Sunday, January 16, 2011

CHILDREN'S LITURGY OF THE WORD




We have our stewardship renewal in late summer. When we sent our stewardship packets to our parishioners I invited them to volunteer for the various ministries we have. I also indicated that if there was a ministry that we don't have and someone wanted to spearhead organizing it to let me know.

Well low and behold I got an email from one of our mothers. She had lived in New Orleans for about four years while her husband pursued a higher degree in dentistry. In her new parish they had the "Liturgy of the Word" for children. She volunteered for it and loved it and so did her younger children.

So I met with her and told her to go at it in organizing it here. We began last Sunday, The Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. It is for children K-4 through 2nd grade.

After the Opening Collect, the priest invites the children who wish to participate to come forward with their adult leaders. They are commissioned to go to their liturgy of the Word and that we look forward to them rejoining us for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. They then depart with hands folded in the traditional praying mode and quietly process out.

They return after the Credo and Intercessions.

I was away last Sunday for the debut. But I celebrated our 9:30 Mass today which is the only Mass which we do it and it worked marvelously! After I dismissed our catechumens following the homily and then after the Credo and Intercessions the little urchins came back in very quietly and even the youngest found his/her parents and family.

The moms and dads seem to love it too.

I was somewhat skeptical of doing it, but I think it is a good option for those children and parents who appreciate it. We're averaging about 40 children participating but expect that number to double once parents are convinced this is a good idea.

13 comments:

takosan said...

I am ambivalent about Children's Liturgy of the Word - my own kids do not go out for it, but many see to like it. I do feel though that any child in first communion prep should probably stay for the entire Mass.

Kent said...

Father, I can't share your enthusiasm for a children's Liturgy of the Word. I admit little experience with it but what I have noticed on occasion is a disruption of the Mass when the children are called forward and then process to another area of the church. Another concern is that they may, in some instances, be talked down to in the efforts to explain the scripture readings which may lead to a trivialization of the "Words of Everlasting Life". It seems also that there is a sort of division established between the children and adults. The "in thing" today seems to be to treat our children with a "Sesame Street" mentality. Lets give them more credit than that. Even though they may not entirely understand what is being proclaimed (do any of us?), they are certainly entitled to be present for this important part of the Mass and to benefit from it. Seems that the Church got along with out this adaptation for many centuries. I can't see why it is needed now.

Marc said...

In my humble opinion, the idea of "Children's Liturgy of the Word" is further evidence of the Protestantization of the faith using the so-called Spirit of Vatican II. [Yes, I am aware of the document (Directory for Masses with Children, 1973) that allows for children to be dismissed from the Holy Mass.]

First, in situations where there is no ordained person delivering the "homily" to the children, there is a risk that the children will be incorrectly catechized. Moreover, such a situation could be damaging to the children even where the teaching is correct simply because it further blurs the line between the laity and the ordained. For example, in a situation where one of the children's mother "teaches" during the "Children's Liturgy" the child may potentially start questioning the male-only priesthood.

Second, in situations where an ordained person instructs the children, by excising the children from the Holy Mass, the children and taken out of the most important corporal worship of the Church. One of the points made in the Second Vatican Council was the raising of the Liturgy of the Word and instructing the people as to its near equal importance with the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the context of the Holy Mass. To completely separate the children from the Holy Mass is damaging to the faith of the children.

Third, there is simply no need for children to receive independent instruction in the context of the Holy Mass. Children take part in education classes (whether they attend parochial schools or not). Moreover, parents must bear responsibility for teaching children about each Sunday's readings and instructing the children in the faith. There is simply no need to rupture the Body of Christ in the middle of the Holy Mass to instruct the children by delivering a simpler "homily".

Finally, by following the lead of many Protestant denominations (by essentially having "Sunday school" in the middle of the Holy Mass), the line between the Holy Catholic Church and those adhering to heretical positions is blurred. This is doubly important considering the young, impressionable minds and souls of the children in question. The way to teach the Truth of the Catholic faith is not to wrap it up in the falsehoods and trappings of Protestantism, which is a heresy after all.

Perhaps a separate "Children's Liturgy" made sense in 1973 when the document allowing for it was issued. I wasn't alive at that point, so I just don't know. I am convinced, however, that it represents a rupture to the hermaneutic of continuity as set forth by Pope Benedict XVI and it flys in the face of the "Reform of the Reform" currently occurring in the Church.

Frankly, again in my opinion, to allow the "Children's Liturgy of the Word" is a huge step backward for our parish.

Father, I am sure you considered all my points before allowing this change in the Holy Mass, and I will try my hardest to accept your position in this and all matters of the parish. But, as you can see from my post, I could not disagree more with the idea of dismissing children from the Holy Mass. Cf. Matt. 19:14.

Anonymous said...

If done properly, it seems OK. We do it in our parish, but we also play requests for Sinatra during the funeral mass.

