You are on page 1of 8

Published in: The Pastoral Review January/February 2008 Summorum Pontificum and the Catholic Primary School Introduction

In recent years, some commentators have identified areas in which the interpretation of some of the liturgical reforms of the post - Vatican II period, including the 1970 Missal, have caused varying amounts of confusion among Catholics. i Pope Benedict XVI himself, as a theologian and scholar, has taken an academic interest in the liturgical developments of the twentieth century, most notably in The Spirit of the Liturgy Caritatis
iii ii

and, as

Bishop of Rome, has written an both an Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum and now Summorum Pontificum
iv

on the place of the traditional Mass in the

modern Church. These documents are, in effect, the distillation and application of some of the liturgical principles he has examined in a scholarly manner in recent decades. The key point of the latter document is that it allows for greater use of Mass celebrated according to the Missal of Pope (Blessed) John XXIII of 1962. From 14th September 2007, priests of the Latin church have been authorised to celebrate Mass in this form without the permission of the Bishop of the diocese. In this article I will explore how aspects of the traditional, or Tridentine form of the Roman Missal could provide possibilities for the catechetical and religious education programmes for children of Primary school age in Catholic schools and parishes. I will begin with a brief discussion of the value of silence in the spiritual development of the child, leading to a consideration of how one aspect of the extraordinary form of the Mass that of silence - can enhance the celebration of Mass in the ordinary form of the Rite.v In the final section I will propose some initial suggestions for practice in schools and parishes. The Value of Silence as a Catechetical Tool Although the value of silence in the general spiritual development of children across religious traditions has been researched with favourable conclusions,
vi

others

would argue that the emphasis on music and participation in contemporary liturgy militates against a full appreciation of the importance of silence in worship vii. One of the

key principles of Maria Montessori, who pioneered an active, sensory-based approach to pedagogy for children of Primary age, was the recognition of the value of silence in the life of the classroom.
viii

As a Catholic, she was interested in applying these broad

principles to religious education and was an advocate of the active participation of children in the liturgy many years before the Second Vatican Council. She believed that involvement in an accessible liturgy was a necessary complement to more formal forms of religious instruction. In recent years, Sofia Cavalletti has remoulded Montessoris ideas into a structured catechetical pedagogy for young children with particular emphasis on the value of silence in the prayer life of the child.ix This, she argues, is much more than an absence of verbal expression but is an interior silence which enables the child to find solace and peace:
We are dealing with a real education to silence, which is not just the more or less imposed cessation of noise, but the silence in which the child feels totally at home (p. 131).

The value of silence in the liturgical development of children has also been recognised by the Magisterium. In 1973, the Directory for Childrens Masses (DCM) was issued. This document, which would have been a vademecum for catechists and teachers of young children in matters of liturgy at the time, commented on the importance of liturgical celebrations which were capable of touching the hearts of young children. The dangers of not engaging with their spiritual needs was noted:

Nonetheless, we may fear spiritual harm if over the years children repeatedly experience in the Church things that are barely comprehensible (no. 2).

The document highlights the importance of music in good liturgy owing to childrens special affinity with music (DCM, 30). It suggests that the children become involved in the celebration by singing certain parts of the Mass as well as including hymns appropriate to the celebration. It encourages children to play instruments as this express festive joy and the praise of God (DCM, 32). It is not unfair, I believe, to say that

for most catechists and teachers of Religious Education, reading, preparation of prayers and the singing of suitable hymns and acclamations, was (and is) the principal means adopted to facilitate this participation called for by the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 11 it is their (i.e. pastors) duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by its effects. In this move towards active participation, principally by way of music, the value of silence can easily be overlooked. This is problematic if we maintain that silence is an integral part of the liturgy and merits appreciation both as a form of prayer and as a pedagogical tool in itself. The Directory recognises this pace its earlier recommendations noted above:
Even in Masses with children "silence should be observed at the designated times as part of the celebration" lest too great a place be given to external action. In their own way children are genuinely capable of reflection. They need some guidance, however, so that they will learn how, in keeping with the different moments of the Mass (for example, after the homily or after communion to recollect themselves, meditate briefly, or praise God and pray to Him in their hearts (DCM, 37).

Here we find a balance of appropriate silence, external activity and musical accompaniments with an appreciation of how different pedagogies are of merit in the teaching of the meaning of the Mass. Silence in the Roman Rite I would like now to consider the question from another angle: how can the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, in which silence plays a key role (especially in the Eucharistic Prayer), enhance the liturgical education of our young people who are attending, in the main, the ordinary form of the rite? It is important first to consider why silence is more than simply a pause between different parts of the Mass. To answer this fully it is necessary to outline how silence enhances all liturgical celebration, no matter which form is used. I will draw here on Pope Benedicts book The Spirit of the Liturgy in which he refers to some perceived

