Mass in a Mall?

I had heard of a couple of chapels located in the midst of malls, but I had never experienced one. Never, that is, until this weekend, when life unexpectedly took me to the heart of Boston, Massachusetts. My family and I were exploring the Shops at Prudential Center, looking for a place to eat lunch, when I came across St. Francis Chapel. I absolutely had to stop and visit.

When I had imagined chapels located in malls, I had pictured a basic storefront type space with an altar and some chairs and a corner set off for confessions. My imagination certainly did not do St. Francis Chapel justice. This is a beautiful chapel. One moment you are standing in the midst of modern-day commerce. Then you enter the doors, and you are in a church. It is quiet and peaceful. It is called “An Oasis of Silence, An Oasis of Prayer” in the center of the city. I certainly found that to be the case.

Adoration was going on when I visited (it is held for several hours every day); it was so meaningful to be able to stop and pray. There were several other people inside who had also taken a break from the chaos outside to bring themselves before God. There was a wall of lit candles, each representing a prayer being sent up to heaven. Confessions were going on (a penitent was taking advantage of that sacrament), and someone was browsing the small Catholic bookstore adjacent to the chapel.

When I got home and researched the chapel further, I was surprised to learn that it has been in existence for over forty years! During that time, it has ministered to people from all over the world. I was incredibly impressed by the number of services this small chapel offers.

Ever since I heard of them, I have been a strong supporter of a Catholic presence within shopping malls. Now that I have seen one in action, I am an even bigger believer that this is an important ministry. Jesus always went to where the people were. This is a modern-day way to minister to people where they are. At St. Francis Chapel, masses and confession are offered at convenient times throughout the day. Unlike so many freestanding churches today which are locked due to security concerns, the doors are always open and welcome to everyone. The sacraments are readily available. How many times have I wanted to attend Mass only to find that my schedule doesn’t mesh with the daily Mass at the local church? As much as I may want to go to confession, Saturday afternoon is not always convenient. Priests lament that fewer people take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation today. Why not make it easier for them to go?

A chapel in a mall is welcoming. It calls to people, inviting them to take a moment for prayer. Even if they don’t enter, people of all faiths can be reminded that God is everywhere, even in the midst of a shopping center. It can reach out to Catholics who have, for whatever reason, found themselves away from the Church. It can be the first step to a return home. For someone who has no spiritual home to start with, it can be the first step in a relationship with God. Yes, there is a cost involved, and the dedication of priests to staff it, but I definitely feel that the souls that could be served and saved outweigh any monetary outlay. In a time when so many of our churches are being forced to close due to reduced membership and income, this is an opportunity that should be taken full advantage of. At a time when more and more youth are moving away from the Church, this is a chance to reach them where they are.

Mass in a Mall? Absolutely.

To find out more about St. Francis Chapel, please visit

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic, she blogs at

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Clicking the link leads to CE’s 404 page. The URL provided as link text is correct.

  • This is working now.

    What’s with the glass chalice? You’d think by now Boston would have been so tired of seeing come true that the one faithful in little things would be faithful in big things and vice versa.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Mass in a Mall? | Catholic Exchange --

  • fwtagge

    There is a similar chapel in Syracuse, NY. It also is a nice refuge from the chaotic shopping and entertainment world. The link is here:

  • If this chapel were simply a refuge for quiet reflection, fine, but as it is, with all due respect, Patrice, I have a far different take.

    Though admittedly I have the disadvantage of never having been to the chapel, I see this as yet another unfortunate example of how we have, to our utter detriment and shame, profaned the sacred since the close of the Council.

    Yes, God is everywhere, even in the midst of a shopping center, but that does not mean that it is a good idea to plop the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass into a setting such as this; a shopping mall where people banging on the ATM can watch through the glass doors while Father elevates the Most Holy Eucharist as they struggle to remember their PIN.

    Sure… the same God who brought about the world’s redemption through the greatest sin ever committed is also able to bring good even from this, but that doesn’t make it a laudable act on our part. Holy Mass is worthy of far more dignified surroundings than a mall.

    There is nothing more sacred than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In spite of our experiences to the contrary over the last 40+ years, everything that is part of the Mass must therefore be sacred; the music, the vestments, the vessels, the language, etc… This includes the building and its furnishings, and yes, even its setting.

    “Sacred” by definition means “set apart for Divine worship, not secular, not profane.” A shopping mall is not by any reasonable measure a truly sacred setting.

    How far “set apart” in the physical sense is enough? Far enough that the setting itself will serve as a truly sacred sign, meaning, it should point to the reality of Holy Mass as Sacred Mystery… elevating hearts and minds beyond the every day into the reality of Mass as Heaven on earth and the action of Christ… The setting should communicate that the liturgy is that during which the veil is lifted and eternity is glimpsed, and that it is unlike any other thing we can experience anywhere else on earth.

    Bringing the Mass down to the setting of the utterly ordinary, into a center of commerce, does non-Catholic observers a grave disservice by reinforcing the mistaken view that Holy Mass is simply the Catholic version of any number of man-made Christian services.

