Greetings and salutations! My name is Sr. Helena Burns, fsp. The initials after my name stand for my congregation, the Daughters of St. Paul (in Latin). Founded in 1915 to evangelize with media, the Daughters of St. Paul are obviously very pro-media and pro-technology! Our Founder, Blessed Fr. James Alberione, told us to use “the fastest, most modern, most efficacious means to reach the greatest number of people” with the Word of God. He gave us the mandate to use every new medium, every new form of communication as soon as it appears on the horizon. In other words, the Daughters of St. Paul are called to be “early adopters.” We then learn the particular “language” of each new medium in order to use it to communicate optimally, as our Founder said: “in an appealing, attractive way that people are used to.”
THE BEST FOR THE WORD OF GOD
In other words, if Catholics truly want to evangelize through media,we must enter the milieu, become a part of it, know it so well and use it so organically that we can even become shapers of the media culture itself! And not only that, if we believe we have the best message in the world, then our presentation should reflect that. Fr. Alberione used to insist: “the best for the Word of God.” And today, not only will young people not look at or listen to our media if it’s unattractive and unprofessional–we’ve just damaged our message in their eyes.
JUST FADS AND TRENDS?
Are some new media forms trends and fads? Certainly, so let’s make sure to take advantage of them and ride them out for the Gospel, “become all to all.” “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel.” But how does what is unchanging (God’s Revelation) bring about permanence through what is ever-changing and even ephemeral (media trends)? By “taking every thought captive.” Ancient truths, new methods.
JESUS IS THE WORD AND THE IMAGE OF GOD
Blessed James Alberione had this to say about dwelling on only one type of media: “We are not attached to the book. We are attached to the Word of God.” A unique property of words is the ability to logically reason things out, to create an argument, to demonstrate truth or falsehood. This makes facility with words indispensable. However, it’s absolutely true that certain things can only be communicated in a certain way through the written and spoken word. By the same logic, certain things can only be communicated in a certain way through images. It’s no mistake that Jesus is both the Word of the Father and the Image of The Father. So, why can’t we have a full skill set? Why can’t we be truly “media literate,” conversant with words and images?
Today’s multifarious new media can be overwhelming, so the evangelizer needs to specialize. Zero in on what you’re good at, at what interests you, media formats and content that you will get familiar with from the inside out. Collaborate and network with others who specialize in other media. With regard to technology, graphics and social media, the Church needs to humbly learn from the young, and, yes, hire the young to help us with media. There’s simply too much going on with today’s digital media for one (older) person to know. Learn to distrust your own (ancient) sensibilities. Young people today have an innate sense of aesthetics–not just for youth-oriented media, but for all media. They’ll keep the Church lookin’ classy.
SACRAMENTALITY VS. VIRTUALITY
It’s important to distinguish times and places for digital media in the Church (and in our personal and family lives)! Media devices do not belong everywhere, 24/7. One such media-device-free zone should be the Mass. Turn phones and tablets (including those belonging to youth and kids) completely off. Better yet, don’t even bring them to church. “Faith comes through hearing.” Listen to the Word of God. Be present. Use a physical missal/hymnal. We are a sacramental people. The sacraments and sacramentals are God working through matter, through concrete reality, not simulated reality that requires another power source. As human beings and Catholics, we are not virtual people (virtual=simulations that are real in appearance and effects only), we are actual people, God’s people.
A TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
But using digital media in the Church to communicate, teach, preach, build community, evangelize, inform, network, catechize, keep in touch, enlighten, inspire, entertain? Go for it!