Mass outdoors

Here are two shots of Holy Mass sent from a friend at Wyoming Catholic College.  Students go into the mountains.  With this group is an FSSP priest.

Holy Mass on a mountain.

Greater decorum than in many places I have been.


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  1. gloriainexcelsis says:

    And from what I’ve read, Wyoming Catholic College, is indeed, a truly Catholic college.

  2. Rose in NE says:

    That priest is the assistant pastor at my parish–a former Marine and a truly humble and holy priest. These young people were lucky to have him on their wilderness expedition.

  3. Sissy says:

    “And from what I’ve read, Wyoming Catholic College, is indeed, a truly Catholic college.”

    We visited there last September and attended Mass. The priest gave a barn-burner of a homily about the HHS mandate coming down the pike. It was the first time I had heard anything about it. I wish there had been a college like that around when I was a young woman!

  4. Fr.WTC says:

    A very moving picture, but as far as I’m aware, the Mass should never be celebrated with out cover and protection of the “altar” on the sides and back. About five years ago I was asked by a group of scouts to say Mass for them out in the woods. I called the chancellery to see if I needed permission. I was informed that I did. I had to ask for permission in writing (in the territory of the diocese) to say Mass in a non-sacred place, and also for Mass in the open. The written permission instructed me to make sure that the altar had proper cover, and protection on the sides and back to insure protection from the elements for the Blessed Sacrament.

  5. frjim4321 says:

    I have not had an outdoors mass in a very long time, basically because I think we have churches for a reason, and “everything in its proper place.”

    The exception would be when a church is not available, such as is the case in these pictures, or on the battlefield.

    That being said, the novelty of a situation can be helpful in some ways. I remember as a young scout being moved by home masses and outside masses in powerful ways.

  6. acardnal says:

    When one goes hiking or camping in the wilderness it is not usually possible to attend Mass and a dispensation should be sought ahead of time from one’s pastor. In this case, a priest accompanied the hikers and the mountains of God make for a beautiful cathedral! I remember reading and seeing photographs of the late Blessed JPII celebrating the TLM/EF Mass in the same way as a priest in Poland.

  7. AA Cunningham says:

    Greater decorum than in many places I have been.

    Greater reverence amongst the congregation too.

  8. laud1645 says:

    @Fr WTC

    wise instructions from the chancellery. The thought of a gust of wind (especially on a mountain-top) blowing the blessed sacrament away is horrifick.

  9. mamajen says:

    I think outdoor mass is a fabulous idea, but I, too, was under the impression that it was not supposed to be done. In particular I remember reading that those outdoor “sunrise” masses for Easter and outdoor weddings are forbidden. Then again, I have seen the Pope do masses outside, and there are pictures of outdoor masses during war. Is it a matter of necessity? I’m a little confused.

  10. Tim Ferguson says:

    Unless there is particular law in a diocese which is more restrictive than the universal law, outdoor Masses are not strictly proscribed. Canon 932 (of the Latin Code) states that ”
    The Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in a sacred place unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise; in such a case the celebration must be done in a decent place.”

    The determination of “necessity” is left to the discretion of the priest celebrant, but it should be a true necessity (only legalists play silly games like defining the parish festival as a “necessity” requiring Holy Mass to be offered in a tent in the parking lot when the church sits a few feet away). Mass outdoors on a pilgrimmage, a camping trip – that would seem a perfectly acceptable “necessity” in my book.

  11. basis says:

    Ahhh. They are up in the Cirque of the Towers in the Southern Wind River Range most likely . If I am not mistaken that is Pingora rising above Father. Its a classic climb along with just about everything else in the Cirque. I do miss Wyoming.

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Not a canon lawyer, but my understanding is that nuptial Masses and other services of the Sacrament of Matrimony are supposed to be done at a church for the protection of the canonical rights of the bride and groom, by making it public. There are some exceptions (like on the church porch or the rectory parlor), but doing it outdoors for any reason but super-duper necessity smacks of the clandestine.

    Easter is a great feast of the Church, and ought to be done indoors at the parish. Generally, Sunday Mass and daily Mass should be done indoors at a parish, because that’s why parishes have churches instead of fields. Again, there’s sometimes necessity (huge crowds, being away from home on an exploration journey, battlefield), but that’s different.

    Here we have a case of necessity: they’re on a camping trip up in the mountains. Probably all the permissions have been tended to ahead of time, and unless you know for sure that they haven’t, there’s no reason to worry about it. This sort of thing is where altarstones come in useful.

  13. Giuseppe says:

    I always loved outdoor masses, but I always felt guilty for enjoying it, since I assumed someone was violating some rule written somewhere. Then I realized that the Pope celebrates lots of outdoor masses. So they cannot be all that bad.

