What makes a Youth Mass?

I've been to a few so-called youth mass, and I have a few thoughts and questions in my mind which I hope readers can comment and give me some valuable insights.

First of all, how do we make the distinction between a normal mass and a youth mass?

Secondly, what is Liturgically acceptable in a youth mass, musically and other aspects if any.

Thirdly, has anyone gone for any of such masses, and do you have any thoughts?

After going for those masses, I sincerely believe our church is not reaching out adequately to the youths. I see youths talking and zoning out during mass and especially during homily liken any talk given by their teachers. I look at, or rather listen to the awkward guitars and drums trying to play our traditional church songs and how its disturbing the serenity of a mass.

But how does the church make themselves relevant to the youths? How does it attract the youths who are just bored by the slow mass? Telling them that its important to spend time with the Lord and consuming His Body and Blood is important is just not convincing enough anymore.

Please share with me your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

By youth, which age group would you specifically be referring to?

Personally, the most important part about a Youth Mass is that the Homily is specifically for them.

Sacred Music and not 'noise' should be used. The attraction should be to the sense of Sacred , not anything else.

Yet the problem is not with the Mass itself, its a problem of Catechesis both in terms of what is taught at home and what is taught in Catecheism Class.

Norman said...

Some random thoughts for the moment:

First of all, how do we make the distinction between a normal mass and a youth mass?

Youths doing roles like wardens, lectors, choir, slides, booklets, altar servers (boys only, please). The homily delivered with the youths in mind.

Secondly, what is Liturgically acceptable in a youth mass, musically and other aspects if any.

Very simple, what is liturgically acceptable in a youth mass has to be acceptable in ANY mass.

The truth of the matter is that solemn, prayerful kind of music can be simple to do, we don't need good and experienced musicians. I can demonstrate it anytime.

Thirdly, has anyone gone for any of such masses, and do you have any thoughts?

Well, if you count those Campus Masses in NUS, I find lots of room for improvement. And ways to improve are not difficult to achieve.

Demerzel is right. Its Catechesis. If we proceed on the premise that Youth Mass = contemporary music + fun and laughter, we're NEVER going to teach them the proper kinds of music. We're never going to teach them the fact of life that there are occasions to be serious. We're never going to teach our young that the Mass is a serious thing.

In fact, we don't even have to have "Youth Masses" to keep the youths involved in Church. We could have the so-called "Praise and Worship" sessions (with songs carefully chosen to screen out the dodgy ones that turn up very often), followed by solid catechesis sessions and fellowship.

We must respect the Mass, and we must teach the young to do so. Youngsters are not stupid - I know many of them below 20 who don't care a hoot for the "Praise and Worship". They know the Mass is the REAL thing.

Daniel said...

1. First of all, how do we make the distinction between a normal mass and a youth mass?

A. A normal Mass is a gathering for Catholics to worship God together. A youth Mass is a gathering for Catholic youths to worship God together. Just like how a Children's Mass is for Catholic children to worship God together. None of these presupposes that adults need to be absent from the Mass, but the youth have to feel that they are the ones worshipping God, and that they are doing it their way, not the way the adults want them to.

2. Secondly, what is Liturgically acceptable in a youth mass, musically and other aspects if any.

A. I have no qualms here, but I feel that the emphasis should not be on the liturgy, but on the youths themselves. After all, what is the point of having perfect liturgy and no youths?

3. Thirdly, has anyone gone for any of such masses, and do you have any thoughts?

A. I went for one at OLPS. I was overwhelmed at the type of youths that turned up for it. They're not the ones that you would usually find in church. Youths with piercings everywhere, making lots of noise, not paying attention, laughing and joking with their friends, coming for the praise and worship sessions, but leaving during the homily for a smoke break.

I would say that these are the ones that really need reaching out to, and it was very good to see that they bothered to come for the Mass, even though they left during the homily.

