Moving On – New Blog, Approach, and FB Page

This blog will no longer be updated, as I’ve moved on from “Catholic Media Girl” into Catholic media womanhood.

With several years of experience using media for ministry under my belt, and a wedding ring on my finger, I’ve pinpointed what I can offer within Catholic new media:

  • Finding new and/or excellent examples of existing media for ministry
  • Analyzing and critiquing existing media
  • Highlighting what works best for Catholic ministries
  • Sharing inspirational pieces from Catholic, Protestant, and non-Christian media
  • Simplifying (/de-mystifying) new media, especially for teaching purposes

Now, I’m doing what I love at http://inspiredangela.wordpress.com

You can also follow Inspired Ministry Solutions on Facebook for more tips, resources and inspiration. Let me know what you think!

A Catholic geek retrospective + How ministries should approach media and marketing

Last year was the first one I’d missed. I actually shed tears.

My loyalty to SQPN (Star Quest Production Network) has been unwavering since I first binged on Catholic Insider podcasts while running laps around the living room.

Catholic Rocker

As a high school senior, George Leite of the Catholic Rockers podcast nicknamed me the “Street Team President.” It was a no-brainer for George: I spent my free time and late nights designing websites and album art for Catholic musicians, writing for Grapevine Magazine (about Catholic musicians), and discovering the uncharted worlds inside Catholic musicians’ heads via online bulletin boards and chats.

Most of them were making music on a volunteer basis. (They had day jobs.) All their vacation time was spent driving or flying across state borderlines bringing papist music to the masses (and/or Masses). None of them had big bucks to market their music ministries properly. Even if their music was great, they hardly stood a chance compared to their counterparts: Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Plain White T’s, J-Lo and the like.

Marketing without Money

So here I was, a kid in college…a dreamer. How could I let these gifted musicians go unhelped? I had some blossoming talents in design. I’d grown up around music ministers (Dad plays guitar), so I understood their hearts and craft.

Finally, I asked myself the big question for the first time: Why don’t Catholics learn how to market their product like the other guys do, but better?

The big, scary Business School became a place I frequented at my university; I chose marketing as a concentration within my communications major. Rather than fall asleep during lectures on business strategy, my brain translated everything into Catholic language (no, not Latin). In other words, everything I learned – from the classroom to volunteer projects and internship hours at a local ad agency – I translated into valuable lessons for Catholic ministries, religious orders, and churches.

Meanwhile, I attended every single Catholic New Media Celebration (now the Catholic New Media Conference). My RSS Feed Readers were clogged with insights from secular, Protestant, and Catholic sources on new media, business, entrepreneurship, graphic design, web development, marketing, advertising, and beyond.

I’d found my passion.

Untangling the Web of Insights

Early in my senior year of college, I knocked on my advisor’s office door. Dr. Dennis Bautista, SM, is a Marianist religious brother and professor in English-communication arts, who outside the office wears flip-flop sandals and plays ukulele – a native Hawaiian. I pitched him my senior thesis topic, and this generally-excited man’s face became brighter. Bingo! We have a winner.

New Media, New Evangelization: The Unique Benefits of New Media and Why the Catholic Church Should Engage Them” was published by St. Mary’s University in 2010 just weeks before I crossed the stage summa cum laude. (Hey, I worked hard.) Brandon Vogt read it, and the rest is history.

While I hope to fine-tune and update that document, I cherish it as an infant testimony to what I believe should continue to be the basic model for Catholic new media endeavors. That thesis my attempt to untangle and make sense of the many ‘webs’ I’d stepped into – Catholic, Protestant, secular, business, ministry, design, media production, etc.

How Every Catholic Ministry/Entity Should Approach Media and Marketing (In a Nutshell)

1. MAPPING THE VISION

A. What is our message? What is our goal? How do we want to execute it?
B.  What does our faith say about media & communications?
C. What does our faith say about putting the two together?

2. USING THE COMPASS

A. What can we learn from the business world about achieving our goal?
B. What can we learn from Protestant brothers and sisters about achieving our goal?
C. What can we learn from fellow Catholics who have similar goals?

3. BUILDING THE NETS
A. Re-evaluate goals
B. Re-examine strategy
C. Determine action steps

4. CASTING THE NET – Implement action steps and get messy

5. SORT THE CATCH – Sort, keep and throw away
A. What are we doing right?
B. What are fellow ministers and competitors doing right?
C. What could we be doing better?

