Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age

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I am working my way through a careful reading of Pope Benedict XVI’s World Communications Day Message “Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Ageand thought it would be helpful to create a centralized post with links to analysis and commentary on the document.  If you’re aware of a helpful link, please post it in the comments below.  I will be updating this post soon with my own reflections on the document and would love to hear your thoughts on your favorite portions.

Upon initial reading, I again am reminded that every year, the Holy Father’s message for those who have devoted their lives to work in communications is always relevant to the larger society.  Especially in the past few years, as social networking has revolutionized the way in which we communicate with one another, we faithful are hungry for guidance for our spiritual leaders for ways in which we can embrace these technologies for good, for the spread of the Gospel truths.

In my preliminary reading of the letter, several wonderful quotes stand out, including this one:

“To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically.”

Such a great reminder that we remain authentic in all of our communications, but especially that we not create an online persona that is inconsistent with our “real world” lifestyle.  For those of us who spend a great deal of time online, this transparency, honesty and responsibility to be true messengers of Christ’s good news is a constant challenge.

More soon on the document, be here are a few places you can find news on Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.



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About Author

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaHendey and "like" her on Facebook @LisaMHendey.

27 Comments

  1. Lisa, thanks so much for bringing this to our attention! I write for both Catholic and secular press and find that both are extremely valuable in terms of sharing who I am as a Christian, a Catholic mother. As a parenting columnist for secular press, I have been challenged in a good way to bring my faith to the secular world in ways that are often subtle, but are nevertheless important in speaking to who I am as a Christian. Tucking these little bits of vitality into my columns is exciting for me, because I know I’m not just preaching to the choir, but sharing pieces of who I am through my work with those in the community at large, and not just fellow Catholics. When I receive positive notes back from readers, I always feel affirmed that my words are making an impact. I’m so on board with the Pope here and love that he is embracing our newest forms of communication. This feels so hopeful to me.

    • Roxane – I think that’s exactly what the Holy Father calls us to do in this document. I think especially when you write for non-Catholic publications, the hope your faith affords you about life is always shining through. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  2. The part that has reverberated all day in my head is where he describes how New Media “stirs our wonder” at possibility. It’s cool to see technology through the lens of a poet.

    I think Catholic New Media users should be more imaginative than pragmatic, becoming enchanted by the vast power of their laptops or iPhones before they endeavor on projects to serve the Church. For instance, my wonder is stirred by the reality that with my Facebook profile and a blog, I have more social reach and networking power than St. Paul, Genghis Khan, Constantine, or George Washington. I have more evangelistic potential than St. Augustine, St. Francis Xavier, or St. Damien of Molokai. Never before has it been easier, cheaper, or quicker to reach masses of a people with a specific message or movement.

    That stirs my wonder. That fuels my desire to serve the Church through New Media.

  3. Sarah Reinhard on

    Lisa, thanks so much for the early link…I can’t wait to read this message from the Pope! The messages from the last few years have been some of my favorite Church reading.

  4. These words from the Holy Father strike me….”new forms of shared awareness.” When we participate in most of our parishes (with traditional parish involvement such as a sodality or the Knights of Columbus) — what we mostly experience is older, traditional Catholic witness. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with these organizations and what they do — but ‘new media’ is linking like-minded Christians to share new forms of witness, new forms of expressed belief, new forms of conveying an excitement in and with our faith that many in traditional parish settings are not sharing. If I have an interest in the saints — I may find little within the parish setting that satisfies that longing and area of enthusiasm. The internet presents qualified and orthodox programs which educate and entertain on the saints (or whatever area of interest someone has). And this area of interest travels with me in my car, when I exercise or when I have unexpected down-time. This definitely demonstrates new forms of shared witness.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for being on top of this amazing message from Papa Benedict! I have yet to thoroughly read it and meditate upon it. But, I am looking forward to doing so, as well as take a look at some of the news items from the great resources you’ve offered about it as well.

    Pope Benedict’s message is very heartening and right on target, to say the very least.

    God bless!
    Donna-Marie

    PS I’ll be back to give more of a response as time allows.

  6. Lisa, as always, you are on top of all New Catholic Media news and opportunities! I had the honor of seeing Lisa’s dynamic presentation on this topic at last year’s Catholic Writers’ Live Conference, and she shared her wealth of knowledge on how we can educate, evangelize and even entertain through such channels as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and podcasts.

    The Holy Father is calling us to be his foot soldiers in this new crusade to bring the Truth to the modern era. It is so important that we support and encourage one another in this effort. Through retweets on Twitter, tags on Facebook, links, reviews and guest bloggers on our blogs and interesting guests on our podcasts, we can cast the net even wider and encourage our readers and followers to seek even more information.

