Mass at the Beach

(Photo Credit: CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters - 2013 World Youth Day Closing Mass)

(Photo Credit: CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters – 2013 World Youth Day Closing Mass)

Now is the prime season for individuals and families to pack their bags and head out for a vacation, flying or driving to a place that is apart from the D.C. metropolitan area. For many, the preferred getaway is found on the beaches lining the eastern shore of the United States, but for others, the destination might be national parks in another state, perhaps camping in the mountains or forests, near lakes or rivers, or even traveling to another country.

One thing that we should always take along with us on our trip is God and our faith. For Catholics, this includes a determination to go to Sunday Mass. Vacation should not mean a vacation from the Lord. To the contrary, it is in the Lord himself that we find real rest and relaxation from the burdens of modern life.

If we are at a beach or tourist spot in the United States or even in a foreign country, there is no reason why we should not make every effort to “keep holy the Lord’s Day,” as the Third Commandment tells us. One of the marvels of the information age is that we can find church locations and Mass times online by going to a website like or simply by googling the name of your location and the words “Catholic Church.”

Taking a vacation or just time for rest is essential, especially for “workaholic Washington,” where the worldly demands of government, business, law and other occupational duties can seem to require 24-7 vigilance. We know from the book of Genesis that God rested on the seventh day.

Like many of you, I like to take some time in the summer to get away and visit family and friends, to catch up on reading and some writing, and to rest and recharge my batteries physically and spiritually. But wherever we go and whatever we do on our vacations, it is essential that we rest with God and in God. It is crucial to find time for prayer and especially the Mass, where we encounter the Lord in scripture and receive him in the Eucharist, and then we are called to go out and reflect his love and truth in our everyday lives.

Of course, a blog post on Mass “at the beach” would be remiss without mentioning Pope Francis’ celebration of the Eucharist for World Youth Day 2013, which was held literally on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. An estimated three million people crowded at Copacabana Beach for that liturgy, with hundreds of thousands of young people having camped out there overnight, praying and singing and dancing in anticipation of Mass with the Holy Father.

Thankfully, our going to Mass while on vacation does not require camping out beside the ocean or enduring such large crowds. But the witness of faith of those World Youth Day pilgrims reminds us of how central the holy sacrifice of the Mass is to our lives as members of the Catholic Church, the body of Christ and his living presence in today’s world.

At that World Youth Day Mass, Pope Francis offered words that we should take to heart while resolving to attend Mass wherever our travels take us. “Three ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives more joy,” he said, “As you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel.”

Attending Mass during our vacation, and living out our faith even when sitting on the beach or poolside, gives us a chance to remember who we are and whose we are. It is a time to offer thanks to God for all of our blessings, and to resolve to share the gift of our faith with our family, friends and co-workers when we return home.

Of course, when you go on vacation, please remember to continue supporting your parish back home with your weekly offertory gift. Your support helps continue our parishes’ ministries and educational and charitable outreach in the community, which never goes on vacation.