The Catholic Voices Blog
We had a fantastic group of Catholic communicators participate this past weekend in Washington, D.C. in our two-day communications workshop. We thank the Catholic Information Center in the heart of Washington DC for hosting the training at its location.
On Friday afternoon and evening, we talked about the purpose and development of the Catholic Voices USA project, shared our vision and approach on communicating the Church’s messages, reviewed our 10 principles of civil communication on hot-button issues, and discussed ways to develop concise and compelling messages.
Saturday morning began with Mass celebrated by Fr. Justin Huber of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in DC. After breakfast, we then spent the remainder of the day discussing particular issues, preparing concise messaging, conducing interviews and then reviewing videotapes of the interviews.
Each of the participants did a wonderful job in the interviews.
The workshop participants were:
- Kathleen Abela, a full-time wife and mother from St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, VA.
- John Allen, an investment banker and a parishioner at St. Agnes parish in McLean, VA.
- Mitchell Boersma from the CIC and a parishioner at St. Rita parish in Alexandria, VA.
- Louis Brown Jr., an attorney and a parishioner at St. Cyril and Methodius parish in Sterling Heights, MI.
- JonMarc Buffa, an attorney and a parishioner at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC.
- Grazie Christie, a doctor from St. Agnes parish in Key Biscayne, FL.
- Kelly Conroy, a communications professional for a Catholic apostolate and a parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Oakton, VA.
- Theresa Hardy, a nursing PhD student and a parishioner at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA.
- Melissa Overmyer, a Scripture teacher, writer and artist from Epiphany Catholic Church in DC.
- Mallory Quigley, a communications professional for a pro-life organization and a parishioner at St. John the Beloved parish in McLean, VA.
- Thomas Schoelhammer, a software engineer and parishioner at Our Lady of Peace Church and Shrine in Santa Clara, CA.
- Thomas A. Wilson, an attorney and a parishioner at St. John Neumann parish in Reston, VA.
This week in Baltimore, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville to a three-year term as the USCCB president, succeeding Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Archbishop Kurtz had served as the conference’s vice-president for the past three years and his election this week followed the normative pattern of a vice-president ascending to the presidency.
That pattern was not true three years ago when Cardinal Dolan was elected president by his brother bishops instead of the sitting vice-president. It was a stunning outcome on many levels. Never before had a vice-president standing for the presidency not been elected to the top post. Never before had the Conference elected an Archbishop of New York, with a huge archdiocese of his own to lead, to the additional duties as leader of the USCCB. Many bishops talked about Dolan’s great leadership and communication skills as reasons for his election.
Now, upon conclusion of his three-year term, we can evaluate the results. Overall, it seems that the election of someone with his gifts and talents was providential. Cardinal Dolan was the right leader at the right time for the USCCB from November 2010 through November 2013.
His top accomplishment likely is that he was able to keep the bishops united in their initiatives. His surprise election led many to put labels on Dolan and other bishops and to focus on differences of priority, focus, and approach within the USCCB. Overcoming any divisions, real or imagined, was part of his job as a leader and bridge-builder.
Unity became a greater challenge with the Affordable Care Act’s (Obamacare’s) mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services that all health plans, including those of the Church, must include contraceptives, abortion-causing drugs and sterilizations. How should the Church defend its religious liberty on the issue, earn appropriate exemptions from the mandate, and not appear partisan as we approached national elections?
There were various opinions as to how to approach this. Dolan led the USCCB in a civil, principled and never-partisan articulation of what was at stake. He advocated for what the Church hoped for as an outcome. The period of prayer, fasting, education and action called for in the Fortnight for Freedom was a rallying call for Catholics nationwide.
The defense of religious freedom here in the U.S. on the HHS mandate and other issues continues. Cardinal Dolan used his final presidential address on Monday to create awareness about the need for religious freedom for millions of persecuted and suffering Christians across the globe. We hope that the bishops will continue to express a voice of unity on religious liberty and that Christians and all people seeking the common good will echo that unified message in the years ahead.
A second major accomplishment was Cardinal Dolan’s prioritization of the new evangelization in the work of the Conference. He dedicated the first and second of his annual presidential addresses to aspects of the new evangelization. Pope Francis has regularly articulated that he wants the Church overall, and Church leaders in their duties, to be focused outward — to find and engage those on the periphery — instead of on internal Church management issues. Dolan has been practicing that for three years in his affable, engaging and inclusive style.
A third accomplishment, and one I hope the Church at all levels follows, is his embrace of the media to explain, defend and share the Catholic faith. Most Americans, including the majority of Catholics, get their news about the Church from non-Catholic media and sources. For Catholics to bring the Good News to others, especially those on the periphery, it involves building bridges with the media so that journalists include the authentic perspectives of the Church in their coverage of issues affecting us.
Through his appearances on the Today Show, the Colbert Report, his own radio show on the SiriusXM network, his personal Blog, various op-eds and many other vehicles, Cardinal Dolan has succeeded at sharing the Good News of the Church through the media. He always ensures that he articulates what the Church is for (the common good) in order to overcome any misperception that the Church is often only “against” things. In his media appearances, Cardinal Dolan expresses a joy of living the Catholic faith, builds relationships on a one-on-one level, and opens minds of those in the audience to see the Church in a different or new way. In discussion of hot-button issues, Cardinal Dolan sheds light, not heat. As the son of a bartender, he loves to engage in a spirited, civil and down-to-earth discussion often with a good amount of self-deprecating humor too.
This week, let’s give thanks to God for the leadership of Cardinal Timothy Dolan as USCCB president and pray for Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to be the right leader at the right time for whatever issues we’ll face as a Church in the United States over the next three years.
Scot Landry is executive director of Catholic Voices USA.
“You will know a tree by its fruit,” Christ tells us in the Gospel of Matthew. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Our cultural mores seem to bearing bad fruit these days. A recent study that polled incoming freshmen at Boston College and later polled these same students at graduation found that women leave Boston College with lower self-confidence than when they arrived. That same study found that the male students at Boston College graduated with greater self-confidence than when they had arrived on campus freshman year. Surely many factors contribute to this bleak statistic, but the students themselves acknowledge the prominent “hook-up” culture as one of the possible reasons for the discrepancy in self-esteem.
The hook-up culture is a fruit of the sexual revolution. Young women and men have random sexual encounters -- usually fueled by alcohol -- and many of these encounters are “one night stands.” The emphasis of these encounters is on sexual liberation and freedom and confidence.
A few weeks ago a young woman blogged passionately about this topic. Her post, entitled, “A Letter to a One Night Stand,"has received tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments; clearly her experience strikes a chord with readers. The post details the complex, tragic results of this hook-up culture that is so damaging to young men and women today. The writer contends that the most important line in her blog post is, “Why does the reaction one would have to a complete stranger so closely resemble that of two people who have seen each other completely naked? Instead of acting like you didn’t anticipate my arrival, acknowledge me with the respect you’d pretend to have if you were trying to get with me for the very first time.” The most salient aspect of her hook-up experience was the fact that her partner would not even acknowledge her presence after the intimate experience that they had shared.
Yet we continue to accept this misery – the very opposite of a culture of encounter in what is meant to be the most intimate, loving, sacramental embrace. We’ve accepted a culture that pretends we can sleep with whomever we want, without emotional attachment, and that it is ok andgoodand that we are sexually liberated. We (generally, culturally speaking) tell ourselves that “consenting to having sex is not the same as consenting to having children,” (as one writer argued) and that we have therightto choose to end the lives of our children if we so desire or deem necessary. We tell ourselves that everyone is on the pill or uses some kind of birth control so it must be morally acceptable.
Yet the tragic results, the “bad fruits” of this so-called sexual liberation are staring us in the face. Women and men are finding themselves emotionally empty as a result of the hook-up culture. The government is mandating that employers cover contraception; such birth control measures are now considered to be a part of essential health-care benefits. Marriage and childbirth rates are at a record low.Surely there are many causes for all of this, but doesn’t the lack of value that we place on sex and intimacy play into this somehow?
Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in Love and Responsibility that “love between two people is quite unthinkable without some common good to bind them together. This good is the end the man and the woman choose. When two different people consciously choose a common aim this puts them on a footing of equality, and precludes the possibility that one of them might be subordinated to the other.” We must continue to stress the value and human dignity of each individual. That human dignity necessarily demands a respect and deep love and appreciation for the other -- such love and appreciation cannot be found in a one-night stand, after which the two people pass by one another like strangers. What is meant to unify and solidify love and to create new life does the opposite -- it harms, it isolates, it leaves us feeling empty. Surely we are doing something wrong here.
But Christ has a message of beautiful, transformative, life-giving love.It is a radical, unpopular point of view in today’s world, but it is a story that we must tell. If we try to emphasize, once more, the value and sanctity of marriage, and of the gift of sex within marriage, perhaps we can stem the growth of this “bad fruit” of isolation and emptiness.It is our responsibility to faithfully work to change the culture of death and instead build up the culture of life with its emphasis on radical love.
We are reminded of St. Augustine’s famous verse, “Our hearts our restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” Oh that we would have the courage to seek God with our restless hearts.
O Lord give us the courage to seek and to find you.
It seems the whole world saw Pope Francis’ warmth extended to the brave young boy who climbed up to embrace him during the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Social media was also buzzing a few months back with the “selfie” that several teens took with the Pope in Rome. These pictures and videos reveal his incredible tenderness and are consistent with Christ’s message to “let the children come to me” (Lk 18:16). But Francis’ effectiveness in reaching out to younger generations is much more intentional than these chance encounters and embraces might suggest. This is evident by his consistent use of one particular phrase when addressing young people. Francis frequently urges them to reject the “throwaway culture” of their modern societies. This characterization of contemporary culture’s devaluing of creation -- from human life to our natural resources -- is an effective shift in tone and language that is giving new life to the message of the gospel that has been repeated through the ages.
Francis’s predecessors, Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were two of the most prominent advocates for responsible stewardship of creation, especially human life and human relationships. The characterization that John Paul II offered was that there is a battle between “culture of life” and a “culture of death” and was borne out of the historical context in which he lived. The framing of the fight for human dignity in these terms inspired a young generation of Catholics who found themselves fighting for human life in its weakest stages as they saw the passage of legalized abortion and physician assisted suicide, as well as a staggering increase in divorce rates. Pope Benedict XVI effectively spoke to the next generation of young people in the terms of moral relativism, which Western societies rapidly embraced and tried to spread on a global scale. His language and tone, as well as his ability to explain the philosophical reasons for what was happening, helped this group of young people to understand why it was becoming increasingly difficult to hold people to moral standards that once were givens.
But these generations of young people have now grown older, and are replaced by others whose frame of reference is different. The world of contemporary youth is a world of instant gratification, of impatience and restlessness, of material abundance. It is a world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google. It is for this reason that Francis’ discussion of the importance of fighting the urge to dispose of things, people, or relationships that we don’t see as useful or immediately gratifying in new terms is important. The language of the “throw away” culture makes sense to Millennials, as this is one of their biggest temptations: to move on to what is new, momentarily satisfying, or efficient. Francis has employed the phrase in a variety of contexts when addressing young people: from taking care of one’s grandparents, to protecting the life of the unborn, to making a decisive decision to get married, to idolizing money, to not wasting one’s food. To young people in Sardinia he said:
Don’t let your hope be stolen! An economic system that “idolizes money” is based upon a “throw-away culture: the grandparents are thrown away, the young people are thrown away. And we must say ‘no’ to this throw-away culture.” That mentality calls for the elimination of human beings, above all if they are physically or socially weaker. Our response to that mentality is a decisive and unhesitating 'yes' to life.”
Young people are responding to Francis with enthusiasm and zeal. It’s no wonder: Just like his predecessors, he’s speaking their language.
In my house growing up, Halloween was an afterthought -- the focus was always on All Saints Day. Try as she might, my mother always unsuccessfully lobbied us kids to dress up as saints for Halloween, but somehow dressing up as St. John Bosco was not as appealing as a Ninja Turtle costume.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I truly began to understand what All Saints Day was all about. I was in Los Angeles for a conference and someone had suggested that we stop at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The Cathedral houses one of my (now) favorite pieces of art -- a stunning tapestry that lines both sides of the nave, The Communion of Saints, by artist John Nava.
I remember walking along each side of the Cathedral marveling at the simplicity and the beauty of this piece. I noticed many of the famous saints: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Vianney, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. But much to my surprise, tucked among each of these notable people were regular, everyday people. There were some children wearing khakis and cargo shorts, a man in a business suit. At first I didn’t understand -- what were all of these average people doing in this tapestry? How could a kid in cargo shorts have a place next to St. Boniface?
I noticed, then, that each person in the tapestry was looking forward toward the sanctuary, toward the Eucharist. Suddenly it all became clear. The saints are, of course, models of holiness, but their lives point to a greater truth -- that we are all called to be Christ-centered people, we are called to be saints. Fr. Robert Barron explained in the Catholicism series that saints are people who “allow Christ to live His life within them.” When I heard this for the first time I couldn’t help but question myself: Do I allow Christ to live his life within me? How often do I say “yes” to Christ when I hear him call? Or more likely, how often do I hear the call but pretend not to hear it?
The saints are models to emulate, to be sure, but we are each called to use our own unique gifts to love people and to bring people to Christ. I am not necessarily called to join a Carmelite cloister like St. Therese of Lisieux, or to rebuild churches, or to preach to foreign lands. But I am called to love. So my personal road to sainthood must necessarily be paved with a “yes” -- yes to Christ, yes to love, yes to selflessness. The everyday people walking amongst the saints in the tapestry are reminders that we are called to be saints, and that we can all be saints. It is possible if I can allow Christ to live his life within me.
