Friday, June 5, 2015


This is obviously a children's Mass at a school or summer Vacation Bible School. Thus I might cut the priest, who I will not name to protect him from abject cruelty over this, some slack. In the 1980's (and he is slightly ordained before me) I was well-known to give "great" children's homilies at our school Masses using show and tell props. I was down right crazy, but in a good sense!

But that was then and this is now. As I watch this silly homily (and keep in mind in the EF Mass the homily is not a part of the Mass, in fact technically even the chasuble should be removed, the priest exits the sanctuary for a pulpit in the nave)I can't help but wonder what kind of impression this will make on these children when they recall it as adults. Will it promote awe and wonder, a deep piety and sense of God's mystery. Will it make them want to fall down on their knees in adoration or will it ultimately be one more reason why we have so many "NONES?"

When I was in the first grade at St. Anthony Church and School in the West End of Atlanta, I think we went to Mass every morning before school even began. Since it was the 1959-60 school year it was the traditional Mass of the Church, the only Mass of the Church of the Latin Rite at that time.

We sat with our sibblings, not as a class and we were quiet and reverent. Not a peep out of any of us. We had no homily at the daily Mass and the daily Mass was not geared toward children in any fashion whatsoever.

I was bored, but I knew something powerful was going on and I knew that people took the Mass seriously by their profound silence and reverence. There was no giggling unless someone got the hip-cups!

What do children take from this Mass?


Anonymous said...

This homily happened this year??? Oh brother!!

When I was a kid my mom and dad sent me to a YMCA summer camp for two weeks. Right before meal time they'd march all us kids into the dining hall where we were seated at picnic tables, and to keep us occupied before the food was served, the counselors would start the singing. They'd teach us great fun songs I'd never heard before, and we'd sing them at the top of our lungs, banging the tables or clapping to keep the beat. One I remember was "The Titanic."
Here's one verse:

Oh, they built the ship Titanic
To sail the ocean blue,
And they thought they had a ship
That the water would never go through;
But the Lord's almighty hand,
Said that ship would never land.
It was sad when that great ship went down.

It was sad, It was sad,
It was sad when the great ship went down (to the bottom of the sea);
Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives,
It was sad when the great ship went down. (glug, glug!)

It was hilarious, and great fun.

Contrast this to an experience I had at about the same age at an all school Stations of the Cross during Lent. There was nothing overtly different about this particular time I attended the Stations than any other time, but I still remember the day clearly. The church, even though there were about 200 kids of all grade school ages attending, was relatively quiet and the kids attentive. As we recited the prayers and sang the Stabat Mater together and the servers and priest went from station to station, I grasped in a much deeper way the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ: the sorrow of Our Lady and the disciples as they followed Jesus carrying the cross, the brutality of the actual physical sufferings of Jesus, the crushing cruelty of Roman soldiers, the massive injustice of Jesus' suffering and death, and the significance of what He endured so we may not go to hell.

Yep, one group activity was all for fun. And the other was to engage in prayer so God Himself may begin to visit the soul and fill it with His Holy Spirit and invite it into love.

It's the adults who guide this. And I expect those kids attending the sort of Mass in the video where there's a break for great singing fun are not going to be quietly disposed to receive any grace that opens them to the deeper mystery of God present in the Eucharist.

There's a time and place for everything. But if the adults don't model the prayer, if they don't open the experience for the Holy Spirit to enter in, when will the kids ever learn that God speaks in a still small voice? And if everything is all about fun and engaging activities, what happens when the liturgy is not fun?

Anonymous said...

Wow, talk about clericalism on display. Way to go Father. I couldn't tell if he was wearing a clown nose or not?

Couldn't we picture Pope Pius X acting like this during Mass or Padre Pio. How about Mother Teresa, I'm sure she would have approved. And the Little Flower most definitely.

Obviously he thinks it fine to act like a fool during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, actually on the slopes of Mount Calvary itself while Christ is offering Himself on the Cross. The Mass which makes Christ's death on the cross sacramentally present. Is this why Christ died? Is this why innumerable men and women throughout history shed their blood for the Mass, ie in England during the Reformation to name one instance. And we wonder why entire countries are abandoning the Faith. I wonder what it could be? It must be that church that is so rigid and concerned with doctrine and dogma and rules and formality. That must be it.

WSquared said...

I was bored, but I knew something powerful was going on and I knew that people took the Mass seriously by their profound silence and reverence. There was no giggling unless someone got the hip-cups!

Your recollection, Father, is instructive: it should encourage us to think a little bit more critically about what we mean by "love," and how that understanding or lack thereof is related to our complaints and our children's complaints that we're "bored" at Mass and that we're "not getting anything out of Mass."

Just what do we expect to "get out of Mass," anyway, and why does it never seem to occur to us that we're complaining that we "don't get anything out of Mass," we Just Don't Get It? If we claim to know what Mass is, then how can we be "bored"? In addition, why do we presume to make Mass about how we feel and our "worship experience"? That approach strikes me as unsustainable.

Ven. Fulton Sheen once observed that "the reason why we're bored is because we don't love anything!" We know from the experience of marriage-- and from learning what it means to love God and neighbor-- that love involves constant learning, hard work, and practice: since does something have to be instantaneous and "fun" in order for us to claim to "love" or even "understand" it, when that's not even true of real life and not true of any love that is actually worthy of the name? Perhaps for those reasons, that instantaneous quality isn't true of most things in the Catholic spirituality and its concrete practice: Catholicism IS about real life.

The expectation that understanding should be instantaneous also mitigates against perseverance: not understanding something now does not mean an inability understand more later on. Kids and adults need to relearn that life is not about instant gratification. Anything creative-- as opposed to consumptive-- like writing good-quality doctoral dissertations and books requires patience and humility, as well as trust. They go hand in hand with learning to enter into the Sacred Mysteries, which is what Catholics learn to do when we go to Mass.

Love is not an emotion, but a choice, and a well-ordered act of the will that wills the good of the other as other-- and not the constant search for some emotional high. Love is also logical and thereby intelligible-- we know this intrinsically, despite what we believe or don't believe, when we expect love to actually mean something. Returning to Holy Matrimony again, particularly because of its Eucharistic parallels, where the Eucharist is a nuptial Sacrament and Holy Matrimony is meant to mirror the Eucharist, marriage is a great good and a wonderful blessing. But it's not "fun," regardless of the immense joy that comes from it. We don't get married primarily to "have fun."

I love that a priest is playing the guitar and making the kids laugh-- but for the love of God, not at Mass, and not during any specifically liturgical activity, either. Before or after Mass, particularly within the context of a school retreat or mission, definitely. There is ample room for that in the Church. But Mass is not "that" place. The late Monsignor at my parish used to have a Mass for the parish school every First Friday, and the homily was always geared toward them: but while he stepped down from the pulpit to talk to the kids, he never watered the faith down, or made it about banners, balloons, and guitars, even as he explained things to them at their level.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in novus ordo land circa 1980's.This looks like insane trash that would've went down during one of the many forgettable "children's masses."From experience most of these kids will do what we did and leave on their 18th birthday.Most of us never went back and the few who did (me being one of them) will discover the truth and never acknowledge the novus ordo as anything other than the abomination of desolation.