Why do some denigrate the so-called "Mass in the round"?

Why do some denigrate the so-called “Mass in the round”?

If I look at my own church, the nave, transepts and apse essentially form a “Mass in the round” (at least for those sitting in the front.) If one is sitting in the front of the nave for instance, it’s just as easy to see people sitting in either of the transepts or the apse (which is opened if there is a big crowd.)

I curious if “Mass in the round” became hated because in many situations, creating that configuration required the destruction of the interiors of historic churches?

On its own, “Mass in the round” is an excellent way to get the maximum number of people as close to the sacrifice (with the best sight lines) as possible, which I do believe is important.

So why the hate?

I don’t know anyone who “hates” it, but I do know some who would not prefer it.

I think some think it takes focus off the Mass because you can look at other people, and not necessarily be concentrating on what is happening at the altar.
For others, I think it might have something to do with it not being “traditional” as in 2 sets or pews with a center aisle.

And for others, it is just something else to complain about how VII ruined everything.

I can’t think of any “in the round” Catholic churches here in Pittsburgh.

Converting a church to the “in the round” feature is likely to be pretty awkward.

Putting a church in the middle of a parking lot has the advantages not only of seating people closer, but making it a shorter walk too and from their cars.

I went to a “mass in the Round” parish for the first time a couple weeks ago. I won’t be going back.

I know it’s the same mass. I know it’s the same sacraments. I know it’s perfectly valid and licit. I just didn’t like it. I feel like there was a lack of focus, and was frequently distracted by what was happening behind the altar.

Of course, it didn’t help that there were projection screens with read-alongs for the music and prayers, and the music was about as far from my preferences as possible. >_>

I’m honestly a little sad about it. The rest of the parish grounds were lovely. It’s a very large, vibrant parish run by monks. I’d love to go back and explore it, just… not for mass.


“Mass in the round” might be somewhat ambiguous. Maybe not if everyone is thinking of the same thing. I don’t know anyone personally who seriously dislikes it, but do know some who prefer other types of structure.

Growing up, my Godfather was a home builder primarily, but did do some industrial things. My dad did the electrical work and often I would help. We did the new parish Church as a cross shaped entity, with the Altar in the “middle” with pews primarily on 3 of the sides. The 4th was primarily for the choir, but people could sit/kneel/stand there too. The communion rail was octagonal if I remember. Rooms behind the short side for Sacristry and storage. Below was effectively the Rectory, and Church Offices.

No one had complaints about it, and their Web site still indicates that Church is still open, although I probably haven’t been there for 40 or 50 years now.

In the older pre and early Vatican II era, communion in that style was very efficient. The priest kept going round and round, as the recepients would receive and be replaced by new recepients without the need to get to the end, stop, walk across, then serve the next group.

St. John Fisher, Churchill boro.

How do you feel when you can see others sitting in the nave/transcepts/apse? I have never heard anyone complain about that setting.

I have no real issue with people sitting in the nave. My wife and I chose to occasionally when we think our son might want to be fed in the middle of mass. I don’t particularly like doing it, but I don’t think there’s anything explicitly wrong with it if seating is provided.

I don’t mind the transept, and I’m unfamiliar with a plan where people are sitting in the apse. My main problem is really that there were things going on behind the altar. It was super distracting.

That really gets to the heart of my question. Why is the configuration you describe (which is much like my own church) well accepted when functionally, it’s much like a “Mass in the round” church – at least for those that sit near the front?

Personally, I hate accidentally making eye contact with someone in the transept across from me, and in the more traditionally styled pew arrangement, that doesent happen since everyone but the clergy and servers are facing the same way for Mass.

Additionally, the rectangular pew arrangement usually ensures that there is a low amount of Emhcs, ensuring that, in most cases, the cases of Christ being dropped or mishandled in some way are reduced.

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I wish I could give you a better answer. I don’t know. I can’t see any difference, really. The same characteristics apply. No?

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I don’t hate it, but I’m tired of seeing every single church built post-Vatican II look like the same disposable church-in-the-round. Sometimes I lose track of which church I am in as they all look so generic. I also have difficulty sometimes knowing which way the tabernacle is to genuflect.

I hope they’ve built enough churches-in-the-round for a while and can move on to some other designs or go back to the traditional.


Aside from reasons already alluded to ( not traditional cruciform style and increased emphasis on presence of Christ in the assembly) I think a reason might be that Mass-in-the-round has been associated with convention center/stadium Masses. Such Masses have been criticized for being production spectacles.

My personal parish is a Church-in-the-round. The altar is in the center of the octagonal building with movable seating fulling surrounding it (save for the aisles.)


You are correct.

I guess what’s frustrating is that many churches were built in long/thin “bowling lane” configurations due to cost and in many cases technical/material limitations in generations past. Yet some seem to believe if churches are not in that configuration then they cannot be of any value. That’s just wrong to me.

That’s some good insight.

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I wonder if anyone has ever designed a “church in the round” where the sanctuary revolves? It could be driven by an adjustable servo through a gear train that might revolve the sanctuary once per hour or so?

I feel like that would make me motion sick… and if one had to step off of a moving platform once it was in motion, to say go to the bathroom in Mass, I feel like that would be a big liability

Agree on production spectacles.

I have attended a few Protestant mega church services where that applies. My sister (on the Jewish side of the family, Christian Jew) and I absolutely disagree on that point. She loves the entertainment aspect. I find no reverence nor anything pertaining to Christ’s sacrifice in that aspect.


Pease tell me you’re kidding.

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