ASK FATHER: As a lay woman, should I have a “Mass kit” in my “Bug Out Bag”?

From a readerette…


I am thinking of what to put in an emergency kit/ bug out kit and wondered if I as laity and as a female could have a Mass kit in my “bag” in case of emergency or natural disaster.

Thanks for your question, which clearly shows that you hold Holy Mass as a high priority, to the point of associating it with survival.

Opinions will vary on what a “bug out bag” – BOB – should have.  Much depends on your own physical abilities to carry weight for a while in adverse conditions.

Some BOBs are for different reasons.  For example, you might need a “get home bag” at work or in the trunk of your vehicle (maybe with a compact, folding bike).  This BOB would supplement your EDC (every day carry) choices.  Otherwise, a woman might need a BOB to get her (and kids) fast out of her dwelling because of the return of an angry husband or boyfriend.  Other BOBs are, as you mention, for emergencies such as a tornado or even, quod Deus avertat, TEOTWAWKI events.

Also, much depends on your state in life: e.g., if you are a parent, you need things for your children that you would not need if you are on your own.  A priest has a different state of life which could prompt him to provide also for Mass, again, in adverse conditions.  He might choose to take the barest essentials.

Also, much depends on how much you have perhaps pre-positioned, stashed somewhere.  Thus, your BOB could be designed especially to get you to your stash or your “retreat”.

Also, are you bugging on foot?  In a vehicle?  There are lots of scenarios.

Also, much depends on how much you have networked and planned with others before hand.  Would that network include a priest?  That would be a pretty good idea.

For a woman, I would suggest – others will have ideas – the basics for food, purification of water, warmth, med supplies including painkillers, navigation tools (if you haven’t done trial runs to your objective), tools for fire and shelter, extra socks, good light sources, etc.  Also, if you can’t carry a semi-automatic rifle, such as AR-15 carbine or AK-47 systems and extra magazines, then a lightweight compact semi-automatic pistol like a Glock 19 (or maybe an FN 57?), with extra magazines, with which you have trained and trained and trained.  Women need a force multiplier even more than men do.  Rifles don’t exclude the handgun, and one handgun doesn’t exclude a backup.  Again, training.

Also, consider a radio of some kind, or transceiver.  Ham radio practice could be helpful, especially if you are networked.  Otherwise, information could be critical for your choices.

Training.   Keeping everything fresh and up to date in the BOB is important.  Knowing where everything is in the BOB, so that you can get at it in the dark, is important.  Making sure that moving the BOB doesn’t create too much attention drawing noise (clinking, etc.).

Should you pack a Mass kit?  You can’t say Mass.  If you don’t have a priest in your network, or a reasonable expectation that you will find one, I think I would opt for the essentials.  By all means take a Rosary or other devotional object.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Why would anyone need to carry an AR with them? [Give it some thought.] I personally [And then you jump to the “personal” position.] would rather die than kill someone to protect myself. But that’s me. I understand some people put their confidence in having a gun on them. I put my confidence in God. [Is that “virtue signalling” I detect?] If I die, then I die and will be much better off in my heavenly home (if/when I arrive). I trust that God will use the tragic circumstances of my death for good, somehow. I don’t want the baggage of gun possession, training, ammo, constantly being on guard, etc.

    So, carry a gun if it makes you feel safe. But an AR? Geez. [Good luck with that. And lots of luck to those for whom you may be responsible.]

  2. JustaSinner says:

    Father, as a priest do you need an actual Mass Kit, or could you get by with just bread and wine in a bad sitrep? BTW, the FN 5.7 is a real winner.

  3. Carrie says:

    Hey, did that shooter in TX have an AR or two in his BOB? Good thing he was prepared.

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    Perhaps a small, contained, portable home sick call set?
    If people with you have an urgent need for a priest in whatever disaster it may be, and a priest happens upon your location.,. voila! You have something useful for him.

  5. TonyO says:

    Father Z, I love the level-headed advice here. Especially on the fact that there are different kinds of emergencies that you might need to prepare for: Getting out of the house in the next 4 seconds is a different emergency than getting out of town in the next 4 hours.

