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Children’s Liturgy of the Word – Is it Allowed?

May 8, AD2013 27 Comments


This is not the first time I have written about this topic. In the past I have raised several questions about the legitimacy of removing children from the liturgy. I always begin with the same question regarding the children’s experience while away from the sanctuary: Is it liturgy? If it is liturgy, then it seems there is a question about a non-ordained minister proclaiming the Gospel and “preaching” a homily (though “preaching” is often taken to mean directing an arts and crafts activity). If it is not liturgy, then this raises the obvious question about why they are being removed from the Church’s public act of worship. There is an additional question for those who are of the age of reason, particularly those who are able to receive the Eucharist. By missing half of the liturgy, is one’s Sunday obligation fulfilled? The same question applies to the adults and teens that direct the children. The whole thing just seems to go against Christ’s command to bring the children to him. Either that or it serves to de-emphasize the real presence of Christ in the liturgy.

While this is not the first time I have asked these questions, I think it is the first time I have attempted to provide at least the beginnings of an answer. One of the problems with tackling this is that the Church’s liturgical law is notoriously vague when it comes to children. Nevertheless, I was able to find a passage from the Decree and Directory for Masses with Children published by the Holy See in 1973. The Decree was previously published in the Sacramentary. I am not positive if it in in the new Roman Missal. In paragraphs 16-17, the document discusses “Masses for Adults at which Children are Also Present”:

\”In many places parish Masses are celebrated, especially on Sundays and holy days, at which a good many children take part along with the large number of adults. On such occasions the witness of adult believers can have a great effect upon the children. Adults can in turn benefit spiritually from experiencing the part that the children have within the Christian community. The Christian spirit of the family is greatly fostered when children take part in these Masses together with their parents and other family members… Nevertheless, in Masses of this kind it is necessary to take great care that the children present do not feel neglected because of their inability to participate or to understand what happens and what is proclaimed in the celebration. Some account should be taken of their presence: for example, by speaking to them directly in the introductory comments (as at the beginning and the end of Mass) and at some point in the homily. Sometimes, moreover, if the place itself and the nature of the community permit, it will be appropriate to celebrate the liturgy of the word, including a homily, with the children in a separate, but not too distant, room. Then, before the Eucharistic liturgy begins, the children are led to the place where the adults have meanwhile celebrated their own liturgy of the word.\” (paragraphs 16-17, emphasis added)

Much to my dismay, it seems that these sorts of celebrations are permitted. Of course, being faithful to the Magisterium means being faithful even in those things one finds difficult. Thus, it would be both intellectually irresponsible and disobedient of me to issue wholesale criticism of removing children from the main sanctuary during the celebration of Mass.

However, I think there is room here for an honest assessment of the Church’s intent in the words quoted above. I have placed in bold two phrases because I think they provide an important hermeneutic. What does it means for “the place itself and the nature of the community” to permit this sort of celebration. First, I take it to mean that there must be adequate facilities and a critical mass (pun intended) of children to make it both possible and worthwhile. However, it is important to note that the Vatican Decree uses the phrase “liturgy of the word” and “homily” in its approval. This seems to get at an answer to my opening question: the Vatican does consider the activity of the children during this time to be “liturgy.” More than that, it sees the action as an authentic “liturgy of the word,” going as far as emphasizing that this liturgy should include a “homily.”

With that, let’s turn to the 2004 document from the Congregation for Divine Worship, Redemtionis Sacramentum:

\”Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word”, is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it … The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.” (paragraphs 63-64)

Notice that the homily is considered “part of the Liturgy,” further evidence that the Decree above, read in continuity with RS, considers the children’s liturgy of the word to be “Liturgy.” Further, the norms about who should proclaim the Gospel and preach a homily (an ordained minister) and who is prohibited from doing so (“never a layperson”) are crystal clear.

While it is important to consider what the Decree actually says in its approval of children’s liturgies of the word, it is also important to consider what it does not say. There is no indication whatsoever that the requirement of an ordained minister (deacon, priest, or bishop) to preach the Gospel and deliver a homily is waived. Putting all this together, we can return to the phrase “if the place itself and the nature of the community permit.” While the Decree permits the celebration of a children’s liturgy of the word, without removing the prohibition of a layperson to both preach the Gospel and a homily, it seems that the “nature of the community” includes having an extra priest or deacon who can lead the children in a separate celebration.

At the risk of beating this into the ground, a summary to things so far is helpful. According the current liturgical law, it is permissible for a parish is to incorporate a separate children’s liturgy of the word in which the children are lead out of the sanctuary to a nearby facility, so long as three requirements are satisfied. First, the children must be brought back before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Second, the Liturgy of the Word that they experience must actually be a Liturgy of the Word, which consists of the three readings, a responsorial psalm, and a homily (and not arts and crafts). Finally, the preaching of the Gospel and homily must be be done by an ordained minister, and never by a lay person. I am happy to be corrected by the Vatican on this matter, but this seems to me to be a reasonable and honest reading of the Decree in the context of the rest of the Church’s liturgical law.

While I would not want to make a blanket statement, I would venture to guess that this experience is rare-to-non-existent in American parishes, first and foremost because there are simply not enough priests and deacons to accommodate such celebrations.

After thinking about this and writing up my argument, I was feeling pretty good about myself. However, as always seems to be the case, on the internet there is nothing new under the sun, and it came to my attention that Jimmy Akin beat me to the punch by making exactly the same argument back in 2005. Being Catholic requires humility, and Lord knows I could use some. Thus, I would be remiss if I didn’t give Mr. Akin a hat tip and present at least his conclusion, which calls for a revisiting of some of the documents about children’s liturgies in light of more current liturgical teaching coming form the Holy See. It is precisely that with which I leave you:

“Thus as far as I can tell, it is a liturgical abuse to have a separate liturgy of the word for the kids unless a priest or deacon does the gospel and the homily.

“[S]uch liturgies are currently permitted under Church law. There is a document (printed in the Sacramentary) called the Directory for Masses with Children that came out in 1973.

“You may also note that I italicized \”currently\” in saying that such liturgies are currently permitted. I did that because the Directory for Masses with Children is waaaay too loosey-goosey for the kind of liturgy documents that the Holy See is cranking out these days. Among other things, it gives virtual carte blanche for further, unnamed ‘adaptations’ – all in the interests of the children, of course!

“There is no way the current administration in the Congregation for Divine Worship would approve such sweeping permissions for chaos and stupidity in childrens\’ liturgies. As a result, the DMC is ripe for revision, and I suspect that its current iteration won\’t be with us much longer. If Arinze [now Canizares] et al., continue in office for a while, I suspect that it will end up getting revised as part of the current revamp of the Roman Missal.

“One last note: Lest someone try to justify the gospel and homily reading as a further approved \”adaption,\” that won\’t work. There are limits to what that clause can bear, and one of the limits is what Rome would be willing to sign-off on if asked. There is no way Arinze [now Canizares] would sign off on laity reading the gospel and preaching homilies in front of children, so that dog won\’t hunt.

“Many of us have seen the new Mass texts, but we have not seen the actual printed Roman Missal. I wonder if the Decree will be included, as it is in the current Sacramentary, and if not, can we consider it abrogated? When the new Missals arrive, perhaps it would be a prudent time for someone to write to the Congregation for Divine Worship.”

© 2013. Jake Tawney. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Jake Tawney is a husband and father-of-six from central Ohio. He has spent nearly a decade working in education, serving as a teacher and administrator in the public school system, as well as an adjunct professor of mathematics for the Pontifical College Josephinum. When he is not helping his wife homeschool their children, Jake runs and writes for Roma locuta est, a website dedicated to all things Catholic with a particular focus on the Sacred Liturgy. Most recently, Jake has spend countless hours penning the New Translation Monday series which seeks to dissect and explain the changes to the new Roman Missal.

