I started my Facebook page, and my new Twitter account, because as a bishop I am called to be a servant of souls and a servant of the Gospel. The Church must always be where her people are. More and more, our people are on the Internet. [This is a bishop who gets it. The world is changing; we can’t simply witness to the Christian faith using the methods of the 19th century–or even the 1990’s! Those days a gone! While holding on to what is good, we also need to embrace new methods. The whole world has gone on-line–it’s time for the Church to meet them there.]
They are using these new media and technology to build friendships and community, to express their spiritual needs, and to nourish their faith. [Well said! All three of these areas are important. And what comes first is building friendships and community. To often we want to just “nourish” people’s faith. Unfortunately, we do so in an individualist way and forget that, as humans, we are social animal!]
I have long believed that as a Church we need to increase our pastoral presence in this digital “environment.” [Indeed, he was talking about this long before almost any one else!]
The Church has always found ways to use new media to spread the Gospel — beginning with the printing press, then radio, television and cable, and now the Internet. [And yet we seem to have forgotten this. How many young Catholics are really going into new media with a heart to evangelize? By the way–shameless plug–if you’re interested in taking up this challenge, check out JP Catholic. We specialize in precisely this–watch this video and this one.]
The early Christians were able to spread the Gospel so rapidly because the Roman Empire had a vast network of roads. This enabled missionaries to travel to every part of the known world to preach the good news face-to-face.
I believe we have a similar opportunity now in the avenues opened up by the Internet.
Pope Benedict XVI has described the world of on-line communications and social networking as a “digital continent”. [Pope Benedict is awesome.] That is a powerful image for us to reflect on.
As the Church sends missionaries to every continent, we now need to send missionaries to proclaim the Gospel in this new digital continent also.
This is not only the work of bishops and priests. It is the work of everyone in the Church. We are all called to evangelize this new “continent.”
This new continent has its own landscape, its areas of danger and unknown. The people who “live” in this continent have their own languages, customs and cultures. We have to learn all about this continent in order to evangelize it.
The Sacred Page, run by three Biblical theology professors, recently posted an inline commentary of an article detailing the reasoning behind Archbishop Gomez’s (the Archbishop of Los Angeles, former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio) recent foray into social media.
To repeat what the author’s of the Sacred Page wrote of this, “This is a bishop who gets it.” We Catholics, like every other Christian, are called to be evangelists by virtue of our baptism into Christ. We need to be spreading the Gospel. And the way things look nowadays, we need to be preaching the Word post-haste.
Christians need to engage the world and “preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians (RSV) 1:23, 25). This, of course, will not make the “world” happy but the Truth, despite its power to set you free, is not always joyous at first.
So let’s get with the program and get active in charitable evangelization.