It was a gift first thing in the morning. I noticed on my Facebook newsfeed a story about an Sr. Cristina Scuccia, an Italian member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, and her stunning performance of “No One” (originally by Alicia Keys) on the Italian version of the popular tv show, The Voice.
Her voice, enthusiasm, and spirit brought the crowd to its feet and tears to the eyes of at least one judge. Watch here.
Soon after watching, I came across an article in “The Atlantic” questioning the enthusiastic response of the crowd and wondering to what degree they were excited by the novelty of the scene, rather than by a response to the performance or to a genuine value of seeing a vowed religious in this context. It’s author, Emma Green, writes:
“It’s just that in this case, it’s unclear whether the entertainment value is earnest or sarcastic: Is this clip delightful because Sister Scuccia’s voice is powerful and her enthusiasm palpable? Or is it enjoyable because it’s a spectacle to see a bride of Christ dancing on television?”
These are strong questions arising from a legitimate concern that our society of spectacle embraces even (or perhaps especially?) religiosity in a way that does not, at the same time, invite reflection and allow for the possibility of deep transformation toward God.
But while granting the validity of that concern, I think that it echoes, at least a bit, the scandal that is at the heart of our faith: that God became flesh and lived among us. To live with us was most certainly a risk for Christ, and to do so in a way that bore witness to perfect love was to risk our rejection of that love. “God does not belong here,” we can imagine ourselves saying while faced with the incarnation. “God does not belong here in this mundane part of my life… in my decisions about my career, in my choices about how to spend my money and my time. God does not belong here, haunting my relationships with my spouse and my children, lurking in my entertainment. God does not belong here in my flesh, more intimate to me than I am to myself.”
“I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I am here to evangelize,” Sr. Scuccia said. Evangelizing, of course, can mean talking about the Gospel. But it can also mean embracing it and embracing the risk of spectacle, the risk of rejection, or even the risk of radical transformation. It can mean calling attention to the presence of God in the most unlikely places. Even on a tv show.
Andrew Staron is an assistant professor of theology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia.