LET THE CHILDREN LEAD
Rita Ferrone rightly praises liturgical inculturation in her column “‘Our Eucharist Is a Feast’” (January). Until a few years ago, this was happening in our parish in England, using Pope Paul VI’s Directory on Masses with Children. Then we were sent a newly ordained assistant priest who was uncomfortable with the shortened readings, the Gospel and Old Testament dramas, and the children’s Eucharistic Prayers. During his first Advent with us, he refused any dressing up of shepherds, angels, and the Holy Family, and unilaterally dismissed the children’s liturgy leader, whose family from then on worshiped elsewhere.
We had made every effort over the years to celebrate the Word with the children in mind. This had enthused parents and other parishioners as well: picture John and Peter running to the tomb on Easter morning; David sparing Saul’s life despite Abishai’s all-too realistic gesture with the spear; a couple dozen children lying on the floor pretending to be the infant Samuel hearing God’s call; or a group of children singing a passage from St. Paul to the congregation.
That Christmas, a tradition was lost. A missionary who had presided over one of these children’s Masses suggested complaining to the bishop. We did not do so, feeling that he would close ranks with the year’s one new priest, leading to continuing friction and division in the parish. Were we mistaken?
Incidentally, Missa Luba, a Congolese setting of the Latin Mass, dates back to the 1950s—surely a sign of a liturgical movement underway well before the council. At that time, I was a child in a Redemptorist parish where the priest led children in singing English paraphrases of the prayers of the Mass as it unfolded behind the Rood Screen. Another forerunner of opening the liturgy to the children and, through them, their parents.
I hope other parts of the world follow the Democratic Republic of the Congo in forming and firming local liturgies. I also hope this includes Anglophone countries, saddled with a stilted translation and a clerical reluctance to make use of the prayers, gestures, and movements available.
Canterbury, United Kingdom
CATHOLIC TEACHING & CIVIC DUTY
As I read Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde’s writings (“A Christian in the Office of Constitutional Judge,” January), I thought of a prayer I often say: “Lord, help me to be the disciple you want me to be.” As I get close to entering my eighty-second year on this earth, I can relate to Böckenförde’s struggle to hear the answer to that prayer. The institutional Church is not always helpful in hearing it; it took me a while to realize the difference between “the Catholic Church” (the People of God) and “the Catholic hierarchy.”
Like Böckenförde, I struggled with the abortion issue in doing my civic duty. Following the voice of the Catholic hierarchy, I now realize, caused me to vote for some poor candidates who did damage to our body politic. I have come to understand that my understanding of a zygote as human life is more of a belief and not something that is self-evident to all of my fellow citizens. So the question then becomes: Can I tolerate those who do not agree with me that abortion equals infanticide? Or should we be like our Maker who so respects human freedom that He permits its tragic consequences to play out in so many areas of human activity?
Böckenförde rightly understood that in a pluralistic society we Catholics need to be very careful with calling all abortion a punishable crime. If only the Catholic hierarchy would listen to his wisdom.
Paul Moses’s story should be added to the graduate curriculum of serious journalism schools at CUNY and Columbia. “The One Missing Fact” (January) is a marvelous case study that separates the valuable wheat of journalism that scrutinizes everything from the worthless chaff of reporters who just use stenography.