Children's Liturgy of the Word
  • At the risk of opening a can of particularly yucky worms, I would like to solicit suggestions for good music and, especially, musical practices for a parish Children's Liturgy of the Word. I have investigated extensively the materials published by the large Catholic publishers and, not surprisingly, found them inappropriate musically, theologically, and liturgically. One can obviously look to a core repertory of simple chants and other compatable music--this is not particularly mysterious. I'm most interested in knowing what has worked for others with similar concerns about the proper formation of Catholic children, *how*, and in what contexts. The parameters in my parish: 50 or so children, K-3 (strict), 100% lay-led, small parish hall setting (very vocally unfriendly acoustics), no strong prejudices or 'rules' about what can potentially be done. I know that we can all recount apocalyptically horrible stories about music perpetrated in such contexts. I'm up for sipping from the *half-full* glass at present ...
    Thanked by 1tsoapm
  • G
    Posts: 1,383
    I have never heard of music being used for Childrens Liturgy of the Word. Although now that I think of it, I suppose an Alleluia and a Responsorial Psalm would be appropriate.
    Ours are also lay led, by pre-school teacher types, so I don't imagine they could do much in the way of leading music other than children's songs.
    We use instrumental music for their "dismissal." Before my time it was a kind of dippy song (OCP, I think,) very syncopated, that went "We are the Church, and happy to be...." Now I just play softly some tune that I am trying to teach the congregation by stealth, or even the upcoming psalm response.
    I guess if you had the people to do it, a Gregorian psalm tone for the psalm (and I'd let the children vote on which one they liked, and then use it for many weeks in a row,) and one of the simple chant Alleluias. And I'd give them the music, with square notes and a cartoony font for the words, since they always use hand-outs so the paper's going to be used anyway. (Not that there's anyway on God's green earth I would get away with such a revolutionary idea at my parish...)

    Save the Liturgy, Save the World
  • Our CLOW has always included music, apparently, but of widely varying styles and types--except chant. There's an 'opening song', a psalm refrain (said verses, ugh), and an Alleluia--not bad for parent volunteers previously receiving no guidance or assistance from anyone.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Daniel, perhaps you might use that as a "teaching moment" to teach the children some hymns or service music for later in the Mass, such as a closing hymn or the Sanctus?
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • Many years since this thread was active, but for those who find via Google as I did: our parish (St. Bernadette, Silver Spring, MD) uses 'Go in Peace' by John Schiavone as a dismissal song in Mass (done in 4 parts, a cappella) - available from OCP, fits well with traditional liturgy.
  • May I put in a word for the abolition of CLOW? The problem is this: it accustoms children to think of Mass as something they don't necessarily have to pay any attention to, and teaches them to want to be catered to.
  • donr
    Posts: 935
    @CGZ

    +1 more
  • To Chris, Irish, and Don: Amen and amen!

    Only an addled mind could think that children needed to be treated like whatever the addled think children are.
    They are little people - with the emphasis on 'people'.
    They aren't dumb.
    They are smart.
    The mass (ALL of it EXACTLY as it unfolds in the missal, without any alteration or insertion) is for all, young and old alike -
    meaning that a 'children's liturgy of the word' does not exist within the Catholic mass.
    The sole entity singled out for special attention and treatment in the mass is GOD.
    Everyone should understand that!

    (NINE YEARS AGO!!!)
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,370
    The problem with a priest coming in and eliminating the "Children's Liturgy of the Word" is that there is a strong sense that parishioners will believe that the priest hates children and doesn't want to do anything for them. Priests generally don't want to be "that" priest.
    Thanked by 1Spriggo
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 253
    Or they might think that he hates parents, who relish the ability to actually listen to the readings and homily (okay, maybe not the homily).
    Thanked by 2Spriggo chonak
  • donr
    Posts: 935

