WHO WOULD’VE thought that “faith” and “facebook” would go hand in hand in preaching the Good News?

The 44th World Communications Day, with the theme, “The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word,” focused on the “new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis” offered by modern technology such as blogs and social networking sites. The event kicked off with worldwide thanksgiving masses last May 16, which also commemorated the Pope’s declaration of 2009 as the Year of the Priests.

“Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and for encouraging dialogue at a wider level,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his message released last January 24. “Yet the recent explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.”

This “almost limitless expressive capacity” of the digital media demands greater responsibility from those who are called to preach the Gospel. Priests who are called to build a communion “in Christ and with Christ” are challenged to shift from the traditional means to the latest generation of audiovisual resources such as blogs, videos, images, and websites in fulfilling their mission.

The Pope explained that these technological innovations are great instruments that will help Catholics understand the life of Christ.

“Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and stop before the threshold of our homes and our hearts,” the Supreme Pontiff said.

Father Nicanor Lalog II, a UST Journalism alumnus who has a Radio Veritas show, said the new digital technology is more than a means and an instrument for communication; it is also a milieu in itself.

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“A lot of priests have indeed tried to use social networking to reach out to the young people,” said Father Lalog, who’s taking up MA Theology in Socio-Pastoral Communications at the UST Graduate School. “Priests and the church hierarchy are very much into these new communication technologies not only (in reaching out) to the youth, but also to everyone in proclaiming the gospel.”

He also recognized the new media as a remedy to the youth’s aloof attitude toward religion.

Media-savvy

But while the clergy recognize the vital role played by the digital media in evangelization, they also discern the downside of technology having too much exposure in the limelight, to the point of it overshadowing the message of the gospel.

“There are priests who are stuck with the typewriter while there are those on the extreme side (who overuse technology),” Lalog said. “Some priests are just media-savvy, but empty of the Gospel.”

He noted that this “spiritual emptiness” brought about by the overuse of technology shows that person-to-person communication is still the most effective approach in helping people strengthen their faith.

“It is only with the life of the priest, his life of witnessing and his holiness, that he could truly proclaim Jesus Christ’s gospel,” said Lalog.

“It’s not really with his laptop or with his BlackBerry, neither with his antics nor jokes,” he said.

Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P., dean of the UST Faculty of Sacred Theology and a former media practitioner, also recognized the negative effects of the mass media.

“The mass media, by its very nature, creates a trap for its practitioners,” said Aligan he said in his talk, “The Priest and the Mass Media: Celebrant or Celebrity,” during last April’s UST Theology Week.

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. “Despite their goodwill and imagination, [media practitioners] are caught in a large corporate mechanism that [transmutes] every vision into an ideology defending an existing order.”

Aligan reminded priests that regardless of their personal abilities and talents as a communicator, their task is to be the representative communicator of Christ himself.

“The priest and the priesthood are not self-sufficient or independent of Christ. If so, he would lose his proper missionary strength, reducing himself to a mere human communicator—someone unable to communicate and represent Christ,” Aligan said.

Elvira Go, national chair of the Power to Unite Catholic Family Bible Group Inc., and host of the NBN-4’s religious program “Power to Unite,” said that religious broadcasters like herself are given the special task to use the new media to unite the people in the name of Christ.

She noted that their gift of gab must be placed in good use to strengthen the faith of the Catholic laity.

“We should help the Church together,” she said. “[Let] us bring it closer to the people, [so that we can] make them understand.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. This used to be my section when you were probably not yet born. I still have the same name in a column I use where I write. Keep up the good work!

  2. Publicity between Personal and Private
    (a published article)

    Back in 2004, from the dormitories of Harvard University, four young kids formed a study group, perhaps to pass on notes or test tips for the computer classes they all had. Mark, Eduardo, Dustin and Chris developed a tool through which they not only got to know each other better, but helped each other as well. Their club started exclusively amongst themselves, extended to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League schools, until it reached the campus of Stanford University. Their circle kept on growing until 6 years later, with billions of dollars earned; they have attracted more than 400 million members worldwide and still they are growing. Despite this, it was only last year that I finally ventured to be a part of their circle and became a “Facebook” member.

