Our liturgies here at St. Austin, by and large, I think are pretty good. But the type of music, the preaching, and the overall atmosphere are consciously directed at adults. That is good if you are adult, but not so great if you are a child, and so some interested parents and some members of the pastoral staff have been discussing the possibility of incorporating a Children’s Liturgy of the Word in the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass, at least from time to time.
This Liturgy of the Word (LOTW) is directed to children. I am not a child psychologist nor a parent, but that does not stop me from having opinions about the religious abilities of children (in fact it makes it easier!).
Most children are, I believe, naturally religious and spiritual. I also believe that most children take quite naturally to ritual and to liturgy. An example of this can be seen in the tendency of children to watch the same video over and over and over and over. An adult may complain that the child has seen the same video dozens of times, knows the dialogue by heart, and certainly knows how it is going to end. There is zero suspense for the child watching the same video for the 37th time. But novelty is not what the child is interested in. It is dependability, familiarity, and structure that the child wants in order to organize the many disparate experiences in his or her life. The child is not bored by the repetition, but rather is reassured and comforted. And so they watch the same video for the 37th time, and enjoy it. Liturgy is a lot about repetition and consistent form.
This, in a way, makes children naturally better at liturgy than adults in our hyper-entertained culture, which is always demanding something novel and odd and different and new. Liturgy does not do that well, so children are naturally better suited to liturgy than adults. But I digress.
What exactly is Children’s LOTW? Well, first a couple of words about what it is NOT. It is NOT baby-sitting. We have a nursery for that, and the nursery will continue. The nursery is most appropriate for children who have not yet begun school.
Children’s LOTW is NOT religious education. We already have that, and it takes place between the 9 and the 11:30 Masses most Sundays during the school year. Children are hopefully first and foremost learning their religion in their home, in their family, and that learning is supplemented by what we do in our parish religious education program on Sundays or in the parish school.
Children’s LOTW IS liturgy. It is just as much liturgy as what the older people are doing simultaneously in the church. Adults who attend the Children’s LOTW are encouraged to participate just like adults in the church are encouraged to participate. It is Liturgy and it is Prayer. It is different because it’s directed at children but not less than the worship in the church. It has ritual, prayer, music, readings from the Word of God, homily, and profession of faith. (Unfortunately it does not have a collection, but that may come!)
More concrete and specific details will be forthcoming in the bulletin. For now I just want to get you thinking about Children’s Liturgy of the Word.