Across the country, and in some of our archdiocesan parishes, communities are now using electronic equipment and screens to project information during Mass. In many ways the use of technology is a helpful asset, but it can also be a distraction that confuses our priorities. As with all advances in technology, just because it provides us with new possibilities doesn’t necessarily mean we should make use of those possibilities.
Is that the case with electronic projection and screens in the liturgy? As with most issues pertaining to how we celebrate the liturgy, if a parish is considering installing electronic equipment for use at Mass, the pastor and parish liturgy committee need to engage in lengthy and open discussion to help determine what they think will be best for their community. In that discussion, there are important questions to ask that will help determine an authentic and liturgically appropriate conclusion:
· Why is this technology being considered?
· What will the technology be used for?
· Where will the equipment, projector and screen, be installed?
· Who will install, and who will be responsible to operate?
· When will the technology be used?
· How will the technology be used?
· How will the community effectively sustain its use over the years?
Foundational to all of these questions is a determination of what the goal for exploring this technology would be. According to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (CSL) from the Second Vatican Council, and other church liturgy documents since then, the goal of all liturgical leadership is to engage all members of the assembly in something more “than the mere observance of the of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration; it is also their duty to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effect.” (CSL No. 11)
With this goal in mind, the pastor and parish liturgy committee, need to discuss liturgical issues:
• What is the basic information that every member of the assembly needs in order to be fully, consciously and authentically participating in the liturgy?
• Does the parish currently have resources that provide that information?
• Will this technology we are investigating replace or supplement those resources?
• What are the benefits to changing our resource? What are the drawbacks?
• How will we design the installation so that both screen and projector do not obstruct or dominate the liturgical focal points of altar, ambo, font and chair?
• What professional help do we need to provide that design?
• What information will be projected?
• Is it necessary or advisable to project the readings and other prayers during the Mass?
• Would projection of song lyrics increase participation?
• What reprint permissions do we need to obtain in order to do that?
• Is the projection of lyrics enough to encourage song, or do we need resources that also provide music notation?
• What size does the screen need to be for comfortable visibility? Would more than one screen be more effective?
• How can we keep from upsetting the visual balance in the worship space?
• What other issues do we need to be aware of when projecting? What color background when projecting? What color text? What font offers the best visibility?
• Does our parish have any lighting or structural issues to consider? What professional advice do we need in order to solve these issues?
• Do we have the necessary personnel to maintain weekly operation of the technology?
• What risks do we face in making a change like this? Which is greater, the risk or the benefit?
We always learn from one another, so let’s consider issues parishes using this technology have already faced.
• If the main purpose for the projections is to encourage the assembly’s fuller participation in song, be sure that purpose is carefully maintained. Too often the assembly is distracted from the focus of the Mass by words and pictures that are personally devotional or ancillary to the purpose of the liturgy. These visuals are unnecessary and interfering.
• All music in the liturgy is at the service of the ritual. The projections need to be understood in this way also. The music, and all the necessary materials that support it, need to be rooted in the ritual. They should not be seen as enhancement, but as “consubstantial” to the ritual.
• Everything in the liturgy needs to have integrity. Therefore, the screens, and what is projected, need to be integrated into the worship space in a way that is supportive, not dominant. They need to make visible only that which will draw forth the integral reality of the assembly’s participation in the liturgy as foundational to forming them in and as the body of Christ in the world today.
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