Has ‘children’s mass’ become a colossal mistake?
I learnt rubrics from my mother. I doubt she ever heard of that word. The word rubric comes from the Latin word for red and in the Catholic Church forms the norms for various liturgical instructions. My mother taught me when to stand, sit, kneel or genuflect at mass.
She also taught me faith. At the Epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine during the Eucharistic prayer she would glance at us to make sure we had our hands joined and would remind us at the time of elevation to say,” My Lord and my God.”
My father taught me charity. We were by no means a wealthy family. We were taught to live within our means yet when it came to giving to God my father never skinched, in fact I dare say he was the charity commissioner and he certainly made sure his left hand did not know what his right was giving. At every Sunday mass he gave each of us a five rupee or a ten rupee note to drop in the offertory box. In those days that was quite a king’s ransom for a kid like me.
I learnt all this because the ones who guided my feet to the Lord were my parents and they did this both at home and at mass. We went to Church as a family, came back as a family, to a family breakfast and then our treat was to watch ‘Magic Lamp’ on Doordarshan. My Catechesis took place in school both in St Mary’s and St Stanislaus, at the hands of great Jesuits like Joe Aran and Peter Ribes; I never once went to catechism class in Church till I had to receive confirmation. That’s when family mass ended for us.
Today for pastoral reasons we have ‘children’s mass’ and this is followed or preceded by catechism class also known as Sunday School. The children’s mass is meant to be a mass where the liturgy is ‘child friendly’. At these masses the children sing in the choir or are lectors. Though liturgically not permitted, some parishes enact the Gospel or have a skit to make the liturgy easier on the senses. While I am part of the system, this simply does not sit well with me anymore.
I am unsure if a thorough evaluation of this system has been made or if anyone has weighed the consequences of such a mass on the family. While I am sure there are many valid arguments to continue with such a system, I for one am convinced that this requires a rethink for I believe we have separated children from their parents and their task to be “ the first and best teachers of the faith” ( from the rite of Baptism). What is worse is, as these children grow, they do not wish to attend mass as a family but choose to be with people of their peer groups.
If a case is made for a more ‘child friendly’ celebration of the liturgy then how do we account for the fact that the president of the liturgy is not chosen by virtue of his ability to relate to children but is rather chosen by rotation from a team of two or four priests?
Has children’s mass then, truly killed the spirit of a family praying together or is that relegated only to prayers said at home? I believe it has! I truly wish that we had the courage to find solutions to meet both needs; families attending mass together and children’s catechesis that is well attended. While the present system lends its self to a better attended catechism class after or before the Eucharist, it does not solve the inevitable separation of a family praying together at mass, a sight now rarely seen even on Christmas or Easter.
And yes, I must admit that with the present system of children’s mass and catechesis, several parents drive themselves to wake up on a Sunday morning and bring their children to Church and Sunday school out of the fear that their child will not be admitted to the sacraments should they not attend. Perhaps as some argue, if children’s mass and Sunday catechesis were not paired together it might just be another ‘sleep-in’ and ‘skip mass’ for many families . But should we operate out of fear or should we risk love and good intentions?
All I know is that I have no memory of any Catechsim class as a child, just the memory of my parents who guided me in the faith and watched over us during mass. They were my Catechism teachers and they did it with no text book, they simply shared their faith experience and they did a fantastic job.
Fr Warner D’Souza