QUAERITUR: Children sent out from Mass after the Gospel

From a reader:

We recently moved to a new area, where the parish encourages children to leave Mass after the Gloria for a ‘liturgy’ and returns them after the intercessions. I have not permitted my children to leave Mass, but when I’ve expressed concern the answer is “Well, the bishops have approved it, and children don’t understand the gospel so this helps them get more out of Mass.” My ‘spidey sense’ is tingling on this one. Help???

I have heard of this sort of thing, but I have no experience with it. I believe the thought behind having children go out, and in the some places even adult catechumens, is inspired by the ancient, and I mean ancient, practice of having the non-baptised leave the church before the Eucharistic part of Mass began. There was and still is a distinction made about the “Mass of the Catechumens” (the readings, etc.) and the “Mass of the Faithful” (Creed and all that follows). Doing this today, however, strikes me as a kind of archeologizing of process of conversion.

Since in the case above I don’t know whether the “children” involved have made their first Holy Communion or not, I don’t know what to say. If they have made their First Communion, I really don’t see why they should be sent out.

Also, I really don’t like that whole “get more out of Mass” argument. This is very shifty ground. “Get more” what? “Get more” in what sense? Are they being trained to think of Mass is a didactic moment? Are they being taught that the important thing to attend to at Mass is that which can be easily understood? Does their removal from Mass weaken or reinforce a sense of the importance of the sacrifical dimension of the Mass of the Faithful?

At this point I invite those who have experience with this sort of thing to chime in.

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46 Responses to QUAERITUR: Children sent out from Mass after the Gospel

  1. I know the exercise from my time as sacristan, that in one sunday mass at 11.15 o’clock the children where asked to gather in the crypt for a kid’s catechesis and they returned to the mass in the church after the intercessions (Fürbitten).

    Without that catechesis sending them out would make absolutely no sense imho.

    A totally different question is, if the kid’s catechesis prepares the kids for a better understanding of what happens in mass, or if they’re kept in a state of slim catechesis and low-threshold knowledge level about mass. But that was not the question here, I think.

  2. jenne says:

    I was asked many years ago to help with the Children’s Liturgy of the Word. There was a procession for the children with song and they didn’t return until after the intercession where they joined the congregation for the Eucharistic liturgy. The catechumenate leaves for the Eucharistic liturgy. The idea is that the kids will better hear the word of God proclaimed. But I think the other idea is so that adults can listen better without distraction. Other younger kids were “warmly” welcomed to go to the sitter.
    My biggest problem and why I refused to lead is the Gospel being read by laity. The kids are being formed and they need to know the role of the ordained. My spidey sense kept me from reading to the kids in this format (because it was an extension of the mass I just would not read the gospel). My other spidey sense thought the whole activity unnecessary. Kids learn to be at mass and love the Liturgy with their parents. It is also additional activity that keeps parents from accepting their roles as the primary ones in charge of their formation.
    Another problem was the adult volunteer. How the adult could possibly think this satisfied going to mass was beyond me. If you didn’t get to hear the gospel and homily from the ordained I think you were fooling yourself to think you could enter the mystery the same way by role playing for the kids. I always felt I needed to go to mass again so I did. Made for long Sundays and with my own little ones in tow I stopped being a part of this ministry mid year. We’ve long since been at a parish that offered this.
    Better would be to let the kids play mass at home. And parents teach your kids how to prepare for mass.

  3. Christina says:

    Ah! My parents’ parish has started doing that. It’s definitely for kids who haven’t received the Eucharist yet, but are old enough to, you know, happily and eagerly go and sit with a non-parent.As far as I can see, as a parent, if I my kids were elsewhere during mass for MY benefit, it would be during the liturgy of the Eucharist; that’s when I’d especially like to concentrate. Alas.

    It seems to me like children’s liturgy is a way to make things easier/more enjoyable for kids without dumbing it down for everyone else, which I have to approve of in a way, so long as parents don’t neglect their duties to instruct about God’s word, as well.

  4. Sorbonnetoga says:

    With a 3 year old and 16 month old, I have only limited experience but I take the view that we, as a family, go to Mass. Barring a temporary exit (tantrums and the like) I prefer for the whole family to stay and pray together. I don’t like the idea of my children being entertained; if they don’t understand everything yet, they will in time.

  5. Philangelus says:

    We left our geographic parish in our previous city because *this* was the entirety of their religious education program. The kids would leave before the readings, get educated, and then get sent back in at the end of the homily.

    I figured that when you added in the time to line up the kids, march them down, march them back, and of course the inevitable wait time because you can’t time their arrival to coincide perfectly with the end of the homily, the kids were getting about fifteen minutes of “education” a week. And we left.

  6. Faith says:

    My parish does this. It doesn’t take any time at all because our children don’t line up they just “race” to go downstairs, when they hear the music signal. It’s the same Gospel but explained for children. This is a job for the Deacon.
    I like it because I can pay attention to the homily without trying to entertain or discipline my kids from distracting everyone around us. I’m pretty sure the people around us like it, also. My kids loved it because it was special, for them.
    I never noticed what exact time the kids come back because it’s done so quietly and without disruption. I do think it’s sometime around the Creed.
    It’s a win-win. Parents get to pay attention in peace. Surrounding adults likewise. And the kids too!

  7. Bryan Boyle says:

    This would get my ‘spidey sense’ tingling also. Thankfully, as ‘progressive’ as my parish is sometimes (creative would be a better term…like when Father’s homily goes long on Sunday, he drops the Creed and goes straight to the petitions), we don’t do this.

    For what it’s worth, I attended a diocesean RCIA coordinator’s meeting this summer last, and the presenter, from GIA (so you can see where that was going…), insisted that RCIA as well as pre-eucharist (he disdained that children receive first penance before first Communion) be dismissed after the homily to ‘break open the word’ etc. When pressed on this point, he was adamant that we had to return to the ancient practice (archeologism) because it was a more ‘pure practice’ and was a more forceful way of ‘making the people hunger’ for participation in the full Mass. I pointed out that, for the majority of the participants, they had already been attending Mass somewhere, with their families, for years. This specious ‘return to ancient practice’ which had been discarded over the centuries in the legitimate development of Tradition, was not necessary, in fact, segregated them as somehow being unworthy of ‘inclusion’ and less worthy to be in the presence of the Almighty at the Consecration.

    This strikes me as the same when applied to children. There is NO way that after assembling the little curtain climbers, herding them out into the narthex or over to the school, and giving them 10 minutes of rushed catechesis and returning them to the nave afterwards (disrupting the legitimate flow of the Mass…) does anything worthwhile, and, like you say, turns the Mass into a didactic event rather than an encounter with the mystery of salvation.

    In my case, I’m sure that the sister who runs RCIA took down my name as a rabble-rouser and ossified traditionalist. But, we meet before Mass for an hour and a half, go over the readings for the week, lead a discussion on how they apply to the life of faith, introduce catechetical topics like Sin, the Eucharist, The Mass, Penance, prayers, sacramental life, revelation, etc., then go to Mass. The whole Mass. And judging on my observation that most of my RCIA participants, years later, are still attending Mass, involved with the parish, serve on various committees, this system equips them with the tools they need to live a Catholic life.

    I’m sure that the same could be applied to our young people.

  8. bsjy says:

    Our parish has done this at least since the mid-1990s. I believe it is now just customary and without philosophical underpinning (like the Haugen and Haas musical domination). The comments above suggesting pragmatism (let the kids move around and maybe they will be still for the Liturgy of the Eucharist) ring true. We do not have a “cry room” so this may have been the pragmatic compromise. (We now have a “Cry Mass” where nobody objects to the child building a castle of Cheerios on the floor during the Consecration.)

    Father, you remind us to build brick by brick, but it may be the case that we need to dismantle brick by brick before we can build likewise. Here are some bricks that need to go:
    1. The forest of microphones and a mixing board at the front of the nave where the modern music group performs worships.
    2. Children’s Liturgy of the Word
    3. Yukems (Abbreviation for the no longer Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.)
    4. The chatty, familiar, audience warm-up by Father between Procession and the Sign of the Cross to start the Mass.
    5. The music — ALL the music — written since 1960. We may lose a few gems, but we also discard a lot of garbage that rightfully belongs on a pop radio station, a Broadway stage, or around a Young Life campfire.

  9. APX says:

    Ah, yes, Children’s Liturgy. Being one of the younger folks here I can give you a couple perspectives, as I both attended this escape from boredom, as well as taught it when I was in grade 6 as my “service project” for Confirmation.

    As a child having to take this, I can assure you I learned about as much as I learned from sitting up with my parents throughout the readings and the homily- absolutely nothing (aside from how many boards were on the ceiling and how many bricks there were on each wall). I was just happy I didn’t have to listen to an old monotonous priest go on and on for what seemed like forever about something I had no clue about. I still knew the Mass part of the Mass was the important part because in those days the priests put more emphasis on it. They still used the Roman Canon, and sung the entire thing, and the Sign of Peace wasn’t the chaos it is now.

    As someone who taught it, I can tell you that, at least at my parish, the readings and gospel weren’t read in kid language. We were given a binder that greatly summarized what the readings and gospel were about, and then the kids either colored a picture or did some sort of craft. Really, how educational do you think this is if they let the 11 year old who wasn’t even Confirmed yet teach it?

  10. Dennis Martin says:

    I don’t believe it has anything whatsoever to do with the ancient catechumenate. After all, these children, presumably and for the most part, are already baptized. The ancient catechumenate was for unbaptized adult converts.

    I think, indeed am pretty darn sure, that it comes from Protestant “children’s church” practices. Poor widdle babies, can’t follow the non-liturgy, touchy-feely Praise Band chaos, so send them away to make banners and play happy-clappy games. It was foolish for the Protestants who started it and it’s triple foolish for Catholics.