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  • NotfromtheSouth

    Although I agree that CLOW should not be practiced in our Catholic mass I can understand a children’s liturgy for children ages 3 to 6 (even though I think a 3 year old is probably still young.) But, our Catholic church does this for ALL of our kids through 5th grade. Why our children who have already received the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be pulled out of Mass is beyond me. Also, they are pulled out of the 10:45 mass after they have already been in CCD that morning before mass. It seems like my Catholic church is always trying to adopt more Protestant rituals and not adhering to the Catechism. It’s disappointing and gets me a bit worked up, so to speak, but I will choose to do what I know is right and share this great article to the parents who don’t understand/know better.

  • Thomas Sharpe

    My wife and I will sometimes help with Children’s Liturgy, I don’t like it, but I have done it as asked. Since it is for children and not for adults and since it is in a way similar to CCD I don’t think all the objections in the article apply. But I do have one take-away and one comment.
    1. If at all possible a Deacon should be reading the Gospel and speaking on the meaning to the children. I will be suggesting this to my Pastor.
    2. Adult participants in children liturgy often do not get to hear the Readings or the Gospel. As a rule I (we) watch the beginning of the EWTN Mass for the Readings, the Gospel and the Homily before going to Mass.

  • Maria G

    Forgot to say in the previous post. We do not call our discussion homilies, and all of us (Pastor, Priests, Volunteers, Parents and Children) know that our Liturgy of the Word for Children discussions are simply that. Discussions. No one preaches. Kids ask questions and adults may answer but often enough another child has the answer. Our training enables us to answer well enough and to adjust those responses that may not be correct in a way that provides an appropriate response with embarrassing the child. When trying to make sure that kids see the relevance to their lives, that’s really not very difficult. But again, it’s done through a series of questions which generate participation in discussion and children themselves articulating the relevance.

  • Maria G

    Wow! I had no idea people were so opposed to Liturgy of the Word for Children. I’ve been involved with this for almost 20 years and I have never done arts and crafts. With the full support of several pastors over the years, I and other adults who have received a variety of training, “break open” the Sunday readings to ensure that children 1) understand what happened in the readings; and 2) begin to understand how the readings relate to their lives today. We have materials to help us prepare for these discussions, and we meet in a place that is kept special for this purpose, just off of the chapel in the lower level of our church. An altar server (of the several serving that morning) will let us know as soon as the priest or deacon has finished the homily so that we have ample time to do our Creed and Prayers of the Faithful before returning to the main church, which is right after the adults have completed the Creed and Prayers of the Faithful. Our Creed is more simple and echoes the message of the reading, as do our Prayers of the Faithful. For example, if we have heard the Prodigal Son parable , the Creed (given to us in the Church approved materials) will read, “Do you believe in God the Father who welcomes the return of all who have sinned?” (Response: Yes we believe), Do you believe in Jesus Christ, who forgave sinners and… etc.” We provide the children with a take-home pamphlet with activities intended to help them reflect on the Gospel reading after Sunday. There are things to read (for those who can) and things to draw or connect (for those who can’t read). Again, all activities are connected to the Gospel reading.

    I want to be completely honest. When we (the volunteers) see older youth coming down,we make a mental note. Sometimes they are there to accompany young children (instead of parents) and this is understandable because the little ones are new and not yet familiar with what happens at LWC. If we notice older youth (any child over age 8 ) coming down “on their own” , we will have the celebrant at subsequent masses remind everyone that LWC is for children ages 8 and younger. We believe that once a child has made 1st Holy Communion he or she should remain upstairs with the congregation.

    We are a Salesian parish and our Youth Mass (once a month, sadly) is never a “dumbing down” of the homily. Service to the young and the poor are the focus of the Salesian order. I have found that the Salesians are also incredibly learned men who educate about the context of the readings in addition to breaking open the deeper meanings for us today. For us, the homily is usually WONDERFUL and it doesn’t matter if it’s the homily for a youth mass or a regular mass. The homilies usually leave people thinking and reflecting. We are truly blessed to have the Salesians.