This week my eighth-grade class made our own version of this tapestry. Armed with colored pencils, a massive roll of brown paper, and a few stencils, the students set out to create their very own Communion of Saints tapestry. And tucked among our notable saints -- the patron saint of our school, St. Angela Merici, St. Patrick (we are in Boston, after all) -- the students drew everyday, ordinary people like a schoolgirl, a child playing basketball, a police officer. All of them are holding hands, marching on toward the sanctuary, reminding each of us that we are called to be Christ-centered people.
After school yesterday two students stopped by to finish working on the tapestry. While she was drawing, one of the students looked up and asked, “So, we can all be saints, Mrs. Manning?” Yes, I assured her. Yes we can. She smiled and went back to her drawing.
What a perfect model for us saints-in-the-making.
“I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Ephesians 4:1
The following is the prepared text for my address at the Catholic New Media Conference (#CNMC) on Saturday October 19 at the Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center in Braintree.
The title of my address was, "How to reconnect with inactive Catholics through social media."
Thank for choosing to be here at the 2013 CNMC in Boston to grow in your faith and to learn techniques to help others grow too. For those from outside the area, let me add my welcome to our Archdiocese.
My topic today is “How to reconnect with inactive Catholics through Social Media.” It’s a privilege to share my reflections with you. Before getting into the meat of it, let me insert a brief commercial message for a book that I’m writing that Our Sunday Visitor will publish in early 2014 entitled “Transforming Parish Communications: Growing the Church through New Media.” It’s been a wonderful process to write the book. I encourage you to follow me on Twitter (@ScotLandry) and you’ll be among the first to know when it is available.
I am in awe of everyone here and what you do in social media to share our Catholic faith and life with others. I’m more of a digital immigrant than a digital native and I’m convinced that social media is essential to the New Evangelization. I hope that my efforts might lead late adopters to new media to embrace these tools and use them well.
I like to structure my presentations around questions and I have 8 central ones today which are on your handout. The first is relatively simple and straightforward:
(1) Whom are we hoping to reach?
- We are trying to reach inactive Catholics. How does Jesus describe them?
- In Sacred Scripturem we hear that he often refers to them as the “lost.” In the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus tells us three parables in response to the grumblings of the Pharisees and Scribes who didn’t like that Jesus was spending time with sinners and tax collectors.
- He first tells us the parable of the Lost Sheep, where the Shepherd will leave the 99 to reach out to find the 1 Lost. He tells us that Shepherd will rejoice we he finds the one. Jesus then adds “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” MORE JOY.
- He then tells us the parable of the Lost Coin in which the woman searches for the lost silver piece and when she finds it will invite her neighbors to celebrate with her that she has found the coin she had lost. Then Jesus adds “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
- Jesus then shares the parable of the Prodigal Son. We know the story well. When the Son who disowned the family and squandered half the estate, returns home, the Loving Father throws a huge party! To the older, faithful, jealous brother, the Loving Father states “we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”
- In the Catholic Church today, we only have about 7% of self-identified Catholics that are highly engaged in living their faith in their parishes, according to Matthew Kelly in his book “The 4 Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.” My guess is that many of you would be part of that 7%.
- How large is our target audience? 93%. How would we classify this remaining 93%?
- First, we have those that attend Mass regularly but aren’t super engaged in parish life outside of the Sunday Eucharist. We know in most parts of the country mass attendance is between 15-35% typically. It is about 15% in the Archdiocese of Boston. From a round-number perspective, lets call this group about 20% of Catholics in
- Then we have those that come a couple of times per year. Perhaps they drop their children off at religious education on Sundays but don’t think about joining the community at prayer. From their actions, it’s easy to classify them as inactive. This group is likely about 40% of U.S. Catholics.
- Finally we have “fallen away or ex-Catholics.” Some writers have called this the second largest religious group in the country. It’s huge.
- I don’t want to get caught up in the percentages. The most important takeaway is that the vast majority of Catholics today are lost. Their center is not Christ. They may have been catechized but not evangelization. The Lost are not just 1%; it’s far greater than 50% who are in need of a spiritual GPS to help them find Christ and his loving invitation to the fullness of life, mercy and the promises he has for those of us that choose to be his disciples.
So the next question:
(2) Why are we trying to reach them? Why are we trying to reach them?
- Why’s matter. A big enough why can motivate you to do almost anything.
- Why are we trying to reach the lost? Simply put: The Lost are immensely important to Jesus. Jesus is immensely important to us. Therefore, should those that are incredibly important to Him be also incredibly important to us? Should His priority in finding the Lost also be our priority?
- Why us? Why not priests, religious, paid parish staff, Catholic school teachers do this on behalf of the Church. The reason is simply that we are his disciples, his followers. That’s it. We each have a personal invitation and responsibility to do this. It’s proper particularly to our vocation as lay people. As Cardinal Sean often says, “someone who is evangelized, evangelizes.”
- Is there anything new or innovative here? Heck no!
- So why have we, the Church, not been making this a priority? Why have we been so bad at evangelization and seeking out the Lost for many years?
- To address that question thoroughly would take hours, but I’ll state what I think is the principle reason. Our Church’s culture is the main reason.
- We have a culture that has made it easy for us to think that outreach is someone else’s job. We have a culture that too often focuses on maintenance over mission. We have a culture that too often welcomes the attitude of the Older Son toward his Prodigal Brothers and Sisters. We have lost focus that heaven will REJOICE when even ONE repentant sinner comes home.
- I believe that this is the primary reform that Pope Francis is about – the reform of our culture, attitude and focus as a Church. He told the Cardinals before the Conclave that he thinks the Church needs to refocus its energies, changing from an internal management focus to an external focus on reaching those on the margins, at the peripheries. The same way Jesus did. He wants the Church to be like a field hospital after battle – helping to heal one’s wounds before we explain the Catechism or discuss one of the harder of our Church’s teachings.
- Changing culture is a very tough thing to do.
- So that leads us to the third question:
(3) Why is social media one of the best ways to reach the Lost?
- I believe that social media can truly be a game-changer for the Church. My new book focuses a lot on why this is.
- Briefly, the main reason is that social media is not just a new tool of communication; as you know, it’s a new culture of communication. Msgr. Tighe spoke beautifully about this point this morning.
- Pope Benedict recognized this and wrote in his World Communication Day messages that there is a new culture on the digital continent and that the Church – you and me, our billion family members, our parishes and institutions – need to embrace it as speak the language of the natives.
- A second reason is that social media is where we can find and engage the Lost. They may be “lost” to the Church but they aren’t lost to us. On various social media platforms, they are our friends, followers and are linked in to us. Many of them are our personal friends, some for years.
- For many in our social network, we might be a face or the face of the Catholic Church today to them. Perhaps they are away from the Church because someone in the Church hurt them or hurt their feelings. Maybe they’ve seen Catholics representing the Church appear angry in the media and don’t feel that faces like that are the type of community they want to be part of. Let’s be a new face for them, reflecting the divine face of Christ.
- Here’s my hypothesis: Nearly every “Lost” or inactive Catholic in the United States who is on social media is connected with, or one retweet away, from at least ONE Catholic that would be part of Matthew Kelly’s highly engaged 7%. What an opportunity this represents! What a source of hope?
- But let me ask you. How many Catholics on social media, perhaps besides the type of folks that come to the CNMC, actively share messages/articles about faith on social media? If there was ever a persecution of Christians and they used our tweets and Facebook posts as the only evidence of our faith and life in Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict many of us?
(4) What is the ideal role of a parish in this process? What can we do to help? What is essential for a parish to become a hub of new media?
- In October 2012, Bishops gathered in Rome from throughout the world for the 13th Ordinary Synod of Bishops, which corresponded to the beginning of the Church’s Year of Faith. The title of the Synod was “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” In its concluding propositions, reflecting Catholic Theology and the remarks shared by Bishops and invited experts, the Synod concluded that the “parish, in and through all of its activities, should animate its members to become agents of the New Evangelization, witnessing through both their words and their lives.”
- The Church wants parishes through these activities to animate parishioners, that is, to be full of life, specifically the life Christ offers us and hopes we accept. People who are animated have energy, passion, enthusiasm, and love for what they do.
- In my book, I spend a chapter unpacking this proposition. The parish is called to be the animator not the agent. We the parishioners are called to be the agents. That’s important.
- So how can a parish best animate its parishioners to evangelize? I propose in the book that it’s to leverage new media, to become a “hub” of new media – receiving and filtering messages, sharing them with parishioners through new media, and inviting parishioners to retweet them and share with their own social networks.
- I believe we’ll get far more parishioners evangelizing if our parishes train them on New Media than if we train them on Evangelization specifically. Once we train them on New Media, we can invite them to tithe 10 or 20 percent of their new media posts to be messages of invitation or links to documents that positively and clearly explain Church teaching or make them feel that they’d like to be a part of our community.
- To accomplish this cultural change toward new media evangelization at the parish, I recommend in the book that parishes for a “New Media Outreach Committee,” which would train people on New Media, help the parish office with the work of identifying what to post and share, and then to help implement any specific new media outreach initiatives and events. You can be these trainers and those that train future trainers.
- So, how can you help? I’d love it if you would both introduce the idea to your parish leadership and parish councils and then offer to be helpful on the New Media Outreach Committee.
- Having worked for the Church for 7 years recently, I realize how challenging it can be, with all the demands on our parish staff, to have one more thing to do – even if it is very important. So the book is written in a way that I hope it will do much of the work of selling this idea. My hope is that parish councils will read it together and discuss it. There’s even a 24-month implementation schedule in there for a parish to modify if it chooses to become a Hub for New Media and seek to animate parishioners to utilize new media as agents of the New Evangelization.
(5) When we reach inactive Catholics through new media, how do we hope they’ll feel and think? What do we hope they’ll do?
- The best communication efforts speak to recipients’ hearts, heads and souls. Not every message can do all three, but it’s important that our various messages combine to reach all three.
- In terms of what we hope they’ll do, we hope inactive Catholics will want to take a new step to come closer to the Church. One step at a time. The first step can often be the hardest.
- Perhaps it is reading an article about Pope Francis or one of his beautiful tweets. Perhaps it is a great, clear, positive explanation of the greater good that the Church is for on a controversial issue. Perhaps it is about a story of sacrificial love that someone does on account of faith – something that makes us proud to be Catholic.
- In terms of what we hope they’ll think feel, we hope that they feel that the Church gives them hope and could be a force of positive change and transformation in their lives.
(6) What are the best messages to utilize in reaching the Lost? Are there any messages to avoid?
- We want to listen to them and hear about their experiences. We want to have a respectful and friendly conversation about tough issues.
- We are sinners too. We are always learning/growing. Our Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum of saints. If you’re a sinner, please join our club.
- We struggle too. We don’t have all the answers but we believe we have insights that can help people grow in peace, joy and happiness. From personal experience it has worked in our lives.
- We are kind, people of empathy and mercy. Not judgmental or angry. We are not modern-day Pharisees.
- We care for people (generally) and we care for them specifically. We want to see if there is a way we can help them or a way to be of service.
- We are about love much more than we are about rules.
- We seek to stand up for the vulnerable and voiceless in society – not to be cultural “warriors.”
- We are truly sorry if someone in the Church has hurt them. We ask their forgiveness. They might need to hear that from one of us. Perhaps more than once.
- We truly miss them and wish they were with us. We invite them to come with us in the spirit of genuine friendship.
- In summary, messages that are hopeful, uplifting, caring, positive, and about good virtue in action.
(7) What communication lessons can we draw from Pope Francis’ first 221 days?
- We can learn so much from Pope Francis’ outreach to the Lost – in my opinion, they are the primary target audience for him in his interviews and biggest homilies.
- Fr. Roger this morning spoke of many communications lessons from Pope Francis’ daily remarks. I encourage you to read his address which will be posted on CatholicPreaching.com tomorrow. Fr. Roger said one of his favorite things to do is to read Pope Francis’ daily homilies each day before he preaches his own homily.
- One of my favorite things to do is to read his Tweets, which I think speak so well to head, mind and soul.
- In his first 7 months, he tweeted 172 times as of this past Monday. Here are some of my favorites and they’re instructive regarding some of the messages we could retweet or share in our own words.
10) “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”
9) “The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love.”
8) “We cannot be Christians part-time. If Christ is at the center of our lives, he is present in all that we do.”
7) “Every time we give in to selfishness and say ‘No’ to God, we spoil his loving plan for us.”
6) “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”
5) “We ought never to lose hope. God overwhelms us with his grace, if we keep asking.”
4) “How marvelous it would be if, at the end of the day, each of us could say: today I have performed an act of charity towards others!”
3) “Jesus is the gate opening up to salvation, a gate open to everyone.” (Aug. 27, #127).
2) “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!” (July 27, #107).
1) “God’s forgiveness is stronger than any sin.” (Sept. 26, #161)
- If we were saying similar things in our own words, as 10-20 percent of our tweets, I think those we’re connected with, even those of other faiths or no faith at all, would be moved and inspired.
(8) What if someone then wants to engage you in a deeper conversation about a hot-button issue?
A great problem to have. However, it can be a scary problem, can’t it?
Let me offer some principles of positive and civil communication in talking about controversial, misunderstood and otherwise hot-button issues in the Church (CVUSA.org). We share these as part of our Catholic Voices training workshops.
1. Look for the positive intention behind criticism of the Church. There’s often a Christian value to appeal to. Speak to it.
2. Shed light, not heat. Explain, don’t argue. Leave them wanting to hear more.
3. People won’t remember what you said as much as how you made them feel. Big words, complex thoughts, church speak won’t connect. Aim for civility, empathy and clarity.
4. Show, don’t tell. Stories are compelling. Stay with your lived experience. You are a delighted disciple with stories and experiences to share, not a spokesperson of a huge organization.
5. Three messages. In conversation, discern the three most important points and return to them to avoid distraction and to improve probability of proper takeaway of your main message(s).
