Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Bleg To My Highly Intelligent And Resourceful Readers!


I just found out our little church does a children's Christmas pageant at the one Christmas Mass. We're in the choir, of course, and had planned to attend that Mass--but now I find out that the pageant takes place during the Gospel reading. It goes something like this: priest reads a little of the Gospel. Pauses. Children act out part he just read. A Christmas carol is sung. Priest reads the next part of the Gospel. Children act out, carol is sung, etc. This happens a total of six times.

Not only that, but the Gospel is a mishmash of two Christmas Gospels, one from Saint Luke and the other from Saint Matthew.

Now, I am almost 100% sure this is not even remotely allowed to happen during the Mass. It would be fine if they wanted to do it before the Mass, or afterward in the parish hall, but interrupting the Gospel reading for a show seems to be the height of liturgical abuse. But I can't find anything official that says so, and instead seem to be finding evidence that other parishes do the same thing.

Please, please, please, if you know or can find something definitive from the Church's rubrics that will make it clear this is not even remotely permitted, send it to me at once, or post it in the comment boxes! As it is, my family, who makes up roughly 1/3 of the choir, is going to have to tell the rest of the choir that we won't be attending Christmas Mass at our parish if this goes forward, but will celebrate Christmas Mass elsewhere--but it would be a lot easier if I had some way to prove that this kind of disrespect for the Gospel and for the integrity of the Holy Mass was not allowed by the Church.

Anything you can discover will be most helpful; thank you in advance!


Anonymous said...

Is this what you are looking for? I found this at

5. Problematic Abuses - Those which are Illicit

There are many more illicit abuses being practiced throughout the diocese of the world. Only some of the most common ones are listed here. Note that there is no attempt to prioritize the abuses as to most to least common or any such ranking. The abuse and the related Church teaching on the proper practice are presented.
5.1 Changing the Prescribed Texts of the Mass; Ad Libbing; Inclusive Language

All the texts of the Mass - prayers, responses, Epistles, Gospel - must be according to the norms approved by the Church. Under no circumstances can anything be changed outside of the rules laid down by the Church. This is clearly stated, even in Vatican II! The modernist usage of inclusive language is getting more widespread.

Sacrosanctum Concilium #22: (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. (2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops' conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given territories. (3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

Canon 928 The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved.

Inaestimabile Donum #5. "Only the Eucharistic Prayers included in the Roman Missal or those that the Apostolic See has by law admitted, in the manner and within the limits laid down by the Holy See, are to be used. To modify the Eucharistic Prayers approved by the Church or to adopt others privately composed is a most serious abuse."

Be aware that it is possible to invalidate the Mass if the key words of the Eucharistic prayer are not properly performed as previously described. ("This is My Body" and "This is ... My Blood")

LeeAnn said...

Hmm. No help here. Our parish used to do this too. However, our parish grew rapidly and with such a small church (seats about 130 plus a video hookup to the overflow in the parish hall another fifty or so) we now have Christmas Eve Masses about an hour and a half apart, so no time for wrangling children into the act, not even for a children's choir. Our Mass schedule for Xmas eve is something like 3, 4:30, 6, 7:30, 9 and 11 pm and of course 10 am Xmas day. The past few years, my biggest annoyance is how early the Masses start (not really licit to have Mass at 3 pm!) but the reality is, otherwise, all the folks won't fit in there without the fire marshal coming and shutting it down! So, what to do...?

At least your priest is planning on participating in the reading. One year, I think ours just sat down and watched the kids do it all--no Gospel reading or anything--just a "living Gospel." It was really uncoordinated and the kids mumbled through it so maybe that's another reason we quit doing it.

Best of luck!

freddy said...

This site may be of some help.

I couldn't find anything in the above that would allow such a practice, unless your parish is using the old and terrible "Mass for Children," which, I believe, few use anymore.

Anyway, you might consider approaching your pastor quietly and asking where this practice came from; from the standpoint that you're relatively new there and curious. Find out exactly how long the parish has been doing this and if they'd be willing to move the performance (it really is nothing less, isn't it?) outside of the Mass; either before or after. Express your concern for the integrity and honor due to the Gospel, but be willing to listen if he does, indeed have compelling evidence that he has some sort of legitimate permission to do this. Then, if you have to bow out, no one is either surprised or offended. (Except, of course, for those who are determined to be so.)

I'd also send a quick e-mail to some of our friendly neighborhood priest-bloggers: Fr. Z is a busy gentleman, but you never know!

Jeff Miller said...

Liturgical documents list what is to be done, not what is not to be done for the most part. Jimmy Akin describes this as the Italian law look at things.

Only when abuses become quite common do we get a document issued specifically to address them.

So a case like this you are not going to find anything definitive other than that they are to follow the GIRM and the interjected carols would not be allowed.

Though even if there was something specifically in writing those that are willing to do this to the liturgy in the first place already don't understand the spirit of the liturgy in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I am not smart but I will give you some references.


56. The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily.[60]

And this from Colin Donovan from EWTN
The Gospel is proclaimed by Christ's official representative, the priest or the deacon, as an act of authority. It is contrary to Church teaching and discipline for any other person to do so, whether acted out or merely spoken. The General Instruction and the rubrics in the Missal reflect this in their declaring that the Gospel is read by a priest or deacon.

GIRM 59 ... The readings, therefore, should be proclaimed by a lector, and the Gospel by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant.

This was strongly re-iterated, in the face of abuses such as you describe, by the Congregation for Divine Worship, which stated in Redemptionis sacramentum,

63. “Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word”, is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it.

