A TOUR OF RESOURCES TO BOOST CATHOLIC COMMUNICATORS
- We welcome you to Series Three of our podcast! Through the first two season of “EncounterPoints,” your co-hosts Ken Hallenius and Bill Schmitt have looked at the crucial Church mission of evangelization through a couple of lenses which have “caught our eye” as Catholics. Series One examined evangelization as a process of sharing joy with others in various ways. Series Two examined the process of loving outreach and encounter as something nurtured by “incarnational piety”—our use of sacramentals and the five senses to bring out the best in our faith as we share those gifts with our neighbors.
- Series Three raises our sights to perhaps a more detailed and complex lens. It helps us to see evangelization as fundamentally a process of communication. The Church gives us the tools of evangelization by helping us to embrace the nature and value of good communication. Communication, especially in this “information age,” is a complex package of globally exchanged data, sophisticated technology, ever-changing news and opinions and sometimes dubious approaches driven by entertainment, profit and power motives.
- Our podcast’s aim to see evangelization through the lens of communication challenges us to go beyond personal experiences and activities, such as joy and devotional practices. Now we’re digging deeply into a knowledge base built up by high-tech gurus; political partisans and sociologists; analysts of how the communication infrastructure disseminates or distorts truth; and religious leaders, past and present, reflecting on communication as a humble, holy mission to grow closer to Jesus—the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- In short, evangelization, communication, love and spiritual growth are inseparable. Much of what the Church says about our earthly life as God’s pilgrim people will hold crucial lessons about how to communicate. Pope Francis, in his message for World Communications Day in 2019, said it well: “God is not solitude, but communion; He is love, and therefore communication, because love always communications; indeed, it communicates itself in order to encounter the other.” That’s why we’ve titled this new series of our podcast about encounters Love Always Communicates. Wherever communication seems to be breaking down and social polarization seems to be rising, we know we’re suffering from a love deficit. We’re faltering in our shared search for truth, our pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord.
- This urgent perspective on evangelization challenges us all to dig more deeply for understanding at the intersection of Church wisdom (in Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium) and the communications ecology of today’s world (in communities, parishes, families, media of all sorts and individuals. In Series Three, Ken and Bill wish to serve not only as celebrators of experiences like joy, remembrance and outreach, but also as curators of resources providing solutions for modern-day isolation.
- Our task as curators prompts us to do research so as to introduce listeners to a collection of Church documents, instructive writings and other support for the ongoing pilgrimage. In this new series, we’ll tell you about hope-filled resources we have found. Pope Francis, in one such resource (his 2018 message for World Communications Day) helped us see how the Church might offer an immeasurable service to secularized, relativistic society that communicates poorly. Growing numbers of secular authors are pointing out our rampant mistrust and negative snap-judgments, as well as our weak accountability to the common good. We’ve seen the Pope emerge as a singular voice among world leaders, warning against misuse of media technology. We’ve also learned his diagnoses and prescriptions for relief are not really new; they are drawn from a treasure trove of insights—from Scripture, saints and prophetic commentaries over time. Ken and Bill will help to gather these on a virtual library shelf to be perused.
- In this Episode One of Series Three, Ken and Bill start mentioning some of the materials they’re finding for that shelf. You will hear mention of the Second Vatican Council document Inter Mirifica, which gave birth to more than 50 years (and counting) of papal messages for World Communications Day. You will hear references to insights from St. Francis de Sales and St. Pope John Paul II. You will be invited to learn more about Marshall McLuhan, a Catholic convert who wrote about dangers from modern media and their messages in the 1960s.
- Separately, you will benefit from browsing through the videos of presentations made at the 2019 conference, “Toward a Renewed Catholic Communications Pedagogy,” sponsored by the McGrath Institute for Church Life (and cosponsored by the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, where Ken works in his day job). Bill recommends the opening talk by McGrath Institute director John Cavadini. Citing St. Augustine’s own book on Catholic communication (translated as Teaching Christianity); he suggests that those communicating Christian truths should avoid overblown rhetoric or punditry and simply allow the innate, resonant eloquence found in Scripture to shine through in our faith.
- Those providing ministry in parishes, which are crucial to the renewal of discourse at the local community level, do have a responsibility to take today’s communications culture seriously. They must let the authoritative, resonant voice of God’s love stand out more sweetly than secularized bluster as they sort through issues of diversity, inclusiveness, generational differences, the falling-away of young parishioners, etc. They will benefit from a new “Church Communications Ecology Program” at the McGrath Institute. The program recently received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment to develop educational and formational offerings at the parish level. Ken and Bill hope that an increased awareness of the Church’s resources and reference points for revitalizing discourse and easing polarization, locally and globally, will be a major boon to the efforts of this new McGrath program and its participating ministers.