When did daily mass for the public start to be offered?

The answer should have a citation of the mass being offered not simply on a weekday (such as on a veneration day for a saint), but on a daily basis AND for anyone to come (for the public), just like today.

Thus, private mass does not count for this answer, although including earlier milestones such as the first weekday mass and the first private mass would be welcome.

  • 1
    Do not think you will get a definitive answer to this. In a nutshell we do not know. There are hints, but nothing definitive. +1. Could try to make an answer, but it would be high imperfect.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 13:11
  • @KenGraham A best attempt is already valuable. We all need to work with the paucity of historical data :-). I was motivated to ask this question in connection with the other question on "our daily bread" to be understood spiritually as the Eucharist. It's rather strange that without the practice of daily mass, not even in St. Augustine's time it seems, that even the earlier St. Cyprian understood it that way. How then could the public receive spiritual food without the available means (daily mass)? Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


When did daily mass for the public start to be offered?

Ultimately, we can not say without any reasonable doubt that this practice started at this point in time. However, there are glimmers of this practice in the Early Church. We also know that certain monastic traditions like the Benedictine monks of the Cluniac reform were were dedicated wholly to the Divine Office and celebrating the the high mass each day. They had low masses in the morning for the lay brothers who did not participate at the main mass of the day as work in the fields and kitchen needed to be done.

The Early Church in Jerusalem received communion at the breaking of bread as mentioned in the Scriptures. But this practice was not universal or even permanent.

It is not impossible that this existed through the ages here or there, depending on the needs of the faithful and when local conditions made it possible as when no local persecutions were going on.

In the early Church at Jerusalem the faithful received every day (Acts 2:46). Later on, however, we read that St. Paul remained at Troas for seven days, and it was only "on the first day of the week" that the faithful "assembled to break bread" (Acts 20:6-11; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2). According to the "Didache" the breaking of bread took place on "the Lord's day" (kata kyriaken, c. xiv). Pliny says that the Christians assembled "on a fixed day" (Ep. x); and St. Justin, "on the day called Sunday" (te tou heliou legomene hemera, Apol., I, lxvii, 3, 7). It is in Tertullian that we first read of the Liturgy being celebrated on any other day besides Sunday (On Prayer 19; De Corona, c. iii). Daily reception is mentioned by St. Cyprian (De Orat. Domin., c. xviii in P.L., IV, 531); St. Jerome (Ep. ad Damasum); St. John Chrysostom (Hom., iii in Eph.); St. Ambrose (in Ps. cxviii, viii, 26, 28 in P.L., XV, 1461, 1462); and the author of the "De Sacramentis" (V, iv, 25; P.L., XVI, 452).

It should be noted that in the early Church and in the patristic ages, the faithful communicated, or at any rate were expected to communicate, as often as the Holy Eucharist was celebrated (St. John Chrysostom loc. cit.; Apostolic canons, X; St. Gregory the Great, Dial. II, 23). They received even oftener, since it was the custom to carry away the Sacred Elements and communicate at home (St. Justin, loc. cit.; Tertullian, "Ad Uxorem", II, v; Euseb., Church History VI.44). This was done especially by hermits, by dwellers in monasteries without priests, and by those who lived at a distance from any church. On the other hand, we find that practice fell far short of precept, and that the faithful were frequently rebuked for so seldom receiving the Holy Communion (see especially St. John Chrysostom, loc. cit., and St. Ambrose, loc. cit.). St. Augustine sums up the matter thus: "Some receive the Body and Blood of the Lord every day; others on certain days; in some places there is no day on which the Sacrifice is not offered; in others on Saturday and Sunday only; in others on Sunday alone" (Ep. liv in P.L., XXXIII, 200 sqq.). Whether it was advisable for the faithful, especially those living in matrimony, to receive daily, was a question on which the Fathers were not agreed. St. Jerome is aware of this custom at Rome, but he says: "Of this I neither approve nor disapprove; let each abound in his own sense" (Ep. xlviii in P.L., XXII, 505 — 6; Ep. lxxi in P.L., XXII, 672). St. Augustine discusses the question at length, and comes to the conclusion, that there is much to be said on both sides (Ep. liv in P.L., XXXIII, 200 sqq.). Good Christians still communicated once a week, down to the time of Charlemagne, but after the break-up of his empire this custom came to an end. St. Bede bears witness to the Roman practice of communicating on Sundays and on the feasts of the Apostles and Martyrs, and laments the rarity of reception in England (Ep. ad Egb. in P.L., XCIV, 665).

