Top Communication Tips from the Saints!

Top Communication Tips from the Saints!

Have you ever had something hard to say to someone, and had trouble figuring out how to say it?

There are saints for that! Yes, we can find inspiration for what and how we communicate well beyond Dale Carnegie (although he has some great communication tips too). Below are some tips from a few saints, future saints, and great Catholics!

Seven Tips for Communicating Well from St. Ignatius

Rebecca Ruiz, in this succinct, well-written article, inspired the idea for my blogpost! I hope to read more of Saint Ignatius for myself, but my favorite tip of the seven that Rebecca picks out is #2: Create environments of “greater love than fear.” This tip doesn’t just work for conversation, but it resonates with my experience of working with actors. When I pick the right person for the role, and then create a safe atmosphere in which the actor can take risks and be vulnerable in his or her performance, then I invariably get a performance that is authentic.

In a classic blogpost, How To Give a Talk like Fulton Sheen, one of my favorite communicators, Brandon Vogt, shares the tips that Venerable Fulton Sheen casually offered in conversation.  Several of his tips are similar to the tips of St. Ignatius.

Saint Francis de Sales is patron of writers and journalists for many reasons. But here is a new reason for me! In his Treatise on the Love of God (Book II, Chapter IV), which I am just getting around to reading, St. Francis speaks of both Creation and the Incarnation as God communicating himself in love to us! This is foundational in communication theology, and I never expected to find it in Francis de Sales from the 18th century. Here is a short quote:

God knew from all eternity that he could make an innumerable multitude of creatures with divers perfections and qualities, to whom he might communicate himself, and considering that amongst all the different communications there was none so excellent as that of uniting himself to some created nature, in such sort that the creature might be engrafted and implanted in the divinity, and become one single person with it, his infinite goodness, which of itself and by itself tends towards communication, resolved and determined to communicate himself in this manner. So that, as eternally there is an essential communication in God by which the Father communicates all his infinite and indivisible divinity to the Son in producing him and the Father and the Son together producing the Holy Ghost communicate to him also their own singular divinity; – so this sovereign sweetness was so perfectly communicated externally to a creature, that the created nature and the divinity, retaining each of them its own properties, were notwithstanding so united together that they were but one same person.

For years I have wanted to study St. John Paul II’s applied theology of communication. Someone else has begun this work, surprisingly using Ecclesia de America as the example of John Paul’s communication. Dr. Christine Mugridge and Sr. Marie Gannon, FMA, published a curriculum text, John Paul II: Development of a Theology of Communication, which I look forward to reading. This article introduces the text, but a shorter, more accessible introduction is here:

 

My very favorite works on communication (in addition to ALL of the papal Messages for World Communications Days 1967-ongoing), are the classic texts of SVD Father Franz-Josef Eilers, which I wrote about back in a 2011 blogpost. If you are interested in pastoral communication, evangelization, the spirituality and/or theology of communication, all of his books are awesome.

And finally, of course, Pope Francis has some very practical, down-to-earth advice on communication, which I have been able to find most easily in his talks on the themes of evangelization, communication, and family life.

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Digital Catholics

Here are a few catch-up notes that are long overdue:

Best new site for Media Literacy from a Catholic perspective! Last week I posted here about the new Pauline Center for Media Literacy weekly movie reviews, which our sisters write from a Catholic perspective. But the site has more than just movie reviews, and we are adding new content all the time. Visit the new site and see how the faith we live by and the culture we live in intersect! www.bemediamindful.org

Media and Your Kids For families with kids, the CNN news site published a helpful article about young children using media: “Kids Under 9 Spending More Than 2 Hours a Day on Screens.” The article is based on a study by Common Sense Media–another favorite media literacy site that is helpful when looking at media for children. Along with this article, CNN published “New Screen Time Rules for Kids by Doctors.” The tips for “healthy digital media use” seem especially helpful, but in brief, here is what doctors recommend:

 

Doctors’ Guidelines for Screen Time for Kids

Screen time, or time spent using digital media for entertainment, should be limited.

