Some describe our culture as “performative.” We live to be seen and heard. I am only as good as my twitter account. Members of Congress, for example, have stopped doing the hard work of quietly building legislative consensus; their time is spent preparing for the next YouTube launch. Even we Catholic priests, for a long time now, have been “performing” the Mass rather than quietly offering the Divine Sacrifice, supported by small armies of lay "ministers" and liturgy committees. And now with Covid, livestream technicians and social media experts have joined the Liturgy Performance Team.
A few weeks ago my Archbishop asked 12 of his priests to take one of the 12 altars he had set up on the cathedral plaza, because the City of San Francisco limited Masses to 12 people. Accordingly, 12 priests offered 12 Masses next to each other, so that at least 144 people could receive the Body of the Lord. During the Masses, however, a photographer roved about, clicking away, while a drone buzzed overhead. It was quite distracting, such that I would say few were thinking about Jesus Christ during the filming. We were, rather, positioning ourselves for the best camera angle. After Mass, the Archbishop complained about the drone but was assured that the video would be “amazing.” Within three hours a video had been produced and declared “viral.”
Don’t get me wrong: evangelization requires good communication. But have we lost our priorities? The priority of the Catholic Church must always be sacred worship. Maintaining good public relations is important but should not eclipse our fundamental purpose. Did we offer these 12 Masses more as a PR statement, or more to provide the Sacred Eucharist to the People of God?