    Same thing with the “anointing services” once a quarter or once a month. Same thing with a lotta things. One of the great fruits of ecumenism, I guess–Catholic pariah clergy invited to join the local clergy (“ministerium”) meetings at IHOP once a month, where they pick up this stuff.

    Or do they get it from Catholic liturgy experts’ journals? Or from the professional schools of “religious educator education”?

  11. Imrahil says:

    Around here that’s in some parishes customary during the Liturgy of the Word; and I think the motive is that the Liturgy of the Word is a teaching moment (true or not; it’s at any rate somewhat true, especially as opposed to the Liturgy of the Eucharist), and children are to be taught in other ways that adults. Indeed I’d prefer it if infantilizing is the alternative… (Sometimes gets me thinking that “you must become as a child” is enforced in an especially uncompromising way…)

    On the other hand, I see the practical reason why they’d be to go out after the Intercessions. Worship&praise, or (yes) some catechesis (if it is good catechesis, but that’s a wholly other matter), and leaving the parents alone for once. Also the ancient example… although children are not catechumens, but fideles.

    It even seems to be sort of a tradition (among unsuspicious people) not to take children to Mass at all at first, and then only sometimes, etc. to make Mass appear more valuable. Mass is said to be boring for five-year-olds. “Oh, when you’re big enough you can come and see the Dear God… but we’ll just wait for a little bit more…” “Know what? You may come to Holy Mass with us this morning; just think!” etc.

    Needless to say, to take children out after the Intercessions after First Communion makes no sense at all; and then even the practice to take them out before the Intercessions should, at rather too early than too late an age (in the First Communion preparation, if this, as here, takes place at 8-9 years of age) be ceased; they got to grow up some day.

  12. Tonia says:

    We used to have Children’s Liturgy in our parish. We were given a booklet ‘Directory for Masses with Children’ that talks about Masses with adults in which children also participate, it states (parag 17)

    “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…sometimes, moreover, if the place itself and nature of the individuals permit, it possibly will be appropriate to celebrate the liturgy of the word, including a homily, with the children in a separate, but not too distant location. Then before the eucharistic liturgy begins, the children are led to the place where the adults have meanwhile celebrated their own liturgy.”

  13. Scarltherr says:

    This is wrong. Having experienced it with my son, now 12, so recently, it is not educational, and it breaks up families. Sit near the front. Encourage your children to listen, quietly explain anything they question. Do not turn them over to the poorly formed but very fit and fashionable young moms who never explained the Mass to their own children.

  14. thomas ryan says:

    There is much to be said, pro and con, about the pastoral viability of children’s liturgies of the Word. The official permission is in the 1973 “Directory for Masses with Children” from the Comgregation for Divine Worship: “17. 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 litugy begins, the children are led to the place where the adults have meanwhile celebrated their own liturgy of the word.”

    The dismissal of catechumens before the creed and “prayer of the faithful” is called for as the normal procedure in the Roman Ritual: Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, #67, 116, etc. Whatever the feelings or thoughts individuals have, “say the balck, do the red” is a good rule.

  15. Nathan says:

    I am entirely sympathetic for the parents who look forward to “Children’s Liturgy of the Word” and it is true that the children may understand a bit more of the context of the readings (my youngest is 8, so we finished that phase fairly recently). However, I’m not convinced that it is smart in the long run, from the perspective of the liturgy or from benefit to the children.

    Father makes an important point about teaching children (and their parents) that the Holy Mass is didactic. To amplify a bit, the readings at Holy Mass, sung or said in the sanctuary, are wholly and an indispensable part of the Sacred Liturgy, the official prayer of the Church, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The edification and instruction of the Faithful, in that sense, is secondary to the fact that the Church worships God through singing or proclaiming His words in the context of the Sacred Liturgy. Why would we want to take the little ones out, who bear the full dignity of baptism, from witnessing the fullness of our worship and receiving its graces?

    As I’ve seen practiced, the “Children’s Liturgy of the Word” does a couple of things to the liturgy of the Mass. First, it adds a procession in the middle of the (to use the OF terminology) Liturgy of the Word. Isn’t that “adding to” the Mass, contrary to Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium 22′s directive, “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority?” Secondly, I’ve seen it create it’s own ad hoc liturgy, where the celebrant stops Mass and blesses the catechist or “sends the children off” with an extemporaneous statement.

    From the children’s perspective, does the 15 minutes away really clarify the Gospel of the day for them? My children haven’t been to very many, but I don’t recall their being able to relate the readings to us any better for having gone to “Children’s Liturgy of the Word” when they did. I do remember from my own preschool days (I grew up backwoods Methodist, where we sat, with the adults, through an entirely didactic service) that the cadences of the familiar Scriptures stayed with me and served as a “this was passed on to you” as I learned more and more about them over time. The beauty of the King James Version of Isaiah “And He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” has remained in my mind since I was 4 or 5 years old, even though I didn’t understand (and, to be honest, I still don’t fully understand) the meaning.

