Wednesday, December 24, 2014

24/7 Shopping & Smart Phones are killing the Byzantine Catholic churches in the US

I haven't written a blog post in over a month. We have been very very busy with the end of the academic semester and moving ten miles away to a large rental house. All happy news that I hope to share.

But I have to share this thought first on a slightly gloomy Christmas Eve day: 24/7 shopping and 'smart' phones are killing the Byzantine Catholic churches in the US. Maybe they are killing all that is old and good, but my experience is with the Byzantine churches.

This thought has nothing to do with Black Friday or Christmas from China or Boxing Day shopping (click on those labels to your right if you are interested in previous rants on those topics). 

24/7 shopping is killing the rhythm of the week. There is no downtime, ever. 24/7 shopping causes all of us to want- no, need- a custom-made, just-for-me experience with anything we experience.Our internet-capable phones do the same thing.

I posted a Christmas vigil invitation on Facebook- 5:30 PM Divine Liturgy (Mass)...Christmas Eve. We are blessed to share space at a Roman-rite chapel. It is their chapel, not ours. We are too poor and small.The 5:30 slot is a great blessing even if our Byzantine tradition really calls for early matins and Divine Liturgy Christmas Day. We do what we can to survive in the 'Wild West.'

Well- the responses I got were interesting- a family would attend if we had a Christmas Day morning Divine Liturgy. Well, it is booked by the community that actually belongs to the chapel. Another family would attend if the Christmas vigil was earlier. Vigils really shouldn't be earlier than 5:30, I think....

So, we try. My girls help me with the finger food platters of cookies, fruit, sandwiches to share after the Divine Liturgy. We pack gift bags of goodies for the children, thinking we will need to just drop them off at a charity center if we don't have any children come. We practice the troparions and antiphons as best we can. We make copies of the changed holiday parts, hoping that attendees will feel comfortable and sing the all-sung Divine Liturgy.

But unlike 24/7 always-available shopping and customized  'smart' phones, the Church, specifically this tiny community of Byzantine Catholics, doesn't change (and shouldn't) with the ever-changing whims of the world. We don't have a advertising consultant that tells us to call the service "The Plex" or "Encounter" with no written reference to whose birthday it is. 

The Catholic Church is slow to change. I am grateful, but most people are not happy with that. Most people need church at their time, their style, their level of comfort- be it 'liberal' or 'traditional,' their preferred percentage of English-Romanian-Latin-etc used within church; it goes on and on. Heaven will prevail, but I am not confident that the Church while on Earth will.

So everyone needing a customized church 'experience' along with their 24/7 shopping and phone can have them. I'll have the old Church. And this is not to mention the supreme killer of churches: sports.


  1. We had to edit down our Christmas cantata this year (the Christmas section of Handel's "Messiah" because someone put the wrong time in the bulletin for a week or two... and God forbid people come and listen to something an hour before the Christ Mass starts at 10! We had 4 opera singers, a bassist from the local orchestra, and our world-class choir director doing the music -- people pay $$$ to hear all 6 of these people and parishioners complain about showing up to hear them for free.

    1. sigh. people are funny. It reminds me of Joshua Bell playing his violin in the NY subway...very few people stopped to listen- they charge lots of $ for his concerts...but I bet your music was lovely!

  2. Ahhh, I remember Joshua Bell originally at L'Enfant Metro station entrance! One of the columnists at the "Washington Post" got him to play there and wrote a story about it.
    This fall, Joshua Bell played for a half-hour at DC's Union Station; publicity went out in advance. This time, it was a real crowd draw!

    1. is too bad that people can't 'stop and smell the roses' unless they know they are famous...I have my kids give a bit of money to every street performer and we listen a bit. We have a man who plays guitar outside of trader joe's- he is really really good. But then he might be supplementing his playing at the coffee house/bar income. If the music is good, it should be rewarded....I couldn't play that well!

  3. Well, I am feeling overwhelmed by tech all the time, too, but having been in ministry for quite some time now, I have to say that this attitude was well-underway before any sort of smart phones, or even cell phones arrived on the scene. I think people want to "want" certain things (i.e. to attend Mass, or go to a Bible study). They want to want it more than they really want it, but they give it a bit of thought - what tweak or change would make it possible for them to actually DO the thing they sort-of want to do? And they tell us that. But, then - if you make the change they suggest, there is some other issue that makes it impossible for them.

    People also just won't RSVP. I think it is because they have so darned much going on (and this is the real problem, I think) that they don't want to commit to one more thing, "just in case". We recently had a Rosary, Mass and FREE Mexican dinner to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe. On Thursday night we had 30 people who said they'd come. By an hour before the event, we had almost 70 who had responded. In the end we had approximately 160. I hope your Mass likewise seemed to have value for people (even at the last minute.)

    You are SO right about sports. This is the first year that parents have told me their children can't some to RE on Sunday MORNING because of sports conflicts.


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