LITURGY MATTERS: Children’s Liturgy and Family Prayer in a Time of Pandemic

I don’t know about you, but I am finding some silver linings to our current lockdown which has closed our churches and stopped public liturgy, including Sunday Mass.  This promoted some of us to reflect on the opportunities emerging for Children’s Liturgy and family prayer.

As I listen to my family, friends and colleagues, I hear stories about families spending more time together than they have done for ages. They are playing board games, doing puzzles, watching TV and movies and backyard cricket has made a comeback. Families are going for walks and bike rides, eating meals together and talking about all sorts of things that they previously would not have had time to talk about.

For some, this is extending to matters of faith, including prayer and liturgy. Some of my colleagues, with some amazement, talk about family faith conversations and prayers their teenage and adult children are participating in.  Some of my friends who are able to see their grandchildren, have similar stories pertaining to small children.

All these stories are elements of the silver lining I mentioned. As the cartoon, accompanying my friend and colleague Fiona’s piece last week said ever so clearly, this is a moment for the domestic church to break out, come alive and take its rightful place in the life and mission of the Church.

Children’s Liturgy during Sunday Mass is an interesting part of parish life.  Responses to it vary greatly. We could imagine them along a spectrum between what a friend said to me that went something like,

‘The only time our family is together is at Mass and five minutes after we get there the children are taken away.’

And someone else who said,

Thank God for Children’s Liturgy!  It means I can really focus on the liturgy of the Word – listen to the readings and the homily.

Some parishes have Children’s Liturgy, some don’t.  Some have it every Sunday at one parish mass, some have it once a month. The situation varies from community to community.

Of course, the best place for children to learn to pray, to listen to God’s Word and consider what God is saying to them about how to live, is the family. So, our current lockdown provides a wonderful opportunity for parents, perhaps more intentionality than before, to teach their children – whatever their age – to pray and reflect by sharing their own experience of prayer and listening to God’s Word to find its meaning for life.

To that end, with the Diocesan Liturgy Council, I recommend the following:

  • Some sort of morning prayer/conversation around what we want to thank God for today. What we want to ask God for today.  Who we want God to take special care of today.
  • Is there an opportunity for Grace before and/or after meals?
  • Prayer at the end of the day which could be based on a simple version of the Ignatian Examen:
    • I’m thankful for …
    • I remember God is with me all the time …
    • I reflect on the day: Something that was good? Something that was difficult or disappointing?
    • I ask God for what I need to live better tomorrow …
    • Tomorrow I hope for …
  • Sit down as a family and read the Sunday Gospel and share what you are hearing God say and what it means for life now. The Sunday Readings are food for our whole week.  So, this can be done repeatedly and at any time during the week.

These are just a few suggestions. 

There are a lot of resources available to support families in praying and reflecting with children during this time.  I encourage you to visit our diocesan website, particularly under the headings ‘Families and Children’.  I particularly draw your attention to the bullet point Sunday Readings and Family Prayer from Liturgy Brisbane which is updated weekly. 

I also recommend you explore the public website that LiturgyHelp has made available to everyone in our diocese. It has all sorts of things that will support the adults in the household, including the Sunday Readings and the Prayer of the Church.  You will find instructions on how to access the site here

These resources and ideas can also assist parishes to support families while sacramental programs are suspended.  Parishes have access to the full LiturgyHelp website which has many more children’s resources to share with all families.

Whatever about Children’s Liturgy when parishes are open, this is a moment for families to pray, reflect and talk about the life of faith together: supporting each other; learning from each other; growing together into Christ, so that our hearts burn within us such that we cannot contain it. Christ is present with us now.

Any good ideas you have … share them with your circles of family, friends and colleagues.  May the domestic church continue to grow from strength to strength.

I recommend Bishop Bill’s Homily from last Sunday, and from the previous Sundays.  He is preaching so well we might have to keep him in isolation!    

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.