Invitation to the Sanctuary

Hello everyone!

The last two weeks my local parish priest has had a children’s mass and held a baptism in mass. As we were kneeling he invites the children to the sanctuary during the Holiest part of mass the first week. He invites the parents of the baptized and the baptized to the sanctuary the second week during the same time. Each time both parties didn’t kneel and didn’t show the reverence due. Is this wrong on the priest’s part?

This particular priest is of the brand that goes extemperaneous all the time. I believe he is a nice priest but not necessarily orthodox. The Catholic Mass doesn’t need any gimmicks and he falls into that trap of sorts. Or am I wrong and he didn’t breach any sort of Church Tradition or celebration of Mass?

I’d really appreciate specific Church documents to answer my question. I’ve looked through the GIRM and the Catechism and was unable to find something that definitively addresses this. Perhaps those weren’t the exact documents to peruse through for this question so I’d appreciate your help.

God Bless!


This EWTN answer includes a quote from Notitiae, the periodical containing the responses of the Vatican congregations (including the one which regulates and promotes the liturgy). It addresses the matter of children (among others) being in the altar area.
Standing Around the Altar

Although there is no precedent in Catholic liturgical tradition the question of whether it is permissible for children, youth or adults to stand around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer continues to be asked. The argument often given by those who encourage this practice is to foster “community”. In 1981 the Congregation for Divine Worship addressed this question in its official journal Notitiae. In an official interpretation of no. 101 in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) it responded as follows:

[INDENT]Query: At the presentation of gifts at a Mass with congregation, persons (lay or religious) bring to the altar the bread and wine which are to be consecrated. These gifts are received by the priest celebrant. All those participating in the Mass accompany this group procession in which the gifts are brought forward. They then stand around the altar until communion time. Is this procedure in conformity with the spirit of the law and of the Roman Missal?

Reply: Assuredly, the Eucharistic celebration is the act of the entire community, carried out by all the members of the liturgical assembly. Nevertheless, everyone must have and also must observe his or her own place and proper role: “In liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.” (SC art. 29). During the liturgy of the eucharist, only the presiding celebrant remains at the altar. The assembly of the faithful take their place in the Church outside the “presbyterium,” which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and altar ministers. [Notitiae 17 (1981) 61][/INDENT]
You can read the rest of the response at the link I gave.

Thank you for that japhy. I’m not sure exactly what to do now. With the priest shortage and me not knowing exactly how stringent the bishop would be … well, I wonder what’s the best course of action. I’ve written several letters to my parish priest. He has a habit of making public certain tiffs or disagreements. I’ll pray and hope some recourse makes itself available.

Thanks again!!!

Anything you do will be at the risk of being anywhere from politely ignored, to the extreme of having your head verbally removed.

Priests have been “experimental” since the late 1960’s. The vast majority of them neither want nor feel any need for your advice. And the vast majority of them are not going to take advice; possibly even from a bishop.

And bishops have been hearing from parishoners since the 1960’s. Note that. Note, if you will, how effective the complaints have been. Waste some paper, if you feel you must write. I say “waste” because there is a good chance the bishop himself will never see the letter; that it will be “stopped out” before ever reaching his desk.

And if, per chance, you should actually make it to the bishop with the letter (or a phone call, or “grabbing his ear” at some function - one of the worst places to plead your case - or lunch, or a barbecue in your back yard (well, that one might be possible)), the likelihood of getting any actual hearing (meaning he might actually consider doing something about it) is somewhere between nil and none.

And if per chance the bishop might actually address the issue with the priest, the likelihood of change is still nil and none. What is the bishop going to do - send him to the Gulag? Bishops are eminently aware of the shortage of priests, and the likelihood of jerking this guy up by his heels and keelhauling him - again, nil and none.

If you want change, you will probably have to go to a different parish. That is the blunt reality, and there is precious little else you can do. You certainly are welcome to try, but you might as well know the most likely outcome before you venture down that path. and that is - you guessed it - nil and none.

Threads in these forae are replete with people giving advice on how to deal with such issues. And you know what? There is a deafening silence when it comes to reports back of successful change.


I appreciate your candor. I like it straight without the fluff. I will continue to pray for substantive improvement. I simply can’t give up. Bureacracy has seeped into too many processes in the church.

I can go to another parish and probably will do that some weekends. It’s tougher living in a more rural area simply because the travel time is more. Then again, I could just offer this as penance and expiation; as tiny as it is. Thanks!


This is a practice that was begun in our (otherwise orthodox) parish when the current pastor and assistant first came (twenty years ago, believe it or not.) Originally, a number of adults and numerous children gathered around. Now, there are no adults…just an often squirmy group of small children who will wave, jump up and down, go back and forth to their seats, show off their undies…you name it. Their parents generally sit in the pews beaming at their little darlings, while the deacon occasionally gently chastises one of them. It is like trying to herd cats. It is distracting, disrespectful, and simply shouldn’t happen. We have a Children’s Liturgy of the Word which follows the norms, and is fine. This free-for-all around the altar is awful.

I know there have been complaints, but the pastor goes his merry way. I am hoping our (fairly) new bishop takes this in hand, as I understand he is a no-nonsense sort.

Don’t worry about that. This is a relatively minor matter, and the priest is really unlikely to be removed or sent to a monastery in the desert or anything harsh like that. Nevertheless, I encourage your discernment on your course of action.

Some people call me cynical. I prefer to say that I simply reflect experience. There are optimists, and then there are pessimists. Some confuse me with one or the other (usually with the other); what they forget is that there are also realists. What is the prayer…: Lord, give me the strength to change the things I can, the patience to endure the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

And there is another name for bureaucracy: it is clericalism, and seems to be a fairly constant problem with the Church, simply taking different forms.

I am sorry that you have to endure the unnecessary. It really is not all that hard to “say the black and do the red”, but some can’t seem to manage it. Same song, different verse…

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