AGE RECOMMENDED MOTIVATION
18 months and younger No exposure. Screen time can:
cause disconnect between parents and children (babies deprived of parents’ attention may develop behavioral issues)Prevent healthy brain development for infants because it limits face-to-face contactOverstimulate, which can cause distress and sleep issues
2-5 years 1 hour per day

Only high quality

No advertisements

Children at this age can’t differentiate between real-world and screen-world. In addition to high-quality programs, face-to-face interactivity onscreen (such as Skype or Facetime) is a good choice.
6 & older Limit & Monitor Screen time should never replace healthy activities (sleep, social interaction, physical activity)

Parents need to help children and teens navigate the media environment, just as they teach children how to behave off-line

Designate media-free times together (such as meals)

Designate media-free zones at home (such as bedrooms)

Set up a media plan for the family

Based on article: “New Screen Time Rules for Kids by Doctors” by Hailey Middlebrook, CNN

 

The World Congress for Child Dignity in the Digital World has made many of the speeches of the congress available here on the Congress website. The Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome hosted the congress from October 3-6, 2017 .

Pope Francis offers his insights into his style as a communicator in today’s world: Pope Francis on Why He Gives Interviews. For Pope Francis, a “real meeting,” means “real conversation.” His best tip? He prays to the Holy Spirit ahead of time to inspire him with what to say.

“The truth will set you free” (John 8:32): Fake news and Journalism for Peace is the theme for the next World Communications Day on May 13, 2018. The Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication posted the theme on September 29th (the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel). The explanation follows:

The theme that the Holy Father Francis has chosen for the 52nd World Day of Social Communications 2018 relates to so-called “fake news”, namely baseless information that contributes to generating and nurturing a strong polarisation of opinions. It involves an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behaviour. In a context in which the key companies of the social web and the world of institutions and politics have started to confront this phenomenon, the Church too wishes to offer a contribution, proposing a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media, and helping to promote professional journalism, which always seeks the truth, and therefore a journalism of peace that promotes understanding between people. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2017/09/29/170929a.html

 

Online Evening Visit with Jesus At the conclusion of our online Facebook Live Novena to Our Lady of Fatima, Sister Kathryn and I decided that we would like to try to offer a simple Evening Visit with Jesus every night at 8 PM at the Facebook page: Ask a Catholic Nun. We are still getting it off the ground, but it’s a wonderful way to share prayer intentions and feel part of a community that prayers together every evening. I hope you can find the time to join us.

Meet the selfie-snapping Sisters of Snapchat is a fun article interviewing Catholic sisters using social media! Several #MediaNuns are included.

Superheroes: Models of Christian Virtue?

This weekend, on Salt + Light Radio Hour, I talk about two of the latest theatrical superhero film releases: Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Both are a return to the lighter superhero film and more in tune with what I had come to think of as a “comic book” movie. Perhaps this is a reaction to so many recent superhero films Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Deadpool, Netflix’s The Defenders, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil, that are so dark and grim. Both Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming are true superheroes, not anti-heroes, following a classic hero’s journey arc. It was also refreshing to see that both films seemed to be less violent overall, and more focused on special effects.

A Closer Look ~ Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a comic book movie with a strong fantasy bent—more of a fairy tale than most comic book films. A mythical past (rather than a scientific “accident”), magical powers associated with magical objects, and a “love at first sight” kind of romance. My childhood partiality for fairy tales has carried into adulthood with a strong partiality for fantasy. (If a story has a dragon, wizards, magic, and a hero(ine) with a huge handicap, I’m in!) But that is not all I found appealing about Wonder Woman: the acting is superb, the romance is an important and integrated part of the story rather than just an obligatory minor plot line thrown in for convention’s sake, the characters are interesting and appealing, and the entire story—while there are probably some loopholes—is solid, if not-too-surprising. I really enjoyed the special effects because not only was I blown away, I could follow all the action.

