I enjoy BCACS school Masses, partially for the unpredictability. You never know what young Catholics are going to do or say, which keeps us older Catholics from stodginess.
Kids don’t sit well or kneel well or stand in one place well, which is the exercise program of a Catholic Mass. They struggle with silence and reverence. So, why does Jesus insist we follow them? Perhaps because they have no pretenses.
When they sing, they sing loud. When they read, they read fast. When they shake hands for peace, they shake for keeps. You think they aren’t listening, but they are.
Once, I remember kneeling with my youngest and her first-grade class. After saying, “Lord, I’m not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” my kid hissed in my ear. “Mom! What’s the word?”
Once, I remember watching my son serve on the altar while the bishop was saying school Mass. My son and his buddy were holding the bishop’s staff during the homily. Watching it sway while two fourth-graders tried to right it made me chuckle. I don’t remember what the bishop said, but I left knowing it takes a lot of effort to hold a shepherd’s staff.
I’m glad our teachers let the students lead school Mass. Even kindergarteners take a turn as lectors, cantors, and ushers. Seeing their brows bent in concentration, their earnest movements, their neatly tucked shirts – you know they are giving God their best.
My favorite is the homilies. Over the last 12 years, I’ve watched several different priests give homilies to our students, each one unique. Many ask the children questions, which sends dozens of hands into the air, waving and stretching. Often the children don’t wait for the priest to finish asking the question before their hands go up. They just want father to pick them!
I remember Father Bob Creagan talking to the students about not hiding their light under a bushel. The kids were struggling with “bushel”, so Father Bob decided to go with hiding their light under a bed. He asked what would happen if they put a lit candle under the bed, searching for someone to say it would be dark. Instead, the young student he picked said, “You’d catch the bed on fire.”
Father Bob lost it. We all did.
In many ways, it was the finest sermon I ever heard about trying to hide God’s light. You can try, but more than likely it will just catch something on fire and that will get your attention. I think that’s why I enjoy school Masses. You can’t hide our children’s light and that gets our attention.