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.