I grew up as the eldest child in a “big Catholic family”. There were five of us altogether, three boys: Noah, Adam, and I, each born a few years apart, and then two sisters, Kathryn and Clara, which were ‘surprises’, born about a decade after my youngest brother. I am 17 years older than my youngest sister, and though I don’t have any children of my own, I was able to get a firsthand glimpse into what it’s like to raise small children.
One experience I remember vividly is attending church with my family and my baby sister. We would always sit on the side of the church next to the musicians, as my dad was the leader of the folk music group. Since my dad was up front playing music, my mom was left to keep us kids in line. At this point, all she had to worry about from us teenagers was the odd sarcastic remark, so her focus was almost entirely on keeping my little sister out of trouble. From what I remember, she was actually pretty well behaved, and aside from the odd sprint up and down the aisle, or a loud question about what was going on, she did pretty well. Still, all it took was a little noise or burst of energy for one older lady to turn around and give a very audible “Shhhhh!” from a few rows up. This would happen at least once a Mass, every week. To this day, my mother will bring up that lady from time to time. Apparently they had quite the rivalry! Joking aside, I know that, for my mother, having a stranger shush her child was embarrassing and added to the stress she was already feeling. I imagine that parts of this story might sound a little familiar to some of you, whether at our church or elsewhere.
As we look at our weekend celebrations, we need to recognize the wonderful gift of children that God has bestowed upon our community. All you have to do is look around the church on Sunday morning to see this wonderful and beautiful gift. Over the past several months, our parish liturgy committee has been reflecting on how we can better serve all parts of our community, but we felt that families are such an integral part of our parish identity that they merited special attention.
In the past, “Family Mass” happened once a month. Each grade level from our school and religious education program was assigned a date, and the only real change was that they sponsored a reception and perhaps handed out bulletins. We found that there were many problems with this model, the biggest of which was that every Sunday should be family Mass! Over the next several months, we will be making some changes to our Masses, specifically our 10:30am Sunday Mass, that we hope will help us to better meet the needs of our community. Here is an outline of these changes:
WEEKLY FAMILY-CENTERED MASS
Starting next week, September 9th, 10:30am Mass will become our weekly Family-Centered Mass. Families, of course, are welcome at all of our weekend liturgies, but this Mass will have some special features: 1) Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLW) will be consistently offered at the 10:30am Mass each week, giving parents and kids time to reflect upon the Word of God separately if they so choose. 2) Special music will be used at this Mass that will tie in with our weekly school Masses. 3) Special prayers and intentions for families will be included in the petitions. 4) Children will be asked to take on special roles such as bringing forward the gifts, as well as gathering around the altar for the Eucharistic prayer.
Every third Sunday at 10:30am, we will take our family-centered Mass a step further with the celebration of a “Children’s Mass” in the church. This Mass will be similar in format to the special children’s Masses that we celebrated in the gym on Easter Sunday. All children will stay in the church with their families for the entire celebration. We will have many special moments during this Mass for the children to participate from prayers to readings to singing in the new family choir. The homily will be specially geared towards children, and the readings will be taken from the children’s lectionary. There will be a reception following this Mass, sponsored by our Hospitality Ministry. We will no longer assign grade levels to participate in these Masses or to host a reception. This Mass will also coincide with “Welcoming Sunday” where we recognize and greet new parishioners. We will be working in collaboration with our school and religious education staff to meet the needs of young children and help them to grow closer to God at Mass.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER MASSES?
We will also make some small changes to our other weekend liturgies. Our 7:30am Mass, for instance, is our smallest and most intimate weekend celebration. This liturgy is characterized by a quiet reflective atmosphere, often met by the rising sun casting beams through the stained glass. Many of the prayers, such as the Gloria, which are sung at the other Masses, will be spoken. The rest of the music will also be simplified to suit this small and prayerful community. Our 9am Mass will continue to feature our wonderful parish choir in a more traditional style. The reality is that you can just do more with a choir than without one, so we will continue to use this great gift to help us pray at this Mass. On the third Saturday of each month, our 5pm vigil will feature our newly formed Schola Cantorum Benedicti, an auditioned group of singers. This Mass will highlight some of the beautiful and ancient liturgical traditions of our faith including Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, and some Latin. I will write a little more about these other changes in the upcoming weeks.
Our faith tradition spans centuries, continents, and cultures. It is this diversity which makes us truly Catholic, truly universal. Is important to remember that regardless of the “liturgical flavor“, the Eucharist draws us all around the same table every week. It is our hope that by offering different and unique experiences that it will help our congregation to pray well together and to experience Jesus in the Liturgy.
As always, we welcome your feedback and insight as to how we can meet your spiritual needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or any of the rectory staff with any questions or concerns.