Participating in the Mass from Home During the Coronavirus Quarantine

by | Mar 21, 2020 | Catholic Living, Weird Catholic Stuff | 27 comments

I usually try to create content that is “evergreen” as they say in the blogging world, that can be useful to people for many years. I sincerely hope that this post is not useful for long and that soon churches will be open and Masses will be public again and we, the faithful, will never again face the long term prospect of being unable to attend the Mass and participate in the Eucharist. But, for the next few weeks anyway, that’s exactly the situation in which many of us find ourselves.

So, how shall we participate in the Mass from home?

Easter Sunday at Home Dry Mass Booklet {Digital Download} + FREE Printing & Shipping Available

It’s important to note here that we are obligated to participate in the Mass when we are able to do so. We are never obliged to do what isn’t possible. Many of us are not able to attend Mass, because public Masses are not being held. Many of us have also been formally dispensed by our bishops from the obligation to attend. In these cases, we are excused completely from our Mass obligation and do not HAVE to do anything as a substitute.

However, most of us very much want to unite ourselves and our children to God and the Catholic Church during these trying times. And regardless of our ability to attend Mass, Sunday is still Sunday, and every Sunday–even a quarantine Sunday–is the Lord’s Day.

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2185

So let’s assume that we all want to observe Sunday to the best of our abilities, in consideration of our circumstance, and not encourage any prejudicial habits in ourselves and our children.

I think the language is important here. Canon Law tells us,

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Canon 1247

The words used are “participate” and in other places “assist.” Mass is supposed to be an action for us, not something that happens passively in front of us. That’s enough of a challenge when we are at a church surrounded by the community of believers. How can we get that feeling at home?

I’ve seen it recommended, pretty much universally, that if we are prevented from attending Mass in person, we should watch a Mass on TV. Maybe that would work for you, and if so, carry on! But my big kids watch TV like slack-jawed, glassy-eyed zombies, and my little kids watch TV for about four minutes before they get bored with it and wander off. TV just doesn’t command their participation. Also, I have this weird niggling concern that all this suggestion that Mass on TV is a good substitute for actual Mass is going to be confusing to people long term and have unintended consequences, but maybe that’s just my own preference against screens for religious purposes.

The suggestion in Canon Law is this,

If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.

Canon 1248, emphasis mine

I think what’s going to work for our family is to lean into this time of cloistered family life as a way to strengthen our Domestic Church, and to actively participate in the sacrifice of the Mass as much as possible, especially on Sundays!

We’re going to get dressed in our Sunday best, and come together as a family as we would usually come together as a community. We have a home chapel, so that’s where we’ll be, but wherever in your home you usually pray as a family (or if you don’t have that spot yet, no time like the present to pick one! 😊) ideally in front of a crucifix or other religious image. We will light candles, blessed by a priest on Candlemas. We’ll sing a hymn. Then, led by Dad (or whomever is the head of your household), with participation from all as they are able, according to their abilities, we’ll go through the prayers and readings of the day’s Mass. (Excepting the prayers of consecration, and not attempting to mimic the Eucharist in any way.)

For the prayers of the Mass, we will read from the Magnificat. We have subscribed to the Magnificat for ten years now and really love it. They are offering FREE online access to EVERYONE during this crisis, which is a really beautiful thing. But I highly, highly recommend subscribing to the physical version as well. You won’t regret it.

We also subscribe to MagnifiKid for our children. It’s available online as well. Here is the complete March issue, and here is April. Again, I really recommend subscribing.

Any time we are not able to receive the Eucharist, we make an Act of Spiritual Communion. (You are welcome to save and print this version for personal use.)

This is the one we use, recommended by Saint Josemaria and used by him since childhood. (See it in his own handwriting here!)

I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.

By Father Cayetano de San Juan Bautista, Pamplona Spain, 1800

Here is another version:

My Jesus, 
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. 
I love You above all things, 
and I desire to receive You into my soul. 
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally, 
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

Act of Spiritual Communion, Act of Contrition, Morning Offering Set {digital download}

It’s important to remember that, contrary to the language often being used, Masses are NOT cancelled. Masses are occuring everywhere, all over the world. It’s just that in many places, the faithful are not allowed to attend those Masses. Your pastor, along with every priest you know, is saying a Mass today, attended by the angels. He is saying it with you in mind and for your intentions. We can and should unite ourselves to those Masses!

A good way to do this any time (not just pandemic time) is to make a Morning Offering each morning.

