ASK FATHER: Watching Mass on a monitor in a crying-room fulfills obligation?

From a reader…


Our Parish is “inviting” parents with children to fulfill their Sunday obligation by not coming in to the main Church, but going to the adoration chapel next door where a TV is set up with a live feed of the Mass next door. I’m not sure whether the EMCs come over there or the folks go next door at communion time, but does this really count?! If so, doesn’t it mean that if I lived next door to EWTN I could watch their Mass . . . what is the effectual “range” of Mass over live broadcast?

This is obviously sub-optimal.

At the same time, the physical act of “coming to” Mass and participating is there. You are “morally” present, at least.  It seems to me that you fulfill the obligation.

Look.  When you can attend a Mass in St. Peter’s Square to fulfill your obligation while you in no way “see” the sanctuary except by looking at the large projection jumbotrons in the piazza or the street… well…

A friendly call to the diocesan worship office might not be a bad plan.  Ask them what they think!

It is hard to argue that “watch on a screen next door” this is “full, actual, and conscious participation in the liturgy” desired by the Council.  But it fulfills the obligation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Nicholas Shaler says:

    My Grandmother’s parish does this for people who came to Mass late. (The church is full after about five minutes.) The one or two times I was late there was an Extraordinary Minister.

  2. OrthodoxChick says:

    I’m glad to learn that it fulfills the obligation, but Satan and his minions would be having snowball fights in the deepest recesses of Hell before I’d ever contribute a penny to a parish that doesn’t even want me and my children to enter the Lord’s house. If there are so many children that it really does become distracting during Mass, then why not add an extra Mass to the schedule and “invite” families to attend it. Anyone who has a low tolerance for children would know not to attend that Mass. Solution to problem, without relegating families with children to the back of the bus.

    This treating parents and children like second class citizens crap really tee’s me off. A former N.O. parish that I attended was like this. The 4 p.m. Saturday vigil was the “seniors” Mass. You took your life in your hands bringing a kid to “their” Mass. Everyone’s all worked up about concealed carry permits in the other thread. Have you ever seen a grumpy senior with an attitude and a cane? A permit should be required for some of those folks too.

  3. APX says:

    Have you ever seen a grumpy senior with an attitude and a cane?

    Nevermind the cane! Have you ever had a grumpy senior hit you with one of those red Latin Mass books? Ouch!

    As much as I can’t stand noise at Mass, this does seem a little over the top.

  4. JonPatrick says:

    It’s funny because the few OF Masses I attend hardly ever have children, yet have cry rooms, yet the EF Masses are full of young families with children and sometimes they cry, yet no one seems to mind. Whenever I hear a child crying I think of a future young Catholic or perhaps even a vocation.

  5. Papabile says:


    The old manualists used to say the obligation to “hear Mass” implied that one was at least able to physically hear the intonations (if it were a missa cantata / high Mass) and the nobis quoque peccatoribus during the Canon (e.g. Callorini and Pestomanti).

    Interestingly, the requirement to “hear Mass was also fulfilled by those who were actually involved in televising a particular Mass (Decree 27 Oct 1961, M. Zalba, .J., “Boletin canonico-moral de 1961″Rason y fe, 165 (Apr. 1962) 403-16)

    Also, the obligation to hear Mass generally allowed one to hear two separate Masses, as long as they were physically present for the double consecration in one, and the offertory in another. (Decree of the Holy Office, 4 March 1679, (DB 1203))

    In light of this, and the new requirement to “assist at Mass”, I have a hard time understanding how the precept is fulfilled by standing in another room watching the television, while remaining physically separate from the Church proper.

    I am not saying you are wrong, Father. I would just like more confirmation from somewhere. This is an issue that disturbs me at my own parish. I insist my family not leave to the seperate room, but to stand in the narthex at the very least.

  6. pontiacprince says:

    I recall a Mass in Ireland when we ran out of consecrated hosts. The celebrant was a Bishop who advised that we get the ciboria from the sacristy as they would have been consecrated by him when he consecrated those available on the altar.To this day I find it hard to believe they were consecrated.
    At a funeral Mass on this side of the Atlantic it was obvious when the tabernacle was opened that there were not enough hosts for those lining up.The pastor (not a bishop this time) suggested that the ciboria in the sacristy be taken behind the altar and the words of consecration said over them.Instead hosts already consecrated were broken and used till none was left and people were told that we had simply run out of consecrated hosts.

