Can I stop going to Mass?

Q. One month from now, I will turn 90 years old. What determines when it is best for a person not to attend Sunday Mass?

I have macular degeneration and cannot follow the scriptural passages in the missal or follow the words to the hymns. My legs are very weak from vascular problems, and I have fallen several times.

Our church is consistently cold for me, even when I wear a jacket. (Last Sunday, it was 55 degrees outside, and the air conditioning was on.)

I still love going to Mass, and my wife can still do the driving, but for future reference, I would appreciate the church's thinking. (Columbus, Ohio)

A. The church's Code of Canon Law recognizes that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass can be lifted for "grave cause" (Canon 1248.2). Illness (or the need to care for the sick) have traditionally been seen as qualifying reasons -- particularly when combined with the frailty of advanced age.

If anything, we tend to be too scrupulous in this regard. Regularly, I see people with communicable illnesses jeopardize themselves and others by following what they perceive to be their obligation to be in church on Sunday -- and similarly for the elderly in hazardous weather.

In your own situation, I don't think the macular degeneration excuses you -- since you can listen, with profit, to the scriptural readings and the hymns. But the vascular issue is a different story -- that could lead, and apparently has led, to dangerous falls.

So be generous to yourself in your judgment: You might be better off staying at home and praying right where you are -- perhaps watching the Mass on television, although you would not be obliged to do that.

There is, though, no substitute for the spiritual strength which comes from holy Communion; so why not ask your pastor to designate an extraordinary minister of holy Communion (perhaps your wife) to bring Communion to you at home?

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017