6. Be positive. State what we are for. The Church is often perceived as being "against" things because people are unaware of the greater good we are for or why we are for it. We are a people of "yes" to God. The fullest freedom the Church proposes.
7. Be compassionate. Ready to absorb anger and hurt.
8. Share facts, but avoid robotics. Bring facts alive by tying them to something that moves the heart or soul.
9. It’s not about you. It’s about Christ. It’s His Church you’re seeking to make the case for, to represent. Pray.
10. Witnessing, not winning. Reframe – politely challenge a prejudice or preconception. Invite conversion.
(9) Concluding Remarks and Dsicussion
I invite you to go to our website, CVUSA.org, for more description of these principles. I’ll also put a copy of this talk there on Sunday, October 20.
Finally, I thought about how I’d sum up this talk in 140 characters: @ScotLandry invites us to use social media to prompt parties in Heaven. Remarks at CVUSA.org Sunday. #CNMC.
Now, I invite your insights into ways we can leverage social media to invite inactive Catholics home and also any questions/comments about anything I’ve said.
Since his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, Monsignor Tighe has been involved in all the major new media initiatives of the Vatican, including the launch of the @Pontifex Twitter account, News.va portal website, ThePopeApp and the securing of the .Catholic top-level domain (just this week).
I encourage you to read through my notes from his entire address (linked also at the bottom). I’ve included three additional links at the bottom of this post. One to the video of the address and one to the photos from the CNMC (courtesy of Pilot New Media of the Archdiocese of Boston). The final is a link to the interview of Msgr. Tighe and CNMC founder, Fr. Roderick Vonhogen, on The Good Catholic Life radio program on October 18.
Ten key insights from Msgr. Tighe’s remarks
(1) Msgr. Tighe and his colleagues from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PCCS) travel extensively so that they can learn from social media practitioners who are among the earliest adopters. They only want to recommend proven technologies and platforms to the Vatican and welcome the help of leading edge Catholics throughout the world.
(2) Pope Benedict was interested in getting on Twitter because he was told it could reach those that the Church’s message isn’t currently reaching, and he hoped that we could engage them and then share the Good News of the Gospel.
(3) Pope Benedict and Vatican officials were aware that the Pope's presence on Twitter would be symbolic, both as a recognition to those Catholics already there and also as an encouragement and motivation for those not yet present in this new arena for communication to know that the Pope considered it important.
(4) Msgr. Tighe and his colleagues believe that Scripture verses and synthetic teaching ideas can be shared meaningfully and substantively in 140 characters on Twitter.
(5) News.va is primarily a site to make it easy for Catholic bloggers and those that want to help share the Church’s message to get text, video, audio, photos that they can share. News.va functions as a portal and a mothership. Its Facebook presence effectively shares spiritual reflections and images. ThePopeApp allows all this content to be easily “in one’s pocket” on demand.
(6) Msgr. Tighe encouraged everyone to provide feedback to help News.va become a better portal and he encouraged those in social media to share the material there. He stated “if you’re wondering is there a copyright and do you have the right to share it - share it, use it, and ask forgiveness afterwards. This is Good News we want to share with people. That’s our primary instinct. There are intellectual property issues and we need to think through those as a community and we will do that in a way that is also attentive to the needs of an alternative community. There are no easy solutions. But let’s do this by serious debate and discussion. It will be the most profitable way to do this for all of us.”
(7) Social media produces a new culture and changes communication itself. People learn differently, express themselves differently, create community differently. It is changing the Church in how we form identity, how we form relationships and how we create community.
(8) He said the way we give the Internet a soul isn’t simply Christian presence there, but it’s by making sure that there is a “true, integral, humanity expressed on the Internet. That there is space for spirituality, for questioning, for doubt, for learning. By our receptivity to those, we create a space for the Internet to have a soul, but we’re not the soul. Every human being has deeper questions and we need to create the forum, a framework, and a lack of fear that will allow people to do that meaningfully.”
(9) He said the vocabulary we should use on social media should be entry level. Many meaningful church words such as evangelization, reconciliation, salvation are not entry level words and we shouldn’t presume everyone understands what we mean. We don’t want to lose the rich language of theology and of liturgy, but need to appreciate the difference between entry-level language and richer language we can help people learn and understand after they engage with us.
(10) Pope Francis told the PCCS that in social media we need to see that we’re on a journey with other pilgrims. Everyone is on this journey. We shouldn’t be way ahead of others or we shouldn’t be way behind them. We walk with them. He said we should strive to bring them to meet Christ and accompany them on the journey. He said, in social media, we’re there to do three things: to listen, to converse and to encourage. We want to let the messages of Christ and of their Church warm the hearts of so many people in the world that are struggling.
Notes from Msgr. Paul Tighe’s CNMC Keynote Address
2013 Catholic New Media Conference
Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center in Braintree
October 19, 2013. 9:00-10:00am. Hashtag: #CNMC
Taken by @ScotLandry. These are unofficial notes - any and all errors are mine.
Outline - "The Vatican and Digital Media” - from Msgr. Tighe’s PowerPoint slides
- Context - substantive justification
- Symbolic - recognition, encouragement
- Response - numbers, negativity, appreciation
- Interactivity - capillary, networked
- Analysis - retweets, patterns, hashtags, #prayforpeace
- Learning - plan, internal preparation
- Convergence - aggregation, multimedia, social
- Feed our base - speed, translations, accuracy
- Review - engage users, adjust, measure
- Mothership - apps, Facebook, micro sites
Guiding insights, intuitions and reflections
- Cultural more than technical - change in communication
- Transformation - ongoing and involved
- Positive - potential, human responsibility
- Means, environment, network - digital continent / inculturation citizens
- Digital is real - must be present
- Digital area is different. Language.
- Witness - sharing self, walking with pilgrims
- Bringing others to meet Christ
- Who are we? Authenticity, coherence, respect
- Devolved interactivity - subsidiarity, home
- Landscape - authority, experience, expertise
- Show - stories, ecclesiology
- Invitational, Communion, community
- Anthropological grounds. Relationships, searching, sharing, following. Transform.
- Loss of meaning, inability to connect, struggle to build meaningful relationships.
- Theological resonances. Message and Person of Jesus.
- Mystery. Encounter is personal - no manipulation.
- Trust - avoid complacency, professional and graced.
- We need to positively challenge people to be their best.
Remarks - Introductory thoughts
Thank you very much for this opportunity to be with you. It’s very important for our council to get an opportunity to engage with people like you.
Sometimes when the media look at what is happening with the Church and with its communications, there is a tendency to focus on the center, to focus almost exclusively on initiatives that are centralized. But our Church is never centralized. Our Church is what happens in Rome but our Church is also what happens in local communities.
Social Media is redefining how we understand local communities, how that localness, that friendship, that closeness, that sense of being gathered around a theme or a topic or an interest group, will remain in some sense the parish of the future, the digital parish will be where people cluster around shared interests and shared ideas.
That is sometimes called more the periphery, the local, is essential to the life of our Church. If the Church were ever to become simply what happens at the Center, then we’ve lost it, even though at times, the center gets a lot of the attention.
The second reason I’m pleased to be with you is that Archbishop Celli has told all of us at the council that we should be busy traveling, because we travel to learn. We learn from the people who, in many ways, are well ahead, doing different things, working with different platforms, experimenting with different forms of engagement. When we propose something at the Vatican, we have to be fairly sure it’s not going to blow up in our faces (joking). Otherwise, I’d be sent back to a parish in Dublin very quickly; that might be very nice and very good for me and for others as well (joking). We tend to wait until things are a little bit established and the ideas are clear, because if we blow up it’s going to blow up very publicly and on a massive scale.
I’m conscious that it’s very often that people who are doing the day-to-day, who are learning by doing, who are experimenting, who are trying new things [that we can learn from]. I want to encourage you to do that and I want to encourage you to share your experiences with us so that we learn together.
I’m always nervous when I’m supposed to be giving a keynote. A keynote sounds as if you know what you’re doing (joking). I always come back to when I was starting in University, we won’t say how long ago (joking), I used to say 20 years, then 30 years, and it’s now approaching 40 years ago, I remember one of my friends saying to us “what is education?” His definition of education is going from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty (joking). Going from thinking you know everything to realizing how little you know. I always think of poor Donald Rumsfield in this area. There are the known knowns and there are the known unknowns and there are many unknown unknowns there for us as well as we work in this area.
So what I’m going to share with you is not the definitive keynote, the answera. I’m going to talk about some of the things we’ve done, what we’ve learned by doing them, and then try to move out from there to a more theoretical introduction. I’ll probably speak for about 40 minutes and then allow about 20 minutes for questions. I have a timer on myself, because being Irish, we go on! (joking).
You all know the @Pontifex Account. Our Council was part of a group of people that helped to convince the authorities that it would be a very good idea that the Pope would be present in Twitter. The interesting thing there was people needed to prepare a briefing document so that the Pope could consider it because it wasn’t done without him knowing about it. It was either going to be his initiative or it wasn’t.
Pope Benedict’s intuition was, “I don’t need to know all about the technologies, but if you’re saying that by using this platform, I would have the potential of bringing a message of hope, of Good News, to an increasing number of people, who might not always be on the radar as far as I’m concerned. If that’s what it’s about, go for it.” That was it. His intuition was this is a means with which we can reach other people, we can engage them, and we can share the Good News of the Gospel.
Twitter was particularly easy to think about because one of the things we wanted to say from the beginning was that Twitter would work to convey meaningful and substantial ideas. People were wondering how you could share complex theological ideas in 140 characters. But the key teachings of Jesus, by and large, many of them fit easily into 140 characters. So we had this thing with our biblical traditions, with a lot of our synthetic teaching ideas, that it would be possible to say something meaningful and substantive in the Twittersphere (or the Twitterverse, depending on where you come from). That was the substantive justification on our part for getting involved.
Related to that was another thing. This was going to be symbolically important. More than what the Pope initially might say on Twitter, he was there. This was saying to all sorts of people that it’s important that we are present.
One of the interesting things – and this is in some sense wrong – that the Pope getting on Twitter got more media coverage and column inches than perhaps the Pope’s visit to Lebanon or Cuba. In some ways, that is wrong, because what is happening in Cuba and in Lebanon at the substantive level were much more serious, but we got a lot of attention for going on Twitter, and (joking) if you’re on the right side of unfairness, that’s great. So we got more attention than we needed. For us, what I thought this going on Twitter was really about was that this was saying to the Church globally that this is a global sphere that we must be present in, and let’s think about what it means to be present.
So in one sense what we were saying was recognition. It was saying ‘well done’ to those who are already there, who are bringing the Church into that arena on their own to begin with. It was also a word of encouragement, saying to others who maybe were slowing getting there, this is worth doing. We heard from communications directors around the world who said, ‘finally, I can tell my bishop this is for real. This is serious. It’s not a fad. It’s not going away. The Pope is there, you better think about it.’ We’ve seen over time that the only voices should not be those of bishops or pastors or priests – it has to be the voice of the whole community. It’s been nice to see many of those come in, making their own personal contribution and bringing their own personal style to this arena.
The responses, as you know, have been strong. We used to say ‘the numbers don’t matter’ as we desperately rushed to check the numbers (joking) at the same time. At the moment, we’re approaching ten million followers when you add all the language platforms together.
There are many Interesting little insights. The Latin account: Someone there said, “let’s do a Latin Twitter feed,” partly because the people who run the Latin department enjoy playing around with short synthetic sentences. Latin is one of the most synthetic languages that exist. One can say a lot in very brief terms. They were going to enjoy the technical challenge of often finding a Latin that was suitable for the concepts. They have now garnered 170,000 to 180,000 followers. Many of those followers are not believers; they are people who are studying Latin. They are teachers of Latin who are now being exposed to the thought of the Pope because of an interest in Latin. Does that make sense? So we’re reaching, and we’re finding, that we don’t always know who is going to be interested in the Pope’s Twitter, but we know it’s important that we’re there.
The second part of this, and we need to be honest, that at the beginning – many of you are aware of this – there was a huge negative response of some of the people in social media to the Pope’s presence. Some of that was very clearly people saying, “let’s launch a Twitter bomb. Let’s oblige them to take the Pope out because the response is so negative.” With the Irish, one doesn’t tell us what we cannot do (joking). We were staying there. More significantly, it was also about the people that might not want the Pope in social media don’t particularly want the voice of the Church in any arena. So we need to keep ourselves there and be conscious there’s a marketplace of ideas.
I promised to read all the initial messages to the @Pontifex hashtag and review the questions. There was a huge amount of negativity. But some of that negativity was a way of expressing frustration and genuine concerns. Does that make sense? You could learn something and understand why some people were irritated and annoyed with the Church and what the main upsets were, what was keeping them away, and what was making them deaf to our message, because they were revealing a lot of themselves, even if what on the surface seemed extremely negative comments. I’m not saying they all had that dimension. It was worth reading the comments. It was also wonderful for my vocabulary (joking), in a range of languages. I don’t get much chance to use the new words, thankfully, but it’s there (joking).
The other thing that was very important was how people – believers and non-believing people of good will generally – said “we can’t let this negativity win out. We also have to ensure that this domain isn’t going to become just a negative arena. We have to build up a positive community. If they’re engaged in bringing it down, we’re going to engage in expressing an appreciation.” That’s where we want to thank people like you, around the world, who on your own initiative said “Let’s get in there and say something positive, and let’s dilute the toxic materials that are in there and try to make this a good environment.”
Particularly because we’re conscious that many parents would be concerned about their children being on social media. We are happy that they should be looking at @Pontifex but we don’t want them to be exposed to inappropriate material. We have a responsibility to try to keep that environment positive.
