Signis World Congress 2017 Streaming Online

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Today at the Signis World Congress, we are joined by the Catholic Academy of Media Professionals  and the Catholic Press Association  Today is a bit of a freer day for me, so I am spending time talking to some of the wonderful here–brainstorming about how to use social media, sharing stories, exploring ethics for Catholic communicators, and more! Later in the day, I am looking forward to a conversation between Martin Scorsese (whose latest film, Silence, was screened at the congress this morning for those who haven’t seen it), and Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, and Fr. Peter Malone, MSC, both legendary in the world of Signis–Sr. Rose for her work in media literacy education, and Father Peter in his reviews of countless films. I will try to share my impressions here tomorrow.

Silence is the story of a Jesuit missionary priest who goes to Japan in the 15th century, during the government’s fierce persecution of Christians. Although the story is based on a novel by Shusako Endo, the setting of the story is historical, and one of the main characters in the film is based on a real Jesuit priest. It is an amazing novel, now made into an amazing film. Silence is especially thought-provoking today, where we are experiencing a huge rise in religious persecution worldwide. I am in the middle of writing a guide for the film, which I will make available online here in the near future.

Earlier, I forgot to mention that Salt + Light TV is livestreaming much of the congress, so if you are interested in catching some of the sessions, visit: www.saltandlighttv.org, and click on the Signis logo (or click here.) 

It is such an amazing congress because of the wide diversity of people here, yet all very committed to the mission of the Church and to fostering quality media in our world. I love learning new “secrets” or “helpful hacks” that are not just shortcuts for the social media world, but also helpful practices. I hope that by the time I leave Quebec City, I will have a circle of social media specialists who can consult with each other regarding new software, trends, apps, practices, and platforms as they arise.

Quiet Success

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Our very first weekend Clay Pots Retreat for writers, artists, and media professionals was a “quiet” success! (During the 30-hour retreat–with an additional optional Friday evening–we had 19 hours of silence.) According to the retreatants, the combination of conferences, quiet prayer time, spiritual direction, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the celebration of the Eucharist, all made for an “awesome experience.” According to another retreatant, “The retreat was a great space for deepening relationship with God, understanding our role as evangelizers in media, and discovering and overcoming spiritual blockages/obstacles.”

For me, this retreat was an experience of communion, with the sisters on the retreat team and the retreatants. Working with the retreat team was a really beautiful experience of putting all our energies together for the sake of the spread of the Gospel and feeling together the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I also felt really  “at one” with the retreatants. We share so many of the same struggles: keeping up with the newest media and using them effectively with young people. We also share similar desires for deepening, for renewal in Christ, for responding to the call of Christ to evangelize; and we share similar challenges in overextending ourselves, fragmentation, facing “burnout,” and the need to discern God’s invitations to us in a daily basis.

My focus for the weekend was communication spirituality, with my presentation helping us to focus on Christ, the Perfect Communicator. 

Sr. Michael and I tried to tweet a few of the conferences. Here are a couple of my favorites:

We hope to have another retreat for media artists, writers, catechists, and people in ministry. Let me know if you’d like to be informed about upcoming retreats!

Your Chance to Support Evangelization Through Catholic Media!

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Every year, we host a webathon to help raise support for our evangelization efforts. This year, we are raising funds to replace our generator, which died last winter and serves our convent, our infirmary, and our entire publishing house. We will be praying a live Novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, daily at 12 noon and 8 PM EST, for the needs of those we serve, and in a particular way for those who pray the novena with us, supporting us with their prayers and sharing their intentions with us.

I hope you can join us: www.pauline.org/webathon2016

Trinitarian Foundation of Catholic Media Spirituality

Every spare moment I have this week will be dedicated to final preparations for the Clay Pots Retreat for Catholic artists and media professionals. One of the things that I will speak about briefly, but do not have time to explore in-depth is how the foundation for all communication spirituality is found in the Most Holy Trinity. It’s terribly challenging to try to present the Trinitarian aspect of communication spirituality, because you need to delve into the theology of the Most Holy Trinity…and I always feel a bit uneasy treading where St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine found words inadequate…  Really doing justice to the Trinitarian foundation of communication spirituality would be not just a a weekend retreat, but a month-long retreat!

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, is one of the Church’s most balanced and “to the point” communicators that the Church has today. He has a wonderful homily for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity that explains how, for God, relationships and community come first:

Our God isn’t immovable. God isn’t alone. God is communication between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the profound mystery that the liturgy for the feast of the Holy Trinity recalls: both the unspeakable reality of God and the manner in which this mystery has been given to us. The Trinity celebrates the peace and unity of the divine persons in whom the circular dance of love – “perichoresis” in Greek – continues. That unity is a dance of life and relationships, encompassing all aspects of human life.

