Children's Liturgy of the Word Norms

I know that it is permissible for there to be a children’s liturgy of the word, but I have some questions.

  1. Must the person leading the children’s liturgy of the word be a priest to be in compliance with the GIRM’s directive that the proclamation of the Gospel and the homily be done by an ordained minister?

  2. If an adult helps with the children’s liturgy of the word, must that person also attend a separate Mass since he/she has not been present with the congregation during the readings, Gospel, and homily? Is this dependent upon who is leading the children’s liturgy of the word (layman or priest)?

You might be able to find the answers here:

This is a link to the Directory for Masses with Children. I would suggest meeting with your pastor and perhaps having him write out what he wants said to the children during the time for reflection.

As for your second question, I used to attend the Sunday Anticipated Mass on Saturday evening so that I could prayerfully assist at Mass, listen to the readings and the homily and pray. Sometimes, if you are the one playing the role of Martha, you lose out on the chance to be Mary.

I do not believe there is a provision for what you are describing in the liturgical books. A priest may direct his homily to the children at a childrens Mass An adult who leaves for a small portion of the Mass after the liturgy of the Word and returns for the liturgy of the Eucharist still meets their obligation.

No to both.

  1. Yes. The homily at any Mass must always be given by a priest or deacon. Another adult might “speak to the children” (directory # 24) but this isn’t a homily, and should not be done in such a way that it would be confused with a homily.

  2. No, adults who participate with the children are not required to attend another Mass that same day. Remember that they return to the church to join with the entire congregation before the start of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

But the question 1 was not about the homily at Mass, it was about the person leading the Children’s (so-called) Liturgy of the Word. The person leading such a service does not need to be a priest DMC 24, the person speaking after the Gospel does not absolutely need to be a priest, though of course it seems preferential for it to be a priest).

Personally, I’m not in favor of Eucharistic liturgies that separate the congregation (e.g. dismissing the “youth” for some part of the one Mass).

My concern is that while DMC 24 allows for someone other than the priest to speak to the children it also adds, “[FONT=Times New Roman, Times, Arial]In this matter the norms soon to be issued by the Congregation for the Clergy should be observed.” What documents have come to us from Rome since then? [/FONT]

It may not matter. I believe the Masses for children I believe will soon be eliminated.

No, Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children may be eliminated - OTOH, they may simply be made better. That still won’t remove any of the valid things addressed by the DMC in Masses where children are in the majority.

I think he met the DMC itself may be cancelled. I’ve heard it’s under review but haven’t heard for sure, or what may or may not happen.

I don’t believe the Congregation for the Clergy ever issued further guidance. Anyone know?

I know of no such document. I’ll check the Documents on the Liturgy compendium I have at home later today.

But the “Children’s Liturgy of the Word” is part of the Mass:
Chapter II. Masses With Adults in Which Children Also Participate

  1. … Sometimes, moreover, if the place itself and the nature of the community permit, it will be appropriate to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word, including a homily, with the children in a separate, but not too distant, room. Then, before the Eucharistic Liturgy [viz., the Liturgy of the Eucharist] begins, the children are led to the place where the adults have meanwhile celebrated their own Liturgy of the Word.
    If the children are experiencing a “Liturgy of the Word” during the Mass, then one would expect that the Gospel is read by a priest or deacon, and that either a homily is given by a priest or deacon, or “with the consent of the pastor or rector of the church, one of the adults may speak to the children after the gospel.” (DMC 24)

I agree that’s a reasonable expectation. Every time I’ve been to a Mass that dismissed children for their “Liturgy of the Word” though, it’s never been a priest or deacon leading or going with them. So, I think the common application of the DMC is either to omit any “homily” (so-called) or to have a layperson “speak.”

