More about photos during Mass and Pope Francis’ admonisment

The other day Pope Francis spoke out again taking photos at Mass or other liturgical moments.

Greg DiPippo at NLM has a good piece about this HERE.

He makes the distinction between this…

And this…

I would add any of myriad photos of beautiful sacred liturgical moments, Masses and more.

Two observations.

First, if Pope Francis doesn’t want all the photos during Masses etc., he might set an example by avoiding doing things like this, which surely fuel the photo flashing frenzy in his presence and elsewhere.

But we know that, selfies or not, nothing is going to turn this around.  Mobile phones are now the thing.

Next, we live in a time when beautiful sacred liturgy has been nearly forgotten or has, frankly, never been experienced by many.   Photos give people who have never known or nearly forgotten what the Church can offer to God as sacred liturgical worship are invaluable to instruct and, hopefully, inspire.

Provided that the photo takers are discreet, so as to not disturb others, I see no problem with taking the occasional pic.  However, then The Precious™ should be stowed and focus should be wholly in the sacred action.

As Greg put it over at NLM:

We do not live in a normal age in the Church’s life, and one of the things that makes it abnormal is the very widespread phenomenon of badly done and ugly liturgies; their ugliness is often far more distracting than any photographer, however poorly behaved. Photography is an extremely useful tool, I would say even a necessary one, for presenting people with models of liturgies which are well-done and beautiful. As long as they are taken with discretion, in a way that does not intrude upon the congregation’s ability to pray, I see no reason why we should have a problem with photographs taken during the liturgy. NLM will continue to publish such images, and we encourage others to do so. Photographs that have a documentary, historical, instructional or apologetic purpose, and serve as part of the Church’s evangelical outreach are one thing; photographs taken in function of the addictive selfie culture and digital tourism are another matter entirely.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    Is it possible that some progressive types are not happy that the internet is awash with gorgeous photos showing how beautiful and reverent, how truly sacred, the liturgy of the Church can be–especially in its traditional Roman form–and ought to be always, but at their hands is all too often embarrassingly ugly and irreverent instead?

  2. iamlucky13 says:

    I could definitely see any priest who experienced that first photo while saying Mass wanting to give a sermon about it. Since the overwhelming majority of the population don’t have a clue when a flash is socially inappropriate, not to mention probably a bad idea for technical reasons, it must also be very distracting when he’s trying to concentrate on the Consecration while standing versus populum and members of the congregation keep flashing bright lights at him.

    As for legitimate purposes: I’ve observed an often strong response at events like youth retreats when, if well prepared by those giving the retreats, teens who have never given much thought to the Mass, and might never have experienced Eucharistic adoration before, appreciate in some way for perhaps the first time what the faith they have (or have not) been taught means. A photograph of them participating is clearly not the same as the Mass or adoration itself, but there is another similar response later when they see these photos and remember it.

    For that reason, I’ve often agreed to photograph those events, and done a little bit of wedding photography as well. The latter in particular is a bit stressful, trying to capture photos that will remind them of the significance and beauty of the sacrament, but remaining discrete and not neglecting my own participation in the Mass, either.

  3. TonyO says:

    Photos during nuptial masses, confirmations, etc are not going away. Might as well accept it. And do something right about it. Such as:

    Pay a company to set up about 6 or 8 high quality cameras in strategic places in the church, which send a feed to a central location, which the photographer can control for taking specific shots. Enable the cameras to zoom in and out, maybe even put 2 or 3 of them on swivels to move around.

    Tell people in advance that they may not take pictures during mass, but that they can get much better pictures from the photographer than they can take themselves. (For a price, of course.) And, naturally, charge the photographer a modest fee for using the church’s equipment, to defray the cost of them.

    That way neither the photographer nor the people are jumping all over the place. The photographer is mollified by having pre-positioned cameras that have been placed at great angles for the important stuff. The mass goes on without distraction. Everyone who is willing to pay gets better pictures than they would otherwise get.

    No, it won’t prevent the hard-core people from pulling out their cell phones. But it would probably cause even them to stay in their pews.

  4. frjim4321 says:

    Cameras have become part of the landscape and they aren’t as much of a distraction as they might have been in early times. We had a new altar server last weekend at the noon mass and the mother was beaming with pride and took some pictures of her daughter serving so she could send them around to family members and paste up on her FB. The sharing of her joy, love and pride far outweighed any concern that there may have been about causing a “distraction.” And, as I always say, if someone is distracted or disturbed by something they see in church they can always close their eyes, look away, or maybe try praying instead of judging.

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    Back when I had a blog I used to sometimes take photos at Mass. I was trying to do a good work with my blogging. But I absolutely positively hated to do so, it was distracting and troubling when really I just wanted to pray the Mass and adore Jesus really present in the Eucharist. So personally if someone tells me not to take pictures at Mass, I pretty much welcome it. By the way I have never had a cell phone, I’ve only ever used a digital camera. The last thing I want is people calling me on the phone at any random time and even when I am at church praying, or being tempted to click around the internet or check email or send or receive messages while I am in church. I also observe that cell phones occasion all kinds of socially rude behavior that I do not ever want to emulate. Also, and above all, I do not like talking on the phone so increasing the opportunities of doing so has no appeal.

  6. Mary Fran says:

    I do take pictures at Mass, both at the NO and the Latin Mass. Unless I have been asked to take pictures for a special event like confirmation or the May crowning where I will need to move around the church, I decide on one place to take all the pictures and stay in that pew. I use a good Nikon (not quite professional quality) that gives me the ability to up the ISO to 1600, eliminating the need to use flash. I doubt that many people notice me taking pictures except for the ones right around me, and that, probably because of the little sound the camera makes when the mirror lifts. When the priest begins to offer the gifts, I put my camera down until after communion is over. Very, very rarely will I photograph the consecration. In fact, I have only done that once, when the Bishop was here for confirmation and I took that from the choir loft. I share my pictures on FB. Most people are appreciative of the work I do; I have never gotten any complaints about how I am disturbing people’s concentration at Mass.

  7. Elizabeth D says:

    So, after writing the above comment I am now asked to man a video camera for the dedication of a new church tomorrow. (St Paul’s in Madison, WI… Bishop Morlino) I will of course.

  8. Antonin says:

    I agree that the Pope’s selfies with people is undignified …at the same time I agree that photos should be limited at mass. I understand weddings and baptisms but the mass is not a spectacle and is meant to be to participated in reverently. Proliferation of photos do give the impression that the mass is a theatrical production rather than a participation in the paschal mystery.

    I find monastic simple styled liturgies far more rooted in the mystery than all the trimmings and trappings and although there is a place when they are photographed and provided as evidence of reverence and beauty it gives the impression that mass is an aesthetic production

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    Update on Bishop Morlino’s dedication of the brand-new chapel at St Paul Catholic Student Center on the UW Madison Campus: I was initially crushingly informed by a chipper individual who fully believed they were authorized and even obliged to inform me it was out of the question for me to attend: “nope! you can’t come to it, it’s for students and major donors only!” But then just yesterday a friend asked me to help video it, a task for which I have no training nor prior experience. This was really a glorious and moving occasion, and the church is pretty spectacular. I’d really, really wanted to go to this, and it did not disappoint. I hope my imperfect videography skills won’t detract too much from the beauty after my friend eventually edits his several camera angles together into a film of this Mass.

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