Session 16: Exploring the Sacred Liturgy

Sanctuary, Vessels and Vestments

As He entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, begging Him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home in terrible distress.”

And He said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

But the centurion said to Him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard him, He marveled, and said to those who followed Him, “Truly I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” – Matthew 8:5-10

When we look at the meaning behind the postures and movements we do during our time at Mass we get a richer understanding of how we are communicating with God. Recall in our previous Session, Session 15, that we looked at the rituals of the Mass. To non-Catholics the rituals of movement during Mass are the most memorable to them: standing, sitting, kneeling, and crossing ourselves. There is frequent activity occurring in what seems to be random moments and without purpose. It often leaves new visitors feeling overwhelmed with confusion. Connecting the movements to the timing and purpose for those actions to occur are important features to understanding the ritual of Mass.  When we fully understand the purpose of those movements we can see the connections as we experience the Mass. Our bodily postures during Mass correlate with what is happening spiritually. When we Sit – this is when we are most ready to listen and receive the Word. When we Stand – we are in the posture of 1.) prayer originating back to the Jewish tradition 2.) respect and 3.) a position of being more capable of active participation. When we Kneel – this posture demonstrates respect, prayer and adoration.

Explaining the Catholic Mass

As Catholics we demonstrate a few versions of the kneeling posture. It is one of the first actions we do upon arriving for Mass. We genuflect when we enter and leave the church to show our respect for Jesus. In the video Three Reasons Catholics Genuflect Father Mike Schmitz explains the Catholic tradition of genuflection. He begins by asking: “Have you noticed the various ways parishioners genuflect before entering the pew?” I don’t want to give away too much of what he discusses as this video is a short few minutes long. What I will leave you with here before you watch is to remember that in all of our postures think “I’m saying something with my body to God”. Listen for Fr Schmitz making connections to the age of knights. {We pledge our service to God. As an act of love.} Take time this week to review with your children the proper way to genuflect. We kneel on our right knee and make the sign of the cross with our right hand. In our home, we have left-handed children and this is an action we have to constantly review as this requires the use of their less dominate hand. Father Mike Schmitz has a 3 minute video with a great explanation about making the sign of the cross.

Ad Orientum – “Towards the Rising Sun”

For most of Church history, the priest has offered Mass while facing east, leading the congregation in prayer.  Holy Trinity is built with the altar facing east, and you will often see our priests celebrating Mass in ad orientum.

Fr Mike Schmitz Mass Facing The People: A Good Idea?

Pope Benedict XVI (2008): “The notion that priest and people should look at each other while praying appeared only in the modern era and was completely foreign to ancient Christendom. After all, priest and people pray, not to each other, but to the one Lord. That is why they look in the same direction while praying; either to the East, as a cosmic symbol for the Lord who is coming, or, when this is not possible, to an image of Christ in the apse, to a cross, or else they simply look up together, as our Lord did during his high-priestly prayer on the evening before his Passion (Jn 17:1). Meanwhile the recommendation that I made at the end of the pertinent chapter in my book has fortunately been adopted more and more widely: not to make structural alterations, but simply to put a cross in the middle of the altar for the priest and the faithful to look at together, so as to allow themselves in this way to be led to the Lord to whom we all pray together.” Joseph Ratzinger Collected Works: Theology of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press 2014), Preface.

Now that we are there sitting in Mass what are we seeing? It is tradition for a church to be built facing east towards the sunrise. There are many styles of how a Catholic church is built. A common form is Cruciform – many churches built in the shape of the Cross to remind us that we are present at the foot of the Cross when we celebrate Holy Mass. Holy Trinity is built in this form and it has transepts. Transepts – the “arms” of the church building. No matter the style of church there are 2 distinct sections of the physical church building.  The first of these is the Sanctuary. “Sanctuary” means the holy place. It is always at the head of the church because it is where the holy sacrifice takes place. Just as in the Jewish temple the Sanctuary was a place of holiness, our modern Sanctuary is as well, tended by priests and where Our High Priest Jesus and ultimate sacrifice dwells. The part of the church where we sit is called the nave. Nave – the main part of the church from the entrance to the transepts; comes from the Latin “navis” meaning ship;  water has always been a symbol of death and new life, and we are baptized into new life as children of God. The Sanctuary is the most important part of the church building. Tabernacle means tent, or dwelling place. Jesus still dwells among us. The tabernacle is the most sacred part of the sanctuary and is where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved between every Mass. It is made of gold and fit for a king. It reminds us of the Ark of the Covenant which the Israelites carried through the desert and placed in the Temple. Inside the Ark were the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s staff, and manna that God sent to His people to feed them while they crossed the desert. All of these were signs of the Covenant God made with His people in the Old Testament. The tabernacles in our churches now house the New Covenant, God Himself, waiting to nourish us spiritually.