  6. I am reminded of part of Fr. Walter Ciszek’s tale of his time in the Soviet gulags as a captured, convicted priest:

    Toward the end of our first week in Dudinka, Fr. Casper came looking for me in the barracks one night. Some of his Poles had told him there was another priest in camp. He found me before I had a chance to look him up and asked me if I wanted to say Mass. I was overwhelmed! My last Mass had been said in Chusovoy more than five years ago. I made arrangements to meet him in his barrack next morning as soon as the six-o’clock signal sounded. The men in Fr. Casper’s barrack were mostly Poles. They revered him as a priest, protected him, and he tried to say Mass for them at least once a week. They made the Mass wine for him out of raisins they had stolen on the docks, the altar breads from flour “appropriated” in the kitchen. My chalice that morning was a whiskey glass, the paten to hold the host was a gold disc from a pocket watch. But my joy at being able to celebrate Mass again cannot be described. Fr. Casper had the prayers of the Mass written out on a piece of paper. Although I knew them by heart, I was so moved and so excited that morning I was glad to have them. Afterward, he made me a copy. I tore them up when I left Dudinka, for fear they would be discovered in the routine processing inspections at the next camp. I wrote them again from memory inside the camp. The rest of the time I was in Dudinka, I said Mass frequently in Fr. Casper’s barrack. I was encouraged by his example, too, to work among the men as a priest. I heard confessions regularly and, from time to time, was even able to distribute Communion secretly after I’d said Mass. The experience gave me new strength. I could function as a priest again, and I thanked God daily for the opportunity to work among this hidden flock, consoling and comforting men who had thought themselves beyond His grace.

    Now that’s a Jesuit.

    FATHERS! You should probably commit Holy Mass to memory, with at least a couple different votive Mass formularies, such as that of the Blessed Virgin Mary and perhaps Christ the High Priest and Requiem… because a lot of people are going to die.

    With God in Russia


  7. TonyO says:

    I personally would rather die than kill someone to protect myself. But that’s me.

    Hey, it’s not about you surviving, it’s about protecting those who are your charge to protect. And it’s about preserving peace and order as a whole. Ya know, for the sake of others?

    [Many are the times we’ve been over this ground with those who don’t wish to arm themselves. Some really don’t have a clue. Some have a clue and have made a choice. Some have only had sunshine and daisies. Some have experienced the “black zone”. Some have only themselves and others have people under their charge. These are contingent moral choices. However, people who choose not to defend themselves or their loved ones, for whatever reason, should keep in mind that other people then have to take up the slack, because they won’t stand by and watch others die. This is massively complicated. However. All of that said: it doesn’t hurt for those who think they won’t arm themselves to take some training anyway. It’s not just about being familiar with a gun or how to aim it and fire it. There’s a lot more to it than that. And what you gain could save lives.]

  8. robtbrown says:

    Carrie says:

    I personally would rather die than kill someone to protect myself. But that’s me.

    That might be so, but the prospect of imminent of death can change people (“wonderfully concentrating the mind”).

    And what if it involves protecting your children?

  9. The form of emergency preparedness known as “bugging out” associated with so-called “preppers” requires an investment of time, talent, and treasure. What follows is the short version …

    Most natural disasters, for example, including those that require evacuation, sort themselves out in about 72 hours. Can your kit prepare you for anything that would happen in that time? And if you’re thinking of buying a gun, follow its purchase very quickly with training from an NRA-certified trainer (a requirement at all BSA camps and reservations, by the way). If you’re holding up in your house, be prepared to move. If you evacuate in your car, be prepared to ditch it if the roads get too congested. And speaking of roads, stay off the main ones, and look as inconspicuous as possible. Trust no one, or at least travel with a group of those whom you can trust, and possess the right temperament and training to be counted on when it hits the fan. (If you can find a priest to tag along, so much the better.)

    As for spiritual needs, I carry an Office of the BVM in my emergency kit, and with my regular gear for summer camp with the Scout troop. When surrounded by disorder, a designated routine of prayer brings order to the interior. And, of course, a good and sturdy rosary.

    Read, study, practice, prepare. Above all, remain calm. God alone suffices, not to mention a full clip and a steady hand.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z: Amen. robtbrown and TonyO: Good point. If I could suggest a BOB item for firewood and shelter-building: an axe, but if awkward to carry, a hatchet.

    Carrie: In the 5th century St. Sidonius Apollinaris, bishop of Clermont, took part in defending his city from the Goths. When the city eventually fell Gregory of Tours said that St. Sidonius celebrated Mass in captivity from memory.

