In the Midwest, July is the official month for fireworks. The moment venders begin selling fireworks directly into the hands of patrons, quiet evenings spent outside in the balmy summer heat are a thing of the past. The sounds of extended sequences of bottle rockets and firecrackers can be so jolting and the visuals so mesmerizing that fireworks displays offer a unique otherworldly experience. One moment you see an empty sky, and the next there is a choreographed spectacle of sights and sounds. Infatuation with fireworks is an area of obsession in our American culture—the United States reportedly spent approximately $1.2 billion on fireworks in 2017.
That’s right, $1.2 billion. Americans are spending their hard-earned cash to light up the sky. Aware of this figure, it is curious to see many people trying to capture this moment on their cell phones instead of enjoying the display distraction free. After all, $1.2 billion is a lot of money to spend on something that only leads people to take their phones out. Recordings do not do the original display justice, and yet many desire to share this memory with others. Fireworks replayed on a cell phone become a cheap-looking artificial memory, something that is better experienced first-hand. Not even a 12 megapixel video camera can record the bass of the boom and the dazzle superimposed over the moon.
$1.2 billion is a grand amount of money to spend on something that some people pay little attention to in the moment. An absurd amount of money for sure, but 1.2 billion has another significance: there are 1.2 billion people in the world who call themselves Catholic.
We might ask ourselves, how many of the 1.2 billion Catholics are living out and sharing their beliefs with others? The Mass offers Catholics something that we would not dare to capture on a cell phone, yet it is an experience meant to be proclaimed for all to hear. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is one of the few guarded moments where cell phones are left in the pew and our hearts are open to God’s grace. It would be utterly bizarre to see someone trying to capture a picture of the congregation receiving the Eucharist. The action of kneeling before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and preparing our hearts to receive Him is something all Catholics should desire to share with others more than our desire to share a fireworks display with our Instagram followers.
Next time you see a fireworks display, just imagine that for every dollar spent on fireworks in the United States, there is a soul who professes a belief in the Holy Trinity, a belief that Christ suffered and died for all on the cross, and a belief that He calls us to eternal life with Him. 1.2 billion. That’s a lot of money in the sky and a lot of souls in the pews. As inflation rises alongside secularism, let us ask Christ to provide the strength for Catholics to ever increase this number.
Photo by Alvaro Reyes