    That the Mass and the Eucharist can only be encountered in a truly sacred setting – one that is sometimes only accessed through inconvenience and effort – is fitting. This does far more to convey the true nature of the sacred liturgy to those who are fallen away or outside of the fold than placing the sacred in the midst of the profane ever will.

    To the extent that God leads shoppers into the light of His presence in this place, we should thank Him for His willingness to pour out His grace even when we do foolish things, like placing the most sacred of all things in the most secular and unworthy of all settings.

  • Pat Gohn

    Also in Massachusetts, opening in 1960 (I think) the Carmelite Chapel at the North Shore Mall in Peabody just underwent a renovation. Mass at the mall is alive and well:

  • convert

    Dear Mary,

    It’s *not* a glass “chalice” that you saw. If you go to the “Pictures,” you’ll see clearly that the priests at this chapel use a metal chalice at Mass. These priests are some of the most orthodox you can find in the Boston area.

  • breedr214

    I too recently visited Boston this past June spending 6 days in the city and also stumbled upon this beautiful chapel in the middle of the Prudential Center. I was able to attend Mass on 3 of my mornings during my visit and found the experiance very uplifting to find such a peaceful place amongst the hustle and bustle of the mall and the city. It was so nice to be able to stop in and visit the Blessed Sacrament during adoration and spend a few minutes with Christ. I think that it is great that there is a chapel in this mall and plus it is a great benefit for the many hotels that are in the immediate area. I do plan on visiting it again next time I am in Boston

  • stonethegates

    Louie, as a recent convert, I can attest to the power of the Eucharist — it was what solidified my decision to come into the Church. Perhaps the man trying to remember his PIN will see the Eucharist and be drawn to or even returned to the Church. I think we must not give appearances too much strength. The Crucifixion wasn’t pretty, a simple reading of the Gospels will tell of that. We were commanded to partake of the Eucharist in remembrance of Christ’s death. We cannot hide our faith behind walls. We must share our faith with a needing world, lest we resurrect the Pharisees within ourselves. A chapel, because of its purpose to God, is sacred. My parish is on the frat row of a college campus — why? Because that is precisely where it is needed the most and during some Saturdays during Lent, parishioners process through the campus in prayer because if one person is affected positively and comes to Christ because of it, we have made the world a slightly better place. So I applaud the chapel, and others like it, not because of any beauty or convenience, but because of the need in their surroundings.

  • Brandon Farr


    Please don’t be too quick to judge. As you stated, you haven’t visited the chapel. Having frequented the chapel over the years, and knowing a little of its background, a little history may help put your comments in proper perspective. The ground the chapel stands on was under the ownership of either the diocese or some Catholic order before before the construction of the shopping mall. As the surroundings changed over the years it was agreed to maintain a sacred space on the location. That space is the chapel today. The chapel is a positive act of giving witness to the faith.

    Beyond this, consider that the chapel sits at the base of a 40+ story office tower, with thousands of workers, not to mention all the other workers in this crowded part of the city. This chapel, with four daily Masses, is a vital support to the faith of Catholics in the area.


  • Thanks for your thoughts Brandon and stonethegates. Perhaps I should have been more clear. Many remarkably beautiful and truly sacred places are located in the heart of urban centers smack in the middle of chaos.

    The noteworthy difference in this particular setting as far as I can see is that its only entrance appears to be accessible only through a mall, the only thing separating the altar of the Lord and the Most Holy Eucharist from an ATM and whatever else goes on in that area is a set of glass doors, etc. These things matter. They say a great deal about the degree to which we recognize, or not, the treasure the Lord has given us in the liturgy. We wear our finest jewelry (if we have any) only in certain places, not when scrubbing toilets. Why? Because we know that they are too valuable to introduce into certain settings. Similar idea.

    Sure the guy at the ATM might see the Eucharist and be moved, but let’s be clear, any movement of the kind won’t come thanks to the clever placement of this should-be sacred place, it would be the result of God’s willingness to dispense grace in unfortunate circumstances. And the truth is, any movement in this setting comes at a cost, a great cost. By bringing the most sacred (the set apart for divine worship, the consecrated) into the heart of the ordinary in this way, we not only fails to communicate an important truth about the liturgy’s essence to others, we broadcast a lie by obscuring it.

    I’m afraid the “if it helps one person” argument is entirely irrelevant. Ten thousand people might be helped, but the issue WRT to the sacred liturgy and teh way we treat it is not us! We’ve been viewing the liturgy through the prism of what suits the “community” to the point where… well, Mass in a mall seems appropriate. God help us!

    The unique dignity and profound worthiness of Holy Mass is the issue. That’s the reason this setting is so unworthy of Holy Mass. Jesus in the Eucharist should not be exposed through glass doors to disinterested shoppers; not because of them and what they might or might not receive, but because of Him and the honor that He deserves. It’s for this same reason we don’t stand before the tabernacle and gossip, or go to Mass in flip flops and beach attire. (Never mind.) : )

    Think of it this way, no one would genuinely think it appropriate to host a dinner for the Pope at McDonald’s. And why not? Because most of us readily recognize the disparity between the dignity of the Pope and a fast food joint, in spite of the fact that the french fry cook might be moved by the aura of Christ’s vicar.

    We have lost our sense of the sacred, folks.