More on boys “playing Mass”

Some people were a bit concerned about the vocations poster from the Diocese of Raleigh depicting a young boy " "playing" priest and celebrating Mass.   Frankly, I find nothing wrong with that.  There seems nothing irreverent about what he is doing.

I think that is the important thing: what children might do, might not be perfect, it might be clumsy, etc., but it should be done with their level of reverence.

To this end, I received by e-mail a photo from 1958 of a boy "playing Mass".

Here it is:

July 1958.
My mother made the vestments –complete set; everything!
I’m looking for the slide of the purple vestments.
I remember my grandmother expressing concern that this playing at Mass might not be appropriate. I do remember her advising that we if we going to play Mass we should do so "reverently" and not "playfully".

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55 Responses to More on boys “playing Mass”

  1. Jeff says:

    My two sons (3,2) play mass too. My wife has a cedar “hope” chest that they set up a cross on and a penny bank that is shaped like the cibrorium. I assure you they are serious. The even hand out communion. One plays the server and the other the priest. First they process around the room, then say some prayers from a little childs missal (we have to help since they cant read) and then they hand out communion. All of our friends children do the same. In their minds they are very serious about it.

  2. catholicnic says:

    Saint Therese used to play mass all the time with her sisters and cousin. They would play out in the garden.

  3. Joseph Dylong says:

    That was really nice.

    When I was a child, I remember playing priest, and saying pretend Mass. I think its a good sign, and more so, may be an early sign of a vocation.

  4. Randy_in_MN says:

    I was blessed to have a whole series of vestments given to me (including all liturgical colors, with maniple, chalice veil, plus a cope and humeral veil) by the Benedictine nuns at the elementary school I attended in Richfield, MN. I originally “celebrated” ad orientem, but as our church converted to “versus populum”, so did I. I even recited the Mass in Latin, using the St. Joseph’s missal and my hosts were Jeno’s pizza crusts cut to circular shapes and baked, the chalice was a wine goblet spray painted gold (noble material, right?). I even got my Lutheran grandma to make me a gold chasuble with red orphreys to match the vestments at my Church.

  5. raimundo says:

    Reminds me of my childhood. LOL. Ten years in the priesthood now.

  6. My brother played Mass. I remember him making hosts by flattening white bread into small circles and getting me to receive. I also remember the bread being a little on the dirty side. Blah Of course little sister humored big brother.

    I would much rather see these pictures than this
    http://apostoliclive.com/play.php?vid=492

    The little fella is imitating his grandfather. At first it is cute then it gets a little scary.

  7. A good friend of mine is one of eight children. One of his brothers would “play Mass” as a little kid, consecrating and distributing the Eucharist to his brothers and sisters. He became a priests.

    Catholic children are emulating sports heroes by pulling on their jerseys. Want to play cops and robbers? They dress like an officer. Dream of being a astronaut, dress like one, then fashion a cardboard box to be the spacecraft. They play what they want to emulate. Why a Catholic parent would ever stop their child from dressing and emulating a priest (or nun for a girl) is beyond “my pay grade.”

  8. MJL says:

    It’s not just a Catholic passtime. Even the erstwhile “Archbishop” of York (Dr David Hope, aka “Ena the Cruel” and Professional Yorkshireman) used to boast that he did something similar when a little lad in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England. Mind you, a mini Surplice,Scarf & Hood wouldn’t have quite the same attraction as the real thing! But it’s great harmless fun anyway.

  9. KK says:

    We’ve seen quite a few visuals of “real” Masses that do not appear as reverent as these photos. I was hoping to read the “rest of the story” where we learn that the young man in these photos is now Msgr…..

  10. Jenny Z says:

    Wow… you know, that’s an idea for Christmas presents for some of my friend’s kids.

  11. John says:

    Many of the saints “played” Mass. St. John Vianney is one for example.

  12. When my son was two, he would play mass at any moment. He take a cracker, hold it up, and say, barely intelligibly, “This our body.” Then he’d set it down, and bow. Then he’d pick up his sippy cup, and say something totally untelligible, and then he’d set it down, and bow again.

    Then he’d usually lose interest, and resume his lunch.

    He’s seven now, and he still sometimes pretends to be a priest and “celebrates” mass. Only now he does the readings the Eucharistic prayer, too.