    I have two boys (17 and 12) who are not only great kids but who treat people with respect and honor the Blessed Sacrament. They were never removed from church for "Children's Liturgy" encouraged to go stand around the altar during the consecration, take up their individual offerings to a basket in front of the altar during "preparation of the gifts" or sing hip hop songs during the Mass. We didn't sit at home with our kids while mommy went to one Mass and Daddy went to another so the kids wouldn't disrupt the Mass. If they started to cry when they were infants, we simply got up and walked them out.
    We always taught them respect for the sacred space. They know where the tabernacle is in any church we walk into, because they are trained to look for it as soon as they walk in the main doors.
    The are taught to serve the Lord, so one is now an usher and the other is still an altar server.

    There is absolutely no need for a "Children's Liturgy" or any other silly made up thing that parents come up, there is a need for parents to teach their children.
    How about the parents explain to the children what was meant by what was said during the Mass, explain in children's terms what they just heard. And how about having the children read the readings before Mass to keep them quite, it would help their cognitive skills and reinforce the message when they hear it again. Or maybe the parent could read the daily readings and Gospel to their kids before Mass on or a day before.

    It would probably help the kids and the parents.

  • On not wanting to be that priest -
    All it would take would be an explanation and some (very badly needed) catechesis about the mass.
    Priests are not slaves to their predecessor's ways and are not ordinarily bashful about 'coming in' and changing them -
    as numerous musicians who HAD built beautiful music programs can attest.

    (And, donr, just above, and CCooze, just below, seem to have smart families that should be paradigms for all.)

    [Was it childrens' liturgies of the word in XIXth century Russia?]

  • In my younger days, my dad thought it would be a good idea to take me to the children's liturgy with a friend.

    Suffice to say, I screamed for the rest of the mass and we had to leave early.

    It disheartens me to think that the mass needs to be a selfish act or a place to get away from the kids.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 725
    Goodness knows that we 11 children knew that we'd get a hefty spanking at home, as well as a good thump on the head during Mass, should we misbehave.
    I fondly remember my dad genuflecting at the pew in which we would sit, and then standing and waiting for each of us to file in, after properly genuflecting, ourselves.

    Just the other day, some of us happened to arrive for Mass at the same time, and there was a certain nostalgia, when my dad genuflected, and then waited as my siblings and I filed in with our own families.

    I had never heard of a "children's liturgy" until a few years ago. I was astounded by the fond way to which it was referred. Equally so, at the idea of going to Mass separately.
    Children need to see and emulate the way that their parents "act" during Mass, just as they need to see their parents offer each other affection.
    One of the easiest ways (I've found) to get a toddler to not run around when they are supposed to be/we are kneeling is simply to sit them on one of our knees, against the pew in front of us, so that they can see and can fold their hands on the pew, just as the older children and adults - and that way I can still be kneeling, too. When saying, "you'd better kneel now" just isn't working, this usually does.

    Also, hand missals are wonderful things, if "hearing" the readings, etc. is a problem.
  • The difference in child rearing aptitudes amongst parents is astonishing.

    I have witnessed some families whose children can't sit still, wander up and down the pew, fuss, whine, scream, wriggle, kick the pews, even play with toys (!), etc., whose parents either don't seem to know, or don't care, that their families are a wreck.

    I have witnessed others whose children, from infancy up, never are heard to make a peep, sit still, cross themselves and such when appropriate, follow the missal and hymnal, fervently observe the altar, and never need more than a very gentle handling or gentle whisper from their parents.

    I have concluded that some parents are oblivious to and don't care that their families are a nuisance. If they are this way at mass one can only grimace at what they must be like at home.

    Others would be embarrassed to death if their families caused so much as a stir or disturbed anyone else. They bring with them the respect that they have been quietly taught at home.

    At Walsingham we have a cry room in the back. One never hears, not ever, a disturbance of any kind from anyone. People come with their families to be respectful of others and to worship and be in awe of the All Holy and his gifts to them. As for those in other parishes who don't, one can only be amazed at the apparent laxity-chaos of their own upbringing and catechesis.

