Don Bosco Communications South Asia meet, 2nd day, Homilyby Fr Godfrey DeSouza at the Eucharistic Celebration, Wednesday, 16th October 2013.
Gospel Reading: Luke 11:42-46
Should I add one more of the woes of Jesus: Alas for you Salesians, ‘YOU HAVE MISSED THE BOAT with regard to Social Communications! I might seem a bit too pessimistic!
If you had to guess who has the biggest footprint on Face book would you guess one of the Justins – Timberlake or Bieber? Perhaps Kim Kardashian or President Barack Celebrities may have more followers, but with 1.3 billion impressions every 30 days and over 16.5 million fans, Jesus Daily claims to be the most engaged Face book page in the world. The site’s success is indicative of the way religion has moved beyond the churches and synagogues onto the web, where faith can touch us not just on the weekend but every day.
A couple of years ago, the Washington Post asked a panel of religious leaders and scholars to address a question that had come to the fore as it became clear that social media platforms like Face book, Twitter, and YouTube had established much more than a foothold on popular culture across the globe: “Does God Tweet?”
A few months later, in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s encouragement to priests to enter the digital domain, James A. Martin, S.J., culture editor of America magazine, took up a similar question in the paper’s “On Faith” blog: “What Would Jesus Blog?”
The media at the center of communication and connection are appropriate tools for the enrichment of spiritual life provided they do not become idols in themselves, distracting us from the real presence of the divine and embodied relationship with one another.
Yes, new digital social media can encourage certain modes of superficiality and narcissistic behavior. Jesus, the Buddha, and Muhammad didn’t have tricked-out smart phones to connect them to pre-modern seekers and believers, but they were profoundly social within the confines of their time, rattling established religious authorities by going to where people lived everyday lives, rather than roosting at the house of worship and expecting folks to come to them. It certainly seems, then, that the roaming spiritual teacher of the Gospels, the happening dude who could distill the whole of the Ten Commandments into one reasonably tweetable Great Commandment, would make himself accessible via Face book, Twitter, YouTube, and a personal blog or website.
From this point, the conversation among religious thought leaders tends to move to the imagined content of Jesus’ social media presence. Google “What would Jesus tweet?” and you’ll find close to a million reflections on how adaptable the sayings of Jesus, verses of the Psalms, lines from traditional prayers, and the like are to the 140-character Twitter format. It takes almost no effort from there to see how this line of thinking extends into the millions upon millions of sermon blogs that float through the digital cosmos and the uncountable numbers of Face book pages for churches, religious organizations, and—as with the Vatican’s launch of a Face book page honoring the late Pope John Paul II. Some Educational institutions have hardly shied away from this sort of participation. Where are we in this?
Okay, okay, we get it: digital social media sites are the reigning centers for communication and connection today, not just in the West, but across the globe.
They have important limitations of which we all must be mindful. But the bottom line consensus is that those who refuse to participate in social media communities are refusing to be with most of the people in the world exactly where they are much of the time. This is probably not WJWD (what Jesus would do). As spirituality scholars, as educators, as writers on contemporary spiritual practices, and a wobbly sort of believers ourselves, we’re squarely on board with all that.
A BACKGROUND CHECK FROM THE TIMES OF DON BOSCO
From his earliest years as a priest, Don Bosco communicated through his whole demeanour and person, through games, talking, visiting, preaching, and publishing.
He wrote and edited booklets, school texts, histories, digests, magazines, fliers, plays. He was only 29 when his first biography of Comollo rolled off the presses. He researched and wrote throughout his life, established his own printing press to spread word of his work and to train apprentices in the trade. His circular letters and the Salesian Bulletin (founded in 1877) were used to spread news of his works and mission, to elicit support (of helpers as well as money), to develop a sense of belonging to his ever-widening .
With the Companion of Youth, the Catholic Readings series and other writings he wanted to inform young people about their faith, he wanted to present them with attractive examples of young people like themselves that they could imitate, people who lived as good Christians and honest citizens, youngsters like Dominic Savio, Michael Magone and Francis Besucco.
Don Bosco was dynamic, explosive, creative, joyful, enthusiastic, enterprising in his work: he wanted many to join him in the work he believed he had received from Christ and Mary for the good of young people, especially those poorer and more in need.
His heart was full of this mission, and he wanted it to reach as many young people as possible, even to the ends of the earth. Inspired by this example of Don Bosco and the early Salesians, Social Communication & Media continues an important priority.
Sharing by JOSE P.O. in a meeting some time ago with the Salesians on Communications: I beg and beseech you,“ Don Bosco pleaded with his sons, “do not neglect this most important sector of our mission.“
“Spreading of good books is one of the principal objectives of the society” Don Bosco himself had declared.
One GC Document had declared quite some years ago, “Mass media is an eminently Salesian Apostolate.”
The electronic media are “a new gathering space for the young,” said yet another Fr. P.O. Jose continued, Cyberspace, as the documents reminded us, is the new playground. That’s where young people gather today. And we Salesians are to accompany the young. However, what’s our presence in cyberspace?
It’s hard to change a mindset and move with the times. Even today, we give our priority to running schools and meeting the youngsters on the school playgrounds. If Don Bosco were here today he would be in Cyberspace in a huge way – and not on the school playground. We are missing the boat!
Salesian stuff, of course! In what way do these pages serve young people? Not much! Where’s the content that would attract young people to these pages? Very little indeed!
It’s time we Salesians offered a Web that would truly become a playground where we Salesians and the young chat together, walk together.
We Salesians have also to be much more comfortable and adept at using the language and tools of cyberspace, if we are to truly accompany the young today. We need to have an appreciative, positive attitude toward Cyberspace and its enormous potential for So Happy Holy Tweeting!