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

08 May 2014

Just Sowing Seeds

I have written before on St. Thomas Aquinas' Eucharistic hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi. The second verse is my favorite:

Nobis datus, nobis natus / ex Maria Virgine, / et in mundo conversatus / sparso Verbi semine / sui moras incolatus / miro clausit ordine.
Given to us, born for us from Mary the Virgin, and, sowing the seed of the Word during His earthly sojourn, He removed the hindrances with wonderful order. (my translation)

Jesus did not become flesh simply to go through the drama of the Paschal Mystery, or for that matter, to carry out His entire earthly life and ministry. The Incarnation is God's permanent investment in human nature and in the entirety of all its participants' lives.

By virtue of His ministry and Mystery the Lord definitely intended the formation of His Church as the living Sacrament--the material communication--of His Divine Person. Now we can declare with delight that there are no more "hindrances," for the lives of the righteous who lived before Christ have come into their fulfillment because they have become united to Christ, the Head and Spouse of the Church.

My focus for the current post (and I have one), is the role of Catholic blogging in terms of sowing "the seed of the Word" in the world online and off. Like most people, the better part of my occupation involves interactions with brick-and-mortar human persons. I should say, however, along the lines of the sister of Martha, that conversation with God is the "better part" of my business (cf. Lk 10:42).

An article on "The Point of Catholic Blogging," from the UK's Catholic Herald, inspires my current thoughts. The title calls it a "debate," but I think the article presents it more as a symposium. Harnessing the Internet for the sake of the Gospel is a fearsome enterprise. The Internet is fuel. The combustible engines (programs, applications, websites, and blogs) that employ it are as diverse as the intentions of their operators. And we often forget that we all share the same roadways.

Responsible use of the Internet engages and fosters virtue--specifically, the "cardinal" or human virtues prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. These acquired powers belong in every endeavor, but most especially online, as that's where so many of us so often "converse in the world."

The Herald article features five noteworthy voices in the Catholic virtual domain. I particularly appreciate the offering of the fifth and final contributor, Elizabeth Scalia. She highlights the ministerial aspects of Internet use. Since the Internet affords people an instantly accessible voice, Scalia notes that people now can ask, answer, and expect answers to questions "in real time," meaning now. (I grant that it isn't much different for those who field telephone calls.) To return to the hymnic reflection above, there is no time to delay; or the delay must be "ended with wonderful order." Ms. Scalia calls it "the tidy, almost transactional resolution of spiritual matters." This aspect of Online Life intensifies stress in those who are predisposed to stress. We have to "think on our feet," and that is a good thing. 

Our seminary mentors warned us that when we're hearing people's confessions, nobody is going to ask us what degrees we have, or how we did on our exams. They're just going to ask us questions--questions that they'd ask whether we were the class valedictorian or the one who scraped by. As the joke goes, "What do they call the guy who graduated last in his class in medical school? 'Doctor.'" The passage of time in these past few years has been humbling indeed. It occasionally hits me that the guy who graduated last in our seminary class (whoever he was) may well answer questions more satisfactorily than do I, who graduated closer to the top. All of us are called, and imperfectly strive to live as, "Father."

As a friend reminded me years ago, "we are just sowing seeds." Although we can give a quick answer here and there, the long-haul conversations (on or offline) matter just as much, if not more. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of desiring, indeed expecting, quick results. This applies not only to the gift and mystery of evangelization, but also to friendship; but should not the two converge?


  1. I think one of the biggest "issues" of online conversations is tone. It is usually pretty hard to read and interpret one's tone, as opposed to an in-person conversation. I think that is part of the problem of this society of texting, emailing, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is quick bursts of sometimes random thoughts, or deep thoughts.... and much is left to interpretation. The instant gratification of sharing thoughts, posting questions and getting quick response can really feed people's egos.

  2. Instant gratification surely can feed my ego--giving a quick and helpful response as much as receiving one; indulging the temptation to want to impress people, or to help them to think differently (my way, God's way). Thank you for reminding me!