Friday, March 14, 2008
Less paper...better liturgy!
This article is a second release of this musing. It was published last June, but should have another revisit by Catholic readers. In light of the recently listed "sins" that include those against the environment. HJMN
There are always ways that the Catholic Church can join in the environmental movement in small but yet effective ways. One of the things I frequently think about is the considerable amount of paper resources that are generated at a parish on a weekly basis. Think about it, most parishes generate thousands of copies of their parish bulletin. For the most part the parish bulletin is a redundant method of communicating all of the same old stuff. The weekly Mass intentions are noted, the parish organizations make announcements, sometimes the altar boys schedule is included and at my parish the tally from the previous weeks collection. My question is this, do we really need to keep printing off all of the same information, week in and week out. There is a place in the Liturgy of the Eucharist for the celebrant to insert a few announcements. This is right before the final blessing. It would be a great example of ecological stewardship if priests and people would consider using this appropriate time to make announcements that are important each week. Of course this time is not a license to proclaim a mini-homily, but it is a good time to bring everyone up to date in a few concise points about parish activities.
While on the subject of printing a lot of materials, most parishes print their Mass schedules in the bulletin. Additionally each December they print and distribute thousands of monthly calendars that quite honestly contain all of the same old information as the bulletins. Why don’t we take a bold step and realize that in the 21st century, most people don’t even use wall mounted calendars. An insert for someone’s Day-Timer, or Filofax or even a refrigerator magnet would be better utilized. Besides, how many times do most Catholics change their schedule of going to Mass. Not a lot. It also presents an opportunity for the local parish priests to really look at what Masses are not well attended, and make changes. There is a lot of heat, fuel, electricity and other resources that are consumed to have a Eucharistic liturgy for a handful of people. Perhaps fewer slots for Masses would produce larger congregations for a better qualitative Liturgy! Remember all of the pastors out there; good stewardship of a parish’s environmental resources makes for a good and happy parish.
For Catholics that remember pre-Vatican II, they will also recall with fondness the Catholic Missals they used to carry to church each week. All of the prayers of the Mass were contained in the Missal, including the Latin and English translations of the Mass. You could follow along and respond just with the flip of a few ribbons. In our modern parish community we are inundated with the Missalette. They come from a liturgical publishing house, are replaced on a monthly if not quarterly basis and they use up a lot of paper. Why don’t we just get back to using a Missal? When our children are confirmed, it would be a great gift to receive. It would save a lot of trees and cut out all of the costs associated with the use and distribution of the low quality and time endangered Missalettes. An added incentive would also be that if people did not spend so much time turning pages and following the readings, they would make a prayerful attempt to LISTEN to the proclamation of God’s Word. All in all the results would be better for everyone. Less paper, less noise and no need to constantly replace and restore cluttering missalettes.Besides the use of a missal would be a great incentive to Catholic publishing houses to provide a well produced and highly qualitative missal for Catholics to use.
While I am on the point of “highly qualitative”, we need to revisit the requirements for the candles that are used in our liturgies as well. Everywhere you go there are different types of candles, made of all sorts of artificial materials being used to illuminate the Sacred liturgy. There are even candles that are “spring-fed” to keep the melting pseudo wax in a state of constant replenishment. Whatever happened to using good old bees-wax candles? The burned evenly, they were naturally produced and the looked great. Besides, what a better way to illuminate the Sacred Mysteries than by using an entirely natural material, made from the work of bees! There is such an organic and natural factor to our celebration of the Sacraments that using naturally derived candles would provide an illuminated ecologically sensitive message.
Of course in previous writings I have always advocated the use of “natural” environmental spaces. Just to put it plainly, open the windows and the doors and let some fresh air into our Church celebrations. Our liturgy was never intended to be hermetically sealed away from externally natural elements. A little fresh air never hurt anyone. It would also cut down on the use of expensive heating and cooling resources…not to mention artificial lighting.
While we contemplate various methods with which our Catholic communities can contribute to the “ecosphere” we need to remember that it is about the worship of God, and not designing a church that mimics a theatrical boutique. Our sacred space is reflective of the living people that are the People of God, let’s not commercialize it up and keep adding unnecessary “things” to clutter God’s house. If we just took the time to look around our parishes and churches there are many inexpensive ways we could make a positive contribution to the planet’s environment…let’s start with less paper.