In the eyes of any student, colleague, or friend who’s ever known me, I’m doing something crazy this year—I’m using technology in the classroom.
I have passionately rejected technology in all its glowing, mind-sucking forms. I preach to students about the gloriousness of being “free” from the terrible stress of a blinking, buzzing phone during the blissful hour of theology class. I insist on paper copies of texts. And I DO NOT use powerpoint.
Until this year, that is.
Let me explain. I was struck in the second week of the semester with every teacher’s nightmare: I lost my voice. Determined not to lose another class day for my small, upper-level liturgy seminar, I jumped on the lifeboat of technology. I made a powerpoint presentation.
To my surprise/dismay, the whole practice worked pretty well. So well, in fact, that I tried it again—and again. I’ve found that the visual powerpoint gives us a “third eye” in the room—one who can help us keep on task and avoid the rabbit holes that students (or I) are tempted to fall into with our opinions on liturgical subjects.
Also, the course is titled, “Liturgy and the New Evangelization.” If I want to take the USCCB’s or Pope Francis’ calls to evangelize using “the new media” seriously, I should probably consider using some technology more robust than a dry-erase marker.
And yet, my reluctant, heel-dragging foray into technology in the liturgical classroom has run me into a new, and much deeper issue. I incorporate images into my slides by using Google. But try Googling “Roman Catholic Mass.” Look at the images, and what do you find?
- Of the first 15 images, 6 are images of the presider, ad orientem
- 9 of them show the presider flanked by an all-male entourage [that is, no female altar servers]
- 10 show an image of the presider at the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer
- 6 images show an elevated host and/or chalice.
Now, please know I have no issues with traditional church spaces, and I quite agree that Eucharistic Praying is unquestionably worthy of symbolizing “the Mass.” I do take issue with the focus on the presider alone, with the maleness (and whiteness) of the assisting ministers, the absolute absence of the gathered Body of Christ, and the clear preponderance of images of Mass in a form other than that which is universally practiced as our Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy, also know as “the Ordinary Form.”
Where is the Ordinary Form of the Mass on social media? On Google? Anywhere, out there, on the vast and billowing waves of the world wide web?
Some scholars, such as ethicist Lisa Sowle Cahill, have noted that “fringe” groups at either extreme (“left” or “right”) have made better use of technology and media than more “mainstream” groups. This perhaps is the case across most disciplines, but it seems that persons searching to learn more about the Mass, Catholicism, the practice of liturgy, or the Eucharist, are being schooled into visioning fairly marginally representative images as normative for Catholic practice. This concerns me greatly.
I do not have an immediate answer for this—but I do have a question, or perhaps even a call to action. Can Roman Catholic liturgists, parishioners, ministers (lay ecclesial and ordained) make an effort to post and share media which reflect the experiences of the lay faithful within the Mass as unfolding Tradition and the Holy Spirit have given it to us—that is, in the Ordinary Form?
Can these images be more inclusive? Can we see the Liturgy of the Word and the Opening Rites? The renewal of Baptismal vows during Easter? The signing with Ashes on Ash Wednesday? Can we see male and female lectors, altar servers, greeters, and musicians? Can we see reflected in the Google search, “Roman Catholic Mass,” the exponential growth in numbers of our Latino/a brothers and sisters? Or recognize that our congregations house refugees from Burma? Or recognize the voices of our historically marginalized African American Roman Catholic congregations?
My own small solution—at least for my class—is to make attempts to dig deeper than the first 15 slides which Google shows me. But I’d like to see a day where we get beyond doing crafty searches to outwit Google. I’d like to Google “Roman Catholic Mass” and come up with an image of the People of God.