Viral community, typified by numerous "friends" on FaceBook or Myspace that one has never met, communicating via "tweeting" or "texting," have replaced real communion where one actually sits with others in person. When faced with a social situation at which one is actually present to others, young people almost always pull out the cellphone and start texting and tweeting. I see it in my nieces and nephews all the time. young people have to connect because that is the way in which they communicate and enter into community. Texting, tweeting, and using the smartphone during an event - liturgy, meeting, class, etc., is not that "out of bounds" because that is the way they normally interact with others. In many instances, they would not consider that "tweeting" at a funeral is wrong because it is just what one does. It's almost akin to whispering to someone who is sitting next to you. They do not intend anything more than that. They wouldn't see it as a "big deal." Yet when it happens, whether it is in the classroom or a family gathering or in a church, whether the person intends it or not, they are sending the message that what is happening here is not as important as what is happening there. Somehow, we have to convince them that what is happening right now, here in this place, is where their attention needs to be. Maybe it's something as simple as asking that all cellphones and internet devices be turned off before the liturgy starts. Many churches already do this. Maybe it is necessary for the celebrant to remind the community at the beginning of liturgy that we need to make a conscious effort to focus on the here and now and to turn off all other distractions. But it is clear that we have to take this real shift in communication and community into account when celebrating the liturgy. We have to help them participate in the Church's liturgy.
The challenge of liturgical participation.