From a priest:
I am an associate pastor and am charged with celebrating Masses in our elementary schools. For these Masses, the pastor has taken the liberty to modify the prayers (collect, prayer over the offerings, post communion prayer) and the Scripture readings in order to put them in what he calls a “child-friendly” format “so that the children will understand better”. [The cunning ol’ ‘let’s make Mass a didactic moment’ ploy.] Whenever I approach him discreetly concerning my apprehensions, he always says, “Much leeway is allowed in Masses for children“.
Do you know of any specific instructions from the CDWS or other Roman congregations that authorise the priest to modify texts of the liturgy ad libitum in the case of Masses celebrated for young children? I have found nothing to this effect.
My pastor’s directives are obliging me to go against my conscience, since I am a firm believer of “Say the black, do the red,” [Excellent.] even in the case of Masses with young children. Am I being too rigid here?
Thank you for your excellent ministry via your blog, Father. I will offer tonight’s Compline for your intentions.
Unfortunately, the Directory for Masses with Children appears to still be in effect. That said, the adaptions permitted in this directory do not go as far as your pastor thinks.
The modification of texts permitted in article 51 of the directory don’t seem to permit ad libitum freestyle – the liturgical interpretive dance, as it were. Sadly, it does permit a bit of latitude.
The exhortations of the Directory to help the children to grow up and understand “adult” language are often lost in the excitement of being able to ad lib.
I am pretty sure that most readers here who grew up Catholic in the dark times of the 80’s and 90’s will tell you that dumbing down the prayers is silly. An expert whom I consulted when preparing this response quipped:
“Any liturgy that was dumbed down for us kiddies ended up being a topic of derision on the playground after lunch. The ‘cool’ adults weren’t the ones that talked down to us, but the ones that treated us and our expanding intellects respectfully.”
My own experience of apprehending difficult language as a child was founded on the reception of LPs of Shakespeare plays when I was 7 years old. I had no idea what they were talking about at first, but I was fascinated by what I heard. After a while, I could follow pretty well. That was pretty good preparation for Talk Like Shakespeare Day, as it turns out, which is coming up soon.
Apropos dumbing down the language of worship and Shakespeare, a few years ago for the aforementioned Day, I jotted this, which I share. You will recognize the dramatis personae as being involved with the preparation of tne new, corrected translation now happily in force:
[Enter ICEL translator, Bp. Trautman, Archbp. Roche, minions]
A word most horrid to mine ear, my Lord.
Damnéd word, unspeakable, unspoken.
How come we now this madness to propose?
“ineffable” in translations new?
Wouldst fleer at faithful Joe and Catholic Mary?
Wouldst mock? Wouldst challenge them to think?
Wouldst cause dull clerks in pulpits high
to make the bepew’d dullards sit and stare?
Trout do so, and all unwary fish
when hookéd up from forth their lazing stream.
They gape upon the bank for lack of dew!
Thick they are, unlearn’d in things liturgic.
[Aside] As His Grace of Erie be, fisher dour and cunning.
It is a thing to fleer and scorn.
Villian, cur, mongrel! Dumb it down!
Hearst thou my meaning, sirrah, further down?
Must I come the situation to explain,
and in dynamic rendering tear one new?
“Ineffable”, archaic and toooo haaarrrd
shall come nor under roof, nor pages smudge.
Our bindings shall not see its like this time.
O tomes, our tomes most profitable.
I get the point, and swear, by all that’s dear
my office for to keep and thee obey
that word repugnant to thine ear
shall come not books to mar or ambo stain.
Let no faithful sheep ensorcel’d be
by words arcane or ever, forfend, thoughts.
Fear not, good my Lord of Leeds. But let us haste.
That word “ineffable”, as dew,
Shall sully not approvéd versions new.