    At Ash Wednesday's high mass a young man who had been fasting all day passed out in the pew behind me. A few adults as quietly as angels brought themselves to minister to him. There was not a stir, and most people were likely unaware as the mass preceded unblemished. The young man came around unharmed after a few minutes.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 713
    I wish I could control all my kids all the time like the families you describe. I didn't realize that I didn't care about and was oblivious to everyone else in church. Thanks for pointing that out.
  • I cannot attest to 'what it was like' before my time. During my youth and adolescence I don't recall ever hearing noisy children. They and we just knew, we just intuited how to behave in church.

    One cannot help but wonder if the post-council emphasis on 'the assembly' hasn't contributed to this unfortunate phenomenon. People, adults and children, who go to church as an objective encounter with the divine are, I suspect, more likely to act like it when they get there. <> On the other hand, those who go to sing about 'we', 'I', 'me', 'us', and so forth, whose 'gathering' is turned into an illicit ritual, where children are even singled out for children's liturgy of the word and such, are, it seems to me, far less likely to be focused reverently and devotedly on Emmanuel, God in our midst. Not at all. It's all about us, and God is our guest - not we his.

    It all begins at home. One cannot separate home life from life outside the home. They are not two separate and unrelated worlds. Also, it all begins with catechesis. If a priest tolerates regrettable behaviours during mass he is grossly, even blasphemously negligent in his own catechetical endeavours and what he expects his staff to inculcate.

    Too, there is a vast difference in the results between those parents who speak with quiet authority to their children and those who attempt to discipline their children with frowns, harsh language, threatening gestures, slaps, hitting, jerking, and on and on - and even stoop to arguing with their children - even bargaining with them! Such children will only grow up to be the immature monsters that their parents are.

    Child rearing is not easy. Children enter this world needing to be taught everything, absolutely everything. How we go about teaching them is crucial to their development into mature, intelligent, spiritually aware human beings.
  • Do you folks realise that there are some kids who are disabled: who no amount of parenting will ever get to sit still and quiet for 15 minutes, much less an hour? Do you realise that there are some parents who are exhausted from working the two/three jobs they need to hold down because your economic gives them next to no employment rights and low wages? That there are some kids who are just wired to be sensory learners, who will never cope with just sitting there listening to someone talk? That there are some kids who actually aren't that smart - and often they have parents who aren't that smart either and so aren't able to explain the faith to them? Have any of you actually worked in childcare, or in public-school teaching?
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 343
    Regardless of whether people realize it, what do you propose that means for how children should be treated at Mass? No doubt the situations you are talking about exist, but that doesn't mean that children shouldn't be treated like people and taught to and expected to act reverently at Mass, and /can/ be taught so in most cases, outside of the tough cases you mentioned.

    I have ADHD out the wazoo and am not good at auditory learning, but I could still pay attention at even a modernist liturgy, albeit not as well as when I was older and was exposed to more traditional liturgies, likely also due to the multi-sensory nature of worship. There are many other cases much more difficult than mine no doubt, and my exposure to parents handling their disabled children has been humbling and edifying.

    But again, I'm not certain what point you're trying to get across—if you'd be kind enough to elaborate, it would be appreciated.

  • The point, it seems to me, is that because two or three or four percent of children have severe learning and behavioural disabilites, and/or have less than bright parents, the remaining ninety-five or six percent of variously 'normal' children and 'adults' are excused from being civilised.
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 343
    Getting back to the question of the CLOW (only one letter away for clown… it's instantly suspicious…), the Mass is the Mass. We can use the labels of Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist, but the former is Eucharistic and the latter is a Eucharist of the Word. The whole Mass is the Mass. Removing children from the Liturgy of the Word is to remove them from the Mass and thus to deny them their participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is proper to them as members of the body of Christ. It would be just as bad to force them to leave after the Liturgy of the Word.