    May God bless all of you in your efforts!

  7. One of the things Our Holy Father has always recognized is the value of New Media and Social Media. This message is the perfect example of why Catholics cannot continue to persist in the ways we have always evangelized and ignore the new forms of media that are presented to us. I’ve always said that if St. Paul were alive today he would be on Facebook preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ there. We must persevere in using new technology for the sake of the Gospel and not continue to ignore it otherwise it becomes Godless and forsaken.

  8. In Pope Benedict XVI’s message of Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age I am most struck by this quote: “The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response. Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!” When I write to other moms I am out there for all to see. I share with them experiences of my own life hoping that, most recently, other moms may relate to the day-to-day month-to-month account of moving my parents from their home into assisted living and through the grief of my father’s death. I feel every word I have ever written is a gift from God, and when other women take the time out of their busy lives to comment on a post of mine it means the world to me; I have struck a chord. When people comment I feel “the real faces of [my] brothers and sisters.” I share my life with them. They are real and the Gospel is incarnated in my real world.
    Maureen Locher ~ CatholicMom.com Columnist

  9. Lisa, thank you so much for bringing this to our attention and for highlighting the quote on authenticity. This is so critical both in our real and online lives. No, we don’t have to air all of our dirty laundry, but it’s important to portray our true selves – including the parts of us that sometimes struggle and are very human. I’ve always tried to balance honesty with edifying words when I write. Part of it is just my natural style, but I also know that I’m uplifted when I read that other Catholic wives and mothers (and Christians in general) ask some of the same tough questions I do and grapple with things like spiritual dryness and kids who test their patience. :-) Likewise, as consumers of new media it’s equally important that we don’t make haste assumptions about someone just from perusing their Tweets, their FB page, or skimming their blog posts. We don’t know the full story, and we’re only getting edited glimpses of their lives.

    At any rate, thanks again for helping to disseminate our Holy Father’s wisdom. We are so lucky to have our faith and Church to guide us.

    God bless.

  10. Social media has created a virtual community. The Holy Father reminds us to live a Catholic moral life in this community. By doing so, Christ lives in this virtual community. Now, how awesome is that? I’m a blogger- not a theologian or a scholar. I’m just an average person trying to figure out and experience this Catholic life. By participating in this virtual community, I find food for my soul. Jesus uses all of your stories to speak to my heart. And I pray that when I hit “publish post” that He will use my story to touch another’s heart. That is what Christian community is about- sharing Christ. And by being real here, we allow Christ to live here. The Holy Father challenges us to be true to the faith and share the gospel in a medium that touches many lives. These are the front lines and we need to be courageous enough to let Christ live in us and through us.

  11. It is the Holy Father’s exhortation for Christians to “witness consistently” that speaks to me, especially as it relates to the consumers and the producers of this website and to Catholic mothers everywhere. As mothers, we depend upon our “most profound convictions” to keep us faithful to the maternal duties which consist in nothing less than the raising up of children for God’s greater glory. Our vocation is as challenging as it is righteous, and even the most excellent of mothers is bound to experience occasional disappointments and failures in the exercise of her duties. The disconnect between reality and cyberspace that is inherent in the social media can entice us to present an idealized image of ourselves that does not admit of shortcomings. In a culture that decries motherhood as trivial and demeaning, we must be careful “not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile,” but instead strive for a Gospel-derived “coherence and authenticity” that can bring about a renewed appreciation for the holy nature of our calling and the dignity of life itself.

  12. Like me, do you ever feel a little guilty about staying up late on Facebook or your own blog site, even though you’re doing it with the good intention of spreading the Gospel message? Do you ever wonder why you spend any time at all tweeting, posting, blogging, and googling? Do you fear the guilt of clicking away, as the clock reminds you that you aren’t paying enough attention to loved ones–that you probably should be praying? And the cyber-questions that your comments and postings create: Who is seeing what I write? Does anyone out there care? Am I helping to change the world, as I initially had hoped? –Those questions may never find their answers, at least in this life. But to those to you whom God is inspiring to sit in front of the computer for His sake, despite the development of bad posture, dry eyes, and carpel tunnel syndrome, keep the faith and persevere, for the Pope himself has given you his wholehearted blessing. And if you want to continue perusing the Internet, (even if you really should be praying or attending to your child,) check out my blog post on the Pope’s new cyberspace message at http://www.medjugorjemiracles.com/2011/01/pope-benedict-xvi-encourages-us-social-media-and-internet-users/.

