January 25, 2014 – About the Internet …. Again!

Well I’m back again after yet another one-week hiatus. I can remember telling myself when the Christmas season and other things wrapped up that I should be able to get back to a normal routine. I have to remind myself from now on to slap myself when I tell myself such silly things. But anyway, we’re back in the saddle this week, enjoying a brief reprieve before the next round of Arctic chill moves in.

I’m happy to say that even though I’ve missed a couple of weeks of blogging, our website and social media ministries have been busy. Numbers this month have been up quite a bit. Our website has already gotten almost 1500 hits for the month, and we still have a week to go in January. We usually average about 1000 per month. Also, our Facebook group page added a few new members, and we are at almost 100 folks on there. So what can this be attributed to? Well, a certain priest celebrated his 40th Jubilee a few weeks ago – twice – and folks were probably searching for information about that. The weather, of course, has kept people cooped up more than usual, so in a desperate effort to ward off cabin fever, some probably decided to hit the world wide web more than usual.

I hope, however, that this is a continuing trend, particularly given the message delivered by Pope Francis this past week. World Communications Day is normally celebrated in the Catholic Church the Sunday before Pentecost, which this year falls on June 1. As part of the release of the theme for this year’s celebration, which is “Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter”, Pope Francis penned a message which reinforces the fact that the internet and other modern means of communication must include the presence of the church as a means to evangelize and engage people to the message of the Gospel. He calls these means “a gift from God.” He warns, however, that the internet world is not for the faint of heart.

People who represent the church can take a lot of criticism when we engage in dialogue on the internet. Anonymous people use the internet to vent about whatever bothers them about church teaching. Remaining anonymous, for example, lets someone who is angry about divorce take shots at people who address religious beliefs. Groups can fill mailboxes and social media with half-truths and proclamations that the church’s teachings are “outdated” and must be changed, or the church will die. However, as unfair as these actions are, Pope Francis encourages us not to ignore them, but to use them as an opportunity to open dialogue and spread the Gospel. He tells us that “engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.” It sounds strange, but the internet can be a rough place to be. However, it is where the Gospel needs to be preached and where people are seen as neighbors, not enemies. It is one more place where Pope Francis calls the church to be. He tells us that “keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation on life, can enter, and so that the church is the home to all.”

As you know, I am passionate about the potential of what we can do with today’s methods of communication. This past week during our Parish Council meeting I gave a brief presentation about where we are at in terms of our web and social media ministry, and potential plans for the future which may include a fresh look for the website and the capability to donate online. I try to keep in perspective that nothing can take the place of gathering as a family of faith at Mass to worship, and to participate in personal means of evangelization. However, as Pope Francis tells us, “media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which in turn can inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately in unity … The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity, a network not of wires but of people.” I again want to thank you for your continuing support of our media ministry, and I always welcome any ideas or suggestions for what we can improve on.

OK, just a few other things to draw your attention to. I hope you had a chance to follow the events this past week from the March for Life in Washington, D. C. and other observances around the country of the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion in our country. It was particularly uplifting to see so many people braving the harsh weather, and also the amount of young people who went to our nation’s capital, including our parish’s own Robbi Wingerter. For coverage, here is a link:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/22/march-for-life/4769667/

Recently there were a couple of blatant attacks of prejudice against the Catholic Church, including one from New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who said essentially that anyone who is not pro-choice is not welcome in his state. Instead of me commenting on this, I’ll direct you to the response of Fr. Robert Barron, who does a much better job of refuting this than I could ever do. Here is his response on video:

Fr. Barron’s “Word on Fire” ministry is an ultimate example of the power of today’s means of communication and the “New Evangelization” concept. He has countless videos and blogs on a plethora of subjects. He is a remarkable speaker and theologian. Here is a link to his materials:

http://www.wordonfire.org/

Finally, believe it or not we have come upon Catholic Schools Week in our country. I want to thank Fr. Gene, Mrs. Robinson, all of the school teachers, the school staff, parents, grandparents, guardians, and of course the students for continuing the 150 year tradition of quality Catholic education here in our parish community. May the Lord continue to bless us with the means to provide a moral, Christ-centered education for our kids.

I’ll try to get back into the groove of a weekly blog next time, although it may be a little late as I will be traveling with our Confirmation students to the Shrine in Belleville next Saturday for their retreat. Pray that we have safe travels and a fulfilling day as we prepare for this most important milestone in their faith lives.

Thanks again for reading. Have a great week.  Stay warm! Peace.

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