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If “next door” is under the same roof, and soundproofing is not absolute, it would seem to be fine. Otherwise, it would seem iffy.

    If you want a separate Mass so bad that you’re shunting people outside the building and into a whole different one, it would seem that an additional Mass or another priest saying Mass simultaneously would be more appropriate. Unless there’s a darned good reason that’s not been mentioned, I don’t really see why anybody would want to do this, even if it’s canonically okay.

    Re: hearing Mass, this is one reason why it was okay to stand outside in the narthex or even outside in the fresh air; and generally the Church was generous about people going in and out between areas, or people needing to race around fetching things within a reasonable time. Standing outside smoking is probably not the optimal way to go to Mass, but it is canonically acceptable and our forefathers did it. (And in the days of open windows in summer and good speaking voices in good acoustics, probably it could be pretty prayerful and fairly well heard.)

  8. Gail F says:

    When my daughter, now 20, was an infant the parish we went to had a cry room next to the sanctuary, and you heard Mass on a loudspeaker! When you could hear it, that is. People let their children, many of them toddlers, run wild in there so we stopped going and sat in the back of church instead. Then we moved and the parish we’ve attended ever since does not have a cry room. But it seems to me that I was sure “at” Mass all those years ago, although I would never recommend it to anyone.

  9. priests wife says:

    …I bet 1,000 ducats that the next question will be about veils, pants or coffee & the Eucharistic fast ;)

    If I were in the above situation, I would refuse to have my children in the cry building. If my child cries, off to the narthex we go (my baby is 4 1/2, so this is no longer a concern). For some readers, they might prayerfully consider a change in parishes.

  10. LRC says:

    In last weeks bulletin at my wonderful Church, Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg, had a great piece about why children should be at mass. They called it “Celebrating Children at Mass.” No cry room, just the Church. I love hearing children at mass, they are new Catholics, learning to love Jesus as much as I do. What I really enjoy is when a kid realizes their voice echos. as long as the parents take them out during a really bad melt down, get them settled, then come back as soon as possible.

  11. frjim4321 says:

    Hmmm, I appreciate this post because it causes me to rethink a plan here. An eagle scout for his project want to put a webcam in the church and broadcast liturgy so that the shut-in people would be able to see mass. This could result in people thinking they can just stay home. Might be back to the drawing board for this scout.

  12. Ben Kenobi says:

    Personally, this greatly bothers me. I used to belong to a large Mennonite church that did the same thing. The temptation is there to extend the reach of the pastor this way, as it is easier and cheaper rather than having to settle for the ‘less good pastor’, or training others to the job.

    The other problem is this – if the medium is valid, then what’s to stop folks from arguing that sitting in front of mass through EWTN constitutes fulfillment of their duty? How does such a mass meet the “we ought not to give up the habit of meeting one another”. When we meet we shouldn’t be sitting in front of a computer screen the whole time. We should be face to face with one another. I’m noticing this more and more that it is really difficult to get that ‘alone time’, with anyone, getting them to put their phone away.

  13. OrthodoxChick says:


    I don’t think we’re talking about mass for shut-ins in this case. Here, we’re talking about young, able-bodied, active parishoners who, rather than being encouraged to join the rest of their parishoners in the church at Mass, are being relegated to a separate building for no good reason. The OP didn’t say that the Church building can’t contain the amount of people who attend Mass so another building is required for overflow. In this case, it seems that some parishoners just don’t want the kids in the Mass with them.

    That sounds rather different from a shut-in situation. IMHO, if you have a significant amount of shut-ins and an eagle scout who wants to further the parish ministry for them, then all you might want to do is to have the eagle scout video tape you giving a brief intro that he must air before the televised Mass. And in your intro statement, you could welcome viewers to the televised Mass and clearly explain the Church’s teaching regarding our obligation to attend Mass; that viewing Mass at home does not permit someone to receive the Eucharist and that’s another reason why attendance at Mass is so important. You might also explain that for those who are honestly too infirmed to attend Mass, that your televised Mass is being provided for them, but that they or their caretaker should contact the parish office to make arrangements for someone to visit their home to bring them Holy Communion. Additionally, if they are in need of Confession, they can make an appointment with you for a home visit to receive that Sacrament as well. You might also suggest to your eagle scout that he end his televised Mass by uploading a spiritual Communion prayer because a lot of folks who watch the Mass at home are not even aware that they can and should be making a spiritual Communion when they are unable to physically receive the Eucharist.

