ASK FATHER: Masses in living rooms

From a reader…


I have observed several Priests of my acquaintance celebrating Mass in various private residences for different occasions, the latest of which was Mother’s Day (the strangest being Christmas Midnight Mass). Most if not all of these private Masses have taken place in non-consecrated space, i.e. in normal living rooms. Are Priests allowed to do this for their families and friends, particularly when there is a church available (though perhaps not with the same measure of “privacy”)?

Canon 932 stipulates that Holy Mass should be offered 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 universal law leaves it up to the priest who will offer the Mass to determine if this is a case of necessity and also to determine what may be a “decent place.” The strong preference of the Church is for sacred actions to take place in sacred places.

Having Mass in Mom’s parlor when there’s a perfectly good church down the street would generally be contrary to the mind of the church. On the other hand, there may be a number of good reasons for saying Mass in Mom’s parlor, including Mom’s inability to get around very well, a nearby pastor who is adamantly opposed to a visiting priest saying Mass in his church (yes, such … creatures exist), a priest on an overdue vacation at home, not wanting to draw the attention which he knows saying Mass at the church down the street would occasion.   There are all sorts of reasons.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I have heard it said that part of the Sacred Heart enthronement involves Mass in the home. I’ve also heard that saying Mass in a place is a great way to rid a place of a diabolical presence. Are either of these true?

  2. MattH says:

    In the book published by Cardinal Burke “The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart,” the “Ceremony for the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the Home” does not say anything about Mass, but the ceremony for parishes and Catholic schools offers an option for it to occur during Holy Mass. I don’t know if other versions of the enthronement exist, although I imagine they do, but the version I have seen does not appear to contemplate Mass in the home.

  3. KateD says:

    God bless priests who say Masses in living rooms. They will be ready for the time when living rooms are the only place where a Mass can be said.

  4. Wiktor says:

    That reminds me of “garage Masses” by SSPX…

  5. SanSan says:

    This was common place back in the ’70s when things started to turn upside down.,

  6. Iconophilios says:

    dixit, I have heard that saying Masses inside infested houses is a good means of driving out the demons.

  7. Random Friar says:

    Masses in Saudi Arabia often have to be done very, very discreetly in private homes/apartments. Even then, it is not unheard of that Saudi police come in and “break it up.”

  8. Cody says:

    This is really just a simple matter of prudence. If your house is right next to the church, you should be able to go except in extreme cases. To me, the bigger problem is “Mass on the Grass” type things where Mass is held in a field next to the church rather than inside the church itself. But again, this is not the same thing as my college parish that would have “overflow masses” if the church was too full (yes, this was a real “problem!” – On football and parents weekend, you could not fit enough people in during the 11 am mass and sometimes the 9 am mass, so, if needed, the associate pastor would have mass in the parish hall)

  9. JonM says:

    Fr. Fischer’s ‘Our Christian Home’ suggests that on the day of the Sacred Heart enthronement ceremony, family members should attend Mass and receive Holy Communion.

    I am away of (some) taking this to mean that it is appropriate to have the Mass of the day in the home. In my view, this is misguided and not in line with the sense of the Church. The parish is the proper place for this.

    The spirit of the Church would be to participate in her public liturgy- and the devotion is a good reflection of that love. Indeed, the Mass is not an ornament, however, to a personal devotion!

  10. Heather F says:

    The oddest place I have had mass was on a moving tour bus during a choir tour in university in the early 2000s. One of the members of the choir was a Basilian priest, and since the only stretch of time available in the itinerary on the Sunday of the 10 day tour was when we were actually on the road, he had a little portable kit of some kind with which he offered “Mass In Motion” for anyone interested, taking over the rear half of one of the two buses. The choir director and a fair number of the other members were practicing Catholics, and there were some of the non-Catholic Christians for whom this was the only church service they were going to be able to get to that weekend, so it was surprisingly popular for something taking place in the context of a bunch of undergrads in a secular university choir going on spring tour.

  11. Gratias says:

    I have had good experiences with living room masses. 15 years ago our previous pastor almost finished off our local parish. Many of us were attending elsewhere. The new Father organized a few living room masses, everyone that was invited came. Eventually most returned to the parish. It worked.

  12. Spade says:

    A decent place has, at times, included the hood of a jeep.

  13. GypsyMom says:


    After my family (including small children) and I endured some type of diabolical infestation for several months, we reluctantly contacted our parish priest. We figured he would be skeptical and dismiss everything as acts of our imagination. Thanks be to God, he took it seriously and called the diocesan chancellor. The chancellor recommended bringing in a first class relic to our home, but that a Mass would be necessary to completely free our home. Our priest gave us a first class relic of St. Maximillian Kolbe (a whisker) after Mass. Upon bringing it inside, the house filled up with the smell of sulfur, which even our neighbor commented on, and we had no more problems. We had difficulty getting a priest to come out to do a Mass, but when we were getting ready to move, we nagged and nagged until one finally agreed to do it. It was literally two days before we moved, and he used a large moving box draped with a white linen tablecloth as his altar! We wanted to be sure that nothing came back to the house after we took out the relic, and that we’d be sued for not disclosing that our house was “haunted!”