In other words, the homily should be for the youths that stay for it. It should contain some message for them, but we must not forget those who come just to be with their friends, just to be accepted by some of their church-going crowd, those who come just to enjoy the loud praise-and-worship music, those who come just to get away from their troubled homes. Their very presence there, singing just one or two songs of praise to God can have long-reaching effects in their lives that we will never know about.

Frankly, Youth Masses are primarily for the youth. We want them to come and worship in the way that they know how to, in a way that appeals to them, not worship in the way that we want them to... which often has in mind something else other than the youths themselves. Naturally then, there are some things about a Youth Mass that would put adults off, simply because adults are no longer youths.

Think back to your own teenage years and ask yourself what were you really looking for when you attended a Youth Mass back then. Were you there to be serious? Were you looking for sacred music? Were you going to bother with serious catechesis? Were you going to stick around if some adult insisted that you have these? Be honest.

John Goh said...

I have never been to any youth mass at all. Simply because I am so afraid of the abuses that I may observe at these masses. How can a person, after having carefully read the directions of the Pope and the council Fathers, say with a straight face, "let the youth come and worship at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in whatever way that appeals to them".

The Liturgy is about giving praise and worship to God in the most fitting of ways. The liturgy is about God, not about the people. People just don't get it sicne catechesis is so sorely lacking. How many time I have heard, "welcome to this Sunday's celebration". Do people wonder at all who or what are they celebrating about? Is it about community or about honouring the Lord's day with fitting praise and worship. The Vicar of Christ and his bishops have directed that Gregorian chant and the organ is the most fitting of ways to render that worship. That is from the words of the second Vatican council.

What kind of youth are we trying to attract back to the church? Do we honestly think we can attract the youths who are into heavy metal, gothic culture and MTV back into our church with the same useless sappy tunes and warm hugs? I get it better at Zouk. Please!

Nick Teo said...

I think the main problem is that people do not read the directives. And the priests themselves are liberal in the executions, or should I say they were never consulted.

Perhaps everyone is just testing and trying out, basing their hypothesis on the success of protestant churches a la city harvest.

I agree with you John totally, if you had seen the youth mass, you would see a mockery of the efforts shown.

Your skin will crawl with the so-called band music playing along to Gloria and Holy Holy.

Anonymous said...

The Mass is NEVER a gathering of only the local community to worship God together. The liturgy is the action of Christ and his Church, whole and entire, never the action of only a group within the Church! Whether in a "normal" Mass or Mass for a specific group, the whole Church, united as one over geographical and chronological barriers, is present and offers worship to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We should realize that unity by encouraging the whole cross-section of the community to gather around the altar of the Lord. We have no need to create divisions before the Sacrament of Unity, our Church is already quite divided as it is!

The Liturgy is also NEVER focussed on us, but on God, and his goodness and mercy on us. This is the primary reason why the ancient liturgies of the Churches mandate that the priest and the people face the same direction. Ritual scholars have acknowledged that one of the unintended side-effects of the ad-populum position of the priest at Mass is that the community became focussed on itself, but are divided on the best remedy to that.

The local worshipping community brings its God-given gifts, culture and circumstances to the Liturgy. At the same time, the community also receives from the God through his Church a new language, culture and words for worship and for daily living. We must always be mindful of this.

Daniel said...

I would like to say that I disagree with John Goh's statement that the liturgy is about God, not about the people. The CCC #1097 teaches that "In the liturgy of the New Covenant, every liturgical action, especially the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacraments, is an encounter between Christ and the Church. Sacramental celbration is "a meeting of God's children with their Father, in Christ and the Holy Spirit." (CCC #1153).

CCC #1206 states "Liturgical diversity can be a source of enrichment, but it can also provoke tensions, mutual misunderstandings and even schisms." Tensions is indeed what we have here generated not really from an abuse of liturgy, but different personal preferences.

There is a danger of being overly legalistic in attempting to perfect the celebration of the liturgy. Such legalism results in an overall lack of compassion, especially towards those who are different from us.

