Preaching in the digital world


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Preaching in the digital world

  1. 1. CONSIDERATIONS IN PREACHING IN A DIGITAL LANDSCAPE Borgjie B. Distura At the outset, let us look at the landscape of the world as regards communications which Ilimited only to the three factors namely the internet, television and cell phone.INTERNET ITU World Telecommunication estimated that “The world is home to 7 billion people,one third of which are using the Internet. Forty five percent (45%) of the world’s Internet usersare below the age of 25. Over the last five years, developing countries have increased their shareof the world’s total number of Internet users from 44% in 2006, to 62% in 2011.1” The surveyalso added that younger people tend to be more online than older people in both developed anddeveloping countries. In developing countries, 30% of those under the age of 25 use the Internet,compared to 23% of those 25 years and older. In another internet use survey by world region distribution, Asia has the biggestpercentage of internet users averaging in 44% while Europe ranks second only with the averageof 22.7% internet users.2 There are about 1.8 billion households worldwide and one-third of these households haveinternet access compared to only one-fifth five years ago. And 25% of homes in developingcountries possess a computer and of the 25%, 20% have internet access.3TELEVISION In another survey held by A.C. Nielsen Co. as regards TV statistics in the U.S., observesthat the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day or 28 hours/week, or 2 1 2 3 1
  2. 2. months of non-stop TV-watching per year. Almost all households possess at least one TV set andAmericans spend an average of 250 billion hours annually in watching TV.4CELL PHONES Another form of digital communication is the mobile phone or cell phone. ITU WorldTelecommunication5 reports that there are almost 6 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions. With5.9 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions, global penetration reached 87% and 79% in thedeveloping world. And according to the same survey, active broadband subscriptions reachedalmost 1.2 billion and a total of 159 economies worldwide have launched 3G servicescommercially and the number of active mobile-broadband subscriptions has increased. Mobile-broadband is often the only access method available to people in developing countries, the reportadds.THE DIGITAL AGE: What’s not to like? Since the appearance of advanced electrical/electronic signals in the late 1920’s the worldunderwent a rapid change in the way people behave, think and the way people communicate.From a simple visual signal of fire and smoke, from simple audio signals like trumpets anddrums, we now have very advanced and complex forms of visual and audio signals. We are nowin the digital world of communication. What is not to like in this digital age of communication?It takes only seconds to connect with friends. It is now very easy to research for an assignment.With a click or two, you can enter into a vast source of available materials in the web. Havingtrouble locating your long lost relative? Or classmates? Or colleagues? Not a problem anymore,thanks to social networks. Here you can even see information about their status, their occupation,address and what they are up to. Did you miss your favorite noontime show or your favorite drama series? It’s not aproblem anymore as long as you are connected to the web, because you can always download 4 5 2
  3. 3. them. Gone were the days of beeper, pay phones and radio handsets. We now have cell phones inall sizes, shapes and colors with all those installed applications of your choice. They come evenwith camera and radio and even TV and a whole lot more. No previous generation has beenblessed with the means of communication like ours. And still new vistas in communications areconstantly opening up today and in the future.PROCLAIM THE WORD: Employing the New Media of Social Communications These advanced forms of communications also affect the way we communicate andproclaim the word of God to the world. The modern media of social communication are culturalfactors that play a role. As the Second Vatican Council remarks, “although we must be careful todistinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ”, nevertheless“such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the betterordering of human society”.6 Considering the media of social communication in this light, we seethat they “contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of mens minds and to thepropagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God”.7 Pope Benedict XVI in his message8 forthe Catholic Churchs 2010 World Day for Social Communications, called on the ministry to usethe latest technologies, such as Web sites and blogs, to preach the gospel and encourage adialogue with their practitioners. In his message, Pope Benedict told the people that churchcommunities have traditionally relied on modern media to open the lines of communication. Andas the culture changes, the church needs to use the latest technologies, especially if it wants toreach younger people.HINDRANCES: Disadvantages of the New Media of Social Communications There are hindrances also. There disadvantages as regards these new media of socialcommunication. Although referring to communication of and in the family, these hindrances canalso affect the bigger picture of the society and hence the proclamation of the Word of God too.According to Anthony G. Roman in his article Building Digital Bridges, some factors hindering 6 Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium etSpes, 39. 7 Vatican Council II, Decree on the Media of Social Communications Inter Mirifica, 2. 8 Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 44th World Communications Day "The Priest andPastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word" 3
