A reader writes:
Jimmy, I have some obligations this coming Saturday and Sunday that will very likely make it impossible to get to a Mass on Saturday “evening” or Sunday. I’m wondering how early a Mass can be on Saturday to count for the Sunday obligation. There’s one at 2pm here. It just seems really early. I suppose I’ll be relieved from my Sunday obligation if I just can’t make one, but if the 2pm will count, I’d like to go. However, it’s in Korean, which I do not speak. Does it even make sense to go if you won’t be able to participate really, or understand what’s being said? Any input is greatly appreciated.
The law is ambiguous on when "evening" begins. (And no, folks, I don't want to have this fight all over again, so e-mail me if you want to rush me your vital evidence regarding when evening begins.) Some documents would suggest something in the 4 p.m.-4:30 p.m. timeframe--or when the local bishop says--but it is not clear that these documents presently have legal force, in which case 12 noon would be case.
What we have in this case thus seems to be a doubt of law situation, and in such cases, "Laws, even invalidating and disqualifying ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt about the law" (Canon 14).
To apply this to your situation:
- If you have other pressing obligations that would preclude you from going to Mass on Saturday after 2 p.m. or on Sunday then you are not obliged to go during that time. You simply have no Sunday obligation in that timeframe.
- Since it is doubtful whether a 2 p.m. Saturday Mass would fulfill the Sunday obligation, one is not bound to go then due to the doubt of law.
- You certainly may go to the 2 p.m. Saturday Mass, and that would be a praiseworthy thing to do, even if you are not obligated to do so.
- The fact that the Mass is in Korean may play a role in whether you personally decide to go to it or not, but that is a matter of personal taste, not of the efficacy of the Mass for fulfilling one's obligation when one exists. The Church has never regarded it as essential for going to Mass that you speak the language in which the Mass is conducted. The Mass is primarily a vertical experience in which we relate to God by going to be with him and worship him, even if we cannot speak the language of those around us. You can still derive great spiritual benefit from going to a Mass in a language you don't speak because your linguistically-challenged state does nothing to prevent you from thinking about and worshipping God in your heart, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist ("Amen" is still "Amen" in Korean when you receive Communion), or even following the general structure of the Mass. There also may be a Korean-English translation available in the Missal, who knows.
- If you go, "hello" in Korean is "Annyong haseyo" (Ahn-yong ha-say-yo). Smile and wave when you say it. Or bow if you use it at the sign of peace. (They'll know what you mean.)
Hope this helps!