The Directory for Masses with Children (1973) includes, as one of the human values present in the Eucharistic Celebration, the experience of symbolic actions (DMC, 9). Children are particularly adept at using symbolic actions from the very tiny child who plays “boo!” with un-scary people to pre-adolescent children who are capable of complex symbolic actions. To incorporate enriching symbolic actions into liturgy celebrated with children certainly supports this important value but must be achieved in a manner which does not reduce the actions to entertainment which then seems to deserve applause. Liturgical movement has deserved criticism when it has drawn the focus away from liturgy towards personal performance.
Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963) called for provisions to be made for “legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples” (SC, 38). Among the norms presented for the reform of the sacred liturgy, there was a call to “promote active participation” where the “people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions; gestures, and bearing. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence” (SC, 30). A result of this call for adaptation was for the provision of the Children’s Eucharistic Prayers where the specific needs of children were taken into account in an unprecedented way. Recent musical settings of the responses of these Children’s Eucharistic Prayers have greatly assisted children in responding during this important part of the Mass (e.g. Michael Mangan’s Mass of Jubilee and Patricia Spencer’s Mass of Spirited Praise).
To be faithful to the directives of the Second Vatican Council, any development of the use of gestures and bearing needs to be prepared with some sound liturgical principles.
McCarthy, A. (2009). Children at mass: Integrating gesture and movement. Liturgy News, 39(1), 6-7.