As dioceses resume public Masses resume throughout the country, safeguards to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are being implemented: no sign of peace; no hand-holding during the Our Father; social distancing; no holy water in the fonts; reduced capacity.
And please God, the death of the Children’s Liturgy.
I’ve never understood why parents were encouraged to dismiss their children for the Liturgy of the Word. Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me”, not “Send your kids away to hear a watered down gospel (read by a lay person, no less) and a juice box.”
When I was a kid, Children’s Liturgies weren’t a thing. I sat with my family the entire Mass. My parents discussed the homily with us on the way home, or at dinner that evening. We were expected to pay attention, behave ourselves, and participate to the best of our ability. Granted, prior to reaching the age of reason, understanding and wisdom were limited. But it engendered good habits – or at least that was the hope. We were told, while in God’s house, reverence was expected.
But Larry, some might object, what if Father preaches on a topic too “sensitive” for their innocent ears? Come on, be real. Who preaches on fornication, birth control, or abortion in the US nowadays? Or personal sin? Or better yet – scriptural exigesis and proclamation of the Gospel? They’re more likely to hear a sermon attempting to sound relevant rather than revelatory. But let’s say the priest does preach on the evils of abortion or sex before marriage. Then what? Obviously, the parents are obligated to answer their children’s questions, should they arise. It’s their responsibility to discuss the homily in age-appropriate ways, to reasonably explain Catholic doctrine. After all, parents are their children’s primary teachers. It’s not the Church’s job to protect children from difficult topics by providing a safe space to which their parents can send them.
But what if the kids get bored? Okay, so? Kids get bored, especially when they aren’t the center of attention. They won’t develop the skills of attentiveness, listening, and reverence when their boredom is enabled.
Ultimately, the question is: ‘Do the children receive any spiritual benefit?’ Sure, they get to make a craft (just like in school), and have a snack (again, just like in school), and they get to hang out with their friends (like in school…hey, I detect a pattern here). Mass isn’t meant to be like school, though. Mass is for worshiping God in Word and Eucharist, where families WORSHIP TOGETHER, and they can’t worship together if they don’t STAY TOGETHER.
Besides, isn’t that why we have Religious Ed? Why disrupt the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass twice, once for the assemblage, blessing, and dismissal; and then for their return, like an Oklahoma land rush?
Many months from now, once some level of normalcy returns, I bet Children’s Liturgies will be reinstituted. Let’s hope by then, parents will have learned that worshiping together strengthens their family’s faith much more than by sending out their children for a juice box and coloring page.
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