“Members of One Another”: Helpful Advice for Catholic Communicators in Today’s Turbulent Climate

Signis, the Vatican-approved organization for Catholic communicators, published a well-written statement for its membership–that is, for Catholic communicators–offering support and a direction for our communication in this time. I am sharing it in full here because it says so much more clearly and eloquently some of what I was trying to say in last week’s post:

 

 

Message from the Ecclesiastical Assistant of SIGNIS on a communication which is sensitive, supportive and close to the victims.

We are living a delicate moment in the Church with the news of thousands of cases of sexual abuse committed against defenseless persons in recent years, accompanied by the abuse of power and of conscience. But it is also a fragile moment due to the public and unjust criticism of Pope Francis by some bishops and cardinals. In both cases, we, as the Body of Christ, want to feel united in facing our pain as a wounded body, and we know how to react, with charity, humility and truth. “So that there are no divisions in the body, but that all the members are concerned about each other. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with
it. “ (1 Cor 12, 25-26).

In his letter to the People of God, last August, the Pope invites us to unite in prayer and penance and in acts of solidarity. ” The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit.”
In our mission as Church communicators, I believe that today it is especially important not to lose our sense of being a body, and to offer in our media work a communication that builds unity, that resonates with the universal dimension of the Church, that informs with truth and transparency. We can make visible the actions of many communities striving to be authentic witnesses of the Gospel, and maintain the faithful and affectionate support of Pope Francis and the Church program he encourages.

We also need a communication that is very sensitive, supportive, and that stays close to the wounded, confused victims. Today is a propitious time to focus more clearly on our media, “to look in the same direction the Lord looks”, to identify with God’s little ones and the poor, who are his favorites. It is not our job to please those who take on the trappings of power and an overweening self-importance, nor to accommodate material and ideological interests, even within the Church itself—all of this is against the Gospel of the Lord.

The Pope’s letter holds a special message for a lay association like SIGNIS. Francis exhorts all not to engage in any behavior or attitude that reflects clericalism and undervalues the grace of the baptismal faith of all the members of the people of God. ” Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism. “

With the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit, let us continue to be cheerful in the mission of being faithful witnesses of the Lord Jesus, working for the community that he wants.

Luis García Orso, S.J.
Mexico, September 21, 2018

 

 

What’s Most Important in Our Communication? 2019 Theme for World Communication Day

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

The theme for the 2019 World Communications Day chosen by Pope Francis is: We are members one of another” (Eph 4:25). From network community to human communities. Here is the full text of the brief statement from the Vatican:

 

Theme of World Communications Day 2019, 29.09.2018

 

This is the theme chosen by the Holy Father Francis for the 53rd World Communications Day, to be held in 2019:

«We are members one of another» (Eph 4,25). From network community to human communities.

The theme underlines the importance of giving back to communication a broad perspective, based on the person, and emphasizes the value of interaction always understood as dialogue and as an opportunity to meet with others.

This calls for a reflection on the current state and nature of relationships on the Internet, starting from the idea of community as a network between people in their wholeness. Some of the prevailing trends of the so-called social networks ask us a fundamental question: to what extent can we speak of a real community in the face of the logic that characterizes some communities on social media? The metaphor of the web as a community of solidarity implies the construction of an “us”, based on listening to the other, on dialogue and consequently on the responsible use of language.

In his first Message for World Communications Day in 2014, the Holy Father called for the Internet to be “an environment rich in humanity, a network not of wires but of people”.

The choice of the theme for the 2019 Message confirms Pope Francis’ attention to the new communications environment and for social networks, especially, where he is present in the first person with his @Pontifex account on Twitter and @Franciscus on Instagram.

Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, commented on the theme in a brief interview with Vatican News. World Communications Day is usually celebrated the Sunday before Pentecost (which will be June 2, 2019), and the actual Message for the day will be released on January 24, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers.

 

I particularly like the emphasis that the message (along with Ruffini’s comments) gives to the essential elements of a genuine human encounter, whether in person or online: dialogue and openness. In his comments, Ruffini pointed out that “the risk that comes with the times in which we live is that of building tribes rather than communities.” This risk has been mentioned before in other communications documents from the Church. In these times of growing polarization, to use media as a way to deepen our understanding rather than as a way to reinforce our own views is vitally important, and something that everyone can do to build up a culture of true dialogue and community.

 

In this 2016 message to the Pontifical Academies, the Pope talks about how artists, in their quest for beauty, can help to transform every day life: “To create works of art that bring us, in the language of beauty, a sign, a spark of hope and trust where people seem to give in to indifference and ugliness.” To speak the truth in love is the first priority of the communicator, but to speak the truth in a way that offers “a spark of hope” seems critical in our roles as communicators. We live in a time of fake journalism, of sensationalist reporting, of the pain and truth of victims of devastating crimes being manipulated for others’ agendas, of a lack of transparency on the part of institutions and persons in positions of great responsibility, of shattering accusations brought before the worldstage (not to the involved parties/communities) without a helpful process beforehand or afterward to resolve them. Any thoughtful person knows how much their words can affect another. Media and social networks multiply the power of just one word in ways unimaginable in the past. Trying to “keep up” technologically doesn’t meant that we have “kept up” ethically. How do we balance the news we publish/share/promote? How can we form ourselves–first of all–and our children–to carry this responsibility in a way that truly builds up the human family?

