The practice of dismissing children during the Liturgy of the Word is entirely permissible (see here). Often things like this aren’t covered in the Missal itself, but in various other instructions issued at different times, so it’s understandable why you wouldn’t have found it.
As to the beginning of the Mass, GIRM ¶ 50 says, “After the greeting of the people, the priest, the deacon, or a lay minister may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.” Priests sometimes take this too far, but this introduction may be what you’re thinking of as a “meet and greet.” You’re right that the posture ought to be standing. If for some unusual, but legitimate, reason the “very brief” introduction must stretch out to be a little longer on a certain day – and especially if, for instance, you had a congregation with elderly or infirm people – my own personal opinion is that it is justifiable for the priest to instruct people to sit (cue fifteen people posting the same paragraph about how the priest cannot add or alter anything in the liturgy … save it.). Nevertheless, introductory remarks should not generally be very long in the first place.
We just got back from vacation, and the parish we visited did the thing with the children. They also dispensed the precious blood to cups from a plain glass water pitcher. They also had all the EM’s hold the body of Christ until everyone had a piece, the priest presented the elements, and they all consumed at the same time.
So, I don’t think conformance with standard liturgical practice was a big focus for them.
Mark T. addressed your other issue already. Are you referring here to the custom in some places of having people say “hello” to each other, just before Mass begins?
I don’t know what the status of that is, in the GIRM, nor is it something I’d ever be in favour of (we should be chatting and laughing in the Narthex before and after Mass; not in the church, during Mass) - however, I have been told by some people that it made them feel more welcomed, and helped them consider becoming Catholic, or taking up a more serious practice of their faith - and it’s really hard to say “no” when these are the kind of results being reported - and when, demonstrably, people are being cold to each other before and after Mass. :shrug:
It goes like this: procession goes to the alter, song finishes. Priest says everybody be seated. He says welcome to parish, are their any guests here? He then roams around the parish shaking hands, asking people where their from. After this is done he goes back to the alter, starts with the sign of the cross.
Well, that sounds excessive, then. As Jmcrae mentioned, this type of thing is well-intentioned and is definitely welcomed and appreciated by some people; still, if the priest wants to greet people he ought to do so before the entrance procession, and stick to the rubrics for Mass.
What might be problematic is the OPs term “all the children”. It is permissable to dismiss young children to a Children’s LOW. But once they reach First Communon age, they should stay in Mass. “All the children” sounds like it’s more than just those below FC age.
As long as they return before the Eucharistic Prayer, even children who’ve recently received their First Communion would be OK as long as it’s a true Liturgy of the Word and not a craft session.
The CCCB has published “Celebrating the Liturgy of the Word with Children” and one of the key things in this booklet “If pencils come into use you’re doing it wrong.” The recommended age: 4-8 – any younger it’s properly babysitting; older than that, particularly if they’re a year or two after First Communion, they are old enough to understand at least some of the readings and the homily.
That’s when our priest does it. I’m not a big fan of it myself, but as soon as the entrance hymn has ended he’ll greet the congregation, ask if there are any visitors, welcome them and then say the sign of the cross.
That is one of the biggest issues with the mass today. The mass has become centered on the people instead of centered on God. I for one, really don’t care if there are new people in mass today, and If I was a new person, I would not want to be pointed out.:shrug:
The reason we are coming together is to worship the Lord, and participate in the Sacrifice. This really has nothing to do with us. Too many times, people are put as the center of attention instead of God.:eek:
I have been going CRAZY trying to explain this to people. “We are gathering together to celebrate and be together as a community” and blah blah blah… I don’t know if it’s a symptom of our selfish society or what, but (in my experience) people are turning Mass into a social event where they try to exact as much “warm-fuzziness” as they can.
Now that my tangent is over…
In my parish, the children (even after First Communion age) all go to the basement during the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday School. Our priest identifies visitors right before the dismissal.
Actually, the Mass is about people. Specifically, it is about (and indeed a great part of) the relationship between God and man. No relationship can exist without two parties. As you wrote, “The reason we are coming together is to worship the Lord, and participate in the Sacrifice.” Look at the words I’ve underlined – see? You can’t even talk about the Mass without language of “us,” togetherness, and participation.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely possible for the focus on God to get lost and the focus on the community to get blown out of proportion. But that’s not because the Mass somehow ought to be 100% “about” God and 0% “about” man. That’s an impossibility. The difficulty is in finding the right way to emphasize, as I’ve said, the relationship between God and man – and not just between God and the individual, but between God and “his people,” a very common theme in Scripture that necessitates some consideration of “a people” as a corporate group.
You are correct in saying that it is about the relationship between God and man, but you missed my point. I am not saying it should have nothing to do with us; there would be no reason to have active participation then. What I am saying is that the Mass is not about the relationships of the people in the community. We have plenty of time to work on our relationship with eachother, Mass is not one of them. Mass is the time to work on our relationship with God. We should be directing our attention to God, not to eachother.
I generally agree with that (well, I entirely agree with your last point :D), but before Mass and after Mass are good limed to “work on our relationship with each other.” Regrettably, the parish community doesn’t get together very often except for Mass, so it’s good to take those opportunities to strengthen our bonds as a community. You’re point is totally valid that the sacred action of the Mass isn’t the right moment, but sometimes I’ve head people complain about having greeters welcome people before Mass, or having a coffee-and-doughnuts type get-together after Mass, because “I’m too focused on the Lord” or whatever. Well, that may be a small fraction of people, but most folks want to be welcomed into the parish community, have a chance to meet and talk to others, etc.
There’s obviously a tension between allowing people to get into the mental “mode” for worship versus greeting them, etc. Personally I think events after Mass are better than a greeting before, but then the same people would complain that they are “too focused on the Body of Christ that I just received” and they would rather go home in silence. For my part, I don’t have much truck with the “sourpuss” view of a faith life, and apparently neither do the millions of former Catholics who have found themselves wanted and welcomed at various Protestant and nondenom churches. That’s no joking matter, and it’s definitely a major area in which we as a church have failed. The point has been made by many before, and the response “So your saying that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is somehow not enough for people?” is simply naive and short-sighted, and misses the point completely.
So I totally understand the priest who goes out of his way to welcome people and do a meet-and-greet at the beginning. The intention is good. Should it be before the entrance procession, or possibly postponed until after the final blessing? Yes, probably, but there’s no theological or liturgical reason that the attempt to welcome people and build a genuine faith community out of one’s parishioners ought to be seen as in tension or competition with sacred worship. Done right, it would be a perfect complement and a strong foundation for worship.
But they are always meant to return to the assembly before the Eucharistic Prayer. This is not meant to be a way for the adults to worship without distraction. Not to mention that no child should ever be made to go out – it can be offered but not forced.
I think that you are really missing the importance of their comments and their leaving. Their problem is not the mass itself. Their problem is a self-centered atitude:rolleyes: where mass has to be fun and a social hour. This is a problem that stems directly from bad catechesis, which puts the emphasis on me and how I feel, not God. Religious education has that problem anymore. Thy are more concerned with feelings rather than truth. Look at the terible materials they use any more. Unless it is based off of the catechism none of it is any good. People who leave the church because of fun and social the mass is, have an underlining issue with selfishness.
Why should change the mass to make it more fun? The mass is the most beautiful thing that has ever existed. The theology of it is just amazing and changing to make it more “friendly” makes absolutely no sense.
If you want people to stay in the churh, you must fix the underlying issue which is bad catechesis. You should not try and change the mass’s form for them.