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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“The argument moves from the existence of the thing to the correctness of the thing: what is, ought to be. Or, a popular variant: if a thing is, it doesn't make any difference whether it ought to be—the correct response is to adjust, to learn to live with the thing.”
— L. Brent Bozell, Jr.

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“Simultaneous Fulfillment” of Mass Obligation?
published 24 November 2017 by Jeff Ostrowski

3830 Calendar CCORDING to current USA law, a Catholic may fulfill the Sunday obligation by attending Mass on Saturday evening, sometimes called an “anticipated” or “vigil” Mass. The readings and propers chosen for Saturday night make no difference. (The same holds true for any Holy Day of Obligation.)

Christmas falls on a Monday in 2017.

Can you “double dip” the fulfillment of your Mass obligation? In other words, does attending Mass on Sunday evening fulfill both the Sunday and Monday obligations? Reading the Code of Canon Law, we might erroneously believe this:

Can 1248 • A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.

For years, this has caused tremendous confusion online. Many authors feel we must attend Mass twice but struggle to provide documentation. Some appeal to “the common and constant opinion of learned persons” argument. But the Congregation for the Clergy has already clarified the matter of simultaneous fulfillment by the faithful:

328 simulatneous-fulfillment-mass-obligation DOUBLE DIPPING

    * * Source • USCCB Document on “Double-Dipping” (1974)


I’m not a canon lawyer, but this document seems to leave no room for “double dipping” (as Andrew Motyka dubbed it several years ago). Therefore, you must attend Mass twice—once for Sunday, once for Christmas—but there are many ways this can lawfully be done. You could go Saturday night and Monday night. Or you could go Sunday evening and Christmas morning. My personal preference is to go Sunday morning and Monday morning.

For the record, rules like these apply to the Extraordinary Form as well. (Similar to how EF Catholics are bound by the current laws on fasting and not, say, the 1950s regulations.)

HIS DUBIUM was answered at the precise moment we would expect. After all, “anticipated fulfillment” of Mass obligation was a new concept, and (to be brutally honest) ruptured the traditional practice of the Church, which had always celebrated vigils on the preceding morning. It should be noted—and cannot be repeated enough—that the choice of formularies makes no difference when it comes to fulfilling one’s obligation to attend Mass. As the above document points out:

On the evening of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, when this falls on December 24, it is possible to have both the evening Mass of the Sunday and the vigil Mass of Christmas. In the same way, when Christmas occurs on a Saturday, the evening Mass might be either that of Christmas or the anticipated Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family.

That is why one can attend a Wedding (“Nuptial Mass”) on Saturday evening and fulfill one’s Sunday obligation, although I believe such a Mass cannot begin too early in the afternoon.


Fun fact : Archbishop Bugnini, in that 1974 document, clearly says nobody can be forced to receive Holy Communion in the hand:

Furthermore, even when an Episcopal Conference petitions the Holy See for the faculty to distribute communion in the hand (see Memoriale Domini, May 29, 1969), this manner of reception can in no way be imposed on the faithful. Rather, the freedom and possibility of receiving communion in the traditional manner must always be granted.

It was recently clarified by the USCCB that kneeling of Communion cannot be denied.

The following are offered for your consideration:

    * *  PDF Download • Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma

    * *  PDF Download • Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia

    * *  PDF Download • Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama

    * *  PDF Download • USCCB Statement on “Double Dipping”

    * *  PDF “Evening Masses and Days of Obligation” (58 pages)