Sunday 11 May 2014

The New Translation of the Eucharistic Prayers for Mass with Children

I see that the CTS has published the new translation of Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children -the advert for which proclaims these have “more frequent acclamations all set to music for more active participation of the children”. Oh dear. I shall have to comment on that regrettable note...

First off I have to say I believe “Children’s Masses” are not good things per se, primarily because they dumb down an already chopped-down Roman Rite. Indeed, since liturgy forms and informs us, “Children’s Masses” should be of the highest quality and, as the Directory says, a preparation for participation in the community Mass. Sadly Masses with children are often replete with ad-hoc additions: dramas and dances, pre-recorded music, Collects written by the children and scripture readings chopped up between several readers for the sake of “leaving no one out”. Such celebrations do not prepare children for adult liturgy at all; rather, they form them in a mind-set in which the liturgy can be manipulated; in an attitude that as long as the basic structure is followed, anything goes.

To be honest, a simple presentation of the Missanormativa using a children’s lectionary, with simple Mass settings and the use of Eucharistic Prayer II (EPII), is quite sufficient for the forming of children in the liturgy. Yes this is a simplified ‘adult’ Mass, but it is the only way to prepare them for participation in adult Masses. It does them no harm to omit the ditty-type songs, dramas and parade of children for the readings. After all, the so-called ‘Tridentine Mass’ formed children for centuries without any adverse effect –in fact to very excellent effect in that those children learned to value the Mass as a sacred encounter with God and not as a celebration of the community’s giftedness by the community itself.

The same success has not been seen with the dumbed-down Masses we have seen in schools and youth ministries for the last forty years. It is a simple fact that although thousands of children and youth who have gone through the doors of our schools and youth services the lapsation rate from as young as school year 6 continues to rise. The youth are simply not being brought to a point where they put the Gospel and the Eucharist at the centre of their lives. Often, they are seeking the same entertainment-style liturgy in parishes that they had in schools and youth ministry; they simply do not know how to engage in God-centred worship.

As for the regrettable note referred to above, I see two problems. The first is the “more frequent acclamations”. Such use of acclamations give the impression that Mass is a concelebration of the congregation with the priest. This is a serious theological error, and may well give rise to the request for more acclamations by the people in the adult form of Mass. It is seriously wrong because while all present offer the Victim (as we were reminded by Pope Pius XII, cf. Mediator Dei [1947] #92, 93) the consecration of the Victim is specific to the ministerial priest whose in persona Christi role in the celebration is unique. We must avoid all appearance of being co-consecrators if the liturgy is to remain an authentic expression of the community’s “cohesion and hierarchical ordering” (IG #91).  

The second problem is equating saying and doing with participation in the Mass. I have written about this before, noting that there is a difference between participating in the liturgy and participating in the Mass. To participate in the liturgy means to stand, sit, kneel, and respond as the liturgy requires. It is primarily an external thing, though not exclusively so; the mind and heart should be engaged too. But it is easier to engage the inner man in a sacred silence wherein heart speaks to heart in undistracted manner. As the Instruction on Sacred Music notes, “participation should above all be internal” (Musicam Sacram, 1967, #15[a]).

Participation in the Mass, which is Christ’s Self-offering, comes with that interior disposition wherein we offer ourselves to the Father through Him, with Him and in Him; submitting our will to His and offering Him all that we are, say and do. We focus on the wrong thing if we focus on saying and doing. The man who cannot speak or move because of a stroke yet has his heart and mind focused on the Mass can be taking part far more actively than the man who leaves his guitar to the side for a moment so as to read or assist with the distribution of Holy Communion.

If the Eucharistic Prayers for use with Children are to have a truly useful role they must form children in such a way that they come to value the normative Rite in its integrity and not as something open to manipulation. As it is, many of the things admitted into children’s Masses have crept into parish liturgies, for example dance, pre-recorded music and the like. These are not authentic to the liturgy, yet they are accepted and approved by many –including Rectors, Parish Priests and Bishops who thereby fail to exercise control over the way the Missal of Paul Vi is celebrated.

If the newly translated Eucharistic Prayers for Children have the children’s voices popping up all the time during Mass we will only be forming them to think they are concelebrating, while dance, drama and pre-recorded music et al, will form them in the idea that we may engineer the normative Rite to suit personal preferences. For myself, I will continue to celebrate children’s Masses with EPII and a simplified, children’s lectionary. By this, and with the children making the normal responses, acting as readers and musicians, as offertory bearers and altar servers, practical participation will not lacking, and the Roman Rite will remain intact. 


  1. I agree that the extensive use of special liturgies for 'children' often has the effect of insulating them from the fullness of the faith, and adult liturgy. It strikes me that the aim of 'participation' in liturgy might be achieved better in the schools if they were for instance to use the morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, rather than the 'assemblies' that can be so vapid. What better for participation than alternate verses between one side of the hall and the other (competive even!), and the teachers spared the joyless task of having to 'prepare' the assembly.

