Excerpted with permission from "Growing Up Catholic" (Broadway Books, 2000).

Catholic children, like any others, need diversions on rainy days. There is no better way to keep youngsters amused, while at the same time instilling traditional Catholic values, then by playing Mass. Parents should not be concerned that Play Mass is sacrilegious. Thousands of priests started out this way.

Materials Needed for Play Mass

Bath towels (Cannon or St. Mary's brand preferred) become colorful priestly vestments. Usually, the eldest male child plays the priest. He wraps a bath towel around his waist and drapes another over his back, securing it in front with a big safety pin. Younger siblings, male or female, attend as altar boys. They may also wear towels, although this is optional.

A card table is easily transformed into the altar. Cover with a sheet and decorate with a Sick-Call crucifix set, a Bible, and salad-dressing cruets.

A shoe box covered with a hand towel makes a fine tabernacle.

A goblet filled with grape juice adds a special touch. The children are much too young to drink wine.

Hosts may be created from a number of foods. Remember, since Communion is generally the highlight of Play Mass, it may be administered a dozen or more times during the course of the ceremony. So make the hosts authentic but tasty. Necco Wafers and circles cut out of squashed slices of Wonder Bread are suggested.

A kazoo, hummed reverently, inspires hearty singing. A band of kazoos, playing "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" in rounds, makes a rousing Play Mass finale.

An outdoor variation of Play Mass is Play Funeral Mass, which requires deceased birds or insects. The tiny carcasses are wrapped in paper towels, placed in cardboard "caskets," and buried in the backyard. Graves are marked with flowers from Mom's garden and crosses constructed from Popsicle sticks.
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