The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is worried. They need deeper penetration of the world's youth. They have a powerful need to get deep inside the young people of today, and plant the seed of Jesus inside them. It is urgent.
"We're going to give them a WELT," says the Vatican.
Although the Church counts its flock in the hundreds of millions, numbers in developed, white, important countries are dropping, and that saps at HMC's (Holy Mother Church - get with it) strength when it comes to controlling world-shaking events, like negotiations at the UN Security Council or cabinet level decisions in Ireland. The world cannot afford to lose the moral path they provide.
Although many of HMC's employees are familiar with young people, the word has come down from the highest office that the next generation must be won over, and the Internet, rather than the Youth Club or the confessional box, will be the front line of this battle for hearts and souls, and the attached but definitely less relevant bodies.
HMC of course has had to find its way into youth culture ever since Rock and Roll reared its ugly seven heads. It tried with "God Around the Clock" in 1963, replacing the worrying sexual-love content of Rock and Roll lyrics with the message of Christ's love, substituting blessings for hip-thrusts. It didn't go well. Hair-creamed boppers stayed away in droves, preferring Elvis to Monsignor Declan Murphy.
Licking their wounds they retired to the Vatican until the hedonistic orgy-ridden drink-sodden drug-zapped 1970s forced them out into the open with "Roller Mass." It was a disaster, not least due to the internal row over skin-tight spandex vestments for priests and altar boys (the long traditional soutanes fouled the wheels, tragically killing Father Desmond Scanlon SJ during a performance of "Sunday Morning Fever" 1979). The eighties saw the launch of the "Christian Ecstasy" communion pill, the fiasco of "The Happy Sundays" and the scandal of the pills' adulteration with LSD. Conversions were outweighed by lawsuits.
So what now? What tool can priests whip out to entice the young? The Internet, of course, and "i-Mass," the catchily-titled Web Education and Liturgy Tool (WELT).
The home page is certainly impressive. An animated Pope Benedict gets down to a funky remix of "All Over the World the Spirit is Moving" against a neon-coloured Cistine Chapel Ceiling. Sequin-Wimpled Poor Clare nuns move in for a stunning display of Capoeira, and flip-flopping altar boys give each other ten-highs before a chiselled-chinned African priest, MC Simon Mkwakwe starts the ball rolling.
"Hey, Up is the Father, Down is the Son, and the Spirit's All Over, and now we've begun! Yeah, c'mon," goes the new sign of the cross. There's an explosion, and we see the altar, inlaid with decks. There is no pausing as the hip-hop music pounds and the young devotee is asked to pick a reading from the Old Testament. I plum for Daniel in the Lions' Den, read by Mel Gibson with a snappy South Park-style video. Righteous!
The mass continues as expected, with interactive choices for readings and fun section choosing the response to the responsorial psalm. Wicked!
Then the big change hits. The homily would be there next, and a big lecture on some moral theme would likely put the kids off, but the cunning designers have created a chatroom with pre-arranged threads such as "I am thinking about having sex before marriage. Should I?" or "I am thirteen and got gang raped. Can I have an abortion?" or indeed, "I can't keep my hand off it? Can't it be good when it feels so right?" Trained nuns and priests are online to handle the questions and provide the considered and sensitive "No."
The Our Father, to the tune of Gangsters' Paradise, is stunning, the Great Amen thunderous, and the Holy Holy Holy, atop a smoking mountain to the strains of "Wonderwall" really hits the spot.
Hold bread to the screen and touch the transubstantiation key (shift f8) and God is With You. Amazing grace.
I was moved to tears. Never has mass been so exciting. The world is surely saved, the light of the Lord will shine in our Western cities again, priests will once again anoint the heads of youth with oil of Chrism, and the Pope wird den Ganzen Weld Kontrollieren. Heil Mary! Heil Jesus! Heil Mein Gott! Amen!