    1. Thank you, seeker.
      The idea of using the liturgy of the hours is a great idea! Paraliturgies too I very much favour. After all, the Mass is the most sacred thing on earth: the very re-present-ing on the altar of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection amid the Host of heaven at the parousial supper; it is too holy to mess with, in my opinion. Indeed, its aim is to thank, glorify, propitiate and petition God, not affirm and uplift the emotions of man.
      God Bless you and yours.

  2. I think so called childrens Masses are wrong. The notion that thereby the children will make the transition to the 'adult' Mass is silly. The child must be brought up on the adult Mass from the beginning. Otherwise he will see the Mass as something for children rather than something he can grow up to as his religion and faith develop. I can't stand childrens Masses. Where I have to hear the sacred texts pronounced badly by mere children. Sacred worship should be in the hands of mature men who can speak loud and clear.
    Is this not just another 'fruit' of Vat2. A dumbing down and desacralising of Holy Mass? ?

    1. Thank you Paul.
      what can I say other than I agree with you? Indeed, the readings are badly done at times, and printed off on little cards so the children can practice. When Mass is over these card with the word of God are then just tossed in the bin, which teaches them nothing positive and yet we want them to respect and venerate the word of God? Not a chance of that...
      God bless.

  3. Well Father, the acclamations are optional in the childrens euch prayers so if you object to them so strongly you don't need to use them. Same with the euch prayers themselves . I have found them pastorally useful especially for masses with young children during school or class masses. Personally I've never met anyone - child or adult - who mistakenly believed they were concelebrants because they joined in some acclamations. It's pretty obvious to anyone that priest celebrants are the man wearing vestments standing behind the altar. Your arguments appear to be pure fantasy.

  4. Thank you, Father.
    May I ask (genuinely) in what way the EP’s for children have been pastorally useful? In my estimation they do not teach children or adults that active participation is principally internal but that it is principally external. My experience is that they makes children (and adults) see Mass as a constant dialogue between priest and people rather than a time of prayer focused on speaking and listening to the Lord (prayer being the raising of the mind and heart). Is it not true that Masses described as ‘lovely’ or ‘great’, are those where children have been saying and doing throughout? Indeed, parents expect to see something where everyone has a part, while teachers are afraid of 'leaving people out'. Have we not all met parents who rarely attend school Masses say “I’ll see you at the school Mass because it’s Johnny’s class doing it and he’s reading”? I think we have to say yes.
    As for neither children nor adults making the mistake of seeing Mass as a concelebration, a seminary Retreat Master told us all to “stretch out our hands at the consecration since we all celebrate the Mass.” This is not fantasy, and I have seen it happen in Masses in the Renewal Movement too (I was very involved with the charismatic renewal in the 80’s).
    God Bless, Father.

  5. Joseph Bracewell15 May 2014 at 23:24

    Father your patience with what I perceive to be the taunts of Father John is exemplary and a great lesson in Christian charity to all your readers. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Joseph.
      I think Fr John is simply expressing his frustrations with me. I am glad to say that while I may be in a minority at present, it is a minority that is growing and which has the whole of the Church's Tradition behind it.
      God Bless

  6. I have found them pastorally useful with groups of young children (or adults with learning / intellectual disabilities) who have lower verbal comprehension and attentional abilities. The children's euch prayers therefore assist them in understanding what is being prayed. This has been the experience of many priests I know too. The current translation is aimed at the level of a university educated population with an IQ greater than 120 so not easily comprehensible to the above groups, or in fact most of the mainstream adult population.

    I do not usually use the acclamations but have no objections to them as such. The roman canon itself was once a succession of prayers separated by 'we ask this through Christ the lord' etc and the congregation would have responded amen before the silent canon became the norm around the 16th century - so I don't see that the acclamations to be particularly untraditional or inappropriate.

    To be bluntly honest, I find most of your arguments to be spurious and wonder hat is the point in sharing them with a wider audience. Many traditionalist minded catholics would describe a latin mass as 'lovely' or 'great' or based on other subjective preferences, which doesn't have to be interpreted in a way which undermines it's legitimacy. As to your various examples that 'I saw this once', again I don't see that they're particularly relevant to the discussion at hand. I could cite many 'abuses' and things I've heard said about latin masses if I so wanted. It is however accurate that we do all celebrate mass but that does not mean that we are all celebrants - this is a subtle and nuanced difference. Neither would I describe the acclamations during the childrens euch prayers as constant dialogue which is obviously over-statement and exaggeration.