Strange to say, it was in the Middle Ages, "the Ages of Faith", that Communion was less frequent than at any other period of the Church's history. The Fourth Lateran Council compelled the faithful, under pain of excommunication, to receive at least once a year (c. Omnis utriusque sexus). The Poor Clares, by rule, communicated six times a year; the Dominicanesses, fifteen times; the Third Order of St. Dominic, four times. Even saints received rarely: St. Louis six times a year, St. Elizabeth only three times. The teaching of the great theologians, however, was all on the side of frequent, and to some extent daily, Communion [Peter Lombard, IV Sent., dist. xii, n. 8; St. Thomas, Summa Theol., III, Q. lxxx, a. 10; St. Bonaventure, In IV Sent., dist. xii, punct. ii, a. 2, q. 2; see Dalgairns, "The Holy Communion" (Dublin) part III, chap. i]. Various reformers, Tauler, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, and Savonarola, advocated, and in many instances brought about, a return to frequent reception. The Council of Trent expressed a wish "that at each Mass the faithful who are present, should communicate" (Sess. XXII, chap. vi). And the Catechism of the council says: "Let not the faithful deem it enough to receive the Body of the Lord once a year only; but let them judge that Communion ought to be more frequent; but whether it be more expedient that it should be monthly, weekly, or daily, can be decided by no fixed universal rule" (pt. II, c. iv, n. 58). As might be expected, the disciples of St. Ignatius and St. Philip carried on the work of advocating frequent Communion. With the revival of this practice came the renewal of the discussion as to the advisability of daily Communion. While all in theory admitted that daily reception was good they differed as to the conditions required.

But when did the Church start having daily mass? By the tenth or eleventh century in certain locations, but it was not wide spread.

Daily mass and frequent communion are closely intertwined as you will see.

Read Acts 6:1-6. Because of imprecision in terms in the earliest Church, we often don’t realize its Eucharistic content. Most people don’t realize that in the beginning, the word ‘deacon’ which is Greek for ‘servant’ (diakonos) could also apply to a priest or bishop. Most people also don’t realize that there wasn’t a special word for the Eucharist. Even our own word, ‘Eucharist’ is taken directly from the Greek meaning simply, ‘thanksgiving’. It was also often referred to as the ‘breaking of the bread’ and in this passage it is referred to as the ‘daily service’ (which is why, when we pray the Our Father, we say, ‘daily bread’ instead of ‘substantial bread’ or ‘supernatural bread’ which would be much closer to the original Greek).

What is happening in this passage? The Greek-speaking widows are being neglected in the daily distribution of ‘bread’. From what we have already said, we can easily figure out that what is happening is that the Apostles (who are for the most part more comfortable using Hebrew/Aramaic than Greek) are celebrating daily Mass for the Hebrew-speaking widows, but not for the Greek-speaking widows. I think we can understand that the Greek-speaking widows feel left out and would like to have daily Mass too. But the Apostles realize that, while they could spend more time celebrating Mass by visiting the communities of Greek-speaking widows, they have something more important to do that they shouldn’t leave out. Their most important ministry is witnessing to the truth of the Resurrection. They were all witnesses to Jesus having risen from the dead – having seem him alive and touched him after the Resurrection. That ministry ended with the Apostles – we no longer have witnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection living among us. Since that ministry has ended, now the most important ministries for bishops and priests include preaching and the sacraments.

To solve this dilemma, they decide to ordain the first priests. Since their ministry will be primarily to celebrate Mass for those the Apostles can’t get to, especially in the Greek-speaking community (we notice that the seven men chosen all have Greek names, indicating they are probably more comfortable speaking Greek than Hebrew). More evidence that this is something much more important than the distribution of ordinary bread lies in the qualifications that these men need to have: ‘of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom’. To hand out bread, you would certainly want honest men, but these qualifications, while they go way beyond what is needed for handing out ordinary bread, seem to fit what you would want for men who are going to be ordained priests to celebrate the Eucharist on a daily basis. And one more puzzling thing is that none of these men is depicted in Acts doing acts of charity on behalf of the community. Instead, the only two who are mentioned, Stephen and Philip, go out immediately and start to evangelize – a priestly mission.

