A second look at the Directory for Masses with Children

The church is at a crossroads regarding Mass attendance, particularly by families of students in parish schools and catechetical programs. Regrettably, the struggle to discover ways to communicate the centrality of Sunday Eucharist sometimes triggers unhelpful innovations that are ineffective and can even erode the spirit of liturgical prayer. My lament over various tactics to attract families and children to liturgy sparks this reflection on the Directory of Masses with Children (DMC). Revisiting the DMC today will raise questions about its effectiveness, reveal its limitations, and ask challenging questions for pastoral practice with the hope of generating more meaningful possibilities for the future. I write these thoughts out of deep concern that children be shown how to pray as baptized members of the assembly.

Of special consideration for this article is the influence of the DMC on some specific liturgical practices, namely, Family Mass, Liturgy of the Word with children, and the how liturgical adaptation is done. Ultimately, careful attention to contemporary practice in relation to the DMC raises question about how we nurture children in the liturgical life of the church.

In 1973 the Congregation for Divine Worship issued DMC. The document was inspired by the Second Vatican Council, especially the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Designed to serve as a supplement for the 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal, its goal is to lead pre-adolescent children to better participation with the adult assembly. DMC also emphasizes the important connection between liturgy and Christian identity.

In general, the DMC allows for flexibility in the celebration of Masses with adults where children also participate, and in Masses with children where only a few adults participate. Noteworthy is the language used in DMC. Reference to Masses with children, rather than, Masses for children or children’s Masses, is significant because only one Order of Mass exists. Ideally, labeling Mass as “adult,” “children’s,” “youth,” or “family” should be avoided. Liturgy gathers all God’s people together.

The final paragraph of the DMC captures its essence. It states: “The contents of the Directory have as their purpose to help children readily and joyfully to encounter Christ together in the eucharistic celebration and to stand with him in the presence of the Father” (55). The DMC therefore has as its ultimate goal that children know Jesus Christ!

The DMC holds its place as a landmark document in its efforts toward adaptation and ritual flexibility. Special concern for pre-adolescent children is paramount, and there is a significant shift toward the responsibility of the family. The emphasis on community and liturgical catechesis is also noteworthy.

It is problematic, however, when the document is misinterpreted and misapplied. The DMC cannot be read in isolation. Those who prepare liturgies with children need to be conversant with the fundamental principles and guidelines offered in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and other conciliar and postconciliar documents. For example, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002), The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (1988), and the introduction to the Lectionary for Masses with Children (1993) all provide necessary background for the principles found in the DMC.

DMC 46 indicates that it may be helpful to assign parts for the readings. In many parishes, this leads to the practice of Christmas pageants within the Liturgy of the Word. However, the introduction to the Lectionary for Masses with Children is clear, “The Mass is not a historical reenactment of the events of salvation history and care should be taken not to give the impression that the liturgy of the word is a play.” (52) Sadly, many parishes choose to ignore, or are unaware of, this most important point.

Chapter two of the DMC, “Masses with Adults in Which Children also Participate,” seems to be the inspiration for practices such as Family Mass and Liturgy of the Word for children. The Family Mass presumably came about with increased acknowledgement of the importance of the role of the family (cf. DMC 10). DMC 16 highlights the advantage of children taking part at Mass with their family. DMC 19, however, or its misapplication, is the culprit regarding some popular contemporary practice. Permission is given there to use the principles of adaptation on Sundays at times. It is the exception, not the norm. Unfortunately, Family Mass sometimes turns into doing something special for children, rather than showing children how to pray the prayer of the church. The search for something special misses the gracious character of the liturgy of the Church done week in and week out by all God’s people.

Efforts to engage children in various ministerial roles have their place, as DMC 18 points out. But this should not be at the expense of a liturgical understanding of participatory prayer. Sadly, liturgy becomes entertainment, children become the superstars, and adults become passive spectators. Ultimately, efforts to create something special blur the rich symbolic activity of our liturgical tradition. The special activity, rather than the ordinary ritual action, becomes the focus and memory for the child. Examples of this are readily seen in celebrations of first sacraments.

Weekly celebration of the Family Mass fractures the ritual prayer of the community. The purpose of Family Mass is inclusion of children and families. However, in practice it can promote child-center liturgy, thereby excluding other members of the assembly.

It is worrisome if Mass is used to appeal to our culture’s appetite for entertainment. A most important, however much neglected, aspect of the DMC is found at no. 21: “It is always necessary to keep in mind that these eucharistic celebrations lead children toward the celebration of Mass with adults, especially the Masses at which the Christian community must come together on Sundays.” Children and families can be recognized on special occasions, but not at the expense of anyone else’s full inclusion in the assembly.

DMC 17 states: sometimes it is appropriate to dismiss children for a separate Liturgy of the Word. As with Family Mass, this is not intended to be the norm. Added to this misunderstanding, many fail to realize that a separate Liturgy of the Word for children is liturgy, not a catechetical session. Dismissal of children should be done with the same clarity and grace as the dismissal of catechumens. Once dismissed, children go with a capable leader of prayer to another appropriate place prepared with ambo and lectionary. They gather around the table of the Word for an age-appropriate experience of the Liturgy of the Word. Succinctly, it cannot be reduced to arts and crafts. It is critically important to note that the rationale for a separate Liturgy of the Word is not cognitive. The Liturgy of the Word is not something children or adults understand instantaneously. The Liturgy of the Word is an experience of the living Word of God; appropriation of this living Word unfolds gradually over a lifetime.

Part II of the RCIA, “Christian Initiation of Children Who Have Reached Catechetical Age,” is applicable to the application of DMC. Experience demonstrates that children in fact can connect word and sacrament to their lives. Unfortunately, many adult leaders do not understand the RCIA or its impact on the entire parish. The RCIA is not merely an activity listed in the parish bulletin. The RCIA is more like a wave that washes up on the shores of parish life, transforming it forever. Undoubtedly the RCIA is indispensable for greater understanding how to celebrate liturgy with children. The RCIA teaches us that our ministry with children should primarily be initiatory and formational. The goal is to initiate children into the liturgical life of the Church.

Underpinning the DMC is the imperative for adaptation. Chapter three, “Masses with Children in Which Only a Few Adults Participate,” elaborates on the principle of adaptation in the context of weekday celebrations of Mass with school children (which is the primary intent of the DMC). Adaptation should be faithful to liturgical principles. Unfortunately, teachers and catechists misunderstand adaptation by attempting to create liturgies for children. Again, the attempts of well-intentioned adults fall short. Masses with children are adaptations, not innovations. We need only to use well the gift and grace of the Order of Mass. Assigning themes for Mass is not helpful. There is one theme for every Mass – paschal mystery! Accordingly, in regard to adaptation, DMC 21 states, “Thus, apart from adaptations that are necessary because of the children’s age, the result should not be entirely special rites, markedly different from the Order of Mass celebrated with a congregation.”

The provisions found in chapter three of the DMC regarding modifications in environment, music, gestures, silence, and visual elements need to be interpreted in light of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Otherwise we risk inappropriate innovation. Better celebration of liturgy with children requires good collaboration among liturgists and catechists. Catechists need to be helped to grasp a more properly liturgical understanding of liturgy with children.

When considering liturgy with children, let us not forget that children are natural mystics. Developmentally, children experience a profound sense of identity in and through ritual. Young children do not acquire Christian identity from a textbook. Rather, their Christian identity is formed through ritual activity that appeals to the senses.

The Paschal Triduum provides a helpful example. Despite its richness, many adults argue, the Triduum is not for children. I wholeheartedly disagree! I find it disappointing that the DMC does not treat feasts and seasons of the church year. Children appreciate and readily participate in rituals such as foot washing and veneration of the cross. The Easter Vigil is rich in the stories and symbols that teach young and old who we are as a Christian people.

Ironically, childlike qualities are an important aspect of adult faith. A childlike attitude is essential for full, active, and conscious participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. By its very nature, liturgy presupposes a childlike faith that engages the imagination in order to experience the presence of God here and now. In the liturgy, transformation occurs if we but be like little children – open to the God of surprises and treasures. In reality everyone is a child of God. An overly strong sense of factions and cohorts should not predominate when the community gathers in faithful companionship around the Lord’s table.

Critical reflection on the DMC suggests important implications for the celebration of liturgy. I suggest serious consideration of the following. Have we taken adaptation too far? Does the DMC serve best as a resource for catechesis toward liturgy? Has the expectation to lead children to participation created an audience of adults with children performing all of the ministries? Have we unnecessarily put children on display at Mass? Has inclusion of children and their families led to exclusion of others in the assembly? Is there the expectation for entertainment at Mass? Have we underestimated the natural tendency of children toward the mystical? And most importantly, have we failed to show children how to pray?

Careful consideration of the Directory for Masses with Children provokes much-needed attention to the role of children in the liturgical life of the church, and, at the same time, much-needed attention to the importance of celebrating all liturgy well. For it is the liturgy which forms us in our way of being in the world.

Donna Eschenauer holds a Ph.D. in Religious Education from the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, Fordham University. She is Director of Religious Education at the parish of Saint Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre, New York.

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47 comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing on this topic. This is a topic close to my heart. In the various places I’ve lived my favorite creation has been the “Children’s” Mass in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I have never understood this so-called adaptation. I know of several places that also struggle with the idea that children need or get a special blessing after communion or that they should dress-up as saints on All Saints Day and parade around the church or at Halloween dress-up in costumes to come to Mass. Maybe these are acceptable adaptations that I am unaware of. I believe if we attended to the liturgy as much as we do all this extra stuff we’d do okay. Why not put as much energy into teaching about the richness of the liturgy or doing mystagogical reflection with young people as some do designing pageants for Mass? I think this is another reason to do initiation all at once (but that’s another post). We hear so often that, “these young people are the future of our church” or “we’ll lose them if we don’t find ways to engage them.” We forget they too are baptized and are already Church and that Christ is pretty darn amazing and engaging!

    1. Timothy,

      That was the point of my article! In far too many places inappropriate adaptations continue. Years ago, in our parish, we took the Christmas Pageant out of Christmas Eve Mass. This was met with much opposition. However, we worked hard to show people how inappropriate this practice was. We didn’t do away with the pageant, we started a new practice.To this day we have the pageant on the evening of the fourth Sunday of Advent (NOT as part of Mass). At Christmas Eve Mass we involve children and families in other appropriate ways.

      There is still so much work to be done. In 1992 I was privileged to be a presenter for an NPM workshop, along with our music director and director of worship on the topic of children and worship. One of our goals for the workshop was to demonstrate that the catechetical leader, musician and liturgist must work together. We have had much success in our parish due to this collaboration. It certainly helps, that in addition to being a religious educator, I have a rich liturgical education. I am fortunate to work with talented musicians and clergy.

      1. I once made the mistake of attending the “Family Christmas Eve Mass” because I couldn’t attend the true Midnight Mass. There was a pageant prior to Mass, but this 30 minute play wasn’t advertised so I attended expecting Mass to start right away. It was perhaps the most unusual pageant I’d ever seen since it wasn’t specifically about the nativity – it was a musical play about how the three Wise Men kept getting lost because of their confused camel (apparently the slaughter of the Holy Innocents could have been averted had they picked a smarter camel – who knew?). You could tell people were growing uncomfortable and fidgety as the kids sang the “forgetful camel” refrain for the fifth time.

        I know there seems to be a mentality that most people won’t go to a special activity if it isn’t part of Mass, but I think I’d rather have 40 interested people at a para-liturgical activity than 300 people groaning and showing obvious discomfort at Mass.

  2. Thanks for this article too. Oddly enough in our parish’s stewardship renewal I asked people who would like to start a ministry we don’t have to see me. One young mother emailed me about her desire to start a “children’s Liturgy of the Word” and I’m meeting with her next week to discuss it. Your insights about it are timely and helpful. You state that it should not be the norm though. It seems to me that most places that do it, do it weekly. How often do you suggest? Thanks.

    1. Fr. Allen,

      You are quite right, parishes that implement Children’s Liturgy of the Word do it every week. I personally don’t advocate it on Sundays.There is something profound about children and adults being together at Mass.
      I think we can teach children well by using the Liturgy of the Word on other occasions, for example, during the week. Parish schools can do this easily. I have done this with children and families in our catechetical program for example in celebrating Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, or the end of the school year.

      In my experience teaching parents about the feasts & seasons of the Liturgical year and getting a Lectionary into the home prepares families for Sunday Mass. A true story provides an example: for over 15 years It has been our practice to have our families (and classes) “break open” the word every week (before Sunday). One year, during Lent, a father of a student called me and said, “I never knew I was Lazarus.” I have never forgotten that call.

      The key is parent/adult education. This is the direction I would like to see our parishes putting their efforts into. When the adult community is well informed it enhances the liturgical life of the parish, and in turn, forms the children.
      Hope this helps.

  3. I particularly appreciated the comment about the inappropriateness of “theme” liturgies. This summer I attended a graduation Mass at a Catholic high school, and one of the graduates stood up and told us before it began that the theme of the Mass was “our friendships with each other.” Oh dear. It was the beginning of a very dispiriting example of liturgy gone wrong, and with the best of intentions I’m sure. We need more general education in liturgical principles. The adults who prepare children and youth to celebrate liturgy often do not have a good grasp of such principles. And they could grasp them! They are smart, they are capable.

    1. About six years ago I was invited to a Catholic school faculty meeting to speak on this topic. The main question from the teachers was: how do we choose themes. They were quite surprised to learn that they do not have to choose a theme.
      I went to a neighboring parish a few years back. It was the second Sunday of Lent – at the beginning of Mass the cantor said, “good morning, today is Girl Scout Sunday!”
      I am amazed that some people see nothing wrong in this.

      You are correct Rita, education in liturgical principles is a must!

      1. I had a very similar experience in one the Catholic schools in our diocese. I later learned that all the material we discussed and practiced basically went in one ear and out the other and they returned to their normal “themed” liturgies. We had spent a lot of time discussing the paschal mystery and that we don’t need to create themes. I had a pastor tell me that they moved all the major feast to during the school year so the kids could celebrate them. I need some encouragement and advice on how to keep inviting people into the conversation because all too often I feel it falls on deaf ears and then I become, “THE liturgist who won’t let us do anything”.

      2. Timothy,

        It is interesting how poor practice seems to take off and then those of us who insist on good practices are accused of doing it wrong.

        I would say keep inviting people into the conversation. Be consistent; Defend without being defensive.

        Consistent, good education, I believe gradually reshapes people’s way of thinking and knowing. And sometimes we move forward and then slip a little.

        In parishes for example, every time a new person comes on staff we are essentially starting over. We need to be aware of this and get everyone on the same page.

        Also, a well educated liturgy committee helps. In other words, “it takes a village.”

      3. Tim’s comment, “It falls on deaf ears,” sure sounds familiar. I don’t have the answers, but I find it helpful to locate this resistance in the big picture to see what keeps us from a better praxis. Here are some elements that reinforce “Girl Scout Sunday,” themed liturgies, pageants, and the rest.

        1. The diocese designates Sundays for this or that – Catholic Schools, Missions, Communications, etc.—the educators take their cue from this. If the diocese can do it, why can’t we? Never underestimate the power of example.

        2. These designated Sundays make money for the designees, and are a sign of status within the community. The second collection goes to them. This is not incidental. To “get a Sunday” devoted to your cause is a big thing! Pride and money on one side, and paschal mystery on the other?—no wonder liturgists look like dreamers!

