Pope Francis on Real Community: “Christus Vivit”

Pope Franics crowd meme

A look at lesser-known sections of the Apostolic Exhortation released recently by Pope Francis. This is the conclusion of a two-part report by Bill Schmitt, posted on the McGrath Institute for Church Life blog, published at the University of Notre Dame, on April 12, 2019.

A blog post yesterday looked at media-related insights in Pope Francis’ recently issued Christus Vivit, his Apostolic Exhortation on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.

You’ll find below a second batch of quotations from the March 25, 2019, document. They acknowledge but transcend digital-world challenges, focusing on robust community life in general. The pope wrote largely about young people called to be missionary disciples—evangelizing even as they navigate the distorted culture of social media. They can’t heal a polarized society alone.

As Francis wrote in his 2019 World Communications Day message, “God is not solitude, but communion.” The communion we experience in the Eucharist, in liturgy and in our parish activities, surrounded by people of different ages, backgrounds and gifts, but still affirming our unified mission with one “Amen,” remains our best model and motivation for communication that builds community, online or offline.

On the importance of grandparents and elders

“What do I ask of the elders among whom I count myself? I call us to be memory keepers. We grandfathers and grandmothers need to form a choir. I envision elders as a permanent choir of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise support the larger community that works and struggles in the field of life” (CV, 196).

This cross-generational invitation counters our digital culture’s obsession with spontaneous, emotive, knee-jerk reactions that leave little room for historical, contextual understanding. “We have to realize that the wisdom needed for life bursts the confines of our present-day media resources,” Pope Francis says (CV, 195).

On the centrality of witnesses

“Young people need to be approached with the grammar of love, not by being preached at. The language that young people understand is spoken by those who radiate life, by those who are there for them and with them” (CV, 211).

With this blueprint for evangelization, Pope Francis joins his two immediate predecessors in reaffirming the words of Pope Paul VI: “Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, he does so because they are witnesses.” Information and formation go together, incarnated in flesh-and-blood experiences of truth and accompaniment over time.

On providing purpose and vision

“The experience of discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of fundamental certainties, fostered by today’s media culture, creates a deep sense of orphanhood to which we must respond by creating an attractive and fraternal environment where others can live with a sense of purpose” (CV, 216).

Many young people feel they have inherited “dreams betrayed by injustice, social violence, selfishness and lack of concern for others,” Pope Francis comments.

On community as family

“We need to make all our institutions better equipped to be more welcoming to young people, since so many have a real sense of being orphaned. Here I am not referring to family problems, but to something experienced by boys and girls, young people and adults, parents and children alike. To all these orphans—including perhaps ourselves—communities like a parish or school should offer possibilities for experiencing openness and love, affirmation and growth” (CV, 216).

Pastors, teachers, liturgists, catechists and all who advance Catholic values might determine to make their parish the world’s best orphanage, as well as the world’s best field hospital. Let’s cultivate environments of joy (abounding in good times and bad) along with beauty in art and music.

The communion we desire is incarnational

A recent Magis Center blog post asks: “Is God part of your social network? If not, did you know that laughter, singing and religious practices can lead you to him? Science is now confirming that religion—far from being an opiate of the people—is one of three keys to our ability to develop elaborate social networks.” These three habits of the heart lift us highest when we exercise them with others, reports author Maggie Ciskanik.

She’s talking not about mere “friending” or “liking,” but about flesh-and-blood community where God’s unique people come together for purposeful fellowship—sharing hopes, dreams, strengths and weaknesses, asking questions and solving problems. This is accompaniment that’s headed somewhere. If it is filled with Christ’s love and integrity, a vibrant parish can bring familial stability to us orphans.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation settles neither for comfortable, non-challenging proximity nor the technological illusions of disembodied, digital groupings. The pontiff, in his 2018 message for World Communications Day points us toward the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. This outline of interactive, fully engaged communion makes us instruments of peace and communicators of hope.

