Wednesday, March 23, 2016

From Mass to Mission: Accessible Liturgical Catechesis for All Ages

How well do most Catholics participate in the Mass?  I have often commented in this space that as a cantor, facing the people, I frequently see the bored, passive expressions of the externally (and maybe internally) disengaged. However, Bishop Robert Barron has named an even bigger problem: 70% of our people around the world (75% in the US) do not even attend Mass!  He calls that a "spiritual disaster." How can we fix this? We need better tools.

As I have mentioned before in this space, I was privileged to be asked to write the children's portion of the new project from Liturgy Training Publications, From Mass to Mission: Understanding the Mass and its Significance for Our Christian Life.  Created for use in parish catechesis, this series  is an answer to the common issue that catechesis and liturgy are not sufficiently connected in parish life.  More than that, it is a resource that can involve the entire community in learning about and growing in their appreciation of the Mass.

From Mass to Mission from Liturgy Training Publications on Vimeo.

The USCCB put it succinctly in the National Directory for Catechesis: “in the Church’s mission of evangelization, catechesis and Liturgy are intimately connected” (§ 33)  Unfortunately, that has not often been true. Catechetical textbooks barely scratch the surface of the liturgy. Parishes simply tell families with children to bring them to Mass. Catechetical sessions for first communicants provide a brief overview of the Mass, maybe the parish leader or catechist hands parents a children's picture missal, and then expects parents to fill in the blanks.  After that, people are mostly on their own for the rest of their lives to figure out the meaning of the liturgy and of their personal participation, with very little catechesis.  Is it any wonder that older kids often tell us Mass is "boring" and that by the time they can make a choice, the majority of our people do not attend Mass regularly?

Filling a much-needed gap in updated materials since the 2011 revision of the Roman Missal, From Mass to Mission provides a vehicle for parish communities to make the explicit connection between the Mass and full, conscious and active participation, both internal and external. Too often people know when to stand, sit, kneel and say responses, but have never been instructed about the internal spiritual participation of the assembly at Mass. Participants learn to bring their own Mass intention, to offer themselves to be transformed with the bread and wine, and to make a personal spiritual connection to the Eucharist that informs their prayer and actions in daily life.

Each level consists of a participant's book and a leader's guide, accompanied by a CD-Rom containing additional handouts and activities and  6 video segments depicting what we do at Mass. punctuated by clips from interviews with clergy, catechetical leaders. liturgical leaders, children, teens and adults.

When I was invited into this project last spring, I was asked to write a 36-page resource on the Mass for kids, grades 3-6 - to be part of a series that would also include teens and adults. However, it is my conviction that children's participation and attendance at Mass are inseparable from family practice and the level of understanding of their catechists. At my urging, LTP allowed me to expand the original vision for this from a 36-page classroom-based resource to a longer one that includes preparation and reflection for the adult catechist, family activities and reflections, and two models for an intergenerational introduction of the resource to parents and children together.

There are 5 chapters, but really this is six sessions, due to the length of the section on Liturgy of the Eucharist.  There are six videos, set up to accommodate that split.

Now, that I have seen the finished product of the children's level, I can't tell you how impressed I am with what LTP did with this. The photos and illustrations are great, the accompanying videos are outstanding. The CD-Rom contains letters for parents, handouts, quizzes, a PowerPoint game for identifying seasons of the liturgical year (probably best for the older children) and the video segments.

And, though I have not seen the adult or teen levels yet, I have been told that the adult level even has an all-day retreat option built in, using all 6 videos. That sounds great!

From Mass to Mission goes far beyond existing resources on the Mass insofar as it engages the learners in age-appropriate ways beyond mere presentation of the information.

Lest you think I am giving this series a thumbs up because I will personally benefit, this was a contacted project, and I will actually not profit from royalties. I am promoting From Mass to Mission because I believe strongly in it and its potential as a way to encourage people to attend Mass because they actually understand it, feel spiritually involved, and really want to be part of their community's worship. My dream is that this helps people to know what they bring to the Mass and what the experience of the Mass has to offer them.

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