour, try our Eucharistic adoration resources.
Read more spiritual books
The sacraments are the best way to spiritually refuel, but when you can’t access them (or even when you can), spiritual reading is a good help. Through reading, you can be inspired by the lives of the saints, or learn more about the faith, or discover ways of living out the faith better. Find our recommendations for spiritual reading here.