The McGrath Institute Blog congratulates author Bill Schmitt whose book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer?, last month received the Seal of Approval of the Catholic Writers Guild.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England and Wales, Flickr, some rights reserved

logo color CWG SOA smaller

Posted in Education, Prayer, Spirit of communication, Words, Writing | Leave a comment

“Christus Vivit” Includes Pope’s Digital Media Diagnosis

pope@2x

A look at lesser-known sections of the Apostolic Exhortation released recently by Pope Francis. This is the start of a two-part report by Bill Schmitt, posted on the McGrath Institute for Church Life blog, published at the University of Notre Dame, on April 11, 2019.

Pope Francis has once again expressed a set of prayer-provoking insights about our use of contemporary media and Catholic stewardship of the “Good News” amid a changing information culture that distorts human community. His sweeping new reflections expand on a crucial theme, echoing the World Communications Day message for 2019 and other documents: pastoral concern about online networks’ pitfalls, alongside their potential—and their need—for evangelization.

Christus Vivit (“Christ is Alive!”)the pope’s Apostolic Exhortation on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, includes a section analyzing “the digital environment” that endangers society in ways we need to take more seriously. This wake-up call about today’s news-sharing tools intensifies the responsibility Catholics and all advocates of the common good should feel toward the hearts and minds of so-called digital natives.

The diagnosis of high-tech toxicity is one of many topics in the Exhortation, released on March 25, 2019, the Feast of the Annunciation. That day honors the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of news to bless Mary and change the future of the world.

Here are several of the memorable quotes and terms punctuating the document with guidance for renewing communication to help heal social polarization through a charitable embrace of truthfulness.

  • “It is no longer merely a question of ‘using’ instruments of communication, but of living in a highly digitalized culture that has had a profound impact on ideas of time and space, on our self-understanding, our understanding of others and the world, and our ability to communicate, learn, be informed and enter into relationship with others.” 

Pope Francis warns the short-attention-span approach that “privileges images over listening and reading” can damage our “critical sense.” (paragraph 86)

  • “The web and social networks … provide an extraordinary opportunity for dialogue, encounter and exchange between persons, as well as access to information and knowledge.” 

Here, the pontiff is upbeat, appreciating technological incentives for “social and political engagement and active citizenship”; these encourage young people to stand up for the rights of the vulnerable. But he cautions that this new “public square” is not open equally to all citizens around the world. (87)

  • “It is not healthy to confuse communication with mere virtual contact. Indeed, the digital environment is also one of loneliness, manipulation, exploitation and violence, even to the extreme case of the ‘dark web.’” 

Cyberbullying, pornography and various avenues for exploiting people reflect the non-incarnational character of online connections, “blocking the development of authentic interpersonal relationships.” This adds to risks of addictions, isolation and “a gradual loss of contact with concrete reality.” (88)

An environment of remoteness “creates a delusional parallel reality that ignores human dignity” and invites a “digital migration” into a lonely world of rootlessness and “self-invention.” Young people “must find ways to pass from virtual contact to good and healthy communication.” (90)

  • “It should not be forgotten that there are huge economic interests operating in the digital world, capable of exercising forms of control as subtle as they are invasive, creating mechanisms for the manipulation of consciences and of the democratic process.” 

Various social media tend to favor conversations only among those who think alike, discouraging debate and creating “closed circuits” that can incubate prejudice and hate. “Fake news,” about which Pope Francis has written before, reveals “a culture that has lost its sense of truth and bends the facts to suit particular interests.” Individuals’ reputations are subjected to “summary trials” online—a phenomenon from which “the Church and her pastors are not exempt.” (89)

Rushes to judgment in general, fed by our cultural impatience as avid-yet-unquestioning news consumers and conveyors, do not serve the causes of mercy, justice and accompaniment Pope Francis consistently highlights.

A follow-up post about the Exhortation tomorrow will explore accompaniment as we can implement it in our parishes and communities. “The heart of information is people,” Pope Francis said in his 2018 message for World Communications Day.

