Duty of State Vs Religious Obligations – Clash?

Duty of State Vs Religious Obligations – Clash?

From The Fatima Center…

Faithful Discharge of Our Duties of State. If we perform our duties of state with the proper intention, and of course in the state of grace, we can make fitting penance in reparation for sins. Rather than doing them in the spirit of rancour, if we accept our long days, difficulties in raising the children, difficulties in living our vows or promises, etc., we can make reparation. Like the first category, it is more meritorious to faithfully fulfil our state in life than to choose to fast – especially if in so doing, we are neglecting the responsibilities that God has placed in our lives. Note how this kind of penance is also intimately connected with the Message of Fatima. In a letter dated February 28, 1943 to the Spanish Bishop of Gurza, Sister Lucy wrote: “Being in the chapel with my superiors’ permission, at midnight, Our Lord told me: The penance that I request and require now is the sacrifice demanded of everybody by the accomplishment of his own duty and the observance of My law.”  End of Extract – Read entire article here

Editor writes…

I remember the opinion being expressed in my hearing some years ago, that someone who was caring for a very sick 80 something mother should, nevertheless, be attending more weekday Masses.  I expressed my surprise and asked if the person making the comment thought that it was more important to attend the weekday Masses than to stay at home in case the sick parent had an accident, fell (if, for example, she had mobility problems) or otherwise needed attention – a cup of tea, medicine, whatever.  To my astonishment, the answer came without hesitation:  “Well, yes, I think so.”   That person believed it was more important to attend Mass as often as possible, than to put a sick person first and so miss Mass, including, even, a close sick family member.  Your thoughts…

Comments (16)

  • westminsterfly Reply

    I think Our Lord said it all to Sr Lucia, as you wrote above “The penance that I request and require now is the sacrifice demanded of everybody by the accomplishment of his own duty and the observance of My law.” Why should someone think they know any better than that? I also remember some Saint or Blessed (and I can’t remember which one) saying words to the effect that if you had to miss some religious duty to attend to a sick person, then you were ‘leaving Christ to visit Christ’. If a person does something like neglect a sick dependent, because they want to go to Mass or go to a rosary group, then I would say that is not meritorious, but sinful.

    May 16, 2023 at 10:34 am
    • Josephine Reply


      I agree with everything you say here but I wonder if some people do use their “duty of state” to avoid some religious observances? I think the rule of thumb has to be if they are able to get out to other social occasions, then why not Mass or prayer groups?

      May 16, 2023 at 12:03 pm
    • Laura Reply

      I can’t imagine that someone would deliberately use a sick relative as an excuse to miss Mass but these days, who knows.

      May 16, 2023 at 10:11 pm
    • Fidelis Reply


      “Leaving Christ to visit Christ” – that is a lovely way to put it. That brings home the real charity of caring for a dependent or sick person.

      May 16, 2023 at 10:41 pm
  • westminsterfly Reply

    I think Our Lord was giving us general principles. Each case has to be taken on its own merits, and we can’t judge if someone did or didn’t have a genuine reason to not fulfil their religious duties. I suppose it comes down to the individual conscience, and if someone knows they could have fulfilled their religious duties and didn’t, even used someone else as an excuse, then that is a matter for them in confession. Also, if you are caring for someone else, situations can fluctuate (availability of other carers etc). But as a general point, I’d agree with you. If everything is alright with the dependent, and they are safe/cared for, if you can leave a dependent to go to the cinema, for example, then you can leave them to go to Mass.

    May 16, 2023 at 1:31 pm
    • Laura Reply


      I’m not so sure that it’s as simple as that. You might be able to get someone to sit with a dependent relative at a time that suits them for a social outing but not, say, on a dark winter’s night for you to get to Mass. I wouldn’t condemn someone if I saw them at a cinema on a weeknight that suited a “parent-sitter” but not at a Mass on another evening. There are different factors at play in these situations and as you say Our Lord was giving us general principles only not set rules to live by.