O my Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer thee all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of thy Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered through out the word, in reparation for my sins and for all the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.

Available as a free printable here, or alongside dozens of other useful daily prayers and devotions in the Catholic All Day booklet, available as a printable download here, or as a paperback from Amazon here. And also in a Star Wars-ish version here.

So, from our home, we are going to do our best to actively participate in the Mass, being offered by our priests. I’m not officially ruling anything out, but we are probably not going to rely on the TV as an aid ever. Instead we’ll be doing the prayers and readings for the day’s Mass at home as a family, using the Magnificat.

Is it going to be perfect and reverent at every moment? Nope. Is it worth doing anyway? Yes. I don’t know about you, but our Masses at church aren’t perfect and reverent at every moment either! Will there be complaining? Probably not, because by this point, my kids are pretty used to the way we roll. They actually like to “play Mass” sometimes. #beingweirdcatholics

I DO NOT recommend using corn chips and cranberry juice, or anything else, as a substitute for for the Eucharist in a family prayer service when one cannot attend Mass. Cute for kids playing though? Yes.

Anyway, I can certainly imagine there would have been some pushback in earlier days. If I faced that now, I’d explain why this is so important, and why we really have to make an effort, especially in these altered circumstances, to make Sunday feel like a day set apart for God. And I’d also remind them that I’m in charge of Lenten Sunday screens and treats . . .


  1. Amanda

    Thank you! We also didn’t even attempt streamed Mass. Getting anyone to be reverent is hard enough in actual church! I’m glad my Eucharist-receiving children are mournful about that lack, as I am. We did a Stations of the Cross after the readings last Sunday, even though that’s not ideally done on Sundays, and it was…something. Not nothing! I realized I need to cover the crucifixes next Sunday, and I think that’s going to be more painful than usual. This is such a Lenty Lent, and if it continues into Easter it’s going to be even harder. A spiritual communion and remembering young saints who longed to receive Jesus but couldn’t yet is helping me.

  2. Mary Ann O'Neill

    Our diocese suspended public Masses last Monday, so this will be our first Sunday without the ability to attend and participate (and sing, for those of us in the choir).
    Thank you for your beautiful post!

  3. Martha Ritter

    This will be our 2nd Sunday here in the Pacific Northwest. I agree with you whole heartedly on tv/live streaming Mass. We are blessed to still be able to go into our churches here and our parish has the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Church (vs the Perpetual Adoration chapel). We made our kids dress up as for Mass (we only have teen boys at home now) and they complained a bit. We spent that hour in prayer and with the day’s readings and made a spiritual communion.The time was very fruitful. It might be soon that we can no longer go to our church, like those in other states, so we are trying to spend as much time with our Lord as possible!!

    • Kendra

      Yes! I had someone from Italy write to me that the last time she was able to go to Mass was Ash Wednesday. 🙁

    • PZ

      We watch the TV Mass. We participate fully in action and prayer. We kneel when we’re supposed to kneel. We sing when we’re supposed to sing. We give each other the sign of peace. We get dressed. Everyone sits up.

      Our hearts hurt but we push on in faith. Doing our absolute best.

      • Sarah

        Thank you for giving your perspective & offering us a look at what your beautiful family will be doing to honor the 3rd Commandment. Every family is going to look different, but for us, watching Mass during this time has been fruitful. We don’t make the kids dress up (mainly because they would somehow find a way to get clothes dirty in the span of an hour & why impose that extra laundry on already overloaded system?), but we did keep the hour fast before our spiritual communion (not necessary, obviously, but always a good reminder that something is different), & the proper postures & behavior. They know it’s different. This time in our Church is different. For our family, we don’t want to treat this like we’re all the sick ones staying home & life as usual is going on without us being there; in the rare occasions we’ve missed Mass before we’ve only watched it once. We want our kids to see that Mass isn’t cancelled just because the public is not there, & that priests are still celebrating Masses. We are a sensory Church. We see the empty pews, hear the difference in not having a choir, or being surrounded by the entire congregation proclaiming our faith, feel the (perhaps) hard floor without the padded kneeler, & definitely missing the reception of the greatest Gift but still seeing the priest’s offering on behalf of all of us. Again, every family is going to be getting through this time differently, especially since some are more in the thick of things according to job &/or location & the kids know it’s not just an extended spring break. Just wanted to offer another perspective for those who may need the sensory reminders of what we’re missing in order to better offer up our sacrifices & struggles. Praying for all!

