Ken and Bill talk about St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalism and Catholic communications, as a source of Church wisdom on productive, uplifting communication. They draw upon his book, Introduction to the Devout Life,noting that he wrote during a time of great social polarization not unlike our contemporary situation.
The saint’s insights into the faith include a lived experience/practice of the art and vocation of good, constructive communication. The need and desire to participate in ongoing, edifying discourse with others is inseparable from our loving relationship with the Lord. The devout love of the Lord “always communicates” (a phrase from Pope Francis, who took it from the Second Vatican Council document Dei Verbum) because it’s something we want to share and reflect as persons. De Sales said a truly devout life would communicate love in word and action.
De Sales was known as someone who advocated for the Catholic faith with a deep spirit of charity and interest in the individual person. He personified his outreach through the “mass media” of the day—books, broadsheets, and pamphlets—by directing some of this writing to a “lover of the Lord” he appropriately named Philothea. He used his writing in a zealous dialogue to affirm the Catholic faith at a time when many of his readers/interlocutors had accepted the tenets of Protestantism, as Ken pointed out.
The Catholic Press Association has named its annual award “for outstanding contributions to the world of Catholic journalism” the St. Francis de Sales Award. The saint’s high aspirations for communication serve as an inspiration for today’s journalists as they establish an ethical structure for their everyday practice—plus even higher aspirations to act with integrity and virtue, to be a voice for the voiceless, to reflect and learn from encounters with the marginalized.
De Sales taught that devout communication must be courageous and people-centered, not offensive, not prone to snap judgments. Ultimately, good communication is always personal and is part of a zealous search for truth. This search can be seen as a sacred act because it is a search for Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and The Life. Bill wrote about this need to “use words like a Christian” in a blog post published by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.