For it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. (Mt. 19:14)
God’s love does not know boundaries, restrictions or conventions, it wants to reach everyone. Jesus especially called children to be with him in this love. Due to their natural openness and infantile freedom of thought it is somewhat easier for them than for adults to grasp the basic principle of Jesus’ message: infinite and unconditional love. It is therefore almost ironic that many expressions of our faith today have reached a certain level of sophistication, thus rightly expressing its intrinsic intellectual richness and depth, which makes it challenging for children up to a certain age to understand it. But the mass in particular, the climax of the liturgy and the worship of God’s people, should be open and comprehensible for every follower of Jesus, no matter what age they are.
Hence the “Children’s Liturgy” programme, facilitated by the Derry Youth Community was launched in the Long Tower Church in autumn 2016 and has been quite successful since. Every Sunday all children in primary grades 1-4 are invited to join the DYC members and some of the students participating in the John Paul II. Award to explore a liturgy suited to their abilities during the liturgy of the word between the readings and the prayers of the faithful. At the heart of the programme is the Gospel of the Sunday read in a child friendly wording. All together they think about it and, guided by questions, discover the connection and appliance to their lives and environment: “How can I help my parents this week? How can I be kind to my classmates? How can I get to know Jesus?”. As an aid to understand the Gospel and its message more easily there is an activity each week linked to it, rather than just talking, a little craft, which can be either coloured in, folded or glued together. Every child can keep the craft and take it home as a reminder or to show it to the parents, thus engaging them too once again.
Because of the positive response children’s liturgy is now also part of the Sunday mass in St. Eugene’s Cathedral as part of the “Jesus And Me” (JAM) programme taking place in the recently built Mother Theresa Chapel. Another feature here is the opportunity for the children to come and join the celebrating priest around the altar to pray the Lord’s Prayer together taking the invitation of Jesus literal to enable every child to fully experience the mass.
Children’s Liturgy takes place every Sunday at the 11am mass in St. Eugene’s Cathedral and at noon in St. Colmba’s Church Long Tower.