“Zombie Mass”

Over at Commonweal, “Fr. Nonomen” has an interesting piece on the “Zombie Mass”—i.e. the noontime “last chance” Mass at his parish  where people sit scattered as far apart as they can manage, no one sings, and people seem to stumble through the liturgy on faulty autopilot.

We probably all know Masses that we might describe in this way. It’s the one that those who go to the “livelier” Masses tend to look down their noses at, presuming that those who are there are simply trying to avoid real engagement while fulfilling their obligation. Fr. Nonomen points out that such judgments are unwarranted, that we don’t really know what spiritual place the attendees as the Zombie Mass are at, and we cannot presume that every spiritual place is served by a high level of outward engagement. Have we not all had those days when slouching in the back pew is the best we could manage? When we didn’t want anyone to offer us the peace of Christ or ask how we were? When we just wanted to show up to tip our hat to God and then be on our way? Or maybe we were genuinely pressed for time, or had to work earlier on Sunday morning, or had some other perfectly good reason not to go to the “high-engagement” liturgy.

It’s a testimony to Fr. Nonomen’s pastoral sensitivity that he is able to rethink things and see through entrenched prejudices.


  1. Having a “low” or “quiet” Mass, especially as the first Mass of Sunday morning, would go a long way to help a lot of people out. Especially those who find the high level engagement Masses offputting or uncomfortable, or are going through trouble or distress.
    Now with so many parishes closing or clustering, this might not be possible as a parish may only have one Mass on a Sunday, but maybe even once a month could be possible. I am thankful for priests like this man.

  2. There are times I attend the last Mass near midday on Sunday morning; usually when I have a schedule or logistical conflict with my normal practice. That said, for some of such times that I will deliberately choose that Mass over another non-normal alternative if I know from previous experience that it has little to no banal or worse music. But I am not frozen. (I am extreme lark, so attending Mass at that time is not an issue of being a late sleeper: I could happily do a 6AM Mass were it not for the fact that I am normally swimming laps at the YMCA around then!).

  3. I would classify the local noon mass at the parish as the “chill mass”. They don’t need to be in an out like the 7:30 AM or the anticipated mass of Saturday evening. They don’t require the smells and bells and extras of the 9:30 mass but if they appear, they are not miffed. I would also imagine that any complaint letters would come from people or usually attend other masses. And I would imagine the same with volunteers.

  4. I call our last mass of the Sunday morning the “slacker mass” – they’re the folks who couldn’t summon the motivation to get there earlier. A lot of times they don’t show up on time – they might be 15-20 minutes late. But they’re there, and that is something.

    1. Well, there are people who do shift work on weekends who are not slackers, but have a-typical sleep/chore patterns due to said shift work. I realize you may not have many of them, but they do exist, and one beautiful thing about many Catholic parishes is that their spiritual needs can be accommodated by a generous Mass schedule.

  5. Maybe if people don’t want to participate it’s a commentary on the painful music and liturgy at that parish. Most people just don’t want to be hassled. No music might be a viable option here. Liturgists tend to be enthusiastic former campus ministry volunteers who just don’t get this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.