Celebrating With Children

Carmel Bulletin, 15 March 2015

The Eucharistic Prayer celebrated at Mass according to pre-Vatican II ritesSixty years ago, Catholics generally understood that there were two types of Mass – high and low.  One had lots of singing, the other didn’t.  “High Mass” was intended for more solemn occasions.  Both were in Latin, however, and so were equally difficult to understand for most parishioners in the pews (perhaps having a missal with an English translation made things a little easier).

Some people might remember being a child at this time and trying to understand what was being said and what was going on.  Given the challenge it was for most adults, I can only imagine as a teacher how challenging it was for children!

Fortunately, the Church recognised at the Second Vatican Council and in the liturgical developments that followed that more needed to be done to help children understand what they were participating in.

The Sign of Peace
Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

The Church must show special concern for baptised children who have yet to be fully initiated through the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist as well as for children who have only recently been admitted to Holy Communion.

Directory for Masses with Children, no. 1

The Directory for Masses with Children, published after the Council, sought to propose adaptations based on the need to help children understand the liturgy, while maintaining the integrity of the rites that are celebrated.

… It cannot therefore be expected of the liturgy that everything must always be intelligible to [children]. Nonetheless, we may fear spiritual harm if over the years children repeatedly experience in the Church things that are barely comprehensible…

Directory for Masses with Children, no. 2

Consequently, parishes and schools nowadays provide a greater range of opportunities for students to participate in the liturgy in ways that are better suited to their level of development and understanding.

11/11/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II: Promotion of the Liturgy

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution reflected a strong desire in the Church for the reform of the liturgy.  The constitution, therefore, spoke of the promotion of the liturgy, and people’s participation in it.

The constitution recommended, therefore, that every territorial authority (eg Conference of Bishops) set up a liturgical commission.  In Australia, the National Liturgical Council (NLC) supports and advises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on liturgical matters.  The liturgical commission should also be supported by experts in specific areas.  Again in Australia, the bishops approved the establishment of both a music board, and an art and architecture board.

Such consultative groups are also recommended for each diocese to support and support the bishop in the promotion of the liturgy.  In the Diocese of Parramatta, the Diocesan Liturgical Commission and the Office for Worship have been established to promote and support the celebration of the liturgy.

21/10/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Language

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

CredoOne of the most significant liturgical reforms of the past fifty years has been the translation of the liturgical texts into vernacular languages.  When addressing the matter of language, Sacrosanctum Concilium began by stating that Latin was to be preserved.  It did go on, however to say that use of vernacular languages could be extended, as it could be of advantage to the people.

It then stated that territorial authorities (such as the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in our case) were to determine whether other languages were to be used and to what extent, which would then be confirmed by the Vatican.  Bishops’ conferences would also be responsible for approving the translations that were to be used.

The matter of language highlights the fact that the Constitution laid a foundation for the liturgical reforms that were to come, but that later work and documents would become necessary to “nut out the details”.  Already in the past half a century, the Vatican has released two differing instructions on liturgical translations.  In some cases, additional requirements have been added to what Sacrosanctum Concilium proposed.  For example, English translations for the liturgy have to be approved not only by the local bishops’ conference, but reviewed by Vatican committee prior to approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

14/10/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Noble Simplicity and Scripture

On Thursday, the Church marked the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of Vatican II.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

After addressing general principles that were to underpin the constitution’s understanding of the liturgy, it began to articulate some general norms that were to be observed when implementing the liturgical reforms the constitution would subsequently propose.

The first was that the liturgical rites were to be marked by a “noble simplicity”, that they be clear and generally comprehensible.  It should not, for example, be necessary for there to regularly be lengthy explanations needed during a liturgical celebration for people to understand that is taking place.

Gospel According to MarkAnother general principle was that of the importance of sacred scripture in liturgical celebrations.  Sacrosanctum Concilium called for an increased use of a wider range of scripture texts.  It emphasised the importance of good preaching, helping people to come to a better understanding of the scriptures and the liturgical rites.  Finally, the constitution also encouraged an more frequent use of what it called “Bible services”, especially on more important occasions during the liturgical year, and in places and on occasions when a priest is not available.

23/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Ministry

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution continued on naturally from the topic of participation to speak more specifically about liturgical ministry.  It began by stating that any ordained or lay person fulfilling a ministerial role should undertake only the one role during a celebration, and undertake all the duties of that role.  The importance of liturgical ministers as leaders of prayer was emphasised; that ministers should carry out their duties in an appropriate manner, and be properly formed and trained for their role.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, also noted the liturgical role of the assembly or congregation – that in fact all people have a part to play in the celebration.  The constitution’s call for full, conscious and active participation was misunderstood by some people, who interpreted this as an insistence that everybody had to have a “ministry” to take part in.  The role of the assembly, as articulated in the constitution, however, gives a clearer picture of what was intended:

To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.  (Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 30)