My parents are elderly. At what age/point do they no longer need to attend Mass and confession? (Too hard for them to get out.)
Might I approach this question from two very general directions, with the hope of covering all bases: first, from the direction of the place of receiving the sacraments in the lives of all people; second, from the direction of how the Church ministers to those who experience difficulties in participating in the life of the Church due to one/another type of disability.
Let me begin by saying that the words you are about the read may sound harsh, but that is not at all my intention. However, I must confess that this question comes at a time when I also found myself in a recent conversation where I learned that there are some people who believe that at a given point in their lives they can simply stop attending Mass as though they have done it long enough. When it comes to our participation in the Mass or in receiving the sacrament of penance, we must never assume that we can arrive at a point in life where we can say, “That’s it! I have completed my duty;” (in the way that people retire from a day job when they see fit). If it is the case that the one who asks the question believes that such a point can (and does) arrive, I must be very firm in stating that no such point exists so long as we are alive in the world.
Now, aware that there is a modifier to this question to the effect of the difficulty that some have in being able to get out of their homes, the second direction for answering this question comes into play. There are many who are unable to attend Mass or come to Church at all (even for confession or other times of prayer or activity) due to ill health, reduced mobility, etc. It is here that I want to be equally direct (in a positive way) and say that THE CHURCH WANTS TO REACH OUT TO THESE INDIVIDUALS BY BRINGING THEM HOLY COMMUNION. Every First Friday of the month we have the practice of bringing Holy Communion to those who are homebound, so that they can receive the benefits of Eucharistic Communion, even if only monthly. Likewise, on these occasions, priests readily can make available the sacrament of confession, and/or they can give anointing of the sick upon request. Furthermore, if you or one you love is in a circumstance of greater urgency to receive the sacraments, please do not hesitate to give a call to the parish office so that I, or perhaps one of the deacons, can reach out with communion. If confession and/or anointing is desired, the priest will be the one to make the visit. Finally, if you are unsure whether or not the particular circumstance of a loved one (or of you yourself) is too great a sacrifice and challenge to attend Mass, please be sure to ask the priest who can give clarification or direction.
If you are in the position of the person who submits the question (as a son or daughter of parents who are not as able to get out as in the past), might I simply
encourage you to let me know of the circumstances, that we can arrange to rightly minister to your loved ones who are no longer able to attend Mass. Once more, let me stress, WE WANT TO REACH OUT; WE DO NOT WANT ANYONE TO BE WITHOUT THE SACRAMENTS. Please let us know how we can be of assistance.
Fr. Joel Hastings