Technology and the Church: Why Can’t We Have This in America?

In conversation recently with a few friends, I brought up a wonderful online service which I have mentioned before on these pages. It always surprises me to learn that people are not familiar with it, so this is a good opportunity to extol its virtues to you.  Moreover, and more importantly to those in the U.S., I’d like to issue a challenge to those with the resources and know-how, and ask why we don’t already have something like it on this side of the pond.

Church Services TV provides both streaming and archived video from a growing number of cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and chapels around Ireland and the United Kingdom.  Each location has its own “channel” in a drop-down menu, so that one can quickly search for the feed from a particular parish, or switch between one church and another.  Visitors can check the schedule posted on the site to see what events are coming up that day, such as Daily or Sunday Mass, and there is also a special events calendar, useful for future planning purposes.  If you’re lucky, sometimes you may stumble across an unlisted event: I’ve caught concerts, talks, and things like baptisms, weddings, and funerals on the Church Services site this way.

What I find to be one of the most special aspects about this technology however, is what it can bring to the visitor throughout their day.  When you’re at the office or at home, trying to get work done and the phone, the kids, and/or the dog are all driving you crazy, it would be nice to be able to just take a break and go away and pray for awhile.  Oftentimes, that option is nowhere near practical.  Since Church Services leaves nearly all of the camera feeds on the site running all day, even though you may not physically be able to get to church for a few minutes of prayer after you’ve nearly blown your top, you’re one click away from having a live window into God’s house whenever you want it.

Although at night, most of the cameras on the site switch to black-and-white security mode, and the churches themselves often turn off all the lights, that doesn’t mean the site becomes useless.  Even then, I think there’s something profound and encouraging about seeing the sanctuary lamp burning before the tabernacle, in the midst of the surrounding darkness.  When all may otherwise appear dark, the light of Christ’s Presence is shining forth.  It’s not Adoration, but it’s not a waste of time, either, especially after a rough day.

Now of course, an image on the screen is not the same thing as actually being present before the Real Presence, let alone receiving Holy Communion.  Nevertheless, one can see how there are many positive aspects of this kind of technology, which could be put to good use.  Much as radio and later television broadcast of the Mass has helped people like shut-ins to be able to pray and worship alongside their fellow Christians, while not a substitute for Mass or Adoration, this more recent technology also provides an opportunity for spiritual growth and refreshment to those who want to take advantage of it.

So this brings me back to my original question, because it strikes me that, if the good people of the Emerald Isle can put a service like this together, why don’t we have something similar in the U.S.?  Certainly, there are some churches around the country that have had low-tech webcams for years: I know of a few in places like Philadelphia and St. Louis, for example.  Yet to my knowledge, there is nothing comparable in America to this centralized site with so many participating churches, where not only can one watch live footage, but even go back and watch previous video.  There is clearly an opportunity here, waiting to be discovered and implemented.

In the meantime, gentle reader, I highly recommend that you bookmark the Church Services TV site, as I have, because you will be able to make good use of it when and if you need to.  And talk to your parish and your diocese about whether they might be interested in doing something similar where you are.  It would be great to see this service spread to more communities around the world, both as a source of spiritual growth for practicing Catholics, and as a tool for the New Evangelization.

Screenshot of the Church Services TV site

Screenshot of the Church Services TV site

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Announcing the Giveaway Winner (And More of You to Come!)

Thanks to all of you who read my recent post on Scott Hahn’s new book, Angels and Saints from Image publishing as part of the blog tour celebrating the publication of his latest volume, and to the dozens of you who entered the giveaway contest for a free copy of the book. I’m pleased to announce that the winner is Mike O’Connor, of Orland Park, Illinois!  Thanks for reading the blog, Mike, and hope you enjoy the book, which will be wending its way to you soon!

If you missed out on this particular giveaway, do not fret.  Next week, I’ll be reviewing another new book – and yes, there will be another chance for you to win a free copy via a giveaway on the blog.  This time we’ll be taking a look at The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home, by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler, recently published by Sophia Institute Press.  It’s a great look at how to make your house a place of prayer, something which many of us find difficult to do.

And if you end up missing out on THAT giveaway, I’ll have another one coming up the following week!  On that occasion the subject will be a new CD release from the world of popular classical music, which I think you will enjoy.  So be sure to stay tuned for more details.

I love having the chance to share good work with my readers, particularly ones that speak to our culture, whether Catholic or secular.  So if you’re an author or publisher with a book, film, or CD that you’d like me to take a look at for a possible review on the blog, please feel free to use the Contact tab to get in touch.  I’m happy to help out if you have a good product that you want to share with a wider audience.

Most importantly however, thank you again, gentle reader, for your patronage of this blog, which for me is really the prize to be won; I greatly appreciate your continued support of what I do here!

Prague Nike

Statue known as “The Golden Muse”, Prague

Hanging with the Hermit on “The Good Catholic Life”

As regular readers know, I’m part of a team working to establish a permanent Franciscan hermitage up in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, through the Friends of Little Portion Hermitage (FLPH).  The present hermit, my friend Brother Rex Anthony Norris, was recently featured in a terrific article by Sarah Reinhard in the National Catholic Register, which if you didn’t get a chance to read you should definitely check out.  This is all part of an ongoing media campaign which began with Brother Rex’ appearance on EWTN’s The Journey Home program back in April, and which has continued with guest posts from prominent Catholic writers, and now with radio and print interviews, to try to share his story and the wonderful opportunity we have to support this calling to the eremitic life in the Church.

Tomorrow afternoon – Friday, June 6th at 4pm – Brother Rex will be appearing on The Good Catholic Life radio show out of Boston, talking about his vocation and what we hope to accomplish by establishing the permanent hermitage through FLPH.  If you’re in the Boston area, you can listen to the broadcast live on 1060 AM.  You can also download the audio file later when it’s posted, but in the meantime, by visiting the show’s website you can find out how to post your questions for Brother Rex or leave feedback.

I’m really looking forward to hearing Brother Rex chat with the hosts, including people like Scot Landry and Dom Bettinelli, great guys whom I got to meet when I spoke at the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston last Fall.  Hope you can tune in to the program or download and share it later, and please prayerfully consider a donation to help make the goal of a permanent hermitage a reality!  If you are the host of a media program yourself, or know someone who is, I’d also ask you to get in contact if you’d be interested in having Brother Rex appear on your program.  We’d love to get as much support for this effort as we can, and as you’ll hear, Brother Rex is a smart, funny, and inspiring guest – and of course, be sure to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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