6. LISTEN TO THE MASTER’S VOICE
A. Incorporate prayer and prayerful attitude into each step
B. Consecrate yourself and your efforts to the Holy Spirit
C. Be open and docile to the Holy Spirit’s action; Learn to recognize and discern His action

7. REPEAT and REPEAT and REPEAT
A. Never stop researching secular, Protestant and Catholic endeavors
B. Never stop asking, “How can we do this better?”
C. Continue to allow God to develop your goals, methods and mindsets toward His purposes

Praying I Can Attend CNMC 2012

Because SQPN and the CNMC have been such an integral part of and companion on my journey with new media, I am praying that I will not be at home for the second year in a row when August 29 arrives. The CNMC 2012 speakers were just announced today, and I couldn’t be more delighted. Say a ‘Hail Mary’ for my husband and I, that money and circumstances won’t become obstacles to our in-person participation in this outstanding conference.

I’m praying that we’ll see you there!

Are you ‘pro-life’ in every sense?

A view of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes

It saddens me that ‘pro-life,’ especially in the United States, has become a political term referring to one (or a handful) of attacks against the dignity of human persons.

Yes, abortion is a grave moral evil. As Catholics we are called to work toward ending injustices against unborn children, their mothers, and families. At the same time, to be ‘pro-life’ means more.

God’s Pro-Life Commandment

The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly reminds us:

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. (2262)

The fifth commandment, as Jesus taught, regards any act which offends the dignity of a human person. Calling ourselves ‘pro-life’ Catholics means working to realize the fullness of Jesus’ teachings on this commandment. Christ said,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Are we working to fulfill the “smallest part of a letter” of God’s law regarding human life? Calling ourselves ‘pro-life’ is not a political statement. It is a personal challenge and creed.

Our Contribution to Injustice in Jesus’ Homeland

On my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I was moved to tears by the holy sites. There were also, however, many unholy sights there.

Most U.S. citizens are aware that Israel is considered our country’s political ally, and probably know that we contribute billions of dollars of military aid to that nation. However, most of us are unaware what our tax dollars are contributing towards in Jesus’ homeland.

It is difficult to explain in a short blog entry all that I experienced while there: the separation wall which separates Arab Palestinians from Israelis; brand-new Israeli homes built on land confiscated from Palestinian families, which had served as their source of sustenance; speaking with Israeli Jewish, Palestinian Christian & Muslim women involved in grassroots peace programs to end apartheid attitudes and injustices. I was devastated to see these injustices were happening where Jesus had reached out in love to people of all kinds. And that U.S. citizens’ money and ignorance are feeding injustice there.

Dressed in Terrorist Clothing

A delegation from Caritas Internationalis (the confederation of Catholic relief and humanitarian organizations who work closely with Vatican offices), upon returning from the Holy Land in 2002, stated:

We wish to express our shock and sadness at the humiliating treatment of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli Government. We experienced the gross violations of human rights, summary curfews, the erection of barbed wire fences around Palestinian villages, severely curtailing the free movement of people and economic and social life and now the building of a wall, higher and longer than the Berlin Wall, and the division of the West Bank and Gaza into what were described to us as ‘bantustans‘ with daily permits needed to go from one section to another. Indeed, the analogy with apartheid was often evoked. The delegation condemns the collective punishment of a whole people to avenge the violence of a minority of extremists.

Indeed, as pro-life people, we believe that Israel has a right to defend its borders against terrorism. Unfortunately, the state’s actions have reached beyond their rights, and have violated the dignity and rights of the Palestinian people. Israel has encroached on Palestinian lands, destroyed family farmlands, homes, schools, and community centers, and requires that Palestinians (but not foreigners, like me when I was there) walk through checkpoints on their own land.

Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour is eight years older than the nation-state of Israel. He is Palestinian. If you ask him about the conflict, he will tell you – despite the suffering he and his family endured because of their Palestinian nationality – that everyone must forgive and love. Archbishop’s Chacour has said:

We Palestinians as a people do not believe in violence and in terror. The world, however, has dressed us in terrorist clothing and we need to be stripped so people can see we are human beings who are terrorized.