  13. Bernard Dick says:

    “I was hoping to read the ‘rest of the story’ where we learn that the young man in these photos is now Msgr…..”
    I’m very happily married with 2 adult children and a granddaughter. Retired from public high school teaching in 2001 –visual arts: studio arts, art history, photography. Now researching and writing about the history of Christian art. That’s what I do in my spare time. Most of the time I search for an orthodox Catholic church at which to attend Sunday Mass. In my diocese that’s not easy!

  14. TJM says:

    The 1958 photos – what class! Reminds me of me playing priest. Tom

  15. Gloria says:

    Perhaps I told this here before. My future sister-in-law and I, when we were about eight years old, acted as altar boys for her oldest brother (12) as he “practiced” not “played” saying Mass. Their father had built an altar in his bedroom. His sister and I answered all the responses (in Latin, of course),said the Confiteor (twice), moved the missal, held the cruets,rang the bells etc., etc. We were respectful about it, too, no giggling or silliness. We knew he was serious about what he was doing. Her brother became a very devout Dominican priest. Requiescat in pace.

  16. Terry says:

    Reminds me of my boyhood – although this boy had a good mom to make such elaborate vestments for him – I made my own with white sheets and boxes of crayolas. Sadly, I never had a vocation, but perhaps it kept me Catholic. I would have been about the same age as the boy in the photo.

  17. Jordanes says:

    When my oldest son was 2 or 3 years old, he used to “consecrate” his food and his sippy cup, and then he would elevate them and mutter something in his Toddler Latin, or whatever language he was speaking: you could make out some of the words of the Mass.

  18. Bernard Dick says:

    One of you let me know that I left the wrong website address. Sorry, my name links to the correct one this time.

  19. JM says:

    I see quite a few actual priests “playing at Mass” nowadays…

    OK, sorry, I couldn’t resist. Into the confessional with me. But seriously, I’m glad to see WDTPRS readers coming out in support of this. Kids often act out professions they respect–teacher, doctor, policeman–and have a fascination with, and it’s a great thing to see kids are still doing it for the priesthood. That kid in 1958 had quite a setup! It’s important to kids to have the symbols of the office they are acting out–stethoscope, badge, etc.–and I think the traditional Mass is far more suited to being acted out by kids than the OF, which often has no incense, plain vestments, etc.

  20. Mary says:

    One of my friends is the youngest of 16, she and the next oldest in the family and I went to college together. We often told stories of taking a Nilla Wafer and \”playing\” Mass or something similar. I remember another friend from college who is one of 7 spoke of how he and his brothers would play Mass in the basement. They told us that the \”tabernacle\” they used was a barn that mooed every time they went into to for \”communion\” and the homilies were usually \”you have been bad\” but what they did was reverent for their age.

    With 12 years between my brother and I and with my being a girl, I rarely played Mass, but I did know what my friends from college were talking about. I think that is a great poster and hopefully it will remind families that you are allowed to talk about vocations as a possible job for your child.

    Another child took a thin mint and turned to a man who was in the seminary at the time and explained, \”it\’s like this Larry, the bottom of Christ.\” Granted the child was young 4 at most, but she knew what she was talking about, and is growing up to be a beautiful Catholic young woman.

  21. John P. says:

    I am 15 currently, but as early as age 6 or 7, I can remember “playing” Mass in our living room. My mom had a complete Mass set. We wouldn’t wear any vestments, as my mom wasn’t really talented at making things, so my brother and I would take turns playing priest and altar server. Then, about age 8, I started taking violin lessons, and I would begin making feeble attempts to squeak out something resembling music so we could have music at our pretend Masses. My mom would cut up pieces of regular wheat bread for “communion” and red Kool-Aid generally ended up being the “wine” so to speak. Then, when I was 12, a priest friend gave me two chasubles, a stole, a clergy shirt and Roman collar. I was beyond thrilled. Though they were all a little big on me, I made do. To this day, I still love “playing” Mass. Lately I’ve actually been making an attempt at saying the Mass in Latin, but I’m not very good at it, but I’m trying. I always thought I was the only one to do this, and lately I stopped, because I was worried that perhaps it was disrespectful to”play” Mass. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. As high school student hoping to enter the seminary soon, I can say that I love “playing” Mass in the hopes that one day I’ll be able to do the real thing. I thought the vocations poster was excellent, Father, and I was pleased that you shared that, I have it hung on my wall now.

