CHN Community Responds

How Do You Manage Mass Attendance When Visiting Non-Catholic Family for the Holidays? CHNetwork Community Question

December 12, 2016 4 Comments

It’s a contentious issue, loaded with potential for passive-aggressive exchanges- how do you and your family handle Mass attendance when visiting relatives that don’t understand your faith?  There are several possible scenarios out there- Christians of good will who think it’s more important to stay home with family instead of going to Church on Christmas, fallen-away Catholics who are bitter at the Church and look down on those who still go, and even well-meaning family members who’ve packed the schedule so full that you don’t know how you’ll be able escape to Mass without incident.  So here’s the question:

How have you learned to set your schedule when visiting non-Catholic family so that you’re able to have a quality visit, and yet still be able to get to Mass or other liturgies?

Here’s what some of our members and readers had to share on the topic:


“When I would visit my protestant brother, I simply located the parish nearest to his home (via and our family went to the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. My brother and his family were very understanding. Over the span of many visits, it became our parish away from home and is now our permanent parish since my family has moved back to my home town. I’m thankful that there was no visible tension during our visits and our need to attend Mass was respected.”

HD, via Facebook


“When we first converted, we would attend a Mass at a time that would meet our obligation, and also allow us to attend a service with our Protestant family as well.

On the rare occasions that their church received communion, we abstained.

Several years later, with the kids older, our family has come to expect that Sunday morning everyone goes their own way and meets up afterward. But in the early days, we ‘double dipped.'”

Timothy Putnam, host, Outside the Walls Radio Show


“I find a Mass at the same time as my sister’s church service. She drops me off, picks me up, and we go out to brunch. Jesus and Pancakes!”

Elizabeth C., via Facebook


“I like the idea of being matter of fact and not making a spectacle. A firm statement of intent goes a long way. I found early on that if I just put it out there (“we’re thinking about going to the 8:30 Mass…”) people didn’t believe we were really that serious about it. Saying something more like “we’re PLANNING on going to the 8:30 Mass” lets everyone know it’s really important to us, and doesn’t leave ambiguity. I’ve found that if people understand it’s important to you, even if they don’t understand why, they’re more respectful about it.”

Matt Swaim, Communications Coordinator, The Coming Home Network International


“They texted last week, ‘we are up, breakfast is ready, come on over’; we texted back, ‘going to Mass at your nearest Catholic church, see you in about an hour’. No one mentioned it when we arrived, but later someone said, ‘how was church?’ A nice opening…..right?”

Bibiana P, via Facebook


“I always notify ahead of time to those that we are visiting that we will be going to Mass (and give the time). I never request special favors, like holding breakfast until our return, or even that other events not take place. We will catch up. After a couple of times, I’ve found that these same friends or family accept that this will be the norm of our visits and out of love, we are always respected.”

Mary Lou, via Facebook


If you have something to add, please share in the comments!  For those who are new to the Catholic faith, practical issues like this one can be especially nerve-wracking.  Let’s help each other as we try to live our faith in a way that not only enriches us personally, but also serves as a loving witness to those looking in from the outside!

  • Brittany Goins

    My situation might be a bit different, but I agree with the below comments. I am a cradle Catholic married to an independent, fundamentalist Baptist, so I have experienced this when celebrating with my in-laws. Well, sometimes I experience on any given Sunday from my husband, depending on his mood and whether or not my going to Mass effects our schedule. Like I said earlier, just let everyone know in a matter of fact manner and move on. The first few years they would give me a hard time and try to argue about theology but now it is just accepted and expected.

  • Daphne312

    This will be my first visit with my daughter in her town since my reverting to Catholicism. She is very active in her Lutheran church and sings in the choir. Haven’t figured out the Sunday morning Mass yet, but she’s singing a solo at her church’s Christmas Eve service so I will certainly attend (skipping communion). But on Christmas Day we are both attending a High Mass at a parish not too far away from her home. Why is she attending with me? The church has an amazing choir, and she loves choral music.

    You take your victories where you can, and since she’s my only family in the area…

  • Tracy Taylor

    I simply stated that I would be going and if they wanted to work dinner and gift around the time fine. If they didn’t want to that was fine also I would be going to Mass period end of sentence.

  • Jeffrey Job

    We have a cabin by a lake that we and our extended family gather at in the summer months so we get this issue most weekends as well as Holidays.
    My wife and I find out the family schedule and then pick a Mass that is least disruptive of their plans. That being said, we ALWAYS go even when inconvenient to them. I believe it bears great witness to them that this is not optional, that Faith is priority.
    We have ex Catholics who are active Protestants and I noticed that they typically skip Sunday services which helped me realize something important about our Catholic faith.

    Without an external authority and without spiritual disciplines to help me along it would be so easy for me to tell myself I will skip just this once cause God understands. Problem for me is I have great intentions but sometimes need the extra push to actually carry them out. It’s like a tomato plant needs the stake to guide its growth upward because without it, it would just lay on the ground and produce very little.

    One of my favorite Catholic speakers in his usual wit and insight was speaking of a conversation with a friend who said he didn’t need Church because he could worship God in the woods. He said he hadn’t ever seen much worship going on when he was out there! 😇

The Coming Home Network International