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Worship in an age of distractions (Part 3)

Worship in an age of distractions (Part 3)

ARE we really losing more and more young people to other faiths? How many mothers have you heard bemoaning the fact that the older their teenaged children get the farther away they move from Church? Wanting to know and understand more of the world around them, and emboldened by peers of like mind, young people begin to question tradition, and when the Holy Mass to them feels more like an obligation than a sacrament that serves no deep purpose in their life, they start to lose interest.

This is a rather fragile state in their growth, when one seemingly small hitch in the celebration of Mass is blown out of proportion and serves to turn them off. Here’s an example: Ronnie is a typical “techie” who learned to play computer games at age three, even before he was taught to read. During Mass at his parish church he would notice (and later be annoyed by) the prayers and songs projected on the overhead screen—besides being poorly laid out, he said, the texts were often at least two lines late. Sometimes the operator in his confusion would move the text backward instead of forward, groping for the correct slide without success until the song or prayer was over. What was causing the distracting error? Was the operator sleepy, inattentive, texting, or simply incompetent?

Ronnie endured this for over five years—he was 19 when he first noticed it, then at age 25 and already employed as a computer programmer he finally mustered enough courage to approach the parish priest to call his attention to the flawed projection. He even volunteered to train parishioners assigned the task. The parish priest merely said, “Is that so? I’ll tell the one in charge and I’ll let you know.” Ronnie gave the priest his cell phone number; no call came after two weeks, a month, six weeks… And so he called up and reminded the priest about his observation and offer. The priest replied, “Huh? I told them to do something about it, haven’t they fixed it yet? Let me remind them again.” No further discussion. Crestfallen, all Ronnie could think was “Seriously…?”

About a month later, Ronnie started to hear Mass in a mall chapel or elsewhere, and sometimes, he admits, he would for convenience also join his formerly Catholic cousins who kept on inviting him to their “charismatic services”. Ronnie would tell me, “I still hear Mass there occasionally as it’s the nearest church to our house. Things haven’t changed—maybe it’s been the same operator over the years, although the assigned priest is different now. It’s so sad. It wasn’t just a question of annoying overhead projection—the priest’s attitude struck me as indifference, to me it was a lack of respect for the Eucharistic celebration and for the people attending Mass.” (To be continued)