It’s been a really full late winter/early spring for me! I’ve had to let social media “rest” for a while, and it may still be another month or so before I’m back consistently, but I want to take the opportunity to post when I have a few free minutes.
In January, I looked at Pope Francis’ Message for the 50th World Communications Day (while it’s actually on May 8th, we are celebrating on April 24th—come and join us if you live in the Boston area) from the perspective of listening. But I wanted to take another look at it more closely in light of its theme. It seems to me that, during this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is looking at communication in its fullest meaning, in all areas of life, and in all the ways by which we communicate, but with a particular focus for us that we, as followers of Christ, are called to communicate mercy. It is, in a very real way, the Pope’s urgent call to all of us to use our power to communicate to:
- build bridges
- bring about and restore peace
- promote mutual understanding
- speak the truth in a way that never intentionally ruptures relationships—the truth in love.
Pope Francis cautions us about exacerbating misunderstanding, and using inflammatory or judgmental language and gestures in a way that can divide or “stoke the flames of mistrust, fear, and hatred.”
One of the reasons I feel that communication spirituality is so important is how much time each of us spends every day communicating. I often start my workshop on communication spirituality by asking participants to think of all the ways they communicated and used the means of communication by noon of that very day. From listening to the weather on the radio, checking the traffic on a cell phone, greeting a loved one with a morning kiss, checking email as soon as we walk in the door of our office…the list goes on and on: we are constantly communicating! Now, we can also add in the multiple times a day that the average smartphone user checks their social media for updates.
In this year’s Message, Pope Francis takes a 360-degree look at communication that can be applied for all people of good will and all levels of communication—from digital or technologically-enhanced communication to face-to-face interaction between individuals, to the close communication that happens within the intimacy of the family, to that of leaders whose communication affects groups or culture in important aspects of life, such as politics, institutions, or opinions. Religious leaders are particularly mentioned as having the responsibility to speak the truth in love, communicating mercy but never superiority or judgment of individuals.
Digital technology, especially social networks, are highlighted for their ability to exponentially multiply the effect of communication: “Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups.” But I think the previous sentence in the Message goes to the heart of communication spirituality in our digital age: “It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.”
The Pope concludes this exhortation to us to be authentic communicators by encouraging us to think about communication in terms of closeness. Communication that facilitates mercy is a communication that generates a closeness between individuals and peoples: a closeness that cares, comforts, heals, accompanies, and celebrates that we share a common humanity.
Here’s a link to the entire Message for the 50th World Communications Day. I’d love to hear your insights if you feel to share them!