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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Novena to St. John Paul II Begins…Today!

Today, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the last public apparition of Our Lady of Fatima (and the Miracle of the Sun), we are also celebrating Day 9 of our Novena to Our Lady of Fatima, as well as the last “official” day of our annual #MediaNuns Mission Appeal. (You can celebrate Our Lady of Fatima together this weekend as a family by watching one of the well-done films on Our Lady of Fatima–check out my list of recommendations here.) 

As you might know, we have been praying the Angelus together on Facebook Live at noon every day, as well as praying the Rosary together at 8 PM on Facebook Live. The number of people joining us in prayer has been inspiring! (Our biggest night so far was Monday, with over 16,000 views!) We’re hoping tonight will be the biggest night of all–it’s a wonderful way to thank Our Lady of Fatima for proving again what a wonderful Mother she is–not just to Jesus, but to the entire Church.

 

 

It is striking to me that the Novena to St. John Paul II begins today (9 days before his feast on October 22). For me, St. John Paul is the Pope whose devotion to Our Lady is so pronounced. His multiple (sometimes mysterious) connections with Our Lady of Fatima are everywhere, once we start looking. Father Raymond de Souza shares the highlights in his insightful and concise article here.

I have been praying often to St. John Paul II, and I probably made a novena to him before his canonization, but this year is the first time I am consciously making a novena to a canonized saint whose hand I have touched, and whose life touched mine in numerous ways. So I decided that I would write my own novena prayer, highlighting experiences that we have shared and the ways that he touched my life. I am sharing part of my personal prayer below, in the hopes that it might inspire someone else. (I have to confess that I have taken out a few of the more personal details.)

Saint Pope John Paul, thank you for the many ways that you said “yes,” to God, overcoming any fear, and giving the world both the encouragement and the witness of your words, “Do not be afraid! Open your hearts to Christ!”

You gave so many gifts to the Church: the call to the New Evangelization, your witness of prayer and union with Christ, the beautiful articulation of God’s plan for every human person in the Theology of the Body, your appreciation for beauty and the arts, your many beautiful and profound writings, your devotion to the Truth, your understanding of what it means to be a communicator for Christ and witnessing how to do it, your closeness and preferential option for youth, your surrender to God’s will in your illness.

Now from heaven, you continue to accompany the Church you led so wonderfully here on earth. You know that your homily during your Mass on the Boston Common, and your encouragement, led me to embrace my vocation. You were always a special friend of young people, encouraging them to boldly follow Christ. When I finally met you, I could see the love of God the Father for  me shining through your eyes. I told you then that I loved you, and I continue to love and trust in you as my spiritual father and guide.

Now, I trustingly turn to you once again for inspiration, guidance, and for your intercession. In your powerful prayer to Jesus our Way, Truth, and Life, intercede for the Church to courageously continue setting out “into the deep” for the New Evangelization in these challenging times where the dignity of each person, the freedom of religion, the  value of every human life, the nurturing of the family, the care of all creation, justice for those who are oppressed, and concern for the common good, are all under threat. 

In a special way, I also ask you to beg God for my personal intentions:
(mention them here)

I trust in your prayers, St. John Paul. Continue to accompany me! You inspired me to “Follow Christ” unreservedly; I am one of “your” vocations; I count on you as “my” Pope and my spiritual father! Thank you.

If you, too, are part of the John Paul II generation (or, as one of my sisters puts it, “a John Paul II groupie”), you may want to begin a novena to him in preparation for his feast on October 22nd. You can write your own prayer, as I did. You can add it to other prayers. Some of my other favorite options include:

http://totus2us.com/podcasts/novenas/novena-to-st-john-paul-ii/  (Marian focus)

and

http://www.philipkosloski.com/novena/ (with a little-known fact about St. John Paul for each day, too!)

Here, you can find the “official prayer” from the Vatican offered at St. John Paul’s canonization here (thanks to Catholic News Service for the unofficial English translation.

This novena prayer is also beautiful and is posted on the site for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine (in Washington, D.C.), which I hope to visit someday!

 

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. 

Gems from the Catholic Writers Conference Online 2017

cwglogoThe Catholic Writers Guild’s Online Conference—just held this past weekend—is a fantastic conference for Catholic writers who are just starting to write, writers who are seeking to publish or are publishing their work for the first time, and for established authors who want the companionship of a like-minded writing community that offers spiritual support (as well as writing support), or for those writers who simply want to explore or deepen the connection between their writing and their life of faith.

This year, my schedule allowed me to participate in only five of the workshops—and I missed three that I really wanted to attend—but I have to confess that I really enjoyed connecting with other writers.

