This is the second article in a series about forming children for active participation in the Mass.
Catechists can encourage children and youth to participate in the Mass by helping them become comfortable with singing and sung prayer and praise. Age-appropriate music should be a regular element in every catechetical session. Most textbook series come with a grade-level CD or music recommendations of common hymns we sing at Mass. That’s a place to start.
Certainly, children should be taught to sing songs the parish community uses at Mass, whether their community’s musical style is traditional or contemporary. Ask the parish music director for something the parish will be singing in the upcoming weeks, and help children learn it. If there is to be a special Mass during session time, have catechists rehearse the music with children ahead of time, and make sure each catechist knows that during Mass, every child should open the hymnal and sing.
If parish musicians are not available, find resources in the catechist community: a catechist who is musical or has a family member who sings or plays an instrument. Live music is best because it shows children that real people make music—not just rock stars—and it shows them that the proper response to music is to join in, not just to listen passively.
As a DRE I planned frequent music sessions for the last 15 minutes of class, in which children rehearsed music for Mass or were taught simple, fun praise songs—and sometimes movements to go with them. One of the favorites was “Awesome God,” which has a popular and well-known set of motions. The children also loved “They’ll Know We Are Christians” and “Lead Me, Lord,” both of which they sang with great gusto. (The latter was also a song we frequently sang in church.)
By all means use good CDs and music videos. Catholic ones can be purchased from most major hymnal publishers, who often have great recorded music, some of which is intended for youth. Consult your parish music director or youth minister for suggestions. When using recorded music, be sure to provide the children with the words so they can learn them and sing along.
What does all of this do? Musical training in the catechetical session conditions children and youth to make a joyful noise to God. It helps them understand that singing to God is natural and enjoyable, and it shows them that God is worthy of praise. It helps children understand why at Mass we say, “It is right and just,” to praise God. It helps them overcome the fear of singing in public by showing them that even if they think they “can’t sing,” God wants to hear their voices thanking God for his blessings.
This video, “We Praise You God,” from Australian composer-singer John Burland demonstrates not only the value of catechetical music and movement, but its lyrics teach children why they should sing to the Lord.
Read the first article in the series: Forming Children and Youth for the Mass, Part 1: Silence and Reverence.