How To Use Social Media To Grow in Holiness

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I have been saving up this reader’s question because I wanted to give it a well-developed answer. I’ve not had the time to develop the answer in a way that I’d hoped, but rather than wait any longer, I thought I would begin an answer and continue unpacking the topic as time goes on.

“Do you have any tips / tools you have found helpful in doing your work online but not getting sucked into the trap of getting into it too much?  There can be a temptation to over-use social media, to go along with the rest of society which seems to be constantly ‘plugged in.’ As a religious, striving for holiness, I do not think this is appropriate.” 

This is a great question for anyone, not just for religious sisters, brothers, and priests. The laity are called to holiness just as clergy and religious are; the laity, too, are called to an interior life that allows focus on one’s relationship with God. While there is nothing inherently wrong in being plugged in, problems arise when being plugged in pulls us away from the rest of our life: when we are spending so much time online that our lifestyle, serenity, and/or in-person relationships start to suffer. Research is beginning to emerge that reveals an addictive quality in using social media, so it is really important to watch our habits—just as it is important to reflect on all our media habits. Personally, I know that frequent social media use can result in feeling fragmented or scattered. Reflecting on a couple of principals may help us in discerning how we can best use social media, according to our vocation to holiness.

1) If we want to engage with people online, we need to truly engage with people by using social media well, especially if it is for the sake of the Gospel! Using Twitter or Snapchat or Vine halfheartedly, without taking the time to interact with others online, or bothering to really learn about how to use it, is not effective and can even be a less-than-positive witness to the Gospel. When we learn how to use a particular platform well, we don’t need to waste time on it trying to take in everything.

2) No one can engage with all social media well all the time, because every platform takes time and energy, and we have limited amounts of both that we can dedicate to social media. Even if we are responsible at work for a range of social media, we will have to choose which to give priority to, according to our purpose, who we want to reach, and how we want to reach them. Setting boundaries in using the internet becomes essential because the internet has so few boundaries.

3) Create a plan for your use of social media with the following 6 questions.

  • How is God is inviting you to use social media?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What are you trying to communicate?
  • Which social media platform(s) are best suited to: your personal communication style, your message, and your audience?
  • How much time can I afford to give to social media: daily? weekly? monthly?
  • When will you give myself a break from social media? (Breaks may be times—such as a day of the week or between 8 PM and 9 AM; or places—such as the dining room table and the bedroom.)

4) Use your social media plan to achieve your goals and to set healthy boundaries for yourself. While the nature of social media often means that there is cross-over between work and personal use, if you use social media for both you may wish to have two social media plans. Either way, setting limits (time, place, platform) and scheduling can be both helpful and essential. Shape your social media use to fulfill your goals.

Examples:

If an author is trying to network with like-minded authors and potential readers, many social media experts recommend Twitter. If we choose Twitter, we need to become active enough on it so we can learn how to reach our audience with our message effectively. No one needs to be on Twitter all day long, but a consistent presence is important. We might want to use a tool to schedule tweets through the day. We may want to set aside three fifteen-minute segments each day to tweet, read your feed, and retweet. We may decide to be on Twitter Monday-Friday, and take off the weekends or Sunday.

If we want to communicate with young people and one of our communication strengths is visual, we may wish to make Instagram or Vine our primary platform, and post once a week, and view twice a week.

If we use social media to support an interest group (such as a bird-watching hobby), we may simply choose the platform that already has an active and inviting group with that interest. Our plan may be to check in with them weekly for an hour. Or we may choose to check in before and after a related event (such as each bird-watching expedition).

5) Reexamine your use of social media regularly, since social media trends and platforms are constantly changing. We may need to do so as often as every six months or maybe every couple of years. We can apply the principles of discernment to help us to grow in balancing our life better by asking several questions:

  • What are the positive effects for my using social media?
  • What are the negative effects of my using social media?
  • How has my use of social media affected the overall balance of my life?
  • What do I have too much of?
  • What do I have too little of?
  • Do I still make the kind of time I need for:
    * My relationship with myself: silence, solitude, and time to think
    * My relationship with my body: relaxing, exercise, sleep, spending time in nature, etc.
    * My relationship with God: daily prayer, meditation and/or time to reflect, confession, Mass, and other forms of communal prayer
    * My relationships with my loved ones: quality time with family and friends
    * My life: being a truly engaged presence in daily life, without constant distractions or feeling scattered
    * My community: offering a contribution to the community (parish, neighborhood, family, etc.)
    * My work: being able to focus and effectively accomplish my responsibilities
  • How much use of the internet and social media feels right for me? Right now, is my use of media right “out of balance”? What do I need to put my life back into balance?