  4. 4. authentic communication of and in the family are television, Internet, cellular phones.9Romanadds, “Many other facts can be added to this; facts about how families and communities arerobbed of opportunities for authentic communication, dialogue and sharing.”10 This advantagesand disadvantages as regards the new media of social communications bring us into a dilemma, acrisis. But since the Chinese term for crisis consist of two characters namely danger andopportunity, we can therefore still have the possibility of turning this crisis into an opportunity.OPPORTUNITY: The Positive side of the Possibilities of Crisis The media is not an all-evil phenomenon, nor a hot bed of vice as some people mightthink.11 The Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio, magna carta of communications, saysmodern media have the capacity to carry the message of salvation. “Modern media offer newways of confronting people with the message of the Gospel… are invaluable helps for Christianeducation… offer marvelous opportunities to all for considering the implications of theirreligious convictions through the discussion of events and problems of the day…” and makemore interesting the “teaching of Christianity.”12 These new forms of social communications offer a place for those who seek religious andfaith materials. Many faithful are turning to the Web. 13 In Apr 11, 2004, a newspaper reportedthat millions of online faithful use Internet for religious info and e-mail.14 The Vatican has already made its own ventures into cyberspace. It has its own website, And here are some of the sites related to the Vatican:15 Congregations 9 Building Digital Bridges: Considerations for the ministry in the Emerging Communication Landscape,Anthony G. Roman. Available at 10 Building Digital Bridge, p 3. 11 Building Digital Bridge, p 5. 12 Pastoral Instruction CommunioetProgressio 126-131. 13 San Jose Mercury NewsApril 8, 2004. 14 Chicago Sun-TimesApril 11, 2004. 15 4
  5. 5. Pontifical Mission Societies (Congregation for theEvangelization of Peoples): www.ppoomm.vaMuseum of Propaganda Fide (Congregation for theEvangelization of Peoples): www.museopropagandafide.vaHistorical Archive "de Propaganda Fide" (Congregation for theEvangelization of Peoples): www.archiviostoricopropaganda.vaTribunalsApostolic Penitentiary: www.penitenzieria.vaPontifical CouncilsPontifical Council for the Laity: www.laici.vaPontifical Council for the Family: www.familia.vaPontifical Council for Justice and Peace: www.justpax.vaPontifical Council for Social Communications: www.pccs.vaOther InstitutionsPontifical Musical Chorus of the Sistine Chapel:www.cappellamusicalepontificia.vaOther Commissions and CommitteesPontifical Swiss Guard: www.guardiasvizzera.vaInstitutions Connected with the Holy SeeVatican Secret Archives: asv.vatican.vaVatican Library: www.vaticanlibrary.vaLOsservatore Romano: 5
  6. 6. Vatican Radio: www.radiovaticana.vaPhotografic Service of LOsservatore Romano: See’s Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Qualityin Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties (AVEPRO):www.avepro.vaLabour Office of the Apostolic SeeULSA: www.ulsa.vaVatican City StateVatican City State: www.vaticanstate.vaVatican Museums: mv.vatican.vaOnline Ticket Office of the VaticanMuseums:biglietteriamusei.vatican.vaPontifical AcademiesPontifical Academy of Sciences: www.casinapioiv.vaInstitutes of StudiesPontifical Institute of Sacred Music: www.musicasacra.vaSections of the official siteAbuse of minors. The Churchs response: www.resources.vaA Tribute to John Paul II: www.ioannespaulusii.vaPontifical Council Cor Unum: 6
  7. 7. Foundations The Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) Vatican Foundation: Other Pontifical Parish of St Anne in the Vatican: The Vatican also launched last year the Pope to You site, in which practitioners canaccess a papal Facebook application, see the Vatican on YouTube, and even download thechurchs iPhone app.SILENCE AND THE WORD: Some Considerations With all these opportunities that open new avenues for proclaiming the word of God inthis new communication landscape and all the many dangers that lurk around these means ofsocial communications two things are to be taken into consideration according to the HolyFather, Pope Benedict XVI, namely, silence and the word. In his message for the 46th World Communications Day issued last January 24, 2012, theHoly Father points out that the relationship of silence and word, which is an important aspect ofthe human process of communication, is often overlooked.16 [Silence and the word must] be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.17 16 Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Communications Day. Available at: 17 Ibid. 7
  8. 8. Silence is very important as we communicate God’s word and as we communicate to theWord. Silence allows us to listen and understand clearly ourselves and the words we want to say.Silence allows us to understand not only ourselves but others as well and thus creating a deepermutual understanding. Not only that, the Holy Father also adds that silence gives way for deeper reflectionwhich is important in determining what is essentially relevant from what is insignificant. Contemporary man continues to ask ultimate questions of human existence but he isbombarded with enormous amount of ideas, unfamiliar questions and answers he has neverasked. Search engines and social networks offer these unfamiliar ideas, questions and answers. Inthe face of these overwhelming upsurges of data, silence offers a path for him to discernproperly. Silence is an important state that can help man to rediscover himself and that Truth whichgives meaning to all things. God is a God of silence and speaks by the mystery of his silence asseen in the cross of Jesus Christ which echoes the eloquence of God’s love.SILENCE: Effective Way to Preach If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.18 Through silent contemplation, the Word of God, Jesus Christ is being incarnated, beingborn, being made present anew. The Word that which is not outdated but ever present and up-to-date, is Jesus our very own contemporary who continues to make us aware share in the plan of 18 Ibid. 8
  9. 9. salvation that God is accomplishing by word and deed. And as sharers of this work of God wetoo preach salvation in our humble way “as heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that lovewhich promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.”19 The Holy Father concludes his message affirming the importance of silence and word inproclaiming Christ in this contemporary period, he favorably said: both silence and word areessential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewedproclamation of Christ in today’s world. 19 Ibid. 9