Many parish religious education programs host something called a “teaching Mass” which is a Mass during which the priest catechizes about the various parts and aspects of the Mass. Here’s an example. And another.
I understand the thinking behind doing a teaching Mass and I applaud pastors and catechetical leaders who are doing all they can to teach about the Mass. We want children and families to have a better understanding of the liturgy which is at the heart and center of the Christian life. We want to take advantage of the fact that they are present for a Mass to catechize at the same time.
Personally, however, I’m not a big fan of teaching masses (I admit to arranging them when I was in parish ministry). I find them to be much too wordy and tedious. On a deeper level, it is a mixing of actions and moments that each are intended to have their own place. Liturgy is a ritual celebration. When we interrupt ritual to explain it, it is like explaining a joke (or a kiss) to someone. You either get it or you don’t. Catechesis is something that is done outside of the liturgy (that’s not to say that the liturgy doesn’t also catechize by its very nature) so that people “get it.” We need to catechize about the Mass in preparation for celebrating it and we need to celebrate the ritual in such a way that the rituals, signs, and symbols are “done” with reverence and robustness so that the very actions teach.
Here’s a great article from my friend Nick Wagner at TeamRCIA about the notion of the right way and wrong way to do a “teaching Mass.”
I’d love to hear your thought on this issue.