Children Standing Around the Altar During Mass?FATHER JOHN HARDON, S.J.
It is still common at "children’s masses" for the priest to invite the children present to come up to stand around "the table." Is this permissible?
As stated in the Vatican instruction of November 18, 1997, “every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion which can spring from anomalous liturgical practices” (Article 6). The standard dictionary definition of anomalous is “deviating from a general rule or method; being out of keeping with accepted notions of fitness or order, inconsistent with what would naturally be expected.”
On these terms, for children or adults to stand around the altar while the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice is, to say the least, misleading.
As the Vatican document of 1997 makes clear, “the crisis of faith of the past generation has been express in consistent efforts to downgrade the sacred character of the ministry of the priesthood (turning the priest into a mere community leader) and to upgrade the priesthood of all believers ....Those attempting to hold on to their faith in the midst of a hostile secular culture have not benefited from this confusion” (Introduction).
What makes the situation even more serious is when children are exposed to this confusion. They will grow up identifying themselves with the ordained priest at the altar.
In the sixteenth century, this was the basic premise of Luther, Cramer, Calvin, and Zwingli. They placed the laity on the same par with the “minister” of the Holy Eucharist. The “presider” did not change bread and wine into the living Body and Blood of Christ. Why not? Because he was not an ordained priest whose priesthood is traceable to Christ’s ordaining the twelve apostles as bishops. The apostles, however, did pass on their priestly powers to the bishops and priests whom they ordained.
Hardon, John A. “Ask Father Hardon.” The Catholic Faith 4, no. 2 (March/April 1998): 54-55.
Reprinted by permission of The Catholic Faith. The Catholic Faith is published bi-monthly and may be ordered from Ignatius Press, P.O. Box 591090, San Francisco, CA 94159-1090. 1-800-651-1531.
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (1914-2000) was a tireless apostle of the Catholic faith. The author of over twenty-five books including Spiritual Life in the Modern World, Catholic Prayer Book, The Catholic Catechism, Modern Catholic Dictionary, Pocket Catholic Dictionary, Pocket Catholi Catechism, Q & A Catholic Catechism, Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan and many other Catholic books and hundreds of articles, Father Hardon was a close associate and advisor of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. Order Father Hardon's home study courses here.
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