Already trigger-happy at their pc keyboards, today's enthusiastic priest-netizens are typically spruced up and clean shaven in their roman collars. With the Internet finally blessed by the pope, perhaps a next step will be the first religious order of missionary YouTubers: all vowed and habited and primed to preach the Word of God to us from virtual pulpits. And as traditionalists continue to wax adamant about the ritualism of elaborate liturgies being more than just a 'sign language' of bygone days - extending this beyond ceremonies and fancy dress - our latest generation of chipper bishops jockeys vigorously with its clergy for more likes to those churchy Facebook posts. It all has one surmising whether that sacramental Catholicism hitherto enacted within geographically-identifiable holy places will be slowly replaced by a more contemporary religious anthropology of, say, virtual benedictions or online confessions.
For those of us raised on a diet of rosary recitation garnished with hot cross buns and Easter eggs, the happy clouds upon that liberating skyline were visible from the time we were teenagers. Shaken by fresh challenges to prevailing Medieval ideas around piety in renunciation, by the 70's we began seeking a benevolent leadership to soften the conscience-rending impact of materialism more tantalizing fruits upon such flamboyant, self-sacrificing faith. The Church wasted little time, responding already then with a facsimile of that delirious advertising which had practically run amok within societies in which 'First World Catholicism' still retained its uncertain foothold. It dutifully reproduced the promise of a quick-fix solution to every ill by purveying happiness in glossy images and counterfeit smiles. All this coincided with an audacious era of retouched iconography in which long-dead saints began to beam at you from merry faces that aped the giddy expressions of holidaying families in travel brochures - even sweet Jesus had the debonair smirk of your favourite Hollywood star.
Of course, times do change. The comparison between what was sustainable on the faith market before and what religiosi will purchase today is not necessarily a cynical one. It is much the same logic as that which prompted the initial decision to have the Holy Shroud on display in Turin at exactly the same time in which the Milan Expo was scheduled to open, so coinciding with the significantly heavier traffic of tourists to Northern Italy these days - all folks whom we trust will be curious, pious and doubtless armed with well-lined purses, Heaven be praised.
Yet again today we see that the Lord will not so easily suffer anymore to be thus unimaginatively vended as before in unsexy encyclicals and stern prohibitions - especially at this present time in which a solid dose of paparazzi-savvy 'sparkle' spiced with papal tweets and some online fizz by eager clerical bloggers must needs be recruited to rock the barque of our once humble apostles - or else see it ignobly tossed upon the waves of the menacing, ever imminent, storms of metamodernity. #Social media #Religion