Outsourcing Prayers

Is prayer a personal, participatory activity, or merely another
commodity in the global market? With the outsourcing of prayers
receiving new attention, the line between the two seems more
blurred than ever. Some Catholics have historically donated sums of
money to specify that a mass be said for a particular intention.
European, Canadian, and American churches are now collecting money
to pass along special intention requests to churches in Kerala, a
region with one of the densest concentrations of Catholics in
India. Kerala is particularly rich in priests, making it perfect to
relieve the critical shortage of clergy in Europe and America that
makes the waiting list for special-intentioned masses painfully
long. Following the pattern of global economics, outsourced masses
are also much cheaper, costing as much as one sixtieth of their
Western counterparts.

Even with this financial disparity, however, these funds often
help finance impoverished churches in Kerala. Moreover, priests
sympathetic to the practice assert that the exportation of mass
intentions is not new, and has only recently received negative
attention because of the exportation of technical jobs to India.
With waiting lists as long as two years for local mass intentions
and a third-world clergy working with very limited resources, the
practice of outsourcing prayer certainly makes practical sense for
the church.

Catholics, however, are not the only ones participating in
long-distance prayer. Hindus living in Europe and North America can
worship at their favorite Indian temple without the hassle of
transatlantic flight, offering prayers, food, and flowers to dozens
of different sacred locations by credit card. Though many are
critical of the practice of outsourcing prayer, the convenience it
offers to the willing is simply too good to pass up, and its place
in the global economy is too compelling to ignore.
Brendan Themes

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