        3. Control and turf issues are part of it. Who is in charge? The school or catechetical themed liturgy is the creation of people who never were welcomed or wanted in the preparation of parish liturgies. All they do is the “special” stuff. They are holding on because that’s their little domain.

        4. Those doing pageants etc. don’t know how to do other stuff. Adults who work with children want to be secure in what they are doing; they keep doing what they are doing because that’s what they know. They draw a blank when liturgists say things like “let the liturgy itself catechize.”

      1. Yes, attention to language is critical.
        At first we may find our selves stuttering a bit in order to speak appropriately about Masses celebrated with graduates, with the 2nd grade, or with children with special needs, etc. Language provides meaning for all we do.

  4. I wonder who authored the Directory for Masses with Children. I have read that Sofia Cavalletti was one of the authors. (I very much admire her work; the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is extraordinary). But I do not know who the others might have been. Any idea, Donna?

    1. Fr. Edward Matthews from the Westminster diocese was on the commission responsible for the drawing up of the document. He also wrote one of the only commentary’s I could find.

      I will to look into this more…………..

      1. Well, I went right to the source. I emailed Fr. Edward Matthews from England, who as I mentioned above was on the working committee for the document. He was kind enough to provide me with the following information.

        In his email to me he writes: “Yes, Sofia Caveletti was a member of the working group which worked on DMC. She was one of 2 women – quite revolutionary for those days – though we haven’t progressed much further since then. We worked as a committee on the content of the document and textual drafts were sent to us later. Who did the actual writing I am not at all sure, but the bulk must have been done by Balthasar Fischer, the chairman, and Heinrich Renning; and I am sure the final ‘Roman’ touching up will have been done by an official in the Congregation for Divine Worship – probably Reiner Kaczynski who was the secretary of the group.”

  5. I agree that there is something profound about adults and children worshipping together, when both are allowed to worship. Too often adults in the assembly don’t expect children to worship, but rather to sit silent and not interrupt the mass.

    I’m not talking about the children’s parents. My husband and I were approached by a member of our parish a few weeks ago who told us that we shouldn’t come to mass with our children and that if we insisted on coming, “our place was in the back.” We couldn’t pray anyway, we were informed, with our children there, and therefore we weren’t “getting anything out of the mass.”

    I think sometimes parents turn with relief to inferior Children’s Liturgies of the Word because they believe (often rightly) that their children are not welcome in the worship space. And this means they are not welcome, either.

      1. I was appalled at that quote, so I had to read the letter myself. Thankfully, there were a number of replies that were well worth reading. I think I’m going to use this in my work at the parish.

      1. You guys are hilarious. No, they didn’t sing either, but several parishioners approached us afterwards to tell us they were always glad to see our children (who are trying to learn to live the life of God, just like I am!) in mass.

        The next week we were there (we were out of town the next weekend), our pastor approached us and was very supportive. But I suppose I’m sensitive; I still don’t feel quite the same way about bringing them to the church that I did before.

        I can see that Gather Us In and All Are Welcome are on their way to being PrayTell inside jokes. And I like it. The symbol of what divides us; the symbol of what unites us!

  6. “Despite its richness, many adults argue, the Triduum is not for children. I wholeheartedly disagree!”

    Thanks for this.

    I’ll also mention that I’ve heard more adults appreciative of the texts of the Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children than not over the years. It’s instructive that many Catholics have a desire to penetrate more deeply into this part of the Mass.

    1. In my dissertation, The Paschal Triduum: A Roman Catholic Way of Teaching How to Live and How to Die, I make the point the Triduum is the “null” curriculum. I took a close look at some school and catechetical program calendars recently; too often you will see “Easter vacation” written from Holy Thursday through the next week. I design our calendar and clearly mark The Triduum (as well as all feasts and seasons) with the times of the services. In this way families gradually realize this is for them. In short, a calendar is a theological statement!

      Regarding Eucharistic Prayers for Children: I think people feel more engaged due to the increased acclamations. It makes possible the reality that we all pray this prayer.

