Project Canterbury

How to Conduct a Children's Mass
by the Rev. Reginald A. Kingdon

The Booklet Library, Number 98.
London: The Faith Press, no date [circa 1925].

(Note.--This booklet is intended for those who use the Western rite in English. At the same time, it can easily be adapted to the parallel use of the Book of Common Prayer of 1661.)

The first and all important thing is that the Conductor must be entirely en rapport with the Priest who is offering the Holy Sacrifice. Unless this agreement is firmly established there are bound to be awkward pauses, unseemly interruptions and much regrettable confusion.

The Priest has his great work to do, and the children must join with him, heart and soul, in offering the tremendous Sacrifice.

So it is important that they should listen to and hear such parts of the liturgy as the Collects, Epistle, Gospel and other audible parts of the Mass, and should join in saying or singing the Gloria and Creed (when ordered in the Mass) and the Sursum Corda, and make the proper responses at the Dominus Vobiscum, Pater Noster and Libera Nos.

But this still leaves large parts of the Mass which will serve as an opportunity for the Conductor--such parts are especially the praeparatio, the Offertory, before and after Consecration, the Communion and Ablutions. Some of these may be occupied with the singing of hymns.

The question of hymns is most important. If we must have hymns, let us have good music and good words. Hymns should express Catholic Doctrine and Catholic Devotion. We may part from "There's a Friend for little children" without regret, but retain the "green hill far away." "Firmly I believe and truly" by all means, but not "We are but little children weak." The choice of hymns will probably fall to the Conductor, but in the rest of the paper I am rather supposing the absence of hymns and that the service is either a Low Mass or simple Missa Cantata.


may vary according to the size of the Church or congregation. The Altar should be as near the children as possible. The Conductor will not be in the pulpit, but either in the midst of the children, standing facing East, some way down the Church, or standing facing the children at the top of the Nave.


If the Conductor is a Priest he will probably give a short address either after the Gospel or after the Priest has left the Altar. Consideration for the fasting Celebrant will often suggest the latter. The Address may consist of a clear explanation of some part or action or ceremony of the Mass. This can often be accompanied by the showing of something used in the Mass, e.g. a Chalice, a Wafer, a Maniple. The child who understands the Mass and knows how to pray there is already a good Christian. Therefore, special and frequent instruction must be given about the Offertory, Consecration and Communion. Or the Address may be about the Feast or Saint of the day.

The Conductor will not let the children get tired by over-long kneeling. Standing is often the best attitude for prayer, e.g. the Collects and Preface. He will often emphasise the fact that they have not come for a service, but to join in an Action, not to worship JESUS, but to offer JESUS to the Father. The Mass is the most solemn and Divine Act of our Holy Religion, where JESUS the High Priest offers Himself to GOD as a Victim for sinners. Those who assist at Mass must, above all things, realise the fact that Christ is living in the Blessed Sacrament.

Let the prayers be simple and such as can be understood by the mind and heart of a child.

There should be a good stock known by heart, as e.g. Pater, Ave, Credo, Gloria, Anima Christi, Salve Regina, Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Contrition. (These will be found at the end of the book.)

Time before or after Mass may be occupied with the recitation of one or more of the Mysteries of the Rosary.

But we must beware of tiring the children. The whole Action as described here ought normally to be concluded within half an hour.

The work of the Conductor should not in any way add to the length of the Mass.


The Conductor will be there before the children come, and will see that they know when and where to genuflect, when entering the Church, that they take the Holy Water and cross themselves reverently, and that they know where to sit in Church, It is very important that the children should be taught to pass to the end of the seat or row of chairs so that those coming after do not have to pass them.

The natural instinct of the child is to seize on the outside corner.

Having found their places, it is well that they should be taught to kneel and say some simple prayer--such as e.g.:--

"O my GOD, I am only a child: help me to be attentive, and to pray with all my heart, during this Holy Mass." Or--

"I adore and bless Thee, O Lord Jesus CHRIST, Who, by Thy Cross, hast redeemed the world." Pater, Ave.

If books are required, they should be given out as the children proceed to their places.