The Church offers us the principles in an easy-to-understand way in its World Communications Day Messages, but it is up to each of us as communicators to forge our communication in both content and style so that we always hold high the Truth–that Light of Truth that doesn’t just illuminate the darkness of evil, but offers the human family a way forward: a way of hope, respect, and justice.

For Catholic creatives in the Toronto area!

 

Join committed and enthusiastic Catholic Christian artists as we begin to explore Pope St. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists!

(During my brief visit to Toronto, I am privileged to help “launch” the exploration!)

Q & A with Sr. Rose Pacatte on the intersection of theology and film

Continue reading here about how Sr. Rose Pacatte fosters the dialogue between faith and culture. 

Beauty That Saves, Harmonizes, Unites

Interior of the Church of the Resurrection in St. Petersburg, Russia* Photo by Steve Barker on Unsplash

Last week in his short speech when meeting with the patrons of the arts for the Vatican Museums, Pope Francis offered a few nuggets for reflection for those of us engaged with the arts:

“Throughout history, art has been second only to life
in bearing witness to the Lord.
It was, and remains, a majestic road
allowing us more than by words and ideas
to approach the faith,
because it follows
the same path of faith, that of beauty.
The beauty of art
enriches life and creates communion,
because it unites God, man and creation
in a single symphony.
It connects the past, the present and the future,
and it attracts
– in the same place and with the same gaze –
different and far-off peoples.”

♦›

“Contemplating great art which expresses the faith
helps us rediscover
what truly matters in life.
In leading us both within and above ourselves,
Christian art points us
to the love that created us,
to the mercy which saves us,
and to the hope that awaits us.”

♦›

“In today’s troubled world,
unfortunately so often torn and damaged
by selfishness and the thirst for power,
art represents, perhaps even more than in the past,
a universal need
because it is a source of harmony and peace,
and it expresses the dimension of generosity.”

* Also known as the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

 

For those in the Boston area, I wanted to let you know that on Saturday, October 20th, our Dedham Bookcenter is hosting a Pauline Author Day, at which several sisters who are authors, as well as myself, will be able to meet, to sign books, and to chat with readers. (I’m so looking forward to this because it’s going to be loads of fun–whether you you love to read, love to write, or are simply interested in the intersection between faith and books!) Here are the details:

 

Exploring the Letter to Artists and Self-Esteem for Catholics…

…all while I’m in Toronto! If you are in the Toronto area, I’d love to meet you while I’m visiting! For a full list of events, check my author page.

 

 

 

A great read for Catholic communicators

My new favorite read: Ex Libris: Fulton Sheen, a book about one of my favorite people written by one of my favorite people!

The past few weeks have been really intense in the carrying out of our mission. Almost immediately after I posted that I would be back to blogging regularly, I was asked to take on an assignment that has basically taken up all my time for the past several weeks. (Which is, of course, not unusual in the world of media!) But now, I am picking back up where I left off several weeks ago, focusing on using God’s gift of creativity to express truth, beauty, and goodness.

The Servant of God, Venerable Fulton Sheen is someone I have greatly admired as a communicator for Christ: he won a television Emmy award for teaching about Christ!

Recently, another Catholic communicator, Emmy-award winning Alexis Walkenstein, published a book introducing the writings, thought, and spirituality of this great man of God. I stole some time this past week to read the entire book and am delighted by the breadth and depth of this easy read.

Alexis focuses on five topics, with excerpts from seven of her favorite books by and about Archbishop Fulton Sheen. She breaks topics into short, 2-3 page chapters. My favorite chapter is “Sanctifying the Moment,” in which Sheen highlights why it is so important for us to live in the present moment:

Every moment brings us more treasures than we can gather. The great value of the Now, spiritually viewed, is that it carries a message God has directed personally to us. Books, sermons, and broadcasts on a religious theme have the appearance of being circular letters, meant for everyone…. But though moral and spiritual appeals carry God’s identical message to all who listen, this is not true of the Now-moment; no one else but I am in exactly these circumstances; no one else has to carry the same burden, whether it be a sickness, the death of a loved one, or some other adversity. Nothing is more individually tailored to our spiritual needs than the Now-moment; for that reason it is an occasion of knowledge that can come to no one else. This moment is my school, my textbook, my lesson…. 

The University of the Moment has been built uniquely for each of us…. originally from Lift Up Your Heart

I think that the Servant of God had such a profound grasp of the present moment not just from his spiritual life and prayer, but also because he was a communicator. As an exceptionally gifted homilist and TV personality, Sheen knew the value of living in the present moment, because he had lots of practice as a homilist and on TV: it is only by being attentive to God’s presence in the moment that we can receive the grace and inspiration of God to communicate as/what God wants us to communicate.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen was a tremendous gift of God to the people of the 20th century. With his informal language and rigorous logic, he made divine truth accessible to the ordinary person. Author Alexis Walkenstein shows us how Sheen continues to be a tremendous gift of God to the Church in America today, with his unflinching commitment to the Truth, with his intercession for us, and with his in-depth understanding of what it means to be Catholic in America and how to nurture that ability to communicate Christ with not just our words but with who we are.

More to inspire: 

Check out Alexix’s story of how she began to connect with Servant of God Fulton Sheen in this delightful podcast

Read the inspiring story of the miracle approved by the Vatican through Venerable Fulton Sheen’s intercession.