  13. Wow! These messages never fail to get better and better. You konw it really makes me wonder what it would be like for us of the Pope and the Church reacted differently in this crucial time in our world’s history. New media offers such an amazing opportunity to reach out to fallen away Catholics and bring them back into the Church. Praise God for this!

  14. Thanks, Lisa, for highlighting this message. Two immediate take-aways: how important it is, in a social media world tuned to “likes” and “hits,” to remember that our authenticity is reflected not just by the profile we present to others but in our choices about what to share and how we do that; and second, that time spent being part of virtual networks and sharing with new friends should not be at the expense of our person-to-person relationships…our attentiveness to the people in the same room! Great insights from B16!

  15. I was particularly struck by this passage:

    “Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for “friends”, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.”

    The pope nails this one. Think about the effect that this kind of false image can have on our prayer lives- if we construct a parallel character for ourselves, it’s likely that we’re constructing a false image of God as well. When it comes to prayer, it’s easy to fall into the danger of brokering a make believe conversation between a false avatar of ourselves and a falsely understood parallel version of God, where he becomes in our minds less like a diety and more like an imaginary friend. Kudos to the perennially relevant Pope Benedict XVI for highlighting the extra efforts we need to make toward authencity in a digital climate.

  16. We who work daily in communications sometimes take for granted the technology we have at our fingertips and what it enables us to do. In his womderful message, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that what we say and do here on the Web is – and should be – an amazing resource for the New Evangelization.

  17. Lisa, Thanks so much for sharing this with us and bringing our attention to such an important topic. Once again, through Christ’s wisdom, the Catholic Church prayerfully and thoughtfully stays with the times and helps its precious people to live Catholic Christian lives in all manners, even in the virtual world! Praise Our God for His loving wisdom; we are never abandoned in even the smallest way.

    I’ll be linking on my blog, scheduled for 1/26. Thanks again, Lisa. God bless.

  18. A very beautiful and timely message to young people especially that our social networking is a tool and aid in life, not replacing life. That witnessing the Gospel is not about popularity, but truth. And that we all have a responsbility to develop real relationships and fellowship online and in real life jointly.

    I’m very thankful for the new online fellowship I’ve found in the past 18 months – it has show me the way to open a door in my real life that I otherwise might have desired, but not seen the way.

  19. BXVI says: “in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it.” It’s not just about Catholic content creation, but also the offering of ourselves. New media is an extension of ourselves. And the challenge for me is to be a consistent witness between what I say and do, what I claim to believe and how I live. Yikes! So many times I fail at that. But, for the grace…. I have a few more thoughts here: http://amongwomenpodcast.blogspot.com/2011/01/this-makes-me-think-world-communication.html

  20. There truly is so much good on the internet! The best prevention to harmful uses of technology by children is to infuse them from birth with that which enriches their minds and spirits: holy and healthy interpersonal relationships and challenges appropriate to their age and stage. The best way to prevent the dangers of internet technology is to raise children in ways that enhance their God-given design.
    Adults who have unresolved traumas from childhood, and later in life, will have this seep into their parenting; this dynamic has been well-documented throughout the last century. Yet we are not always given tools to deal with this part of life, which increases the likelihood to seek “escapism” as an activity instead of deepening interpersonal relating with others, and especially with our children. As a result, many learn they are “worthless” and other equally debilitating messages directly and indirectly sent by their own family and developmental environment.
    How do we as church work to relieve this pain in others? One author suggests ritual healing liturgies as a perpetual event for the many of us who have been seriously harmed by others. Fostering regular reflection can also be liturgically encouraged. Social neuroscience suggests that people need to be encouraged, supported, and affirmed in the process of fostering deep, personal and lasting relationships. But if this is not learned early in life, it is very difficult to learn later without social support. Where better than in our church? We have the framework; we need the intentional effort in this direction.
    The science of child development has mapped out how the personalities of young children ages 0-5 are formed by their experiences, so dramatically that experts in the field are convinced that by age 6-8 there are clear signs that indicate if a child is headed for a stay in prison. They are also convinced about how to prevent this, at least to a reasonable extent; programs such as First Five and others are working on these issues.
    If our secular society is working on this critically important social justice issue, then we who are church must do so even more. I am convinced that the more we learn how to make use of these spectacular developmental discoveries of the past several decades on what children require ~ by God’s design ~ for their best chances to reach adulthood as a whole person, and the more we learn how to love one another as Jesus loves us, the less we will even consider things such as ending a pregnancy before full term, which is another contemporary relational crisis.
    The message of Jesus Christ is ours to share. It is the truth that every soul seeks and desires to find. We are the messengers, we who participate in the sacramental glory that is the gift of Catholic Christianity. All are valued by God, and all are welcome to come to the Table of the Lord. We must make this known!

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