    • Lina

      I was really skeptical about how Mass live streamed would go, but it was really beautiful! Frankly, it was the best homily we received all year since we tuned into Fr. Mike Schmitz. A total grace and silver lining! Here’s his live stream. His homily was amazing:

      • Sarah C

        We watched Father Mike Schmidtz as well and loved his homily! Great message

  4. Loretta Shekleton

    I wonder – do the words of consecration mean the Eucharistic prayers? Can we say the prayer but just skip the words of consecration? Also – wow – thank you! We did mass on TV last week and it was ROUGH for the family – and not fruitful. My heart is leaping at giving this a try.

    • Kendra

      I consulted with a priest whose opinion I trust and he suggests that reading the eucharistic prayers is fine, but to skip the consecration and to add an Act of Spiritual Communion.

  5. Bonnie Melielo

    10 days without Mass and the Eucharist and I’m afraid I am not being very joyful about this “passive penance” as Father Mike Schmitz aptly called it, but I offer my tears and my very sad heart while uniting my will to His. I watch daily cyber Mass offered by a local priest, the one who married us actually, and I cry my way through it but I am totally drawn into it. Cannot wait for tomorrow, Sunday, 22/3/20 when hopefully, without any technology glitches, “my” priest will offer Sunday Mass from the chapel in the rectory. I don’t have children at home so my situation is quite different from those with families. I love how you organize and arrange ALL of the celebrations Catholics participate in. You are an inspiration.

  6. Nicole

    I feel the same way about TV Masses – it can be a good way for some people to feel connected, but I kind of wanted to avoid giving the kids the impression that it’s a substitute! And I also anticipated it would result in the kids at least zoning out.

    We read the Mass readings together and talked about them a bit, shared prayer intentions, prayed the Pur Father, and then read a prayer of Spiritual Communion.

  7. Jill

    We have been streaming a daily mass with a friend priest who we adore and it’s been fantastic. For us, it has worked well but we will see tomorrow.

  8. Ashley

    We are going to try streaming and if it doesn’t go well we will try something else next week. I don’t think my particular kids will think it’s a replacement for actual mass any more than they would think doing the readings is a replacement. I think it may help them understand that masses continue even if we can’t go, and to experience the universality of the Church. It’s just a weird time and I’m glad we have so many resources to help us live the faith.

  9. Stephanie

    I wanted to make today as special as can be and give the girls the opportunity to participate as much as possible. I feel that watching Mass on TV would not be the most beneficial for our young girls. I am so grateful for all the free resources out there. Here’s my plan.

    Begin with discussing why Sunday is special:

    Make the sign of cross.

    Light a candle and ask the Holy Spirit to be with us.

    Sing This Little Light Of Mine song:

    Read the readings and psalm:

    Watch this video about the Gospel:

    Discuss the Gospel.

    Pray petitions.

    Talk about the Eucharist:

    Make spiritual communion as a family:
    I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.
    By Father Cayetano de San Juan Bautista, Pamplona Spain, 1800

    Make the sign of cross.

    Sing This Little Light Of Mine song:

  10. Amanda

    We streamed our weekday masses a couple of days this week. I like seeing our priest – it makes me feel more connected to the parish. For weekday masses, we used a playback of a live recording, but today we will join live at the time it is streaming. I look forward to seeing so many people’s name from our parish on the Facebook live page – I think it will help ya feel more connected with our community. ❤️❤️

  11. Emily

    I completely agree with you about the tv. Unfortunately, we do not have a home chapel, so for us I think watching and participating in a reverent live streaming mass may be fruitful (especially for the eucharistic prayers). We will certainly have to be creative on making the space free from distractions and keeping kids engaged using their magnificats. I like the suggestion of being dressed as we would for mass. Thank you for your suggestions ! God help us all in this most unusual time!!!

  12. Callie

    Thank you for the perspective, Kendra! Since our two kids are so little, we decided to take your advice and do the prayers from the mass together as a family. We did the Liturgy of the Word and then skipped the Liturgy of the Eucharist and went right to the closing prayer. We sang hymns and chanted the psalm. We had a crucifix and two candles on our dining room table (our house is tiny, almost more like an apartment). Everyone was dressed up. I think it made a good impression on our 3 year old, and today certainly feels “set apart.” I’m so grateful to have the Magnificat app during this time!!

    I definitely think some families will benefit from televised mass, especially if they have older kids who are all able to understand that they are expected to be praying the whole time.

