How to plan a good liturgy


I’ve been tasked with planning a “Youth Mass” for my parish. Even though we’re a large (3,000 member) parish we can never seem to get more than 70 people (even though we told all of the Catholic high schools in my archdiocese with a total of 5,000 students). We have decided to shake things up. Our church is too large to have one of these masses (It seats 1,500) so we think celebrating it in the parish hall (which was formerly the church) would be a good idea. Is that OK to do? We also thought that we could make people more involved by including all of the prayers of the mass in the hand out (We have Gather hymnals but we use these for the mass after the changes). Can we do this? Also, it seems like some parishes allow the people to circle the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. They do this at my school masses and I really have enjoyed this. Is it OK if we do this at the liturgy? We’re just kind of desperate. Our parish has been loosing members for a long time and we want to get youth involved.


Is the parish hall/former church a becoming building for liturgy? What does it look like? Can it properly hold a Mass? Are there all the things necessary for one in the building or can they be put in there?

Putting prayers in a handout is ok as long as it’s clear as far as roles/who says what. I don’t think it would be useful, for example, to include all the small silent prayers of the priest/deacon, nor the Eucharistic prayer because of space.

As far as circling around the altar, no, this should not be done.


It looks like a former church turned conference room. We plan to put an altar in the middle with semi-circles of chairs on both sides. We’re gonna put a podium behind the altar for the readings. What is needed to make a space OK for mass? We also though it would be nice if we said the Eucharistic prayer together. Is that allowed?


My 2 cents is this:
I concur with what YoungTradCath said.
In addition, why re-invent the wheel? Us the church, which is meant fro Mass…use ushers to steer people to the front. Stress that it’s important to feel as one body…set the lighting so that there is illumination at the front only. Use the hall fro a mixer after Mass so that people can get to know one another to build a young people’s community. Have a questionnaire at the mixer:
Did you like attending Mass with people closer to your age?
Would you come if this was a regular offering?
What there something in the Homily that spoke to you?
Can you explain?
What ministries would you like to see spring from a young adult group?
Would you be interested in Adoration?
May we contact you?




Clare, we’ve done all that. We’re just at our last ends. The church costs a lot of money to cool and also costs a lot to have the lights on. Plus it’s designed in a way that makes it really hard to have a small group in.


No, that is very inappropriate.

Especially for youth, the sacred and sacrificial nature of the priesthood must be carefully observed. The youth who attend these masses are more likely to consider the Priesthood. Seeing the Priest treated as just another participant will discourage them from exploring this path.


I think that that is fine. However, it should be set up to look like a chapel as much as possible. Sturdy altar table, linen, candles.

We also thought that we could make people more involved by including all of the prayers of the mass in the hand out (We have Gather hymnals but we use these for the mass after the changes). Can we do this?

Of course you can print your own missalette.You can also have a commentator introduce and explain the Mass.

it seems like some parishes allow the people to circle the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. They do this at my school masses and I really have enjoyed this. Is it OK if we do this at the liturgy?

I have also seen this at youth Masses, but I think that it is very problematic. The sanctuary and altar are supposed to be distinct spaces from the choir and the faithful. I would not do this. Avoid the temptation to think in terms of gimmicks or modernism. That is not what Christianity is about. The laity certainly cannot say the Eucharistic prayer along with the priest.


Okay, whatever you do, you can’t show desperation. Act as if it’s a normal event, because if it’s a success, it will become the start of much churchgoing on their part. IMO you’ve got good advice here and I also would not advise changing the liturgy any because no one is authorized to do that. Perhaps offer an hour’s instruction on the Mass and what it represents before the actual Mass? Most don’t have a clue.


the person in charge of the liturgy is the priest, not the youth of the group. I’m not a traditionalist but the person in charge again is the priest. It should be the priest that would want to change the location out of the sanctuary to another location but some of this doesn’t add up. If very small, then maybe have a smaller parish have the Mass. Concerns about cooling and heating and use of the santuary seems very unusual for a Catholic teenager. This doesn’t add up.


Have you checked into LifeTeen? Many parishes have that, but everyone is welcome to attend; the LifeTeen/Youth Mass has youth choir, youth reading and ushering, etc. It’s then followed by what I would call ‘youth group’, but it’s Life Teen groups.

There is nothing wrong with getting 70 people. It’s better than getting none, or them having nowhere to go to Mass.

I concur with the rest of the above comments. :slight_smile:


I think using a hall in these circumstances would be breaching the Code of Canon Law, Canon 932. There is an explanation about this at .

If you wanted to use the hall you would need the bishop’s permission, on the basis of the 1969 Instruction Actio pastoralis, n. 4. But I think it would be better to put your energies into making the Church building more suitable for this group.

