Children of all ages behave better if they understand what is happening during the Catholic Mass. Start by introducing them to aspects of the Mass that appeal to their senses, like the colours worn by the priest, the priest's movements on the altar, the smell of incense, the symbolism of the Pascal Candle and the ringing of the bells before the Eucharistic celebration begins. A handmade picture booklet about the Mass can also help them better understand what happens at the altar.
Articles of the Mass
Begin by teaching children about what they see at Mass. Include the lectern, candles, altar cloth, cruets, Pascal candle, tabernacle, chalice, paten, baptismal font, crucifix and sanctuary lamp. Ask the priest or deacon to take the children through the church and show them these things while they briefly explain how and why they're used. Visit the sacristy to see the vestments the priest wears during Mass.
A memory match game reinforces what children learnt during their tour. Use a computer to create a set of flash cards with pictures of these items and another set with the matching words. To play, a child puts the cards face down on the table in three lines of four cards. He picks up two cards simultaneously and turns them over to see if the picture and the word match. If not, he turns both face down and returns them to their original places, then tries again to make a match.
Parts of the Church
Teach kids about the different areas in the church and the role they play before, during and after Mass. Have children visit a virtual church on the kids' pages of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) website. They can click on parts of the church and hear a child's voice explain what the nave, altar or choir loft is. Discuss each area and the function it serves. For example, show children where the priest reads the Gospel and where the holy oil is stored. Ask children to draw a floor plan of the church and label its parts.
Liturgical Colors and Seasons
Before Mass, ask children to notice the colour of the priest's vestments and any cloth items that might decorate the front of the altar or cover the tabernacle. After Mass, discuss how colours symbolise the church's five liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. Explain that Mass readings correspond to the liturgical seasons. Children can create a map or wheel to track the liturgical seasons.
Parts of the Mass Booklet
Ask children to create a booklet of the various parts of the Mass. For younger children, include the two main parts of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Mass colouring pages are available on the internet. Older children's booklets could include more like the Entrance, Readings, Offertory, Consecration, Communion and Blessing. Older children can also draw pictures for each part of the Mass. Encourage them to use their booklets during Mass.