Taking the Mass to the Streets

Here is Pope Francis as Cardinal Bergoglio celebrating Mass in front of the missionary tent in Plaza Constitución, as reported in Vatican Insider. What strikes you about it?

Bergoglio Mass in streets







  1. I notice the absence of an altar cross, candles, chasuable, or miter and crozier. The Mass is ad versus populum and probably celebrated entirely in Spanish.

  2. Though it’s difficult to know without knowimg the circumstances (was it a festival, or a disaster situation, or somewhere in between?), my first reaction is that it was unfortunate more fitting arrangements could not be made.

  3. The article from which the picture is taken explains the circumstances of the missionary tent, which is set up in one of the “toughest and potentially hostile urban spaces in the Argentinean capital: drug dealing, prostitution, poverty, marginalisation, criminality are mixed in with the daily whirlwind of people that pass through the station on their way home or to work….
    The missionaries of Plaza Constitución do not go there to sell the Church to people [but to] ‘facilitate’ – as missionaries like to put it – a personal encounter with Christ, by blessing, confessing, talking and listening to people. The ‘repayment’ for the compassion they show towards the masses is the unexpected thanks they receive from people…It is a way to please people who would ordinarily never step foot inside a church. As the families of cartoneros (people who go around collecting recyclable trash to sell on and make some money…:’Thank God you came out into the street because the street and the square is our home and you came to visit us. We couldn’t come to church, also because of the way we are dressed; everyone would turn round and look at us.’ ”

    Thus, the arrangements are absolutely perfect for the people who are being served. Thank you so much for this beautiful story of compassion.

  4. So you take the one photo where CArdinal Bergoglio is not wearing a chasuble as making some sort of point. All of the other photos of him celebrating mass in public spaces have him wearing proper vestments. He even wore a mitre in a slum! He also wore a roman chasuble once, and said mass with his back to the people twice. Why isn’t that news if this is?

  5. The red box on the altar is?
    And the blue stole is proper to what season?

    I am ALL IN FAVOR of bring Mass to the people, particularly the poor.

    But I haven’t yet figured out why this tends to be done with such shoddy liturgicraft. Don’t the poor deserve the best we can offer them?

    1. @Ben Dunlap – comment #6:
      Mr Dunlap

      Thank you for these photos – they show that Holy Mass maybe celebrated both outdoors and with the proper dignity of a Sacrifice to God.

  6. On the truly spiritual level, does God care? Didn’t he travel with David in a tent? Did He ask for elaborate furnishings? We may never know, but did the early Christians have highly decorated furnishings for Mass? Probably to some extant, but nothing too elaborate.

    My brother, who was a Veteran in Vietnam, said that the priest, like in the pics above, had Mass on the back of a jeep, usually in the rain under a tarp. He said you couldn’t hear a peep from the attendees, even the non-Catholics. He said that he could hear, however, the bombs in the background. At the time of Mass everyone was focused on where they needed to be.

    Therefore, so what if Pope Francis prayed Mass on a table? So what if he didn’t have a chasuble and a mitre? Do we know all the circumstances of why thing were happening as they did? The important thing is that he prayed Mass, and people were there, paying attention and Communing with the Lord and His Faithful. Decorations and proper space and liturgal garb have their importance, don’t get me wrong, but they are secondary; prayer and Participation in the Paschal Mystery come first. I would rather have Mass on a crooked tree stump, wearing a ratty chasuble and alb with 100% participation rather than in some grand church with expensive garb and beautiful decorations and a symphony-grade choir and instruments where nobody sings or pays attention whatsoever (I’m not saying that this might be the case in a grand church; I was just using it as an example. I HAVE been in those grand churches where they did participate). It’s Mass, my friends, it’s Mass, not a public show or concert.

  7. I thought I recognised the last of those pictures that Ben posted. It’s shown in a documentary made by Patrick, Benquet: “The Lost War of the Vatican” (La Guerre Perdue du Vatican), which you can watch here — unfortunately, it’s in French with no subtitles.

    It is a picture of a Mass celebrated by Abbot Philippe Laguérie of the Institut du Bon Pasteur; the film shows him haranguing his flock, denouncing the corrupt world with its “deviance, libertinage, license, turpitudes and sex.” Then he is filmed in an interview, where he shouts: “It’s finished, my sixty-eighters. Vatican II is finished! It is part of the past, an evil past.”

    Give me Pope Francis over this guy, any time, even without the fancy duds.

  8. From reading the story and looking over the picture, here are several observations:

    1. The article refers to the people being touched by having someone look at and really see them, so facing the people – in contrast to the pre-Vatican II and EP pictures proffered by Ben – would seem to be the appropriate manner.

    2. The style demonstrated in Ben’s last picture would clearly be inappropriate in this setting – as the intent of the missionary effort is to show that the Church is of and with the people, which the raised platform and golden candlesticks would not communicate in this space.

    3. The use of the national colors for the tent is probably intentional.

    4. Even the placement of the altar outside the tent speaks of going out to the people rather than expecting or waiting for them to come in.

    5. The visible placement of the altar and the use of the large speakers appear to be efforts to capture the attention of passersby, to get them to spontaneously pause to encounter Jesus in the street.

  9. Thank you, Rachel – #3 says it all….the rest of the nit-picking is merely sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

    If you have never been in a missionary territory, 3rd world urban slum, etc. can you really weigh in on this photograph?

    Wonder what a picture of the Emmaus story would have looked like? What is really the *essentials* and *core*?

  10. If an animal’s feeding trough was good enough for the Incarnation, an utterly unsophisticated yet reverently loving liturgy is good enough for the Consecration.

  11. John Swencki : If an animal’s feeding trough was good enough for the Incarnation, an utterly unsophisticated yet reverently loving liturgy is good enough for the Consecration.

    Thank you, John! Terrific reminder.

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