But you can only dodge the potholes for so long, and I too succumb to the attractions of ecclesiastical jargon. Which brings me to the topic I was thinking about this past week: Liturgy At the Periphery.
Liturgical programs abound at seminaries, formation houses and educational institutions. Publications of all kinds abound, and the blogosphere has a particular neuralgic fascination with the liturgy. Yet most of these resources are all geared toward a fairly well-off segment of the population - the kind with a decent church building (maybe even air conditioned), some support parish staff, a decent budget, even a good data connection to listen to music or homiletic samples. That quite far from a mission station around the world where a parish priest might have to face different questions, such as:
How do you train clergy and other ministers adequately in preaching, celebration and other tasks with only the bare number of books, reference works or supplementary materials? How do you run your average parish catechetical and formation programs?
What do you do when you can't afford big copyright fees for texts and music?
How do you cultivate a music repertoire when many of your congregants don't have cars to drive them long distances to rehearsals, and can only practice on the Sunday when they come to Mass?
All these and more raise their own crop of challenges. Whereas a minister or associate in the developed world who wants to encourage the communal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours can simply print out a bunch of programs, or place an order with a publisher for books, that can be challenging half-way around the world when money, printers and even photocopiers are in short supply. And so, what we end up with is a liturgical inequality, where the 'haves' possess greater opportunities to worship than the 'have-nots' (and don't get me started on the redistribution of priests to wealthier countries....).
On one hand, technology has enabled us to make great strides. Smart phones are slowly becoming ubiquitous even in some of the most unlikely rural areas - I never cease to be amazed that people might not have plumbing, or live in a shanty, but to contact anyone will whip out a smartphone. Yet most quality liturgical resources - if they are free - are still largely geared toward that broad segment where living standards are higher.
There are some websites geared toward the developing world. Unfortunately, in my experience, these have a preponderance of Bad Taste, operating according to the worst outdated paradigms of the immediate post-conciliar era. Liturgists have come to recognize the limits of certain ideas that were all-the-rage in the 70s - theme Masses, for example, or that continuous fascination with "animation" of the liturgy.
Now, no one can be expected to work for free, and liturgists, musicians, pastoral workers and theologians are also among those who need to earn their bread and butter through their work. Not everyone is a Archadale A. King with a day job, scribbling away at night. But I think it would help if those who do have and develop resources also have an eye to those less affluent regions of the world, and their hard-working and overstretched pastors. I'm reminded of that immediate period after the Council when many prelates and priests made a more conscious effort in favour of the missions to the poorer regions of the Catholic world. In our global interconnected age, sometimes such gestures are closer at hand than we imagine.