Internet Evangelization

explanation

-misquote from ST II-II, 1, 5, Reply to Obj. 1:

“Unbelievers are in ignorance of things that are of faith, for neither do they see or know them in themselves, nor do they know them to be credible. The faithful, on the other hand, know them, not as by demonstration, but by the light of faith which makes them see that they ought to believe them, as stated above (4, ad 2,3).”
http://newadvent.org/summa/3001.htm#article5

I see myself, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, as the very “lightest-weight” edge of marketing:  the colorful, maybe? attractive, definitely crass BOGO coupon or postcard;  flashy, slick?, not very deep, junk-mail really, get-you-to-call/go-in/give-us-a-call media/flashing neon-lights/”hey buddy or lady!!” hack/that person-fool in the costume outside the store waving the “salvation/go-deeper/come-hither” sign?  NOT the very highest ideals of veracity and critique and profundity.  Why?  idk.  bcuz i HAVE 2, somehow.  🙂

The parish and the priest?  Definitely sales/operations/once-inside-the-store higher talent.  Definitely.  The Professionals.  🙂

-by Cristina Montes

Strengths:

1. It has a wide reach. It breaks barriers of time and distance, and can transmit a message to a broader audience. Thus, it can help plant the seed of the Gospel in the souls of those who would otherwise not be reached by the traditional means of evangelization, and can serve as a channel of God’s grace to many end-users.

2. It facilitates the mobilization of off-line activities. Rallies and meetings can be organized efficiently through the social networks, and the social networks are also great places to advertise retreats, seminars, and other activities that are beneficial spiritually.

3. Its capacity to connect like-minded people with each other makes the communion of saints more real. This strengthens the faith of believers and assures those who are still considering the Catholic faith that they will never be alone in their journey to God. On a practical level, the Internet is useful for locating churches and Sunday Mass schedules while planning a trip abroad.

4. It can communicate the truths of the Faith in the language of the times. Catholic memes are a clear example. Hipster-Jesus-Twitter

5. It enables quick, up-to-date commentary on current events, thus allowing Catholics to timely communicate the perspective of reason enlightened by Faith on these events.

Weaknesses:

1. The Internet cannot, by itself, effect conversions. (Ed. you can’t dump someone in a library, and they come out Catholic.  Conversion is extremely interpersonal, person-to-person, human being to human being, parent-child, friend-friend, etc.) Conversions are the response of human freedom to God’s grace. All that online evangelization can do is provide a channel for God’s grace, or at least not hinder the working of grace.

2. The Internet is not always conducive to an exposition of the truths of the Faith with the thoroughness they deserve.  (Ed. Truth/medical degrees doesn’t/don’t fit well in sound bites.)  Not all questions about the Faith can be answered in a short Facebook comment and not all online content allows itself to be read with the degree of reflection needed to grasp the truths of the Faith.  (Ed. you HAVE to do your homework!)

3. Neither is the Internet the best venue for giving and receiving personalized spiritual advice. Evangelizing always involves “shepherding”, that is, personally guiding people according to their specific spiritual needs. This is because God deals with souls individually and not en masse. Facebook threads are not the best places to address the specific concerns of souls – especially their spiritual concerns. Online evangelization can never replace what St. Josemaria Escriva calls “the apostolate of friendship”.

4. In relation to the last item, the Internet is no substitute for the sacraments. One cannot post one’s sins online to obtain absolution – and the Internet is not protected by the sacramental seal, either. (Ed. NO MATTER how many phone apps there are or what they may say!)

5. Just as the Internet can make the communion of saints more real, it also, unfortunately, showcases the worst behavior of people, including believers. In one of his hardest-hitting quotes, St. Josemaria Escriva, in #263 of The Furrow, lists some signs of lack of humility. I am sure I have, at one time or another, displayed some of them in my own online behaviour – “always wanting to get your own way”; “arguing when you are not right or – when you are – insisting stubbornly or with bad manners”; “giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so;” “despising the point of view of others”. Indeed, the line between assertiveness and arrogance, between candor and tactlessness, can be blurred online. Because of the anonymity that the Internet provides, as well as the way it facilitates publishing one’s views without thinking first, online discussions on even Catholic topics can degenerate into “ad hominem-fests” that do more harm than good to people following them.

6. Finally, active online evangelization can give one a false sense of effectiveness and can take up time that can be used for more meaningful offline works of charity. One can easily get sucked into never-ending online discussions with like-minded people and feel flattered by the “likes” that one’s comments get, without realizing that the time could have been used by giving a listening ear to someone offline who needs it or saying a decade of the rosary for another person’s conversion.

The key to maximizing the potentials of the Internet as a means of evangelization, and to minimizing the harms inherent in the medium, is to practice prudence. Prudence in Internet evangelization means deciding on and using the best online tools for one’s apostolate. It also means balancing one’s time online with offline apostolates that include bringing people to the sacraments. With regard to blog and Facebook comments, it means prayerfully deciding when and how to continue a discussion with a sincere questioner, or to drop a discussion with a troll (Ed. Jesus EVEN loves trolls, maybe even most especially!!!). It means asking oneself before typing and clicking the “Post” button, “Is my motive to defend Christ and His Church, or to vindicate my bruised ego?”

Finally, online evangelization is no different from offline evangelization in that both are useless without prayer. It is a good habit to pray for those whom we encounter and those who will encounter us online. This will be more effective in bringing them to Christ than the wittiest ripostes we can think of during the heat of online debates.”

I seem to imagine a lot of people are not ready for face to face “evangelization”.  When they are, off to RCIA, or to the parish you go.  Rather, just like when, pardon the analogy, shopping online, they would rather “read-all-about-it-first”, in quiet, in solitude, in their deepest moments of thought and reflection?  Let the Holy Spirit act, speak to them, slowly, quietly, in the solitude of their own privacy, thought, and heart, and then decide what they, and God, might want them to do about it?  St Augustine, while familiar with Christianity, St Monica, after all, WAS his mother, did not convert to the faith until encountering St Ambrose and being duly impressed with his intellect.  Sorry to disappoint!!!  🙂

Love,
Matthew

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.