    Mark Zuckerberg, at age 25, with a net worth of $4 Billion dollars, is the youngest technocrat with more than enough wealth to fund his own lifetime ten times over. Through his initiative, the brain of three other individuals, and other existing ideas, the world of social networking exponentially exploded and conquered the once intimate and private lives of real people who only met in the real world. From the virtual dimensions of our current history, social networking clubs are located between the corners of fact and fiction. Truth comes in different forms, sometimes stark naked and sometimes fudged with cosmetics. They travel through the highways of information and fantasy, sincerity and falsity. These crossroads are sometimes the major bumps that impede private individuals like me to hop on board and enjoy the ride. Yet, with a little bit more than 5 percent of the world population interconnected through “Facebook” fibers, it is hard to spray an antiseptic and thus be isolated because of technical ignorance. And so, after careful deliberation, consultation and exploration, I finally joined, became a member and posted my personal profile.

    It seems like only yesterday when I looked for pictures that could best reveal myself. Since I intended to interface only with those who really knew me, I intentionally uploaded vintage photos before the inception of “Facebook”. While a number of my friends and acquaintances grew, I forgot that some of them have never met me in real life. They were friends of friends who wanted to be my friends and those who poked their noses reading my personal profile. Between these two classes of Facebook acquaintances, I crossed paths with many real friends whom I have not seen or heard for a very long time; people whose faces will be real whether or not I see their photos online. They were classmates from grade school to College, High School buddies, old flings, and college dorm mates from Spain. Some were friends from the mission, co-workers in my office and different natives of Chicago.

    I did not pay much attention to what people shared, chatted or chalked out of the blues. I actually did not care that much until I found friends whom I have been wanting to talk to more than ten years ago. I was about to close shop when faces from a distant era of my personal story suddenly popped up and somewhat inspired me to read the corners, the cracks and the crevices of every page that Facebook reaches. In so doing, I was constantly beset on a suspension that toggled between the dissemination of accurate information and the sweetened coating of fat-filled facts. The former encompasses the wrinkles of current reality while the latter was a helpful yet subjective and oftentimes erroneous data.
    More recently, media deliberations debate on the dilemma between privacy and personal intimacy, entwined in the unintended projection of sheer publicity. To show or not to show, to say or to keep a secret, to reveal the mole on our nose or to keep the wrinkles in the closet – are just some of the questions that tend to hold the rest of the world from joining the social network.
    Thomas Hobbes, the main proponent of Social Philosophy, mentioned in his theory of “Social Contract” the notions of self surrender, the giving up of certain sovereignty for the sake of social order. In the world of “Facebook”, we give up privacy instead for the random chance of a simulated intimacy. It is not that people truly want to know, but that people want to be known. We all have the need for self revelation. And in doing so, we run the risk of disclosing too much as vultures prey on the naiveté of vulnerability as they fish for human capital in their need for economic survival.

    Facebook is not for everyone in as much as a social networking club cannot be universal. Although we will tend to conglomerate among those with similar likes and those with similar goals, the need to our own space and the borders of a private world are also essential. The dilemma between privacy and intimacy is solved through the discipline of individual secrecy. We have the right to be silent because anything that we say could be used against us in the courts of popular opinion. For those who cannot bear the risks of an adverse remark, there is always a quiet corner that could protect and back us up.

    I have met so many important individuals in my life through the virtual transports and graphics of Facebook. I am sure that many of my readers have experienced the same. Yet I also know that some of my former “friends” have decided to shut me out as they retreated in their own space. I understand. In our hectic world and a very short life span, the intent to reach out is a Utopic aspiration because the more “friends” we have, the less we truly have. There are only twenty four hours in a given day. Unless we spend more than a third of our daily lives allocated to scribbles on wallpapers or responding to trite comments, “Facebook” could soon be another fad destined to fade until a new technology perks our curiosity. Meanwhile, despite the abundance of technical platforms, the benefits and blessings of real friends cannot be replaced by a photo or two, by a casual remark, or by linking superficial bridges across domains. Friends are treasures we are blessed to be with and grow old with. The publicity between personal and private is nothing else than an issue among those who have not yet discovered their own fences and their own doors.

    Faces encompass the stories of our lives. Through others, we discover who we are. Through our thoughts, others could grow. Through their growth, our lives become more significant. See you in “Facebook”.

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