  22. Redo says:

    Another great post father! I played Mass too! My mother said I used to gather the other kids in the neighborhood and have a procession down the street using a broom as my processional cross…..some weren’t even Catholic! hahaha

    I’m now a seminarian….

  23. Former Altar Boy says:

    What a great Mom who would make vesttments for her son, and Dad who likely helped with the altar. That’s how to stir up vocations in the home! Anyone wonder if kids nowadays “play” the Novuc Ordo? If so, it’s probably girla altar servers — that previously “boy only” position having lost its allure for boys.

  24. What great photos! My children love to play mass as well. We have that same mass kit (from the vocations poster). They are available from a terrific Catholic company named Our Father’s House (http://ourfathershouse.biz/shopsite_sc/store/html/page30.html)

  25. Jayna says:

    My mother and her siblings had a play set with a priest doll, a little altar and a tabernacle. And it wasn’t something they made themselves, it was a set that was sold in stores. I’m still trying to find it amongst my grandmother’s things.

  26. PG says:

    Are toy mass kits still sold? Anyone know of a source? I too think this would be a great gift for a friend’s son.

  27. PG says:

    I should have refreshed the page before posting. Thanks for the link, Michele.

  28. Fr. Guy says:

    Pope Pius XII, Blessed Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI all spoke of playing at saying mass as children. If it was OK with them its OK with me…and should be with ANYONE.

  29. andrew says:

    why are this kid’s vestments nicer than my priests? ;-)

  30. rcesq says:

    Add Pope Benedict XVI to the list of Popes “playing Mass” — his brother has told the story that their mother made them beautiful vestments and that they would prepare homilies based on the Sunday readings. Being a girl in pre-Vatican II days, I was only allowed to be a member in my cousins’ congregation, but we did have yummy Dutch peppermints for communion (and no chewing!)

  31. Matt Q says:

    Yeah, it’s cool for kids to play Mass providing it’s done right. What a difference in comparison of the two pictures. Of course, I definitely like the 1958 picture. It totally shows the way things were then, not only the way Mass was said but how vestments and the altar arrangements were.

    When I first the Raleigh one, I didn’t know what it was or what the kid was doing. First thing I saw was a yarmulke ( or what looks like one ) and a kid who looks like he’s reading from the Torah. It didn’t help any I saw an altar set-up. It wasn’t until I saw “Diocese of Raleigh” ( which suddenly made me feel better) that it had something to do with vocations, but I still had to read on to catch was being said. I suppose though it is accurate, conveying its amorphous, after-thought look.

    The 1958 pictures are totally complete in meaning and feel. I thought that boy was an altar boy. Who would have known then that within in two years the whole thing was going to blow up in their faces.

    Father Z, did that man tell you he went on to become a priest?

  32. Adam says:

    Add me to the list…When I was a kid, I grew up in the Maronite rite and used to play church with my sisters. They and our stuffed animals were the parishoners. My great uncle was a priest and would give me some unconsecrated hosts, but more often than not I used a Ritz and apple juice. I feel bad for my sisters because the Maronites use intinction (apple juice + Ritz = …). Also, as a young child, Aramaic is *very* difficult to pronounce, so the prayers often came out odd. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience and set the stage for spiritual growth thereafter.

  33. Mark M says:

    Interestingly, because they’ve already done the baby in the Chasuble thing (or maybe because it was a flop?), the Diocese of Arlington really don’t like this.

  34. Jane says:

    I am very impressed with the vestments that this boy’s mother made for him. She has real talent.

  35. Miguel Ramirez y Madarang says:

    Having a grandaunt {whom I fondly call Lola Madre} as a nun of the Religious of the Virgin Mary {R.V.M.}, I was – as well as the whole family – in the constant company of the venerable sisters of the congregation.

    In one of our Easter picnics in Betania in Tagaytay, I was {according to Oha} supposedly asked by one of the nuns if I ever wanted to become a priest…

    The young Miguel exclaimed; No! I want to become Pope! – which caused everybody to roar laughing…not in jest but in appreciation of the “witty” remark of the lad.