  • Stephanie Anderson LaMaster

    I think that Jesus taught us to focus on the spirit of the law. I teach CLOW about 10 times per year. Every time that I do, I read multiple homilies/sermons online about the text in my preparation. I pray about it, pray for the students who will come to hear it, asking that God’s word be revealed to them. I often learn more through this process than I do through sitting in on the homily in Mass. I do focus on one or two of the readings, rather than all four, because children ages 4-10 cannot connect with the words if you throw too much at them. And, I’m there for them to learn. I think that Jesus cares more about them learning about Him than he does about the letter of the law. I think that there is definitely a need for good resources for CLOW, so that teachers are well-prepared. I am not opposed to a required training sessions, or even a year-long seminar. Perhaps if God is placing on your heart a concern for the CLOW, you should work on providing teachers with better training and resources. But throwing it out altogether because it doesn’t fit within your interpretation of Church Law sounds very much like the Pharisees, who burdened the Hebrew people with the law.

  • aimer

    I know this is an old post, but it’s new to me and relevant. Our parish is large. We have 3 deacons, one retired priest that still celebrates mass on occasion, the pastor, a vicar priest just ordained and one whose status I am unclear on (he’s young, but does deliver the homily frequently as well as the gospel, wears the same robes as the young priest, is always at mass but not listed o the bulletin like the other priests and the deacons). Anyway, we have a 1030 mass that includes a children’s liturgy. The priest announces, all the kids come forward, one gets a giant Bible to hold over his head and walks out doing that just like the priests. But it’s not a priest or deacon who takes the kids. It’s lay person who isn’t even confirmed (she’s a candidate). How is this allowed?

    • wiseprotector

      At today’s mass in a church in Northern Ireland, there was a celebration of the Catholic ethos, the Catholic Scout (or Girl Guide) movement, Catholic schools and so on. I don’t know who choreographs these occasions but there was the usual symbols of this and that carried aloft above the head, a globe (universality), a book of some ilk, a badge, a crucifix (in third or fourth place by the way) and a little homily on the Catholic ethos. Well, there’s not much left of the Catholic ethos in this day and age. Most of the kids will be co-habiting by the time they’re 25! And why are there no homilies on what the Catholic ethos entails in terms of personal morality? A little talk on natural law perhaps? The dangers and pitfalls of moral relativism? Why the honeymoon should follow the marriage and not vice versa. Why are our priests such mealy-mouths?

  • Belief is all we have

    I think it is great you have your own opinion but have you stopped to think about the children. Is it worth bringing your children to mass if they are going to sit there and not fully understand what the priest has to say. If you are worried what this “lay person” is teaching then join your children one day and see if you agree, if not then don’t allow them to go, that is your choice. Believe it or not I have seen first hand how much children benefit from the Children’s Liturgy of the Word.

  • mwa

    Dear Mr. Tawney,
    I would wish that such children’s liturgies were resigned to the dustbin of useless innovations, but I am surprised by some of your comments, assuming that you perused the entire text of the directory for Masses with children.
    1) re the requirement of the children’s Liturgy of the Word to include all the readings of the day and the psalm, PP 42-43 allows for omitting all but the Gospel, and even for the Gospel to be replaced with with another more suitable reading from Scripture.
    PP 46 allows for omission of the psalm.
    PP24 states that “one of the adults” may, with the consent of the pastor, speak to the children after the Gospel in the place of the priest. There is reference to a “soon to be issued” set of norms from the Cong. for the Clergy that will apply here, but I have not found that document yet.
    I am certainly of one mind with you and Mr. Akin re the need for revision of the DMC, but I cannot come to the same conclusion with respect to the (il)licitness of those liturgies as currently done, as long as the minimum prescribed in the PPs above referenced is fulfilled.

    • Faith

      Would you not still require a priest to proclaim the Gospel?

    • cad

      Thank you for clarifying those points, mwa, I had read through all of the replies and was going to include that info in my reply until I saw that you had already done so.

      Faith…not as per what I have read in the DMC…

  • wiseprotector

    Another Mass with the children’s liturgy, presumably intended not to bore the little ones but how excruciatingly boring for the adults. And so we proceed, the priest wittering on with sweet and pious platitudes, the dumbing down of the Eucharist (what’s your favourite food, brussel sprouts?/ why do we eat food? the children are asked), the usual gaggle of papparazzi on the altar (though no warning about flash photography), a young girl in a ra-ra skirt and bare midriff (it’s only a matter of time before some floozy turns up topless), the handclapping. An indecorous and slovenly mess, a banal, vain and empty-headed ritual, presumably intended to make the Mass more “appealing” or “relevant” to the little telly watchers lest they get bored or restless (oh perish the thought!)

