Say a requiem mass for your job as a priest in the U.S.A.

I just recently learned (via frizzy logic’s coverage of the Ig Nobel Prizes) about a startling new front in the global struggle over so-called free trade: outsourcing prayers.

Following the outsourcing of software and other technological work in recent years, Western nations have now begun “offshoring” of Christian prayers to India.

“With Roman Catholic clergy in short supply in the United States, Indian priests are picking up some of their work, saying Mass for special intentions, in a sacred if unusual version of outsourcing,” The New York Times reported.

Joining Americans in sending Mass intentions, requests for services such as those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India, are Canadians and Europeans.

No other Indian state receives more intentions from overseas than Kerala, where the Masses are conducted in Malayalam. The intention, often a prayer for the repose of the soul of a deceased relative, or for a sick family member, thanksgiving for a favor received, or a prayer offering for a newborn, is announced at Mass.

At five to ten dollars a pop, saying masses for Americans is providing much-needed income for needy priests. Requests are shipped by way of the Holy See, often via e-mail. The Ig Nobel committee was sufficiently impressed to award the 2004 Prize in Economics to the Vatican.

Perhaps this is what the Pope meant last year when he told a delegation of bishops from India, “Christ continues to make your Dioceses fertile ground for his harvest of faith.” Curiously, I found no mention of the Ignoble Prize on the Vatican’s website.

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