    As a young man, I would have raised a dozen questions to that young Miguel regarding the difference between priest and Pope, and the like.

    However, let us allow the young Miguel to resurface…of how he “played” Mass, observing the great solemnities and feast days of the Church, of how he “said” the Easter Vigil Mass, of him offering both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Mass…

    The young Miguel was not just any “ordinary” priest. He was a bishop! A cardinal even! His mother even made for mitres using two new folders. The curtain rod was his crozzier, and his vestments were the best blankets of the family.

    As I was reading Fr. Z’s blog {http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/08/more-on-boys-playing-mass/} – to which I owe the pictures above – I fondly remebered the young Ryan, as I was known back then, “playing” Mass, just like what Pope Pius XII, Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope Benedict XVI.

    As young as the 2nd grade {roughly around 7 years old}, I was called “Father” or “Father Ry” by my friends, batch-mates, professors, and even by total strangers!

    I may not have the vocation, but my days as a priest allowed me to have a child-like love for the liturgy and for the Church.

  36. Having a grandaunt {whom I fondly call Lola Madre} as a nun of the Religious
    of the Virgin Mary {R.V.M.}, I was – as well as the whole family – in the
    constant company of the venerable sisters of the congregation.

    In one of our Easter picnics in Betania in Tagaytay, I was {according to Oha}
    supposedly asked by one of the nuns if I ever wanted to become a priest…

    The young Miguel exclaimed; No! I want to become Pope! – which caused everybody
    to roar laughing…not in jest but in appreciation of the \”witty\” remark of
    the lad.

    As a young man, I would have raised a dozen questions to that young Miguel
    regarding the difference between priest and Pope, and the like.

    However, let us allow the young Miguel to resurface…of how he “played” Mass,
    observing the great solemnities and feast days of the Church, of how he “said”
    the Easter Vigil Mass, of him offering both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form
    of the Mass…

    The young Miguel was not just any \”ordinary\” priest. He was a bishop!
    A cardinal even! His mother even made for mitres using two new folders.
    The curtain rod was his crozzier, and his vestments were the best blankets
    of the family.

    As I was reading Fr. Z\’s blog, I fondly remebered the young me “playing” Mass, .
    just like what Pope Pius XII, Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI,
    and Pope Benedict XVI.

    As young as the 2nd grade {roughly around 7 years old}, I was called
    “Father” by my friends, batch-mates, professors, and even by total strangers!

    I may not have the vocation, but my days as a priest allowed me to have a
    child-like love for the liturgy and for the Church.

  37. I used to say Mass to my Teddy Bears using the My First Missal my Grandparents gave me for my First Holy Communion, I had learned the Mass of by heart by then and so this was the only use I had for it.

    On my way to my interview with the Bishop I read the blurb on the recently published biography of the late Cardinal Hume and was delighted to read that he did the same when he was a child. When I told the Bishop of this in the interview he replied, ‘Oh, we all di that.’

  38. Mark says:

    I, too, used to offer mass when I was a child. I would stay at my grandmothers and use their dresser as the altar(it already had a crucifix on it) and be ad orientem. I would use blankets as copes, etc.. and would even make my grandmother sit through one of my masses. She always thought I would become a priest(I almost did)..The local priest even gave me some unconsecrated hosts to use(he was a great Msgr who always asked me if I was going to become a priest).

  39. It’s interesting to see that so many of the people that “play Mass” do it based on the TLM.

    Growing up vernacular suburban Novus Ordo, it wouldn’t have ever occured to me to “play Mass.” Plus anyway, how’s a 9-year-old going to hire a team of clowns?

  40. It’s interesting to see that so many of the people that “play Mass” do it based on the TLM.

    I suspect it’s because the role of the TLM priest — standing alone before God to offer sacrifice for his people — is one that seems, well … so manly and masculine … is one that so many young boys envy and want to emasculate.

    One indication of this is that — in TLM communities — almost every boy of appropriate age wants to be an altar server. Whereas in too many ordinary parishes it’s hard to get boys to serve.

  41. WhollyRoamin’Catholic:

    I will donate a dollar to Priests for Life for each clown you personally witnessed take part in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. Not heard about, but actually witnessed, in your presence (as was implied by your own statement).

