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
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
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