A few days ago, Reuters reported of a priest in Poland installing a finger-print reader in church, ostensibly to keep count of confirmation students’ attendance at the Eucharist.
Two thoughts jumped immediately to mind — the first, I won’t repeat as some people think that our reporting here plays to mass-hysteria (pun intended) enough as-is. A little creative thought will lead you where my mind went.
The second, though, I will repeat: what the report indicates is that the priest is keeping track of mass attendance. What I wonder is what if these youngsters were to attend, say, Solemn Vespers, or a Baptism celebrated outside the Eucharistic liturgy, or the Stations of the Way of the Cross? In other words, do these liturgical and para-liturgical services “count”? Do they matter to the developmental life of faith, and the adult practice of spirituality? Or does keeping mass-count only reinforce the idea that it’s the only liturgical service that really matters?
I’ve seen remarks in the comments boxes on the New Liturgical Movement blog to the effect that God’s people have been “massed-to-death.” Even from the Episcopal perspective, where the centrality of the Sunday Eucharist was a hard-won victory in the latter-half of the 20th century, non-eucharistic liturgies like Evensong are becoming a rare breed.
On the one hand, the Eucharist and its liturgy are of inestimable value. On the other hand, perhaps we’ve over-valued the Mass. Tracking attendance has been an important component in catechesis and preparation for confirmation — but what message does it send?