  14. LisaP. says:

    My understanding of the college is that they consider strong outdoor activity skills to be an integral part of the experience of students — kind of, you don’t go there if you don’t want to ride a horse sort of thing. So I’m guessing this isn’t a bunch of folks who walked down a short trail on Sunday morning, my assumption would be this is a mult-day back country trip. It’s the end of the season in the mountains, last chance for a long trip before the snow comes. So if that were the case, then the travelers would be looking at 1. planning their trip for mid-week, 2. going without Mass, or 3. celebrating Mass outdoors with the priest who was with them. Surely historically pilgrims, those in hiding in nonCatholic countries, refugees, etc. celebrated in much the same way, but a little less voluntarily. . . .

    Basis, from your experience, does it look like they are pretty far in? At least a full day, if not more?

  15. Matt R says:

    Such a beautiful sight.
    Mass outdoors is a beautiful privilege…also, I love finding rocks that serve quite well as altars for the EF or the OF ad orientem. It’s so perfect.
    Also, for any backpackers: the folding padded seats (Crazy Creek makes one that’s pretty popular) serve as awesome knee cushions. A foam sleeping pad would work also, but I prefer to keep my sleeping gear clean…

  16. basis says:

    Yes, they are far in. If they hiked in from Big Sandy Trailhead we are talking over 8 miles. Now that’s six relatively ‘easy’ miles to Big Sandy Lake and then 3 miles up very steep terrain to get over the lip into the Cirque. There are other routes in ,but I remember them being long as well. If this mileage seems low to you, trust me its a long day into the Cirque even if you don’t carry climbing gear. Most people stay back there a while to make it worth the pain of hiking in. This is ‘at elevation’ as we say which makes it harder. I live in Western New York currently. There’s a peak somewhere in the state thats ~5000 ft; I haven’t even managed to remember its name. In Wyoming the parking lot is at 8500 in the Western Bighorns and you camp at 11,000 maybe. They are on a calorie eating trip assuredly.

  17. EXCHIEF says:

    A requirement for first year students at WCC is a wilderness leadership experience multi days in length with treks way into the Wind River Range. Good liturgy (which one might expect from a FSSP Priest) is an integral component of each day in the woods….morning, noon and evening. If I am not mistaken Vespers are said as well. This has been part of the WCC curriculum since the college’s first year and given that the local Ordinary is on the college’s Board of Directors I’m sure any needed permission was obtained just as I am certain that all needed precautions to protect the Blessed Sacrament were taken as well.

    Having visited WCC and met with its President I can only second the previously expressed wish that it had been around in my college days. The “Catholic” University I attended was then but certainly isn’t now. WCC like a handful of other truely Catholic colleges is a gem amongst lumps of coal.

  18. Andreas says:

    Friends; Here in Austria (the land of mountains), such ‘Bergmesse’ are often held during the Summer and especially early Fall months when wandering on mountain paths can be most beautiful. I have had the opportunity to attend Mass up on one of our nearby Alpine peaks and can tell you that it is as much of a transcendent experience as one can experience in any one of the many beautiful churches in the valleys below. Indeed, there was a quiet reverence that day on the high altitude plateau (Alm) where the words of the liturgy, the beautiful music provided by members of the Musikkapelle and the silence of those gathered were only broken by the faint sounds of cowbells from the nearby grazing herd, the squawk of a circling falcon and the wisps of wind that coursed their way between the peaks. As I noted in my BLOG of one such experience (, “…exhausted from our long trek up the mountain, we sat together on that rolling green mountain meadow, listening to the liturgy or Our Lord in a place just a tiny bit closer to Heaven itself.”

  19. Suburbanbanshee says:

    We can see from this thread that bad experiences with liturgical abuses make people shy off from legitimate (and ancient) use. I find that very sad. Being prudent is one thing; locking ourselves into a jail cell is another.

  20. Cantor says:

    Many years ago the issue came up in our Catholic Connittee on Scouting and referred to the chancery for clarification. A quick note came back from the bishop saying something like:

    My cathedral was built by Bubba’s Construction Company and ritualistically annointed. Your chapel was created by God. You win. Permission granted.

  21. majuscule says:

    Thanks for the memory–of camping in Sequoia National Park in the late ’50s. We attended Mass where the altar was a granite slab. The priest asked if any young men had experience as a server and my brother volunteered.

  22. irishgirl says:

    Wow, that’s some awesome setting!
    ‘Your chapel was created by God. Permission granted’-Cantor.
    That’s perfect!