  • Faith

    I really appreciate your consideration of this topic, and have to say that I, too, have never understood the concept of a Children’s Liturgy of the Word. The few I remember participating in as a child myself in the 90s were primarily times in which I remember enjoying the time with friends rather than sitting in a pew, quiet, with my family. I remember very little of what I might have learned in those situations.

    I will also say, though, that this certainly must be preferable to having children in Sunday School at 8am while the parents attended Mass the 8am Mass, so that the children miss the entire service. I found this was quite common while teaching a class of 1st graders, and the parents would head right to the car with the children after class, while I myself prepared to attend the later 10am service. The only times I think some of those children went to Mass were when I took them as part of Sunday School, or outside of the school year when Sunday School was recessed. At least this wasn’t an encouraged practice at our parish, however.

    Surely, there are better ways to teach children our Faith.

  • Home Schooling Mother

    Cherie, when the EF Mass began in our area, we did attend. We found the congregation to be extremely uncharitable,judging us for not following their man made customs (e.g., one woman sarcastically mocked me for allowing our daughters to wear pants). The sarcastic comment you made about children like mine being sidetracked by Batman, etc. is a good example of the indirect put downs I experienced among that group (although more mild than their comments). At our home parish, by contrast, our priests and fellow parishioners treat our children like extended family. These people are Christ to our children. Our parish is their second home. Tearing them away from a Church family who loved them in order to attend at an EF community where people mock us would have been a terrible mistake. (I do not suggest that all EF communities are like the one in my area.)

    It is, indeed, difficult to understand subcultures other than our own. I do not mean to mock you in saying that. As an example, I did not understand some of the difficulties mothers face until I was a mother myself. For people who are unable to be a part of the EF community, or have reasons for not wanting to do so, such as those I mentioned, life with children requires us to swim upstream culturally. The EF families in my area have their own community where they mutually reinforce each others’ lifestyles. I do not have such a community, nor do most Catholics.

    I did not understand the Bible readings or homilies when I was six. I grew up in a cold parish which was liturgically beautiful, but lacking the love exuded by priests and parishioners in my current parish. I did not find Abba at my childhood parish; I knew God was not cold and hard hearted like the Catholics I knew, so I assumed the Catholic faith must be wrong. I left at age seventeen and did not return until age thirty. My mother was and is pious with a deep devotion to Our Lady. She tried to share her faith with me, but my uncharitable parish overshadowed her example.

    I am blessed with a warm parish where my children encounter Christ in our priests and fellow parishioners. If my son is not prostrating himself on the floor, but is in a nearby room hearing the Liturgy of the Word in a way he can understand, he is experiencing our Lord directly and growing in desire to build a relationship with Him.

    I hope this answers your question, Cherie. I hope it does not come across as attacking or defensive in any way. I am tired and perhaps not wording everything just the right way. I do not want to appear to lack respect for your EF community, or for EF communities in general. I am happy for you that you have such an inspiring spiritual community.