Also, we know that in the time of the early Church, the preferred Jewish practice was to give money to the poor for food, not to give them bread.

Finally, it is good to notice something else special about this passage that is not specifically Eucharistic. Who are these widows? Reading Acts, we notice that the widows in the early Church would often live together to work and pray. Often, they promised not to remarry, to devote their lives to the community and the community supported them. In other words, they made promises or vows that they would live in a more spiritual way and serve the Christian community. What we have, in fact, is the beginning of the first religious communities. These were the first consecrated women. More evidence for this comes from outside the Gospel – the word we commonly use today for some of the women that live this way, ‘nun’. This word comes from the Vulgar Latin word ‘nonna’ which means ‘grandmother’. It even became the word in Medieval Latin for nuns and in its masculine form, for monks. That is because, from the times of the Apostles, there were already communities of consecrated women, for the most part older women, ‘the grandmas’, ‘nonnae’, ‘nuns’; who devoted their lives to prayer and serving the community – the beginning of religious life in the Church.

So, as we celebrate the feast of the Eucharist, Corpus Christi, we can remember how important the Eucharist was from the first days of the Church, from the time of the Apostles. Even then, in the first Christian community in Jerusalem, it was the habit to have daily Mass, in order to receive the ‘daily bread’ and it was so central to the life of the community that people complained if they were forced to miss out – which brought about the ordinations of the first priests. - When did the Church Start Having Daily Mass?

What we do know is that sometime in the Some time in the second century the faithful began to celebrate Mass on days other than Sundays.

The faithful would gather on the anniversary of the martyrdom of somebody like St. Cecelia or St. Agnes. Those days were considered to be the martyrs’ “birthdays into heaven, the into the fullness of life with God.” Often these Masses were celebrated in the catacombs due to the ongoing persecution of Christians by Roman authorities, which made daily communion extremely difficult.

Naturally enough, the community would gather on that anniversary, which of course could be on one of the other six days of the week depending on what year it was, and they would gather again to pray and venerate the memory of that particular saint to invoke their intercession and naturally enough to celebrate the Eucharist.

After the age of persecution, the practice was expanded as feast days were added. Around the seventh century, daily Mass became more widespread throughout the Western church.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries, some religious orders were celebrating daily mass which the whole community was encouraged to attend. Here the Cluniac Reform comes to mind.

We know that the Congregation of the Council (1587) forbade any general restriction, and ordered that no one should be repelled from the Sacred Banquet, even if he approached daily. So we can see that already here certain regions had daily masses.

Many of the documents of the church exhort and encourage priests in the strongest language possible to offer the Eucharist every day, if possible. It is not, strictly speaking, obligatory for priests to say Mass everyday but it’s highly encouraged.

Over time, the church has come to value the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian life and see the benefits.

The practice of daily mass and holy communion as we know it was due to the work of Pope St. Pius X in 1905.

The Congregation of the Council (1587) forbade any general restriction, and ordered that no one should be repelled from the Sacred Banquet, even if he approached daily. In 1643, Arnauld's "Frequent Communion" appeared, in which he required, for worthy reception, severe penance for past sins and most pure love of God. The Congregation of the Council was once more appealed to, and decided (1679) that though universal daily Communion was not advisable, no one should be repelled, even if he approached daily; parish priests and confessors should decide how often, but they should take care that all scandal and irreverence should be avoided (see Denzinger, "Enchiridion", 10th ed., n. 1148). In 1690, Arnauld's conditions were condemned. In spite of these decisions, the reception of Holy Communion became less and less frequent, owing to the spread of rigid Jansenistic opinions, and this rigour lasted almost into our own day. The older and better tradition was, however, preserved by some writers and preachers, notably Fénelon and St. Alphonsus, and, with the spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart, it gradually became once more the rule. Difficulty, however, was raised regarding daily Communion. This practice, too, was warmly recommended by Pius IX and Leo XIII, and finally received official approval from Pius X. Frequent Communion(Catholic Encyclopedia)

We should note that the Orthodox Churches and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches still do not celebrate daily masses as a rule, nor is daily communion a formal practice within these Rites or Churches.

The following articles may be of interest to some:

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .