The months of May and June see many celebrations of First Communion for children around the US and the world. While I was visiting friends out of town, I went to Mass with them on the Feast of Corpus Christi during which the parish welcomed six children to the table for the first time. As I cantored the psalm (116), the children came forward and engaged in movement and gesture, giving a kinesthetic sense to the sung verses of Scripture. As the children brought the gifts forward, their actions were timed to the verses of Michael Joncas’ lovely “We Come to Your Feast.” As the rite of communion began, the children were called forward by name and after each child received the Body of the Lord, the choir led the assembly in “taste and see that the Lord is good.” At the conclusion of the rite of communion, the choir sang “Esta es Cena de Amor Llena,” an arrangement of a 17th century Guatemalan composition. As the Mass ended, the assembly sang “Hallelujah! We Sing Your Praises,” a song from South Africa; the procession was led by an improvised liturgical dance. (Versions of all three songs can be found on YouTube.)
Nothing about this celebration struck me as corny or canned or phony. The children’s ritual gestures fit seamlessly into this parish’s way of incorporating movement into worship. Bringing forth the gifts in synch with the lyrics of “We Come to Your Feast” highlighted the depth of both the song and the actions. Using songs from diverse periods and diverse countries was of a piece with the way this parish recognizes itself as one element in the world Church. It is often said that good liturgy is the best form of catechesis. Without being overly didactic, this celebration taught / reminded all present about the dignity and beauty of the body, the significance of the gifts of bread and wine, and the splendor of a Church called to be sign of the unity of the human race.
That good liturgy is the best form of catechesis is simply a subset of the larger claim that all liturgies catechize. I invite readers to post their own thoughts about the catechesis (good or bad) that they have experienced in liturgy (whether the Mass or another form of worship).