In all too many parishes, “all-school Mass” is synonymous with “every liturgical abuse under the sun.” Over the years, priests, principals, and teachers have been under the impression that Masses for young Catholics are exempt from the rubrics and that the best way to connect with students is to present them with the liturgical excesses of the ’70s and ’80s, e.g., recruiting them to serve as extraordinary ministers, lining them up with petitions for the prayers of the faithful, dragooning them into student choirs to sing inappropriate hymns. If you want to know why so many Catholics have an artificial understanding of the Mass, consider that many of them spent 8-12 years marinating in bad liturgy at their Catholic school. Not so at St. Cecilia of Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood on the near East side. I had a light schedule this morning, so Mrs. Leonardi and I walked over for the Thursday all-school Mass at 9 o’clock, and it was a refreshingly reverent experience. The pastor Fr. Jamie Weber chanted virtually the entire Mass in the vernacular; to the extent hymns were used, they were generally tasteful and sung well by the (smallish) student choir; the students remained composed throughout and notably didn’t feel compelled to hold hands during the Our Father; a reader handled the petitions and the two or three extraordinary ministers were teachers or adults, not students (though the EMHCs did bless the arms-crossed non-Catholic students, which is a no-no). In short, the students were treated like worshiping members of the Body of Christ, not volunteers at a festival or attendees at a pep rally. Kudos to Fr. Weber and the students and staff at St. Cecilia.
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