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation settles neither for comfortable, non-challenging proximity nor the technological illusions of disembodied, digital groupings. The pontiff, in his 2018 message for World Communications Day  points us toward the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. This outline of interactive, fully engaged communion makes us instruments of peace and communicators of hope.

 (Bill Schmitt’s book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer?, last month received the Seal of Approval of the Catholic Writers Guild. See this blog post for more information about purchasing the book and inviting Bill to lead a discussion with your organization.)

logo color CWG SOA smaller

 

Posted in Education, Prayer, Spirit of communication, Words, Writing | Leave a comment

Pope’s Digital Media Diagnosis: Making All Links New Again

Cpope@2x

This is the original version of Bill Schmitt’s report on sections of Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation dealing with digital media culture as it affects young people.

Pope Francis has once again expressed a set of prayer-provoking insights about our use of contemporary media and Catholic stewardship of the “Good News” amid a changing information culture that distorts human community. He is expanding on a crucial theme, echoed in his World Communications Day messages and elsewhere: pastoral concern about online networks’ pitfalls, alongside their potential—and their need—for evangelization.

Christus Vivit (“Christ is Alive!”), the pope’s Apostolic Exhortation on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, includes a section analyzing “the digital environment” that endangers society in ways we need to take more seriously. This wake-up call about today’s news-sharing tools intensifies the responsibility Catholics and all advocates of the common good should feel toward the hearts and minds of so-called digital natives.

Memorable quotes and terms punctuate the comprehensive diagnosis of high-tech toxicity which is one of the topics in the new document:

  • “It is no longer merely a question of ‘using’ instruments of communication, but of living in a highly digitalized culture that has had a profound impact on ideas of time and space, on our self-understanding, our understanding of others and the world, and our ability to communicate, learn, be informed and enter into relationship with others.” Pope Francis suggests the short-attention-span approach that “privileges images over listening and reading” has damaged our “critical sense.” (paragraph 86)
  • “The web and social networks … provide an extraordinary opportunity for dialogue, encounter and exchange between persons, as well as access to information and knowledge.” Here, the pontiff is upbeat, appreciating technological incentives for “social and political engagement and active citizenship”; these encourage young people to stand up for the rights of the vulnerable. But he cautions that this new “public square” is not open equally to all citizens around the world. (87)
  • “It is not healthy to confuse communication with mere virtual contact. Indeed, the digital environment is also one of loneliness, manipulation, exploitation and violence, even to the extreme case of the ‘dark web.’” Cyberbullying, pornography and various channels for exploiting people reflect the non-incarnational character of online connections “blocking the development of authentic interpersonal relationships.” This adds to risks of addictions, isolation and “a gradual loss of contact with concrete reality.” (88) An environment of remoteness “creates a delusional parallel reality that ignores human dignity” and invites a “digital migration” into a lonely world of rootlessness and “self-invention.” Young people “must find ways to pass from virtual contact to good and healthy communication.” (90)
  • “It should not be forgotten that there are huge economic interests operating in the digital world, capable of exercising forms of control as subtle as they are invasive, creating mechanisms for the manipulation of consciences and of the democratic process.” Various social media tend to favor encounters only among those who think alike, discouraging debate and creating “closed circuits” that incubate prejudice and hate. “Fake news,” about which Pope Francis has written before, reveals “a culture that has lost its sense of truth and bends the facts to suit particular interests.” Individuals’ reputations are subjected to “summary trials” online—a phenomenon from which “the Church and her pastors are not exempt.” (89)
  • “What do I ask of the elders among whom I count myself? I call us to be memory keepers. We grandfathers and grandmothers need to form a choir. I envision elders as a permanent choir of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise support the larger community that works and struggles in the field of life.” While this inspiring summons is not found within the digital-media section of the Apostolic Exhortation, it critiques our online culture’s obsession with spontaneous, emotive, knee-jerk reactions that leave little room for historical, contextual understanding. (196) “We have to realize that the wisdom needed for life bursts the confines of our present-day media resources,” Pope Francis says. (195) Implicitly challenging the technology’s ability to divide generations, he says older persons “can remind today’s young people … that a life without love is an arid life.” (197)
  • “Young people need to be approached with the grammar of love, not by being preached at. The language that young people understand is spoken by those who radiate life, by those who are there for them and with them. And those who, for all their limitations and weaknesses, try to live their faith with integrity.” (211) With this instruction, Pope Francis joins his two immediate predecessors in reaffirming the words of Pope Paul VI: “Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, he does so because they are witnesses.” Information and formation must go together, just like catechesis and evangelization, and they must be incarnated in flesh-and-blood experiences of accompaniment over time.
  • “If the young grow up in a world in ashes, it will be hard for them to keep alive the flame of great dreams and projects…. The experience of discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of fundamental certainties, fostered by today’s media culture, creates a deep sense of orphanhood to which we must respond by creating an attractive and fraternal environment where others can live with a sense of purpose.” Many young people feel they have inherited “dreams betrayed by injustice, social violence, selfishness and lack of concern for others,” Pope Francis comments. (216)

This recalls the pontiff’s 2018 message for World Communications Day (about which I offered reflections in a book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer?). There, the pontiff directed us to the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Noting the necessity of a “journalism for peace” practiced by all of us as news consumers (and as news generators or publishers), Pope Francis admonished Christians to stop the betrayal, cultivate a humble sense of self-donation to others and bridge the chasms of online orphanhood: Where there is hatred, we must bring love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is darkness, light.

Note: As covered in a previous blog post, Pope Francis wrote more about the responsible use of social media in his 2019 message for World Communications Day. A blog dedicated to insights for a faith-filled renewal of journalism, media and communities of conversation continues here. The book, When Headlines Hurtlast month was awarded the Seal of Approval of the Catholic Writers Guild.

logo color CWG SOA smaller

Posted in Education, Prayer, Spirit of communication, Words, Writing | Leave a comment

Post-Truth? Both Terms Mean We Have a Lot to Talk About

When Headlines Hurt CVR_final_smallerlogo color CWG SOA smaller

In a culture where relativism, moralism, divisiveness and desperation about urgent global challenges are all taking a toll, and many of us turn to social media for repair or respite, we all need to talk more about the real cures. We have a healthy instinct that a renewed sense of community is part of the answer. But Pope Francis has been pointing out, in messages which seem like a best-kept secret, that the Catholic imagination can help us move closer to solutions (and inner peace) if we add a deeper reality to the “news” we’re posting.

That’s the point of my little book, When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer … The Pope’s Words of Hope for Journalism. I wrote it last year because I felt moved to help bring the “good news” found in faith and reason–and in the Pope’s insights from the internationally beloved Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi–to discussion groups everywhere. I have just been notified that my Kindle edition was awarded a Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. This more affordable updated version, containing valuable links to research and resources, carries the assurance of Catholic beliefs and values but is especially suited to groups representing diverse backgrounds and religious experiences–people seeking common ground with concern for the common good.

Pope Francis offered several wise suggestions for healing our polarized culture when he issued his 2018 message for World Communications Day. He focused largely on journalism and its purposeful search for truth, and he addressed everyone because, these days, you might say millions of us are in the journalism business. We consume news and create news, we’re “gatekeepers” and publishers of things we call truth. Often, our “professional” handling of this serious vocation slides toward distorting and oversimplifying facts, even weaponizing details or at least distracting ourselves from the need to put people’s needs, human dignity and shared values at the heart of today’s torrents of information. (See my collection of blog posts here.)

Now, Pope Francis has released his 2019 World Communications Day message, “We Are Members One of Another: From Social Network Communities to the Human Community.” He uses Bible passages and images of communion in Christ to take us beyond the noblest-sounding visions of social media, which may have started out idealistic but too often have proven materialistic and narcissistic. He urges us to ponder the need to recapture the humility that must accompany truth-seeking and the compassionate curiosity that must accompany trust-building.