When the red sanctuary lamp is lit, Jesus is present. Tabernacle Candle or Sanctuary Lamp – this red candle is always lit when Our Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament. He loves for us to come and spend time with Him! The altar is the most sacred piece of furniture in the church. The Altar is a sacred piece of furniture because it is where Jesus becomes fully present to us during the Mass. Old Testament: In the Temple of Jerusalem the Jews would burn offerings of animals, grain, and other foods to God. New Testament: The Last Supper table, where Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and dined together with his Apostles for the Passover meal before undergoing his Passion. Because the altar is a place of sacrifice, it recalls the mystery of the Cross. The Altar stone is consecrated with oil by the bishop at the dedication of the church. In the early years of the Church, churches were often built over the tombs of the martyrs because their sacrifice reflected the sacrifice of Christ for His Bride. This led to a long tradition of the relics of saints being placed in the altar stone or just below the altar. The relics of five saints are kept in the Altar at Holy Trinity: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Elizabeth of the Holy Trinity, St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and St. John the Evangelist. The pulpit Literally means a stage or a scaffold, and is an elevated place from which the Word of God is proclaimed. In Protestant churches, the pulpit is often in the center of the front of the church, but in a Catholic Church it is to the side of the altar. Hymns and announcements are not made from the pulpit since it is reserved for Holy Scripture and the Homily.

Priests have special prayers they say when they are putting on their vestments for Mass. As the priest prepares for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he puts on the vestments to detach himself from this world and enter into the Sacred Mysteries.  Beginning with the washing of hands, which symbolizes moving from the world of sin to the sacred, the vesting is a procedure that reminds the entire Church that the priest is acting “in persona Christi” and not in his own name.

The Sacred Vessels used during the Mass are made of precious metals fit for a King. There are special linens used during the Mass to care for the sacred vessels and to protect any part of the Eucharist that may drop or spill. Last session we discussed the importance of selecting a chalice by the newly ordained priests. The priest chalice is a significant piece to their vocation. Many priests describe the importance of their chalice as being similar to a wedding ring. There is an interesting article from the New Orleans Diocese about their 2019 Ordinands. In the article each priest discusses the features of his chalice. Ordinands share the stories behind their chalices. This is a great article to share with the children as you can really see the variations of each chalice.

Sacred Vessels Vocabulary

  • Paten –  small shallow plate of precious metal which holds the bread that is consecrated to become the Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.
  • Ciborium – a chalice-like vessel to hold the Blessed Sacrament; also made of precious metal.
  • Chalice – the most prominent of the sacred vessels, the chalice is made of precious metal and is used to hold the Precious Blood; when men are ordained priests, it is customary for them to receive a chalice with its own markings and jewels.
  • Lavabo Bowl – a bowl the priest uses to wash his hands before the consecration to symbolically wash away his sins before entering into the supreme act of worship.
  • Cruets –  usually made of glass and hold the water and wine to be offered during the Mass.
  • Altar Cloth – covers the altar stone to protect and show reverence for the table of sacrifice.
  • Corporal – meaning “of the Body”, its purpose is to protect the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord; all of the sacred vessels are placed on the corporal to collect any drops and particles of the Eucharist that may fall.
  • Pall – covers the chalice to protect the Precious Blood.
  • Purificator – used to clean the sacred vessels.
  • Chalice Veil – covers the chalice before it is prepared and after it has been purified; the color changes depending on the liturgical season

Hands on activities for the lessons of this session are going to be the most meaningful for the children. Last session we mentioned using a Mass kit play set in the classroom that children are able to explore was a good source of learning. When discussing the types of Vestments worn by priests I would have the class work on their very own Priest clothespin dolls. (see activity section for the link on how to make them at home.) I also have used sets I made as prizes for Decade a Day challenges in the past. To teach at home begin by using the Priest Vestments Worksheet to teach your child about the vestments of the priest. Review the Sacred Vessels and teach your child the vessel names and their use.