Mine never were peacefully escorted out, either. We sat by the exit, prepared to flee during uncontrolled fits. There was the occasional cry room, too.

It is surprising what they absorb during the regular mass, and I do like the idea of having them trained to behave when everyone else is being quiet. It really isn't very difficult if they understand it is not a discussion.

rcg

SqueekerLamb said...

People...it's age 4K -2nd graders we're talkng about here.
Jesus came for the little ones too.
Apparently, none of you have small children at home anymore.

Kudos to Father for being willing to listen to someone who was listening to him, and as a result being asked to try something new that involved the Mass!

Now the children will understand and the parents get to actually listen to the Readings, Gospel, and Homily instead of trying to keep the children entertained and quiet.
Sounds like a win-win.

Dom de Guzman said...

Marc - I have heard plenty of ordained persons give "incorrect catechesis" or outright falsehoods in homilies. Ordination is no "imprimatur" for homily content.

Children are not "completely separated" from mass in a children's liturgy of the Word - they simply receieve it in a different location.

There is no "rupture," simply a slight alteration in location.

Since when is age appropriate catechesis an "heretical" idea?

Anonymous said...

I slept in this Sunday so went to the 1030 Mass. Based in the behaviour of the rabble and their children it would be a good deed to take the little tykes out and instruct them in without the interference of the parents.

rcg

Seeker said...

Well said Marc.
What would a good comment or post be without Dom Ignotus Roland-whatever, giving his critical non-sense (I mean) two-cents worth? Like it's something never considered. Obviously Dom, your "heretical age" is showing.

Frajm said...

Keep in mind folks that the dismissal of the children does not take long at all, they leave quietly and with hands folded in the traditional praying mode. They are still participating in the one and same Mass but with the Liturgy of the Word more suited to their intellectual grasp of things. It is only for 4K through 2nd grade. It is not mandated that they depart. Parents don't have to send their children away if they don't want to and certainly no child who doesn't want to go should be forced by a parent to go. They return very quietly after the General Intercession and participate with the entire community for the rest of the Mass.

Marc said...

SqueekerLamb: "Now the children will understand and the parents get to actually listen to the Readings, Gospel, and Homily instead of trying to keep the children entertained and quiet."

Here is yet another, more practical, problem with taking the children out of the Mass: it can potentially be used by the people as a remedy for children who make a lot of noise and lack good behavior. Instead of the parents actually instructing the children as to proper behavior during Mass, the importance of the Holy Sacrifice and the Real Presence of Christ, the children are simply ushered out so the parents may pay better attention!

Parents already do their children a disservice by setting very low the expectations of their behavior in the Mass. This is evidenced by children being given things to color or crosswords to work in lieu of being taught to pay attention.

In my opinion, the whole idea is quite in line with liturgists' low opinion of the laity in the Church:

- People cannot be bothered to understand a very small amount of Latin = vernacular Masses.

- People cannot be expected to "endure" catechesis on the nature of the Mass = no more Tridentine Masses.

- Catholics want to "fit in" with their Protestant co-workers and friends = systematically remove traces of our Catholic identity.

- Parents cannot be expected to teach children how to behave = Children's Liturgy or coloring books.

It seems that those making these decisions have a low opinion of the intellectual capabilities of the laity and, as a result, attempt to set the bar as low as possible. How about setting the bar higher and having people strive and learn?

Finally, surely there were children attending Mass for the first 1,973 years of the Catholic Church. Historically, how has the Church "dealt with" the "problem" of children assisting at Mass? I'm guessing the response was not to (partially) remove the children from the Mass.

Frajm said...

Marc, in the pre-Vatican II times, disruptive children would not have been tolerated by the congregation or the priest and the parish certainly did not provide a nursery or what is called a "cry room." What was expected was the parent would take the child out immediately, especially during the reading of the Gospel and the homily and return once the child calmed down. Or one parent would attend Mass while the other stayed at home babysitting and then the babysitting parent would go to a later Mass by her/himself.

Marc said...

Thank you for answering my question, Father. I had read that oftentimes parents were in a situation where they would go to separate Masses so the children would not be disruptive.

Regardless of my feelings on the Children's Liturgy, I will concede that having the family separate to go to Mass seems like a bad solution!

We are a pro-life people. While it is difficult to not get angry when children are disruptive during Mass, children are a gift and we should not be angry, but rejoice in the gift of life! (Sometimes easier said than done, in reality).

pinanv525 said...

I have only experienced significant disruptive behavior by children on one or two occasions at St. Joseph's. One time, when two four or five year old boys were noisily running out in the aisle with their parents sitting right there, I stepped out in front of them and growled, "You get in there and sit down right now!" They fled in terror and were quiet the rest of the Mass. What I wanted to do was take the father outside and provide him with about a minute of verbal terror....

I believe school age kids certainly need to be at Mass. Toddlers and infants I have no problem with if the parents have any sense.