We got a huge amount of appreciation. We got appreciation from people who said things like one blogger “now that I’m in social media, and the Pope is now there with me, I kind of have to behave a little bit better!” (joking). We had other people who were saying “Thank you for coming in and raising the tone of the debate. Thank you for making this something serious.” And that wasn’t just from believers.
One of the weaknesses in the @Pontifex strategy is the interactivity. What level of interactivity can we get? And I’m going to talk about this more as we continue. The Pope follows himself on Twitter. Following the other accounts is a way to alert people of the accounts in the other languages. It’s very difficult to draw lines regarding who you would follow and who you would not. And how meaningful it would be to say that the Pope was following a particular account. What we’re trying to think about is that the level of interactivity comes not from the center, but from the local. What we want to begin to think about is what would it look like for the Church to build a capillary network in which people would say, I saw someone commenting or responding there, I think I have something to say to them to encourage them. So that the Church becomes interactive using that platform which is the @Pontifex account, with all the activity that it generates, for us to being to work on how to engage meaningfully with that.
We’ve recently begun to get slightly into the business of analysis. We’re not going to overanalyze this. The @Pontifex launch was amateur almost – we didn’t have big marketing strategies behind it. It worked because of a genuine sense that this is something authentic. What we are learning is that the pattern of retweeting is very gratifying. We’re told that for a public figure that @Pontifex has probably the highest level of retweeting that you get in terms of percentage of followers. That means the message is not only being received by the people who follow @Pontifex, but also by those who receive it because of someone’s retweet. That’s when we’re reaching people who might not ordinary choose to expose themselves to Gospel messages or to the thought of the Church. That’s where Archbishop Celli uses the image of scattering the seed. One doesn’t know where it is going to end up. One doesn’t know whether it will land on fertile group or hostile ground. But the possibility exists that a word or message that will always be rooted in the Gospel is going to touch somebody’s heart.
We’re interested in the patterns. We became informed of one little mistake. If the Pope’s tweets are published at midday in Rome, that meant for people on the West Coast of the United States, they might not get it. We are aware that if people receive the message sometime during your working day then you might retweet it. We’re learning from that sort of thing on the timing of the messages.
The hashtag idea has been used three times. We used it around Rio. The one in which we were particularly pleased was the #prayforpeace for Syria. Because there was an event that the Pope really cared about. The Pope wanted to attract the world’s attention to this idea that we should stop and pray for peace. There had to be a more imaginative response to the things that were happening in Syria that just responding with further violence. He wasn’t necessarily getting the attention and traction of the mainstream media that we might have wanted. So the hashtag #prayforpeace almost became the point of contact for Catholic communities and believers around the world to get that message out there. I’ve talked to some of the people at the Bishop’s conferences who said, “the Pope made the announcement on a Sunday and the event was going to happen on the following Saturday. Most people had already been to Church on Sunday, so how do we get the message to them. Our parish bulletins were out and given. The hashtag created this almost subversive network of people who were getting the word out there, even though it wasn’t getting a huge amount of play in the mainstream media. So maybe we’ll learn together from that. I’m interested in your ideas after the presentation.
What did we learn? This is a serious question for those that work in Church organizations. One of the things we learned, for all our planning, is that we were lucky that we went with the generic title, @Pontifex. So that when Pope Benedict stepped down, which we had not foreseen was going to happen, we didn’t have to let go two million followers or reposition everything. Actually the way that @Pontifex closed down the tweets as the Pope stepped down was a digital realization of what was happening. It was reflecting the reality that was playing out and that the world was witnessing in front of us.
The other learning was on internal preparation. One of the things we failed to do was to address all the senior people who were interested in this but who had never heard of Twitter, who weren’t aware of the type of negativity. When the negativity came through, they had no idea that this was coming. They seemed to think that Twitter was something we invented to expose the Pope to ridicule (joking). That was our mistake for not having explained and not having prepared people. One of the terrible things that happened was that an Italian newspaper decided to print the most difficult responses that had come to the Pope. People who never would have seen them, because they didn’t know what Twitter was, or perhaps they weren’t very sure what a computer was (joking), were suddenly exposed to the full toxic nature sometimes that social media can be. That wasn’t helpful and was our mistake in not preparing them.
News.va was a plan that we came up with in the Vatican where we said that we need to provide better information, better hard texts and idea to people who are working in the blogosphere. The theme we were given was “feed your base.” “There are many Catholics and believers out there who are interested in speaking for you and bringing your message out to a broader public. You need to provide them with reliable, good, useable materials.”
So what News.va does is it takes all the news from the Vatican, that once you had to go find on Vatican Radio website, on the Press office website, and you needed a degree to navigate your way around (joking) the information. Now we bring it all to one page in five languages. You find quick translations of what’s happening – the texts, pictures, images and sounds. We want this to be multimedia and also social. It’s there to be shared, tweeted, it’s all prepared there to make it easy for people. Speed there is very important.
We’re reviewing News.va constantly. So if you’re using News.va in some format, if there’s something about it that you find sticky or that you don’t like or if there’s something not working, let us know. We have a very good company working with us there. We’re lucky because we were going to do it internally at the Vatican but we decided to go with an outside company and put it on the cloud. When the Pope stepped down, we would not have been able internally to go from one server to eight servers in minutes like we were able to do through the outside company. So please tell us what’s working, what’s not working, what would be more helpful, what wouldn’t be, and we will try to do it.
We now realize that News.va is the portal, the website. We have about 50,000-60,000 visitors daily. They are not huge numbers. But News.va is the mothership. We use it to launch different things.
We decided that we needed an app. We developed ThePopeApp and I hope you’ve all seen it. ThePopeApp means that you can watch the Pope at Mass in the morning and you can watch general audiences and events live. One person facetiously said it’s “the Pope in your pocket” (joking). This Pope is in nobody’s pocket (joking). It’s a way of allowing accessibility. Now that we have a Pope who is exciting public interest, ThePopeApp is a way of making sure that what he’s doing is available to people to those that have a developed interest.
We’ve worked with Facebook (in conjunction with News.va). We’ve experimented. News.va is taking materials and putting them on Facebook. Texts and News: not much interest. Spirituality: a huge interest. So news.va has a presence on Facebook.
I received a message last night from Thaddeus Jones, who is really the person that ought to be thanked for running this. TJ said that yesterday he posted the Pope’s video message to the Philippines’ New Evangelization Conference. Some of you may have seen it. It’s the first prolonged message of Pope Francis in English. TJ put it on Facebook and we saw 250,000 shares in three-and-a-half hours, without any type of promotion. He posted it and this is what it got. This is the type of response we’re getting out there. It shows the appetite. We must get better at doing this. Please send us your ideas.
We’re developing microsites within News.va. There is a huge interest in the Pope’s spiritual reflections at morning Mass and we’ve developed themes around that. For trips like Rio and Assisi we’ve developed microsites.
All of that material, if you’re wondering is their copyright or do you have the right to share it, share it, use it, and ask forgiveness afterwards. This is Good News we want to share with people. That’s our primary instinct. There are intellectual property issues and we need to think through those as a community and we will do that in a way that is also attentive to the needs of an alternative community. There are no easy solutions. But let’s do this by serious debate and discussion. It will be the most profitable way to do this for all of us.
Guiding insights, intuitions and reflections
Very often I speak to people that don’t know well the new media environment. One intuition that we always say as a mantra is to not talk about this as a revolution. We’ve been told that term revolution is passé, so we talk about the transformation that is happening with media and communications in general.
The transformation is cultural rather than technical. My nephews and nieces are learning in a different way than I did. They are expressing themselves in a different way. They are getting information in a different way. They are forming relationships and creating community in a different way. That is challenging all of us, because the change is not just in technologies, but it’s a change in communications itself.
The transformation is still going on. We don’t know where it’s going to end. Nobody can tell us yet because it’s the user who is very often determining where we’re going or not going with these developments. So we can’t plan it all. Facebook is here today; it may be gone. It may already be gone for some young people. Twitter is a great platform. Will it last? Let’s know that we’re dealing with a changing reality.
The other thing is that we’re involved. It’s changing us. It’s changing the Church in different ways: how we form identity, how we form relationships and how we create community. That is affecting the nature of the Church in terms of its own manifestations. Pope Benedict was very strong on that, saying to us that as theologians we need to reflect on what that was doing for us, and how we would have to rethink our expression, because theology is always a reflection on faith in the light of our culture. Our culture is changing.
One other insight we say is that something people refer to communications technologies as means. I always say no, they create a new environment. It’s a network. We’ve used the idea of a digital continent. How can we be effectively present on a digital continent?
As the Church became aware of Africa and Asia, of Latin America, its missionaries became aware of the local cultures and languages so that they could be inculturated missionaries. What could we learn from the people there? What in their culture was already very compatible with Christianity? What needed to be changed and nuanced? So we need this sense of inculturation.
Three weeks ago Pope Francis spoke to our council (PCCS) and he used a lovely term. He said that Christians in social media are becoming citizens in a digital arena. As citizens in any arena, we bring our faith with us. And he said that the primary job for us, in some ways, is to be sure that we are citizens that fit in, that don’t stick out from the landscape, who have a profile which is compatible with that landscape, also bring their faith into that arena.
Two other things that for you (CNMC participants) are easy but for other audiences, I need to emphasize that the digital environment is real. It’s not just virtual, not just games, a fad – it’s very real. Increasing numbers of people are spending significant portions of their life engaged with social media. It’s an existential dimension of their lives. If the Church isn’t present in the digital arena, we’re going to be absent from their lives.
An interesting little critique I got recently. Someone from an older generation – mine and older – might say, “Isn’t it great that the Pope is on Twitter.” Someone from a younger generation might say, “What’s he saying?” It’s not just the fact of being there. It’s also about what we’re doing there and how that presence translates.
The digital arena is different. We can’t just do what we always did. We can’t just take a newspaper article put it on a website. That’s not necessarily enough. Take my pictures and just put them there. We need to rethink what we’re doing. The word we use, almost to the point of jargon, is language.
We also need to learn a new language for the digital continent. Language isn’t just about words. Language is primarily about the way we have our conversations. The biggest challenge we face, particularly for my generation in the Church, is that we grew up with the idea of the pulpit – I’m here, I talk, you listen. The microphone let us reach further. The radio took us even further. The TV lets you see us as well as hear us. But we were at the center and you were out there consuming.
New media is different. I speak, I talk, I reflect, I say something. If you like it, or disagree enough with it to comment on it, or you have something to add to it, you might share it and that’s how it gets out there. For us, there’s a whole learning about how we communicate. It’s interactive and it’s participative. If I say something, I need to be ready to take something back. That’s how I might get interest. That’s how I might meet someone at their level.
We have to engage the questions. Some people say, “that’s too labor intensive. We can’t be spending all your time in one little conversation.” But most of these conversations are happening in public forums, so a good conversation or a good debate between you or me and another person in which we’re teasing out issues of faith is not necessarily a private conversation in the way it once was. Who knows who is watching in or listening in or trying to make sense of what is going on?
The Pope to our Council three weeks ago said what we should be doing as believers in the digital arena. He said three words for why we’re there. We’re there to listen. We’re there to converse. We’re there to encourage. He gave a very strong idea of people in our world today who are struggling in all sorts of ways and who have need for a word of encouragement.
The next thing is the modes of communication. As a Church, we’ve done texts very well - encyclicals, letters, interviews. They are very important. My training is as a theologian. I’ve worked all my life in theology. For me, texts are hugely significant. Parsing and analyzing works is what I do. What I have to realize is that in a digital arena, the amount of time that people are going to spend working with a text, at the beginning, is low. We need to share with them words, images and sounds.
One little image here is that before, as a Church, before we were literate, we were very good at communicating with art, with music, with stained glass, and with beauty in general. One of the things we need, I think, is people who are creative, who can engage not just the heads, but also the hearts. A lovely little thing from Pope Francis three weeks ago – part of our job is to warm people’s hearts. Some people are finding that it’s a cold, harsh, difficult world. Lift them up, give them hope, give them something that provides them pleasure.
Vocabulary is another issue. Many of the words we use, including the word evangelization itself, and the words reconciliation and salvation are not entry-level words. Let’s not presume when we share icons that people know what we’re talking about any longer.
I was teaching in Dublin until six or seven years ago. As a teacher, you learn quickly to not presume the word Lent immediately is understood by everyone. And that’s in Ireland. Don’t presume all of our categories are immediately relevant. I remember someone joking that to a young person, Vatican 2, might be the Pope’s license plate on his second car (joking).
We need to be careful, especially for people like myself who don’t want to lose the theology, who don’t want to lose the language of liturgy, that this is entry level. If we engage people, they may come with us on a journey on which they may eventually become exposed to rich ideas. We’re not abandoning our language, but we are saying that we need to speak the language that reaches and touches peoples’ hearts.
A related issue, and that is presence. Most of our best communication is not just with our words but it’s with who we are. That’s threatening, because it means that often we’re communicating more when we’re not attending to it than when we’re actually intending to communicate. So people judge us by what they see or by what they understand about us. So, therefore, witness has always been a very privileged way by which we communicate the Gospel. The great way of witness is a sharing of ourselves.
Pope Francis three weeks ago said (to the PCCS), what we have to think in the digital and social media is we’re on a journey with other pilgrims. Everyone is on this journey. We shouldn’t be way ahead of others or we shouldn’t be way behind them. We walk with them.
Where is the pilgrimage taking us? He checked himself here, because he started to say something like, we need to bring Christ to others. But then he thought it may be better to say that we need to bring others to meet Christ. We accompany them on the journey. We don’t get in the way.
To do that, we have to have a renewed sense of who we are. Our own authenticity, coherence and respect for other people. It’s the way we behave. It’s the kind of things we say. It’s the patience we display. It’s the tolerance we exhibit. It’s the civility we aspire to that might engage others so that they think there’s something genuine and worthwhile about this person who is engaging with me. Not for our own sakes, but so that they may feel drawn to listen and to engage with what we have to say.