Read the rest of Father Rosica’s beautiful, Scripturally-based homily here, and watch his additional explanation in the video below. Both are beautiful and profound, and can help us to ponder the mystery of our God in  a way that we, as ordinary people, can understand!

 

New Catholic Books & Media

Today’s post is truly a mix of some great Catholic media–from Catholic YA novels to radio interviews to other resources. But first, a little moment of encouragement!

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Reviews of the new YA novel, The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Walh, which also won a Catholic Press Award this year:

Author Sarah Reinhardt’s review

Author Stephanie Engleman’s review

Catholic Underground’s review, where The Perfect Blindside is described as fitting into the genre of: Christian YA Adventurous Mystery (I didn’t even know that was a genre, but isn’t that cool?)

 

 

sr-ta-bioSister Theresa Aletheia Noble’s recent interview with Immaculate Heart Radio in Los Angeles, about: 4 Tips for Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. (Sr. Theresa Aletheia blogs beautifully at pursuedbytruth on Patheos, and is a frequent contributor at Aleteia.org, where her posts include “5 Warning Signs of a Toxic Faith,” “10 Places To Find Excellent Homilies Online,” and my personal favorite, “The Rock Star All the Nuns Know.”

 

 

 

gouletwayofcrosscoverA lot of Catholic kids’ books are written to appeal to girls. Here’s a really brilliant Way of the Cross written by David Goulet and illustrated by Joe Spicer that is directed to today’s preteen and teenaged boys. (Although I think a lot of girls will like it too.) The artwork isn’t my style–and that’s a good thing–because otherwise probably not one kid would pick it up. But the artwork is Manga-styled, powerful and contemporary. The reflections are short, powerful, and moving–and appropriate for middle graders up to teenagers.

 

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 

A great read for writers: Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card

As a writer and communications artist, I am always looking for further inspiration for creativity from a faith perspective, but only rarely do I find real resources that I want to keep going back to. There are seem to be only a handful (which you can see on last week’s post here).

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That’s why I was delighted to recently discover Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by evangelical musician and songwriter Michael Card. Michael’s songs are based on the Word of God and his following of Christ. They draw from the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, as well as his own prayerful reflection and lived experience. I have enjoyed listening to his prayerful insights into the Scripture in his exquisite lyrics for decades—since my first years in the convent when I first discovered his music.

Scribbling-in-the-Sand-PapeScribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity is a wonderful companion for anyone on a creative-faith journey. His insights and personal sharing into the artistic creative process and the closer following of Christ  inspire, provoke (in the best sense of that word—as Jesus’ parables provoke!), encourage, and set the heart aflame.

Michael’s evangelical wisdom is something I connect with deeply, perhaps because it comes from his authentic life experience.  To hear how his creative process works—which is much different from my own, but has so much in common with how I see writing as a service—was both encouraging and life-giving for my reflection on my creative process. This is especially true because at this time my creativity is “unfolding” in new ways, taking different shape and form.

Chapters 7 and 8 of Scribbling in the Sand are my favorites, although Chapter 10 is also amazing—a collection of letters from Christian artists to Christian artists. And the very short appendix, “Growing in Creativity: Some Practical Advice,” is also a rich summary of the book that is ideal for reflection and prayer on our lives as artists. In Chapter 7, with a true appreciation of the Letters of Paul which he frequently quotes, Michael invites readers to focus their creativity on the kenosis “song” of Christ in Philippians 2:6-11. He offers three “themes” of the Philippians Canticle as the “character” of creativity: Humility, servanthood, and radical obedience.

Chapter 8’s title is “A Lifestyle of Listening.” Michael’s description of the “three keys” of listening resonated for me: listening to the Word of God, listening to the silence of prayer, and listening to our own lives—as poem and parable.

If your creativity feels at a low ebb; if your faith life feels like a dry husk; or if you simply want to explore further the connection between faith and art, between our discipleship of Christ and our call to evangelize, Scribbling in the Sand is a real treasure. Michael’s other works (found on MichaelCard.com) are wonderful to explore as well.

I’ll close with a few of my favorite quotations from the book—it was hard to pick just three, there were so many beautiful ones!

“We are driven to create at this deep wordless level of the soul
because we are all fashioned
in the image of a God who is an Artist.
When we first encounter God in the Bible,
it is not as the awesome Lawgiver
or the Judge of the universe
but as the Artist.”

* * * 

“Being the Creator-Artist that he is,
the great Romancer,
the perfectly loving Father,
God calls out to us, sings to us, paints images in our minds through the prophets’ visions.
These sounds and songs, these visions,
stand at the door of our own imaginations
and knock.
Through them God opens the door of his own inner life to us….
This is the heart of prophecy:
God speaking to us
in such a way as to recapture our imaginations.”

* * *

“The greatest, most beautiful expression of our creativity is to find a way to give ourselves.”   

— Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creatity