Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

30 April 2013

New Media, New Discoveries

You may have seen the picture that circulated during the recent conclave that elected Pope Francis:
Credit: The Sacred Page
Even if this is photoshopped ("doctored up," we used to say), it nonetheless conveys the media saturation that began during the Benedictine Pontificate.  In the current Franciscan Pontificate, we get to read summaries of the Bishop of Rome's daily homilies (like this one from the Fifth Sunday of Easter, during which he confirmed 44 people).  To paraphrase one Reverend Blogger I know, we are fortunate to receive daily homily hints from this Pope, since he offers Holy Mass six hours ahead of us and papal proceedings are so promptly published.  Moreover, Francis has continued his predecessor's Twitter account, which he updates several times a week.  Several Facebook tribute pages are in force; I know not about other social media, as I don't participate in any others yet.

Consider this regular feature on a favorite media clearinghouse, Big Pulpit:
and this smart sidebar on another go-to place, New Advent:

From every side we now receive regular exposure to Catholic quotations: fun-size portions of profound and holy persons whose writings, until recently, we had to patiently plow and sift through.  Who knows whether the new media are feeding and enabling our shorter attention spans, or the media purveyors are simply capitalizing upon, making the best of, our mental frailties?

I have in mind a quotation from the saint whom the Church celebrates on 29 April, Saint Catharine of Siena--first as it is found on Goodreads, and then among the social network postings of yet another Reverend Blogger I know.

On Goodreads“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
As Fr. F. reports: "If you were what you ought to be, you would set a fire, not just here, but in all of Italy."

Se sarete quello che dovete essere, metterete fuoco in tutta Italia, non tanto costì.

Although the first version is inaccurate, it is eminently quotable.  It reminds of St. Francis de Sales' chestnut, "Be who you are and be that well."  As featured on posters, social network profiles, and, I'll bet, in select tattoo parlors.  Perhaps Angelina Jolie will sport it someday, though only in Latin.
According to Fr. F., whom I thank for this lead, the full version comes from a letter St. Catharine wrote to Stefano di Corrado Maconi, a young man who eventually would lead the Carthusian Order.  His authenticity will have far-reaching effects, extending beyond his own consecrated context.

That's how Carthusians roll: as the Cross of Christ remains firmly rooted while the earth spins 'round (cf. their motto, stat crux dum volvitur orbis, another suggestion for Ms. Jolie), so will this particular holy man's steadfast embrace of his path ripple forth in unforeseen directions.  From the particular to the universal we can reason, rightly enough, that the determination with which everyone embarks on his or her own spiritual endeavor will ignite the world.

Artists, pick up your ink-searing pens!
This is also a plug for the kind of edification that comes from personal notes, whether they be written on stationery or on a Facebook wall.  We all have smiled upon seeing a letter in our inbox (it helped get me through the seminary).  "Pay it forward," as they say!
"What you ought to be" is "who God meant you to be."  To borrow a snippet of fundamental moral theology, the ought flows from the is.  Put simply, from our human nature we learn how we are supposed to act.  In broader, vocational terms: the divine intention for our lives determines us (God's will is going to be done), although--o magnum mysterium!--we cooperate in that determination by our free decisions.

I can appreciate why St. Catharine was writing in the second person: first, she was addressing someone; and in the process she was challenging the young man to be concerned with the divine intention for his life.  The man's personal search alone would manifest that intention clearly, as if, upon reading Catharine's letter, he asked, "Well, what do You mean me to be, Lord?" and then, he took the next right step.  As for him, so for us.

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This is all testimony to the great power of the Internet and social networking for good.  Make use of it!

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