    Thanks again for the ideas! God bless you!

    • Callie

      I think my comment might sound like I think your older kids don’t understand that they are expected to be praying the whole time while viewing televised mass. Definitely not what I meant! 🙂

  13. Lindsay F Partridge

    Thank you so much, Kendra! I read your post late last night after already telling my family of 8 our plan was to watch our parish’s livestream of Mass in the Extraordinary Form this morning, but your post gave me more to think about so we did….both! I wanted to hear our priests’ homily and to have the familiarity of our parish, our home, and to know all our friends were uniting in prayer at the same time. So, we livestreamed Mass and then paused the image of our altar on the TV, pulled out our Magnifikid’s, and the kids did the readings, my husband read the Gospel, and then we prayed the prayer of spiritual communion together. This new practice was one I kind of hope we can make stick bc we usually do the readings in English separately throughout Sunday, not as a whole family, since we attend Extraordinary Form regularly. I love that we shared in the readings together. It inspired conversation over our post-Mass cinnamon rolls (donut stand in!) Anyway, thanks again for your inspiration. God bless you on this Laetare Sunday! We are half way there!

  14. Danielle

    Hi Kendra,

    Thank you for this very helpful post regarding ways to participate in mass from home during this pandemic.

    I am wondering your thoughts on whether or not bishops have the authority to cancel masses completely? Is there a limitation on this authority?

    It’s worth noting it’s two very different things to tell the faithful they don’t have to come (i.e. dispensation) vs telling the faithful they can’t come to mass.

    Are our bishops and pastors not our Shepard’s whose job it is to save our souls by bringing us the sacraments? I am surprised so few have been courageous or creative enough to get them to us. Save for the few drive thru confessions I have seen popping up here and there.

    I’ve been researching this topic and have come across a few good resources including this one:

    Thank you and God bless!

    • Kendra

      I am a big fan of that site in general, and I’m not a canon lawyer. I can certainly understand the desire of the bishops to avoid a situation in which a priest is the one to transmit a disease among the faithful, but also it seems unfathomable to be without the sacraments in a time of crisis. It is so hard to know what’s right. They need our prayers!

    • teresa power

      Thank you, Danielle, for the link to that post. It really confirmed I am not going mad, at least not yet! There are other people out there thinking this way, people who know more than I intuitively do. What a relief! For while I am ready to obey, I cannot come to terms to finding it OK… Thank you!

  15. Maria Teresa Coutinho de Seabra Castel-Branco Power

    Thank you for this post, Kendra! I have been thinking exactly the same, here in Portugal, and wrote about it on our site (unfortunately, our English version is very rarely updated, for Niall has very little time to work on it, so most of our articles are only available in Portuguese, but this one, he has just now translated into English):
    Hope it is a nice contribute to this discussion! These are really weird times, and times for opening the discussion of a lot of themes that are new to all of us! These are times to strengthen our Domestic Churches, for sure. And you are doing very well in that respect! God bless you!

  16. Claire Oman

    We are currently living in England and English is our kids’ 3rd language, so for this past week we streamed in to a Mass in our first language, which helped keep it prayerful. We rarely get a chance to attend in French and our oldest followed really well as a result. We also cleared out all the toys from the living room and brought in our usual Mass bag and lit a blessed candle and placed a crucifix in front of the screen to make it clear that this isn’t just movie time. It went well, but the toddler was also asleep…. So we will see how it goes next week. I appreciate your thoughts as always, and the civil sharing in the comments. Blessings to all in these strange times.

  17. Beth Lauver

    Experimenting and flexibility are definitely the name of the game! Streaming worked pretty well for us (save for the 4yo tantrum, which likely would’ve happened in church anyway!), but we put some intention into the setup. Our TV is surrounded by our bookshelves full of of kids’ stuff, books, family photos, etc. I found some unused curtains and draped over those, and also set up the cabinet under the TV itself with another white cloth, a candle, the Bible, and a crucifix. We brought in the dining room chairs so that there wouldn’t be temptation to sprawl on the couch as if it was movie night. I forgot the holy water, but intend to add that next time, and I’m debating ways we can make the family room windows look like stained glass! Obviously I wish we were actually there, and I’m just so sad to think that it will be this way through Easter, BUT, to echo your point, I told my husband it is our mission to make it abundantly clear to everyone we talk with that in particular Easter is NOT cancelled! It will happen no matter our circumstances, and what joy there is in that!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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