  23. Matt R says:

    @Cantor, that is perfect. That’s why I loved Mass out at Philmont, which truly is God’s Country.
    (But pretty much anywhere in the mountains works too!)

  24. Bea says:

    Rose in NE:
    Is that Fr. T.P.G.? I think I know him. His face is a little blurry in the picture.

    It’s a Beautiful setting.
    My cathedral was built by Bubba’s Construction Company and ritualistically annointed. Your chapel was created by God. You win. Permission granted.
    Beautiful quote from that Bishop.
    I see camping tents at the front of the altar, so it must be described as a “necessity” since it appears they are “far in” and far from a church building. Knowing FSSP priests I don’t believe they would do anything contrary to Church Laws.

  25. Speravi says:

    It looks like him to me too. May God reward his generosity.

  26. Helena says:

    OK, Just to straighten out the judgements of the “legalists” who have commented, the incoming freshman class are required to arrive almost 4 weeks before classes actually start because their first lesson is on outdoor leadership and experiencing God’s “first book”.

    A day after they arrive in Lander, they have a couple of days learning Wilderness First Aid, then get packed up for a 21 day backpacking journey in the mountains of the Wind River Range. I know this first hand because my daughter is in this year’s freshman class. Oh and yes they have to bring along a priest so they don’t miss Sunday mass (and a great perk to also get a few daily ones as well). They are so far in the wilderness that they have a team of horses and mules come out in the middle of their 21 days for re-rationing.

    So, are we clear now? And if it is so wrong to celebrate mass outdoors, Pope JP II would not have done it with his group of young students.
    God Bless.

  27. Rose in NE says:


    Yes, that is him.

    From what I understand this is not just a ‘walk in the park’. It’s a three-week/100 mile stint in the wilderness. And knowing Father, I’m sure he would never do anything without the proper permission.

  28. Sacristymaiden says:

    I’m a student at this wonderful college and I am proud to say that I belong to such an intensely and intrinsically Catholic school!
    I also feel that it is pretty safe to say that yes, this group is decently far in, judging from the terrain and the mountains, as seen by someone who has done the same kind of trip.
    basis and Rose in NE: You are very correct in your understanding about the elevation and the trip not being ‘a walk in the park’. It is pretty challenging, but at the same time, we “never leave a man behind!”
    It is also a really lovely thing that each group gets their own personal priest. As I can remember, the priest on my 21-day hike never had any issues with accidents. If it was really windy, we would just have mass at a different time; but as I can recall, we managed to have a mass every single day.

  29. Mike Morrow says:

    The outdoor Mass was not really a novelty in the US before the newchurch was established in the mid-1960s. I have fond memory of such a Mass said in 1962 at Buffalo River State Park in Arkansas.

    My family was camping there, nearby a school bus load of Boy Scouts from a Catholic parish troop in Texas. A priest was one of the adult leaders. He conducted an outdoor Mass every Sunday morning in whatever campsite the troop found itself. Other campers at a campsite who may have been Catholic were invited to attend. It is a great memory from a half century ago.

    In my Boy Scout days a couple of years later, I was a Catholic member of a Methodist church troop (there was no Catholic troop). There was always an outdoor non-denominational Protestant service on Sunday at all camp outs. I regret that we never had a priest come to camp to celebrate an outdoor Mass at the scout camp outs that I attended. However, the BSA camp leadership never failed to provide transportation for the less than two percent of Arkansas scouts who were Catholic to the nearest Catholic church for Sunday Mass, even though that sometimes involved a lengthy car trip. The BSA was outstanding!

    These Wyoming students were very fortunate. The priest’s efforts here will still be remembered well by the attendees many decades from now.

  30. AnnM says:

    It reminds me of a lovely story told me by an elderly relative. As a student in the 1930s, she was a keen climber. One Feast of the Assumption, she was climbing with friends in the Alps and had reached a summit. They were worried, though, that they wouldn’t be able to get back down to the valley in time for Mass. Suddenly, a head appeared above the parapet. It was a priest, who had climbed the steep rock face, carrying his Mass kit in his rucksack. He announced that he would say Mass on the summit and asked if the students wanted to join him, which they did, of course. Remembering it still brings tears to her eyes – and to mine: the majesty of the mountains, the beauties of nature, the sound of their Marian hymns re-echoing around the peaks. She said it was one of the most beautiful religious experiences of her life. And that was in the 1930s, when they knew a thing or two about reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.

  31. Eoin Suibhne says:

    The WCC website was updated this evening with a story on the College’s first faculty/staff wilderness expedition. You can access the story here:

    It’s not just the students who read God’s First Book. Be sure to check out the beautfiul photos!

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