When reviewing the Liturgical Year with your children we have two worksheets to use based on their ages. Point out that our major feasts are celebrated as their own seasons examples: Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter and we use colors to signify those seasons. For the younger children the Liturgical Calendar Coloring Page can be used. For the older children use Liturgical Year Activity sheet to learn about the liturgical year and colors. With the older children when we are discussing the Church Year we like to bring up the topic of Moveable Feasts. It’s important for our older children to see the connection of Catholic feasts and understand why some of those dates fluctuate. I’m sure you may have been asked by your children why is Easter on a different day each year? Grade school aged children are clever enough to see the connection to when we celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birth and Easter as Jesus’ death, but note that one of those celebrations changes making it hard for them to pinpoint the day to the celebration. For us as catechist teachers each year our classes ask us why is Christmas always set to December 25th but Easter is at a different time every year? To help teach this concept we created a Moveable Feast worksheet that you can use to talk about how these dates are determined each year. This is powerful knowledge for our Catholic children; understanding the significance of why some feasts are permanently set and others follow traditions of the lunar cycles. I like to point out that we still maintain a deep connection to our Jewish brothers and sisters with the celebration of Easter being connected to the lunar calendar and the celebration of Passover.

There are seasons in the liturgical year to remind and prepare us for the great mysteries of our Faith.  These seasons are represented with colors:

Advent/Lent – purple for penance and a reminder that we are preparing ourselves for Christ’s birth and death and resurrection

Christmas/Easter – white or gold to symbolize rejoicing and purity

Ordinary Time – green, and the majority of our liturgical year

Triduum and Feasts of the Martyrs – red to symbolize the shedding of blood

Read: We suggest last session’s book: The Weight of a Mass, by Josephine Nobisso. This book has been used by many teachers in the CCD program when teaching children about the Mass. For the older kids read the Eucharistic Prayer I (EP 1 Column). Books for our saints: The Holy Twins Benedict and Scholastica by Kathleen Norris and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, St. Bakhita of Sudan Forever Free by Susan Helen Wallace. Bernadette The Little Girl from Lourdes by Sophie Maraval Hutin.

Watch: What’s Inside A Catholic Church? AND The Miracle at Every Mass. Father Riley will go through step by step what happens at Mass during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. (These are homework for 3-6th but great for all ages!) For the younger children homework is to watch Brother Francis: The Bread of Life.

Additional Brother Francis episodes are available on If your children have not seen this video as suggested from session 12 The Eucharist for Little Children this is a good week to view it.

Vocabulary: Genuflect: translates to: Bend the knee. When we genuflect we are kneeling on our right knee. Double genuflect: kneeling on both knees. We often use the double genuflection during Adoration.

Saints of the Week: This week we have a good number of saint feasts to celebrate. We’ll briefly mention them and you can look into ways to bring their feasts home to your family. I’ll link out a few ideas of activities in a separate “saints” section. February 8th St. Josephine Bahkita the patron saint of Sudan was kidnapped and sold into slavery. She ended up in Italy where she became Catholic and eventually joined the Canossian Sisters where she lived the remainder of her life sharing her love of God with her warm hospitable heart. A lovely saying she often made “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!” On February 9th is the feast of St. Apollonia. She is the Patron saint of dentists and tooth problems. On February 10th is the feast day of St. Scholastica. St. Scholastica is the twin sister of St. Benedict. St. Benedict established the Benedictine religious order. The Benedictine values of prayer, work, study, community, reverence and respect are hallmarks of the life of these Holy Twins. St. Scholastica was the abbess for the Benedictine women. Both saints lived not far from each other and made yearly visits to discuss their spiritual challenges. St. Scholastica is often shown with a dove as a sign of her purity and a book to show her dedication to academics. She is the patron saint of school, tests, books, reading, and nuns. On February 11th is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Abigail. St. Abigail is an Irish saint and the patron saint of honeybees and beekeepers. Our Lady of Lourdes is a well know feast day. Our Lady appeared to young Bernadette Soubirous identifying herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Lourdes, France receives many pilgrims a year all seeking healing, hoping to be cured by the miracle of the waters. And lastly St. Valentine the patron saint of love, happy marriages, and beekeepers.

Prayer on St. Valentine’s Day 

Loving Father, I pray for an open heart and mind so that I may recognize and be grateful for all the love in my life. I pray that I might find a new sense of wholeness, Joy and peace in your love. Remove all obstacles So that I may grow in love throughout my life. Give me the grace to trust in your loving plan for me, so that whatever my circumstances over the course of my life, I may know that I am not alone, that I am Loved by You, my Loving Father, who is full of tenderness, mercy and compassion. Amen.

Homework First Year Sacramental Prep: Do the Priest Chasuble activity (supplies available for pick-up in the ministry closet). Practice the Grace Before Meals prayer. Practice the Morning Offering Prayer. Your child should now know the following prayers: Sign of the Cross, Angel of God, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and the Our Father. Watch Brother Francis: The Bread of Life with your child. (This was suggested above, it’s great for all kids.)