When the bell of the Sacristy rings, the children should at once stand if a hymn is to be sung, if not, should fall upon their knees. As the Priest prepares the vessels and missal, the Conductor can say a few words as to e.g. the Action which is about to begin, the attention and devotion necessary, or the special intention with which the Mass is to be offered.


The Conductor will take his cue from what is being said, i.e. he will lead the children in some such suitable act as that of Contrition, or the Confiteor, or e.g.:--

"I confess, O Lord, I have often offended Thee: make me truly sorry for my sins and help me to love Thee more. Holy Mary, Mother of GOD, all ye holy Angels and Saints, pray to Jesus for me."


The Conductor may explain why he kisses the Altar, or say "LORD JESUS CHRIST, Who saidst, Suffer little children to come unto Me, help me to keep Thy holy law."

When incense is used, he may explain its meaning.


The Introit (usually from Holy Scripture) means "he enters," and should be said audibly by the Priest. It is like the text of a sermon, and gives the key-note to the Mass for the day.


The children will sing or respond. They must understand what it means, namely, the threefold supplication to the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.


After this has been said, while the Missal is being moved, the Conductor may say:--

"My GOD, grant that I may follow in the steps of Thy holy Saints." Gloria Patri, with response.

Or, "Sweet JESUS, Example of obedience, help me to love Thy holy law, and keep it faithfully all the days of my life. Blessed are they, O Lord, who hear Thy words and keep them."


The children say, "Glory be to Thee, O Lord." They may also sing as the Priest moves to the Missal:--

"On my forehead, lips and breast,
Thrice I mark the holy Sign;
JESUS CHRIST, my Saviour blest,
Thoughts and words and heart be Thine."


If this is said the children join in. If it is a Low Mass and the Altar is some distance from the children, it is better for the Conductor to lead the recitation and not the Priest at the Altar.


The children answer, "And with thy spirit" to show that they are uniting with the Priest in the offering of the Sacrifice; and will listen to the Offertory sentence.


If no hymn is sung---the children may sit or stand while the Conductor says prayers or gives explanations.

This latter may sometimes be done by way of questions--answered by himself, e.g. Why is he washing his fingers? What is he pouring into the Chalice? Prayers used should be suitable to the moment, e.g.:--

"The Priest offers to Thee, great GOD, bread and wine, to be made for us the Body and Blood of JESUS CHRIST. I offer Thee my heart, change it and make it like unto the Sacred Heart of JESUS, meek and humble and full of love of Thee, and of my neighbour."

Or, at the Lavabo, when the Priest washes his fingers:--

"Wash, O Lord, my faults away in the Precious Blood of JESUS; make me pure and holy, and fit to praise Thee in Thy Holy Church." Gloria Patri.

When the Priest turns and says the " Orate Fratres" (Pray, brethren) and continues in a low voice saying, " that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to GOD the Father Almighty," the children answer:--

"The Lord receive this Sacrifice at thy hands to the praise and glory of His Name, to our benefit and that of all His Holy Church."


Children join in at the Sanctus. During the silence up to the warning bell the Conductor again prays or explains, e.g.:--

"We therefore pray Thee, most merciful Father, to bless and accept this Holy Sacrifice, which we offer Thee for Thy honour and glory, and to obtain for ourselves all graces. Bless Thy Holy Catholic Church, our Chief Bishop, our Bishop, and our Priests. Convert this country and all poor sinners and unbelievers throughout the world: heal the sick: comfort the sorrowful."

"Dear JESUS, Who when on earth gave all these blessings, hear our prayer, bless me and grant me the grace I most need. Through the merits and prayers of Thy holy Mother and all the Saints, grant that I may with them one day praise Thee in Thy heavenly Kingdom."


A very few words may sometimes be said slowly about the Action of the Mass. Children must be taught at the ringing of the bell to raise their eyes at the Elevation of the Sacred Host and Chalice and to adore.

The best words to use silently are "My Lord and my GOD." The burying of the head in the hands during Consecration is all wrong. Do not let them hide their heads under the seats, which is often an opportunity for irreverence.

The purpose of the Elevation is that the children may see and adore.


From this point up to the moment when the Priest breaks the silence by saying "world without end" the Conductor leads the children in short Acts or prayers.

