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    Preparing Masses with Children: 15 Easy Steps  
    reviewed byJonathan F. Sullivan

    Buy The Spirit of the Liturgy

Preparing Masses for school children and Parish School of Religion (PSR) students may be one of the most daunting tasks a Catholic school teacher or catechist faces. Many—if not most—are unfamiliar with The Roman Missal and the Lectionary, feel overwhelmed when called upon to choose music or prepare the church environment, and are unaware of the resources available through their parish to assist them in their task.

Fortunately, Robert W. Piercy, Jr., has written Preparing Masses with Children: 15 Easy Steps to help ease the burden on catechists and teachers by providing a simple formula for crafting liturgies for and with young people. While the book isn't perfect, its considerable strengths recommend its use in catechetical and educational programs.

The greatest strength of the book is Piercy's focus on the Sunday liturgical experience. He consistently reinforces that the choices in prayers, music, and Mass parts should be made in such a way as to reinforce what the community already experiences on Sunday. This not only assists young people by helping them "practice" the various parts of the Mass, but also prepares them for deeper participation at Sunday Eucharist.

Piercy's formula eschews the typical checklist of "to do's" and includes ample opportunities for teacher and students alike to reflect on the nature of our liturgical experience. The first two steps alone are dedicated to laying out a plan for preparation and reviewing the basic structure and elements of the Mass. Along the way the adult leader is encouraged to work with young people by reflecting on the readings to pull out themes and phrases that will form the basis for the liturgical environment, the Prayer of the Faithful, and the selection of hymns.

Piercy also points teachers and catechists toward resources that may already be present in the parish—in particular the priest celebrant. Piercy's formula encourages the teacher or catechist to communicate with the priest and involve him with the preparation of the students, if possible. Piercy even includes helpful tips for working with a priest who is uncomfortable with children or unable physically to come to the classroom before the day of the Mass.

The book also emphasizes the involvement of the young people, from reflecting on the Scriptures and flow of the liturgy to crafting the Prayer of the Faithful to participating in the various liturgical ministries during the Mass. Piercy offers good suggestions for how to assist children in these roles in age-appropriate ways without sacrificing the integrity of the liturgy.

While it would have been easy to end the book with the concluding prayers of the Mass, Piercy's steps don't end there. His final step encourages adult leaders to engage the children in mystagogical reflection on the Mass and offers a simple formula for working with students of various ages to delve deeper into the ritual actions and their implications for Christian living. This component is desperately missing from many catechetical programs and its inclusion here is a welcome addition.

Piercy makes use of sidebars to give examples of how his formula has played out in real-world catechetical settings. He also provides several reproducible forms, such as a fill-in-the-blank version of the Prayer of the Faithful and sample letters to send home to parents, to aid teachers and catechists. Both of these features help to make the book more grounded and practical. The reproducibles, in particular, ease the burden of teachers having to create such resources on their own.

The book is being released before the revised Directory for Masses with Children (DMC) and the Lectionary for Masses with Children, neither of which had received confirmation from the Vatican at the time of the book's publishing. With the revised translation of all of the ritual books coming, the DMC and the Lectionary could still be years off. It is doubtful that these texts will receive significant changes and probable that Preparing Masses with Children will be used for years before a revised DMC or Lectionary is available.

Even if those materials become available sooner than expected, there is ample material in Preparing Masses with Children to make it a valuable resource for any PSR program or Catholic school. Teachers and catechists alike will find its suggestions a welcome help in the task of crafting liturgies that both speak to the young people in their care and offer opportunities for students to participate more fully in the Church's Eucharistic celebrations.

© 2013 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications,
3949 South Racine Ave, Chicago IL 60609

Jonathan F. Sullivan
is the director of catechetical ministries for the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. He writes on catechetical topics at www.JonathanFSullivan.com.
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