    I will grant that there may be times and places where the preschool children and their parents may benefit from taking them out for something like this (perhaps for the yearly financial discussion homily), if it can be done without interrupting the Mass. I would suggest, though, that like Father Z says re concelebration, it should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

    In Christ,

  16. Bill F says:

    Like Christina said, this program is generally for kids who are age 3 through kindergarten or maybe first-grade age. It’s usually a “children’s liturgy of the Word” – at our parish, the kids get called up after the Collect, Father gives them a short blessing (“May almighty God keep you in His grace in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”), they go off and do their thing (readings, andsome kind of activity), then they come back almost unnoticed after the General Intercessions. The *quality* of said program, of course, depends largely on the quality of the catechists at your parish.

    Many kids outgrow it by the time they are old enough for the regular religious education program. Our oldest (second grade now) stopped going sometime last year, entirely of her own volition. In the grand scheme of things, I think this is not really that big a deal. I’d advise Father Z’s correspondent to take a breath, assess the quality of catechesis at their parish, and decide whether or not this program works for them. If so, great. If not, no big – your kids will be ahead of the curve on managing themselves during Mass, and you’ll be able to guide their religious formation more directly.

  17. Marie Teresa says:

    Where we used to live, the Liturgy of the Word for Children was NOT for little ones but for school-age kids in grades K-6. Children left just at the beginning of the Homily. They were divided into classes. A teacher re-read the Gospel and gave a short lesson or explanation.

    It was at a very large cathedral parish in west Texas – at least 60 children would depart. Admittedly, the church was markedly quieter. Not that they were particularly noisy, but there was a difference. At the strong encouragement of a nun friend, my children went for a few months, but ultimately they wanted to stay with me.

    I’m not an advocate of sending children out. I’m not even in favor of cry rooms, etc. My expectation was the same as my parents – no crying, no wiggles, no whispers, no bathroom break, no toys, no snacks!! A few times, one of us had to take an infant out but never a toddler. If they learn from infancy that church is a place to be quiet and pay attention, then that’s what they do.

  18. qowieury says:

    This letter, post, and many of these comments are in the worst tradition of “traditionalism”. The letter, while expressing an authentic concern of a parent, shows a lack of basic trust in the pastor. The post title and the post itself seems to misunderstand the letter. Many of the comments (not all though, Christina and Bill F) engage in ridiculous ridiculing. What if instead of hating on everything, traditionalists were known for their love and desire to understand?

    The children are not sent out after the Gospel. They are sent out after the Gloria and return after the intercessions. When this is done properly, it can be very excellent. At my parish, the children go to the daily Mass chapel, have their readings in simplified language, and instead of the homily (which would be inappropriate for the FF director to preach), sing children’s songs that have a catechetical component. The children who go are generally younger than 9. The point is that the readings and homily at Mass are usually not targeted to them and they were getting very little out of it. They return for the liturgy of the Eucharist, which is not a matter of intellectual capability.

    Now I respect anyone who would disagree about this practice of having young children celebrate the liturgy of the word separately from the older children and adults, but I cannot respect the attitude of mocking the practice which is well thought out, approved by the bishops, and intended for good. For my part, I think it is a great idea. The ordinary form is an improvement on the extraordinary form because the readings are audible to the faithful. This is a logical extension of that good practice.

  19. Volanges says:

    The CCCB issued a document on this.
    http://www.cccb.ca/site/eng/media-room/archives/media-releases/2006/2368-celebrating-the-liturgy-of-the-word-with-children

    A few things pointed out in this document:
    1) #17 of “Directory for Masses with Children” says Sometimes which suggests ‘infrequent’ so should not be a weekly thing but should, rather, be related to the mature content of the readings & homily on a specific Sunday.
    2) It should be a true ‘Liturgy of the Word’, with the readings, acclamations, intercessions, etc.
    3) It’s not “craft time” and if pencils or crayons come into play you’re doing it wrong.
    4) It should only be for children aged 4 to 8 (or until they’ve received their First Communion). Any younger is babysitting and once they’ve received their First Communion they are old enough to stay in Church.
    5) No child should be made to go, even if this liturgy is used as part of sacramental preparation.
    6) They are always, per the Directory, to return before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

    It should also be remembered that the Directory said that priests should always remember that there are children in the assembly and direct some of the homily to them.

  20. RuralVirologist says:

    When I was young (1980s) our parish did this. Only, however, for the kids at Sunday school. This parish had two Sunday schools – one on Sunday and one on Tuesday. I went to the Tuesday one, so was exempt from the exodus.

    I believe the ancient practice is still the norm in the Eastern Churches.