    Several historians say that as Roman rule disintegrated in the 5th century numerous bishops organized the defense of their towns and negotiated with the barbarians. Leo the Great may have worn a sword during negotiations with Atilla the Hun. Don’t recall where I read this, but one bishop (southern Gaul?) looked around his mostly depopulated city and realized the walls were too long to be defended. So he had his flock break apart the walls and rebuild a tighter perimeter in the center of the city.

    There’s something to be said for a combination of pastoral care and leadership during TEOTWAWKI. There’s also something to be said for: liturgical skill and tactical skill; Hope, Faith, Charity, and tactical commonsense in the face of despair, barbarity, cynicism, emotional outbursts, and stupidity; Masculinity and Femininity; dogged persistence almost to the point of unreasonableness; hard work and the willingness to enjoy a light moment.

    [Which is why old soldiers and old priests tend to hang together.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  11. MrsMacD says:

    Carrie, I struggled with this myself, until I read the old testament. Perhaps watching the movie, “The Hidden Rebellion,” would help you to put things into perspective. It’s coming to a country near you.

    I would hate to kill someone, but I would rather kill someone or shoot to scare someone than have my clothes ripped off or my daughter’s clothes ripped off or my sons… heaven forbid.

    It might be nice to have an altar set stashed away somewhere in case the church needs to go underground and a priest stumbles across your home. (Is the church going underground even possible with satellite?)

  12. Carrie says:

    USA motto: “In Guns We Trust.” [That’s petty and cheap.]

    I prefer this: “Put away your sword. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (Jesus)

    Or, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah)

    [“He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.” (Jesus – Luke 22:36)]

  13. Carrie says:

    And— true. It’s the opinion of most of the world. [?] America has become a joke, that puts guns before life itself. But, “sending thoughts and prayers” takes care of things and absolves their guilt.

    [Okay, that’s enough. These are merely cheap shots based on something you can’t know.]

  14. Carrie says:

    Yes, MrsMacD, the Old Testament is full of stories of righteous battles. That reflected the Jewish understanding of God. But Jesus came and set us straight (read Mt 5:38-48).

    As Fr. Z illustrated, below, we can all latch onto Scripture verses that back up our arguments. And get nowhere. And since there are so many contradictions in Scripture and we have not yet unlocked all it’s marvelous mystery, I guess we are left choosing which we will embrace as Truth. I stand by verses in which Jesus promotes pacifism. Fr. Z stands by a verse in which Jesus promotes weapon ownership and use. Both are in the Gospel. There you go… [I posted that verse to demonstrate that you had cherry picked a bit.]

  15. sallyr says:

    I work at a facility with hundreds of developmentally disabled adults. There is no way we could evacuate them in one of these scenarios you are discussing. Many of them have very complex needs and cannot walk. Even if we got them out of our very large city, it’s hard to imagine how they would survive without a large network of support. I think also of those in hospitals and nursing homes who died in Hurricane Katrina.

    I don’t know what it is you are imagining might happen to cause something similar to happen – I live in the midwest and we mainly face tornadoes. Without the help of others, there is no way these guys would survive their campus being destroyed by a tornado, but luckily such storms are usually very localized and others would be around to help them.

    I hope I’d find the courage to stay and help them if something awful were to happen.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z: Indeed.

    David L Alexander: Great comment. “When surrounded by disorder, a designated routine of prayer brings order to the interior. And, of course, a good and sturdy rosary.”

  17. Semper Gumby says:

    Carrie wrote at 18 May 10:41 AM: “If I die…”

    This is actually positive, an acknowledgement that you may survive, say, a Super EMP attack or a massive solar storm.

    So, in the silence of a landscape where the electric grid is down and very, very few cars and planes are moving about, you contemplate your next move with friends/loved ones. No doubt you’re hankering for food, water, and shelter.

    Your house is damaged. Fires caused by thousands of aircraft and helicopters falling out of the sky, hoodlums, and many refineries/chemical plants cooking off have, fortunately, spared your dwelling. Unfortunately a storm has felled a tree and damaged your house. Fortunately, you have axes, two-man saws, a hammer and nails to patch things up and keep the weather out.