Here I would like to talk about our term ‘devolved interactivity.” This is where the Church needs to see what the debates are and at various levels, we take responsibility to engage with other people in a language that’s appropriate to them, in a culture and context that works for them, so there’s not always just the Pope talking, but it’s each of us bringing our voice to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” We need to be able to authentically speak of faith and our beliefs to people we engage with including on social media. That’s the subsidiarity. Let’s not go to the center on everything; let’s do things locally.
A lovely idea from Pope Francis a few weeks ago is the idea of home. We need to keep this idea in our communications about the Church being at home with people. The landscape of new media, or as some people call it, social media. We’re told never say new media to young people because you’re revealing your age. This is just media for the vast majority of younger people. Stop saying new media.
The social media landscape is peer-to-peer, it’s free and it’s open. That’s not the immediate description of the Church at times (joking). What we need to realize is that we’re in an environment in which authority is different. Authority is still important, but we live in a time where celebrity has almost replaced authority.
Pope Francis is a celebrity as well as an authority. We have to unpack what that means. There are benefits to that because there are people that will listen to him as this intriguing figure who may not have been willing to listen to him as the Bishop of Rome, who may never have heard of that concept, but are willing because he is capturing the public’s imagination. Authority, broadly, is that we have to earn it rather than simply claim it.
The important thing that we need to watch is that we need to bring an element of experience into the social media. A lot of the conversations on social media have a need for a type of conversation draws on experience, tradition, wisdom and ideas. If we can think about the concept of friendship itself, which is at the heart of so much of the interactivity on Facebook, we have things to say about what lasting, enduring and life-giving friendship is. We have something to say, and we have an experience that is worthwhile, that is needed, and that’s an expertise.
One of the terms we sometimes use is of giving the Internet a soul. I think we need to be careful with that term. It’s not that we are the soul of the Internet. No, we try to provoke discussions and debates that get people reaching into deeper discussions. Does that make sense?
When we say, giving a soul to the Internet, we want to make sure that there is a true, integral, humanity expressed on the Internet. That there is space for spirituality, for questioning, for doubt, for learning. By our receptivity to those, we create a space for the Internet to have a soul, but we’re not the soul. Every human being has deeper questions and we need to create the forum, a framework, and a lack of fear that will allow people to do that meaningfully.
We need to show people what’s happening within our churches rather than simply telling them about it. The narrative and fundamental idea of a lot of people’s vision of the Church has been framed by all sorts of events, depending on different cultures, some of which are very negative. We need to show them something of the life of the Church, particularly something of the life of the Church at the local level where people are cared for, where people are supported, where people are strengthened, and where people are generous. Let’s show them something about that.
Social media allows us to do that in an invitational way. We are constantly trying to say to people, come with us and join with us. Let’s remember that we always have this draw towards communion and towards community. We draw people also toward service.
There’s the incarnational finality of a lot of what we’re doing. The Word was made flesh, it didn’t stay word only. The flesh, the embodied loving and caring for people, which I think we can express in various ways in social media, which can’t remain exclusively in such an arena.
One of my friends who works in the charity arena keeps saying to me that they’re using social media for media fundraising campaigns. He says, “a like is not a donation” (joking). We need to engage and draw people into the fullness of participation and involvement.
Why am I hopeful?
I am extremely hopeful. Look at what people are doing in social media: relationships and friendships; searching for information; sharing ideas; and following. They are all fundamental human realities all of which are part of our religious landscape.
What we need to do is see the good in what people are trying to do to connect with others, in searching for sometimes trivial information. We can help them search for something more.
We see that many people in social media get great satisfaction in sharing, in giving of themselves and of their ideas. That tells us that human nature has not changed. That same human nature leaves us with receptivity to the Gospel.
Following is a key example. A lot of social media following is so narrow. I’ll follow those people that tell me how great I am or that my ideas are great or that she agrees fully with me. It’s an echo chamber. As one English politician said, I love nothing better than a hot bath in my own prejudices (joking). We all like that. We need somehow this willingness to broaden the following, to be challenged. Sometimes the best friend is the person that tells me that I’m not great, that I can do better.
Pope Francis again spoke about people who are captured by a loss of meaning, an inability to connect, and struggling to build meaningful relationships. That’s where we, at the human level, have so much to contribute. Then the theological resonances.
We’re lucky. We are bringing people towards Christ. We believe the ultimate answer to those human yearnings, those human longings, are in the person of Christ. Not simply a message, but in a person. In a person who is real and present. It’s our privilege, it’s our fortune to have that conviction about what the encounter with Christ has done for our lives, how much it has enriched our own experiences, how much it has strengthened us, how much it has encouraged us, helped us to grow in different ways, and it’s a desire to share that with others.
It’s not a desire to count numbers or to make them one of us, imperialism, it’s the message that this has been so life-giving, so positive for me, I couldn’t be true to myself without wishing to share it with others. I want to give, as Saint Paul said, a reason for the hope that is with me.
That’s our thing – we’re bringing people to Christ. In doing so, we’re walking on the ground of mystery, where a person encounters Jesus in conscience. That’s something extraordinary personal. The Pope has said that the encounter is personal. We can’t manipulate it. We can’t engineer it. We have to allow the mystery to happen when Christ touches the other person and respect the integrity of that encounter.
Therefore, for me, it’s about our own trust in Christ. I don’t want to become complacent and just say we don’t have to worry, do nothing, Christ will do it all. Although ultimately that may be true. I think we need in this social media ministry that we’re professional. We do well what we do. We make the better video. We raise our standards. We get our messages well. We think through the psychology of what we’re doing. We recognize all the time that we’re graced. That if good things happen, as Father Roderick said this morning, they happen through the grace of Christ.
Precisely because of the grace of Christ we need to raise our game. Not because it depends on us. But because we want to witness well to the Christ who is so generous in everything He does with us. So the insight is that we learn by doing. Innovate, then think about it, and then look at the mistakes, then tell us about the mistakes as well as the things that went well.
Network learning – we need to learn together, share the ideas, talk about them. If I have made a mess of something in Ireland, because we didn’t think it through too well, that could be helpful for someone in Australia who is thinking through something similar. Let’s get the network going.
The Church is a network. We are a community of communities. We already have an easy fit to the digital arena, which people describe as the Glocal. It’s a term that is falling out of fashion now. It’s global and local at the same time. Most people when they are on social media they are looking for things that are very close to them and occasionally they are looking at wider questions. We need to have a Church that responds at those different levels. We need to rewire what we do and reallocate the resources that we have. We need much more collaboration.
Fresh from the presses. Yesterday, Pope Francis sent a message for the 30th anniversary of the Vatican TV service. He made a very interesting little statement there in which he said “convergence, not competition must be the strategy of social media initiatives.” Convergence, not competition. That’s both technical convergence and much more the convergence of heart. It’s not my show, my operation, my network, and my followers. We bring them together because we belong to a Church and we work together.
We need to take risks. Let’s not be afraid to take risks. There’s a saying in the Irish language (translated) which means “praise young people and trust them, and they’ll rise to the occasion.” So we need to have that investment and encouragement. That’s difficult. It’s trust and learn.
Also, have no fear of mistakes. We’ve talked about learning a language. Anyone that has ever tried to learn a foreign language has learned that in the early stages you make the most dreadful and horrific mistakes. And if you don’t make them, you don’t learn. And if you never want to make mistakes, you’ll never learn to speak the language. So let’s not be afraid to make mistakes, tell others about them, learn from them, and then raise the level of our game from them.
Then the final thing we need to think about, more when I’m talking to those with managerial responsibilities, is that we need organic development. We need to see things grow and see which things flourish. Every week I have people coming into us at the Vatican who want to sell us the definitive plan and strategy that can do it all. No. No master plans. Why? Because they’re not good ideas. They don’t correspond to our reality which is not centralized. And it’s also that nobody knows what’s happening as things keep changing. So we say, “no gurus, no master plans.”
Another thing we say is “travel light.” Use whatever platforms are emerging (Instagram, Pinterest), try them, and see if they work. The Economist Magazine recently gave a bit of advice on social media. It was very interesting what it said. It recommended in social media technology to be promiscuous (joking). Try everything that is out there – the various networks, platforms, technologies. But don’t marry any of them (joking). So you keep that flexibility.
I taught bioethics. In bioethics there was one rule we always had. Avoid the technological imperative. Just because there is a machine that can do X, Y, Z, doesn’t mean that you have to use it. Sometimes people end up being overtreated in medicine because it’s not human any longer. It’s the machine, rather than the person, that drives the medicine. In media, let’s know about, play with, experiment, but it’s not about the technologies, social media is about heart-to-heart communication.
I wish you all the best.
In preparation for a talk I am giving at the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) this weekend in Boston, I reviewed Pope Francis’ 172 tweets in his first seven months of papal leadership and concluded that there are so many gems worthy of prayerful reflection.
By way of background, tweets are short messages on the Twitter platform of up to 140 characters (typically a couple of sentences). I consider it a great medium for short spiritual quotes and Pope Francis is utilizing it well. The @Pontifex Twitter account (and 7 related handles in other languages) was launched on Dec. 12, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. When Pope Francis was elected in March, he chose to continue tweeting at the @Pontifex account. Pontifex means “bridge builder.” Pope Francis is building a bridge of solidarity and closeness with Catholics worldwide through the use of social media. As of Oct. 14, there are 9.7 million Twitter followers on the 8 accounts, including 3.1 million English-language followers.
So, which tweets are my favorites? It was very hard to select a Top 10 from the 172 tweets. First, I narrowed the list to 45 I really liked. Then I grouped tweets of similar messages together and picked the one I liked the most from that group. Finally I arrived at my top 10 favorites. Here’s the countdown from 10 to 1, with a brief comment after each.
10) “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.” (June 16, #65) The themes of God’s loving mercy and the hope we have in Christ are central to Pope Francis’ teaching and his life story.
9) “The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love.” (June 2, #57) Pope Francis frequently encourages people in positions of power to use their authority to serve others in love.
8) “We cannot be Christians part-time. If Christ is at the center of our lives, he is present in all that we do.” (Aug. 19, #123) The Holy Father wants us to avoid the temptation to compartmentalize our lives. Christ wants to accompany us in our tasks 24/7.
7) “Every time we give in to selfishness and say ‘No’ to God, we spoil his loving plan for us.” (May 26, #52). This is a beautiful way to help us see how in many moments each day we face a choice to turn toward God or to turn away from Him.
6) “There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.” (July 26, #104). Pope Francis wonderfully communicates that the Lord is always with us, especially in the toughest moments of our lives.
5) “We ought never to lose hope. God overwhelms us with his grace, if we keep asking.” (Sept. 9, #146) The Holy Father wants us to never tire of asking God for his grace and mercy. God’s generous response should always give us hope that tomorrow can be better than today.
4) “How marvelous it would be if, at the end of the day, each of us could say: today I have performed an act of charity towards others!” (April 29, #27) Pope Francis is encouraging us to do simple acts of charity daily and speaking from experience, that actions of love will make us happier.
3) “Jesus is the gate opening up to salvation, a gate open to everyone.” (Aug. 27, #127). I love the description of Jesus as the person that holds our hand through the narrow gate and that Jesus offers this path to eternal life to every person.
2) “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!” (July 27, #107). From his first days as pope, Francis has been imploring us to go out to the peripheries, to people on the margins, with the Good News and with an invitation to begin a path toward a deep friendship with Christ.
1) “God’s forgiveness is stronger than any sin.” (Sept. 26, #161) Pope Francis is focused on preaching about God’s mercy, forgiveness and love. He wants us never to tire of asking God’s forgiveness and to frequent the sacrament of confession where we can profoundly encounter God, as Francis did as a teenager.
Those are my top 10 tweets. I would love to see how my list compares with yours. If you would like to share your own Top 10 tweets, you can rank them here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Top10PopeFrancisTweets. To read all of Pope Francis’ tweets, go to Twitter.com/Pontifex or follow @Pontifex on your Twitter account.
Scot Landry is the executive director of Catholic Voices USA and the host of The Good Catholic Life daily radio program on 1060AM. He tweets at @ScotLandry.
In preparation for a talk I’m giving at the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) this weekend in Boston, I reviewed Pope Francis’ 172 tweets in his first seven months of papal leadership and concluded that there are so many gems worthy of prayerful reflection. [You can read all of them below.]
By way of background, the @Pontifex Twitter handle (and 7 related handles in other languages) was launched on December 12, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. When Pope Francis was elected in March, he chose to continue tweeting at the @Pontifex account. Pontifex means “bridge builder” and in many ways both popes are trying to build a bridge of closeness and solidarity through the use of social media. As of October 14, there are 9.7 million followers of the 8 accounts, including 3.1 million English-language followers.
So, which Tweets are my favorite? As a kid, I always loved to listen to Kasey Kasem’s Top 40 songs and as an adult I’m still a fan of ESPN’s top 10 plays. Particularly with subjective rankings, like the ESPN top plays or the debate about whom the best NFL quarterbacks are of all time, I love to see how my own rankings compare with others. Often, I’m persuaded to change my rankings by the appreciation of friends and colleagues.
So I’d love to compare your rankings to mine. I’ll publish my list (already completed) on Thursday. I’ll share whatever consensus emerges and analyze the results this Saturday at the CNMC.