Just a few takeaways:

  • Colleen C. Mitchell’s amazing workshop on integrating our writing with our everyday life, especially her personal witness of how she keeps writing during challenging times. Her witness inspires me.
  • How Terri Ong’s presentation connected St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way”  with the writing life. If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that, for me, St. Therese articulates Saint Paul’s spirituality in a contemporary, accessible way. More and more, I see how essential the humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit are to the believer’s ability to respond to their call to write. The Founder of my community, Blessed James Alberione, encouraged us to pray these words often—and now I start every writing session with them: “By myself I can do nothing, but with God I can do all things. For the love of God, I want to do all things. To God, honor and glory; to me, the eternal reward.”
  • Although I have read dozens of writing books, published 7 books, and been studying writing craft for over 15 years, I can always learn something new. I learned a new way to improve the manuscript that I hand in to my editor and some ways to fix problems in developing a scene. But the best part? Connecting with other writers who consider writing a call from God, and a way to serve God’s People. Plus, I was delighted to be able to volunteer to moderate some of the workshops, and so contribute a little back to this lovely writing community.
  • Finally, I was reminded how important writing is to me. For a number of reasons, I have had to put writing on hold—at least, the “deep writing” that I feel called to do. These reasons included transition, a different schedule, new responsibilities, and my preoccupation with several difficult circumstances. The precious gem I received from this conference is a deeper insight into how much “deep writing” energizes me and assists me in doing other important apostolates that I carry out. No matter how busy I am, I cannot completely put it aside any more. I’m eager to find ways to write deeply again—even if it is just 20 minutes a day. 

A profound thank you to the Catholic Writers Guild, and all of those who worked so hard to bless dedicated, hard-working Catholic writers the training, tips, and encouragement we need to continue writing.

Recharging

What do you do when you feel like you have nothing left to give?

stranded-918933_1280That’s how I’ve felt through the week after the Clay Pots Retreat. It had been an amazing six weeks where I’ve given classes, retreat conferences, and assisted with our live webathon novena, but by the middle of the week, I couldn’t even think any more. I knew my introverted tank was past empty and I was running on fumes. It’s not comfortable when I feel like I have nothing left, that I’m “poured out,” and emotionally exhausted. In my prayer, even reading the Bible feels like it’s too hard. Fear that I will never be refilled takes over because I don’t even have the energy to deal with my worries.

And perhaps that’s the hardest part of all. When I’m that exhausted, I don’t just stop paying attention interiorly, but I feel stranded in the middle of nowhere, alone and abandoned; maybe even wrecked. Pretty soon, I’m overwhelmed by negativity and I simply want to cry because the emptiness haunts me.

That’s the short version of how I felt by Friday.

But I’d been in this place before, and I had the grace to see it coming earlier in the week. I seized an opportunity to get away for about a day and a half, and I took myself completely offline. In my prayer—when I just wanted to weep for sheer emptiness—I remembered how Jesus sanctified exhaustion. His solution for exhaustion was seeking out his Father…and so I spent several hours in quiet prayer. Most of the prayer time I simply accepted my emptiness, prayed for the people I’ve been interacting with for the past six weeks, and told Jesus I was open to whatever he wanted. 

That simple acceptance of my feelings and my discomfort, in Jesus’ presence—as difficult as it was—changed everything. Suddenly I was no longer stranded alone. Jesus was with me. Simply giving Jesus my poor, empty self and knowing that that was enough for him, made it become enough for me.

It was a very gentle weekend: I prayed quietly a lot, journaled a good bit, spent time outside (beautiful New England fall weather), took some long walks, watched a sci-fi film with a friend, and slept. And by Monday morning, I felt so blessed by the gifts of my ordinary life. But I continue to be aware that, for the next week or two, I need to continue being gentle, undemanding with myself, and creating extra space for quiet and listening. This will allow the “spiritual recharging” that began weekend to continue.

What do you do when you are spiritually and/or emotionally exhausted? I would love to hear your tips and strategies for “refueling” your spiritual life and your creativity!

Communicating Hope: Theme & Invitation

The Vatican Secretariat for Communications has published the theme/motto for World Communications Day in 2017:

“Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time.

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I look forward in a particular way to the Pope’s message with this theme; it is usually released on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, who is the patron of writers, journalists, and the Catholic press.

The Vatican Secretariat for Communications issued this following statement on the theme

Numbness of conscience or letting desperation get the better of us are two possible “diseases” that our current communication system can cause.

It is possible that our conscience is cauterised, as Pope Francis comments in Laudato si’, as a result of the fact that often professionals, opinion leaders and means of communication work in urban areas distant from places of poverty and need, and their physical distance often leads them to ignore the complexity of the dramas faced by men and women.

Desperation is possible, instead, when communication is emphasised and transformed into spectacle, at times becoming a genuine strategy for constructing present dangers and looming fears.

