Summer is finally here, so let the vacation planning begin! Airline tickets: check. Hotel and rental car reservations: check. Bags packed and ready to go: check. Catholic church selected near our destination and appropriate clothes packed: huh?
Part of the fun of traveling is the unique opportunity to visit new parishes, explore different church architecture styles and artwork, or perhaps attend a Mass spoken in a new language. My family traveled in an RV for over four years, and we visited a vast variety of Catholic churches. We’ve seen shrines, basilicas, missions, Revolutionary-era chapels and modern “mega churches.” We heard Mass in Spanish in San Antonio, in Latin in South Dakota, and a unique gospel-style Mass in New Orleans. Sometimes the church we chose was a magnificent cathedral in the heart of New York City and other times it was a small chapel tucked into the forest at Big Bear Lake in California. We’ve even planned visits to churches which interest us such as the Missions in California, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and the Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio.
Vacations should be fun and relaxing, but it’s important to remember that our Sunday Mass obligation does not disappear simply because we are not in our home parish. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “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.” (CCC 21)
It is not difficult to locate a church in an unfamiliar city. No matter how remote our location, I was almost always able to find at least one Catholic church within 10 miles. I used MassTimes.org and Google Maps to find the closest church. It’s a good idea to check the parish website or call the office to verify the Mass schedule. We once arrived at an empty parking lot because the evening Mass was canceled for the annual picnic! Give yourself extra time to find the church as directions aren’t always clear or accurate.
Occasionally, we had to drive a bit out of our way or get up early, but I feel it’s important that my children know that Sunday Mass is not optional. Although we make an adventure out of visiting new churches, I stress the importance of keeping the Third Commandment. Of course, there are exceptions such as camping in the wilderness or a cruise at sea, but planning ahead can eliminate most if not all of such conflicts.
This summer, add “find a church” to your vacation planning checklist. “Whoever observes the day, observes it for the Lord.” (Romans 14:6)
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