    • Volunteer

      Thank you Home schooling mother for bringing LIGHT to Children’s Liturgy and the struggles families have. I volunteer for Children’s liturgy at our parish. The children are ages 3 – 6. We do not do arts and crafts. We read the readings as their parents are doing in the mass. I do not give a homily. There are approved materials to guide the volunteers in helping the children understand the readings. We practice the sign of the cross, we pray the prayers of the faithful and often pray the Hail Mary, Our Father, Guardian angle prayers. We sing. Sometimes we help bring the gifts forward as we return to mass.These little ones, at the begining of their understanding of faith, have the opportunity to hear Our Lords words, he came and walked amongst the lowly, the poor, the impoverished and met them where they were. What is more important – an innocent child learning God’s love for him? or parents unable to learn, hear, be strengthened and renewed because they are trying to keep their child disciplined. Often the prayers, songs we send home with them help evangelize their entire family. It is so very far from “arts and crafts” and batman does not enter into our liturgy. It is wonderful if EF communities have another way but that is not something every parent can have, and Our Lord wants every child to know him and how much he loves him. I too have found that many home school families are exclusive to themselves, protective and at times judgemental of families who make other choices. One family did not want their child attending classes for the sacrament of Holy Communion with the other children so they would not be influenced by heathens…it was enlightening for me, just beyond my comprehension if one is practicing Catholicism. I cannot accept that anyone would believe that it is easy for 3-6 year olds to comprehend biblical readings and a homily. These same people advocate that it is not church doctrine to have a children’s mass. Thank you Heavelnly Father, Divine healer and teacher that Home School mom’s six year old son is learning the joys, grace and love of God’s word. Amen

  • cherie frances glover

    I attend an EF Holy Mass that is also attended by about 50 home-schooled children. Not only do the children know the entire Holy Mass in Latin and can respond and sing chant, they completely understand the liturgy. They are all very pious to the point of prostrating themselves, touching their little foreheads to the floor during the consecration. Their parents and the entire assembly has taken great pains and time in nurturing these children in the beauty of Catholicism. It is very joyous indeed. I find it difficult to understand this proposed compromise of a childrens’ liturgy. Either you are not giving these children enough credit to understand the gifts of the spirit, or you don’t understand them yourself. I grew up pre-vatican II and my fondest memories are those of the beautiful liturgies in the late 1950s. I remember thinking deeply about the children who saw our Blessed Mother at Fatima and wanting so to be like them. What has happened to the youth that you describe as not being able to understand? Perhaps Batman, Sesame Street and Ninja has sidetracked them all. Pax Christi, cherie frances

  • Fr. Mark

    Thank you for this article. I have asked the same question in the past, writing to an “Ask the Priest” apologist, but I didn’t receive a reply. In addition to the fact that the children are being removed from the Mass and some layperson who may very well be unknown to the parents and the pastor will be reading the Gospel, giving a “homily”, and greatly influencing their understanding of the faith, the Church, and the Liturgy, the children are thereby being taught that “Father cannot relate to you; he’s too old; he’s not ‘with it'”. In this age when people like to be “inclusive”, those who insist on separating the children from the adults at Mass are causing division rather than unity.
    Every human being learns to speak by being around older folks and hearing words that he or she cannot understand (at first), and eventually becomes fluent in the language. I fear that children’s liturgies actually prevent children from learning the language of our faith. I’ve even heard Jesus’ parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins changed so that the word “virgin” was not used! Ridiculous!
    I am glad that you point out the propriety of having a Children’s Liturgy of the Word if there is a priest or deacon who can lead it. That might be a wonderful way to relate to both the young and the old, who can still attend the same Mass.

  • Isaiah

    Home Schooling Mother: I am glad your son is benefiting from a separate Children’s Liturgy of the Word and that he continues to grow in the love of God and his Church. As a child I was rarely of that particular disposition that did not allow me to sit through Mass, happily or not, at least as far as I can remember (my parents and teachers may tell a different story, I suppose.) I was also very interested in the goings on of the Mass from an early age. We are, of course all of different with diverse needs. All of this has contributed to the fact that I’ve never liked the idea of a Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Only very recently become a father myself, I would not begin to presume to question Mother Church’s wisdom in this matter, and accounts like yours confirm me in my deference and bring joy to my heart. At the same time it seems important to respect Her wisdom in this matter. In this case, Jake has presented the most plausible reading of Her wisdom as expressed by those two documents. The second document which, as you say, does not explicitly mention children, does specifically mention terms that are referred to in the document permitting a Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Those words do have a very clear meaning outside these documents, to wit in the Roman Missal. The Liturgy of the Word is clearly delineated in its rubrics. The Missal, of which the second document’s language is a gloss, clearly indicates that only ordained ministers are to proclaim the Gospel and give homilies during the Liturgy of the Word. That said, the competent authorities within the Church (Pope and his liturgical ministers) can change that for the Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Up to this point, however, it would appear they have not done so. It is my fervent hope that our local churches can continue fruitful Children’s Liturgies of the Word, while still respecting the integrity of Mother Church’s liturgical practice.
    I do agree that our local pastors, God bless and keep them, do not deserve to placed under a constant lay liturgical microscope, nor should their views be judged by one statement they make. Still, it seems to me within the rights and duties of lay person to question a priest when they see what appears to be a consistent liturgical abuse, or a fortiori, theological error(Cfr. Mt 18). And yes, I believe that lay people are allowed and should be encouraged to know the liturgy well. There certainly is a danger to get lost in externals, but there is also a great benefit to understanding liturgical acts, which are, for the most part, rife with meaning and tradition. The position of pastor and even bishop in this country has sadly lost the trust of many in the Church, usually for a failure of some to stand up for what the Church believes, whether in doctrine or in practice, including the exposing of young people to abusive adults. They could certainly do with much more humble support from us. I would hope that that relationship can be healed without damage to the Church’s liturgy.

