Giving Kids the Liturgical Boot

I feel for Father James Tiegs, the Omaha priest who sent his parish’s middle school back to class after the usual adolescent liturgical hijinx: not singing:

Tiegs (said) he “made a judgment call that there was enough disrespect and irreverence going on to dismiss the students … as a teaching moment.”

Parents, naturally are split on the issue:

If he thought that was necessary, my hat’s off for his courage.

(My daughter) was confused. She was scared. There was never any closure.

Kicking kids out of Mass (which I can’t quite believe is covered by archdiocesan policy) isn’t behavior modification that’s going to be successful. Some kids would be glad to be out of Mass. Other parishioners don’t need the disruption of marching dozens of twelve-year-olds out the door.

As for ways to get young people involved, well that’s tough. They need ownership of the liturgy, especially planning. I never had a problem getting adolescents involved, because I trusted their judgment within the bounds I set. I encouraged clergy to meet with older kids to plan the homily. The more their peers are involved with songleading and such, the more they are willing to support the liturgy. No young teen or pre-teen wants to be hanging out in the open with no visible means of support.

Getting kids of any age engaged in liturgy: it’s not going to be automatic. If we think it is, we’re too hooked up in the hermeneutic of entitlement.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Church News, Liturgical Music, Liturgy. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Giving Kids the Liturgical Boot

  1. Gavin says:

    If the kids don’t sing, simplify, simplify, simplify until they do.

    I attended an Episcopalian parachurch aimed at 20/30somethings. The music was simple traditional hymnody, arranged in a pop style, and very elementary responsorial chants. Particularly for the chants (but also the hymns), these people (usually the most silent or absent group at liturgy) all sang!

    Of course, I’m sure the music at this Mass was stuff they thought the kids would be entertained by. If you seek to make them consumers of music, instead of producers, why should they sing?

  2. Bad call on Padre’s part, Todd. Understandable, but ill-timed. Now in my sixth year of K-8 Parochial teaching, I know the little imps can individually and corporately go south at Mass for any number of unknown, inexplicable reasons. But, consistent catechesis about Mass R Us! That’s my gig along with their classroom teachers, our celebrants and parents. And the results, if applied consistently, bear immediate and very hopeful fruit.
    Check out my post at Cafe on “In paradisum.”

  3. Tom R says:

    While Mass is a communal gathering, the manner in which one participates is a personal choice that is between the communicant and God himself. If the kids were engaging in the behavioral anomalies typical of middle school, he was correct in booting them. However, he had no call to do so simply for not participating in the manner of his choosing, rather than their own. In fact, that would be counter to the catechism of the Catholic Church.

  4. Todd says:

    Fr Tiegs said the kids were being irreverent. Personally, I agree: booting the kids from Mass wasn’t a good call. But for him and his teachers to let the irreverence (however that’s defined) from getting to that point, that was their error.

    Charles, I suspect you and I, with out slightly different repertoires, but mainly with our respectful approach to both music and kids, would have gotten a far different result from it all.

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