In the parable of the Last Judgement, Jesus never told his disciples that people will be judged according to whether or not we follow the many rules in the Law. What he did say, however, was that we will be judged according to how we treated the poor, the weak, and the outcast.

I see these youth Masses drawing the outcasts among the youths. I see these youths seeking a temporary shelter and a place to belong in these youth Masses, rather than being on the streets. And I've seen transformation take place in the lives of some of these youth over the years.

It is a shame that there are some people trying to drive away these youth by insisting that the youths celebrate the liturgy in a way that is liturgically prim and proper, but totally devoid of compassion and welcome to the outcasts. It's a shame that these are the same people who unknowingly create divisions in the church, especially on the issue of liturgy which is supposed to be "a sacrament of unity" among God and his people.

Most of the youth Masses that are held may be organized by people who have not read certain directives, but these are the people with great love for the youth, welcome the lost and the lonely. That, in the end, is what we will be judged on, not how perfect the celebration of our liturgy is.

Norman said...

In #1097, The Liturgy "prepares the assembly to encounter Christ" - its certainly about us, but its about we ourselves acknowledging our total dependence on God. If not, why do we need to encounter Christ in the first place?. The Liturgy is indeed the action of the whole Church - see #1136. And being legalistic? See #1125 - "no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community".

Norman said...

Firstly, we will have to recognize that we will not be able to find a "one-size-fits-all" solution, nor find the magic bullet that will solve all the problems related to the youth and suck all of them in. That's simply because every young person is different. Daniel says that he has seen "these youth Masses drawing the outcasts among the youths" - now that's fine and I acknowledge the good that has happened. However, I know young people, below 20, who will avoid these "Youth Masses". (Surprised?) I also know teenagers who say the Divine office. We simply cannot stereotype youths and hope that a "Youth Mass" can bring them back to Church.

What we must do is demonstrate that we treat our most precious posession with the utmost respect. This is fundamentally about honesty about our religion and what the Church teaches. Our actions reflect our beliefs. How can we expect to tell people that the white wafer is really Jesus Christ, if the ceremony at which we encounter Him is organized sloppily? What John and I are espousing is not that we organize Masses with total disregard of the youths, but to do so in full respect of the Church. That's simply because once the youths start getting interested in the Catholic faith, they have to learn what the Church teaches! We cannot draw them in by one way, only to tell them later that what was done earlier was wrong.

It is quite disturbing to see it suggested that a "prim and proper" liturgy is totally "devoid of compassion". It is hard to see how the two can be equated. We go to school to learn how to do Mathematics and science and English properly. Even sports have proper rules and children have lots of fun in them. So, what is so different about the liturgy then?

The truth of the matter is that young people are capable of amazing things if they are exposed and taught properly. Just look at schools that have choirs doing 8-part harmony - I'm sure our Catholic youngsters are equally capable, and I've seen them to be capable. I know youngsters who are already saying the Divine office regularly - a friend and I taught them. Youngsters are not unteachable. We can have youths serving as musicians, readers, altar servers, wardens, etc etc, for that will make them a part of parish life.

So we must avoid looking at the "Youth Mass" as though it is a silver bullet to solve all problems regarding the youths. We can bring in the youths through other means. Good parents , Schools (I know SJI makes its Catholic boys join the legion of mary), personal contact ( youngsters dragging their friends), events for fellowship (sports, games, food), and so on. Even work within the wider community counts - an Anglican church near where I live has a child care centre at a HDB void deck. We cannot expect to have them all in, but we can try, and we rejoice at those who come to a deeper knowledge of our Faith.

PS. CCC #1206 is quoted out of context - "liturgical diversity" here refers to the different liturgies that the Eastern Catholic churches - and the schisms refer to the corresponding Orthodox churches.

Anonymous said...

"Most of the youth Masses that are held may be organized by people who have not read certain directives, but these are the people with great love for the youth, welcome the lost and the lonely."