To submit your Top 10 rankings, you can do so here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Top10PopeFrancisTweets
Pope Francis, @Pontifex, Tweets from March 17, 2013 through October 14, 2013
- Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. Pope Francis. (Mar. 17)
- Let us keep a place for Christ in our lives, let us care for one another and let us be loving custodians of creation. (Mar. 19)
- True power is service. The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable. (Mar. 19)
- I am looking forward to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I hope to see all of you in that great Brazilian city! (Mar. 24)
- We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us that there is nothing we can do in the face of violence, injustice and sin. (Mar. 24)
- Being with Jesus demands that we go out from ourselves, and from living a tired and habitual faith (Mar. 27)
- To experience Holy Week is to enter more and more into God's logic of love and self-giving (Mar. 27)
- Support your priests with your love and prayers, that they may always be shepherds after Christ’s heart (Mar. 28)
- Accept the risen Jesus into your life. Even if you have been far away, take a small step towards him: he awaits you with open arms. (Mar. 31)
- God loves us. We must not be afraid to love him. The faith is professed with the lips and with the heart, through words and through love. (Apr. 4)
- How beautiful is the gaze with which Jesus regards us – how full of tenderness! Let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God. (Apr. 7)
- Being a Christian is not just about following commandments: it is about letting Christ take possession of our lives and transform them. (Apr. 10)
- If we act like children of God, knowing that he loves us, our lives will be made new, filled with serenity and joy. (Apr. 10)
- Let us not forget: if we are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, our lives must bear witness to what we preach. (Apr. 14)
- Worshipping God means learning to be with him, stripping away our hidden idols and placing him at the centre of our lives. (Apr. 14)
- Jesus’ ascension into heaven does not mean his absence, but that he is alive among us in a new way, close to each one of us. (Apr. 17)
- To enter into the glory of God demands daily fidelity to his will, even when it requires sacrifice. (Apr. 17)
- Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families. (Apr. 18)
- “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice and I know them.” The voice of Jesus is unmistakable! He guides us along the path of life. (Apr. 21)
- Each one of us longs for love, for truth, for life – and Jesus is all of these things in abundance! (Apr. 22)
- Mary is the one who says “Yes”. Mary, help us to come to know the voice of Jesus better, and to follow it. (Apr. 23)
- Let us keep the flame of faith alive through prayer and the sacraments: let us make sure we do not forget God. (Apr. 24)
- At this time of crisis it is important not to become closed in on oneself, but rather to be open and attentive towards others. (Apr. 25)
- Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things! (Apr. 26)
- Join me in praying for the victims of the tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that God will grant comfort and strength to their families (Apr. 27)
- The Holy Spirit truly transforms us. With our cooperation, he also wants to transform the world we live in. (Apr. 28)
- How marvellous it would be if, at the end of the day, each of us could say: today I have performed an act of charity towards others! (Apr. 29)
- Let us put our trust in God’s power at work! With him, we can do great things. He will give us the joy of being his disciples. (Apr. 30)
- Dear young friends, learn from Saint Joseph. He went through difficult times, but he always trusted, and he knew how to overcome adversity. (May 1)
- My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost. (May 2)
- It would be a good idea, during May, for families to say the Rosary together. Prayer strengthens family life. (May 3)
- Let us ask Our Lady to teach us how to live out our faith in our daily lives and to make more room for the Lord. (May 4)
- Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she bears witness to God’s love. Be missionaries of God’s tenderness! (May 5)
- Let us ask our Lord to help us bear shining witness to his mercy and his love in every area of our Christian lives. (May 6)
- Do not be content to live a mediocre Christian life: walk with determination along the path of holiness. (May 7)
- I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance, says Jesus. This is where true wealth is found, not in material things! (May 8)
- The Holy Spirit brings to our hearts a most precious gift: profound trust in God’s love and mercy. (May 9)
- The Holy Spirit helps us to view others with fresh eyes, seeing them always as brothers and sisters in Jesus, to be respected and loved. (May 10)
- Let us pray for the many Christians in the world who still suffer persecution and violence. May God grant them the courage of fidelity. (May 12)
- Am I faithful to Christ in my daily life? Am I able to “show” my faith with respect but also with courage? (May 13)
- It is God who gives life. Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb. (May 15)
- We cannot be part-time Christians! We should seek to live our faith at every moment of every day. (May 16)
- Are our lives truly filled with the presence of God? How many things take the place of God in my life each day? (May 17)
- We must learn from Mary, and we must imitate her unconditional readiness to receive Christ in her life. (May 18)
- The Holy Spirit transforms and renews us, creates harmony and unity, and gives us courage and joy for mission. (May 19)
- I am close to the families of all who died in the Oklahoma tornado, especially those who lost young children. Join me in praying for them. (May 21)
- To live according to the Gospel is to fight against selfishness. The Gospel is forgiveness and peace; it is love that comes from God. (May 22)
- Do I take the Gospel message of reconciliation and love into the places where I live and work? (May 23)
- On the feast of Mary Help of Christians I join the Catholics in China who trust in the protection of Our Lady of Sheshan and I pray for them (May 23)
- Miracles happen. But prayer is needed! Prayer that is courageous, struggling and persevering, not prayer that is a mere formality. (May 24)
- We all have in our hearts some areas of unbelief. Let us say to the Lord: I believe! Help my unbelief. (May 25)
- Every time we give in to selfishness and say “No” to God, we spoil his loving plan for us. (May 26)
- Dear young people, the Church expects great things of you and your generosity. Don’t be afraid to aim high. (May 28)
- The Church is born from the supreme act of love on the Cross, from Jesus’ open side. The Church is a family where we love and are loved. (May 29)
- The whole of salvation history is the story of God looking for us: he offers us love and welcomes us with tenderness. (May 31)
- In this Year of Faith, we pray to the Lord that the Church may always be a true family that brings God’s love to everyone. (Jun. 1)
- The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love. (Jun. 2)
- Sometimes we know what we have to do, but we lack the courage to do it. Let us learn from Mary how to make decisions, trusting in the Lord. (Jun. 3)
- Christ leads us to go out from ourselves more and more, to give ourselves and to serve others. (Jun. 4)
- Care of creation is not just something God spoke of at the dawn of history: he entrusts it to each of us as part of his plan. (Jun. 5)
- Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry. (Jun. 7)
- With the “culture of waste”, human life is no longer considered the primary value to be respected and protected. (Jun. 9)
- We must not be afraid of solidarity; rather let us make all we have and are available to God. (Jun. 11)
- How many kinds of moral and material poverty we face today as a result of denying God and putting so many idols in his place! (Jun. 12)
- Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven. (Jun. 16)
- Are you angry with someone? Pray for that person. That is what Christian love is. (Jun. 17)
- Christians are ready to proclaim the Gospel because they can’t hide the joy that comes from knowing Christ. (Jun. 19)
- Let us never forget that it is the Lord who guides the Church. He is the one who makes our apostolates fruitful. (Jun. 21)
- If we have found in Jesus meaning for our own lives, we cannot be indifferent to those who are suffering and sad. (Jun. 22)
- We are all sinners. But may the Lord not let us be hypocrites. Hypocrites don’t know the meaning of forgiveness, joy and the love of God. (Jun. 23)
- Are we ready to be Christians full-time, showing our commitment by word and deed? (Jun. 24)
- Charity, patience and tenderness are very beautiful gifts. If you have them, you want to share them with others. (Jun. 26)
- Jesus didn’t save us with an idea. He humbled himself and became a man. The Word became Flesh. (Jun. 28)
- Let’s learn to lose our lives for Christ, like a gift or a sacrifice. With Christ we lose nothing! (Jun. 29)
- A Christian is never bored or sad. Rather, the one who loves Christ is full of joy and radiates joy. (Jun. 30)
- We cannot live as Christians separate from the rock who is Christ. He gives us strength and stability, but also joy and serenity. (Jul. 2)
- Christ’s love and friendship are no illusion. On the Cross Jesus showed how real they are. (Jul. 4)
- Jesus is more than a friend. He is a teacher of truth and life who shows us the way that leads to happiness. (Jul. 5)
- The Lord speaks to us through the Scriptures and in our prayer. Let us learn to keep silence before him, as we meditate upon the Gospel. (Jul. 6)
- We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy. (Jul. 8)
- Christians are always full of hope; they should never get discouraged. (Jul. 9)
- If we wish to follow Christ closely, we cannot choose an easy, quiet life. It will be a demanding life, but full of joy. (Jul. 10)
- Lord, grant us the grace to weep over our indifference, over the cruelty that is in the world and in ourselves. (Jul. 12)
- In this Year of Faith let us aim to do something concrete every day to know Jesus Christ better. (Jul. 13)
- For a Christian, life is not the product of mere chance, but the fruit of a call and personal love. (Jul. 14)
- Prayer, humility, and charity toward all are essential in the Christian life: they are the way to holiness. (Jul. 16)
- God is so merciful toward us. We too should learn to be merciful, especially with those who suffer. (Jul. 17)
- In this Year of Faith, let us remember that faith is not something we possess, but something we share. Every Christian is an apostle. (Jul. 18)
- Many of you have already arrived in Rio and many more are just arriving. We will see one another there in only three days. (Jul. 19)
- Dear young friends, I know that many of you are still travelling to Rio. May the Lord accompany you on your way. (Jul. 20)
- How many wish to be in Rio for WYD but can’t! May they feel at one with us in prayer. (Jul. 21)
- I am arriving in Brazil in a few hours and my heart is already full of joy because soon I will be with you to celebrate the 28th WYD. (Jul. 22)
- Today we begin a wonderful week in Rio; may it be a time to deepen our friendship in Jesus Christ. (Jul. 22)
- Thank you to all of you and to all the authorities for a magnificent welcome in Rio. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 23)
- The Church is young, as everyone can see at WYD. May the Lord always keep us all young at heart. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 23)
- Dear young friends, Christ has confidence in you and he entrusts his own mission to you: Go and make disciples! #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 23)
- Never forget, young friends: The Virgin Mary is our Mother and with her help we can remain faithful to Christ. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 24)
- Let us thank Blessed John Paul II for WYD and for the many vocations born during these 28 gatherings. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 24)
- May sports always be a means of exchange and growth, never of violence and hate. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 25)
- The Christian life is not limited to prayer, but requires an ongoing dedication and courage born of prayer. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 25)
- The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty. (Jul. 25)
- What an unforgettable welcome in Copacabana! May God bless you all! #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 26)
- Every Friday is an opportunity to remember how much Jesus has suffered for us. Lord, never let us forget how much you love us. (Jul. 26)
- There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 26)
- Bishops are the pastors of the People of God. Follow them with trust and courage. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 27)
- Dear young friends, learn to pray every day: this is the way to know Jesus and invite him into your lives. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 27)
- We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel! #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 27)
- Dear young people, be true "athletes of Christ"! Play on his team! #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 28)
- We need to model our lives on the life of Jesus, so as to share his sentiments and his thoughts. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 28)
- I profoundly thank all those who have worked to make WYD a success and I embrace all of you who were present. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 28)
- I am back home, and I assure you that my joy is much greater than my exhaustion! (Jul. 29)
- What an unforgettable week in Rio! Thank you, everyone. Pray for me. #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 29)
- Now, young friends, we must continue to live day by day all that we have professed together at WYD. (Jul. 30)
- Dear young friends, it is worth wagering one’s life on Christ and on the Gospel, risking everything for great ideals! #Rio2013 #JMJ (Jul. 31)
- The security of faith does not make us motionless or close us off, but sends us forth to bear witness and to dialogue with all people. (Aug. 2)
- The light of faith illumines all our relationships and helps us to live them in union with the love of Christ, to live them like Christ. (Aug. 5)
- With his coming among us, Jesus came close to us and encountered us; also today, through the Sacraments, he encounters us. (Aug. 7)
- We are all jars of clay, fragile and poor, yet we carry within us an immense treasure. (Aug. 9)
- One cannot separate Christ and the Church. The grace of Baptism gives us the joy of following Christ in and with the Church. (Aug. 11)
- To be children of God, and brothers and sisters to one another: this is the heart of the Christian experience. (Aug. 13)
- Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, and guide us on the way that leads to Heaven. (Aug. 15)
- We cannot sleep peacefully while babies are dying of hunger and the elderly are without medical assistance. (Aug. 17)
- We cannot be Christians part-time. If Christ is at the center of our lives, he is present in all that we do. (Aug. 19)
- An excellent program for our lives: the Beatitudes and Matthew Chapter 25. (Aug. 21)
- Lord, teach us to step outside ourselves. Teach us to go out into the streets and manifest your love. (Aug. 23)
- Don’t be afraid to ask God for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving us. God is pure mercy. (Aug. 25)
- Jesus is the gate opening up to salvation, a gate open to everyone. (Aug. 27)
- Let us allow Jesus into our lives, and leave behind our selfishness, indifference and closed attitudes to others. (Aug. 27)
- The love of God is not something vague or generic; the love of God has a name and a face: Jesus Christ. (Aug. 29)
- Faith is not something decorative or for show. To have faith means to put Christ truly at the centre of our lives. (Aug. 30)
- Let us ask Mary to help us fix our eyes intently on Jesus, to follow him always, even when this is demanding. (Aug. 31)
- Let us pray for peace: peace in the world and in each of our hearts. (Sep. 1)
- War never again! Never again war! (Sep. 2)
- We want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace. (Sep. 2)
- How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake. (Sep. 2)
- By his coming among us, Jesus transforms our lives. In him, we see that God is love, he is fidelity he is life who gives himself. (Sep. 3)
- We want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! (Sep. 3)
- With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons. (Sep. 3)
- Let the cry for peace ring out in all the world!#prayforpeace (Sep. 4)
- With all my strength, I ask each party in the conflict not to close themselves in solely on their own interests. #prayforpeace (Sep. 5)
- There is no such thing as low-cost Christianity. Following Jesus means swimming against the tide, renouncing evil and selfishness (Sep. 5)
- Peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity#prayforpeace (Sep. 6)
- Dear young people, pray with me for peace in the world #prayforpeace (Sep. 6)
- All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. #prayforpeace (Sep. 6)
- Pray for Peace! https://www.facebook.com/news.va.en #prayforpeace (Sep. 7)
- We ought never to lose hope. God overwhelms us with his grace, if we keep asking. (Sep. 9)
- I ask each party to follow decisively and courageously the path of encounter and negotiation #prayforpeace (Sep. 9)
- Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! #prayforpeace (Sep. 9)
- I thank everyone who participated in the prayer vigil and the fast for peace.#prayforpeace (Sep. 10)
- The only war that we must all fight is the one against evil #prayforpeace (Sep. 10)
- To follow Jesus means to share his merciful love for every human being #prayforpeace (Sep. 12)
- Jesus is the sun and Mary is the dawn announcing his rising. (Sep. 13)
- Sometimes it is possible to live without knowing our neighbours: this is not Christian. (Sep. 14)
- Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy. (Sep. 15)
- There are many people in need in today’s world. Am I self-absorbed in my own concerns or am I aware of those who need help? (Sep. 17)
- We are all sinners, but we experience the joy of God’s forgiveness and we walk forward trusting in his mercy. (Sep. 19)
- Christ is always faithful. Let us pray to be always faithful to him. (Sep. 20)
- True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need. (Sep. 21)
- The Church has no other meaning and finality than to witness to Jesus. May we not forget this. (Sep. 23)
- Let us ask the Lord to give us the gentleness to look upon the poor with understanding and love, devoid of human calculation and fear. (Sep. 24)
- God’s forgiveness is stronger than any sin. (Sep. 26)
- We do not become Christians by ourselves. Faith is above all a gift from God which is given to us in and through the Church. (Sep. 27)
- Every marriage has difficult moments. But these experiences of the Cross can make the path of love even stronger. (Sep. 28)
- Where we find hate and darkness, may we bring love and hope, in order to give a more human face to society. (Sep. 30)
- Do we truly pray? Without an abiding relationship with God, it is difficult to live an authentic and consistent Christian life. (Oct. 1)
- Dear young people, you have many plans and dreams for the future. But, is Christ at the center of each of your plans and dreams? (Oct. 5)
- Mercy is the true power that can save humanity and the world from sin and evil. (Oct. 7)
- The secret of Christian living is love. Only love fills the empty spaces caused by evil. (Oct. 8)
- The mystery of the Cross, a mystery of love, can only be understood in prayer. Pray and weep, kneeling before the Cross. (Oct. 10)
- When we encounter the Cross, we turn to Mary: Give us the strength, Mary our Mother, to accept and embrace the Cross! (Oct. 11)
- Lord, have mercy! Too often we are blinded by our comfortable lives, and refuse to see those dying at our doorstep. #Lampedusa (Oct. 12)
- Dear young people, do not be afraid of making decisive choices in life. Have faith; the Lord will not abandon you! (Oct. 14)
To submit your Top 10 rankings, you can do so here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Top10PopeFrancisTweets
To learn more about the CNMC, click here: http://cnmc.sqpn.com/
Do you find yourself at home arguing with TV news anchors, radio hosts, and print columnists, wishing someone would defend your Catholic faith?