  21. tzard says:

    We never allowed our children to go. We thought, if they’re responsible enough to walk up front and go with a group by themselves, they’re responsible enough to stay and listen to the scriptures with us.

    In one parish, a deacon or priest went with them and read the Gospel and did an age-appropriate homily. In (most) others, a catechist read a nice story and afterwards they broke out the crayons to color the little pamphlet.

    We found it better to keep them with us (more training on behaving during Mass) and talk about it in the car ride home.

  22. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    My parish used to be a veritable zoo of under-7 year olds. So that, at the Mass this happened at, you might have 30-40 children getting up and heading for the narthex.

    I see no problem with it. Children that young don’t really have an obligation to be at the mass to begin with, they can be distracting for the adults (especially in those large numbers), And the kids seem to enjoy it. Which is, for me, although apparently not for all, important for young children. I don’t necessarily mean they have to be entertained, but they do have to want to go to Mass, and that’s not an easy task for a 5 year old. Also, as mentioned, having the children leaves means that the homily is not dumbed down, so those of us who stay have a slightly better chance of hearing an intelligent homily.

  23. I’m confused…are we talking about the children leaving during the readings, and returning for the liturgy of the Eucharist; or are we talking about them leaving after the Gospel or homily, in the manner of how catechumens depart?

    The former practice is allowed for, the latter would only be authorized for catechumens.

    My experience? In my prior parish assignment, there was a “children’s liturgy of the word” at one parish when I arrived. I left it alone and simply observed how it went. It involved some good people trying to provide real catechesis, but most of the children at that Mass stayed in their pews. I asked some parents about it, and they said they preferred to keep their children at Mass. Of course I could not fault them for that. Eventually it came to an end, because the volunteers didn’t like doing preparation, and then have one child–or worse, no children–come forward.

    After it had faded, I had questions from pastoral council folks–in their 60s and older–who lamented its demise, as if I’d done something nefarious. “We want more children involved.” I simply pointed out that the parents were actually bringing their children to Mass, and keeping them there. What, I asked these critics, do you want me to do? Press these parents to send out their children? That argument prevailed; but what I truly think was at work was a desire to see the little ones parade forward.

  24. Volanges says:

    I’m 58 — until tomorrow ;o) — and I struggle with the idea that children today are more stupid than we were back in 1957-58 when I was in the age group that goes out to ‘Children’s Liturgy’. Maybe it’s true that the pedagogical approaches have changed through the years but I don’t really see the benefits of sending the kids out.

    That said, when our parish attempted to implement the recommendations of the CCCB as listed above, one mother said “So that means I can no longer come to Mass.” Asked why, she replied, “Because my daugther (2 years old) won’t sit quietly in the pew.” I bit my tongue to avoid saying, “You mean you’re not willing to parent your child.” Many of these parents would actually accompany their children (some as young as 18 months) and sit and chat while the 2 or 3 catechists would do crafts with the kids. It was ridiculous!

    Things have improved slightly, though there is still the colouring book aspect to this time, and very young children no longer go out.

  25. Jenice says:

    Our former parish had this Children’s Liturgy. At one point in the Mass (obviously not in the missal) the children and teachers came up, received a blessing and left the church to go downstairs for some kind of activity that was very loud. I objected to all of it and refused to allow my young children to leave, thinking that they needed to be in Mass with their parents. At their young age my first goal was getting them to sit still for an hour, not trying to see how much they could get out of mass. Even worse are parishes where the congregation sings some little ditty to the children as they exit:(

  26. My opinion: It’s a stupid practice. They don’t do it in the EF and most of the time kids are fine in that. Therefore it’s completely unneccessary.

  27. wmeyer says:

    My earliest recollections of Mass are from the age of perhaps 4. It was a small parish, and in the early 1950s, so no possibility of any “children’s liturgy.” I learned early on to be quiet at Mass, even if I could not yet really appreciate what was going on. The fact that my parents were in their “Sunday best” (and I was, as well) was certainly a factor which affected my demeanor. When I was about 7, my grandmother got me to follow the Latin in the Missal. It helped keep me focused, rather than fidgeting. But I never, never, was noisy or anywhere but in my pew, from my earliest recollections. When I see a child in the 7-10 year range who is clearly not aware of what Mass is, and cannot sit still, I sorrow for the misguided attitudes which have led to failed catechesis, and failed upbringing.

  28. wmeyer says:

    Bryan Boyle, your parish sounds eerily familiar!

  29. Bryan Boyle says:

    wmeyer: No doubt.

    You know, I see quotes from USCCB documents, etc regarding this being a wonderful and desirable thing. But, in my reading of the Missale Romanum, the GIRM, and the approved US adaptations, I see NO mention of there being any place in the Mass where kids (or RCIA folks for that matter) are supposed to be dismissed, approved rites for the same, or any indication in the canonical rubrics where this is an allowable option. Going back to established practice and the pertinent holy grail (to many) passages of SC, if the Holy See hasn’t approved it, regardless of how many pastors do it, doesn’t make it right.

