söndag 13 juni 2010

Liturgy problem

Today I went to Mass at a church in a cathedral city in the south of England. It was a children's service and a group were receiving their First Communion, so it was a family affair. I would guess that a good number of the congregation were not Catholics. Good to see a flourishing parish with plenty of young families.

But oh, dear, the liturgy was dreadful. We had the notorious "Clapping Gloria", and a collection of the most banal hymns and mass settings composed by I won't say who. We had bidding prayers read by the children, which would have been fine, but some of the children could hardly read.

This kind of thing is almost the rule in Catholic churches in Britain. What is the effect of tailoring the liturgy to what adults imagine are children's tastes and needs? The music is actually incredibly dated, being firmly rooted in the early 1970s, before the arrival of Punk. And so once children reach their teens, they regard it a babyish and unsophisticated, as something to grow out of. Which most of them promptly do, most of them never to darken the doors of a church again.

If on, the other hand, the liturgy was something they could only just begin to grasp, they would feel that growth in understanding was part of growing up into adulthood.

This is not unrealistic. There is plenty of scope for children to participate in the traditional Latin Mass, through the responses, and through being present with Christ in the silence of the consecration. This latter is certainly not something that is beyond the understanding of children, but if it is crowded out with jolly hymns with the subtlety of TV advertisement jingles, there really is nothing for them when they approach adolescence.

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