Thursday, November 10, 2011
I Saw It on the Big Screen...
It seems that Joe Carter over at First Things has found a Roman Catholic Priest who is not so sure books belong in Church.
Monsignor Donald Sakano, of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Little Italy … has long since stopped feeling embarrassed when people ask him tricky theological questions and he has to Google the answers. “Before, I would just have to look smart and try to respond to them,” he says. Now he never gets it wrong. Sakano sees tremendous potential in the Catholic Church’s embrace of the digital. He is currently working on a project to outfit Old St. Pat’s sanctuary with flat-panel monitors in a way that won’t disrupt the vertical sight lines of the Gothic design. “Ideally,” he told me, “we’d have tiny screens on the back of the pews, like at the Metropolitan opera. Can you imagine? We’d be able to send parishioners personalized messages.” He wonders if a digital offertory could be incorporated into the mass somehow, so that the moment of giving would be preserved, but people wouldn’t have to carry cash. And he thinks that digitizing all the books in the church would help with the clutter problem: the Catholic Church is currently making changes to the mass (a version “more faithful to the original Latin” goes into effect on November 27th), he told me, and new books and hymnals have been pouring in. Wouldn’t it be better without “these big, fat books?”
Fr. Sakano, the answer is NO! And it is not because I am old, curmudgeonly, or opinionated. It is because there is an essential difference between books and information we obtain from the screens of this world. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the internet. But the nature of the information there and the way we obtain it suggests to us not permanence but change. It is an entirely different sense for books. They suggest permanence even when their information has long since become antiquated or untrue. I think the Mass (Divine Service, Eucharistic liturgy, etc.) belongs in books with the hymns of old because of the way we see the book and the way we see things on the screen. Everything being equal, the very thing we want to impart in the communication of the unchanging Word in the unchanging Feast is permanence and transcendence. These are the very things that screens agitate against in our senses. They remind us of the changing nature of everything around us and so they may be apt communicators of the world and its chances and changes but they are poor communicators of the unchanging Christ and the means of grace in which we encounter Him who was, who is, and who is to come.
Call me foolish or old fashioned, but when it comes to matters of teaching the faith, Scripture, and worship, lets keep the books.