There’s no denying that we Catholics, and especially young Catholics, are online. We’re tweeting, posting and instagraming all over the place, sharing everything from what we ate for lunch to the latest from Bad Catholic; it’s clear Catholics are not left out of this digital age. However, how do we live in this online world but at the same time be engaged in say, the Eucharist? How can the saving message of the Gospel be translated into 140 characters or less?
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently had something to say on this topic in his message on World Communications Day on Jan. 24th. He spoke of the need to share more than funny memes and life hacks on social media, but to also use it as an important tool for evangelization.
But, Benedict cautioned the faithful about the many pitfalls evangelization through social media can bring. For one, as we have all experienced, even the most seemingly harmless online post can be attacked with negative and combative comments. This may make us wary of sharing our faith, but the Pope encourages us not to shrink back due to potential backlash. Just think: the apostles had some pretty serious backlash and it didn’t stop them, right?
Another potential problem that comes from online evangelization is our own egos. Due to our own pride and desire for self-promotion, we may find ourselves as the combative commenter responding to a post directly opposing our beliefs as Catholics. This is something we must guard against as this knee jerk reaction has become so commonplace, and can very easily do the opposite of evangelization: turn someone away.
And, Benedict reminds us, it is ultimately God who converts hearts. No matter how many times you debate and throw zingers back and forth with that kid you went to high school with, you’re not going to change his mind. God will.
A few rules of thumb can help us to effectively use online tools to spread the Good News.
- Social networks are not a place to complain, but a place to proclaim! Stay positive in your comments
- Do not be ashamed! Stay what you know is true and good, and don’t be afraid to share it
- Keep the goal is mind: God. Post only things that will remind people of God and inspire them to love God
- And above all, Love. Speak with Love and towards Love!
Taking all of this in to consideration, know that though social media is a great way to spread the Gospel, it is far from the only way. The best and most effective way to spread God’s love is to be there in person, representing our Living God! So, log out of Facebook and get out there, proclaiming God’s saving love with your life!