Mass without a congregation


I don’t understand why a mass without the presence of a congregation or even one other person is not invalid. A mass requires bread, wine, a priest, the liturgy, and I would also think at least one other person, although this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church. The reason I think this is that even though there is a communion with the saints in both heaven and earth in the Eucharist, there still needs to be an earthly sign to bring that us into the reality of that participation – and in the Bible and early church part of that eucharistic sign would be the sharing of bread and wine with one another. What is the reasoning of the Catholic Church that a priest can celebrate the mass while physically alone?


At mass we are not alone. There is only one mass. We experience it many times. It is always the passion of Christ on Calvary. The mass is connected to that sacrifice. A sacrifice includes (check Exodus) a clean animal, pure and unblemished, to be killed, then consumed. We are only at the point where it is consumed; the death occurred on Golgatha.

When I am at mass, I am there with my deceased loved ones and with all the saints.

I know that JPII asked priests when offering a mass alone to include a petition for vocations.

I know of a bishop who, in prison in Vietnam during the war, would receive wine only a few times a year. Then he could offer a mass in his cell several times as he would ration the wine.


I understand we are not alone at mass, but it seems that having at least one other person to commune would be part of how the sacramental reality of communion with the saints in heaven and earth is brought about. At least, in the New Testament and early church, communion was always celebrated to also distribute to others.

One way I’ve thought about it that might be a way of looking at the development of the celebration of mass without a congregation or anyone else communing, is that early on in the church people would take the reserved sacrament home, and monks would sometimes commune all alone in their cell. If that could still be communal, perhaps a mass without any communicants other than the priest could similarly be communal, although in the case of the reserved sacrament, it was at least consecrated with a priest in the context of a physical community gathered around him, not just the saints in heaven.


Because of a just and reasonable cause.

CIC Can. 906 Except for a just and reasonable cause, a priest is not to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice without the participation of at least some member of the faithful.


Besides, it’s nice to have someone making responses. Both forms.


There is always someone present with the priest who performs Holy Mass. Jesus. God is with the priest. He is really with us at all times. He loves the father who can perform Holy Mass for everytime Holy Mass is given, the world benefits. Worship of the Lord brings peace and solidarity to this world.

One father or a large congregation, God loves Holy Mass celebration!


By your reasoning, a Mass with 500 people should also be invalid if none but the priest receive Communion.


Someone has to say amen.


The reason is that the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice. In terms of what is required at a minimum, only the priest who actually offers the Sacrifice is necessary.

There are plenty of other issues and other questions, surrounding this question, but the simple, direct answer is that as long as there’s a priest offering the Sacrifice, it happens (it’s valid).


I thought it was fairly common for a priest to celebrate Mass privately on his day off or on days when he isn’t scheduled in his parish. I thought it was actually some kind of “rule” that a priest celebrate Mass daily if they are able?


Priests are encouraged to say mass daily if possible, but they’re not required to do so. Pastors, not priests in general, are bound to celebrate a public parish mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation - or at least to arrange to another priest to do so.


The priest can do that. When we have no servers, our priest also has to make the responses. Such is life.


In Catholicism, as in Orthodoxy, it is ideal for a priest and congregation to worship together when offering the holy sacrifice. That being said, I believe there is also a provision in Orthodoxy for certain hieromonks to offer the Divine Liturgy alone in their cells…no?


Yes, possibly, at least if he doesn’t even attempt to distribute the sacrament, or allow anyone else to receive even if some people have been to confession is there is no impediment to keep them from receiving it.

I don’t know. I am still working through it. It doesn’t really convince me that it’s a sacrifice, so no one else has to receive. That’s what it was instituted for – a sacrifice to be eaten.


No there is not as far as I know. There are daily offices but the community gathers for the liturgy.


According to this post, St. Seraphim celebrated the divine liturgy alone in his cell?


Before Vatican II, concelebration was generally not possible except in very limited circumstances. In those days, monasteries, which also had several priests, would have many altars and private Masses were said in addition to the main conventual Mass with one celebrant. There was a requirement, I believe, that a priest say Mass once a day, but since it couldn’t be concelebrated, they had to say a private Mass instead, at one of the side altars. The same would often happen in cathedrals based on the layouts I see of cathedrals built before the Council.

Now concelebration is possible and is done; usually there’s only one conventual Mass nowadays in a monastery, and maybe one other Mass. At the abbey I’m affiliated with, there’s a weekday morning Mass after Vigils, at 6 am. It’s for the monks who must leave the abbey for errands or other valid reasons, or are tied up with work during the day, and is said by one priest. The main conventual Mass is at 11 am, and is concelebrated.


If he did he was violating Church canons. Of course I wouldn’t argue with him. As you know there are often exceptions to canons. :slight_smile:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit