RT this @Pontifex! 4 even more ridiculous ways to digitize the church

Bible on Kindle in Church

I went to Catholic school for 10 years. That means for 10 years I went to mass twice a week, attended confession once a month, and spent countless hours ticking off more Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s than my brain can now comprehend. Turns out I was playing a fool’s game with all that nonsense because now the Catholic Church is streamlining the whole shebang with a helping hand from the Internet!

Pope indulgences Twitter follows header

According to The Guardian, Catholics who follow Pope Francis on Twitter will be offered “indulgences.” Indulgences, simply put, are like points for being good that shorten the amount of time you have to spend in purgatory. Basically, the more indulgences you accrue, the quicker you get out of that white room of nothing and shoot on up to that big party in the sky (where personally, I imagine St. Peter will peel back the pearly gates and welcome me into what’s more or less Cloud City and yes, Lando will be there).

You might be thinking “Whoa, that’s messed up!” and “Weren’t indulgences those things from the Middle Ages the Catholic church used to guilt people out of money?*,” but as a product of the Catholic school system, let me set you straight: This is just living in the future, baby. You have no idea how much time and energy we had to spend doing stuff in the real world as part of the church’s catechism.

You can follow these events online or on TV and get some points toward indulgences, and now following Pope Francis will count toward a digital attendance…

Know what some of the other ways to get indulgences are? Climbing the Sacred Steps in Rome (there are a lot of them). Doing tons of charity and depriving yourself of things that are “licit and pleasing to [you]” (basically being a big time fun-killer). Reciting the entire rosary with a group (I can say from experience, this takes for-freaking-ever … lose your spot once and it’s game over).

Another is going to Catholic World Youth Day – in Rio (do I look like I’m made of money and frequent flier miles?). Here’s where the tweeting comes in: You can follow these events online or on TV and get some points toward indulgences, and now following Pope Francis will count toward a digital attendance (you just have to be super duper honest about paying attention to the Catholic World You Day tweets from His Holiness).

So why stop here? Unless you grew up Catholic, I don’t think you understand some of the rigmarole you have to go through. I’ve got some ideas for digitally streamlining this religion business. Keep an eye out, Pope: I’m tweeting this at you! Send it on up to the guys in biz dev, ya’ hear?

Confession? More like con-FUN-sion!

Confession always happened to be on days my classmates and I suspiciously ended up going home early or in the nurses’ office. It was just so wildly uncomfortable: You shuffled down into the church, which was always really dark for some reason, and then you silently prayed or read in the pews while someone went into the confessional. For those not in the know, a confessional is sort of like a casket that’s been turn on its side, like a tiny room. The doors close awkwardly and then the priest on the other side pulls the slide down and asks what you did wrong. It’s supposed to all be “anonymous” but you’re like 10 years old and there are 30 kids in your class, so let’s be real. I would get so nervous that I would confess to the same things every year: “I lied to my dad and kicked my sister.”

Suspiciously, I got a different penance every year for the same sins. (Father probably knew I was making it up on the fly, though.)

So let’s reinvent confession! The new option: PostSecret-style admissions of guilt. You log on anonymously, write out all the crap you did wrong in the fun fonts and postcard-style format. But instead of just floating into the ether, a priest on the other side clicks through these confessions and responds to them with how many Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s you have to say to wipe your soul clean – which are conveniently delivered to your inbox!

The eternal fountain of Youth Group

This may or may not come as a surprise: I did not really love Youth Group. It was this strange, forced community and there were three types of kids:

  • catholic teens fbThe kids who were definitely using it as an excuse to hang out with the boyfriends and girlfriends their religious parents were not cool with them having.
  • The kids who really, really loved Jesus and were into the idea of sharing that love with a like-minded group.
  • The kids whose parents thought they should at least try it out.

Guess which one I was!

Kids like me, who didn’t want to be there, and kids like the first group, who just wanted to bone someone else there, absolutely ruined it for the remaining group of kids. And putting us all in a room together did not spur discussion. It spurred awkwardness.

So in the spirit of Interneting the church, let’s just cut to the chase and get a Facebook Group. It benefits everyone! The kids that want to flirt are already online chatting away with their teen paramour; the kids who want to talk about God most certainly will – and hey, being behind a screen and keyboard always makes the discussion flow – and the kids like me can subscribe to said group to satisfy their parents.

You just got (altar) served

If you don’t know exactly what an altar server is, but have been to a Catholic (or many Christian) service, it’s the little kids in big white robes looking terrified and helping the priest do stuff. And I was just bad at it: I never remembered what to do, and the robes were all too big so I would trip over them, and I was never coordinated enough to walk down the church aisle in front of everyone and not get so nervous I managed to blow out the candle I was carrying. What if I spilled the wine and where was that chalice supposed to go? And what about this chalice? And why were there so many chalices?! 

I think my family is fine with admitting in retrospect how horrible I was at altar serving. 

With a little help from e-readers and some connected home know-how, we could get rid of altar servers entirely. That Kindle could just sit right by the priest and house the three enormous books I had to carry out to him. Maybe we switch to LED lights at the front of the church so no one has to accidentally blow out a candle again?

Insta-izing #StationsoftheCross

ash wednesday snapchatEvery year my school and church performed the Stations of the Cross, and it was a big deal. It was sort of like the talent show and school musical wrapped into one – except that it was about remembering everything that led up to Jesus’ death. But you spent weeks preparing this thing, and performed it every year, which is a lot of time to do the same thing … annually. For the record, I totally played Mary and got all the awesome solos. Jus’ sayin’ … 

Regardless of how talented I am, we can speed this thing up with the help of apps like Instagram and Vine. Now that both apps have video capability, Catholics could just choose a station, record or shoot it, add a hashtag (#StJosephsStationsoftheCrossFTW), and there we go: Done and done! 

And while we’re on the subject of Easter-time traditions, maybe we can use Snapchat to digitize Ash Wednesday and we won’t have to walk around looking like we rubbed our faces on the street. 

*Yes, they totally were. 

Top image courtesy of Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock

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