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 

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.

Join in Live Fatima Rosary Novena Starting Tonight!

Join in Live Fatima Rosary Novena Starting Tonight!

thewordheals FSP pics

Today, my community the Daughters of Saint Paul, began our #TheWordHeals Mission Campaign, which will run in a concentrated way during the Novena to Our Lady of Fatima (ending on the 100th anniversary of the public apparitions on October 13, 2017). We are inviting people to collaborate with us in the New Evangelization to spread the healing Word of God through prayer and offerings.

Our Mission Campaign goal is ambitious, but we have so many wonderful projects just waiting for funds to go forward. You can see sisters’ stories of how the Gospel has changed people’s lives by visiting www.pauline.org/thewordheals or visiting our Ask a Catholic Nun Facebook Page!

InvitetoPray

If you can’t make it to any of our live online prayer times, you can still join us by praying the Novena prayer daily for nine days:

Novena Prayer

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

 

St. Paul: Walking Beside the World

PaulandPeterToday is the third day of our triduum of preparation for the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Pope Francis’s Message for 2015’s World Day of Communication has already been released, (which I hope to get to on Monday), but I’d like to conclude with a short reflection on last year’s message.

Towards the end of his 2014 Message, Pope Francis continues to apply his call to the Church to “accompany the world” on its journey specifically in the world of communication. “We are called to show that the Church is the home of all,” and “Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.”

For me, Pope Francis continues the calls that I heard so clearly from St. John Paul and Pope Emeritus Benedict: to truly and vibrantly engage with our culture! If we as Catholics indiscriminately avoid using the media, or we divorce how we live our faith from our how we use the media, then our media culture is greatly impoverished; even worse, it can become a void where the beauty, goodness, and truth of Christ are absent.

So what does it mean to “accompany” the world? What does it mean to walk at the side of the world?

For Saint Paul, it literally meant walking to new places to communicate Christ, and to sojourn in each place for extended periods of time, to “bring Christ to birth” in the people who received him. When he couldn’t be physically present, he would accompany them through prayer, by sending representatives who could encourage them, and through his active correspondence. It didn’t matter what difficulties Paul ran into: he never “abandoned” those to whom he proclaimed Christ.

A number of years ago, I was privileged to accompany one of our sisters on her journey towards eternity. During the last two years of her life as her illness progressed, I tried to be her “guardian angel,” helping her with the mundane tasks that had become too difficult for her, staying in touch with her family and updating them on her condition, praying with her when prayer became difficult. Accompanying her was a tremendous gift for me, as a human being and but also spiritually, as I witnessed God’s tender love for her and her wholehearted response to him, in the face of death. My problems–which before had loomed large–became inconsequential. Accompanying her enabled me to shift the focus from myself to her in a very natural, unforced way. In the last two months of her life, my primary concern became attending to her needs. Though I felt completely spent after her peaceful death, I discovered that accompanying her had been one of the greatest gifts of my life:

  • I witnessed how God worked in her and through her, and how she allowed that to happen
  • I received the gift of her love for me, even to her  last moments of consciousness
  • In being “stretched” to give of myself more fully in this new, accompanying kind of way, I discovered new things about myself
  • I received anew the gift of my life, rediscovering how precious I am and feeling inspired to fully live that gift

Accompanying the world would, I imagine, entail some of the same shifts for us today: taking the focus off ourselves, attending to others’ urgent needs, re-discovering ourselves as we give of ourselves in love more fully, and receiving the gift that others are for us and for the world.

* * *

There is so much more to reflect on in 2014’s Message, but at least my unpacking and reflecting on it here has helped me to deepen it. I hope that it’s also offered some helpful insights for you as well!

Responding to the Spiritual Hunger of the World

Everyone knows that great good that St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity do with the poor. As Daughters of Saint Paul, we try to respond to the spiritual hunger of the world: the hunger for love, for peace, for joy, for Christ. So many people are anxious, discouraged, or hurting. They’re spiritually desperate for Christ, but they don’t know that Christ is the one Answer to all their problems and questions. 

As writers and communicators, we are called to raise the questions and/or share the insights that we have received on our spiritual journeys with the Lord. Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the newest author among the Daughters of Saint Paul, and she has come out with a beautiful new book based on her own personal experience of being led back to the Church. She didn’t just fall away from the Church, but considered herself an atheist for almost 10 years. Sr. Theresa Aletheia shares a bit about her book and about our mission here:

Our webathon ends November 2nd. Help us to share the joy of the Gospel by visiting our annual webathon fundraiser at: www.pauline.org/give. 

Great Catholic Media Events

I am blessed to be at the Catholic New Media Conference this weekend, held here in Boston. My favorite event so far is the keynote address, which the Boston Archdiocese has graciously posted up online. The presenter, Monsignor Paul Tighe, is secretary to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican. He gave us the “inside answer” on questions like, “Does the Pope really write his own tweets?” and he also encourages us  Catholics in the media to try new things and share our experiences so that we can learn together. Monsignor Tighe’s presentation is inspiring, entertaining, and not to be missed if you are interested in the  the beginning of the Pope’s Twitter account, @Pontifex, in how we as Catholics can engage in the digital media culture, and Pope Francis’s approach to social media.

We also heard about a great initiative from the Knights of Columbus. The Knights are presenting a new documentary on Pope Francis entitled, Francis, the Pope from the New World, which airs Sunday night (Oct. 20) on FOX Business Network at 5 PM EST. You can see the trailer here.

geekpriest_coverI am still sorting through my reflections from the first day of the Catholic New Media Conference, but I can say I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with so many wonderful Catholics who “get” how exciting it is to bring the Gospel with us into social media. I really enjoyed meeting Father Roderick Vonhögen, founder of Star Quest Production Network (SQPN.com), who has just published his new book which I am looking forward to reading!

While I was at the Catholic New Media Conference today, I was able to share about the Daughters of St. Paul’s very first webathon which highlights the various aspects of our media apostolate. Each day has a beautiful morning and evening prayer, as well as reflections on a particular form of media. Today’s theme has been media for kids, and tomorrow’s theme is video! Check it out when you have a chance, and if you can, help us to continue our mission, to reach out through the media with the Gospel!