My class of third graders attends Mass once a week with the rest of the school. Because I work with young students, I find that discussing and practicing what we will experience at Mass can be comforting for them.
We start our preparation in our first class. We practice praying the Sign of the Cross. With this simple prayer, I ask them to slow down and concentrate on the movement of their hands.
Next, we talk about how we can use all our senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—during Mass:
- Sight: I tell children to keep their eyes on the action.
- Hearing: I ask them to pay attention and listen to the music, prayers, and bells.
- Smell: I remind them to be on the alert for the aroma of incense.
- Taste: I tell them to receive the Body of Christ with reverence.
- Touch: I ask them to fold their hands when not holding the missal and when returning from receiving Holy Communion.
I explain to the children that their whole body should be a prayer of reverence while attending Mass.
As a final reminder, I tell them to speak the responses clearly. Speaking clearly is a simple way for the children to participate in the Mass and demonstrate that they know what they are saying. Are we saying “let us pray” or are we saying “lettuce pray?” Are we saying “Thanks be to God” or “Thanks, speedy God”? (I like to share this story from my youth: My uncle was a priest and when I attended his Masses as a kid, I always thought he said the fastest Mass. My big brother would agree, and while sitting next to me in the pew, he would respond, “Thanks, speedy God!” which would get him a sideways look from my mom and dad.)
To reinforce all that we’ve discussed, I love to review our preparation by using a video or two. One of my favorites has been the “Sit, Stand, and Kneel” episode of That Catholic Show. This is a fun video for me and my students. After our first Mass together, we compare how many times we sit, stand, bow, and kneel with what we saw in the video.
How do you prepare your students to participate in Mass?