    Your refrigerator does not work, so that food is prepared first, perhaps with a solar oven. Fortunately, you have some properly stored food in the basement. When that runs out no doubt you will want more. Fortunately, in the garage you have seeds and gardening/farming tools. And you know people with rifles who can harvest deer and butcher it. You also have books on edible and medicinal herbs and plants and know where they grow.

    The water pressure will drop to zero within a couple of days. Fortunately, you know where a nearby stream is and have a hand cart to haul water buckets, you have a water filter or bleach, and plenty of soap until you get around to making your own.

    Something, of course, is missing. The Eucharist. Fortunately, you made arrangements for this also. A “Circuit rider” priest would be a welcome sight. And fortunately, regular security patrols and outposts keep the roads safe. During these dark days we want to keep our overworked priests in fine spirits as much as possible. Perhaps after Holy Mass the small community has a hearty venison stew, fresh fruit (fortunately, you know how to prevent the birds and bugs from harvesting your fruit themselves), and a treasured bottle or two of Scotch. As the sun sets, the talk around the fire roams from schoolin’ the young ‘uns, to First Communion and Confirmation, to Uncle Ralph’s Medicinal Still (which all agree is not a bad idea for surgery…), to assembling a Quartet for a little Mozart.

    However Carrie, you wrote at 18 May 2:51 PM: “Hey, did that shooter in TX have an AR or two in his BOB? Good thing he was prepared.”

    Allies. Carrie, you will need prepared allies. Allies can be a gift from God. Slander and mocking is not the way to keep that gift.

    Contemplating TEOTWAWKI can be daunting. Perfectly natural. No doubt you have a skill or two. No doubt you know one other person with one skill that you don’t have. Perhaps ask a wise lady at your parish to teach you something. No need to be alarmist. Just chip away slowly at things. Think of preparing as a hobby, for a rainy day that hopefully will never arrive. Cheers.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  18. JonPatrick says:

    @Carrie: As someone who grew up in a family with a pacifist father who was scarred by his experiences in WW2, I had no particular experience with firearms. But after observing the increasing breakdown of our society and concern about the future and being able to protect my loved ones, I decided to take the NRA pistol shooting course. Knowing a little about firearms and how to shoot is something I believe everyone should have some exposure to, because it helps one gain some perspective as well as providing useful skills. One never knows when they may be needed. For example in the unlikely event you came cross a loaded gun, would you know how to render it safe to prevent it being picked up by a child?

    Unfortunately the media frenzy over the recent school shootings has resulted in a distorted picture of the whole firearms situation, as well as creating an attraction for others wishing to gain their 15 minutes of fame through copycat behavior, thereby guaranteeing future tragedies.

  19. jflare29 says:

    “I understand some people put their confidence in having a gun on them. I put my confidence in God.”

    I recall having posited a rather similar thought during my late teens. I recall having assumed that surely in the 20th Century, in the United States, that we had found our way beyond such primitive intentions as violence and bloodshed. Surely we had reached a point of recognizing humanity in each other that we could depend on people being civilized and helpful.
    Then, a few years later, I found myself in Los Angeles….at night. …Within two years after the Rodney King verdict-induced riots and a fairly major earthquake. I recall being compelled to admit that the idea I’d heard that amounted to “call the police and pray” likely would not help much in this situation. I had not the slightest idea where the nearest police precinct might be, nor how to contact them if I did (cell phones had not yet become commonplace).
    I did remain quite safe by remaining with the other members of my choir group, yet that forced me to seriously re-evaluate my risk assessment AND how I might respond. Within a few years, I reluctantly conceded that the only sound approach to handling most situations would be to Be Prepared…with a first aid kit, a cell phone, and a pistol.

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    sallyr: Good point you make about tornadoes and your facility. It is unfortunate that after a widespread catastrophic event (EMP, CME, pandemic, etc.), nursing homes and hospitals may be targeted for their drugs and food by gangs (whether male, mixed, or female gangs). God bless you for your dedication to the developmentally disabled.

    MrsMacD: It is possible, though you may want to read memoirs and other books on how clandestine cells operated against the Nazis in WWII and against the KGB in the Cold War. Of course, recent technology and the ubiquity of security cameras complicates using earlier techniques. And under a totalitarian government using email, social media, cell phones, etc. to coordinate Holy Mass is generally not recommended. Hope this helps.

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