  7. “in addition to being a religious educator,
    I have a rich liturgical education. ”

    This is where your staff is lucky to work with YOU! The DREs in my 30 year tenure as director of music have been woefully ignorant of liturgy. (One insisted on re-writing the lectionary readings herself, even after I had given her the children’s lectionary!)
    I tried very hard to do away with “themes”, pageants, endless presentation of gifts. I prepared the children for the use of the children’s Eucharistic prayers
    with the extra acclamations, but it was met with so
    much resistance that the principal made me stop. She said it was upsetting the teachers and it made mass so much longer (apparently a pageant/play doesn’t add any time to the liturgy! LOL)
    The one successful practice I managed was to rid the liturgy of the children’s ditties and we now use the parish repertoire for school masses.

    1. Linda,

      Sadly, I know your experience is more the norm and unfortunately it may not get better. I read an article recently that causes me great concern. Apparently due to economics, parishes cannot afford to hire catechetical leaders with the necessary credentials.

      Even for those with credentials, regarding liturgy, many graduate programs for religious educators don’t require or offer adequate liturgical education. Herein lies the problem.

      There is much work to do!

  8. A few thoughts regarding the above comments:

    I always suggest that parents with children sit in the front so the children can see. Sitting in the back, or worse yet a crying room, does not enhance the prayer experience for children or adults.

    Clearly, the problem is with the adults. How many of you have experienced people coming into Mass complaining that a baptism or a first communion is going to take place. Adults need to understand that all are responsible for the initiation of these children. They should be rejoicing at these celebrations. This is the church giving birth.

    Using the principles of the DMC at home, in schools, and catechetical programs will prepare even very young children for participation with adults. Remember, this happens gradually.

    Suggestions for resources:
    1. Eleanor Bernstein, CSJ and John Brooks – Leonard, ed. 1992. Children in the Assembly of the Church. Chicago: LTP.

    2. Joyce Ann Mercer. 2005. Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood. St. Louis: Chalice Press.

    3. Marcia J. Bunge, ed. The Child in Christian Thought. 2001. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

  9. I would also like to add: Some of the above comments made me think of the expression you often hear: “children are the future of the Church.” NO! Children are the Church, NOW!

  10. The unfortunate incident that happened to Kimberly and her family is one of the reasons we do have what we call the “Family Mass.” Yet, if you attend it you really would not see much of a difference between it and any other Mass in our parish except for the Children’s choir and a homily that might, or might not be be directed to the children.

    We do have a Children’s Liturgy of the Word twice a month at this Mass. It is a true Liturgy of the Word and not a catechetical session. It is held in our chapel so the atmosphere is one of prayer and worship. We find that on the weeks when we don’t have it, the children really participate in the liturgy, singing the psalm as responses as they do in the CLOW. They know and recite the creed and seem to pay closer attention to the homily. I think because our CLOW is a true liturgy, it helps them to participate at any liturgy they attend.

    The one advantage, I find in labeling a mass as the “Family Mass,” is that parents can feel comfortable knowing that there are lots of children and that a fussy baby or a toddler that cannot sit still is not going to bother anyone. It also has created a wonderful community and we occasionally have family based events following this mass.

    I also want to echo Donna’s view that the Triduum is also for children. My own children loved attending the Triduum liturgies from a young age, especially the Easter Vigil, because there was just so much to engage them…and we always sat up front.

    1. JoAnn,

      I recognize the practicle reasons for having a “Family Mass” and certainly appreciate it when these Masses do not differ greatly form other parish Masses although this is not always the case.

      However, my comments regarding labeling emerge from Mark Searle’s essay “Children in the Assembly of the Church (1992. Bernstein, Eleanor & Brooke-Leonard, ed. Children in the Assembly of the Church). Searle says there is a place for Children’s Liturgy of the word and other ritual celebrations, for example, outside of Mass; he feels children are served best by being surrounded by adults celebrating an adult faith (43). Sounds idealistic, yes. But a terrific vision. Children should be welcomed at every Mass.

