Sitting with the YGC in a Brazilian buffet/churrascaria at dinner today (which seems to be the only kind of restaurant in existence in Rio de Janeiro) a rising sophomore got up and made an announcement for the students interested in attending mass on Sunday. Thus far he´d only been able to find services in Portuguese, but was on the look-out for anglophone-friendly churches. I made a snide comment about the disappearance of the Latin mass, and the meal continued.
Six or seven hours earlier, I was sitting in a McDonald´s off the Avenida Nossa Senhora in Copacabana, eating a Quarterão and listening to Beyoncé. I had four free hours between our dress rehearsal with the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira and the concert that night and no one with whom to dine, so I grabbed a book and ran over to to the nearest McDonald´s, a ninety-second walk from our hotel. I ordered the exact same thing I would´ve ordered back in Nesconset, NY (where I grew up), listened to the exact same music I would´ve heard on BLI, and read Peter Lawler´s critique of Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty. Aside from the unnerving after-taste of Coca Light and the slightly better tasting cheese on my burger, I could´ve been in any number of fast food joints in Suffolk County or even in New Haven. I was comfortable and at peace, if slightly more aware of my purse slung on the chair behind me.
Maybe it was the paleocon propaganda getting to me, but I wondered if this is what we, as a species, have come to- we´ve hyper-localized the spiritual and hyper-globalized the market. There wasn´t a single American in that McDonald´s with me; neither the servers nor my fellow patrons seemed to understand a word of English beyond proper nouns associated with processed beef or saccharine beverages.
The Christians in my choir never did find an English service to attend. I´m sure, come the morning, they´ll head out to worship anyway, Christo Redemptor watching over them. But they were among those laughing at my complaint about Vatican II and the eradication of the catholic mass. Do they know what they´re missing, and, worse yet, what they and their ancestors´compliance has helped usher in? Or is this for the best, and is that which is universal truly for the lowest common denominator?