problems in the celebration of Mass according to the 1970 Missal and offers a number of points for reflection. It is important to remember that Pope Benedicts suggestions relate to the celebration of Mass in this form: he is not calling for a return to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII. I will identify the key points made by him and then, in the next section, I will suggest some ways in which they can be applied to the liturgical education of young children. In the first place, Pope Benedict agrees with both Montessori and Cavalletti in that silence is much more than an absence of words and external noise. He equates silence with stillness of soul and advocates a silence with content (p. 209). What does he mean by that phrase? I would suggest that silence here is to be understood as a positive sign of Gods communication to His people. This is a far more nuanced way of understanding silence in the liturgy than simply equating periods of silence with a time where no hymns are sung nor prayers said; as I mentioned earlier, it is more than a pause between different parts of the Mass. For Catholics, this silence allows the assembled community to reflect on the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14) and on how to apply the Gospel to ordinary life. If, therefore, silence is of value in the Roman liturgy, what practical measures can be taken in order to underpin its value? How can the ordinary form of the Roman Rite be improved in this respect? Pope Benedict offers a number of practical suggestions which I will summarise now. First, he states that there are times in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite when a sustained period of silence is both possible and desirable. Pope Benedict mentions the time just after Holy Communion as being wholly appropriate for communicating with the one who has just given himself to us.x Although he is not unaware of the distractions which may impinge on this time viz prolonged distribution of Communion, thanksgiving hymns or collections, he firmly advocates this moment as propitious for silent prayer. This is in line with the recommendations of DCM, 37, as quoted above. Secondly, Pope Benedict suggests that the Canon of the Mass need not be said aloud. As evidence of this, he mentions that in early Jerusalem the Canon of the Mass was prayed in silence and gradually the practice developed in the Latin Rite of a silent

canon with an overlayer of some meditative singing.

xi

It is, therefore, a practice from

history, which can constitute communion before God (p. 215). Finally, Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of the silent prayers of the priest. He argues that we should avoid a reductionist view of priesthood in which the priests role is understood solely in sociological or activist terms. Since the priest is in persona Christi - he is Christs vicar and not the delegate of the assembled community the silent prayers are fully part of the celebration despite their being unheard by the congregation and allow him to find the space to offer his whole self to the Lord (p. 213213). In summary, Pope Benedict is advocating a rediscovery of the value of liturgical silence as a means of communicating with God. I will now suggest some ideas for catechetical practice in schools and parishes which are rooted in the principles summarised above. Suggestions for Catechetical Practice If children are encouraged to value silence as a form of prayer and contemplation, then this allows for a more focussed application of this principle to liturgical practice. How can this be done? Initially, children would benefit from learning about and experiencing the ancient practice of lectio divina at a level suitable for their developmental stage. This silent meditation on Scripture should assist children in their progress towards understanding how God can communicate with them quietly through images and words. The inclusion of this practice in the life of the Catholic school allows the necessary integration of education, prayer and worship. This follows the recommendations of the General Directory for Catechesis no. 95 which recommends that the Word of God is celebrated in the Sacred Liturgy, where it is constantly proclaimed, heard. Interiorized and explained. Secondly, and as a development of the above, the texts for lectio divina can include some of the many Prefaces and liturgical prayers available in the ordinary form of the Roman rite. This would allow catechists and teachers to explore in some depth the rich theological terms and images which these prayers contain and would enhance the link between religious education and liturgy.

The last, and perhaps most radical suggestion combines lectio divina, as outlined above, with Pope Benedicts suggestion (noted earlier) of a silent Canon. One way of planning this would be as follows: Parish Priests and school chaplains would be involved with teachers (and, when necessary, catechists) to prepare a Mass in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite in which the priest would say the Eucharistic prayer in silence. This Mass may be the parish Mass on a Sunday or a school Mass on another day. As preparation for this, in the week leading up to the Mass, the children would have focussed on some aspect of the Eucharistic prayer in both their religious education classes and in their lectio divina thereby allowing them to see a greater link between their catechetical formation and the celebration of the liturgy. One key element in these proposals is the locus of the teacher in this educational and catechetical process, in particular on the teacher as a member of the community of faith which is the Catholic school. The school has a dual role: it is an agent of education and catechesis but is also enhanced as a faith community by its involvement in the faith development of its pupils. This is encapsulated neatly in The Catholic School issued by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education in 1977: No Catholic school can adequately fulfil its educational role on its own. It must continually be fed and stimulated by its source of life, the Saving Word of Christ as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, especially liturgical and sacramental tradition, and in the lives of people, past and present, who bear witness to that Word (no. 54). Concluding Remarks As the Catholic community considers the implications of Summorum Pontificum for liturgical practice, I offer these suggestions as a modest contribution to on-going liturgical and catechetical renewal. I hope that others may find signs of renewal and hope in Summorum Pontificum and see it as a prophetic document for out time.

See Arinze, F., Active Participation in the Sacred Liturgy in: Arinze F., George, F., Medina Estevez J.,

and Pell, G. Cardinal Reflections: Active Participation and the Liturgy, (Chicago:Hillenbrand Books ,2005) and Nichols, A., Looking at the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1996)

ii

Benedict XVI The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2000) Benedict XVI (2007) Summorum Pontificum accessed on-linewww.summorumpontificum.net 1st iv Benedict XVI Sacramentum Caritatis (London: Catholic Truth Society, 2007)
iii v

Article 1 of the document clarifies the terminology appropriate to this debate: the current Missal, that of Paul VI, issued in 1970, will now be know as the ordinary form of the Roman rite; the Missal of 1962 will be known as the extraordinary form. This is explained further is the Explanatory Letter which accompanies the motu proprio: It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were two Rites. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite. From this point on, this paper will refer to the 1970 Missal and the 1962 Missal as the ordinary and extraordinary form of the Roman Rite respectively. vi Mountain, V., Prayer is a Positive Activity for Children a Report on Recent Research, (International Journal of Childrens Spirituality, 2005, 10.3, 291-305)

vii

Meconi, D. Silenced Proceedings (Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, 2002 5.2 p. 5275)
viii ix x xi

Montessori, M., The Child in the Church (London: Sands and Co., 1929)

Cavalletti, S.,The Religious Potential of the Child (New York: Paulist Press 1983) This is in line with the recommendations of art. 37 of the Directory of Childrens Masses. He says that he first suggested this in 1978 and, although aware that many liturgists were annoyed at him

for so doing, he repeats it here.