For further reflection, read Pope Benedict XIV’s Message for 46th World Day of Communications:

“I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.” – Pope Benedict XIV’s Message for 46th World Day of Communications 

Upcoming Los Angeles Media Events

For those in California, especially in the Los Angeles area, the Pauline Center for Media Studies has a couple of excellent upcoming events.

Advanced Certificate in Media Literacy Course for 2016. For more information, and to register, visit: www.media.pauline.org/certificate

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The National Film Retreat: Cinema and the 7 Qualities of Mercy. For the retreat flyer, click here (or on the image)

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This retreat has some marvelous films–if you can go, I highly recommend it!

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On Monday (July 11), I will begin my eight-day annual retreat, so I will not be blogging for two weeks. However, you will be “with me” on my retreat in a special way–in my prayers!  If you send me your intentions,  I will pray for them specifically and individually during the retreat.

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No one has expressed interest in a free copy copy of my book, See Yourself Through God’s Eyes, available in Polish.

If you live in the USA, know someone who reads Polish who might be interested in my book, please contact me, and I’ll send you the book when I return from retreat.  Here’s more about the book:

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For when we struggle with doubts about
our self-worth…

God’s love can transform our relationships with ourselves and others, helping us to grow
in healthy self-esteem!

God’s love for me has become the bedrock
of my identity, my spiritual life,
and a healthier self-esteem.

– Sr. Marie Paul Curley, author

SYTGE4stepmeditationMeditate on God’s Love
in 4 Easy Steps

  1. A story or example from ordinary life that challenges our sense of ourselves.
  2. A passage from the Scriptures in which God speaks heart to heart with us and sheds light on the situation, assumptions, or feelings that the previous story might raise in us. Reading and pondering this short line is the key to making the meditation.
  3. A reflection that allows the Scripture passage to challenge or speak directly to the false assumptions under which we tend to interpret our daily experience, so that we can grow in our trust in God’s love for us.
  4. A short prayer we can repeat often during the day to help us reconnect to God’s love and fidelity.

Your Moview Watchlist for the #YearofMercy

Invitation

Join us in praying our Novena to Saint Paul, which we are praying in reparation for the misuse of the media.

Great Films to Watch for the Year of Mercy

This weekend on my Windows to the Soul segment on the Salt + Light Radio Hour, I talk about three great films with the theme of mercy. Below is a summary of the show and where you can find the complete list of films.

Image Journal is a wonderful magazine and online site that looks at the intersection between art and religion. Every year, their Arts & Faith Community publishes a list of great films according to a certain theme. This year, they focused on the theme of mercy: The Arts & Faith Top 25 Films on Mercy.

I’ve seen about half of these films which range from 1921-2014, and I’ve been planning to see several more, but a couple of the films on the list are new to me. I now have a wonderful selection of films to see throughout the rest of the Year of Mercy.

The top three films are genuine classics from the black and white era, and two of them are in French with English subtitles, but don’t let that prevent you from seeing these wonderful films. I would especially recommend these films to those who are interested in looking more deeply at the theme of mercy for discussion or prayer, and film lovers. Because of the depth of the films, they may not work for children.

MonsieurVincentCoverMonsieur Vincent is a wonderfully-crafted film that was given a special Academy Award. (I recently gave it honorable mention in my list of best saint movies of all time.) Made in 1947 and directed by Maurice Cloche, the film is a bio-pic of the saint of mercy, Saint Vincent de Paul. The film doesn’t cover his whole life, but wisely chooses to focus on St. Vincent de Paul as he was beginning his care for people living in destitution, including those suffering from the feared plague and prisoners. St. Vincent de Paul changed society with his great works of mercy in a time where mercy was so greatly lacking. Actor Pierre Fresnay gives a powerful performance of a man who is so taken up with the needs of others that he is fascinating, admirable, and a bit hard to understand because he seems to have no concern for himself.

