I was on vacation and the only service I had access to was a SCAP service (Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest). Communion was distributed but they were pre-concentrated hosts (no words of institution during the service). Does this count towards the Sunday obligation? And if not, why is it offered?

  • Anecdotal: I was at an Assisted Living facility which has a SCAP service every Sunday by a Eucharistic minister from a nearby parish, primarily for the residents. On occasion there were in attendance the residents' family (it was very noticeable since they are not elderly). So the Eucharistic minister took the trouble to say that for those who are able to attend regular mass, attendance at SCAP does not count toward the Sunday obligation. Commented May 27 at 1:11
  • @GratefulDisciple I suppose that would mean the church views those elderly as sufficiently hindered so that it does fulfill the obligation for them?
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 27 at 2:04
  • 1
    Yes, it looks like it. So that means if you're hindered, SCAP would fulfill your obligation too. Commented May 27 at 2:58

2 Answers 2


Does a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest fulfill the holy day of obligation?

Canon Law 1248, 2 tells us that "If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place [...] or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families."

If there is a true dearth in the number of priests in a region, the answer is yes!

For more than two millennia, Catholics have gathered on Sunday to worship God as he calls us to his table to be fed and nourished. There, we meet Jesus in his Word, in the Eucharist, and in one another and the priest. Celebrating the Eucharist is essential to being the body of Christ and the people of God.

However, the reality now before us is such that the celebration of Mass will not always be possible. Yet, it is still critical to our identity as Christians to gather as God’s family and grow in closeness and faith. In that spirit, the diocese has prepared materials to assist parishes in planning for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. These liturgies will allow a deacon or layperson to lead us in prayer and fulfill our Sunday obligation to gather as the body of Christ, even when a priest is not available to celebrate Mass. - Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest

The ordinary ministers of the Eucharist are the bishop and the priests of the diocese or religious house. The ordinary ministers of proclaiming the gospel are the bishop, the priest and the deacon. As is far too common nowadays, there is a genuine shortage of priests and/or deacons in many parishes. Most diocese have permitted parishes to have a certain number of extraordinary ministers of holy communion. These same extraordinary ministers of holy communion are not permitted to read the gospel at Mass. Most dioceses have very clear rules on this point.

It is better for Catholics who cannot come to any sort of communal celebration on Sunday to watch a Mass on television than entirely omit worship, since thereby they listen to the day’s readings and are helped to lift their minds and hearts to God in personal worship. Still, watching the Mass on television hardly is adequate for those able to participate in a communal celebration, since people watching television do not thereby come together as a church or receive holy Communion. Therefore, although there can be exceptions, Catholics who cannot participate in a Sunday Mass generally should participate in a Sunday celebration authorized by the bishop if one is available.

Do the faithful have a legal obligation to do so? Strictly speaking, no. The relevant provision of the Church’s law is:

 If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the liturgy of the word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families. (CIC, c. 1248, §2)

It can arise that the number of priests is so few that a diocesan bishop may have recourse to Rome to have some Pastoral Administrators established in order to fulfill the Sunday obligations for the faithful. This naturally involves reading the Gospel during a communion service (outside of Mass). The Diocese of Whitehorse, Yukon has between 4-8 priests at any one time and has several Pastoral Administrators working in the diocese.

A second case in which a lay person may read the Gospel at Mass and in a church is when reading the Passion on Good Friday. I have seen this in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass.

Finally, abbesses are permitted to read the Gospel of the day at matins and vespers. In fact, prior to the Second Vatican Council some abbesses (Cistercian and Carthusian) had the privilege of wearing a stole for this occasion. Carthusian abbesses were permitted to wear the maniple also, but on the right arm and not the left like priests. I am unaware if this privilege still exists or not. We should not look into this privilege as some form of ordained deaconesses.

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At Matins, if no priest be present, a nun assumes the stole and reads the Gospel.

  • Very detailed and informative answer. +1
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 27 at 2:03

Christ came to fulfill the law not do away with it but that wasn't His main mission. He came to be "High Priest" for us. Nobody else can so why do you guys think that you are priests? They don't exist. He came to teach us how to love God and come into a relationship, a personal one. It almost seems as if His efforts were in vain. You guys didn't learn anything. It's not about sounding "holier art than thou". For the least will be made the most in God's sight. All your rules and procedures were made by you not Christ. You should fellowship and you should study together but not because you feel obliged but because you love. You guys hardly ever hold a true worship for the right reasons. All of this that you do should be a byproduct of your love for Christ Your ways, deeds, rules, regulations and other outlines are as dirty filth. There's no merit it any of it. You make your own rules. If the Jews don't believe that Christ is the Messiah and you guys say that you do then why do you all gather together and act as if you are Gods people? Yahweh is His name, how can you know Him and not say Fathers name? Yes His name can't be uttered by the unclean, the unclean ones that call themselves faithful and in love. You are caught in communion with the enemy, getting drunk with booze on Lent making up rules to not eat meat but compromise with drunkenness. You fellowship with the enemy therefore He will say, "I Never Knew You"!! Get it right and fill your hardened hearts with Agape Love!! This is God's command to you!!! All of what I say can be referred to in the Bible and the Tanakh.

  • 1
    Christ being high priest does not exclude others from being priests. You have to nuance what you mean by priest. Are you referring to the common priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9)? Or a ministerial priesthood?
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 27 at 2:34
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