Does technology help or hinder?

By Linda Zahorik | August 27, 2014

In the second reading, St. Paul admonishes us “do not conform yourselves to this age.” However, we are being formed by a media age which seems to have taken possession of our hearts and minds, even (dare I say) of our souls. During the last decade even the church has turned to more multi-media liturgical events in part to try to draw back the absent people who felt the routine of liturgy was boring.

Recently, before Mass on a Sunday, I noticed several people “texting” (I assumed) on their cell phones. Since one person is a close friend, I went over to give her a difficult time about being on her phone in church. Her reply to me was “I’m praying” and she handed me her phone with the app for the Liturgy of the Hours on it.

How did you learn about the Bishop’s Appeal this year? At our parish we lowered the big screen and there, bigger than life, was the image of Bishop Ricken. Not only did he encourage us to be generous, we were also offered short clips of the services made possible by the Bishop’s Appeal. I have to admit the message presented in that manner was more appealing to me than if my pastor had simply talked about the appeal.

Think back to the last baptism celebrated at your parish? How did you witness it? Were you able to see the baptism projected onto a large screen? How do these experiences draw us into the sacrament? Have you ever been in a situation where you could “see” the entire Mass on the big screen, but then realized your physical attention was diverted from the very action taking place at the altar?

When it comes time to sing do you pick up a worship aid or missalette or is the music projected on a screen? Do you listen to a homily that is accompanied by Power Point graphics? Do hearing the words as well as seeing them give you a greater understanding and ability to participate? If the creed is projected on screens it certainly empowers the community to pray it together, but does always having the words in front of us remove us from learning things by heart? At the end of Mass do the weekly announcements scroll across the screen like the ending credits, or do you remember them better if another human is sharing them with you?

If you are part of an electronically savvy parish how does this make you feel? Are you pleased to be able to put each new emerging technology to use for the glory of God or do you wish that the Mass was one last place where you could be insulated from the technological life? What effect is electronic media such as digitized music, video and other projected images having on liturgical space? Do screens, lights and cameras make you feel like you are on a movie set rather than in a sacred place?

These are questions to ponder because liturgical ritual involves congregated bodily presence and collective intention. Perhaps the questions can best be answered by the following question: “If the electricity fails this Sunday, will your parish still be able to worship in spirit and truth?” If your answer is “no” then maybe what St. Paul is really saying to you is “It’s time to pull the plug.”

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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