One of the good things about Catholicism is that forgiveness and starting over are a vital part of our spiritual DNA. It is in that spirit that I take keyboard to electronic ink and once again revive my blog with renewed purpose. However, I will be deviating from the “all liturgy” format in this post in order to participate in the annual Catholic Media Promotion Day by relaying my experiences from my day of silence yesterday, May 23rd, from all social media.
So, how did I fair in my self-imposed silence? In a word: Semi-FAIL.
Let me explain. The overall objective grew out of the spirit of Pope Benedict’s topic for World Communications Day – Silence and the Word: Path for Evangelization. My friends over at the New Evangelizers website asked all of us involved in Catholic new media to refrain from participating in any form of social media for one day and then to write about our self discoveries the next. I can proudly say that I did really well most of the day not commenting on any Twitter or Facebook posts — until evening came and instead of letting morning follow, I gave into my growing frustration with a certain reality singing competition (yes, I’m looking at YOU American Idol) and ran to Twitter like a drunken sailor looking for another drink to register my displeasure with this year’s winner.
It was right then that I realized something very important about my social media behaviors: since I’m not one to post about things like where I’m going or what I’m eating, I seem to turn to connecting with others online when it is either something of real importance or something I am completely passionate about. My inability to keep my own blog current is also a prime example. Instead of keeping up with writing on a daily, weekly or even monthly schedule, I sort of drive by and post when I find something I really want to talk up or share with those of you willing to follow my erratic posting style. So I would say that this two-day experience has given me some focused and needed food for thought. I thank the New Evangelizers for one again leading the way in getting those of us who are in the ministry of evangelization to stop and take a good, hard look at what we are doing and why.
To fulfill the second part of this double layered experiment, we were asked to answer the following question after our day of silence: “What in Catholic Media has had an impact on you during the past year?” For me, it will be in the form of “friend”-promotion — Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis (@bishopcoyne), maintains a daily Twitter and Facebook feed that not only gives a brief synopsis of the readings for the day’s Mass with personal insight from his Excellency, but also includes links to interesting articles from the secular press or maybe some amusing YouTube content. In whatever content he chooses to bring to our attention, Bishop Chris’ clear intent is to get us to reflect about who Christ is in our lives and if we aren’t sure, to go and find out more about Him. I’m glad to see the Bishop taking on this important mission and look forward everyday to reading and taking in what is communicated.
To conclude, I am posting below the draft copy of my article on World Communications Day that I wrote for my monthly column on Ministry and Technology in Ministry and Liturgy magazine. Written earlier this year, I talk about the importance of a balance between silence and word for lay ecclesial ministers. Let me know what you think and maybe it will give me the boost I need to write more often on my blog.
Oh, and if you really want to know what I think about the finale of American Idol, leave a comment and I will definitely give you my opinion on THAT subject… 😉
(reprinted with permission – Ministry and Liturgy magazine, volume 30 number 4 May 2012)
Sunny and Sox, my two Carin Terriers, love to get out of the house and stretch their four legs everyday with a brisk walk. As their human, it’s my job to ensure that they get their daily exercise (and it doesn’t hurt me to get my butt out of the office chair and do the same). Our usual routine as we make our way through the neighborhood includes me catching up on the many podcasts I have stored in my iPod (podcasts are audio/video files that can be downloaded and played on either a computer or a portable media device). Sometimes I’ve used these walks to pray along with an audio version of the church’s Liturgy of the Hours (you can find that for free at divineoffice.org or pay $14.99 for the mobile application – I highly recommend it!) or listen to some fine programming on the Catholic Channel (Channel 117 on Sirius/XM satellite radio) on my iPhone. Lately, through, I’ve found myself not wanting to accompany our outings with a continuation of the sounds I surround myself with at other times of the day. I seem to be becoming content, to my BIG surprise, with simply taking in the sounds of my sneakers brushing the pavement and the rhythmic jangling of the girls’ tags flopping on their collars, replacing the noise of my techno-crazy life with the calming sounds of silence.
It is because of this new found revelation on the importance of silence that I find it strangely apropos for Pope Benedict XVI to choose the topic of ‘Silence and the Word: Path for Evangelization’ for this year’s World Communications Day address (the day is celebrated on Sunday May 20th this year but the written message is published in late January/early February each year). In his letter he states that “…social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers…If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive.” (click for full document)
Think about it – we have a constant audio accompaniment to our lives that is more than capable of drowning out any and all of our own thoughts if we allow it. It can even deafen us to the small, whispering voice that God sometimes uses to get our attention (see I Kings 19: 11-13). While it’s easy to throw up our hands in frustration and blame technology or the culture or the hectic pace of the life we lead, it really is up to each of us to exercise a bit of self control and “pull the plug” on the cacophony of noise that commands our attention each and every day. Knowing when to step back from technology is just as important (if not more so) as learning how to use it effectively to witness Christ to the world.
The Pope understands fully that we need to use every means of communication necessary to spread the Gospel in this third millennium: “Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God.” However he also reminds us that “…in silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves…” That’s why websites such as 3-Minute Retreat or Online Ministries (which includes an online version of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises) can be useful in helping us begin to balance our competing worlds of sound and silence. Those of us who minister musically and liturgically need to remember to build silence back into our liturgies. From personal experience I know that we love to cover every action with music from start to finish (and yes, it can hide a multitude of liturgical sins) but when we forget to give silence its do we inadvertently create a atmosphere of “words, words words” and not unlike Eliza Doolittle, we drown in the spoken and sung and don’t allow for God to truly dialogue with us. Those in catechetical ministry would do well to begin and/or end every session with moments of silence so that the restless hearts of those in faith formation may settle down before offering their prayers to God. It’s a good practice to pass along to our young charges. Returning silence to its rightful place in these and other areas of our spiritual life can only have a positive influence in every other aspect of our life for “silence is an integral element…; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.”
Time for me to take my own advice.