I point out the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because it comes from the heartbeat of our Christian faith: the Holy Land, where Jesus lived, died, rose, and from whence he ascended to Heaven. Let’s learn from Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes. Are we who call ourselves ‘pro-life’ truly challenging ourselves to carry out the full pro-life mission?

Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp.2304)

Will you be ‘infected’ by the silence of St. Joseph?

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus due to the ever-impending wedding countdown (36 days!) except at my day job. Check out my latest post – I FOUND GOLD! The blog contains excerpts of a 2005 Advent message from a ‘papal-ly-fresh’ Benedict XVI.

Why do I love it?

  • Possibly a sneak peek of our upcoming World Communications Day message
  • Extremely relevant & needed, even six years later
  • A ‘new’ way to view St. Joseph and his role in Jesus’ life
  • St. Joseph – what’s not to love?

Read and enjoy: ‘Infected’ by the Silence of St. Joseph – Pope Benedict XVI

Happily yours,

Angela Soon-to-be-Sealana

BXVI, The Third Secret of Fatima, Hope, and Silence

I have been reflecting on fear and suffering. In my own life, I have encountered these two crosses – and they are very heavy.

This morning I was compelled to read the third ‘secret’ of Fatima. (That is, part of the apparitions which Our Lady revealed to the child visionaries of Fatima in the early twentieth century.) In all honesty, I am not that ‘into’ Marian apparitions or private revelation. This weekend, though, I was part of the Catholic Women’s Conference which my employers organize, and Our Lady’s voice reverberated through all the talks, Mass, prayer services, etc. It struck me.

So today I dove into the parchmented Vatican.va, and found the page regarding the Message of Fatima. I won’t recount all of it here, but wish to highlight what gave me hope. In the words of visionary Sr. Lucia, the third ‘secret’ is this:

At the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.

What Does It Mean?

The official theological interpretation of this vision was appointed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In it, we hear a message of great hope (emphasis is my own):

no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. [...] “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

And then, I came to the signature of the interpreter, and I was pleased to see the name: Joseph Ratzinger.

The Urgent Need for Silence

Lately, the Holy Father has spoken about the need for silence and contemplative prayer in our times. Yesterday, his homily spoke to this strongly:

Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. [...] The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. [...] Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.

If we put these messages together, the necessity of silent contemplation is glaringly evident. The frantic world around us knows not what to make of its sufferings. It does not take time to discern, but rushes to find solutions – any solutions – to stave off suffering. The noise of its busyness is deafening.

As Catholics faced with suffering and persecution, we must beckon the Lord’s command: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:11). Only when we obey and enter into contemplation, do we begin to make ourselves vulnerable in God’s presence. We cannot allow ourselves to follow the world’s example, with its division, chaos, dissension, and confusion (characteristics of demonic influence).

When we allow silence we expose our weakness and frailty before God, we find meaning in suffering. Christ told Sr. Faustina Kowalska in an apparition, “Meditation on My Passion will help you rise above all things.”

There is much pain and evil in the world; it has entered through human’s decisions to act apart from God. When we stop for silent prayer, we step away from the messages of a world parched with thirst for God. Silence allows us to drink in God’s Living Water, which strengthens us beyond any of the world’s strongest weapons: “The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind.”

I look forward to the Holy Father’s upcoming World Communications Day Message, which will focus on silence.

Why CNMC 2011 made me happy (…from my house in Texas)

My handsome Dan and I had to stay in town this year while our friends attended the Catholic New Media Conference in Kansas City. (Soon-to-be newlyweds = cash strapped.) We spent the time talking about CNMC, new media, faith, and nerdy stuff anyway. I want to thank everyone for expressing that we were missed; we certainly missed you.

I’m still catching up on the recordings, but I wanted to list a few things that made me happy, even observing from home in San Antonio.