Yet this does not in anyway give justification to ommitting whatever is in the rubrics. In the very first place it is out of love that the Mother Church gives her children the liturgy. It is with love that the liturgy is taught to the younger generation and those new to the faith. If there are people who are unsure then they need to be taught.

Another very important aspect about the rubrics is that just following it, is a submission of one's will to higher authority. The means by which one draws closer to the Lord is through the voluntary submission of one's Will to God's holy and perfect Will. Following the rubrics is a very visible sign of submission, and is a means by which the simple statement 'fiat voluntas tua' (your will be done) is taught the the youth. Almost everything else is built upon this foundation.

In expressing care and concern for the youth it is equally important that Sacred Tradition is handed down to them. The 'inconviences' of being a follower of Christ are not to be swept under the rug. Being a follower of Christ is not some hippie-lovey-dovey nonsense of gathering round a camp fire and singing songs. Christ taught penance and of eating of his body and drinking of his blood. Christ himself is the fullness of what it is to be a human being.

Nick Teo said...

Personally, I feel that every rule and order of the liturgy written down should be followed and enforced. No one, priests or otherwise should change it at whims.

The abuse of music and strange activities (like skits) done during mass should be removed no matter its for youths or for any demarcated group. And if there are any activities planned tastefully, I think it should be a pre or post-mass affair.

I agree with what Norman and Demerzel said, youths should be taught how to appreciate mass. Just like all of us who must have gone through an experience such that we love the mass now. So must they be given the opportunity to experience the mass in its full proper glory.

However, I must agree with Daniel that youths are being driven away, but that is also because the priests are not reaching out to the youths, and take for granted that everyone who participates mass wants to be there. We neglect the aspect of youths being forced there or coerced there. The priests' homilies are at worse incomprehensible to the youths or boring to them. And thus its pushing youths away. It's like any youths who listens to any talk in school or seminar, they "switch off". But priests neglect that and take for granted the multitude of people attending mass.

And personally, I do not think any rituals should be changed, and I think our mass is based heavily on rituals. If rituals are changed at whims to suit different generations or groups, then it will no longer be a tradition or ritual. Imagine our chinese traditions and rituals, none of them change through time, at least not in format. Perhaps they become more modern but the way we go about it doesn't change.

We should educate people to appreciate mass, but we should not change our religion or mass to suit the millions of different characters, especially if the liturgical forms were written and decided by the spiritually-infallible popes over the years.

On the same note, why are the different parishes not following the directives stated down? Are they wrong? I am aware that each archdiocese and parish are allowed to make their own allowances, but how much allowances are allowed?

Anonymous said...

Actually I wouldn't pin much upon boring sermons. It is the Holy Spirit that inspires and touches the heart. I have a personal experience of being at Cathedral listening to Msgr Lau's sermon with a friend. My friend found it boring, but to me it cut right through the heart. It was a sermon on evangelisation. I would pin the problem more at youth not being able to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. With all the fuss about charismatic praise and worship, there is a misconception about the workings of the Holy Spirit. Rather than teaching or exposing youth to jumping around and raising their hands in worship, more importantly the youth need to be properly grounded in being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Once one is open, a lot of things start falling into place.

While I was studying in SJI, I was one of the very rare few who was at morning chapel service. Its a pseudo-Lauds. 1 Psalms is chanted daily according to the Gelineau Psalmody (Psalm 33, 41, 50, 62, 100). In May and October the Magnificat is chanted. The tunes of these are engrained in my memory, and once exposed to the Liturgy of the Hours, I took to it like a fish in water.

As for Parishes not following the directives, herein lies the problem. The older generation know what needs to be done, but they way they do it and explain it seems more like they are overly focused on the form. The younger generation needs to be empowered, but sometimes they do not know any better. They focus more on the spiritual aspect, ignoring the form. So here we have a dichotomy between the form and the spiritual, or put in other words between the visible and the invisible. The problem is that man is both flesh and spirit, attempts to seperate the two are really foolish. Jesus himself in his ministry on earth attended to what man could observe using his 5 senses.