As we watch the film, we could use Saint Vincent’s interactions with the wealthy, the fearful, and the indifferent as an examination of conscience, because the people who resist Vincent’s efforts or refuse to help represent the same reasons why we refuse to be merciful. Amazingly, this film lacks the sentimentality that usually ruins saint movies. Vincent is a shining and compelling figure, as he literally seems to become the love of Christ for the underprivileged.

gallery-oxbowincident-3-gallery-imageThe Ox-Bow Incident is a 1943 American Western, directed by William Wellman and starring Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews. It has been described as a Western film noir, but I found it reminded me more of a gentler version of a Flannery O’Connor novel. The basic storyline is about two cowboys who are passing through a small Western town when the news comes that a well-respected farmer has been murdered and his cattle stolen. The townspeople form a posse to catch—and lynch—the guilty party. The two cowboys join in, partly to divert suspicion from themselves as suspects. The film explores the themes of guilt, justice, innocence, the legal system, conscience, our common humanity.

This film contains many points parallel points to Pope Francis’ recent video message about the death penalty, where he says:

“It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.” 

In many ways, The Ox-Bow Incident is about the refusal to give mercy; but there are many small moments where mercy is offered. This film is so well-crafted, it deserved an Oscar. (An interesting note: it was nominated for an Oscar for best picture but lost to Casablanca, which is one of my favorite films of all time.)

Film_222w_DiaryCountyPriest_originalThe third movie is the award-winning 1951 Diary of a Country Priest, based on the Georges Bernanos novel with the same name. The screenplay was adapted by the film’s legendary director, Robert Bresson, and is incredibly faithful to the novel. The film stars Claude Laydu in a wonderful performance and is in French with English subtitles. As the title indicates, this is an in-depth look into the daily life of a young, sensitive priest on his first assignment as pastor who, though distressed by the coldness of his parishioners, is willing to make many sacrifices to help them spiritually. The young priest is consistently misunderstood and criticized by all around him, except us privileged viewers who are given access to his daily diary. Laydu’s acting is amazing as a young, idealistic, and holy priest undergoing the dark night of the soul, but all of the characters are well-portrayed. I wish that the character of the priest smiled more in the film. Without giving away any spoilers,  this film is about the little moments of life, the daily choices for grace.

Don’t watch this movie when you’re in a hurry. Understated, subtle, with deeply layered dialogue, the pacing of the film helps us to slow down so we can enter more deeply into the mindset of the parishioners and especially of this young and holy priest whose sole goal is to bring people closer to peace and happiness in Christ. In a couple places, the film could be studied for the priest’s pastoral approach: when to speak, when to be silent, always to speak the truth, to invite others towards Christ rather than threaten, but to be honest about the consequences of bad choices, and above all, to accompany every pastoral effort with prayer.

This is a powerful film portraying the beauty of the constancy of little, sacrificial acts of mercy in daily life. My favorite line of the film is the last line of dialogue of the young priest: “All is grace.”

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There are some other fine movies to watch this summer that include the theme of mercy:

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Risen—the story of a soldier’s journey to faith, released to DVD recently.

The Young Messiah, which was just released to DVD, is the fictional story of Jesus’ childhood the year that the Holy Family returns from Egypt.

Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is a documentary currently broadcasting on PBS (see list of broadcasts here),  will be broadcasting on Salt + Light TV as well, and is already available for purchase online. This documentary is a beautiful tracing of God’s mercy at work in the world through St. John Paul, and behind the Iron Curtain.

Potpourri of Resources on Communication Spirituality

When I’m working on more than two or three articles at a time (not a series), sometimes the writing well within seems to dry up. Each short article becomes progressively harder to write until I find myself on article 4 or 5 staring at a blank screen with no idea what to say. I know that I’m more comfortable writing long-form (books, screenplays, or even a series of articles about the same topic), but one advantage of writing shorter pieces is that I need to fill the well more often. Which means lately, I’ve been finding some interesting and helpful resources that I believe you will enjoy as well!