  • More Eucharistic prayer: CNMC has always ended with Mass. The source and summit of our lives certainly deserved more personal attention at such a beautiful event; I know it must have set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
  • More consecrated folk: Participation from more clergy, religious, and first-time participation from bishops (even live-tweeting from IN’s Bishop Coyne, which totally made me geek out) also allows for a wider cooperation between us reg’lar faithful folk and those who have consecrated their lives to faith-ful service.
  • Vatican spokesperson: Sean Patrick Lovett’s presence as a participant and keynote speaker really begins to connect the dots. Sean has been the director of Vatican Radio for years, and I have the feeling that his presence brought some continuity between now and the May 1st Vatican Bloggers Meeting. Additionally, as Matt Warner expressed, “it made the Vatican and us seem not quite so distant.”
  • The return of the panel: The very first CNMC included a panel discussion (remember that?) which allowed for many talented, experienced voices to create dynamic dialogue. I was glad to see this format return, because I think it aptly reflects our digital conversations. (*Plus, we got a verbal re-tweet out of it.)
  • A breakout session on theology: Hallelujah! It’s what I’ve been waiting for. Pat Gohn gave a nice start to what I hope will be many future breakout sessions on the theology of communication. Look, if the Church asks us to know something about the theology of Baptism before we become godparents, Confirmation before we become sponsors, and Matrimony before the wedding, shouldn’t we educate ourselves on the theology of these new media as we use them for God’s purposes? This excites me, and I hope SQPN’s Board can arrange for some keynotes on this in the future. There is so much to be said.
  • Collaboration between media: With CatholicTV present (giving a sneak peek of their ‘Mass Confusion’ sitcom starring several Catholic new media celebs), Lino Rulli’s Sinner book promoted, and The Mighty Macs film preview, I hope a precedent has been set for cooperation between ‘old’ media and ‘new.’ The Lord knows we all need constructive criticism, encouragement, and ideas.
  • More challenging language: The first few CNMCs have been, whether we realized it or not, about some thumbs-up and a good slap on the back. We focused more on how exciting Catholic new media are/could be, how to dive into it, how much we ‘get it’ while other Catholic media don’t, and how many souls we’re saving with new media. This year, for the first time, I sensed the understanding that CNMCs need to include more critical self-reflection. Are we really on the cutting edge? Are we letting our egos get the best of us? How are we guarding against the dangers of new media? Are we challenging each other? Excellent; I hope this continues.
These were just a few things that made me happy. The last thing that’s made me happy is the announcement that CNMC 2012, in partnership with the Catholic Marketing Network, will take place in Dallas, Texas. That’s just five hours’ drive from my house! (You New Englanders wouldn’t get it; that means it’s really, really close by.)
I look forward to seeing you all, God willing, in Dallas. Until then, let’s continue to meet, pray with, challenge, share with, and love one another – through the gifts of new media.

Use media to encourage

When do YOU use the combox?

If you’re like me, I read [er, skim] a lot online. Blogs, news, you name it. And if you’re like me, you read and move on. Unless, that is, something just infuriates you. Then, you become a righter-of-wrongs; an online crusader! (Insert triumphant hero music here.) The combox becomes your opportunity to say, “Enough, you scoundrel!” and proudly sign your name to a defense of truth and all that is good / just / beautiful / etc.

If you’re like me, that generally doesn’t happen. Most of the stuff I read online, I read because:

  1. I generally agree
  2. I think it’s cool
  3. I subscribe

The result? Most of us bloggers, webmasters, etc. often receive more negative feedback than positive feedback. Rarely do we hear from those that subscribe to, agree with, or ‘dig’ us.

Today, I posted my two cents on this blog entry for Fairfield U’s “More than a Monologue” series on LGBTs and the Catholic Church. Of course, I found the blog and the series itself lacking. After putting on my truth-defending helmet, I posted a link to Courage, the only Church-approved apostolate ministering to those with same-sex attraction.

The need for encouragement

Warsaw soccer team huddleThis reminded me of all the good work that Courage has done—and continues to do for our Church. (I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the local chapter; they do phenomenal ministry.) Their presence is so needed. I decided that I should write them an email to say, Thanks. Your work means so much. I’m praying for you.

Having been blessed to work in ministry for several years, I know the importance of encouragement. Often, we deal with tough times. We wonder how much the community values our work. But—when our office get a letter, email, or comment from someone who says, “Right on! I’m praying for you!” it helps us to keep on going.

What would Rocky Balboa have been without Mick? Luke without Yoda? Frodo without Sam? We need support and encouragement in the midst of a fight, a war, or a struggle. As Catholics, that’s what we’re in. We’re not the Roamin’ Lone Catholics. We’re the Catholic Church.

A challenge for you and myself: If there is a group, ministry, web outreach, blogger, or other entity that you admire and appreciate, tell them so. Use those “Contact Us” buttons and comboxes for encouragement as well as admonishment.

