Outdoor Mass

We have been invited to a Catholic family camping event this summer. It is being organized by some families at a local campground, just outside a large metropolitan city. A priest from the Legionaires of Christ will offer Mass outdoors at the campground on Saturday evening.

While the thought of attending Mass in the beauty of the outdoors appeals to this nature-loving gal, I also understand that Mass is generally held in sacred places, i.e. consecrated churches, because of its holy meaning. I also understand that outdoor weddings with Mass are not generally allowed.

Would an outdoor Mass such as this be required to have approval from the local bishop? Should I assume the priest celebrating Mass has already received approval and not worry about it?

I’m wondering if we should attend the Mass, or go to our regular Sunday Mass, which would be about 30 to 45 minutes away.

Militant Mom

Several years ago, the parish council had the bright idea to celebrate the Vigil Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Plaza outside of the Cathedral (before we were designated a Catherdal). Both the pastor and I were against it. Bear in mind that we were going to have a festival after the Mass (meat cooking and other such things) and because our Cathedral is located right smack dab in the middle of two international bridges traffic was going to get ugly (not to mention the horns honking because of paisanos going into Mexico). We got the necessary permission and grudgingly went ahead with it.

We used the gazebo area for the altar and had an ambo and a cantor stand. But, the horns honking and smell of fajitas mixing with the incense wafting from the gazebo made it far from sacred. Next year, common sense prevailed and we moved it back into the Church.

Of course, this all happened before Redemptionis Sacramentum came into being. The document has this to say about where Mass may be celebrated:

Chapter V

  1. The Place for the Celebration of Holy Mass
    [108.] “The celebration of the Eucharist is to be carried out in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise. In this case the celebration must be in a decent place”.197 The diocesan Bishop shall be the judge for his diocese concerning this necessity, on a case-by-case basis.

[109.] It is never lawful for a Priest to celebrate in a temple or sacred place of any non-Christian religion.

Four years ago, one of the parishes, to mark its 25th anniversary, decided to have an Easter sunrise Mass by the lake. They didn’t anticipate that there would be a horrible thunderstorm. They had to move it someplace else.

Outdoor events are tricky, especially if you are in Texas and it’s late spring. As we say in Texas, if you don’t like the weather, give it five minutes and it will change.

I can’t answer your specific question, which would be a local issue about which a bishop may allow priests to use their own discretion, or may have reserved to himself such determinations.

However, as to whether your situation is acceptable in general, I would say it it’s certainly possible. The statement from RS is “unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise”. If you’ve got a group of Catholics camping over a weekend who may have difficulty attending mass at a church, it sounds similar to soldiers in the field, for whom outdoor mass would not be unusual. If it’s only a short camping trip, and you’re going home Saturday night or early Sunday morning, then I’m not so sure that would be proper.

I am involved with Scouting so I definitly know the answer to this one. Yes outdoor Masses are permitted with permission of the Bishop. I doubt the priest has to get permission EVERY time they do it but if this is a first time they are doing it they probably should seek permission.

Every year Boy Scouts select a small number of scouts from every council in the country and send them to Philmont with a priest and a seminarian. They conduct Mass EVERY day on the trail. A kid from my troop went and was in the same crew as a Bishop. He said it was a great experience.

We also have a field Mass every year at the annual religious retreat, usually presided over by a Bishop and sometimes a Cardinal.

yes and yes

Certainly when we had our family reunion a few years ago Mass on Sunday was part of it. A retired priest celebrated Mass for us in the family’s out-of-use barn that was the site of the reunion. He used to celebrate ‘family reunion’ Masses a lot during the summer.

I seriously doubt a priest from Legionnaires of Christ would do anything untoward in regards to Mass. They are a pretty orthodox outfit!

You could put yourself on the committee to organize the Mass, get any necessary permission from the bishop, make sure the area for Mass at the campground was quiet and properly set up, etc.

