CELEBRATING MASS WITH FAMILIES
Guidelines for parish teams and all involved in liturgy
While the Church has a rich spiritual tradition to draw on in the encouragement of family life and worship, the development of new and more relevant forms of liturgical celebration will provide greater opportunities for the public expression of family. The work currently being done in developing childrens Mass liturgies needs encouragement and support. (“Ministering to the family in the Archdiocese of Dublin” )
In response to this statement the Diocesan Liturgy Commission offers the following guidelines based on the Directory for Masses with Children
The role of the family and the wider parish community.
All who have a part to play in leading children to a deeper understanding of Christian worship are encouraged to work towards enabling them to experience what it means to be a Christian according to their age and capabilities.
Parents at the time of the childs baptism accept the responsibility to help their child grow in faith, teaching them to pray, witnessing by their example.
All are involved
In all Masses celebrated with a large number of children the aim should be full, active, conscious participation of all.
Since the Eucharist is the action of the whole parish community united to Christ, the witness of adults praying with the children and assisting them is desirable.
The aim should be full, active, conscious participation of all
HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
It is clear from the experience of many parishes that such celebrations of Mass with the family depend for their life and organisation on the help of parents and other adults in the parish.
It is advisable not to attempt too much too soon. Planning takes time and energy, but there is a variety of talents available in every parish and should be sought out. .
It may not be possible to start on every Sunday, it may be better to try on a monthly basis, or seasonal run as in Lent. Children can be organised in groups so that all get a turn.
Preparation should be done in consultation both with adults and children who are to participate – the aim being to lead them towards becoming active members of the community and to prepare them to take a greater part in liturgical life.
To help their child grow in faith, teaching them to pray, witnessing by their example
PRACTICAL GUIDELINES TO PREPARATION
1) Place of assembly
Care should be taken within the church that children are within participating distance. At certain times they can be brought nearer to the action.
The church should be warm and welcoming and decorated according to the season.
Children like movement and processions can involve them easily.
a) The entrance procession with some children included can help them feel they are forming themselves into a special community.
b) Gospel procession; use should be made of the lectionary, candles and incense.
Several children can carry candles, banners, cross etc. This can appeal to the senses of sight, hearing and smell to emphasise Christs pres¬ence in the Gospel proclamation.
c )Presentation of gifts
We dont use the name offertory” for this; that comes in the Eucharistic Prayer. In order not to cause confusion in the childrens understanding we should confine the gifts to the bread and wine. . There is no need for «symbolic gifts”! Gifts are given not loaned, and a procession with symbols that are returned or lie around unwanted afterwards does not touch the heart of the meaning of Christs total giving.
If it is wished to include a large number of children or fami¬lies, it should be possible to have a large number of containers for what is needed for that particular Mass (since Communion should be given from breads consecrated at this actual Mass), and, of course, the collection of money can be included.
d) Communion procession. We process to the altar to receive the Body of Christ, Bread of Life, the bread for our pilgrim journey. The practice should be encouraged of not-yet-communicating children going up with their parents, and where it is acceptable a blessing may be given.
3) Singing and Music
Singing and music is especially recommended in liturgies with children. Indeed it is hard to envisage such Masses without singing.
Short acclamations are easily learnt and are particularly helpful for involvement in the Eucharistic Prayers for Children’s Masses
Criteria for choosing music
a) The song must be a vehicle of prayer
b) They must be rhythmically interesting
c) Have simple stepwise lines of melody
d) Liturgical music should challenge children to grow musically and spirituality
4) Use of the senses
– seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling.
The use of gestures comes easily to children, and can be learned by adults! The Children of God series for schools describes actions for the Our Father and other prayers. Songs are available with actions and gestures. Some children can come forward to lead the actions and gestures.
Visuals can be mounted or carried to illustrate the sea¬sons and feasts.
Liturgy must never be presented as something arid and/or purely cerebral.
Flow of the liturgy should allow for moments of silence, in order that children can learn to pray, reflect, and be comfortable with silence.
Allow for moments of silence so that children can learn to pray, reflect, and be comfortable with silence.
Learning how to celebrate
It is in the family that human values are first taught or caught. In the Christian family they acquire a spiritual dimension. These values are important for taking part in Mass. Such values, learnt first in the home, and gradually in the wider community include:
1) To belong – the capacity to act together as a family, as a community.
2) To live with others in peace – learning to forgive and be forgiven.
3) To listen and share and tell a story.
4) To celebrate and share a meal.
5) To make sacrifice for others.
Group celebrations of various kinds can also help families and communities to understand the elements of liturgy.
Celebration in the home of the Churchs seasons can provide enrichment and faith development, for example,
-lighting an Advent wreath, -candles in the window at Christmas,
-Easter and Spring celebra¬tions of new life,
-and the use of blessings for various occasions in family life.
Gifts are given and touch the heart of the meaning of Christs total giving.
PARTS OF THE MASS
1) THE OPENING RITE
is intended to make the assembled faithful into a commu¬nity, and should not contain too many elements. The Directory allows for a choice of elements, and it should be recognised that the procession with opening hymn and the Opening Prayer are the main elements. Incensing the altar and the sprinkling rite are elements that gain attention by being visual.
2) THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
God is speaking to his people and Christ himself is present in his word in the midst of his people.
Therefore – a Mass with children should NEVER be without a gospel reading and another scripture reading. We recommend the Columba Lectionary for Masses with Children.
Responses to the readings allow for participation. Possibili¬ties are:
a) Simple psalm verse SUNG, and may be repeated.
b) Psalm type hymn. SUNG.
c) Alleluia SUNG and maybe with versicles.
d) The refrain/verse may be repeated after the homily.
The Gospel passage should aim at quality not quantity. Readers and cantors can sometimes also be from the adult members of the community.
The homily or breaking of the Word may be by the celebrant or another adult and adapted to the thinking of children.
Prayer of the Faithful. Children can be involved. It is to be noted however that individuals speak intentions for prayer, not prayers. They ask the congregation to pray for specific inten¬tions, the prayer is in the community response which is preferably sung.
3) LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
Presentation of gifts – all that is brought to the table should be gift of the community, not just of the children. It may be possible to involve some of the olaer children in the money collection.
The Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children allow for more participation and help to hold attention. To enhance the understanding of thanksgiving, reasons for giving thanks maybe included before the preface.
Singing the Our Father allows for a better use of gestures
The sign of peace is a sign of reconciliation before Communion and should be shared with all around not just with friends.
4) CONCLUDING RITE.
The celebrant bids farewell by reiterating the message of the homily – a personal approach is important – and there should be a sense of going out to bring the love of Christ to others.
The final purpose of all liturgical and eucharistic formation must be theg~muandg~muco~onm~ to the Gospel in the daily life of the children
The Role of the Priest
It is the responsibility of the priest to make the Mass festive and come alive for all. The celebrant is the one to create this kind of atmosphere. This will depend on his personal preparation and his manner of acting and speaking. The priest should be concerned above all about the clarity, simplicity and dignity of.-his-actions and gestures.
Aids to the Celebrant:
1) Free use of introductory comments – which lead to genuine participation.
2) Expressing invitations in his own words for e.g. the Lords Prayer, the sign of peace and Communion. .
3) Re homilies. They should be within the attention span of children and relate to the scripture readings.
While speaking a strengthening word to the children it should not be in childish language.
It is to be noted that with the consent of the priest and with previous planning, one of the adults may speak to the children after the gospel, especially if the priest finds it difficult to adapt himself to the mentality of children.
It is intended to follow up this document with further in-depth studies of elements in the celebration of Mass with parents and children.