    Not trying to tell you what to do. Just sharing some ideas off the top of my head because it sounds like your eagle scout has his heart in the right place and a good idea that just might need a little tweaking.

  14. Agree with Ben Kenobi about the dividing line between being present at Mass and technology. What is the criteria really? While it is a shame to consider that those on a piazza who just can’t get into a crowded church aren’t satisfying the obligation, there is something to hearing the natural voice of the priest and being in the same room attending Mass.

    I wonder what the Church taught on this before the existence of loudspeakers? Over the years there has been discussion that one gets grace through the ears when hearing the natural voice of the ordained, which may not occur through electronics. Wondering if that little rule about face-to-face real-time confession as a requirement for validity relates to physical presence at Mass too.

    Around here, one parish gets such crowds at Christmas and Easter that the overflow crowd watches the on-going Mass on screens in the Church basement. Other parishes here do similar things. I do wonder…how is this different from a televised Mass that doesn’t satisfy the obligation?

    The confusion of the faithful continues, compounded by the confusion of the clergy.

  15. slainewe says:

    Full-blown child rooms (as opposed to mere crying rooms) are sad because it indicates a surrender to bad parenting. But it is the times we live in. Modern parents have no shame that their children publicly defy them. They have no understanding that allowing their children to disobey them is child abuse. It is more this abuse, than the child’s actual actions, that bothers those seniors who dutifully raised obedient children. They feel the shame of the parents, even if the parents cannot. They are intolerant because bad parenting is intolerable. Child rooms seem the only solution until good parenting returns.

    However, child rooms should be monitored so they do not become social halls. I see this problem even in narthexes. (I do not see how the Mass obligation is fulfilled if one is deliberately distracted.)
    Another problem is that child rooms encourage more bad parenting, in that it is easier for a mother to automatically camp out there than even try to discipline her children.

  16. Siculum says:

    “It’s funny because the few OF Masses I attend hardly ever have children, yet have cry rooms, yet the EF Masses are full of young families with children and sometimes they cry, yet no one seems to mind. Whenever I hear a child crying I think of a future young Catholic or perhaps even a vocation.”

    Great quote.

    We ought to remember Jesus’s (yes, Jesus, remember Him? The guy in charge… the guy truly present in the Blessed Sacrament at this get-together called Holy Mass… the Son of God… Second Person of the Trinity…) tag line: “Let the children come to me…”

    Or, if you prefer, a more descriptive version:

    And they brought to him young children, that he might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. Whom when Jesus saw, he was much displeased, and saith to them: Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it. — Mt. 10: 13-15

    Incredible how things have turned around since Jesus’s time. Now in many cases we actually punish/segregate the precious few families who aren’t contracepting themselves to all heck. Or, in this woman’s case, it seems like they are at least being benignly and firmly pushed to the crying room, or what may even be a separate facility. Either way, the crying room shouldn’t be “pushed” for any parent; rather, if they exist at all, they should serve only as an entirely optional choice for parents who feel they need them.

    I know a few (keyword: few) large families with very young children who attend both EF and OF Masses and those kids are pretty much in line. All it takes is one look from Daddy and they are sitting there still and attentive, even if they don’t understand it all yet. This is truly achievable, believe it or not; I have seen it in action. The families successfully use the crying rooms and vestibules only for the unintended and temporary relief of their infant(s) who just have had either too much of Fr. Example’s wisdom or not enough milk from Mom. Then, when flare-up is over, they return to pew depending on where things are at in the Mass.

    Frankly, I wish I lived next door to EWTN and Father Z. Just saying. Although… Father Z might not feel the same way….

  17. slainewe says:

    “All it takes is one look from Daddy and they are sitting there still and attentive, even if they don’t understand it all yet. This is truly achievable, believe it or not; I have seen it in action. The families successfully use the crying rooms and vestibules only for the unintended and temporary relief of their infant(s)…”

    This was not just considered “achieveable” 40 years ago; it was the expected norm. A parent was horrified to have their child defy them in the Presence of God. Now it is normal to see children openly ignore a parent’s warning, and the parent back down. What really floors me is to hear these same parents complain about the laxity of priests and bishops.

