From a reader…
Our parish priest has agreed to say mass in our home living room. How should we set up furniture wise to accommodate this? Thank you.
If your manor house has a chapel, as in Brideshead Revisited, it is appropriate to have the Mass there, especially if the chapel has been duly blessed in accord with can. 1229. Even with a blessed private chapel, permission of the local ordinary is required for a licit celebration of Holy Mass in a private chapel (can. 1228).
If you have a family chaplain, as one does, local ordinary’s permission need not be obtained for the parish priest to offer Mass, though protocol would probably call for him to be at least informed.
If there is no chapel, consider having one constructed. Mass ought to be celebrated in a place specifically built for such an august occasion. Furthermore, we may be needing them when the real persecutions come and civil authorities and other sue the Church out of all her holdings simply for remaining true to the Faith. Consider priest holes as well.
The current Code of Canon Law requires that Mass be celebrated in a sacred space, “unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise,” (can. 932). If there is a necessity for Mass to be offered in a home without a chapel (say, for example, Catholicism has been outlawed in one’s home territory and the churches are being closely watched by agents of the state in order to catch and prosecute priests) an appropriate table may be used, but there must always be an altar cloth and corporal on it. The Code does give to the priest the ability to determine whether this is a case of “necessity”. “Necessity” need not be as dire as the situation outlined above, but there should be a good reason for celebrating Mass outside of a sacred space that has been constructed and blessed for just such a purpose.
As to the specifics of how to set up a room that has not been built as a chapel, the principles applied to chapels would be used. Insofar as possible, a table set up, facing east, covered with a cloth and with the requisite number of candles, a crucifix, … of course altar cards. The priest needs space to stand and genuflect and turn about. Sufficient space for the participants to stand and kneel as required.
The former law forbidding Mass in a bedroom is no longer in force. However, that is still something to be avoided if possible. There may be occasions when it must be so, for example, when Mass is being offered for Granpa, who is on his deathbed and unable to come to church, or a priest is on a trip in a place where churches are sparse.
Perhaps at the home Mass a collection could be taken up for the construction of a home chapel (and priest hole, as necessary) in the future.