    People get angry about the people who leave Mass after communicating, yet people deny access to their children from the very Mass itself! It's madness, and definitely constitutes an abuse as serious as denying communion to the faithful who presents himself in good faith.
  • Pax,

    I imagine that a Mass celebrated according to the missal of Pope Paul VI is harder to attend for some of the children whom you mention, not easier, than one celebrated in the older form.

    When I knew a family who had an autistic child, many years ago now, I told the mom that the microphones and the speakers were bad for worship, and she laughed at my backward way of thinking.....right up until her autistic son took to hiding under the pews, curled up, trying to dampen the sound and deaden/stop the low buzzing sound. Additionally, the Mass was not composed was not composed for those who have only one learning style, but for those who take in with all their senses, even if not all at once or all equally. (That would be most of us, by the way.)

    Thanked by 1Vilyanor
  • Chris -
    With all due respect and a generous extra portion thereof to your love of the EF, I cannot accept that noxious noises are inherent in the OF. Electrical and other building noises are not due to the OF being celebrated within them. These noises are not of the OF itself.

    I can, though, readily appreciate your little autistic friend's reaction to microphone noise. One doesn't have to be autistic to have adverse reactions to environmental noise, building noise, or any of the varieties of noise with which we are assaulted in and out of doors every day in this age. Beethoven hid in cellars and covered his ears with pillows in a vain effort to save his ears from Napoleon's bomabardment of Vienna. There have been times at which I anxiously escaped from various noises. Schopenhauer asserted that intelligence decreases in inverse proportion to one's ability to endure noise undistrubed. One doesn't have to be autistic existentially to understand the truth of his utterance. Noise is poison to the intellect and to the soul. Pity the poor souls who have become inured to it, whether it is actual noise, or bad music. <> I have left churches because the music was noisome or just plain insulting. I have run with my ears covered to escape from certain noises. It is a stretch, though, to equate noise or bad music with the OF, which neither requires it, nor universally is savaged with it.
  • teachermom24
    Posts: 299
    Just don't do it! (CLOW) It is objectively wrongly-directed and does not help anyone, children or parents. I think it's a furthering of the Protestantization of the Church as well as giving too much attention to the child. As the above EXCELLENT video showed, Parents, TEACH your children how to behave. If they are unable to keep from being a distraction at Mass, take them out or, as the parents of St. Therese did, stay home with them. They will grow up, they will mature and be able to reverently assist at Mass one day. But what's happening now, and CLOW is catering to this, is a servitude to the child and childishness, instead of what should be happening, which is raising up and training the child in the way he should go.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,551
    Kids quickly outgrow "silly".
    They endure a lot until the silly parents give them a say.
    Then the kids are gone.
    And become cultural catholics.
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 271
    A rant from the mind of this music director.

    The things I hate about CLOW are, first and foremost, it separates (usually younger) children from their families. In their formative years and in the culture we endure today where family life is under attack from so many angles, the Mass is one place where families can and should be together in the same space at least, if not in the same pew (choir members, servers, etc.). Parents should teach them accordingly if something is beyond their grasp. Secondly, as has been said elsewhere, it causes these young, malleable minds to view the Mass as too highfalutin for them and so when they get old enough to "join the regular crowd" they seem to have no idea what's going on, and eventually they fall disinterested and eventually away from the practice of the faith. Thirdly, if CLOW is not done at every parish Mass, it runs the risk of segregating Masses into artificial designations like "the family Mass" or "the children's Mass." We have enough of that garbage with "LifeTeen Masses" or other such "Youth Masses" with "music and preaching that teens will understand" (translated as "music/preaching we in our 50s and 60s think teens will relate to and should shove down their throats"). Fourthly, it's often extremely disruptive when they do come back for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Finally, in how many places is it truly a Liturgy of the Word and not some extra-curricular activity where a Bible story or two is read and then they're given some sort of coloring page or word search or something like that? The Lectionary for Masses with Children is, in my opinion, a disaster as it waters down Scripture to the point where some passages, especially the Psalms in my observation, are unrecognizable.