Cathyouth asked: “We also thought that we could make people more involved by including all of the prayers of the mass in the hand out … Can we do this?” Yes you can. The copyright policies of ICEL are outlined at . For this situation I think the following part of it applies:

“No royalty is charged for reprinting ICEL translations in a publication for use at a specific Mass or celebration of an individual congregation or institution, for example: convention program booklets, jubilee Masses, ordinations, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, funerals, weddings, etc., provided that the following conditions are met:
a. the publication is not produced by a publishing firm;
b. the publication is not sold;
c. the appropriate copyright notice appears on the cover, inside cover, or title page;
d. the official editions of the texts are followed exactly.”


Lights and air conditioning are an issue?
I’m not sure what to make of this.
Perhaps you could describe the parish a bit more. If I wanted to make the youth welcome I would not ask them to pray someplace other than where everyone prays, as a first time out. Talk about making them feel unwelcome. The Church is for everyone, no matter the age. People think that if only a few are there, it’s not a success. It’s a pretty big success for anyone who IS there. It’s Mass. Instead of seeing this as a social event, see it for what it is: the most beautiful encounter with Our Lord that you can have on this earth. They should be busting down the doors to get in.
IF you have already canvassed the young people, then those who are interested are going to come. Focus on them, and let the Holy Spirit handle the rest.


You don’t get youth involved by dumbing down the Mass. It will never keep them there.

It’s never a bad idea to give people the tools they need to fully participate. Do give them the words of the Mass in a handout but please don’t ask them to say words that don’t belong to them. The Eucharistic Prayer belongs to the priest alone. We can follow along with the words but we must remain silent until it’s our turn to speak “AMEN”.

I don’t know what your new church is like but you’ll always get more reverence out of people in the appropriate settings. Is it that you parish doesn’t want you to use the church for your group or is it your idea that it’s hard to light and cool?

I don’t know what the layout is but I would get them to all sit up front. I know that 70 people would fill the first 6 rows of pews on both sides of the center aisle in our small church. There would be no need to use the side pews at all. Having them close together rather than scattered throughout the church helps with singing and responses.

As someone said, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The Mass is already planned for you by the Church and you can’t go wrong if you do what the Church wants you to do. Your part is to pick an appropriate setting of the Ordinary of the Mass (Gloria; Holy, Holy; Amen; Lamb of God) and perhaps 4 appropriate hymns. Choose good readers for the first and second readings and, if the Psalm is going to be sung, a good cantor.


My biggest concern is that the youth and congregation do not recite the Eucharistic prayers.

To address the proposed location, it is possible, perhaps likely even, that the parish already has standing permission to use the church hall as an auxiliary location for mass.

There is nothing inherently improper about this practice; many great Cathedrals have smaller chapels for daily mass. Many smaller parishes routine use a larger hall for one of the Sunday masses (my church at college had this arrangement, complete with a second altar and portable tabernacle in the hall).


Perhaps the fact that you cannt get anyone to show up is telling you something you don’t want to hear: youth have no desire to go to some alternate mass and perhaps their parents desire that they attend the regular mass as a family and youth from other parishes like thei mass just fine and see no reason to go to yours.

Instead of slaughtering the liturgy in the name of “youth mass” (most of what you suggest above is completely against the rubrics) why don’t you face the fact that “youth mass” isn’t working and simply let it die?

What is the need for “youth mass”?


Youth, at least those who are sincere about religion, want something of substance…not a gimmick. My 17 year old brother has given up on Protestantism because of gimmicks and attempts to make worship into a rock concert…he is seriously considering Catholicism. I did the same thing myself 10 years ago when I was his age.

Having the youth circle the altar during the Eucharistic prayer is an abuse as Rome has made clear, and having the congregation recite the Eucharistic prayer with the priest is also gravely wrong…for it blurs the role of the priest, who offers the sacrifice on our behalf, and the role of the congregation, which unites itself to the priest and his sacrifice. Youth need to understand that in the holy sacrifice of the mass, the priest stands in for Christ the groom and the congregation stands in for the bride the Church. The roles are distinct.

That being said, it isn’t intrinsically wrong to have a “youth mass” as long as it is reverent and follows the rubrics. Certainly, youth need to be engaged. I would place greater efforts on catechizing (educating) the youth of the parish and planning various spiritual activities they could do together such as praying the Rosary or Eucharistic adoration…or works of charity.

The OP’s heart is definitely in the right place.


I did not say that it was “wrong” simply that the lack of interest and attendance points toward it being unnecessary or at least not in demand in his area.


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