Today is an ideal time to be discussing this because the Catholic liturgical calendar marks this as the Solemnity of the Annunciation, an event where God was the presenter of glad tidings about a savior, the angel Gabriel was the messenger acting to bring the news to and through a human person,  and a faithful, strong woman named Mary was ready to listen, pursue a dialogue to clarify this great mystery and say a simple “yes” that had world-shaking ramifications. I thank Matt Swaim, who co-anchors “The Son-Rise Morning Show” on national Catholic radio, for suggesting this date to remind us all of the Pope’s reflections and our potential as communicators.

If you would like to do more pondering about news, truth and community, just as the Bible says Mary did, please consider reading my past and future blog posts, plus other resources I’m compiling and the book I wrote. More importantly, read the World Communications Day messages of Pope Francis and of the pontiffs who preceded him. Consider how the Church’s thoughts might change our thoughts about the fruitful sharing of information in our social media communities and our flesh-and-blood communities–in parishes, towns, groups of shared interests and groups of unique people whose differences mean we need to hear them and love them. Please engage me (bschmitt@alumni.princeton.edu) as a local discussion-leader if I can contribute my passion and experience. Wherever we are, whoever we are, whatever our communities may be, here’s to a happy, healing Annunciation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Education, Prayer, Spirit of communication, Words, Writing | Leave a comment

Spirit and Sentiment: Lent’s Songs of Quiet Love

19-0322 Blog Photo

Initially posted on the McGrath Institute for Church Life blog, published at the University of Notre Dame,, on March 22.

Some milestones in the Lenten season are literally a pleasure to celebrate as days for rejoicing or gaining new insight or simply making this journey of ours a bit more sentimental. When the liturgical calendar brought us the solemnity of St. Joseph, spouse of the blessed Virgin Mary, on March 19, it was traditional and meaningful to have a parish party—a feast for the senses which help incarnate Eastertime love in god’s family.

A tradition of honoring St. Joseph

DSC_9486 copy

This was the second annual St. Joseph’s Day Italian Fest at St. Monica Church in Mishawaka, IN—a town whose recipe of Catholic ethnic populations includes descendants of immigrants from Calabria. Folks from all backgrounds, including two accordionists named Schmitt and Doolin, had signed up for the fund-raiser to reaffirm Italy’s long history of honoring St. Joseph.

As pastor Rev. Jacob Meyer explained in the parish bulletin, “This is the day when Italians celebrate the intercession of St. Joseph for lifting a devastating famine. Let us follow in their footsteps and thank God for our own bounty and for the powerful intercession of St. Joseph, protector of the Holy Church.”

I had discovered the March 19 tradition of “St. Joseph’s Table” years ago when my family lived in Hoboken, NJ. Italian-Americans created sharable shrines comprising delectable breads and desserts.

Playing music for St. Joseph

Dave Doolin (left) and author Bill Schmitt (right) play their accordions at a parish festival honoring St. Joseph on March 19.

Now, in 2019, I focused less on food than on other ways to energize St. Monica Parish’s trek toward Easter. Dave Doolin and I had prepared a repertoire of Italian-spirited music. The overtones of St. Patrick’s Day, two days earlier, gave way to love songs like “O Sole Mio,” “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “Come Back to Sorrento.”

A Solemnity dedicated to a husband seemed to deserve some emotive performances we associate with Italy, Rome and romance (sometimes via Hollywood screenplays). I wondered: Did our “set list” properly reflect an intersection between sentiment, this holy day, the story it represents and its Italian connection?

Franciscan Media essay about St. Joseph and his March 19 feast says yes. The essay reflects on Joseph as a “just” man—that is, someone who shared in God’s own holiness as part of a mutually loving relationship. Joseph was capable of self-donating agape. He responded with trust to God’s mysterious will and empowering grace.