  11. Let me offer a comment about “pageants.” I think the desire for storytelling is a genuine good. Additionally, drama is a traditional sacred art. We still employ something of it at the proclamation of the Passion. And I think there are spiritual and pastoral values connected with adapting the Scriptures or the lives of the saints for the partial or total involvement of a community’s children.

    But … Mass is not the time for it. I could see (and have adapted) the vigil or Office of Readings format used. In my parish the faith formation director and I collaborate on an occasional “pageant.” In one, we adopted the notion of “Ne Timeas” from Isaiah 35, as well as the annunciations to Mary, Joseph, and the nativity shepherds. These events employ choirs, readings, psalmody, acclamations, congregational singing, processions, and other liturgical aspects.

    A final word on “themes,” and a caution about being too dogmatic against them. The Roman Missal does employ “votive Masses,” and these are essentially what we’re talking about. Only done well. We have the Holy Spirit invoked at the start of an academic year, the Blessed Mother on Saturdays, and so on. They need to be handled much better than a mere “theme of the week,” but in essence, they are a part of our liturgical tradition.

    1. Todd,

      I am not against pageants, my point in the article was regarding their performance at Mass. Unfortunately, arguments for having a pageant at Mass, are (I have heard adults say), “but it is so cute.” There are certainly appropriate times to plan pageants; they can be a wonderful educational resource.

      Regarding your comment about themes and Votive Masses, this is not what I am talking about. I am referring to efforts at creating a theme without regard to paschal mystery. Votive masses flow from paschal mystery. Certainly themes emerge from the scripture readings. Lectionary based catechesis provides an opportunity to explore these themes.

  12. Rita’s points in #11 above are valid. Viewing the big picture is so important. Maybe there are better ways to celebrate the activities mentioned.

    We also have to ask, when a particular group is highlighted at a Mass, what about those present who are not part of that group. The opening Mass for Catholic School’s week comes to mind. While I support this endeavor, I know that many who do not attend Catholic schools feel excluded. I think that when we enter the church, it shouldn’t matter what group we belong to or where we go to school. Mass is the time to be a gathering of all God’s people. Efforts need to be taken to make this a reality. Education, education, education…….

  13. Thank you for both the article and this discussion. We begin our Parish Religious Education Program (PREP) with a Liturgy of the Word each Wednesday evening. We use the readings from the next Sunday with a shortened homily directed to the children, though many parents stay for the liturgy rather than dropping their children at “CCD” and hitting Starbucks. We collect food for our St. Vincent de Paul Society which is brought forward in procession. At our Sunday Masses we use an antiphon/psalm for most of the communion procession. We’ve started singing it at PREP while the children’s gifts for the poor are brought forward.
    We also have a school and, in the nine years I’ve been in the parish, I’ve not been able to get the DMC read or considered. I wonder if a weekly school Mass is really as advantageous as it seems. I’d love to see a monthly Mass and a Liturgy of the Word on the other weeks. But I don’t get to vote 🙂

  14. When I was an undergraduate in the 60s, I took an anthropology course from a professor who worked among Native Americans. He was very impressed by their ritual creativity. They did not merely repeat stories, chants, and dances but were able to use them in very inventive ways to meet contemporary situations. They could improvise well within the tradition.

    His explanation was that the children from their earliest ages were at all the rituals and danced and sang along according to their abilities.

    Our ritual basic which can be easily made accessible to very young children is the sung ordinary. The ordinary parts are also conveniently spread out over the entire Mass so that kids get rests until its time to sing again. They also get a fair amount to occupy themselves with.

    It is relatively simple to agree that we use only chant or other simple music for these parts, and that everyone learns them. It does not require elaborate catechetical programs, or learning how to sing Gregorian Propers, or various hymns. This should be well within the ability of every parish and even many parents. Give them a CD with the music.

    If we are looking for basic Catholic identity, the Ordinary is it. Neither the Gregorian Propers nor Gather Us In are know by many Catholics throughout the world.

    Are we making kid friendly Masses more complicated than they need be?