Wonder Woman’s warrior costume alone probably deserves a whole blogpost. Her costume is one of the reasons my mother wouldn’t let us watch the TV show when I was growing up, and I have always disliked the Wonder Woman character because of it. Unfortunately, the costume is kept in the film, but it is more tasteful than I expected. (Some day, I hope we as a culture can get beyond this kind of superhero costume that oversexualizes heroic characters.) Some references to Diana’s physical attractiveness are made; most are clearly meant to be distasteful. (A couple comments meant to be humorous I found offensive.) These comments, in addition to some splendidly awkward dialogue between character Steve Trevor and Diana, plus an implied night spent together, make the film suitable for a slightly older teen (and could also open the door for dialogue about why certain comments are disrespectful). The comic book violence focuses more on the special effects, but there is still plenty of violence.

Windows to the Soul

Two points about the film I especially appreciated. Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) is an amazing warrior, but she is also a woman who embraces her femininity. Wonderfully self-confident, she accepts and uses her powers, but is still very womanly. Her compassion, her passion to to “save humanity” from the violence of war—seeing war (or the god of war) as the enemy are all gifts that women can bring to the world. Diana Prince is, in many ways, a wonderful role model for girls today. (I think it is very, very cool that the first film about a superhero directed by a woman is about a female superhero, and I think Patty Jenkins’ directorial influence shows here.)

The film addresses the problem of evil head-on, not in a theological sense, but in addressing the question: “With all of the evil that human beings do, is humanity really worth being saved?” And in this sense, it is her experience of being loved, not her super-powers, that enable her to make the right choice and be true to her mission.

In her choice to see humanity in the midst of war’s depravity through the lens of love, I find that Wonder Woman is a Christ-figure. And it is this lens of love that gives a lightness to the film, even amidst the tragic circumstances. This sense of hope—that love makes everything worthwhile—is also present in the other superhero summer release, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

A Closer Look: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Like Wonder Woman, Spider-Man was a character I heard about from others, but didn’t grow up with. I became a fan with the Tobey Maguire films. (Spider-Man 2 is still, I believe, one of the best superhero movies ever made.) Like many others, I also wondered, do we really need another Spider-Man movie?

I don’t know if we needed one. But Homecoming is a light, entertaining, and worthy addition to the growing comic book movie collection, and it is better directed to its primary audience of pre-teens and teens.

With excellent acting, Homecoming is a superhero film that looks at how a superhero develops—and not just his superpowers, but how he matures as an individual to responsibly use those powers. In this film, romance is not much of a storyline, which is appropriate to a story about a teenager who has plenty of other things he needs to focus on.

Peter Parker is a super-believable and accessible character. His personal growth/hero’s journey through the film is, I think, immediately identifiable to pre-teens and teens. He is going through typical teen struggles, whose consequences are magnified by his superpowers. The plot is quite predictable (and also a bit messy in wrapping up, with three endings), but as a whole, the film is still enjoyable–especially with Tony Stark mentoring (!) the young Peter Parker.

Windows to the Soul?

In Peter’s search for his true identity and how to live it, he must “harmonize” these two very different aspects of his life: the “ordinary teenager” and the “extraordinary superhero.” The title of the film really is the theme: Peter needs to be at home with himself, and all the different aspects of himself.

In our own lives, we are called to bring together the different aspects of ourselves, especially our ordinary life with the gift of grace, or the life of God. In a time when we can feel so fragmented by a demanding world that vies for our attention and participation in a variety of roles, Peter Parker’s journey of unifying his various identities or roles into one life in which he can be most truly himself, is a journey to integrity all of us can learn from. It is not a decision or journey made in a vacuum, either: Peter’s commitment to the people of New York is his guide in his final decision. In this, Peter can also be seen as a Christ-figure—of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Note: The PG-13 rating seemed appropriate; comic book violence and spoken sexual innuendo. There are also plenty of “in-Marvel’s-universe” jokes, from earlier Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Avengers movies.

