Nathaniel said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” ~ John 1:46
There are certainly inherent evils in almost everything, but that does not make them automatically a bad thing. We each need to evaluate how we want to use it, to see if there is also an innate good, before dismissing it completely.
One positive with social media that is often overlooked is the ease of sharing our faith with people we may never have an opportunity ordinarily to share with. We can build a bridge that welcomes people to consider what the Catholic faith has to offer by using the many gifts God has given us to do so. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as wisdom, prudence, understanding, and courage can all help us to know what and how to use social media for non-threatening, welcoming evangelization. What is needed is prudence, wisdom, understanding… oh wait, I’m listing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – read on to see how to put each gift to use in your online evangelizing.
Wisdom is the ability to make those good choices in life that leads us towards God, instead of away. The lesson here is in making good choices as to what we will look at when we spend time online.
Most of us are clear on when it comes to certain images or content, but how can we sin when perusing Facebook? Have you ever spent time just looking up old friends to see if they are fat or skinny, bald or grey, married or divorced? Do you make judgments, look for (and even worse, share) gossip about these friends or acquaintances?
How you spend your time, which is truly a gift from God, is also important to discern. If you are already a social media darling, take a close look how you use your time: is it building up others and the kingdom of God?
More Gifts for More Good
There is so many great ways this gift can be used online, like recognizing when to reach out to people in need.
Another way is to use your posts to teach about the faith – not in a “down your throat” or “my way or the highway” approach but in a gentle way. A “here is information about the Catholic Church you might not know” or just “here is how I’m living my faith – thought I’d share” type of approach. The kinder, gentler approach that Pope Francis seems to advocate may indeed be a far better why to evangelize than always telling people what not to think, do, or believe.
I love to post things that teach the faith, such as pictures of Saints on their feast days, links to articles about long-forgotten or never-learned traditions, or just beautiful scripture passages or verses.
RIGHT JUDGMENT, OR COUNSEL
Sometimes this just boils down to remembering that your Facebook friends, just like your friends in real life, include people who are in same sex relationships, divorced or separated, have conceived children in a myriad of ways, may be post-abortive, as well as being from a variety of religious (or non-religious) backgrounds. Just as I would never alienate, judge, or preach to any of them in person, I certainly would not use this medium for it either.
I am as respectful online as I would be in person. God is the only Judge, and I am not He. What I post teaches my faith – clearly, truthfully, and honestly, but never self-righteously.
COURAGE, OR FORTITUDE
This gift helps us to stand up for and defend our faith. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat staring at my screen with my finger hovering over the ‘enter’ key with a fired-up response to something posted on social media. I have to really PRAY to know when to push send and when to hit delete. I do not want to deny Jesus or my faith, so as not to be denied by Him at final judgment, but I also do not want to push people further away from finding Him either nor do I wish to fight ineffective battles.
Prudence, reached through prayer, is always the best way to know when and how to use this gift.
It is very important that we learn how to best judge what is a valid resource, and what is not. I always look at the source. If I find an article or website, I want to do some snooping before I take it as Gospel, and especially before I start retweeting, reposting, or sharing.
To evaluate validity, look at the source. Who is putting this information on the web and what is their motive? Next, look at the date of the posting or publication – make sure it is current information. Although a great deal of the Catholic faith does not change, its teachings are always being refined and clarified (examples: the Mass Translation and Limbo). Be sure to know who is teaching you, and who you are quoting before you perpetuate anything!
As St. James says,
“…the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”
~ James 3:5-8
This is the gift of confidence in God, the gift to joyfully serve Him (and others). In 2009, I choose to close my preschool/daycare and follow my heart to spread the Good News – particularly the grace available in living a Sacramental Life. I wanted to spend my life teaching people how amazing God is, and how participating in the beautiful traditions of the Catholic Church can bring one to a fulfilling life – one with much joy and hope!! Little did I know at that time what a huge role social media and Technology would play in this mission.
Not everyone is going to dedicate their entire life to this full-time ministry; however, one way we can each serve God is by not denying His role in our life. If we are Catholic, don’t hide that identity, especially online. There are so many people who believe religion should be a private matter. I am not telling you to start going door to door trying to convert or “re-vert” people, but in the very witness of your life, you are evangelizing. In essence instead we are going ‘window’ to ‘window’ as we reach out electronically.
This “do as I do, not as I say” testimony to faith is far more powerful than any words you can speak. In fact when our behavior contracts our words, it is far more harmful. Only you know how God is calling you to respond to this gift, especially with respect to your social media presence; however, it is a powerful opportunity that should not be overlooked.
WONDER AND AWE, OR FEAR OF THE LORD
At the very heart of everything we do should be this gift, this burning desire to please God in all we do, say, post, and share. We will succeed and we will fail, we will be sinners and we will be saints.
With prayer and perseverance, we can use social media to answer questions, some that people don’t even know to ask because the misconceptions and misinformation about the Catholic Church has truly multiplied at the same rate as the ability to share information has. We can use Facebook to connect with friends, and then share through our pictures our full participation in the Sacraments. We can please God but asking for prayer requests (I recently received 100 ‘likes’ and comments when I last offered to pray for my FaceBook friends – it was beautiful and humbling) or sending private messages simply stating, “I saw you are going through a difficult time, please know I am praying for you.” We can post links to live rosaries or the times of local Masses especially on Holy Days of Obligation. We can pray and seek ways to please the Lord in all that we do.
As Thomas Merton so eloquently put it:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” ― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Copyright 2014 Allison Gingras