Sunday, January 17, 2010

Retreat, new LifeTeen Mass in Geneva

I spent the weekend on retreat with the youth leaders of Our Lady of Peace in Geneva this weekend.  As always, I wonder how I wind up so lucky as to chaperone these things.  For some absurd reason, these young people seem to think they get more out of my presence than I get from theirs.  If that is true, they are a truly blessed bunch!  There is nothing quite like working with youth!

Also announced this weekend is a major change for students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Previously, Mass on campus was a 4:00 PM affair on Sunday afternoons.  Now, however, the Mass will take place at 6:30 PM (Still in St. John's chapel on Main Street, Geneva).  This will also now become a LifeTeen Mass.  I have mixed feelings on this.  It could help bring about the conversion or reversion of many to the Catholic faith.  On the other hand, LifeTeen Masses threaten to diminish the purpose of the liturgy. To quote Pope Benedict XVI, "The real "action" in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential."  Or perhaps another B16 thought: "When liturgy is self-made, then it can no longer give us what its proper gift should be: the encounter with the mystery that is not our own product but rather our origin and the source of our life."

LifeTeen, founded in 1985 in Mesa, AZ, is somewhat notorious for its willingness to ignore the GIRM, and play fast and loose with the liturgy.  In 2004, the USCCB instructed LifeTeen that this was unacceptable, though liturgical abuse certainly still occurs in some places.  It is available elsewhere in the diocese at St Leo the Great in Hilton, and the Church of the Assumption in Fairport, both at 6 PM. 

Another major concern with LifeTeen involves the behavior of its founder, Fr Dale Fushek.  Lawsuits are pending with Fr Fushek over both sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, and he is currently considered to be in schism and was formally excommunicated in 2008.  LifeTeen president Randy Raus, however, notes that "LifeTeen continues to faithfully and enthusiastically serve the Roman Catholic Church in complete obedience to the Magisterium and strict fidelity to Church teachings."

I had an opportunity to visit Assumption and attend their LifeTeen Mass.  It wasn't exactly my favorite Mass, to say the least.  Local blogger Ink had a chance to get to the LifeTeen in Hilton, which she criticized heavily.  That said, Fr. Cantinese in Hilton is a wonderful, orthodox priest, and he speaks glowingly of LifeTeen, and I have certainly seen LifeTeen-like masses (NCYC, the youth Mass at the March for Life) that were done very well

So, folks:

If any of you have thoughts, experiences, suggestions, etc.  I know the folks at Our Lady of Peace would like to make this a POSITIVE change, with the goal being increased Mass attendance among young people and increased love of their Catholic faith. This will definitely be in my prayers


  1. LifeTeen is a mixed bag indeed. It may help some teens stick to the faith (but for how long...), but it also may create confusion about the Mass. Will these teens be attracted more to the novelties than to the Lord? Will they stop going to church if there isn't rock music or a congregation compromised mostly of teens? What happens when they get older? Will they still go to LifeTeen, or will they feel uncomfortable after years of having been exposed to this different style Mass?

    The thing about these Masses, however, is that they are much more poorly attended than the regular Sunday Mass. Perhaps this is because the focus exclusively on young people, but perhaps also is that this style doesn't do it for most people because it de-reverences the Mass and gives it the feel more of a youth pep rally.

    St. Andrew in the city Northeast has a LifeTeen as well. They get maybe 60 people for theirs. How many of these are young adults, I do not know. I imagine some parents tag along to bring their kids, as well as a few older folks who are attending more for the later Mass time than the type of music being utilized.

    ~Dr. K

  2. To contrast the 60 for the LifeTeen, St. Andrew gets 170-200+ for their other Mass. Annunciation (clustered with St. Andrew) draws roughly 150 for their single Saturday evening liturgy.

    I'm not sure that it's worth taking away a regular Sunday liturgy to have a LifeTeen Mass. Its interesting that priests are willing to do this for LifeTeen, but not for an Extraordinary Form liturgy.

    ~Dr. K

  3. I have only ever attended one LifeTeen Mass. It was at Assumption in Fairport, and it just happen to be the Sunday after the NCYC Conferences in November, so there were many very tired, and very wired young people there. Maybe not the best day to experience LifeTeen for the first time!

    For me, it was very noisy and the kids seemed more concerned about talking with their friends than participating in Mass. I have watched other LifeTeen Masses via Assumption’s web-cam, and none were as chaotic as this particular one was. Again, it may have just been they day.

    The music was OK, but nothing spectacular, and it seemed that it was more “performance” than “prayer”. The words to the songs were handed out as you walked in to church, but I would guess that only about ¼ of the congregation actually sang. And I am not too sure how I feel about all the kids coming around the altar, and joining hands for the “Our Father”, there is just something about this that is just not “kosher” for me. If you want to join hands I really have no problem with that, so long that it is an option, and no one is made to feel bad if they choose not too. Coming up around the altar, I am not to sure…

    The priest celebrating that day gave a wonderful homily, did not “dumb-down” to the kids, and from what I can remember, seemed to keep within the rubrics of the NO (expect for the “Our Father” thing, which from what I understand is a LifeTeen “thing”) There was also the issue of the “hand gestures” during the Alleluia. From what I understand, the gesture is actually ASL (American sign language) for the word alleluia, OK if you have a deaf population, but I do not think that this is the case here. Here it just seemed to be part of “the show”.

    I am not too sure about how I feel about LifeTeen. I think that it is great to want to reach teens on a level that might be more welcoming for them, and I also think that we need to remember that this is Mass- not a show or a party! And I am not quite sure if this can be done in this model.

    It kind of reminds me of the “Children’s Liturgy” practice where all the kids are ushered out during the Liturgy of the Word for their own “service”, only to bring them back for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which many of them cannot participate. All of this seems a little silly to me- isn’t Mass the place where we should be teaching our younger members the beauty of our faith? If they aren’t there for ½ of it or we do things to make it “fun” for them now, they are not going to have any idea how to behave and participate when they are adults.

    Just my 2 cents!!

  4. Persis, you said it all so well!

    I've seen so many of these children's Liturgy of the Word during Mass. The kids would scurry off to the other room, following behind a layperson holding the lectionary above his or her head while the choir (week after week) sings the tune "We are salt of the earth." This whole little send-off event became a cutesy show.

    The kids would later return around the Creed. However, when they came back they were carrying booklets that they obviously had spent some time crayoning. During the LotW they were given coloring books with word searches and other activities that they had spent some time working on. I don't know that this is really helping kids grow in their faith. If they want to do this fun stuff before or after Mass, I see no issue, but what are they getting out of this? I also have seen kids who certainly look old enough to have made their First Communion tag along with all the really young kids. What is this all about?

    Is all of this really working? I am curious what the fruit of these programs has been. Does anyone out there who does not have a [paid] interest in this as a youth minister know whether these children stay in the Church when they reach early adulthood?

    ~Dr. K

  5. I know of a program elsewhere (basically, not in the DoR) where they used to take the children out and read to them from a children's lectionary, so all the language was simplified a little. Then sometimes they'd act out the story being told in the Gospel if it was a parable or simply explain what Jesus was saying. It was a fairly well-done Children's Liturgy of the Word, all things considered.