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up…
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,
and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.
See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.

(1 Thess. 5:11-15)

Why we shouldn’t always aim for ‘efficiency’

So, I have been asked whether I disagree with the Holy Father. I never thought this day would come!

No worries – this is not regarding anything doctrinal. In fact, I do not disagree with the Holy Father; I do have something to say which could be controversial. Let’s get to that…

How This Started

A blogger whom I know as New Media Catholic recently wrote, “How to be ‘Efficient’ in Social Media Church Advocacy.” He brings up some solid points. In fact, I support his main message, which is to publicly voice your support for your local bishop and diocese. Amen!

When I finished reading, however, I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of upholding “efficiency” in such high esteem when it comes to Catholics’ new media usage. A combox conversation ensued:

Me:  [...] I don’t know if I would call efficiency one of the top new media ‘virtues’ that we should embrace as Catholics. [...]

New Media Catholic: Please keep in mind that the word “efficient” is taken from the Pope’s quote. I’m only echoing what he said and adding some commentary. Do you think the Pope is wrong on this point? If so, how?

Also, I’m not sure that we disagree. When we are “effective” we need to be sure that we are using our limited resources to create a maximum amount of change in the world. Being proactive is one piece of it, but most of what I get into is how to be an advocate for the Church online. [...]

A Matter of Translation

Full disclosure: I have no Italian blood and have never studied Italian. However, you can look up the Holy Father’s original 44th World Communications Day message. The Pope’s word in Italian, “efficace” – might be better translated as “effective” over “efficient.” I truly believe that we should aim for effectiveness over efficiency, and I now mean to distinguish between the two because they are not always the same.

Extraordinary Communication

Now, I could get myself into hot water with some people by saying this: the example I can’t shake from my mind which causes me to maintain a distinction between “efficiency” and “effect” is…the distribution of Holy Communion.

In the United States, it is typical for a parish to have several Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass. This is what I think of as “efficient” – because without the EMs, it would take much more time to distribute Holy Communion. Thus, efficient: doing more in less time.

Having experienced Mass in other countries, I’ve also seen the custom to have only clergy distribute Holy Communion.

Speaking purely from personal, interior observation: Walking up to a priest and receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord from one of His ordained clergy, a man who has given his life to act In Persona Christi, is a different experience than receiving the same Precious Lord from a fellow lay person. I can’t be the only person in the world who would admit that, seeing a priest hold up the consecrated Host and declare, “The Body of Christ,” is a different experience than seeing a fellow layperson do the same.

Efficiency in Digital Communications

Being efficient is certainly not intrinsically ‘wrong’ or ‘lesser’ than taking the longer route to accomplish a task. In fact, efficiency can be very good. (You can read all about what Pope Leo XIII thinks about efficiency in Rerum Novarum, for instance.) I’ve even included efficiency as a reason why ministries should consider engaging in social and new media usage.

That having been said, “efficiency” does not always positively affect. We need to consider this as we communicate the Faith through digital media.

Altar where we celebrated Mass. (No stealing photo, please.)

To further illustrate my point: On my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we were privileged to have celebrated Mass in the Tomb of Christ. What a blessing beyond words. There, where He was buried and rose, I received Holy Communion from the hands of a priest. Had we been anywhere else, maybe there would have been Extraordinary Ministers present. We were on an extremely tight schedule; the Sepulchre only “belongs” to Catholics for a few hours a day, and we had a few minutes from the moment we walked in to the moment we left, to squeeze 40 pilgrims into the sepulchre, to celebrate Easter Mass, whilst allowing each pilgrim a chance to squeeze in and out of the inner chamber where Jesus’ body had been laid. Efficiency in distributing Holy Communion could have been a priority. But it wasn’t.

Why Efficiency Is Not Always Best

Before you break out your GIRMs, please listen. My point is not to spark another thread of seemingly endless debate about the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. Nor am I saying that receiving the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord from anyone other than clergy is less efficacious. Our bishops know better than I do on these matters, and I trust and obey them.

What I wish to convey is the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness. I would argue that, when we choose to use new media as Catholics—for whatever purpose, but especially when speaking on behalf of our Faith—we should remember that when we focus on being efficient, we sometimes sacrifice effect. How can we afford to sacrifice effect when that effect is the effect of the Gospel? Of God’s grace—and love?