    Maybe I’m missing something. But, it seems to me that the Missal, GIRM, and approved adaptations are what are governing here. The Conference can publish guidelines for doing so in the interests of who knows what, but, like “Environment and Art”, one has to wonder if NOT following some invented liturgical creativity in spite of the lack of Holy See approval, no matter how ‘avant garde’ it may be, accounts for or against your salvation.

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    This is just more experimentation. Odds are very, very good that you have a layperson angling like crazy for a paid position in the parish. This sort of stuff is all about making work and authority for somebody, usually somebody with inadequate qualifications, a political point of view, and an exaggerated opinion of themselves.

    Not only is there no need to take already baptized children out of mass, it’s a disturbance and a power trip. Get to the bottom of it, and fix it.

  31. Mike says:

    “Childrens’ Liturgy” was the norm in my regular parish. I do attend the TLM half the time where is has never been employed. In my regular parish where only the Novus Ordo Mass is said, this was part of normal procedure until we recently got a new pastor, who didn’t change things immediately but it does appear as though it is no longer offered.

    We did allow our two older children to go until we gave it much more serious consideration. Neither my wife nor myself ever felt cheated or overwhelmed that it was not offered at any time during the years we were growing up in our respective parishes in different parts of the country. This seemed to be a program of the 1990’s through about 2010 or so. It seems, although I may be misinformed, that this program seems to be dying a happy death. As I said my regular parish, which is probably the most orthodox in the diocese no longer has it and the TLM that I attend in my diocese’s Latin Mass Community has never and would never offer it.

    I hope things like this and holding hands during the Our Father at the Novus Ordo Mass will fade away quickly, keeping a reverent atmosphere at Mass instead of adding commotion and confusion. I pray the atmosphere in the Novus Ordo will become more like what I experience when attending a TLM.

  32. Lepidus says:

    Here’s the 25-cent question: Who is leading these? Are they so much the Catholic theological expert that they don’t need the benefit if the readings and homily given by the priest? I can assure you that they are not attending a different Mass.

  33. Late for heaven says:

    One wonderful priest I knew solved this problem by directing his homily to the children whom he had gather around him in the front of the church. The kids understood every word he said. At the same time, his message was formulated so that it had a second, adult level of meaning that had us gray hair in tears by the end of his homily.

    God bless you always Fr. Mike.

  34. FrJLP says:

    Folks:

    Just to reiterate what some commentators have said above…rooted in facts and documents…the Church allows for, when appropriate, a Children’s Liturgy of the Word contemporaneously with the Liturgy of the Word during Holy Mass. Might I lead you to read, once again, #17 of the Directory for Masses with Children (1973):

    “[In Masses with adults] 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 in 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.”

    Like it or dislike it…fine. But a Church or Pastor who chooses to use this is not in violation of any liturgical norm or being unfaithful to the Church….

  35. acardnal says:

    The document can be read here: http://www.adoremus.org/DMC-73.html

    It was promulgated in 1973. Almost 40 years ago . . . soon after the Novus Ordo Mass was promulgated. If you read the document in its entirety, I would argue it needs to be revised or judged to be null and void at this juncture.

  36. Late for Heaven:

    I think it’s admirable for a preacher to aim his homily to the children, although its much harder than many may suppose. No question, one can preach indirectly to the adults that way.

    However…I am not in favor of the practice of having the kids “gather around,” because it becomes entertainment for the adults. When I’ve watched the Protestant churches’ broadcasts on public access, that exactly what happens: the children gathering up front becomes a cute show. I feel VERY strongly that this is WRONG. The children are there to worship, not be entertainment for the adults. I realize people figure the little ones can’t really worship, so why not; but I vigorously contest the premise that children, even infants, cannot meaningfully worship. It’s assumed to be true, but I insist those arguing that point actually prove that contention.

    On the contrary, I think there is every reason to argue that even the smallest children can enter into the liturgy in SOME way. They pick up on the sights, colors, sounds, smell and ritual. They pick up the mood. And, as far as their communication with their Creator, no one can say. But for support for my contention, incite the evidence for how infants respond to people around them, how they recognize family, and voices, even before birth.

    The smallest children have a right to worship, and while they may have difficulties with it, the adults are wrong to assume and interfere.

  37. Sword40 says:

    Since we’ve been attending the TLM I have not experienced this sort of thing. Its been too long since our kids went through anything like that (they’re all grown and gone now). As I recall, sending the kids out before the Gospel sort of varied depending which priest was the Pastor at the time. We’ve had several very “progressive” Bishops over the years but things have settled down.

  38. rags says:

    My parents’ parish does this when we visit. They live in a predominantly Protestant area so I just always thought this practice was borrowed from the seperated brethren. I don’t have any major opposition to it, but as for me and my house we stick together at Mass.

    I have a 5, 3 & 1 year old and they can handle it just fine. We bring a “Mass bag” for them with childrens devotional books and we let them flip through the pages during the homily (not during the actual liturgy of the word or Eucharist). Often times one of us is walking in the back holding the one year old during the homily.

    My question is this… What’s the benefit of taking them out? I haven’t heard a convincing answer to this, so like I said… We stick together.

  39. FrJLP says:

    @acardinal: You may argue that it needs to be revised, and perhaps you could mount a credible argument to the same; but until it is, it remains the law of the land, so to speak. As such, it is a legitimate option to be expressed in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. And if there is to be a debate about the practice, let it be on the credibility of ideas and not on feelings and “Spidey Senses”.

    Incidentally, I usually find it amusing how when some ancient practices are convenient for one’s position, they are heralded as proof for the veracity of their position; yet, when another ancient and laudable custom does not fit to their liking, it is an anachronism. Funny how the appeal to antiquity works that way!

  40. The Masked Chicken says:

    I have an serious interesting question (since it seems somewhat subtle to me and I don’t know the answer): if children, per the 1973 Directive, have a separate Liturgy of the Word in another room, have they gone to the same Mass as their parents? Can I dash from a Liturgy of the Word at one parish to a Liturgy of the Eucharist at another parish and say I have fulfilled my Mass obligation? The Catechumens, obviously, who are dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word to go to another room for discussion are not, yet, attending Mass, but how far is too far to separate the children from the main Mass and still maintain that they have been at the same Mass as their parents? Suppose the Presider of the children’s Liturgy of the Word (one assumes he must be a priest?) has a different interpretation of the readings than the main Presider? Would this not cause confusion between the parents and children? Just exactly how much does the Liturgy of the Word influence the Liturgy of the Eucharist? These are interesting questions that I should like to learn the answers to.

    Now, I do have one little quibble with the Congregation for Divine Worship speaking as both an expert in music who is somewhat knowledgeable about some aspects of developmental neuroscience and someone who has taught second-graders to play musical instruments. You may take my comments cum grano salis, however. When they say in the Document:

    32. The use of “musical instruments can add a great deal” in Masses with children, especially if they are played by the children themselves. [28] The playing of instruments will help sustain the singing or to encourage the reflection of the children; sometimes in their own fashion instruments express festive joy and the praise of God.

    Note 28 refers back to Musicam Sacram, no. 62, which says nothing about children:

    62. Musical instruments can be very useful in sacred celebrations, whether they accompany the singing or whether they are played as solo instruments.

    “The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lift up men’s minds to God and higher things.

    “The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.”43

    How can instruments barely played by children sustain singing? Who, typically, plays the instruments in a kindergarden class sing-alongs? The teacher, not the children. The attention system of young children (2 – 6 year olds) simply is not developed enough for the sustained concentration and coordination necessary to lead the singing of other children. Children who are old enough to really play musical instruments have a developed coordination and attention system sufficient not to have to leave the main Mass room or attend a separate Mass for children. Children who are not old enough should not be trying to concentrate on musical instrument playing and the Mass (even the Liturgy of the Word) at the same time. They can’t do it. The result is not edification, but mental chaos, usually. The understanding of developmental neuroscience in 1973, especially with regards to musical development, was not sufficiently advanced for the Congregation to be making this sort of pronouncement about children playing musical instruments at Masses. It seems a bit ad hoc and not related to the document they cite for justification, which is directed to mature musicians (it is hard to see how a 5 year old can play the organ!). This, by the way, is the only document of this type in Church history up to this time, to my knowledge, relating musical instrument playing to children and the Mass (outside of Mozart). I do not see how this aspect of the document can be binding in this day and age or even appealed to for justification of the practice of children playing instruments at their own Mass (which, as I say, would not be needed by the time they can play musical instruments sufficiently well to play at a Mass!), since it depends on a scientific understanding (not a theological one) not present at the time. Not everything the Congregation says in a document enjoys exactly the same Catholic assent, especially if experts can show the statement to be wrong or ill-advised and not to be a matter of theology. Indeed, it for experts to present the case to the Church so that the situation might be amended, as per Canon 212.3:

    §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

    I don’t think one will find too many psychoacousticians and developmental neurobiologists who think that a four year old can attend to a Mass and play a musical instrument. I could be wrong. No one has done a study, to my knowledge, of that specific case, but we do know that the coordination system of a four year old is not refined enough to handle any detailed musical instrument playing, unless they are a prodigy, in which case they should be playing with the big boys…or do I misunderstand what the Congregations means by “children?” Again, my opinion, only.

    The Chicken

  41. JacobWall says:

    Chicken, maybe they mean adults who behave like children or consider themselves children (in some silly way that doesn’t resemble real children at all.) I wish I could say that were a joke, but …

    I think the purpose should be considered: “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.” However, having a “children’s mass” in the basement, as far as I can tell, doesn’t make them feel like they’re more a part of the mass; i think it would only make them feel excluded from the real mass (see below for my example.)

    The next part: “Some account should be taken of their presence …”. To me, this seems to be teaching children that the mass is about them. Wrong idea. The mass is about God.

    We’ve been to a couple of masses where they do this. Fortunately, my 4 1/2 year old will have nothing to do with it! My wife tried to coax him into to going with the children and he refused flatly, sitting down firmly in his place, making it clear that a battle would ensue if she tried. “No. I want to see the priest,” was his response. Needless to say, I wasn’t too enthusiastic of her efforts, so I nudged her at this point and very quietly suggested that she let him have his way (opposite of my usual approach to obedience.) He simply prefers to be in Mass – the “real Mass” with adults and a priest, seeing the sanctuary, etc. I say its better that way.

    I can’t say I understand Mass very well, but I know enough that I want to do whatever I can to let my children experience it completely, as an experience that’s about God, not about “ME.” As some people above argued, it seems that priests are allowed to do this. But forget what priests are allowed to do. What about what parents should do for the better of the children? Do parents want to teach children that Mass is focused on “me”, “what I like”, etc.?

    If children grow up believing the mass is somehow about them and making them feel good, I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a leap to think that the universe is about them and making them feel good. That doesn’t leave much room for God – either in the Mass or in the universe. No wonder atheism is becoming such a big problem.

  42. Michelle F says:

    I saw this dismissal for a “Children’s Liturgy” occur at my former parish. Having grown up attending a non-denominational “Bible Church” occasionally, this “Children’s Liturgy” idea and dismissal struck me as being identical to the “Children’s Sunday School” at the Protestant church.

    The children at the Catholic parish were sent out ceremoniously before the first reading was read. This was identical to the Protestant preacher calling the congregation’s children to the front of the church and then sending them out the side door with the Sunday School teacher. I do not know when the Catholic parish’s children returned to Mass because there was no fanfare for their return, but this was also exactly like what was done at the Protestant church. I was one of the children going to Sunday School at the Protestant church, and we were snuck back into the adult congregation sometime between the end of Adult Sunday School, and when the preacher started preaching – and the preaching, which was all hellfire-and-brimstone, would last for an hour and a half to two hours.

    I never saw any relationship between this practice and the dismissal of Catechumens because the children were allowed to return, but the Catechumens, who were dismissed after the homily, were not allowed to return.

    Also, I do not support this practice because I do not see any historical evidence for families being separated as part of Catholic worship, nor do I see it as being beneficial for the children for them to be separated from their parents and the Christian community in general. The children need to be present so they can experience the real, live worship of God directly. They also need to learn how to sit quietly and pay attention for an hour. If they do not understand something from the readings or the homily, their parents can instruct them at home (I hope).

    As far as I am concerned, this is just one more inroad Protestantism has made into the Roman Catholic Church.

  43. APX says:

    @The Masked Chicken
    Can I dash from a Liturgy of the Word at one parish to a Liturgy of the Eucharist at another parish and say I have fulfilled my Mass obligation?

    As my priest pointed out on Sunday during his sermon on lukewarmness, all you need to do is be at Mass for the Offertory until receiving communion (though, I think really you could get away with leaving after the priest receives communion) to fulfill your Mass obligation. In fact, at one point it was customary to ring the bells when removing the chalice veil to signal all the men outside smoking to come inside to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

  44. Volanges says:

    @ The Masked Chicken: #32 does not refer to a Sunday Mass but rather “Masses With Children in Which Only a Few Adults Participate” as referred to in #20: In addition to the Masses in which children take part with their parents and other family members (which are not always possible everywhere), Masses with children in which only a few adults take part are recommended, especially during the week.

  45. The Masked Chicken says:

    Volanges,

    I realize that. My reference to no. 32 was regarding very young children playing the musical accompanyments at such Masses. This is a recipe for chaos. By the time they have developed sufficient neurological maturity to play the music (on average), most children would be too old to attend such a Mass, anyways, since, apparently, it is meant for children who are too young to sufficiently benefit from the standard adult Mass. In pre-school/kindergarten settings, which are roughly comparable in age, it is the adults who play the music, unless you count random banging on drums or keyboards a new type of experimental music for Mass :)

    The Chicken

  46. LisaP. says:

    Last time my kids did this they were told, “It’s not like you’re really *eating* the body.” I think, to be fair, the “teacher” was trying to teach the right doctrine and just stumbled on her words, but that’s the talking point that got remembered.

    Couple Masses ago we attended a new parish that we hoped for orthodoxy at — before Mass religious ed teacher came out to berate parents for not sending their kids to his catechism class, talked about how poorly formed the kids’ education was, giving examples of how screwed up they were, including that he had to correct one kid who believed the Adam and Eve account needed to be taken “literally” — it is, after all, “just a story.”

    I’m sure there are great teachers out there, but I’ve seen enough that I almost never allow my kids to sit in on anything calling itself religious education without my accompanying them.