    I would appreciate a bit of detail about each clown incident you witnessed, since I gather from your post it has happened so often.

  42. Relax, Fr. Martin Fox. It was a joke.

    But you would owe one dollar, which I would gladly match. It was a long time ago and nothing of the like has occured since. It was part of a grade school celebration and–though I was young and not privvy to the whole story– without Father’s input or consent. (I am sure you are aware that, despite popular opinion, the priest is not to blame for every abhoration to occur in the same zip code as his rectory or even at his own Mass)

    But I was thinking of switching my Lenten charity to PFL this year, so I’ll accept your challenge and up my contribution. God bless.

  43. Mark M says:

    Henry: surely you mean “emulate”, not emasculate?

  44. Jenny says:

    My daughter baptizes her toys and dolls. I think it is normal child development to play out what they witness.

  45. Dan says:

    I went to a Byzantine Catholic school though I am Roman Catholic. I went there for the conviniance of the fact that my mother worked 5 minuets away. It was required to go to Liturgy( that’s what they called it) every day I thought the Rite was really cool bing in 1st grade. I’d use the good sitting room for the church. cause it had the 2 side tables and the coffie table. Then in 4th Grade I started “playing” the Ordinary form. I knew all the prayes by heart mostly because i would play as the mass on EWTN was on TV. Then my parish got a new pastor and inroduced the Extraodinary Form to the parish. he also gave me my first chasuble stole an chalice veil. It was’nt up till I was 12 that I tried my hand at the EF and I continued up till I was 16. Ihad many friends who would help me serve

  46. Andrew says:

    I remember playing Mass with my sisters and friends when we were young. It was the perfect setting: out living room has a large Baroque wooden altar and and organ, too! The only thing lacking were the vestments, but a large white sheet seemed to work. With wax candles and a Gregorian Chant CD playing in the backround, we always found it extremely fun. For the host, we used pressed bread or small water crackers.

  47. andrew: why are this kid’s vestments nicer than my priests? ;-)

    Someone obviously loved that kid.

    Of course you could donate nice vestments to your priest and the parish…. right?

  48. totustuusmaria says:

    I played Mass!

  49. Agnes B. Bullock says:

    My three year old nice asks the ushers if they are Jesus, as she is looking for him at Church.

  50. andrew says:

    I used to play Mass, and my closet is still a chapel. In the past, it has had a tabernacle, a reredos, and other things. Our Parish Priest gave me a beautiful brass antique crucifix with candles that project off the side, and a shell meant to contain some sort of liquid projecting of the foot of the cross. My mother is an excellent seamstress, and made me a very accurate cassock with 33 buttons going down the front and five buttons on the cuffs of the sleeves. Recently, she mad me a rochet and mozetta. The reredos on the alter is made of plain wooden blocks. Some of them are arches and pillars. I was given a TLM missal when I was little, and so I used that when saying Mass. I have a fake golden colored vestment which I used when playing Mass. I also have a cope with a fringe, embroidery, and other stuff.

  51. WhollyRoamin’Catholic:

    I appreciate the follow up. I will gladly send a dollar to Priests for Life, but I’ll add a little more since a $1 check seems ridiculous. A happy outcome.

  52. Mrs. K says:

    You can get the pieces for a miniature Mass kit from ourfathershouse.biz. Click on the Montessori link on the sidebar.

  53. ASD says:

    OurFathersHouse.biz

    Now, that is a great tip. The Mass kits are here: http://ourfathershouse.biz/shopsite_sc/store/html/page30.html.

    I\’ve tried to teach my elementary school kids about Mass in several ways, including \”My See and Pray Missal,\” the \”Know Your Mass\” comic book, \”How to Serve Low Mass & Benediction\” booklet, & a DVD called \”Traditional Latin Mass for Children.\” In my experience, playing Mass (with sweets for host, of course) is the best way to teach them. They really enter into it, & it becomes easy to talk to them about what\’s going on at each step.

  54. What a great photo and story. It reminds me of my childhood as well. My mother was looking for a picture of me at my grandmother’s house “playing mass” that she tried to locate before my ordination, but it is still packed away. I hope to find it and show it to my kids.

    God bless,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel