From a reader:
Yesterday my husband (who teaches in a Catholic school …) was having a discussion with the principal of his school regarding having the children write the general intentions for the school Masses. My husband feels strongly that they should follow a specific format and be geared toward the feast of the day and doesn’t feel like his elementary school students are really up for it. I think the children are a little too general with things like, "For the Pope".
After some discussion, the principal told him that it was possible to be "too Catholic". I found her comment to be a little alarming, especially coming from a Sister. I guess I feel like most of the time I’m not Catholic enough!
First, when I hear the phrase "too Catholic" I consider the source. Coming from a religious sister who is in a Catholic school, I immediately suspect – fairly or not – that prayers for the Pope or other traditional intentions which don’t talk also about the earth mother goddess or equality for women in ordination are all "too Catholic".
Second, it is okay for these intention to be "general". There are, as a matter of fact, templates for the prayers of the faithful found in an appendix of the Missale Romanum. They are general and they are good and they are actually in the Missal.
Of course the question has to be raised, with Masses for children why have these prayers or why have the children write them? They are in the age of being formed. Adults should write these prayers for them to teach them what to pray for.
I suspect what is at work here is a strong current of the false notion of "active participation" whereby everyone has to do stuff, or every voice must be heard, blah blah blah.. thus leading in larger celebrations to conga lines of people heading to the ambo to declaim something meaningful and a babble of languages and mishmash of cultural elements. Also at work is the "awww ain’t that cute" dynamic, whereby the little darlings are so cute up there reading their pieces of paper.
I don’t have a problem with cute or with expression of cultural elements. There are many occasions when that can be appropriate and laudable and formative.
I have a problem with turning Mass into an occasion for everything except an encounter with mystery, the sort of encounter which transforms a person and guides them to the true point of the virtue of religion: awe, and not awww, at transcendence.