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Sunday, September 27, 2015
A new liturgical gesture - the camera?
Seeing these images floating around the internet in connection with Papal liturgies in the USA is pretty depressing. It is not as if these priests would not be able to access far better photographs and videos after the event, taken by professionals from specially selected locations. The photos or videos they are taking don't even feature themselves in these cases - the ones that do, of course, are even more depressing. (Fr Stephen Paolino: a name to live forever on Istagram, in infamy.)
What is it we are seeing? I suppose these men live in a society where the social media is ubiquitous, where family events go up instantly onto Facebook and so on. (Where I live, the mobile signal isn't good enough.) Can't they see the difference between a barbecue with cousin Bob and a Mass with the Holy Father?
Clearly, they can't. Their sense of the seriousness of the liturgy has disappeared, if it ever existed. Even when the solemnity of the occasion is increased to the highest possible pitch, with the Pope himself celebrating Mass in a vast cathedral with bishops and all the bells and whistles, it makes no difference. They have, to be fair to them, been trained to treat the liturgy as much as possible as something where the rules of ordinary life still obtain, rather than something special and different.
To meet the ordinary man and woman the liturgy must be ordinary. To transform ordinary life, the liturgy must be as like as possible to ordinary life. This is an ideology which would have dominated many of the seminaries these men attended in the 1970s and 1980s, and since. It is one of those counter-intuitive things which are completely wrong.
The Holy Father's liturgies in the USA, as elsewhere, are undeniably special occasions. Lots of people turn out for them; they get lots of coverage. Are they going to be special in a religious way, in a prayerful way, in a way connected with the worship of God, or are they going to be special in a Holywood way, a 'celebrity' way, a way like events are special because you get to see Clint Eastwood in the flesh?
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