    Thus endeth the rant.
    Thanked by 2eft94530 hilluminar
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 751
    Directions for a successful Childrens liturgy of the Word:
    1 When parents approach for baptism ,make sure they understand that weekly participation in Sunday Mass is part of what they commit to. If possible ask an older, successfully parenting couple / family to 'adopt' them at Mass.
    2 While baby is still portable, catechise the parents in the awesome mystery of the mass. Make sure they start to appreciate the many visual and auditory clues to the meaning of the mass which they will experience each Sunday. Make sure they can afford a baby carrier/ blanket wrap thingy to hold baby in for maximum chance at quiet docile baby. Make sure they know they are free to walk around a bit, or even outside at Mass if necessary.
    3. As baby starts to show more interest in the surroundings at mass , point gently to interesting things - candles, picture windows etc. Never ever put the baby out of your arms, they should never ever get the idea that they are free to move around.
    4. Toddlers should be sat firmly on a parents knee, preferably Dads. board books of bible stories, chewable rosary beads, suckable plastic statues,may be used. If necessary a drink or snack. Never ever ever let their feet touch the floor, no matter how squirmy. they can also start to pray their litany of things with names in the church - Can you see the altar? Can you see the tabernacle? Who is in that picture (before Mass) and should be taught to welcome Jesus at the elevation, blowing kisses to Jesus can be a favorite and non disruptive gesture, as can waving to him, or peering at him through binoculars made of little chubby fingers. Did I mention not letting them down, ever?
    5. Small children should always be at the front at this point, otherwise what is happening is invisible. As soon as prayers are learnt at home - i love you Jesus, etc they can be given a rosary beads to see how many times they can say their special prayer. They can then use the rosary beads for many other useful activities - making up their own prayer, thank you for something on each bead (like what, mum? Well have you thanked Jesus for your fingers/ Yes. All of them?) Rosary beads also teach useful scientific principles - gravity for example, or centrifugal force. Continue with the helpful books - fr Lovasiks are still wonderful and there are dozens and they are cheap. As well as the consecration, the Gospel should be highlighted (the priest is telling us a story about Jesus now) and an act of spiritual communion. Singing of course to be encouraged, though as much as possible it should be when everyone else is singing. Blowing kisses to 'Jesus should be transformed into more meditative prayer as soon as the sounds of mwah mwah become too audible.
    6 At last - they can sit on the pew by themselves. beside a parent. With an arm around if necessary. And being at the front can kneel and stand and still see. Childrens bibles, missals, rosary books, all still helpful.
    7. As time allows, repeat several times over the next few years. Squirming which disappears in most children by the age of seven, can reappear at thirteen of so, but is easily solved by anchoring down with the current baby or toddler.
    8. At about eighteen, your baby is ready for seminary. At this stage it is most important that you keep in good contact with them, in case they may forget the valuable lessons they have learnt and pick up nasty habits at seminary like putting other peoples children out of mass for CLOW.


  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 261
    [quote] At about eighteen, your baby is ready for seminary.[/quote]

    Unfortunately there's a slightly more than 50% chance that your baby is female, and so the seminary isn't ready for them!
    Thanked by 2canadash bonniebede
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 751
    Touche! Should have put 'seminary or novitiate'. :=)
  • Elmar
    Posts: 82
    Thanks a lot for your thoughts, Bonniebede! I especially enjoyed this one:

    "Rosary beads also teach useful scientific principles - gravity for example, or centrifugal force."

    And our kids liked singing along with the congregation from very young age (in their own way, of course; also contributing to the homily, by the way) - a great opportunity to find out whether or not they had inherited my father's tone-deafness. By the age of about two it was clear they hadn't, thank God!