If one of our Facebook friends, for instance, posts an article about the Catholic Church which is clearly divisive, we have several choices:

  1. Offer this in prayer.
  2. Respond with a short remark.
  3. Launch into a discussion / debate in the comboxes.
  4. Defer / refer to someone who might have a better response.
  5. Comment with something thought-provoking, but later engage this person in a private, personal dialogue.
(etc)

Each of these responses could be the wisest, depending upon so many factors: the subject matter, its seriousness, its potential for scandal, the frequency with which this person attacks the Church, their personal background / attitudes, and our own talents and abilities.

Prudently Proactive

That’s why I offer to our Catholic new media discussion table this phrase: prudent proactiveness. It’s clear that we are called to defend our Faith, to engage our cultures and societies in dialogue over the day’s issues, and to bear witness to the Gospel. And yes, we are also called to use God’s gift of time and the new media tools with which He provides us, in the best possible manner. But this does not necessarily mean that we should uphold “efficiency.”

My years researching and using new media have led me to believe that efficiency can be dangerous without prudence. We can easily become caught up in “digital crusading” that we lessen the effect of our words and actions. We can become focused on defending, making our case, having the last word, or rebuking our ‘attackers,’ that we mistake our fellow human beings for the falsehoods and evils we so despise.

Catholic new media users are called to a heightened sense of prudence. This involves not only discerning how best to use our time, but also our unique talents, and to listen with the ears of our hearts:

  • Might this person’s attack on the Catholic faith stem from a wound in their past?
  • How much does ignorance factor into this person’s anti-Catholic words and sentiments?
  • How much of my response will be an emotional reaction?
  • What are my talents? How is God calling me to respond, given my vocation and gifts? (If I am better at showing concern and being a friend than being an apologist, perhaps my love will soften this person’s hardness of heart against the Church.)
  • Is the medium I am using the best way to respond? Is my message more appropriate in public, in video, in a private dialogue, over the phone, in a letter, or in person?
  • How much do I care about having the last word? Might I refer this situation to someone better suited to handle it?

There will always be people who perpetuate stereotypes, lies, and ignorant claims about our Church and our Faith. While we should witness for Christ, we must also practice this prudent proactiveness. We can’t do it all.

Blessed Mother Teresa knew that most of us cannot feed a hundred people. So, she said, “Feed just one.”

P.S. Also a good read—Matthew Warner on 2011: The Year of Real Relationships

Why you should buy ‘The Church and New Media’

I know you may have seen plenty of reviewers by now, raving about The Church and New Media—a ground-breaking book authored by Brandon Vogt, with eleven other outstanding contributors (making the total a quite symbolic twelve).

What you mayn’t have yet read are straightforward reasons why you should reach into your wallet or thin ministry budget and purchase this book…

Allow me to assist:

One-of-a-kind. There isn’t anything else in the world like this book.

Bang for your buck. This book is almost like getting personal advice from professionals in Catholic new media! (Oh wait…that’s actually what it is.) You don’t even have to pay consulting fees to all of the contributors. After I started reading, I almost felt like I’d stolen something.

Many perspectives. This is perhaps one of the most impressive characteristics of TCANM. Readers benefit from the perspectives of moms, dads, priests, laity, young & old[er], converts and cradle Catholics. We hear from writers and bloggers, podcasters, video creators, webmasters, Facebookers, Twitterers, and that doesn’t cover all the bases. The result is a multi-faceted look at the past, present, and future of the relationship between the Catholic Church and new media.

Time in a bottle. Needless to say, hearing so many varying voices speak with you about new media is like bottling all the collective experiences of so many individuals. You gain from their years of experimentation, failures, and successes.

Inspiring examples. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are sidebars highlighting outstanding examples of organizations or individuals who have embraced new media for the Church’s purposes. You’ll be inspired to take leaps of faith and stretch your creative muscles after reading about these Catholic new media ‘Olympic athletes’, and I definitely don’t say that because I’m one of ‘em. These are all ‘normal’ folks who’ve used their unique talents and experiences to glorify God.

Dynamic resources. Brandon Vogt has stuffed this baby chalk-full of websites, and the book’s website will continue to grow as a resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the Church and new media. This is one of the ways you can bet the book won’t become outdated for a long, long time. I’m honored to have two of my projects currently on the website’s Resources list.

Timeless guidelines. “But really, won’t this be outdated once the next big thing comes along?” you’re asking me. No. I can confidently say that Vogt and his contributors have guarded against this by employing several strategies: incorporate Scripture, Tradition and Church documents; view new media usage from an eternal perspective; recommend principles that remain true regardless of the media – dealing with fear of the unknown, making ministry investments, relating to those you serve, etc.

Practical tips. While these pages are rich in principles, they also contain practical tips for familiarizing yourself / your ministry with new media, starting a blog, creating a podcast, bolstering parish new media, and even setting diocesan guidelines for new media quality and use. How much more brilliant does it get?

Doubles as charity! Well, it gets more brilliant at its heart. That’s because this book’s heart is truly united to the heart of God. Your purchase not only gets you this valuable book, but it also contributes to a CRS project in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya, to fund computer labs. The author is taking none of the proceeds for himself. None! Now that’s discipleship. And what’s more, by diving into the ‘digital continent’ yourself, you’re breaching a gap (the ‘digital divide’) of media availability to richer and poorer nations.

Those are just my few reasons. If you’ve read the book, what do you have to add to the list?

>>> Purchase The Church and New Media ASAP. This is required reading.

Don’t Diss Me ‘Cause I’m Young

Do you view youth as a disadvantage? Even subconciously?

I love the cast of SQPN’s Catholic Weekend podcast, and while I enjoyed this weekend’s episode, I was struck by how often they referred to guest Brandon Vogt‘s youth. Seemed to me like I was supposed to be a little shocked that Brandon just turned 25 and he’s put together the most authoritative book on the Catholic Church and New Media to date.

After listening, I left Brandon a little ‘thank-you-note’ on his Facebook wall for representing us ’20-somethings’ with such grace. Even after being elbowed for his age, he “opened not his mouth” in spite. (Wink.)

Sometimes, I have difficulty following Brandon’s example. There have been plenty of folks who’ve disregarded me because of my age (and my apparent age, since I look younger), called me ‘cute’ or ‘sweetie’ and promptly turned away to speak with someone much older.

What I want to know is: what’s wrong with being young?

Young Heroes Aren’t Rare

Not much, according to our God. St. Paul says, the Lord has plenty of reasons to raise up young leaders:

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. (1 Cor. 1:27-29)

Think of King David, chosen over his older brothers; Esther; the prophet Jeremiah; the Blessed Mother a ‘mere’ teenager at the Incarnation; Christ himself proclaiming the Kingdom, dying, and rising as a young man.

Think of those with whom Mary has entrusted her messages for the world: the children of Fatima, young Bernadette of Lourdes, the youth of Kibeho, young Catherine Labouré, Faustina Kowalska…

Blessed James Alberione was 16 when he had the initial inspiration to serve God through media, and he began founding religious orders in his 20s and 30s.

Young New Media Leaders

Those who serve the Church in communications or evangelization should especially remain open to the help of younger generations. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI has all but demanded that:

Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities…

I would like to conclude this message by addressing myself, in particular, to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. [...] It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent“. (Source)

and earlier this year, he re-affirmed youths’ necessary involvement in new media endeavors:

I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world.

Some of the greatest pioneers in new media we’ve seen are young; the guys behind flockNote and Little i Apps stand out in particular, along with the Catholic Underground priests and laity. SQPN has its origins in the podcast of a priest in his 30s who happened to be at St. Peter’s Basilica during the death of John Paul II. The list goes on.

Re-Train Your Brain

When you meet a young man or woman, fight against the natural temptation to think of them as inexperienced to the point of being largely useless on projects (except as cheerleader / energizer), or immature-by-default.

I would like to request that the phrase, “The youth are the future of the Church,” die a horrible, painful death. … Hello! (Waves hand in front of your face.) I’m not the future; I’m part of this Church now! I’m not going to exist in some kind of beer-drinking, sex-binging coma and suddenly wake up ten years from now. I’m a member of Christ’s Body as much as you are, and God is calling me to help you build it up. Will you listen?

The word of the LORD came to me thus:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.”
But the LORD answered me, Say not, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. (Jeremiah 1:4-7)

Please don’t take this as some sort of defensive, one-sided whine session. God can work through anyone. But you know, it wasn’t for naught that St. Paul had to write these words to St. Timothy:

Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. (1 Tim. 4:12)