Let’s live it

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul. When one reflects on what they accomplished in the earliest days of our Church following the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, one should be quite impressed. Collaborating with the gift of the Holy Spirit, they led a small band of believers to be able to evangelize the whole known world at the time. What is even more impressive is that they did it without social media. 

I’ve always challenged youth and others by their example. Think of what is so readily available to us, in addition to the same graces and gifts that had been available to Peter and Paul and the early Church. We should be having an easier time in sharing the Gospel message today.

When I’ve brought this up before, I am sometimes greeted by a litany of reasons why we aren’t as effective: society is deaf to the Gospel, we live in a culture of death, there are so many other messages out there, etc., etc., etc. While these are true, it is also true that these conditions existed 2,000 years ago as well. This means we can’t use them as an excuse. I am reminded of a question I heard from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia at a Catholic Campus Ministry Association Convention a couple of years ago: “Do we preach the Gospel or just criticize society?” There is a huge difference. Anyone can be critical, it requires minimal effort. A quick scroll through one’s newsfeed would quickly confirm that.

The Second Vatican Council issued a very important decree called Inter Mirifica (Decree on the Media of Social Communications). Even though it was issued more than 50 years ago, it is still very relevant in its message today. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to read it (just Google the title, it will pop right up). It is an easy read and has a lot of good points and a challenge to all of us. At one point the decree states that, “It is quite unbecoming for the Church’s children idly to permit the message of Salvation to be thwarted or impeded by the technical delays or expenses, however vast, which are encountered by the very nature of these media” (Inter Mirifica, #17). In some translations it reads “It would be shameful.”

Yes, there are things we need to be aware of concerning the Internet and social media. The decree is quite clear about that. It is also quite clear that we need to be sure that we are vigilant and taking time to educate ourselves on matters of faith. Pastors need to be sure that there are opportunities and resources available to their parishioners to help them grow in faith. Yet, social media also gives all of us greater opportunity to fulfill the mission entrusted to us: the proclamation of the Gospel, regardless of our age or our situation in life. A high school or college student will be much more effective in sharing the Gospel with peers than I would be. A home-bound individual is able to remain connected in new ways and continue to share the message of Christ’s love and presence in ways not previously possible. I’m reminded that one of the big “Catholic” blogs out there (whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com) began when the blogger was a senior in college and quickly was being visited by thousands of people a day.

We don’t need a theology degree to engage in this important work. We can post when we are going to Mass, a short prayer, a Scripture verse or a quote from the “Catechism” or another Church document. Pope Francis is very active in posting on Twitter. It is very easy to share these short messages. We can share blog posts from our pastoral leaders, our bishops, theologians, etc.

Last week I was part of the team for  the Christian Leadership Institute. This is a six-day leadership development program offered for high school youth. This was my 11th CLI as a team member. I have always been impressed at how the youth participants grow throughout the week, but also by the faith that they have. For many, they haven’t been encouraged to express that faith or share it or they haven’t had the chance to have serious conversations with others who share their faith. It is a very powerful and hopeful experience. One of the points that we try and get across from day one is that they are part of the Church today, that they can participate in the mission of the Church in proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples. The truth is that isn’t just for CLI candidates, it is true for any of us who have been baptized. Many people are inspired by St. Peter and St. Paul. Many talk about how they are inspired by Pope Francis. Let’s not just talk about it. Let’s live it and follow their example.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Cape Cod Community College.

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