Children’s Liturgies

An interesting discussion has begun in some of our comments on the last post regarding the catechesis of children and children’s liturgies.  [Oh, and in the comments someone claims that one of the commentators, Michael is my brother. Not so. He’s my cousin.]

If there’s any time that I cringe along with the ultra-trads of the church it’s at many children’s liturgies or school liturgies. The school community is probably the last hold-out of the “folk” mass and of a poor sense of liturgy… not always but often enough. There are a couple of reasons for this. (In my opinion). First of all teachers and those who work in school have a tremendous challenge to help connect faith to life for the students. This is often, and at best, without any support from parents and family. So they seek ways to make it “meaningful”. The second reason is that many clergy are antagonistic towards teachers and schools and leave them to fend for themselves. Many priests with a very huge clerical chip on their shoulder alienate the teachers and schools. Thus there comes a disconnect between school and parish. Third, many of the teachers themselves are not well formed in their faith and so just repeat what they saw/heard when they were students. Finally, and this is not exhaustive, pedagogy and liturgy are very different approaches. Teachers by their very nature tend to want to explain, define, unpack every symbol and gesture. Liturgy, by it’s nature is done, not talked about it.  Liturgy is much more related to making love. God makes love to us in the liturgy. It’s best to talk less and enter into the moment.

All that being said, and I’m glad I got that off my chest 🙂 I have also been to some really amazing children’s and school liturgies. I have been working with our own school here in the parish to make this better and better for us. (In case some friends south of the border don’t realize this, our schools are not parochial. They are run by an independant Catholic School Board finances by the Provincial Government.) So, with proper guidance, an understanding of the Directory on Liturgies with Children and with some empowerment of teachers we end up having some pretty good prayer.  I am also very proud of our students at St. Bonaventure. When they come for mass once a month, the whole school which is about 430 students, they are quite prayerful and well-behaved. They’re still kids, a little noisey some times. But still pretty good.

One of the greatest experiences I’ve had lately with kids and liturgy/worship is when we invite them to lead or help shape the prayer. This requires more guidance but is quite fruitful. One thing I like is our communal penance service for Lent. We have a prayer service before confessions which requires 6 of 7 speakers and a leader. The students then, conduct the prayers service in front of the other students. It takes guts to do that in front of your friends. Not only do they do it, but they  mostly do it quite well. I find the kids have a great connection for and desire for the sacred in their lives.  The othe thing we do that I really like is on Holy Thursday, the last day of school before the Triduum begins, the students put on a prayer/passion play. It’s the story of the last days of Jesus. There is a basic script but the students, with the guidance of an amazing grade 7 teacher, create the sets, perform the music, act/read the script and lead the prayers. It is brilliant. One year, the students even changed the script, with my permission and assistance, to set the passion in the current time. It was very creative and led to some profound discussions.  When Jesus get executed on the Cross by a firing squad it really brings home to them what is going on.  I had one teacher complain that this was too graphic. Too graphic????? What did they think happened on the Cross?

Anyways, I digress. Well maybe not. The point of letting the students help create the prayer moment is to help them make the connections between life and faith. The Liturgy of the Eucharist, especially for Children, does allow for creativity, but it has a structure that needs to be respected and done well. However, it’s good to blend experiences of the mass, sacraments with other prayerful moments where their creativity can shine.

I can’t speak of children/students without mentioning the great contribution they make to our parish. Kids are not the future of the Church; they are part of the NOW of the Church. I am so pleased by the ministry of our children and young people in the family choir, as altar servers, lectors, hospitality ministers and our young adults as Ministers of Communion. They really add so much to our life as a parish.

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14 thoughts on “Children’s Liturgies

  1. Friar Rick,

    That’s true. The kids in St. Bonaventure are great!

    I witnessed that in school with grade two or three. These kids are very passionate doing there school work, very cooperative and many potential leaders and polite. It seems everybody wants to be a leader. Very inspiring. We made a Rosary project (as their teacher instructed us to do) out of crepe papers of different colors turned into small balls as beads pasted on a white paper to form a Rosary.

    It ‘s amazing, that for short period of time each one has finished her/his Rosary and we orderly hanged their works on the walll.

  2. Gee,

    Funny you should write about this.

    I understand that the Vatican has issued an instruction that there are to be no further children’s Eucharistic Prayers.

    Vatican will drop Eucharistic Prayers for Children

    Washington, Oct. 3, 2008 (CWNews.com) – The Vatican plans to remove the Eucharistic Prayers for Children from the authorized prayers of the Roman Missal.

    Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, the chairman of the US bishops’ liturgy committee, has disclosed the Vatican plans in a letter to the American bishops. He reported that the Congregation for Divine Worship plans “to publish a separate text at a later time.”

    The Eucharistic Prayers for Children, like many other liturgical texts, have been criticized for failing to convey an adequate sense of the sacred in the liturgy. In recent years the Vatican has made special efforts to recover that sense of the sacred, and to curtail the proliferation of liturgical texts in order to encourage consistency in the liturgy.

    “This does not change our present practice,” Bishop Serratelli wrote in his September 29 letter. The change will take effect at an unspecified future date.

    However, the US bishops’ committee has decided to suspend work on a new translation of the existing Eucharistic Prayers for Children. In light of the coming change, Bishop Serratelli said that he was removing that item from the agenda for the November meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

  3. Well, “plan to”, “about to” doesn’t count until they do. It’s really sad, because the prayers are quite beautiful and I find work well with the children if they are properly done.
    I must say, that seeing other blogs where this topic has come up and people are foaming-at-the-mouth and spewing such condemnation about the Eucharistic Prayers for Children I am left in total shock! Who the heck gets so worked up about these things, and why? I mean really… the Eucharistic Prayer for Children????? As someone earlier said, I think some people have way too much time on their hands. I understand passion about liturgy and church and ministry. But don’t sweat the small stuff… you’ll have stroke by the time your 40!

  4. So how come children managed fine for all those centuries and the results were full seminaries and convents?

    Is it possible that this wishy-washy, namby-pamby liturgy has undermined the faith?

  5. David,

    That was a very grave error to open the doors to everybody …. see what’s happening in Ireland … they’re vetting everybody very seriously.

  6. You call yourself a priest?

    Perhaps this should all be forwarded to your Archbishop Collins.

    You are insulating and spend too much time on the internet Friar Rick!

  7. Hold back on that one Mark. I would like to see Michael apologize first for his comments on OD. He’s been out of line on that one for some time, and has flatly stated he won’t apologize. If he’s willing to denegrate a group with over 100,000 members as being evil, I don’t think he should be calling for any apologies.

  8. Karl,

    What I have said is in books …. published in democratic and free countries. If the contents in the books are wrong OD has the right to have them banned. As they haven’t had them banned I am totally entitled to quote them.

    You certainly are going to extremes in your analysis of things.

    You are encouraging Mark to insult Friar Rick, then. Karl you are being very very naughty.

  9. Michael,

    What kind of world do you live in to believe that Opus Dei has the right to ban books? Are you sane? I’m sure they would loved to ban the Davinci Code yet didn’t get it banned anywhere. Simply because something is published does not make it true. Or would you argue that everything in “Mien Kampf” is rooted in fact? Look I’m just following your logic. Ops sorry my mistake you aren’t using logic.

    Secondly I did not encourage Mark to insult Fr Rick. All I did was tell him to hold off on an apology until you made yours.

    Finally I will no longer explain myself to you. There is clearly something faulty in your wiring. I among others have been calling you on your inconsistancies, your hypocracy, ignorance etc. Simply because your cousin is the moderator I am tempted to believe you feel you have the right to run the gamit with your ludicris ideas that wouldn’t be put up in the real world.

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