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The Mass: Helping Kids Take Their Part
by Kate Ristow
The publication of the Roman Missal, Third Edition presents us with a unique opportunity.

See the end of this article for ideas on how to help the family focus attention on the Roman Missal, Third Edition.


The publication of the Roman Missal, Third Edition presents us with a unique opportunity. While it is true that we can focus solely on teaching our students the prayers and acclamations that have changed to prepare for the implementation on the First Sunday of Advent, this approach deprives us of guiding learners to rediscover the meaning of the Eucharistic liturgy in their lives.

We can help students understand that, as my favorite liturgist says, they can get more out of the Mass by putting more into it. The timeline for the inauguration of the new translation gives us the gift of time. Kids—and adults, too, for that matter—are simply not going to learn the revised Mass texts overnight.

To some degree, we are going to be subjected to the immersion technique—being thrown into the deep end of the liturgy pool on the First Sunday of Advent—no matter how well we have prepared. Without a doubt, that first Sunday is sure to be a bit confusing. Never will worship aids be more appreciated!

Yet, it will be exciting to participate in liturgy on that day. After all, it is the first time since 1973 that we’ve had a new translation. If we can help our students learn the meaning behind the new words, they will better understand all that we celebrate in the Eucharist—and that will make them want to be part of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, Light of All Nations), calls “the source and summit of the Christian life” (n. 1324).

The Time Is Now!

In recent months, we have been offered explanatory bulletins and diocesan newspaper articles to read, copies of the new texts to study, workshops and learning sessions to attend, and other opportunities to prepare for the changes in the liturgy. Diocesan offices are providing materials and sessions especially for us catechists to use in helping our students understand what is happening and how it will change the Mass as they know it.

Take advantage of any opportunities offered in your area. Go online for information and ideas. Two great sites with lots of articles, resources, and free downloads are (sponsored by the United States bishops) and (sponsored by Liturgy Training Publications).

Don’t wait until November to introduce the changes that are going to take place in the words we pray and hear at Mass. Be proactive! Take a measured approach by building in 15 minutes for catechesis in the five classes before the First Sunday of Advent, November 27. This will help the children absorb and practice what you are teaching, and it will create an excitement about what Advent will bring.


Kindle the Desire

Your most important goal is to kindle within your students a desire to participate in the Sunday liturgy. Use the ideas below as a focus for classroom formation.

Don’t just talk “at” the kids. Have materials on hand so that they can compare the changes from the old translation to the new translation. Catechetical leaders can download texts from various Internet sites. Publishers are also preparing worship aids for use with children.

Talk with your catechetical leader about what is available for your class. I particularly like Maureen Kelly’s What’s New About the Mass? (book, guide, and activity sheets) published by LTP. It is designed for students in grades 3-8 and is an indispensible and inexpensive resource. 


Five-Class Format

Session I: Introducing the Changes in the Mass

* Tell students that some of the words we pray and hear at Mass are going to be changing. Display a calendar and point out the date of the First Sunday of Advent. Help students understand that a new liturgical year always begins on the First Sunday of Advent, even though that date might change from year to year.

* Explore why we celebrate the Eucharist with our parish community each week. Invite students to respond—even those who will share freely that they never participate in weekly liturgy. Don’t judge; invite!

* Emphasize that we do more than “attend” or “go to” Mass. Rather, we come together to give praise and thanks to God for all our blessings. We thank Jesus, who saved us from sin and death by his sacrificial death on the cross and his Resurrection. Help students see that we share in Jesus’ sacrifice at Mass. Work with students to make a list on the board of reasons to celebrate the Eucharist each week.

* Distribute art materials and invite students to create announcement cards that tell their families that soon there will be changes in some of the prayers and responses at Mass. If your parish has planned adult formation sessions, print the dates and times on the board and have students copy them on the cards and invite their parents to attend.


Session II: The Introductory Rites

* Review the Greeting. The children are accustomed to responding “And also with you” when the priest greets us with the words “The Lord be with you.” Now we will all pray, “And with your spirit.” This new response acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit in the presider, who represents Jesus at liturgy. We will repeat this response several times during liturgy. Have students practice it with a partner. One child can take the presider’s role and the other can respond as a member of the assembly; they can then reverse roles. This is perfectly proper. We all received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Baptism.

* Review the Penitential Act. The translation of the Confiteor has changed slightly, as has one of the options. Have students compare the two versions and note the differences.

* The Gloria has undergone vast changes. It is much more lyrical and descriptive. Discuss the changes with students. Ask them what the new words say about God and Jesus. You may want to invite your music minister to visit your class to teach one of the new musical versions of this prayer of praise.

* Over the next several weeks, begin or end your sessions by praying together the new version of the Gloria.


Session III: The Liturgy of the Word

* The major change in this part of the Mass is found in the Creed. Review the new translation with students. In the previous version, we used the words “We believe.” In the new translation, we say “I believe.” Although we are one community gathered together in prayer, we express in the Creed our personal commitment to our faith by saying “I believe” at four places in this statement of belief.

* The children will have difficulty with some of the new words in the Creed, particularly consubstantial. This word replaces the phrase “one in being.” It describes the nature of Jesus—the relationship between God the Son and God the Father. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 242, 253, 689, and 2789.) Yet, long before this deep theological concept was pronounced at Church councils in 325 and 381, it was beautifully described in Scripture: that Jesus was the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and “the very imprint of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Don’t try to teach this to the little ones. Rather, focus on helping them to correctly pronounce the word and explain that it means Jesus is truly God and truly man.

