Monday, January 25, 2010


Pope Benedict’s Message for World Day for Social Communications (The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word) is an amazing embracing of all the ways in which people connect electronically, including web-sites, blogs, videos, and so on. His main thesis is that the internet is the new agora (rather like the Areopagus in Athens where St. Paul preached—Acts 17), and priests should be ready and “enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel” in this realm so as to proclaim Christ. Further, he suggests, “…can we not see the web as also offering a space—like the ‘Court of the Gentiles’ of the Temple of Jerusalem—for those who have not yet come to know God?”

How can this come to be, except by the randomness of a few isolated types (like me, of course!) who happen to want to do this? The Holy Father’s suggestion is striking: “Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources…They will best achieve this aim if they
learn, from the time of their formation [in seminary], how to use these
technologies…shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong
priestly spirituality...”

Will courses of study now, perhaps, include morality, liturgy and sacraments, Scripture, homiletics, Church history, web-design, blog-writing…? Probably not in the near future, but there were people in the Church (and in my seminary) who, when they learned that Pope John Paul II had revised the Stations of the Cross for his Good Friday service at the Colosseum, thought they were now forbidden to use the “traditional” Stations—so powerful the example of the Holy Father! The same logic now is making some people think that since Pope Benedict wants to administer the Eucharist on the tongue, receiving in the hand is somehow no longer proper. So why should we not listen now?

There is a difference, of course, between my two examples above and the Pope’s Message. Personal taste or practice is one thing, which we might or might not want to emulate, but which we are not at all required to copy. A more formal statement (even if not authoritative) is a bit different, and at the very least it requires to be taken more seriously. Will heads of seminaries do this? Most already have their own web-sites, in point of fact, as do most dioceses and parishes. But many (Our Savior’s, for example) are maintained by volunteers who do great work (I mean quantity as well as quality). It seems that Pope Benedict is looking forward to a day when the pastor will be the “web-lackey” for the parish and a cyber-evangelizer. I wonder what St. Paul would have thought—but I think he would approve, as Pope Benedict quotes him: “…how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (Romans 10:14; I Corinthians 9:16)

So creating things like this blog are going to be the next wave of “new evangelization” for the world, to help create what he called a “‘diaconia of culture’ on today’s ‘digital continent.’” This phrase deserves ‘unpacking,’ as they say—and I am not sure I understand all its implications. But one thing is clear: blogs like this one need to focus on the Pope’s central challenge: we must reflect “…a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord” in order to reveal “a priestly heart [through] closeness to Christ….not only [to] enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a ‘soul’ to the fabric of communications that makes up the ‘Web.’” It’s a great challenge!


  1. I think it's a good idea to include web-design and blog-writing on the curriculum! Maybe even audio/video podcasting. I see a lot of people about my age and younger who use iPods or other devices to listen to music or possibly talk shows.

  2. You are correct, Karina (as usual!), and this is the whole point of the Pope's Message--get to where folks are listening if you want to be heard.