“The rest we can easily surmise,” says the Franciscan Media essayist. “Think of the kind of love with which he wooed and won Mary, and the depth of the love they shared during their marriage.” This just man was “simply, joyfully, wholeheartedly obedient to God—in marrying Mary, in naming Jesus, in shepherding the precious pair to Egypt, in bringing them to Nazareth, in the undetermined number of years of quiet faith and courage.”

There was nothing “sentimental,” as in sappy or passive, about this man. There was “passion” in the sense of “emotion,” or an intense “feeling or conviction,” or “ardent affection” (definitions from Merriam-Webster). He was “all-in,” despite uncertainties and challenges ahead, for the mission God gave him.

Channeling the ardent affection of St. Joseph

So I focused on the passionate quality of the music to be played at the St. Joseph Fest, drawing inspiration from the saint’s tender strength I rediscovered in this often-overlooked love story. I found lyrics (whether written by Italians or show-biz composers) illuminated the incarnation of Christ’s agape in our world.

I recommend attending any St. Joseph Fest you may discover in your area next year. Let the abundance of food remind you of the gratitude Italians traditionally express for their release from famine—a spirit well-suited to Lent’s “desert experience” of abstinence awaiting Eastertime fullness. Any accordions in that desert?

Regardless, let your festival sing to you of St. Joseph—Mary’s husband, Jesus’ foster-father and the Church’s patron for our journey. God transformed a betrothal-gone-awry into the pure, powerful and enduring love of the Holy Family. Let the notes of perseverance, expectancy, transformation and accompaniment echoing in the best of those romantic songs re-energize your hope during this season of purposeful sacrifice.

Some of the songs we selected for the festival

O Sole Mio (O My Sun, My Sunshine)
by Giovanni Capurro and Eduardo di Capua, 1898

When night comes and the sun has gone down,
I start feeling blue;
I’d stay below your window
When night comes and the sun has gone down.

 

Three Coins in the Fountain 
by Jule Stein and Sammy Cahn for a 1955 movie

Three coins in the fountain…
thrown by three hopeful lovers…
one heart will wear a valentine… 
make it mine.

 

Come Back to Sorrento 
by Ernesto DeCurtis and Giambattista De Curtis, 1902

When I pass a garden fair
And the scent is in the air
In my mind a dream awakes
And my heart begins to break

But you said goodbye to me
Now all I can do is grieve
Can it be that you forgot?
Darling forget me not!

Please don’t say farewell
And leave this heart that’s broken
Come back to Sorrento
So I can mend.

 

Arrivederci, Roma 
by Renato Rascel, Pietro Garinei, Sandro Giovannini for a 1955 movie

Arrivederci, Roma …It’s time for us to part.

Save the wedding bells for my returning,
Keep my lover’s arms outstretched and yearning,
Please be sure the flame of love keeps burning,
In her heart!

 

Posted in Prayer, Spirit of communication, Words | Leave a comment

“I ♥ Valentine’s Day,” When the Church Shows the Love of its Life

heart photo for blog

Initially posted on the McGrath Institute for Church Life blog, published at the University of Notre Dame, on February 14.

Valentine’s Day can be awkward for a lot of people. It’s unlikely the holiday will come up in Church conversations, except in the young adults group. Catholics may see little connection between their faith and the chocolate overdoses of February 14. But it is a day that takes on new dimensions when viewed through a Christian lens.

Unfortunately, we can’t “baptize” this celebration of love as was done in the past; we can’t call it “Saint Valentine’s Day” anymore. Doubts surrounding historical details about Valentine of Rome, believed to have been a third-century martyr, resulted in his removal from the liturgical calendar of feast days. Nevertheless, he’s still the patron saint of virtuous romance. And it’s arguably still good to give human love its own place on the calendar, albeit a secular one.