* Divide the class into five groups and have each group make a mural illustrating our beliefs as expressed in the five sections of the Creed. Circulate from group to group as students work and help them with the meaning of any words or phrases they don’t understand.


Session IV: The Liturgy of the Eucharist

* Impress on students that if they listen carefully, they will notice differences in what the priest says during this important part of the Mass. The Eucharistic Prayers have been translated. The words will surely sail over the heads of the younger kids, but it would be a worthwhile exercise for older students to work in groups to make note of the changes in wording. This doesn’t have to be accomplished in one session. The new translation will be with us for years to come, so take it one step at a time.

* You will want to teach both the spoken and the sung versions of the new Memorial Acclamations. Practice them frequently as Advent approaches; the children will feel more connected if they are able to take an active role. Explore with the class what the words in the acclamations tell us about Jesus and our faith.

* Do the same with our new response to the Lamb of God. Have students find John 1:29 in their Bibles to discover the origin of this prayer. Help older students appreciate that two of the reasons for the new translation is to give us a sense of history and to deepen our appreciation for the majesty of our celebration.


Session V: The Concluding Rites

*The major differences found in this part of the Mass are in the words prayed by the presider, so again, we need to be good listeners. There are new options for the dismissal rite, but our response remains the same: “Thanks be to God.”

* However, as you discuss the new words your students will hear, you can help them reframe and rededicate themselves to the purpose of the rite. Remind them that the word mass comes from the Latin word missio, which means “mission” or “sending.” At the end of Mass, we are sent forth on a mission. Help students see that we are called to continue Christ’s work in the world. We are to love and serve others as he did.

* Distribute index cards to the students. Ask them to reflect quietly on the mission Jesus is giving to them—the work they have been called to do at home, at school, and in their neighborhoods. Have each student write his or her mission on an index card and place it in an envelope, seal it, and write his or her name on the front of the envelope. Collect the envelopes and save them for a week or two. Then return them to the students and have them reread the missions they assigned themselves. Without invading anyone’s privacy, encourage them to assess how well they carried out their missions. Encourage them to do this exercise in their hearts each week as they are dismissed from Mass. It is one more way to help them appreciate that we are called to active participation. We are called to become what we have received.


Embrace the Possibilities

These ideas are just a beginning—a way to get started on introducing the Roman Missal, Third Edition to your students. The most important thing is to avoid waiting for someone else to do it. Seize the moment! Embrace the possibilities of helping your students find new and deeper meaning in this our great mystery of faith!

Of Note: Changes to the Sacramentary

The use of the two titles “Roman Missal” and “Sacramentary” has confused some people. Open the Sacramentary you currently use to the title page. At the top, you will see the words The Roman Missal. The words The Sacramentary appear below that title. The Sacramentary we have been using is the English translation of the Roman Missal. It was prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). As of the First Sunday of Advent, we will begin using the official name for this important liturgical resource: The Roman Missal.


Kate Ristow, Contributing Editor to CATECHIST, has worked in Catholic publishing for over 25 years as a national speaker and writer, building on a wealth of experience in the religious formation of children and catechists in both parish and Catholic school programs.


Helping the Family Focus on the Roman Missal, Third Edition

If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that today’s parents want to be part of their children’s activities. Make it possible for moms and dads to learn about the changes in the Mass by implementing one or more of the following ideas:

* Keeping in mind that we often learn best by doing, work with a willing presider to plan a walk-through (or teaching) Mass to highlight the major changes in the liturgy. Talk with the priest in advance to agree on the parts of the Mass on which you want to focus. Do not attempt to make your event an exhaustive teaching on every single change. Rather, emphasize the prayers and responses that will have the most impact on students and their families. Let parents know about this opportunity well in advance and issue different types of invitations—e-mails, bulletin announcements, phone calls from catechists, or utilizing your program phone tree if you have one. Make it a “can’t miss” event.

* After the Advents and Christmas seasons, when the changes have begun to take root and family life is less hectic, invite families to meet at a regularly scheduled Sunday morning liturgy. Afterwards, provide a simple continental breakfast, supplied by parents. When everyone has eaten and socialized, have the catechetical leader, a priest, a deacon, or a liturgical minister offer a short and simple reflection on the new translation. Remember, don’t try to do too much. Adapting to the new translation is a marathon, not a sprint. Allow for a question-and-answer period. Conclude by having each family work together on a Eucharist-related activity, such as making banners that display symbols of the liturgy, creating table runners for each family’s dinner table, or decorating large pillar candles with stickers that the families can take home.

* Plan two-hour grade-level workshops on the new translation. Catechists can team teach so that the work load is shared. Vary the types of activities used to introduce the different parts of the Mass to the kids. For example, one group can be responsible for creating gestures to accompany the Creed; another can prepare a choral reading based on the Gloria or sing a simple version after instruction from a musician. While the kids are in their groups, parents can be grouped together for adult learning.

* Provide a worship aid for every family in your program—a tool that will enable them to review the changes in the Mass at home—and an easy-to-read article that will help adults understand the whys and wherefores of the new translation. Include with the worship aid an invitation to parents to join the celebration of the new translation on Sundays during Advent and beyond.

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