Thanks be to God for Documents on the Liturgy. DOL 276 is the 1973 Directory for Masses with Children, and paragraph 2157 (DMC 24) has a footnote (supplied by the DOL book) to DOL 344, which is a letter from the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, specifically of Cardinal J. Wright to Cardinal J. Döpfner (President of the German conference of bishops) on preaching by the laity, dated 20 November 1973. Now, it should be pointed out that whatever allowances for lay preachers during Mass appear in this document have been essentially overridden in recent years by later instructions (most notably Redemptionis Sacramentum); however, the special prescriptions found in DMC regarding a layman talking to the children in their separate Liturgy of the Word might still be in effect… I don’t know for sure.

Here is the first part of the document (second part in a following post). Numbers in brackets are DOL paragraph numbers; text in brackets are my comments.
[2953] The noble duty of taking part in the Church’s saving mission rests on all the faithful; this is the mind of Vatican Council II. For this reason the general synod of the West German dioceses decided to urge the laity toward wholehearted dedication of their apostolic efforts within the family of the Church. Prompted by this laudable zeal, the participants in the synod, meeting 3-7 January 1973 in the cathedral of Würzburg, called for lay participation in the preaching office in the Church. They expressed their decision in these words: “Lay people must have a part in proclaiming the word of God: by witnessing to their faith during the liturgy; after receiving canonical mission, by giving the sermon or conference at liturgical services; in exceptional cases, by giving the homily during Mass” (Die Beteilung der Laien an der Verkündigung no. 3).

In the name of the bishops of West Germany, Your Eminence has on 22 February 1973 sent that resolution to this Congregation, with the request for the appropriate, required permission of the Holy See.

[2954] This Congregation had already treated the point in the past at a plenary meeting. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the reply of the Fathers of the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of the Decrees of Vatican Council II, 11 January 1971 DOL 215, see later post], the Congregation along with other curial congregations has again dealt fully with this proposal, consulting especially with the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Divine Worship and with the Council for the Laity.

[2955] The Congregation gladly acknowledges that the apostolate of the laity in both the world and the Church, so often emphasized by Vatican Council II, has by now a long tradition in Germany. Unquestionably, approval must be given to that sincere cooperation that the laity are giving to the ordained ministers in all the works of evangelization. By reason of the people of God’s shared responsibility for proclaiming the word of God, the German synod’s desire is that such cooperation extend also to the office of preaching at liturgical services.

We must, however, note the Council’s teaching that the preaching office in the Church belongs first of all to the bishops as the teachers vested with authority, then to priests as the bishops’ cooperators, and finally to deacons. Accordingly, the Council teachings that there is an intimate connection between holy orders and the preaching office. The theme of the people of God’s shared responsibility for proclaiming his word must therefore be understood of the people of God as constituted hierarchically, that is, through the sacrament of holy orders.

[2956] For this reason it will be readily understood that we of the Congregation have been confronted by the same problem discussed and debated within the German conference of bishops and the sessions of the synod. That problem is: whether extending the office of preaching to the laity will obscure the essential distinction existing between the ministerial priesthood of priests and the universal priesthood of all believers. The problem would be intensified if use of the permission were to develop not as the exception but as the rule. This applies especially to lay preaching during the Mass: the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the eucharist are so closely connected that they form but a single act of worship Sacrosanctum Concilium 56] and in the Mass of the community the priest exercises not only his ministry of word and sacrifice but also his office as pastor of the people.

In order therefore that in liturgical services the office of preaching will be fulfilled by ordained ministers, vocations to the priesthood and the diaconate must be promoted through every available means. We are deeply convinced that in this regard bishops must leave no measure untried; this is an essential element of their pastoral concern.

We recognize, however, the special circumstances of the German diocese, especially the shortage of clergy and the urgent need to provide for the care of souls. Therefore, in the manner here to be indicated, layperson may be deputed for the office of preaching at liturgical services on the grounds of serving either as substitutes or as assistants.
I will continue this document (and include the referenced document) in another post.

Continuing with the norms provided by the document:
[2957] 1. In places lacking a priest or deacon, bishops are to choose layperson who will be empowered to give a homily during the celebration of the word of God so that on Sundays and holydays of obligation the faithful may receive help to sanctify the day.