  18. monmir says:

    Children belong to church, parents do your part, others be patient as the new wave of catholics are being instructed.
    One Mass, one people together in the house of the Lord.

  19. OrthodoxChick says:


    I guess I’ve largely been spared the kind of parenting spectacles that you’re describing in this thread and that Jeanette was describing in the other thread. I’m an admitted parish hopper because just about every N.O. in my area has 70’s/80’s leftover nonsense present in one form or another. I have access to one EF that I dearly love but still have a tough time getting to with any regularity due to a number of factors at present, distance being the main one. None of the parishes in the area have a cry room. But even in the N.O. parishes, most parents take their child out if they can’t get a louder-than-acceptable outburst under control quickly. Now that my kids are a little older and do not act out in ways typical of young toddlers, I’m working on fine-tuning their behavior in the pew. That means tamping down on fidgeting and reminding them (via the mom “look”) they should be listening and praying when I see the far-off daydream stare in their glazed-over eyes. So now I’m getting flak in the other direction from parishoners in one parish because they think I’m “too hard” on my poor kids; I expect model behavior rather than “letting them just be kids”. It’s just frustrating sometimes as a parent because there are some fellow parishoners who just don’t know how to mind their business and keep their pie-hole shut at all times, except when receiving communion. I don’t point out to them that they blow their nose loud enough to break the sound barrier during Mass, so why do they feel the need to broadcast their opinions about my parenting?

    All I know is that if the parenting police at one of these parishes began herding us parents into a chapel next door, I would suddenly have a very real problem keeping my big, fat, Italian mouth shut. I’d have absolutely no problem at all keeping my pocketbook closed, however.

  20. jkm210 says:

    Hi LRC – See if you can get that article sent to the Catholic Accent. That message could stand to be heard in at least one other church in that diocese, but probably more!

  21. dr.avila says:

    In defense of the pastor of this parish (my parish), he has done everything he can to get parents to take their children out when they are making too much noise so that the reverence for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be maintained. (And, in my humble opinion, maintain a show of respect for the anointed man of God.)

    Our parish has an abundance of families, large and small, but I would venture to say it leans toward large families. Our pastor has a gentle reminder read before every Mass, asking parents to attend to noisy children by taking them out until they settle down and are ready to come back. He gets lots of flak for this. Many families are very quick to take their noisy children out; but there are a good number who never, ever take them out. There have been times when father has had to stop in the middle of the canon to wait for the parent to take out a screaming child. Sometimes father lowers his voice to a whisper (OF Mass) so as not to compete with all the noise from the children. Still, the parents are oblivious in their “personal holy hour” and never take their children out. And, apparently this is not true elsewhere, but I stopped going to the EF Mass on Sunday because the noise level was so loud and continuous. It’s the loudest Mass on Sunday and parents never take the kids out. I love the EF Mass and go during the week when we have it, but I could not take the noise on Sunday.

    The issue is not about whether or not you are pro-life. It’s not about a person’s personal holy hour. It’s not about “let the children come unto me”. It’s not about letting children learn about echoes. The issue is about proper behavior at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the respect due to the anointed man of God whom we are so blessed to have so that we can go to Mass every day. The issue is about training up your child the way he should go and the training should be done before, not during, Mass. Mass is not the training ground.

    Having said all that, I agree that this relegation to the adoration chapel is not the answer. But for those families that refuse to adhere to father’s repeated requests, is there ANY answer?

    (And if it matters at all, I’m a mother of 5 grown children. All of them attend Mass as often as possible during the week. I spent many a Sunday in the vestibule; one child had to be taken out every Sunday for 3 years until she could learn to use her “inside” voice while in church. So, I know of what I speak – been there, done that.)

  22. SKAY says:

    I agree with you about the sick and elderly who for many reasons cannot physically attend Mass. The televised Mass means a lot to them. Your added suggestions are great I would also like to comment about one other problem.
    Please remember those who for various reasons can no longer drive. I know of one particular case where a lifelong Catholic started attending a Protestant church because they were happy to come pick her up every Sunday. She did call around to various Catholic Churches and no one volunteered to do that small act of charity.


  23. OrthodoxChick says:


    Very good point about parishoners being willing to give a fellow parishoner a ride!

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