Numbers at Mass?

Hi, I was talking to someone about a Jewish friend of mine and how they need a certain number of people to pray the minyan, 10. He said he rememberd in Catholic school, a deacon telling him a priest needed 12 to say a mass. I know I’ve been at mass with less, never a head count, so to speak, but does anyone know what he might have heard?
I can’t say I have heard of this, but I have missed other teachings in the past.


A priest can celebrate a perfectly valid Mass with no one present at all. There is no minimum number of people required.

While it is always preferred to have at least one person attend, it is actually not necessary to have anyone at all. Such Masses are called private Masses.

The term “Private Mass” is to be avoided. Such Masses are properly called “Mass without the people” *(sine populo).

*When I was staying at the St. Paul Seminary in Ottawa, at least one priest who lived there celebrated a private Mass (unadvertised, in a side chapel) each morning at 7 a.m. On some days it was ‘without the people’ but sometimes it was attended by a few of the people who were there for summer courses.

As I’ve mentioned before, I come from a very VERY small parish.

Our priest wants at least 2 people in the church for daily mass. Don’t have a clue if it’s a rule/law or anything else, but that’s what my priest has told us.

This is what canon law says:

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.

The priests I know in the retirement home often opt to get up early, celebrate a Mass alone and then go on to their daily chores. The fact that they may want to celebrate a Mass that has been requested of them or for their own personal intention is considered ‘just cause’. I know another priest who, if no one shows up for daily Mass in his parish, simply opts not to celebrate it - a valid option since they are not required to celebrate Mass every day.

Personally, I can’t imagine a day without Mass. Since I’m a priest, on days when I know no one will be present (my regular day off for instance), I will celebrate Mass without anyone present. I don’t like doing it, and I wish it did not need to be this way, but it is.

If I had a scheduled daily Mass, and no one came, I would still celebrate Mass. Yes, I celebrate Mass for the people, I also celebrate for my own good. I want to receive our Lord in the Eucharist as well!

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