Are you a practicing Catholic who prays for clear voices on news programs who actually believe what the Church teaches?
Do you feel called to be one of those defenders?
If so, we encourage you to consider applying for our upcoming workshop.
Catholic Voices USA offers intensive training workshops to Catholics in all walks of life who want to publicly make the case for the Church in truth and love in the media and in the public square. Based on a successful British model, Catholic Voices do not speak officially for the Church but answer the call for laypeople to publicly witness to their faith as an apostolic project of the New Evangelization.
On the weekend of November 15-16, 2013, Catholic Voices USA will be conducting an intensive media training workshop for Catholics in the Washington, D.C. area. Participants will be briefed on the Catholic Voices approach on several current hot-button Catholic issues and then participate in mock radio and TV interviews as well as writing exercises.
- Dates: Friday November 15 (5-9pm); Saturday November 16 (8:30am-7:30pm)
- Location: Catholic Information Center (CICDC.org), 1501 K Street NW, Suite 175, Washington, DC 20005.
- Workshop Slots: We can accommodate up to 12 Catholics in the intensive training workshop.
Interested participants should submit a complete application for the training workshop by Monday November 4 at 1:00pm. Since acceptances will be made on a rolling basis, we encourage interested applicants to apply early.
There are 3 aspects of the application process:
- Complete the online application (30-45 minutes): https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CVUSA-201311-DC
The video should respond to one of the three questions below:
- What are 3 reasons why inactive Catholics come back to the Church this Christmas?
- Why is Pope Francis an effective communicator?
- What are the most important messages of the Catholic Church to young adults today?
Participants will be expected to have read Austen Ivereigh’s book, “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues” before the training. It is available at Amazon.com and other bookstores.
On Monday I opened my Morality class as I usually do—I grilled my students with questions about current events, asked if they had read any interesting articles, heard anything of import on the radio. The canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II had not come up, so before diving into our lesson for the day I asked off-handedly: Did anyone hear any news out of the Vatican yesterday?
Hands shot into the air—Yes, Pope John Paul II is going to become a saint!
Yes, good. I pressed: Anyone else?
That my students—all in high school—would not be as familiar with Blessed Pope John XXIII is not too surprising. They know and remember Blessed Pope John Paul II, the first Pope of their lifetimes. Though they were only eight years old when he died in 2005, they have grown to know and to love JPII especially through their study of Theology of the Body, the series of Wednesday audiences that so famously spell out the Church’s teachings on the body and sexuality. In our study of Theology of the Body last year, many of the students felt like they had a special connection to him—despite the counter-cultural message that he preached in the midst of a hyper-sexualized society, they felt that he understood them in some mystical way. He did not seem afraid to have difficult conversations, he challenged the assumptions of the culture. Yet he did all of this with love, and with a “star power” and a magnetic draw, much like we are witnessing with Pope Francis and the youth today.
But Pope John XXIII was a quiet Vicar of Christ. He is best known for his emphasis on equality for all, his encyclical Pacem in Terris ("Peace on Earth"), and for calling the Second Vatican Council. He opened the council with a speech on October 11, 1962, that is still relevant to the struggles of the Church and of the faithful more broadly. He spoke of moral relativism—though not in those terms—explaining that errors of mankind often vanish “as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun,” yet the “truth of the Lord will remain forever.” He asserted the need for the Church to be a beacon of truth, and much like Pope Francis did in his interview last week, he urged mercy over judgment. He explained, “Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ [that is to say, the Church] prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity… They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person.” Pope John XXIII recognized issues within the Catholic Church, and he didn’t shrink away. He named the issues, spoke them aloud, and called the Ecumenical Council that would become one of the most influential events of the 20thcentury.
These two saints—Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II—remind us that conversation matters. We are witnessing the death of dialogue in our society—in a world in which people in the United States government would prefer to shut down the government rather than to negotiate, in which a company’s decision to feature a mother and a father in a pasta commercial is paramount to discrimination, and in which a group of nuns is forced to sue the government rather than violate their consciences. We need dialogue, we need to communicate with each other. These two saints—gifted communicators each in their own way—remind us that it is not enough to tacitly acknowledge problems and struggles. We must acknowledge our common humanity, our common dignity, and make a commitment to one another.
Pope Francis has had three major interviews that have shed light on his vision for the Church. The first was on July 28 with journalists on the plane flight home from World Youth Day in Brazil. The journalists assembled there were those that cover the Church frequently and their questions reflected a solid knowledge of Church affairs. The second interview was with Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, for the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica on September 19 and it focused a lot on Pope Francis’ upbringing, Jesuit formation, and his vision of the Church as a field hospital during battle. Today, Pope Francis’ interview with Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, could best be described as a published conversation with a secular non-Christian. Scalfari asks questions with a friendly intellectual curiosity that evokes candid responses from Pope Francis and produces many insights for everyone that is following Pope Francis and his leadership of the Catholic Church.
Here are nine insights from the interview with La Repubblica. I encourage you to read the full interview.
(1) Pope Francis thinks that the “leprosy of the papacy” is the “court” mentality occasionally present in the Curia. Pope Francis wants to change the mindset that Church leaders are “princes” who desire to be served rather than serving others, particularly attending to the needs of those on the margins. This is an issue that can occasionally impact a curial official’s self-identity as well as the way certain people in the Church look at prelates. This mindset developed at least partially from the way princes and other leaders were treated in feudal Europe. It can produce narcissists who seek to be flattered by those that serve them. Pope Francis wants to change the orientation of those who work in the Curia to be focused on Church as a “community of God's people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God” more than one that has focused on the Holy See (and all the diplomatic relations with countries) and the Vatican City State (and all the temporal aspects of operating and financing a small state). Pope Francis remarked that he does “not share this [Vatican-centric] view [of the Church] and I’ll do everything I can to change it.” He has said on other occasions that this mentality doesn’t describe most of those who are working in the Curia.
Pope Francis is modeling for the world what a “non-princely” bishop and shepherd looks like – a shepherd who is near to the sheep the Lord has entrusted to him. After his election, he paid his hotel bill personally. He moved into the workers residence to be near others instead of residing in the apostolic palace. He books his own appointments, and makes his own phone calls. Scalfari details how Pope Francis phoned him and scheduled the interview personally, similarly to how we all would book an appointment with a friend. Francis wants to be close to people in a personal way and not isolated through layers of organizational personnel.
(2) Pope Francis hates clericalism in the Church and wants to root it out. He told Scalfari that, “When I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity. St. Paul, who was the first to speak to the Gentiles, the pagans, to believers in other religions, was the first to teach us that." One of the biggest reforms Pope Francis (and the eight cardinals he appointed to the commission to assist him with changes to the Roman Curia) is a reform of attitude on the part of some that work in the Curia.
(3) Pope Francis is seeking a more “horizontal” and collegial Church. One of the key reforms of the commission of eight cardinals meeting this week will likely be a strengthened synod structure and process in the Church. Pope Francis commented to Scalfari that, “The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”
(4) Pope Francis wants to replace proselytism with an open and sincere love of the other, and with listening and dialogue. He stated to Scalfari, “proselytism is solemn nonsense.” He added that Church’s “goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.” In his remarks against proselytism, I believe Pope Francis means that our intention should never be the conversion of another by any and all means, but rather the free invitation to them to experience the joy of friendship with Christ and to see the world as Christ taught us to see it. Pope Francis continued that Vatican II called for the Church to be open to modern culture, religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers but that “very little was done in that direction” and that he has “the humility and ambition to want to do something."
(5) Pope Francis had a moment of great light in the moment immediately before he accepted his papal election. Scalfari had asked Pope Francis about mystics in the life of the Church and whether he had ever had a mystical experience. Francis responded that after the conclave elected him Pope, and before he accepted, he “asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go way and relax I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the “Habemus Papam.” To my knowledge, this moment of prayer and light had not been revealed publicly before.
(6) Pope Francis favorite saints are Paul, Augustine, Benedict, Thomas, Ignatius and Francis. This was a fascinating part of the interview because Scalfari probed which saints were his role models. In response to Scalfari’s probing of the saints who were “closest to his heart,” the Holy Father mentioned Francis and Augustine. Regarding Francis, whose feast the Church celebrates on October 4, he added, “Francis wanted a mendicant order and an itinerant one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed since then and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. This is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about."
(7) Pope Francis believes all people of good will, including Catholics, can work together to build a civilization of love. In the interview, Pope Francis asks Scalfari, a secular non-Christian, what he believes in. It is a conversation that could happen in any coffee shop from Boston to Seattle, from Buenos Aires to Singapore. Pope Francis summarizes it at the end by stating, “We have made a step forward in our dialogue. We have observed that in society and the world in which we live selfishness has increased more than love for others, and that men of good will must work, each with his own strengths and expertise, to ensure that love for others increases until it is equal and possibly exceeds love for oneself.” Then Pope Francis indicates they will talk more the next time they meet. This, I think, is an example of the type of dialogue he hopes that Christians will have with non-Christians throughout the world.
(8) Pope Francis believes that the Church’s role in political affairs should be to express and disseminate our values. The Holy Father unequivocally stated, “I have already said that the Church will not deal with politics,” and added that “the Church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I'm here.” He indicated that his view is not shared by everyone in the Curia, commenting, “Often the Church as an institution has been dominated by temporalism and many members and senior Catholic leaders still feel this way.” He noted, “Politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres. All my predecessors have said the same thing, for many years at least, albeit with different accents. I believe that Catholics involved in politics carry the values of their religion within them, but have the mature awareness and expertise to implement them.”
(9) Pope Francis thinks that the two most urgent social problems across the world are the unemployment of the youth, which causes them to lose hope, and the loneliness of the elderly. It is noteworthy that the Holy Father chose these two issues from the litany of social problems. He told Scalfari, “The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crashed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing."
Scot Landry is executive director of Catholic Voices USA.
As a teacher of Catholic theology, I often find myself in the precarious position of being approached by friends, family members, coworkers, and students as if I am an official spokesperson for the Vatican. Though nothing in my education, background, or piety lends itself to merit such a title, I am starting to feel like I need to wear the hat of “apologist for the faith” on a moment’s notice: a classroom, a barbeque, or a bar stool have all become places where I am asked to unpack Catholic teaching on marriage, abortion, contraception, or the need to go to Mass on Sundays. Quite frankly, it can be exhausting. It can be uncomfortable. It can be awkward and difficult. And in the first six months of his pontificate, Pope Francis has provided me with countless situations in which I am asked to respond to the question, “The pope said what?” To be frank, the pope is making me uncomfortable. And you know what? I love it.
