The Jesuit university, Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla, is making waves for organizing a university Mass in which the music will be provided by the secular and popular British group Coldplay. The university stated that worshippers would be able to “listen and reflect on the songs of the British group”, and “see how their messages interweave” with the liturgy.
I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the idea. I also have to admit that I have preached on the music of Lady Gaga and regularly interweave pop culture into sermons. Granted this might not be exactly the same.
However, immediately upon reading the news I was brought back to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. Article 167 reads: “Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new ‘language of parables’. We must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty which may mean little to the evangelizers, yet prove particularly attractive for others.”
I’m struck by the words: arts, contemporary expressions, bold, unconventional, and “particularly attractive to others”.
Once again, Francis and the Jesuits might be onto something. It was indeed their order that created audacious Baroque arts in the 1600s in their evangelistic efforts that so successfully brought Christianity to the corners of the earth, as the famous ceiling by Andrea Pozzo in Rome’s Sant’Ignazio church illustrates.