But in the midst of this tumult a whisper is heard: “Fear not, for I am with you”. In His Son, God expresses his solidarity with every human situation and revealed that we are not alone, because we have a Father Who does not forget His children. Those who live united with Christ discover that even darkness and death become, for those who so wish, a place for communion with Light and Life. In every event, they try to discover what is happening between God and humanity, to recognise how He too, through the dramatic scenario of this world, is writing the history of salvation. We Christians have “good news” to tell, because we contemplate trustfully the prospect of the Kingdom. The Theme of the next World Day of Social Communications is an invitation to tell the history of the world and the histories of men and women in accordance with the logic of the “good news” that reminds us that God never ceases to be a Father in any situation or with regard to any man. Let us learn to communicate trust and hope for history.

* * *

Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

In a recent meeting with journalists on September 22, 2016, Pope Francis emphasized the importance and responsibility that journalists have in our society today. In particular, he briefly commented on:

  • loving the truth
    “To love the truth does not only mean to affirm it but to live it…”
  • living with professionalism 
    “[Journalism’s] vocation is, therefore – through attention, care in seeking the truth – to have man’s social dimension grow, to foster the building of  true citizenship.”
  • respecting human dignity
    “Behind the simple reporting of an event there are also sentiments, emotions, and, in short, the life of individuals.” 

The original text of his speech is available only in Italian and Portuguese on the Vatican’s website, but fortunately, Zenit provides a full English translation here. It’s short, but well worth the read!

Stretching as a Writer (in a St. Paul & St. Therese Style)

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One of the beauties and challenges of religious life is living our vow of obedience. That means that sometimes we get assigned to responsibilities that are new, unfamiliar, and sometimes, seemingly not suited to us. Often, it’s because the superior sees something in us that we don’t see. Once we’ve been working in this new area for a while, we may be surprised to discover that we have gifts that we didn’t suspect. At other times, the superior is willing to “take a risk” on us because she knows that the assigned task needs to go forward, and we are the only one (or the seemingly best person) available at the time.

All of this is a long introduction to saying that, during these past two and a half years, I keep finding myself stretched because of my assigned apostolate in Pauline Digital.

Most nonwriters probably think, “Writing is writing.” They may not realize that every form of writing has its own set of challenges and required skills. I’ve been writing across multiple forms since I was a postulant, starting with children’s direct-to-video programs, but until I arrived in Digital, I did not realize that I am basically a “long form” writer. The only short form of writing that I consistently did (and enjoyed) was blogging, but even a blog can be considered long-form writing when taken as a series on one topic.

It’s also very different to write short pieces on assignment that require quick turnaround. I’ve never wanted to write on assignment because I have always been sure that my mind would totally freeze up and I wouldn’t be able to write what was needed. I have suffered from “mindfreeze” ever since I can remember: if I become afraid or scared enough, my brain stops working almost completely, and originality disappears entirely!

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A possible depiction of Black Blacquer, the villain of my 1st story.

When it comes to writing, mindfreeze has been a problem for me at least since first grade when my grandfather fell asleep while I was reading him my very first completed story. (In his defense, it was after supper, he was ill and probably exhausted, my story was absolutely terrible, even for a seven-year-old’s first effort. What would you expect from a story that is less about the hero and more about the villain, who was originally named, “Black Blacquer”? His attempt to listen to my story probably bordered on heroic.)

But I digress.

I believe many writers, if not most, struggle to discover the confidence to write. And somehow, that confidence to write was tested anew when I started to write on assignment—especially with a tight deadline, in a short form that I already know I’m not very good at. It just felt too much like I’m taking a test that will stump me. But if I stop for a reality check and reflect on my actual experience, I realize I’ve experienced mindfreeze in my writing only once in the past two and half years. I asked for help and someone else was able to complete it just after the deadline.

As I’ve grown as a writer and in my relationship with God, I’ve gradually come to realize that mindfreeze—and my chronic insecurity as a writer—is actually a great gift. Starting every writing session with an act of humility and a profound act of trust in God is the best way that I could begin writing anything. It is writing in the spirit of St. Paul and St. Therese  of Lisieux, recognizing that I am an earthen vessel holding a precious treasure, that I have empty hands but that I offer the very emptiness to God so that God can fill me! Ultimately, what I write is not for me nor ultimately about me, but about communicating what God inspires to say in service of others. Every so often, I need to be reminded that it’s absolutely essential that I “reset” my motivations every day. So I’m grateful that recently, I’ve received this reminder so frequently. I see with new eyes that my struggle in the past couple of years with short forms, quick deadlines, and yes, even mindfreeze, has actually been a blessing—for me personally first of all, but ultimately, I hope, for those who listen to and read what I write.