A Question for Today’s Superheroes

In many ways, watching these two films reminds me of the times in which these superheroes were created, when Judaeo-Christian values were still mainstream and woven into many stories of the culture. As desirable as it is to have these values in both films, a “story hole” arises. Where did Peter Parker learn humility and justice tempered with compassion? Where did Diana’s conviction to guard and protect humanity come from? And where did each of them find the strength to live these virtues? If, as seems to be implied, our two superheroes lack the religious faith that creates such values as self-sacrificing love, humility, integrity, generosity, and kindness (to name a few), where do our superheroes get their values from?

While there are certainly many good people who do not have faith yet live good lives, it is also true that faith in God and God’s grace—whether known or unknown—is what gives us the strength and ability to love in a way that transcends ordinary human love. To love the betrayer, the enemy, the unworthy, the nemesis, is not always seen as an ideal any more. In today’s entertainment culture, revenge is seen as a matter of justice, and forgiveness as weakness. In watching several recent teen movies, I have been shocked by the blatant narcissism and utilitarianism of the protagonists: the happy ending is when the protagonist gets what she or he wants, no matter how they got it or who is hurt along the way. There is no recognition of moral values at all—it is what you succeed at, what you get away with, that counts. And everyone is okay with the blatant selfishness.

Yet, Peter Parker’s idea of justice is deeply Christian, as is Diana Prince’s.

It seems to me that superhero movies are successful right now in great part because they give us heroes with these kinds of virtues. On the one hand, these virtues are admirably presented as an ideal: as good, desirable, heroic. But I would also love to see more films in which these kinds of virtues are upheld, as well as positive reference to God and to the practice of faith as the source or strength of these kinds of virtues. (This is one reason I enjoy aspects of the Netflix series Daredevil—his conscience-driven behavior, qualms, and guilt, as well as his confessions and ongoing dialogue with his pastor clearly reveal his faith and his values deriving from his faith.)

The superhero is not a perfectly Christian model, yet superhero portrayals that are faithful to the spirit of the originals are deeply based in Christian virtue. I am not sure that any other culture but the 20th century Western, Christian-based culture could have created Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, or Superman as entertainment.

Is it possible to have Christian virtue without Christianity? These movies seem to say, “yes.” But as we have watched our society becoming post-Christian, we also have witnessed a troubling uprise in a blatant disregard for the importance of each human life. Christian virtue becomes much rarer when society is not built on Christianity, where Christian values and even the golden rule are no longer commonly held. Perhaps it is enough that superhero movies remind us of the ideals and virtues, attract us to them, and show us how how being Christlike—even in the face of great suffering and self-sacrifice— can transform us and the lives of others.

Need a writing getaway?

 

Calling any Catholic who writes in any genre! If you need a getaway to get started or complete a writing project, this retreat looks like the place to go. Writing support and encouragement from committed writers, plus time to write and the possibility of constructive critiques.

Your Word Is My Delight Catholic Writers’ Retreat is held by the Catholic Writers Guild every other year. I have always wanted to go; maybe someday I will be able to! You can find more information here. 

Promoting Hope: Tips for Communicators from SIGNIS, part 2

Below, I continue to share some of the best “tips” from June’s 2017 Signis World Congress, for communicators who seek to build a culture of peace and tell stories of hope. I think this could be a helpful post on today’s anniversary. Respect for others–especially for others who are different from us–lies at the very foundation of building a culture and world of peace and hope. As Pope Francis put it in this year’s World Communications Day Message:  “Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate. This confidence enables us to carry out our work – in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays – with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”

FROM SESSION: Interactivity and Dialogue: A Modern Expression Of The Christian Tradition?

