Monday, June 27, 2011

Silence, Prayer and iPods in Rome - My Take

Rome is an ancient city. Even some relatively new buildings, like the current St. Peter's, are several centuries old. Tourists like to look at old stuff - and so tourism is a big deal in Rome.

Some of the tourists like to look at old churches. Like St. John Lateran. Just one problem: unlike, say, the Colosseum of Rome or the Roman Forum, St. John Lateran is still in use. Daily.

Although I think someone could make use of ambient chatter, as an aid to developing patience and forbearance - I can see how folks trying to pray might prefer to not be hearing various tour guides talking in several different languages.

Options, Sensible and Otherwise

The Bishop who runs the Pastoral Care for the Diocese of Rome could, I suppose, decide to haul out a soapbox and tell folks who'd come to see the churches of Rome that God hates them because they're not Catholic - or not 'really' Catholic - and then get really mad.

That's really not our style. At all. (January 11, 2011, December 9, 2010)

So acting like a jerk is out. That still leaves the problem of folks who came to church to pray, and folks who came to see the sights.

The bishops could put 'official business only' signs on the door. Or maybe have ID cards, and make the churches into exclusive 'members only' clubs.

Again, not our style. We'd have a hard time carrying out our orders to baptize "all nations,"1 if we keep them out of church.

Besides, I think we've got enough - imaginative? - stories floating around about what 'those Catholics' do, without acting like we don't want 'outsiders' seeing what our faith life is like.

Still, there's the problem of chatter interfering with prayer.

Silence in Church? 'There's an App for That'

Happily, we're in the Information Age. As of last Friday, there's an app for St.John Lateran, the Pope's cathedral, that lets tourists see the sights - and learn about the church's 1,700-year history - without disturbing the silence that most folks need for prayer.

It's a trial run2 - and sometime during or after December of this year officials will decide whether or not to roll out the same program, or one like it, in other churches.

I hope it works. I became a Catholic in part because I was curious about the churches. Maybe other folks will wonder what the big deal is, and start learning. And that's another topic.

Related posts:In the news:
Links to posts about science, Catholicism, and Getting a Grip:1 We've got standing orders to make disciples of all the nations. Which isn't the same as beating people up because they don't agree. At all. Matthew 28:18-20; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 856.

2 Excerpt from the news:
"The Vatican has introduced a new way of keeping silence in their churches while also informing tourists – the iPod.

"Today is the first full day of a trial which sees pilgrims to the basilica of St. John Lateran given the audio-guide with a special app explaining the 1,700-year history of the church, which serves as the Pope's cathedral.

" 'I can easily say that in Italy there are no examples of experiences like this in religious contexts, probably not even those in museums,' Jelena Jovanovic said to CNA. Her company, Antenna International, created the handheld device.

"The multi-lingual guide offers audio, video, photos and texts to give an interactive experience to pilgrims....

"...But the primary purpose of the guide is not entertainment or even education - it's prayer and silence.

"Bishop Luca Brandolini, the head of Pastoral Care for the Diocese of Rome, explained to CNA that 'Unfortunately, our basilicas have become more like noisy meeting places at many times.'

" 'We need to bring back a place and time for silence. So I think this audio-guide will help achieve that.'

"The Managing Director of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican body that oversees all pilgrim activity in the Diocese of Rome, agrees.

" 'Those who want to enter into a basilica to pray must be able to pray. So this multimedia guide helps with that,' said Fr. Caesar Atuire.

" 'Everyone can now do what they have to do without disturbing others.'...."
(CNA (June 24, 2011))


Brigid said...

Stutter: "hard time carrying out out our orders to baptize"

An actual iPod or an app? "there's an iPod for St.John Lateran"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Found, fixed, thanks!

Oddly, there actually *is* an iPod for St. John Lateran - with the app pre-installed. They're free - but the folks at the church hold a document as a guarantee that they'll be returned.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.