This is what we do every year for scouts to have Mass at the campground.

Orthodox, perhaps. But in my experience they also tend to operate “under the diocesan radar,” so to speak.

Militant Mom:cool:

Well, I’ve found the best way to ensure nobody is doing soemthing they shouldn’t is get on the committee for that item! Volunteerism is a lovely thing.:smiley:

Holding Masses outside is nothing new. One of my favorite pictures is a Mass being held for soldiers out in the middle of a World War II battlefield.

I hope the bishops are a little more open to outdoor Masses for those that wish it. Maybe the passers-by, some of them who probably wouldn’t be caught dead inside a Church, might even stop “in.” :slight_smile:

We have an outdoor Mass several times a year at the Grotto outside the church.

It is a beautiful experience!

Uh, many papal masses are held outdoors. Even JPII’s funeral was held outdoors.

But, you also have to factor in something that many people have forgotten to note. With the vast number of crowds, it is nearly impossible to find a church big enough to fit everyone. All of the people gathered at St. Peter’s Square, including those who were also along the Villa Conciliazione (the avenue leading up to St. Peter’s–which was also full of mourners) could not have fit into the Basilica. That is why the Papal Masses are celebrated outdoors.

However, what the OP described is nowhere near the massive crowds that gather for a Papal Mass.

I did have the opportunity to speak with our Vicar General about this matter. He indicated that as a unique event; i.e., a solitary occurrence, the priest would not need to seek the bishop’s permission. If such masses were to offered on a regular basis, the priest would need to approach the bishop and explain the rationale for requesting permission.

This was correspondence I received from the Diocesan Worship Director with respect to a recent controversy here in L&S.

Masses such as the OP inquired about for special occasions like the campsite where clothing is casual, and a church may not be easily accessible, are permitted. To paint with a broad brush and state otherwise is to misrepresent the mind of the bishops.

It is possible that in the example of Benedictgal where the sounds of traffic and other disturbances were disruptive, then prudence would suggest not repeating it. But we are talking about an entirely different matter with the campsite.

When I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we were privileged to have a priest with us who celebrated daily mass outdoors at the various sites we visited, which were not essentially ‘churches.’ These special occasions are often permitted … without permission … as the priest explained in my email.

[quote=OP]I’m wondering if we should attend the Mass, or go to our regular Sunday Mass, which would be about 30 to 45 minutes away.

My last post time for editing was up, so I want to make a point that due to the price of gas and the round trip to a church of approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours, with the price of gas that camper vehicles must consume at close to $4/gallon, I don’t even think a bishop would hesitate in this instance to grant immediate permission.

The same thing happened with us in Greece. Many of the masses we celebrated were outdoors at the ruins of the cities Paul visited. No church, the altar was a ruin or a big rock. People, tourists like ourselves, were walking by us, but it was fine. The only time we were distracted were at the Acropolis when this pack of dogs were attacking a cat.

After reading the posts above and considering the issue, I think I was a little hasty in my post #3 where I implied that such a mass should not be permitted if participants would be able to attend a normal mass on Sunday. I was approaching it from the narrow perspective of Sunday obligation, but there’s no reason an outdoor mass has to be held Saturday evening or Sunday. It could be held Saturday morning, or Tuesday, or whenever, if it reasonably met the requirements of the bishop and Redemptionis Sacramentum, and therefore I think it would also be acceptable Saturday evening or Sunday, even if the participants would individually be able to go to their own churches to meet their obligation.

[quote=Joanm]The only time we were distracted were at the Acropolis when this pack of dogs were attacking a cat.

Out of curiosity and interest in dogs, were they mutts, or a variety of breeds, or mostly one breed?

I wouild have to say they were mutts given they were a free roaming pack and they all looked different. They hurt the cat before someone who worked at the gate was able to rescue it. We were very upset by it…but continued with Mass.


As were the two celebrated by PAPA B this past month in the USA.:thumbsup:

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