  15. Ms. Eschenauer – given the consistent themes in the other blogs around MR3, how does the confirmed MR3 address or support the earlier DCM? One theme is that MR3 “elevates” language and yet it, at the same time, does not seem to encompass the earlier ICEL works that developed RCIA, Children’s RCIA, new funeral rites, increases in alternative masses, prayers, settings for sacraments, etc.

    At one time, heard that the EPs for Children would be suppressed? Do you know what happened? Again, even from those responding on this thread, it appears that these liturgies are not something that seminaries teach,etc.

    1. Ok now we are getting a little outside my expertise. I would think that since the DMC was written as a supplement to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, it will remain as such.

      Fr. Anthony if this is incorrect please let us know!

      Just an aside: you refer to RCIA and Children’s RCIA; be careful of language here. There is one RCIA. Part II of the RCIA, Rites for Particular Circumstances adapts the rite for children not baptized as infants. Many fall into the trap and refer to the RCIC, which does not exist.

      1. I don’t have any additional info on this. Like Donna, I presume that the DMC remains as a supplement to the GIRM, even if the latter is revised repeatedly.
        awr

  16. I don’t believe the EPs for Children are being supressed. Rather, they are not included in the Latin missal because they aren’t intended to be prayed in Latin. They are intended to be used only in translation. But then, centralism combines with legalism and it’s decided that our vernacular missal can’t have the Children’s EPs because they’re not in the Latin missal which is the model for everything. From now on, Children’s EPs will be in a separate fascicle, both in the Latin missal and in the vernacular missals.
    awr

    1. Whatever happened to the additional seasonal inserts for EP 3? Easter is there, but I’ve never come across any others.

  17. Could one suggest to these theme-crazy committees the appropriateness of having a special memorial of the children’s baptism in this mass, including a renewal of their baptismal vows? This would be a lovely thought, it seems to me, and might answer the legitimate need for concreteness without taking away from the salvific center of the liturgy.

    Sometimes I think the search for the theme is just the need to have some central principle out of which to make the dozens of tiny decisions that have to be made.

    1. We do this on Easter! And hopefully we continue to do so throughout the entire Easter Season by having a sprinkling rite every Sunday. This is very concrete.

      If the educational ministry of the church would focus more on the seasons of the Liturgical Year, we would have less of a problem convincing people – adults and children, of Christ’s dynamic life-giving presence. Liturgy is the language we use to speak of this reality. We need only to trust this!

  18. Curious about the anti-theme obsession on this blog. The Lectionary readings are in fact selected in a thematic rationale. Our youth group does not manufacture themes, but are asked to spend time with the readings and discover the theme. They have always been spot-on, and its a tribute to our lectionary. As an educator I am appalled at how often adults look at youth as mini-adults, without regard for their development. Even Paul the Apostle made distinctions about what material his communities were prepared for, and they were adults he wrote to. Jesus himself was masterful at using multiple ways to teach people about Himself, and was not surprised that some were slower than others. Our Faith is a living faith, not a cookie cutter religion. I really liked what the author above said about having catechists and liturgists cooperate. Bad liturgy can be avoided if people who have knowledge and training guide the planning. I agree with all the posters who have disdain for overly improvisational liturgies.

  19. Thanks for all the sharing, and much consensus. The things that make liturgies (and God) seem boring and mystifying for children still persist in many parishes: a disjointed community gravitating toward the rear of the church, choir directors changing hymns for variety and some supposed theme of each Mass making participation more difficult, changing the antiphon with the responsorial each week so that people grope to hear and repeat it rather than using the option of seasonal responsorials. Sadly, “we are just half way to the renewal envisaged by Vat II,” and that’s an average. Many parishes spoken of above are those at c.75%.

  20. More attention needs to be paid to acclamations during the Eucharistic Prayer, as was suggested above. On our knees in a private prayer mode and silent through most of it, are our hearts really lifted up in a transforming praise of God or are we mystified by this “propitiation” as the Latinized ritual describes it?

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