      I know people who have looked after sick parents for years and not taken any respite offered to them because they were so devoted to the parent. It’s a difficult balance to get right sometimes. The carers I know would go looking for a “sitter” to let them get to Mass before the cinema TBH. They all take their “duty of state” as carers very seriously indeed.

      May 16, 2023 at 10:17 pm
      • westminsterfly

        Yes, I see your point, I agree with you, perhaps I put it badly in my original comment. That’s why I said ‘situations fluctuate’. I wouldn’t judge anyone caring for someone even if it appeared they could manage to get to social events but not Mass, on occasions.

        May 17, 2023 at 9:29 am
    • Josephine Reply


      Reading through the comments since I first posted, I think I was a bit hasty in my judgment. As someone else said, it might be possible to go on a social outing due to being able to find a carer to stand in for them, but not get to Mass on another evening because it’s not possible to find a carer. There are different issues to consider, so I was maybe too quick off the mark there.

      May 16, 2023 at 10:31 pm
  • RCAVictor Reply

    I think, with Josephine, that there might be a caveat regarding “duties of state,” namely, if someone considers playing video games, texting their friends, going to the movies, attending or watching sports events, and in general, being a social butterfly or a couch potato as part of their duties of state, then that’s a problem that needs to be corrected by frequenting the Sacraments instead.

    Also, I think “faithfully” includes how we respond to trials and tribulations. If we resent them and complain about them, that’s not the spirit in which Our Lord desires us to respond to them. If we imitate Job, on the other hand, and say “Blessed be God” as we carry our load, then that merits us grace.

    May 16, 2023 at 2:22 pm
    • Fidelis Reply

      RCA Victor,

      I like your final paragraph, and I don’t think many of us do connect duty of state will acceptance of trials and tribulations. That’s an excellent observation. Complaining about the trials of our state in life is not going to win us grace; I hadn’t thought of that at all even though it seems obvious now.

      My sympathy goes to mothers (and fathers) of large families. They have a lot to put up with, and add to their daily trials and sacrifices the fact that “society” frowns upon their large families, they do not have their troubles to seek. Yet, the ones I know make time for family prayer (daily rosary, often) and never miss Mass, including sometimes weekdays or First Saturdays. These Catholics are shining examples of living according to our duty of state, yet often go unappreciated IMO.

      May 16, 2023 at 10:39 pm
      • Leitourgos


        During Lent I heard an old priest talking about the Way of the Cross. He said that we must realise that, as Christians, the Way of the Cross is really the form of our lives and that, as disciples of the Master, we cannot think to subtract ourselves from it. If we wish to follow him, the Via Dolorosa is inevitable.

        May 17, 2023 at 1:52 am
  • Nicky Reply

    I’m a bit fed up hearing mothers saying that they need some “me time” – it sounds so self-centred.

    Is this not an offence against our duty of state as parents? Are Christian parents not meant to be entirely self-giving?

    May 16, 2023 at 5:07 pm
    • editor Reply


      I agree that the whole “me time” thing sounds selfish but as long as the mother is doing her basic duty by caring/catering/educating her children, there’s nothing antithetical to the Faith in expressing a need for some rest time. We all need recreation to re-charge our batteries.

      As for “are Christian parents not meant to be entirely self-giving?” Well.. yes, but aren’t we all?

      May 16, 2023 at 5:46 pm
      • Nicky


        Touché. I take your point. It’s just something that grates with me, when I hear this “me time” – it’s easier to understand “I could use a rest” if you know what I mean!

        May 16, 2023 at 10:09 pm
      • Leitourgos

        ‘Me time’ is selfish in tone, with an added hint of victimisation. ‘Rest’ is something completely different, restorative, fundamentally good for body and soul.

        May 17, 2023 at 1:45 am
  • RCAVictor Reply

    For St. Alphonsus’ commentary on an important aspect of this topic:


    and scroll down to “Evening Meditation.”

    May 17, 2023 at 3:15 am

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