Is there a specifically Catholic way to be online?
A spiritual practice of new media?
I hadn’t considered it before attending the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) 11.
I expected to meet digital friends I only knew on Twitter and Google Plus, listen to some cool talks, and make some connections.
To my surprise I came away with a whole lot more–the notion of a Catholic spirituality of blogging.
Spiritual blogging is done in Jesus’ name
It started with Mass on that Saturday morning of the conference. The gospel was Luke 10:17-24–when the seventy come back from their first mission.
They say to Jesus, ”Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Did you get that? The demons were subject to the apostles in Jesus’ name! The message hit me loud and clear.
My blogging will only effective for conversions if it’s done in the name of Jesus.
But that’s not the best part! Jesus says, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
As great as it is to subdue the demons, it’s more important that your name be written in heaven! All the blogging success in the world is not as important as you growing in relationship with God through it.
And, if it leads you away from God, it’s really no success at all.
Blogging takes a lot of time–for everyone. At times I’ve found myself posting instead of praying. Or, running though the Twitter feed one more time instead of doing spiritual reading or going to adoration.
The first lesson is, the spiritual practice of new media has to be in union with Jesus and must contribute to your growth in holiness. Only then is it truly successful. And, only then can you rejoice in it.
If new media is making you too busy to pray, you need to re-think your schedule.
A spiritual blogger takes the way of charity
The second lesson came with Bishop Coyne’s homily at that Mass on Saturday morning. It was the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux.
He proposed St. Therese as a model of Catholic new media spirituality. Therese is Patron of the Missions though she never left the convent. Catholics in new media reach out to the world, though they never leave their homes.
In relationships, Therese always took the way of charity. Even when it was hard. When someone was negative towards her, she returned kindness. Not retaliation or anger.
Sometimes people leave bad comments or disagree. “I’d like to think,” Bishop Coyne said, “As Catholics in new media, we would always take the high road. The way of charity. ”
We’re often tempted to reply with equal force. But perhaps, like Therese, it would be better to show kindness.
I can imagine a spiritual approach to blogging like the Little Way. What if every post was my small offering to God in reparation those who don’t believe?
The work I put into it, the anxiety over whether I’ll finish in time, the frustration of not getting it right…perhaps these are things I can offer to God for those who would read my post and don’t yet know Jesus.
A post is not much. A very small thing really. But done with great love for the glory of God, it could be a blessing for the kingdom.
Spiritual blogging is sustained by prayer
A catechist can’t give what he/she doesn’t have. You can’t transmit a relationship with Christ to your students if you don’t first have one yourself.
This is my #1 rule for success in catechesis. But for some reason, I didn’t transfer it over into my blogging. It just didn’t cross my mind.
Blogging about Catholicism is a form of catechesis. And, done as a Catholic, it’s also a form of ministry.
To be successful, you need to minister from an excess of grace. What I mean is, you must first be filled up with God, before you can give him to anyone else. If you run dry, you’ll burn out.
St. Bernard of Clairveaux said, “If you are wise, you will be reservoirs and not channels.”
Water flows through the channel, but none of it stays. Reservoirs first fill up, then overflow and water the fields without emptying. If done right, the reservoir is always gets replenished and never runs dry.
Prayer is the answer to becoming a reservoir. Prayer fills up your tank with grace and allows you to give it out to your students. Regular prayer sustains you and keeps you effective.
A spiritual blogger will have to do the same thing. With every post, you’re pouring out God to others. If you don’t fill up with prayer, you’ll give out of your reserves and then dry up.
Third lesson: You can’t blog what you don’t have!
Spiritual blogging has the right motivation and intention
The final lesson is this–spiritual new media should be about spreading the message of Jesus.
This was echoed in Fr. Roderick’s opening remarks. He unveiled the new SQPN logo at CNMC 11. The star got bigger because ultimately, for Catholic spiritual bloggers, the star is not us. The star is Jesus! Your motivation should be to let him shine.
Now, that might mean increasing your popularity, Twitter friend counts, Facebook likes and share, etc. But the ultimate goal is evangelization. Get his message out! It’s all about intention.
A few days before the conference, Brad West shared a thought on Google Plus. He asked if St. Paul would’ve used the new media. His answer was yes because it’s the most efficient way to get the message out to the greatest number of people.
That really struck me because I realized he was right…and I was wrong. When I really looked at my motivation for blogging, it was to get MY message out because I had something to say. It wasn’t to get my message out because Jesus has something to say…to the world!
There’s a subtle but profound difference in that intention.
Spiritual blogging takeaway
So, that is my surprise takeaway from CNMC 11. It’s not what I expected to come away with, but I’m very glad I did.
The conference gave me a whole new perspective on blogging as a Catholic. It gave me a serious attitude change and renewal of motivation.
And, on top of that, I did meet so many great digital friends in person, do lots of networking and form new friendships.
Overall, I’d say that was a serious win-win!