The downplaying of Saint Valentine is not a crisis. True love still has many champions. The connection between Feb. 14 and eternity is secure. Every saint is, ipso facto, a patron (supporter) of loving, just as every saint is a patron of thanksgiving. More to the point, God is Love. Jesus Christ incarnated on earth the highest form of love, agape, marked by self-donation and transformation. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, St. Paul painted a picture of love more comprehensive than any saint’s hagiography. Love is patient and kind. Love never fails.

Valentine’s Day is also a great time to focus on the human heart. The standard image is omnipresent in media and marketing, but it remains an evocative symbol. My New World Dictionary Concordance to the New American Bible says this: “In biblical language, the heart is the vital center of life that is specifically human: sense life, the life of the will and intellectual life. For this reason, the figurative use of the word is vaster in the Bible than in modern languages.”

The Bible speaks of thoughts arising from the heart. Both Old and New Testaments describe numerous qualities possessed by the heart: It sees and listens; it responds and understands; it is obedient and steadfast. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Our Catholic faith and human nature are especially drawn to the particular qualities of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These inspire our efforts to cultivate compassion, perseverance, purity and contrition, flowing through wounded hearts.

No amount of advertising, sentimentality or ostentation will overwhelm our whole-hearted witness. Perhaps we can keep the Valentine vision elevated through our reflections and conversations, both in parishes and in our encounters with those on the margins of human affection.

February 14 can challenge us to take love more seriously. My wife Eileen and I, in discussing our evening restaurant plans, can share our backstory: We’re celebrating our gratitude for blessings that have made our home a domestic church.

Priests and chaste singles can evangelize through their discoveries that true love still abounds even if it doesn’t fit the greeting-card mold. The word “heart” is indeed vaster in its spiritual meaning than in the languages of popular culture and the marketplace!

Kids can treat themselves to those chalky candy hearts. First, help them realize that some of the “platitudes” imprinted thereon— “Hug Me,” “Smile,” “Be True,” “For You”—hint at deep longings of the lonely.

Catholic families and parishes must be refuges where dumbed-down interpretations of love visibly rise to the higher ideals of agape. Do we allow the culture’s standards to sink, or do those candy hearts connect to the Sacred Heart? Let’s share and exemplify our love stories—especially how our relationships with the Lord make Valentine’s Day sweeter.

It may be awkward. But, knowing there’s a Saint Valentine interceding for us, we can follow his lead—standing in as patrons for a day. Love never fails, so we shall not fail love.

 

 

Posted in Spirit of communication, Words | Leave a comment

Healing Culture–and Hearts–So Politics Can Work

chris-stirewalt

https://www.c-span.org/video/?457649-1/every-man-king

No discussion at the three-way intersection of our polarized society, our use of news and our faith-based values that can help renew healthy communication will bear fruit without the kinds of insights Bruce Stirewalt recently presented on Book TV.

Stirewalt, digital politics editor at Fox News and author of Every Man a King: A Short, Colorful History of American Populists, served up some important thoughts at the Savannah Book Festival. The most valuable thoughts for the discussion mentioned above come from his answer to the last question, found at the 56:00 mark in the Book TV video.

These are comments that illuminate our exploration of toxins at work in politics and journalism today. They are comments about the human being and about culture.

They speak for themselves, so I present several of them here—perhaps out of order, but definitely “what the doctor ordered” regarding culture-healing priorities to be prized by Catholics and all people of good will:

  • “We are a soul-sick, broken-hearted country.”
  • “The object of every heart is to be truly known and truly loved.” As we cry out for unconditional love, our insecurities and anxieties prompt us to lash out at each other rather than reach out with compassion.
  • “We’ve replaced more precious, more valuable, more meaningful things with the shoddy work of politics.”
  • “That soul-sickness will never be fixed by politics.”
  • “Politics is what lets us do the right thing. It’s not the right thing or the point of anything.” –attributed to the late Charles Krauthammer
  • “Our broken culture is the headwaters of our broken politics.”
  • “We need strong social capital to create a culture.”

(video from Book TV, promotional photo from Fox News)

 

 

Posted in Spirit of communication | Leave a comment