So I decided to avoid the headlines about the pope’s interview and instead read the actual interview itself. This seems to me to best and most charitable way to understand my shepherd as it has been for years. Pope Benedict XVI grabbed the world’s attention with his Regensburg Address and again with his interview in which he spoke about use of condoms in a very specific situation as possibly the beginning of moral responsibility and respect for a person in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. Back then we were all encouraged to read what the pope actually said and to study the spirit and tone with which he said it. This is what we owe Pope Francis. To take him on his own terms. To try to avoid reading him through the lens of what we hope he says or what we fear he says. To look at him through eyes of charity.
I’ve subsequently read several commentaries by Catholics and non-Catholics who have reflected on his interview, and there have been a few helpful highlights: The pope, as a self-described “son of the church,” is not changing Church teaching; Pope Francis tends to be less of a teacher and more of prophet, and so his methods of communication look different than his predecessors; he willingly dislikes spontaneous interviews and prefers time to contemplate a question before offering a response; he desires to reintroduce people to the fundamental need to “repent and believe in the gospel” before looking at the moral prescriptions of what a life looks like when a person knows he has been redeemed. All of these points are helpful and elucidate not only the content of what he is saying but the package in which it is being delivered.
In the end, though, Francis has succeeded in doing exactly what Jesus did: He’s making people uncomfortable. Not only did Jesus make the Pharisees and the Romans uncomfortable, but his own disciples were always in need of an explanation of a parable, in need of touching His wounds to confirm what they were seeing, in need of clarification about their mission. And for those of us -- sinners, to be sure -- who might be uncomfortable with Pope Francis’ challenge to talk less about the “small-minded rules,” we might keep in mind that Jesus has asked this of us in the Gospels. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proposes what theologians sometimes call “the antitheses,” in which He speaks about how He came not to get rid of the moral law, but to fulfill it. He still held His disciples to the Ten Commandments. Jesus was not giving anyone the go-ahead to commit adultery or homicide. But He invites his followers to an interior conversion so that their hearts would be so transformed that the need to repeatedly reference the law would be unnecessary. To paraphrase Jesus, a person who has perfected the virtue of chastity need not remind themselves regularly not to commit adultery. Or in our own terms, a person who has perfected the virtue of courage would know what it takes to carry her baby to term.
I don’t believe that Pope Francis is asking us not to talk about the design of human sexuality, of marriage, or the destruction that abortion inflicts upon a child and the lives of his parents. His very life is testimony that we be joyfully and boldly proclaiming our faith to the culture. To the young people in Rio at World Youth day he said, “I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to swim against the tide.”
For Immediate Release
September 24, 2013
Catholic Voices USA announced today that Scot Landry has been hired as its Executive Director. Landry previously was Secretary for Catholic Media and the President/CEO of iCatholic Media at the Archdiocese of Boston.
Catholic Voices USA (CVUSA) is a national organization that assists lay Catholics in articulating Church teachings to the media and public. Based on a British model, CVUSA was established in the United States in 2012.
“So many Catholics who love their faith want help by sharing that faith in an often secular and sometimes hostile public square. I am excited to join Catholic Voices USA because I believe we can help more people to hear and understand the life-changing messages of the Catholic faith,” Landry stated.
“Catholic Voices USA trains Catholics with skills to allow them to be more comfortable and effective at discussing issues of faith, particularly on hot-button topics, through the media, in the community, and at dinner tables,” Landry continued. “The tools and approaches taught by Catholic Voices USA have already helped me discuss the Catholic faith more effectively. Through this new role at Catholic Voices, I hope that I can share these methods with other Catholics who are willing to accept this sacred responsibility of proposing our faith’s way of life to those around us.”
“This is an exciting time for Catholic Voices USA,” said Kathryn Jean Lopez, director at Catholic Voices USA. “Scot’s experience in communications and management is a game-changer for CVUSA. There is a real desire among Catholics to participate in local and social media as authentic Christians. Scot’s leadership promises to grow CVUSA to meet evangelical needs throughout the country.”
Landry is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Before joining the Archdiocese of Boston in 2006, he worked in marketing and brand management for Procter & Gamble and James River Corporation, in strategic management consulting for Andersen Consulting and Parthenon Consulting, and as an executive at technology companies at Eze Castle Software and Eze Castle Integration in Boston.
“Scot exemplifies the dedicated Catholic layman, husband, and father. His incredible energy and fine intellect have been a great gift and we know that he will continue to make an impact in the Church,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston stated on CardinalSeansBlog.org on August 30. “There is so much polarization in the country, and we need a way of being able to witness to our faith in such a way that it can be heard by secular society. I believe that Catholic Voices has developed a paradigm to do that. This is a great contribution to the life of the Church and I know Scot will make huge strides there.”
About Catholic Voices USA
Catholic Voices USA is a lay media effort dedicated to increasing the number of well-catechized, media-ready Catholic communicators. Training offered by Catholic Voices seeks to form lay people to be media-friendly, studio-ready, ego-free, articulate speakers who explain Church teaching through letters to the editor, blog posts, op-eds, and radio and television interviews, as well as parish and other talks with clarity and civility. For more information on Catholic Voices USA, please visit CatholicVoicesUSA.org.
St. Francis of Assisi had a vision -- God spoke to him and said, “Francis, rebuild my Church.” Francis took this directive literally, and began to gather stones to rebuild the small church of San Damiano. Eventually Francis came to realize that God meant something else entirely -- to rebuild his Church, yes -- but to restore the community of believers, to help them to renew and to strengthen their faith.
The Catholic Church today is in the midst of an exhilarating period of renewal and revitalization. We use the term “the new evangelization” to talk about these efforts. The New Evangelization is sharing the Gospel with people who have already heard it before, but making it come alive in a new way. I have a new name for the New Evangelization: Pope Francis.
Pope Francis has a way of taking Church teachings that are not new and renewing them, shining up age old traditions and transforming these teachings into something beautiful and most importantly, something living and breathing andalivewith the love of Christ.
Perhaps the best example is a quote from the widely publicized interview with Fr. Spadaro.Pope Francis explained, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
It reminds me, quite frankly, of Jesus. When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, he did not see an adulteress before him. Jesus saw awoman, he saw a person. He loved her. And he said, “Neither do I condemn you. But go forth and sin no more.”(John 8:1-11)
This is what we are about. Christ’s message is, has been, and always will be love. Yes, the Church offers moral guidelines and standards. But as Pope Francis said, we must talk about these issues in a context. The Church’s stances on difficult moral issues like abortion, contraception, and gay marriage make little sense when divorced from her teachings about the inherent dignity of each and every human person. But it all begins and ends with love. This has been the message of Christ for all eternity. A new message it is not. But something about it has reached us in a new way. That is what the New Evangelization is all about.
“Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:5
Catholic Voices USA will have its first full-time director come September. Scot Landry, who has participated in and helped organize CVUSA events in the last year, will be running CVUSA come a little into September. We're beyond delighted. His organizational skills, evangelical zeal, and leadership talents are a great gift for this apostolic project -- one that so many people seem to crave. Coming to us from the Archdiocese of Boston, you can get to know him, if you don't already, through his exit interview in the Boston Archdiocese's Pilot. About CVUSA he says:
I think Catholic Voices meets a huge need in the Church for lay people to become articulate, well-catechized and media-ready communicators, particularly on hot-button issues. Often, when non-Catholic media organizations seek out representative or average Catholics to comment on an issue, they often find media-trained individuals who sometimes have an agenda that isn’t always faithful to Church teaching. That leads people astray. That problem has always bothered me and I have always felt the desire to do something about it.
The good news is that we have many well-catechized lay Catholics who love the Church and have the authority of direct lived experience. They simply need some media training to be comfortable and effective sharing, explaining and defending the Catholic faith particularly in the media. Training these individuals is the main purpose of Catholic Voices.
Much more soon.
Pope Francis has been unpredictable from the first moments of his papacy. About an hour after the white smoke wafted out of the Sistine chapel chimney he emerged from conclave dressed simply in white, and waved calmly at the thousands and thousands of cheering onlookers in the overflowing St. Peter’s Square. He humbly asked for prayers as he began his new journey as pope. He made headlines for opting out of the private car and taking the bus with the cardinals, for checking out of his hotel and paying his bill after conclave, and then again for collecting the rubber bands that held his newspaper together each day that he might give them back to the newspaper deliveryman each week. And this week, Pope Francis has once again made headlines for his comments during an impromptu press conference on the way back to Rome from Rio.
The official transcript has yet to be released in English, but during the interview Pope Francis allegedly remarked, “If someone is gay, and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”
Newspapers are reporting this story as if it is a change in Catholic Church teaching. The opening line of a BBC article proclaims in bold print “Pope Francis has said gay people should not be marginalised but integrated into society,” as if this is a novel idea.
It saddens me that news outlets are jumping on this story as something that is new but what a reminder it is about how much work we need to do to share the Church’s teachings about the dignity of each and every human person. This should not be news. That all people -- regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation -- should be welcomed and loved is the foundation of Christ’s message and has always been! This message should be so apparent that there should be no need to report it.
Yet I am filled with hope precisely because Pope Francis’ statement of love and acceptance is on the front page. People are listening. The love that Pope Francis has for Christ and His church is magnetic -- people are drawn to his simplicity, his humility, and his gentleness, all of which flow directly from his relationship with Christ. Gus Lloyd, host of Seize the Day on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, has written a book entitled Magnetic Christianity in which he discusses the eleven attributes of a magnetic Christian -- positivity, enthusiasm, humility, kindness are just a few of these attributes. Lloyd argues that if we cultivate these qualities in ourselves we can’t help but draw others to Christ. Pope Francis is the epitome of a Magnetic Christian. What an incredible blessing it is that positive, authentic Catholic Church teaching has made headlines. But it is not a new message. In fact, it is the same message that Christ has called us to proclaim since he walked the earth -- love one another. This week it happens to be on the front page.
There’s a great meme making its way across social media—it features a picture of Pope Francis, gesturing as if he is having trouble hearing, with the caption, “Did you say ‘young people think the Church is irrelevant?’ Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the million young people at World Youth Day!”
World Youth Day is, in a word, inspiring. Hundreds of thousands of young people are in Rio celebrating their Catholic faith—a faith that is one holy, catholic, and apostolic. The oneness is self-evident in the presence of the tens of thousands of young people from all over the world, waving the flags of their own countries but celebrating their oneness in faith. Young people at this event gather for speakers, for prayer, for Mass—and on their journey to greater holiness they celebrate that the Church indeed is catholic, universal.
How incredible that this massive group of people from around the world can gather as one to celebrate Mass. Their native tongues may be different, but each and every moment of the Mass is celebrated in the same way throughout the world. All will feel at home in the presence of God. That is the beauty of the Catholic faith. And all who are present will celebrate Mass with Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter, the guardian of apostolic tradition. Pope Francis' holy joy and genuine love for Christ and His Church is contagious.
Yet it is all too easy to lose sight of all of that tradition and inspiration in our increasingly secular world. Oftentimes, believers feel alone in their conviction. That is what makes experiences like World Youth Day so vital. World Youth Day provides communal and universal experiences of faith, of encounters with Christ. I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis as a teenager, and I can still remember the feeling of awe as I sat in the crowded stadium that usually holds bellowing Colts fans but on that day was filled with young Catholics just like me. We sang together, listened to witness talks together, celebrated the Eucharist together. I left with my faith emboldened and with the knowledge that I belonged to something much bigger than myself.
As Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei, “Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed” (Lumen Fidei, 22). Just like in the story of Emmaus in Luke 24: Jesus walked side by side with his disciples—though they did not yet recognize him—and they shared stories of faith with one another. When they gathered together in the Eucharist, suddenly their hearts and their minds were opened—“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” When they recognized that Christ was with them, when they had experienced the reality of Christ as a community, they returned at once to Jerusalem to evangelize.
Let us pray for all of these young pilgrims, that they may encounter Christ and set the world aflame with the light of faith.
We cannot be true believers if we do not evangelize. The proclamation of the Gospel can only be the result of the joy that comes from meeting Christ and finding in him the rock on which our lives can be built. When you work to help others and proclaim the Gospel to them, then your own lives, so often fragmented because of your many activities, will find their unity in the Lord. You will also build up your own selves, and you will grow and mature in humanity.
Pope Francis may be the man swarmed by crowds in Rio this week, but this event was planned by Pope Benedict XVI. Like their joint letter to the Church, Light of Faith -- drafted by the pope emeritus -- this World Youth Day, led by the first American pope, is a testament to the continuity in the Church of Christ.
I quote above from the message Pope Benedict wrote for this World Youth Day, in preparing WYD pilgrims for their journey, meant to deepen their faith, as we see is happening in the heart of Daniela, a Catholic Voices USA pilgrim in Brazil this week.
Tonight at Vivo Rio, the same venue where Cardinal Dolan talked and preached about Christian hope this morning, on the terrace, at 7 P.M., the Catholic News Agency and Catholic Voices USA will host a crash course in new apologetics for the New Evangelization. Austen Ivereigh (read his latest Rio dispatch here), one of the founders of the Catholic Voices model in the U.K., will talk about How to Defend the Church without Raising Your Voice. Alejandro Bermudez, who most recently translated the former Cardinal Bergolio’s conversations with an Argentinean rabbi, On Heaven and Earth, and is reporting on World Youth Day for his ACI Prensa in Spanish and in English, will offer practical tips on communicating in the new Agora, online. And Daniela Adames will share her experiences putting the Catholic Voices approach of shedding light, not heat to apostolic use.
The event will be in English and Spanish.
If you’re in Rio, do consider dropping by. And remember our call to share the Gospel. In his homily at the Marian shrine at Aparecida today, Pope Francis said: “If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.” Let us help one another. Let us pray for one another. Let us walk with one another in the same confidence in Christ we see in Rio, being nourished by the Sacraments, the Gospels, the Catechism, and the prayers of all the saints in Heaven, our destination, the fulfillment of our hearts’ desires.