Homework Second Year Sacramental Prep: Review last session’s readings from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism: pages 53-55. Complete Spirit of Truth pages 84-86. These pages will be handed in at the end of the month. Color The Four Parts of the Mass coloring sheet. By now your child should know The Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments, and an Act of Contrition. Keep practicing these every night. Check your email for details about the First Penance Prep Retreat at Home. Follow the instructions in the packet and you will need to PICK UP from the ministry closet the supplies necessary for this at home retreat! This can be done any time during the month of February, but must be completed before the end of the month.

Homework Years 3-6th Grades: Look up the following Bible verses that are referenced in the Eucharistic Prayer and discuss these verses with your child and compare them to the sacrifice at Mass today: “Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance, and to accept them, as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel (Genesis 4:4) the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith (Genesis 22:12), and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim (1 Peter 1:19).” Complete the Table of the Lord Worksheet about the vessels used at Mass.

By now your child should know The Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments, and an Act of Contrition. Keep working on memorizing the Apostles’ Creed. Watch: The Miracle at Every Mass. Father Riley will go through step by step what happens at Mass during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. What’s Inside A Catholic Church?

Activity Ideas: This session we have a few new ideas and are going to link out to them for you. They have been mentioned in our writing above as it applied to the lesson at hand. I’m listing them here for you in a quick list.

  • Priest Peg Dolls this is a fun project that is well worth the effort to do. Kids love these so much.
  • Play Mass kit another way to make your own set for home use. (a quick web search can be done to find some for purchase if that’s more your style.)
  • Father Leopold Celebrates the Mass Lego set is pretty interesting. We thought we’d share this with you because we are big Lego fans. (We are by no means suggesting to purchase this set. Just passing on ideas. There’s a Confession set too!)
  • Print, Color, and fold your own 3-D church. (this is in Dutch but it’s pretty easy to see how to fold, click on the printer icon for the pop-up window.)
  • Rocking Noah’s Arc craft or coffee filter Noah’s Arc window art
  • Make a cardboard Noah’s Arc and use stuffed animals to fill it up.
  • An easy Net full of Fish
  • Make your own fishing game

Session 15 ideas still apply for this session. Here they are: For the younger children, take this scavenger hunt with you to Mass and encourage them to find these objects at Mass. There is also a Mass Bingo game created by Joyful Catholic Families that can be used to help keep kids busy. When you return home share the bingo sheets and ask the children when/where did they see the objects on the bingo cards. An alternative to the bingo game is the Mass I Found It! Or maybe try the Come Celebrate! printable booklet to take with you to Mass. They also have a Priest Paper doll set that can be printed out to help you teach your children about vestments and the Liturgical Year. Catholic Icing has put together a good post Catholic Mass Crafts and Activities for Kids that has many more ideas.

Saints Activities: Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day is pretty exciting for children. Making Valentines is a great way to celebrate this week. Paper, scissors, markers/crayons are all you need. St. Valentine was a priest and martyr known for sending letters encouraging Christians to live their faith, even while he was in prison.  Write “love letters” to each other.  List three reasons you are thankful for each other. Or you can write letters to loved ones far away who you don’t get to see. Decorate your home with hearts, the color red and learn How To Make Paper Roses.  Find a vase and brighten up a room or how about dropping them off to a local friend or relative to brighten their week? Here are some other types of paper flowers to make. Or Print and color these.

Family Activity Ideas: The absolute most efficacious way to teach Session 16’s lesson is to actually bring your child into the church and take a tour.  Here is a short Holy Trinity Scavenger Hunt through our church. Complete it and turn it in for a prize!

We are wrapping up the last small segment of Ordinary Time this week and will be transitioning into the Season of Lent. Going forward many of our suggestions will be Lent based. On Wednesday, February 17, we will begin the holy season of Lent. For 40 days, we will prepare our hearts and our homes with prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that we will be ready to observe His Passion and rejoice in the Resurrection at Easter. There are many ways to observe Lent as a family.  Just as we decorate for Christmas to remind us of Christ’s coming, we can have tangible reminders to help our families stay focused on this holy season. The Stations of the Cross is a traditional Lenten devotion. Our parish prays them every Friday evening during Lent at 7pm. You are invited to attend! Look for email updates. Stations of the Cross for Children and BY Children! We are seeking artwork made by the children to display for the virtual Stations of the Cross. Look for more information in the Sign Up Genius link sent in our weekly email.

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