He must be watchfully careful to end these before the Priest re-covers the Chalice. The prayers should usually be the same, and follow the ideas of those the Priest is saying. At least one must give the idea of Sacrifice, e.g.:--

"O Eternal Father, look upon the Face of Thy dear Son, Whom we present to Thee, receive this Holy Sacrifice of His Body and Blood for . . . the pardon of my sins and for all I love and all for whom He died."

The Holy Souls must be commemorated, e.g.:--

"Remember, also, O Lord, the souls of the Faithful departed, especially our relations, benefactors and friends. To these and to all that rest in Christ, grant a place of refreshment, light and peace, through the same Christ our Lord."


The children join in, striking their breasts, led by the Conductor. The prayer for Unity may be said.


If others are receiving Holy Communion, the Conductor will seize the opportunity of instruction about Sacramental Communion.

In their earliest years the children must be led on to a great desire of Union with GOD. And when they see others receiving is the best time to do this.

Then follows an Act of Spiritual Communion. This should be said slowly and repeated clause by clause--e.g.:--

"My JESUS ... I believe . . . that Thou art present ... in this Most Holy Sacrament . . . I adore Thee ... I love Thee ... I am sorry I have offended Thee . . . come to my poor soul and unite Thyself to me. + I thank Thee, O JESUS. O never, never leave me."


Explanations may be given, or short prayers said.


The children listen and say Amen.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
V. Go, Mass is ended (or, Let us bless the Lord).
R. Thanks be to GOD.

Or, at Requiems:--

V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

The children make the Sign of the Cross at the Blessing.


The children may stand and attend as at the Gospel, or a hymn may be sung. If the Priest says the accustomed prayers after Mass the children join in, or the Conductor may say them.

He may conclude with the Angelus, or the Antiphon of our Lady according to the season, or the Divine Praises, or some such prayer--as--e.g.:--

"My GOD, I offer Thee the prayers I have said, pardon me all my carelessness. Do not let me forget Thee when I leave Thy Holy House. Mother of GOD, guard me until I come again into the Presence of JESUS." Or,

"JESUS, Light of the world, for us made Man, be Thou my life, my light, my way to all eternity."


The Mass is over. Please Reverend or Mr. Conductor, don't let a bear garden ensue.

Give crisp directions about books and kneelers. And then let the children pass slowly out with a devout genuflexion and no talking.

"Let all things be done decently and in order."


HAIL Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


SOUL of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesu, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee,
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to Thee,
That with Thy Saints I may praise Thee
For all eternity. Amen.


MY GOD, I believe in Thee, and all Thy Church doth teach, because Thou hast said it and Thy Word is true.


MY GOD, I hope in Thee for grace and for glory, because of Thy promises, Thy mercy and Thy power.


MY GOD, because Thou art so good, I love Thee with all my heart, and for Thy sake I love my neighbour as myself.


O MY GOD, I am very sorry that I have sinned against Thee, because Thou art so Good, and I will not sin again.


Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true GOD and true Man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the great Mother of GOD, Mary most Holy.
Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.
Blessed, praised and hallowed be JESUS CHRIST on His throne of glory, and in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.


(To be said after the Agnus Dei.)

Let us pray.

O LORD JESU CHRIST, Who saidst unto Thine Apostles; Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you; regard not our sins, but the Faith of Thy Church, and vouchsafe to grant her peace and unity according to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest GOD for ever and ever. Amen.


I CONFESS to Almighty GOD, to blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, father: that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed, through my fault, my own fault, my most grievous fault. Therefore I beg blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.


V. O Lord, save George our King.
R. And mercifully hear us when we call upon Thee.

Let us pray.

WE beseech Thee, Almighty GOD, that Thy servant George our King, who by Thy mercy has assumed the government of the empire: may also receive an increase of all virtues, that being becomingly adorned with these virtues, he may be able to withstand evil and vice (to overcome his enemies) and that by being well-pleasing in Thy sight, together with the Queen, and the Royal Family, he may attain to Thee, Who art the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


HAIL, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus,
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Make me worthy to praise thee, O Holy Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thine enemies.
V. Blessed be GOD in His Saints.
R. Amen.

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