SrNancyHere is a list of her next articles:

A Sacred Look: Science-Fiction Seeks Redemption

  • A strong theme that frequently comes up in Pope Francis–and which I believe he encourages us to use in the New Evangelization–is “encounter.” I’ve written a little bit about what this means, but recently stumbled across this article in the Houston Catholic Worker that explains what “encounter” and “encuentro” mean to someone from a Latino culture. I found it very helpful to put into words what I was intuiting from reading the Pope’s frequent references to this term.
  • Our sisters in Italy have been publishing short articles on the media and now they’ve put them together on their website in English under the heading: Window on Communication. It’s an excellent series of articles on various topics connecting media and spirituality, written by a wide variety of writers.

Risen DVD Winners!

The three winners of the RISEN DVD Rafflecopter Giveaway were contacted via email on Saturday and should receive their DVD today or tomorrow!

  1. Jeriks from NY
  2. Kristina from NY
  3. and Diane from PA!

Congratulations to our three winners! And thank you to everyone who took part. Even if you didn’t win, if you signed up for our Discover Hope Newsletter, you received a 20% off coupon for your next visit to our Pauline webstore. (You can still sign up here for the newsletter and receive your coupon!)

The giveaway had over 200 entries, so I definitely consider it a success, thanks to you! I’ll be holding another one soon. If you’d like to send me any feedback about your experience of the giveaway, please feel free to do so in the comments or via email. 

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Here is another “free” treasure for anyone who enjoys praying with sacred art (divina visio). (Years ago I first became familiar with praying with sacred heart through the wonderful art books of Sr. Wendy Beckett.) Now, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made available in pdf format a huge library of their published but now out-of-print editions on art! What a resource for those who enjoy great art…and especially for those of us who like to pray with sacred art.

I’ll be praying with this image tomorrow for the Feast of the Sacred Heart! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating God’s love for you.

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The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

 

Enter To Win Today: Risen DVD Giveaway

RISEN is the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. It’s a great faith story of a soldier’s search for Christ.

Here at Windows to the Soul, I decided to take part in a blog tour that a number of Catholic bloggers joined in order to encourage people to see this film, and to encourage filmmakers to make more films about faith. (See Reconciled to You’s blogpost here.) If you haven’t seen Risen yet, you might want to follow the blog tour to learn more about it and decide whether to get a copy!

As a special bonus on the blog tour, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter Giveaway for 3 readers who live in the USA to win a RISEN DVD! (You must be a US resident to enter.) For my blog on May 27th, I will post a downloadable lectio divina guide for watching the film that you can use personally or with your family or prayer group.

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway by clicking on the image below:

Terms and conditions are posted below. 

Open to Residents of the US only. Giveaway ends May 27, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST. Winners will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter.com and be notified by email. Each winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Sr. Marie Paul Curley will send the prize to each winner directly. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Sr. Marie Paul Curley and Pauline Books & Media (the ministry of the Daughters of St. Paul). We will not share or sell the information in any way, and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner, unless you sign up for the newsletter, which you must confirm separately that you want to receive. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send Sr. Marie Paul Curley an email! Read the privacy policy of Pauline Books and Media here.

Celebrate World Communications Day 2016!

May 8, 2016, is the 50th World Communications Day, and if you live in the Boston area, please come and celebrate with us two weeks early, on this coming Sunday, April 24th!

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We invite all Catholics involved in a media-related profession to join us in praise and gratitude for the wonderful gifts God has given humanity to communicate; to celebrate you and the work that you do. If you work in a media-related profession, in the secular world or for a Catholic organization, you are a media professional. If you are a Catholic artist, writer, blogger, musician, radio host, etc., (not necessarily full-time, but it is a part of your life), then you are a media professional.  If you are involved in a media-related field in any way, please join us!


The 50th World Communications Day Mass
Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 2 P.M.
Main Celebrant: Rev. Robert Reed
President/CEO iCatholic Media, Inc., and
Secretary for Catholic Media of the Archdiocese of Boston

at the Daughters of St. Paul Convent Chapel
50 Saint Paul’s Avenue
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

RSVP appreciated. Email: WCDMass@Paulinemedia.com. For more information.

Mass will be followed by refreshments and a panel discussion of “What is mercy and how do we communicate it?” Panelists include: Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, Christopher Kelly, Sr. Hosea Rupprecht, FSP, and George Martell.

One of the most important aspects of the day is Pope Francis’ Message for World Communications Day, Communication and Mercy–a Fruitful Encounter, which you can find here.