[2958] 2. a. During a Mass the celebrant normally gives the sermon.

b. But a celebrant may be physically or morally prevented from fulfilling this function, no other priest or deacon may be available, and thus the faithful may be deprived of the spiritual help coming from the word of God. In such a case of compelling or reasonable need, bishops have the power to grant to laypersons the faculty to preaching even during a Mass.

c. Bishops are empowered to grant the same faculty when on a particular occasion (for example, celebrations on behalf of the Christian family, to promote works of charity or foreign missions, or other celebrations at the discretion of the bishop) laypersons are available who have special qualifications and whose words are likely to be effective.

[2959] 3. If circumstances permit, the celebrants gives an introduction or conclusion to sermons by the laity.

  1. To empower them to exercise the office of preaching at liturgical services, laypersons need to receive from the bishop a canonical mission, that is, delegation.

When the faculty to preach is to be of extended duration and in those cases indicated in no. 2, b and c, the bishop in person is to bestow the canonical mission. He may grant the faculty to subdelegate this canonical mission only to assistant bishops, vicars general, and episcopal vicars.

The bishop has the power to revoke the canonical mission for what he judge to be well-founded reasons.

[2960] 5. The appointment of laypersons must follow to the letter the rules to be issued by the conference of bishops. Criteria of selection must be, besides the requisite knowledge, a Christian manner of life and docility toward the Church’s magisterium and lawful local pastors.

[2961] 6. In the case of those who have returned from the clerical to the lat state, the norms of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (AAS 63 [1971] 308, no. 4 b) apply. DOL 307 no. 2561]

[2962] 7. The present rules, amending Codex Iuris Canonici can. 1342, § 2, are given as an experiment and will remain in effect as the petition requests for four years. At the end of this period the conference of bishops will submita report of the results to the Holy See.

[2963] 8. Because of the seriousness of the matter, each bishop of West Germany before putting the present faculties into effect must first hear the opinion of the priests’ council.

Pope Paul VI has graciously approved the present rules, trusting that, with any kind of abuse being prevented, this apostolic concession will truly serve to the advantage of the faithful of Germany.
Here is DOL 215 (Reply from the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of the Decrees of Vatican Council II to a query on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal no. 42, 11 January 1971), the first document referred to (in paragraph 2954):
[1768] Query: The words in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal no. 42, “The homily should ordinarily be given by the celebrant,” put into practice the prescriptions of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 52 and the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum no. 24 (see also the Motu Proprio Sacram Liturgiam, 29 January 1964, III, and the Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship Liturgicae instaurationes, 5 September 1970, no. 2c). Should these words be interpreted in the sense that those also who are neither priests nor deacons, both men and women, but take part in the liturgy, may give the homily?

Reply: No.

At an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal President, 11 January, 1971, Pope Paul VI confirmed and approved these decisions and ordered their publication.
And here’s the paragraph mentioned in paragraph 2961, from DOL 307, Norms from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to be used by the curia of a diocese or of a religious institute to prepare cases for reduction to the lay state with dispensation from the obligations of holy orders, 13 January 1971: AAS 63 (1971) 303-308 (excerpt):
[2561] The Ordinary charged with informing the petitioner of the rescript is to urge him earnestly to take part in the life of the people of God in a way consonant with his new way of life, to give good example, and to show himself to be a loving son of the Church. At the same time the Ordinary is to inform the petitioner that any priest reduced to the lay state and dispensed from his obligations is barred from:

a. exercising any function of holy orders, except those indicated in can. 882 and 892, § 2;

b. exercising any liturgical function in celebrations with a congregation, in a place where his condition is known, and from ever giving the homily; …]
That’s all. Read and ruminate and discuss.

I think that he is referring to a document called Ecclesia de Mysterio which was released in 1997 from the Congregation for Clergy in collaboration with the CDWDS and CDF.

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