Saturday, April 19, 2014

Should the Roman Catholic Mass be Entertaining?

I was trying to find an uplifting post for this Easter weekend when I came across this YouTube video. It's the story of two Roman Catholic priests that transformed a dying parish church into a thriving success story using multimedia technology. (See the video. It's in German, but worth a watch.) 

Father Karsten Weidisch and Chaplain Christian Olding quickly gained fame throughout Germany when they added popular music, special effects lighting, and video to the traditional Mass ceremony. (Think Jesus Christ Superstar.) The German media quickly labeled their Mass a "pop spectacle" and Father Olding a religious "pop star." Mass attendance soared and young people began flocking to the weekly bible study classes. Emphasizing themes of tolerance and acceptance, especially for people living a non-traditional lifestyle, the priest duo were featured on a number of TV shows, newspapers, and magazines. 

Unfortunately, their message, and particularly their use of multimedia, was not uncontroversial; and recently, the pair were discharged from their church duties. On the one hand, entertainment and spectacle shouldn't supplant the message of the Mass. Yet, wasn't the Mass conceived, in part, as a spectacle for the people to be impressed. Why have incense, breathtaking architecture, elaborate vestments, orate statutes, wondrous music, and golden tabernacles if not to awe and dazzle? 

The decision to discharge these two enthusiastic priests seems foolish especially when the Church is still recovering from the pedophilia scandals of the past and also losing membership in western Europe. You would think the Church would be trying to shake its image of inflexibility, rigidity, and bigotry instead of emphasizing it.

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