Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Anglican Idol: Though the Pop Hits of U2 May Not Be Coming to a Catholic Church near You, the Latest Eucharistic Fad Still Has a Lesson to Offer

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Anglican Idol: Though the Pop Hits of U2 May Not Be Coming to a Catholic Church near You, the Latest Eucharistic Fad Still Has a Lesson to Offer

Article excerpt

ON THIS PENTECOST EVE ANGLICAN BISHOP Timothy Ellis of Grantham will preside at a U2charist--and, no, that's not a misspelling. The U2charist--where the songs of the Irish rock band U2 replace the customary liturgical repertoire--is the brainchild of a U.S. Episcopal priest, the Rev. Paige Blair, who created it to draw attention to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, aimed at eradicating the most extreme forms of poverty by 2015. Bono, U2's lead singer, is well known for his advocacy for the poor, which is inspired by his Christian faith. In this effort he even met in 2005 with Pope John Paul II, when he offered his signature shades to the Holy Father.

Of course, in Catholic circles, the U2charist is likely to elicit groans. After all, since Vatican II we Catholics have tried every permutation of "relevant" liturgy: home Masses, folk Masses, rock Masses, jazz Masses, gym Masses, family Masses, teaching Masses--you name it, we've done it.

At the same time there is something refreshing about going out on a liturgical limb, especially since our current major Catholic liturgical disputes center on just exactly how arcane our new English translation of the Mass is going to be. And there is plenty of precedent in Christian tradition for pop-music importation: Martin Luther adapted German folk (even bar) songs for liturgy ("Why should the devil have all the good music?" he asked), and the Anglican founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley, also reached the masses through music.

But beyond the merely liturgical, U2charist boosters are making no bones about why they're going to be singing "Mysterious Ways" and "Beautiful Day" at church--and spending almost $20,000 to stage and record it for the BBC: They're trying to get young people back to church.

Enter Bono, a man simultaneously the epitome of cool and the embodiment of how to make good use of great fame in our culture of celebrity. From Project RED, a corporate partnership that sells everything from T-shirts to mobile phones to benefit African charities (and make a profit for sellers), to Vanity Fairs July issue on Africa featuring Bono as guest editor, to a 2005 meeting with President George W. …

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