“The Church is called to adopt not just technology, but God’s ‘way,’ the way God acts that seeks encounter.” – Gilles Routhier, Laval University

Communication in and by the Church is contemplating the way God has entered into relationship with humanity, and doing the same…. What is original in the Church is that contemplating how God “evangelizes” converts the Church’s communication practices.” – Gilles Routhier, Laval University

* * *

FROM SESSION: Finding Truth in an Age of Digital Propaganda

Director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, Professor Renee Hobbs invited us to become more aware of the growing use of propaganda and propaganda techniques today. I was late to her presentation, but I can pass on one concrete tool she told us about: visit www.mindovermedia.tv

* * *

FROM SESSION: The Art of Being Human in a Digital Milieu

“Our technology diet shapes us just as much as our food shapes our bodies! It is forming us into a different way of being human. Is this the way humanity is meant to go? Am I contributing to becoming less human? Or am I evaluating and discerning with media? Are we truly free when we engage with this evolving digital milieu?” – Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

“Who decided we needed to be digitally connected 24/7? There are other dimensions of being human that need to be held sacred…

“In the art of being human, where do we as Catholic communicators insert contemplation, silence? …And how does what we produce bring [those with whom we engage] into deeper contemplation in their personal lives?”- Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

“Faith ‘Mediamorphasis’:

1. Shift from speaking to listening.

2. Shift from transmission to witness.

3. Shift from networking to community. (It is not about numbers, but about communion.)

4. Shift from strategy to art/handicraft.” – Moisés Sbardelotto (Journalist and researcher on religious uses of the internet)

 

“We shouldn’t let the digital technology drive us…we have to influence and shape it, so it follow us, not we follow it.” – Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

 

* * *

Jim McDonnell, program coordinator of the Congress, succinctly and eloquently summed up the themes of the Congress—and the main issues of the day for communicators who want to be bringers and bridges of hope. I shared his words with my community of Daughters of St. Paul because I found them so resonant with the “signs of the times”: the needs of people today and the challenges we face as communicators of the Gospel of hope:

1. The challenge of the new

2. The power of creativity

3. The need for collaboration and

4. The commitment to hope

 

Promoting Hope: Tips for Communicators, Part 1

This past year has been full and beautiful in so many ways, but the beginning of September gives me the opportunity to “reset” some priorities that I haven’t been taking enough time for, especially: writing (including this blog) and exercise!

A great way to get back into writing is to pick up where I left off: which was right in the middle of sharing my experiences at the Signis World Congress in Quebec City in June. Rather than try to sum up each of the presenters and conversations, however, I thought I would share a few of the best standalone “gems” of the insights I received.

 

FROM PANEL: Emerging Spirituality and Religion in the New Media Age

“People are locating their spirituality in the context of their everyday lives—diverse, pluralistic, networked, experiential, relational, digitally-integrated, incarnational.” – Elizabeth Drescher, author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of American Nones (Oxford University Press)

“The boundary between the digital and the local is eroding: there are not two separate spaces. How can we facilitate those moments of integration?” – Elizabeth Drescher

“How can we [as Church] be fully established in this culture of digital literacy? What can we do to have practices of faith that go through smartphones?” – Moisés Sbardelotto (Journalist and researcher on religious uses of the internet)

* * *

FROM PANEL: Faith Formation, Storytelling and Social Media

“We must be a transformative presence within this digital culture that is searching for authenticity. As Karl Rahner puts it: ‘The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic or nothing at all.’ – Nancy Usselmann, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies

“To show mercy and love to others, we have to become mercy and love. To show Christ, we have to become Christ.” – Nancy Usselmann, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies

* * *

FROM SESSION  A New Direction for Vatican Communications

“The challenge of creating, of building a masterpiece in the universe of communication: Michelangelo in the digital era—this is what we need!” – Mons. Lucio Adrian Ruiz (Vatican Secretariat for Communication)

* * *

FROM SESSION:  Building Peace and Hope in  a World of Cultural and Religious Diversity

“Our [Catholic communication] culture must not mirror the world in numbers of ratings, likes. We must offer solid, beautiful, content. Even if we reach a small audience—you  never know the results—they reach others.” – Father Tom Rosica, CSB, Salt + Light Television

“[Communication must] shift from debate to dialogue: intergenerational; inter-religious; political; to an open-ended process that puts the person in the center; the richness of the various perspectives can be transforming.” – Patrice Brodeur, University of Montreal