“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

 

 

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!)

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:

 

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.

Our Call to Holiness: A Call to Creativity

 

Some days, I need help slipping out of the rushed, deadline-driven pace so that I can write not from a place of freneticism but from a place deep within. To do this, I’m picking up Letter to Artists by Pope St. John Paul and prayerfully reading and journaling through it, using a personal guide that I wrote a number of years ago. (For a quick preview of the beauty and depth of the Letter, check out Salt + Light TV’s reflection on Letter to Artists video above.) As I do this, I’m honing in on central insights and crafting reflection questions that I hope will be helpful to anyone interested in growing in their creativity. (And I’m taking the results of the recent poll into account–thank you if you took a few minutes to answer the questions about your creative life!)

Every human person is creative, by our very nature. When the Book of Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, the God that Genesis is portraying is the Creator. Pope St. John Paul puts it this way: each of us is at our most creative when shaping the masterpiece of our life. Living out our call to holiness is a creative pursuit!

In our times as perhaps no other, where we face challenges on so many fronts (in our increasingly secularized society, in the human family as a whole, and in our Church), I believe that today, God calls each of us to be especially creative in how we live our call to holiness. The New Evangelization calls for a New Holiness, which requires a new creativity in how Christ Jesus is the Center of our lives, and how our thoughts, choices, and hearts revolve around him! Pope Francis offers some wonderful insights into how we can respond to today’s challenges to our call to holiness:

“Every saint is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people…. This is a powerful summons to all of us. You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.

“May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life. Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit, so that this can happen, lest you fail in your precious mission. The Lord will bring it to fulfillment despite your mistakes and missteps, provided that you do not abandon the path of love but remain ever open to his supernatural grace, which purifies and enlightens.”  – Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultatet, #s23, 24


I’ll conclude this post with a simple prayer for us this week:

“Come, Holy Spirit, set free in us the light and power of the Word!”

-prayer from Live Christ! Give Christ! Prayers for the New Evangelization 

The Artist is an “apostle of beauty”

In the new film, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word  (directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Wim Wenders), Pope Francis calls the artist an apostle of beauty. And then he goes on to say that all of us are–or can be–apostles of simple, everyday beauty. He highlights two ways in which that is so…

…but really, you have to watch the movie to find out the rest of what he said (or you can guess in the comments below)!

I’ll be posting a full review of the film shortly, but I just wanted to get a quick word out there about two things:

  1.  Pope Francis: A Man of His Word should be seen by the whole world. It is a father’s video-letter to his children, encouraging us, challenging us, and urging us to be more. We catch a real glimpse of the heart of this Pope: personal, warm, direct, hope-filled and yet full of pathos. In the beautifully filmed segments where Pope Francis speaks directly to us, we can see the pain in his eyes–the pain of a father who sees the suffering that some of his children cause his other children.The film will be available in fewer theaters this week, but it is so worth seeing on the big screen. If, however, you miss it, we will certainly be carrying it at our Pauline Book & Media Centers!You can see the trailer here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOmY8i-uBcYz

  2. This quote from the film (and the entire film) is totally appropriate and fitting for the first-ever “National Creativity Day,” sponsored by ScreenwritingU, which I have found offers quality classes on writing great screenplays. Some great ideas for the day (and beyond), when we struggle with moving forward in our writing/artistic/creative projects!   https://www.facebook.com/NationalCreativityDay/

 

Upcoming Events for Lent (Online and in MA)

Our new online Catholic community, My Sisters, continues to grow and develop! It is a small, gradually-growing, but vital spiritual community. I have found it a wonderful community to engage with some amazing people of faith, sharing their struggles, joys, and insights. And I’m also preparing a substantial amount of content for the site. I am most excited about our very first online Lenten retreat, which will become available on Saturday, March 3, 2018:

Daughters of Saint Paul Sr. Mary Lea Hill (author of Prayer and You, Blessed Are the Stressed, and numerous other titles–she is belovedly known as the Crabby Mystic), Sr. Margaret Michael Gillis (national vocation director for the Daughters of St. Paul and engaging popular presenter with a fascinating New York/Staten Island-version accent) and I are co-hosting our first online Lenten retreat on the theme: Seeking God’s Will: How To Listen to God in Daily Life. Here is more information below:

 

Following the retreat, on the evening of Monday, March 5th, I’ll be offering live spiritual accompaniment on this theme of learning to seek, love, and live God’s will in the My Sisters private Facebook Group.

If you are interested in growing spiritually, nurturing your faith in everyday life, or simply want to make a retreat at your own schedule/pace, I invite you to think about joining My Sisters.

 

And on March 10, 2018, I will be speaking at the 2018 Women and Men’s Conference for the Fall River Diocese with the theme, Be on Fire, Set the World on Fire! I’ve posted the flyer below. Registration ends on March 1, so if you live nearby, you’ll definitely want to register as soon as possible.

Personally, I’m excited to visit Fall River–it’s been a long time since I’ve been there–and I’m really looking forward to meeting Father Dave Dwyer, who does such amazing Catholic media evangelization!

 

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, SDV, invites you to come to be set on fire with love so that you can set the world on fire with love!