  • Home Schooling Mother

    Mr. Tawney, thank you for bringing up this topic.

    We are a conservative home schooling family who take our faith very seriously. Children’s Liturgy of the Word is deepening the faith of our six-year-old son, assisting us in raising him in the faith. He is the seventh of children ranging up to a young adult who is twenty-two. He has boundless energy; sitting still for an hour, when he does not understand what is going on, feels, to him, like being in prison. I have Lacy’s (from Catholic Icing) Mass book, which we use during Mass, but the readings and the homily ARE above his head, and the children’s Liturgy of the Word makes them understandable. Mass has become something he enjoys now that he understands it.

    I would like to note that the second document you cite does not mention children. Your interpretation is logical, but it is not the only possible logical conclusion.

    I understand the importance of liturgical norms, but can we not trust our pastors, unless there is a glaringly obvious reason not to do so? If my pastor allows the children’s Liturgy of the Word in its current format, then I am going to assume that his interpretation of the documents you cite is correct. With no disrespect intended toward you, I am going to take my pastor’s interpretation as more valid than yours.

    While I appreciate your intent, I am dismayed by the lack of trust many conservative Catholics have in our priests. Several of my home schooling friends were recently complaining because one of our priests mentioned that his grandparents were immigrants. They consider this priest “liberal” when, in fact, he is quite orthodox, and none of them could think of anything he has ever taught which is against Church teaching. On the internet, lay people constantly take on the job of overseeing our pastors. If I were to spend my time at Mass analyzing whether or not our pastor is following liturgical norms, and fitting each priest into a “liberal” or “conservative” box, I would never be able to think about Jesus!

    Please, fellow Catholics, let’s give our pastors the benefit of the doubt, and assume that most of them are equipped to do their jobs better than we are.

  • Mary V.

    I would really like to get your feedback regarding children as readers during Mass. Is it allowed? Can young school age children participate in the first two readings?
    At our school, each week a homeroom is assigned a Mass, they participate by doing the readings (not the Gospel of course), petitions, and bringing up gifts. There is a bit of controversy regarding students with speech impediments being readers.
    Thank you!

  • Thank you Jake for this article. I’ve asked the question myself but didn’t know where to find the answer.


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  • Rose of Sharon

    Anything new is not true, John, and anything true is not new. Your references are “only new” and are contrary to Sacred Tradition. Pope Saint Pius V promulgated the Holy Sacrfice of the Mass. Subsequent popes warned us of the modernists who war against Catholic principles and doctrines. Change the Mass and you change the faith of the people. The Mass was changed and it created an unprecedented exodus out of the Catholic Church. There is a current survey that states young people leave because they find the ‘Mass’ boring and do not accept Catholic teachings on family matters. There is an implosion from within. It’s time to start asking the hard questions of who is behind these destructive measures and why?

  • Extract from Chapter 9 of The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins

    Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.

    • Phil, I don’t see that your quote is very relevant to the article, but I would refer you to Scott Hahn’s book ‘Answering the new Atheism’ which totally dismantles Dawkins’ case against God, and Scott Hahn knows what he’s talking about.

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