Traditional Catholic Education: Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me …

In 2002, long before the Holy Father issued the Motu Proprio, Summorium Pontificum, Roger and I moved to South Wales. Next to our local parish church, was a primary school. Each Tuesday, there was a Mass for the children and being a daily Mass goer, I often attended.

These Masses were filled with different things: the singing of children’s songs, children going up into the Sanctuary and reading out prayers, or displaying pictures they had drawn. Then, the Priest would direct his homily to the children, asking them questions, attempting to engage them with his ideas.

Whilst there were sincere good intentions on the part of the school’s headmaster, his teachers and the Priest, I never experienced a sense of piety or prayer.

These Masses seemed structured – with the liturgy altered accordingly – to ensure the children did not get bored. I can imagine the planning was filled with thoughts of ‘that would be a good thing to do with the children’, ‘that would be interesting for them,’ or ‘they could be involved there’.

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Is Holy Mass something to be filled with entertainment, so that people – young or old – don’t get bored? Surely, Holy Mass is enough in itself!

And that, of course, is how it used to be. How it used to be, when the Mass was in the Old Rite. When the Mass was in Latin and spoke to the heart, to the soul. Whether adult or child, it did not matter, the mind did not need to be entertained.

More recently, I was staying in the large French town of Mulhouse, where I attended Holy Mass in the Old Rite, in the chapel of a Traditional Catholic school.

All the children came in, boys and girls. They too were primary children, but they knew how to behave in the chapel. They were extremely quiet and all but two small boys (who prepared themselves to serve the Mass) knelt to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. This was in stark contrast to the Novus Ordo school, where the children were playing around, laughing and chatting, inside the church.

Cynics might suppose that these children had just been disciplined to conform. But what I witnessed was not that.

These small children knew where they were. They knew that they were in the House of God, where Jesus Christ actually resides, within the tabernacle. These children touched my heart, because I could feel the sincerity of their prayerfulness, their piety. And then, I was given the opportunity to find out why …

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This traditional Priest also gave a homily. Just as in South Wales, his homily was designed to speak to the children. But this time, the children were silent and attentive, as the priest spoke with authority.

It was Lent and he spoke of the importance of reaching out to Jesus and Mary in times of temptation. It was so beautiful to listen, as he told the children that just like we have parents and reach out to them in times of need, Jesus and Mary are always there – waiting and available to each child, when they need them. “If you are falling into temptation, call upon Our Lady, She will come to your aid”, the Priest said.

These little children had learnt from a very young age, for none of them were over ten, the importance of devotion and prayer to God and His Blessed Mother. They had been taught of respect for the Church and the Real Presence residing within Her walls. These truths were realities for these children. They carried them in their hearts and so behaved accordingly.

I will never forget that Mass or that homily. I will never forget those children’s soft tender faces, looking up at the Priest, as he guided their hearts towards Our Lord and Our Lady. He most definitely touched mine.

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