    Finally in many years of being a priest I have never partook or witnessed the anomalous celebrations of mass that you describe. Your description of active conscious participation as meaning interior participation is also at odds with the expressed wish of the bishops at Vatican II as can be clearly seen if you read the documented debates leading up to the promulgation of SC. Perhaps you would prefer if we return to the silent low mass which was definitely not the intention of the council fathers who proclaimed that the liturgical rites were to comprehensively revised?

    Finally, can I ask you dear Father what the point of all these blog posts are about? What are they actually meant to achieve, except agreement by a sub-section of people who share your views - thereby massaging your ego. You appear to criticise almost everything about the contemporary church and pontificate on how you believe things should be. In fact you project such an air of arrogant infallibility about these matters and all that you perceive as wrong with the church and wider world than I am surprised you are not Pope rather than a mere lowly parish priest of a rather small parish! I wonder how Pope Francis would describe your views? I could offer some suggestions.

    1. Dear Father,
      I begin by saying the point of sharing my thoughts is simply that: a sharing. I see the comment function as a forum for the exchange of views. If I or any commentator hold to their point, it can demonstrate commitment rather than arrogance. I suspect we are all committed to the views we hold.
      As for the EP prayers for children, I can understand that children with learning difficulties may grasp dumbed-down words more easily but I wonder if we achieve anything by dumbing them down? I think a sound explanation of the Mystery of the Mass is the better strategy.
      The description of active participation as principally internal is not my own but comes from Musicam Sacram.
      I am pleased you have not witnessed anomalous celebrations, but there is a whole seminary who will likely remember the occasion.
      I am not criticising every aspect about the contemporary Church or the present pontificate. Indeed I have been keen to note that the problem with Vatican II is some imprecise statements (which are none the less compatible with Tradition) but more so its erroneous application. Most Councils have a following period wherein the pendulum wings back and forth before its teaching settles in the Church: Vatican Council II is no different.
      As for the present pontificate, you will find I point out worries and concerns that many people are noting while suggesting ways the Holy Father and Rome can avoid accruing such criticism (such as being careful about off-the-cuff remarks which the secular press manipulate, and acting justly and swiftly in the case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate). That said, no priest or Pope is beyond criticism; no saint without flaws and faults. Are we to think of Francis as Faultless? I don’t think even he would claim that for himself.
      God bless.

  7. Just caught up with this blog Fr Gary. Fr John is right when he says that many of your commentators agree with you but I (& I'm sure many others) disagree most fundamentally with Fr John.
    I wonder several things about Fr John. How old is he? Has he ever attended an Extraordinary Form Mass? Where did he receive his formation? etc, etc
    The main point I'd like to make is that being a Catholic of a certain age I was brought up as a child attending Sunday Mass with my father (my mother wasn't at that point Catholic). There was a school Mass at 9.30am ATTENDED BY ALL TEACHERS (now there is a novelty) but I attended an early Low Mass &, helped by my Dad, followed the Mass with a child's missal (containing the Mass in Latin & English) & prompted 'sotto voce' by Dad as to what was happening on the altar. The first lesson I learned was that I couldn't see the priest's face because we were all praying to God & not just chatting between ourselves.
    I have seen & been quite shocked by Children's Liturgy where Mrs So&so marches the children out of Mass to a room where they draw pictures & then come trooping back in (behaving as children do) to the church where they take everyone's attention & read the Lesson in such a way that no-one without the words before them understands.
    Have you noticed how little reverence is given to the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle? And I don't mean just children but adults & (God forgive them) priests & religious. Doesn't this attitude come from the dumbed down way they were taught? But what excuse does a priest or religious have? I sometimes wonder whether many still believe in the Real Presence. I say this having watched people receive Holy Communion in the hand & 1 priest I read of had to chase a communicant to the church door.
    Now in Rome (even with Pope Francis) the norm is Communion on the tongue rather than what we saw so often in St Peter's Square a priest distributing the host to various hands being pushed from the crowd

    1. Thank you David.
      Most, but not all, of my commentators think like me; we are of one mind, I would say. I am simply saying that we must avoid the constant dialogue that turns the Mass into a conversation between priest and people and implies little if any distinction of role. Raising the mind and heart is indispensable; activity and vocals are not.
      God Bless.

  8. full active conscious participation is both external and interior....

    your selection of a source is misleading, you need to go back to the original source not musicam sacram which was not published to after the V2 council.

    1. Thank you, Father.
      I have said that participation is only internal, but that it is principally internal. Without internal participation the externals are merely rituals; internal participation needs external expression.
      As for Musican Sacram, yes this was promulgated two years after the Council, but in order to implement its decrees on sacred music. It was prepared by the Concilium (MS #3), whose membership included Annibale Bugnini; the chief architect of Sacrosanctum Concilium.
      God Bless, and thanks for the link


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