Sacramental Skyping

In my ministry I have used Skype in a variety of settings: I do spiritual direction with one person about once a month using Skype which is a clear experiment merging the use of technology with the practice of spiritual direction. I has it’s glitches occasionally with a break up here and there and the need to ask him to repeat things. We lost video once and relied on merely the audio as well–so it’s less than ideal, but it is better than not meeting at all.

I’ve also used it for lectures with the med students with the acclaimed ethicist Charlie Camosy from Fordham and everyone’s favorite Jesuit, Jim Martin, SJ has done a “Theology on Skype” event with me on Saints.

But today’s post from Fr. Austin over at A Concord Pastor really moved me. He received a sick call from a parishioner and when he arrived to give the Sacrament of The Anointing of the Sick….

I had noticed a laptop at the foot of Maria’s bed but hadn’t paid it much attention. When I invited all present to pray, one of the daughters asked to introduce me to Maria’s sister and brother-in-law who were with us on Skype from South America. Maria’s relatives below the equator don’t speak English but they knew what we were about to do, what sacrament we were celebrating.

The promise to continue to pray was also given to the family via Skype from Fr. Austin. Amazing.

Of course, we’re all connected anyway! That indeed is the point of the Eucharist–that Christ unites with us in the giving of His body and His blood so that we might have life eternal but also, so that we might be reminded that we are all connected to one another through this sacrament. It connects us to the Apostles and to Popes. Grandmothers and Long-lost second cousins are as close to us as we could be if we are in the same room–actually, closer.

But in our modern age, technology reminds us of this deep longing we have for connection. People are so hungry for it that they’ll accept “cheaper” ways of finding that connection with another. Texting, Google chat, Skype, Facebook, Email, mobile phones and even a handwritten card in the mail are all reminders of the longing we have for one another. It’s why these devices can be so addicting and why so many often live in fear of loneliness, or of even being alone or spending time in silence.

We need to continue to use technology to remind one another of our need to stay connected. Our sacraments do that for us in a mystical sense, but how many are able to understand that without catechetical instruction? Seekers and lapsed Catholics and even those of us who are quite faithful to Sunday Mass obligations often need that reminder that we have a weakness to try to go it alone most often without the need for God or even other people. Which is why we come together at least once a week.

And sometimes when connections are broken, we crave those too. We stay in bad relationships, bad jobs, bad situations because it’s just easier or more comforting than being alone.

But the truth is that we’re never alone. And that’s what we really need to bring to light as church. That coming to mass is not some kind of divine to-do list. Instead it’s a reminder that we are all connected to both God and to one another.

Maybe we should put every mass up on Skype? And we can all be reminded more often that we are all connected.

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