  14. NYer says:

    Certain friends of mine celebrate mass in their backyard on a random basis, led by a priest without a parish. The priest was their pastor but their parish was closed and the priest retired. Nothing like looking at photos of a garden mass with attendees sitting on lawn chairs. I have attempted on several occasions to address this issue with them, unsuccessfully. They are very attached to this priest and enjoy celebrating mass with their former “community”. Any suggestions on how to appeal to them would be appreciated.

  15. eulogos says:

    In the late 70’s early 80’s home masses were a “thing” and recommended for children’s baptisms and first communions. One of my children was baptized at home, and another had his first communion. I realize now this was not such a good thing. But I still have the large stainless steel bowel in which my fourth son was baptized in 1983. We have also used it for placentas before burying them under a tree, and for a newborn Leboyer bath, and I also made probably hundreds of loaves of bread kneading the dough in it. (At one point I made six loaves every other day.) I enjoy the associations with the bowel. I enjoyed our home baptism. After it, the godparents gave the priest $50, which he refused. The godfather snuck out and put it in the priest’s car before he left. When he found it, he used it to buy us an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I was innocent at the time of any sugestion that we weren’t doing something the Church would approve, as my local church was encouraging it. I really have to say this is one of my least bad memories of that era in the Church.
    Susan Peterson

  16. JohnMa says:

    I remember a very notable priest telling the story of what happens when he goes home on holiday. He often celebrates the TLM in his mum’s living room, with her giving the server’s responses. Whenever the canon of the Mass began, the priest’s mother would close the curtains of the home so that the Anglicans could not see in.

  17. Gratias says:

    Among Hispanics in Los Angeles there are sometimes masses at Quinceañeras birthday parties. I think any opportunity is good for evangelization. You may not believe this, but I attended a mass offered by a priest that drove up from Mexico that was held in a Los Angeles rented Masonic Lodge room. We communicated, as did most of the 15 year olds.

  18. Sword40 says:

    Back in the 1980’s we had an old retired priest (he was 89 at the time) that said the TLM every Sunday at 8:30am in his basement chapel. The confessional was in his furnace room with an old black cloth hung up for a screen, a small bench to kneel on and right in the middle of my confession the furnace would come on. Now that will wake you up! What a great holy old priest he was. His chapel was complete with a high Altar. He passed on when he was 93 or 94. May he rest in peace.

  19. Mojoron says:

    We had a priest from Uganda who was attending an 18 month Champlaincy program at our secular hospital who did not have faculties to say or preach Mass in our Diocese and he said Mass each morning in his apartment at 0500. Since we did not have the opportunity to go to Mass at our church and the apartment was within a block of our work, we often times attended services, receive our Lord, and went to work. It was great while it lasted for us Catholics who had to be at work at 0600.

  20. WGS says:

    The title of this thread refers to masses in the “living room”. I can’t site the source right now, but my recollection is that home masses were not to be celebrated on a table commonly used for dining. – thus not on a kitchen or dining room table.

    I presume this constraint was intended to counteract the idea that the Mass is solely a communal meal.

  21. corcagiensis says:

    There is a beautiful tradition in Ireland, dating from Penal Times, of “Station Masses”, where the parish priest celebrates Mass in someone’s house for their family, friends and neighbours. It continues to this day.

  22. slainewe says:

    In this age in which so few Catholics understand that each celebration of The Mass is the SAME Rite instituted by the Lord at His Last Supper; is the SAME Sacrifice that occurred on Calvary, I fail to understand why the word “masses” is tolerated in the Church. It is simply bad catechesis. Is it so hard to write, “celebrations of The Mass?”

    After all, if a southern tourist park performs a reenactment of the Civil War every day, do they advertise that there will be 7 civil wars this week? (And their reenactment is not even the same Civil War in the way that The Mass is ACTUALLY the SAME one-time action of Christ.)

  23. WYMiriam says:

    slainewe, if I may make a further suggestion along those lines, why do we not simply return to the terminology of “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” (or at the very least, “the Holy Mass”)?

    “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” leaves no doubt about what is happening on/at the altar, whereas “celebrating the mass” sounds too, too much like “celebrating little Suzy’s birthday” or “celebrating Johnny’s winning the spelling bee”.

  24. slainewe says:


    I whole-heartedly agree. It would be most edifying to see in the bulletin, “Schedule for The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” rather than simply “Mass Schedule.” But I figure that is a reach for those who now abbreviate it to the horrid “masses.” (I don’t even want to capitalize it because then it really appears as though we believe there is more than One Holy Mass.)

    The word “celebration” has been skewed by the world but I believe the original Latin implication of the word is that of a sacred assembly?

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