Thus, it is an open and shut case.

I would write it in a letter and try to meet with the pastor too (maybe with Husband?) and express your concern. If he is not budging, or won't hear of removing it, then I would write the Bishop with your concerns. I would still attend the mass but I would not allow our children to participate and if asked why, I would respond, I do not feel this is appropriate and I have talked with Father.

Sometimes we do have to bear through these things. Grin and bear it? Sorry this is happening if that is any consolation and I have been through it. :0(

Anonymous said...

If you want to look at some of the documents, GIRM etc I have them at the top of my blog.

eulogos said...

Even if you found a document that said " Christmas pageants are not to be staged during the mass" or " "The gospel reading is not to be interrupted in any way or any part of it proclaimed by anyone but the priest," it would make no difference to them. I know finding a canon which said that it was illicit to venerate publicly anyone who wasn't a canonized saint, had no effect in stopping the parish I was in then from inserting the names of everyone who had died in the parish in the last year, into the litany of the saints. In any case, once these plans have been announced, they won't change it for this year just because you find something in writing.

But have you considered that the reading of the Passion story is done as a kind of a play, with other people than the priest reading some of the parts, and even the congregation reading? If that is licit, in fact, approved, why not what you describe? Maybe singing the carols in between is pushing it too far, but it is the same general idea.
I can see that it would be less solemn than you might like, but is it strictly speaking, wrong? So that you would feel morally required to go elsewhere? Isn't there a value to celebrating with your own parish? And if you go (figuratively) storming off elsewhere, you are much less likely to be able to get on the liturgy committee where you can say brightly,...for next year, why don't we try having a pageant just before mass....
Or, you could be saving your credibility for the time when someone says, "wouldn't it be wonderful for all saints day, if we put our dear departed friends and relatives from the past year, into the litany? It would make it so meaningful for people."

Just my two cents worth. But let us know how it turns out.
Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

Usually your observations on everything are 100% correct, but I disagree with you here:

1. The fact that your family is 1/3 of the choir WILL send a message of intolerance and lack of committment to your church. (Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think tolerance is a good thing at all.) But in this case, it being Christmas, you will be leaving the CHOIR empty-handed, and the choir did not make the decision to do this during the Gospel reading.

2. Christmas is also about welcoming a CHILD - children into the world. Stay with the spirit of that. If this is a ONE-time occurrence in your parish, even if becomes a yearly tradition, why not just go with it? Liturgical abuse, to me, implies willful, repeated offense. A one-time happening in the name of including children hardly seems a just rationale for refusing to attend this mass.

3.What someone else said about your actions sending a message to your liturgical committee is something to think about. Pick your battles wisely. Would you rather have ONE mass a year where this kind of thing occurs or would you rather have holy, Rome-abiding masses year-round? I'd take the one-time Christmas pageant. Also, don't be thinking that this is going to set a precedent; obviously, you wouldn't be attending this church if liturgical abuses were happening all the time. Thus, again, this seems like a one-time thing.

4. You will never be able to convince people at your parish of your pro-life stance if you march off to another parish Christmas Eve because of this. No one will understand that it's about liturgical form, they will only see it as a rejection of children and family. Trust me on this. Most of the kids performing in this little play, and the people watching the play, are undoubtedly from the school or CCD program? If so, these aren't the people who will appreciate or even understand your rightful objections, so why make an issue?

5. If you think this is a liturgical abuse, but you're having to look REAL hard for evidence, even asking fellow bloggers to "dig something up," then I believe it is YOU who is pronouncing judgement on this pageant, not the Church.

Anonymous said...

Since this is not an everyday thing, no one, at least in offialdom, is going to make a big deal. The chancery will basically say it is preferred the homily be read in its entirety and not be interputed by song. While not the best standard in the world, you won't see people flying about saying "You can't do this!" until the validity of the mass comes into question or something really scandalous is going to occur. Beaucracies are adept at self-preservation, and they will tolerate cute kids emulating Joseph and Mary during a Christmas Eve mass. Keep your request simply. Ask the pageant by done during the homily.

Melanie B said...

This had long been the practice at our parish. When my husband was DRE he really wanted to eliminate the pageant but settled for doing it before mass started and saying that he didn't have time to organize it so made parents who wanted to keep the tradition step up to do it.

I think this year may be too late for getting people to change things, but you might start lobbying for getting the pageant moved to before or after mass for NEXT year. I do think that getting involved and helping to organize the pageant-- if you can bring yourself to do so-- will give much more weight to your suggestions as well.

Good luck. This is the sort of thing that drives me absolutely bonkers, but I do agree with other commenters that you may have to pick your battles. People tend to be very resistant to changes, especially when it's something they've invested with a great deal of emotion. Even though you are right you are trying to tamper with a cherished TRADITION and that is sure to get hackles up.

This_Cross_I_Embrace said...

My first thoughts were along the lines of Susan's... we read the Passion Gospel as a "play" every year. We also do Stations of the Cross as a play ("Living Stations" it's called). This doesn't seem like too far of a stretch from that. As long as the actual words spoken during the reading of the Gospel are not altered, I don't really see the harm in it. Though I do also see your point in that, once we begin to tolerate certain "exceptions," there may follow many, many more.
This is a tough one. I suppose ultimately you need to decide for yourself and your children whether this will strengthen their faith and understanding of that faith, or whether it will be a detriment to them. If you feel the latter, then by all means, speak with the priest.