Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday morning reflections

It's been awhile since I just selected "New Post" and started typing. So, I figured this morning might be a good time to do just that. Needless to say, blogging in the mode I do requires constant discernment, which means constant prayer and reflection about what I put up on these pages. Last October I proposed what can be termed the Ephesians 4:29 protocol. I am convinced now more than ever those of us who constitute the loosely knit Catholic blogosphere need to adhere to something like this standard not only of civility, but charity. As I stated originally, "By proposing this rule, I do not seek to eliminate critical comments or discussion. My only desire is to keep discussions in our neck of the virtual woods respectful, charitable, and constructive." Lest this be dismissed as useless idealism, to which I plead guilty some of the time, I am experienced enough to know that there are legitimately differing views about what it means to be charitable and that different circumstances call for different methods, all before bringing up our great capacity for rationalization.

In light of all the disruptions caused by even more public scandal in the Church, which, as The Anchoress helpfully noted "[t]he author of chaos" and "sower of all confusion and discord" simply loves because it sets "Catholics against each other, encouraging paranoia, conspiracy theories, all manner of uncharitable behavior and hysteria." As one who has weighed in publicly on this sad series of events, I need to constantly check my motives. I don't mind saying that I remain both surprised and somewhat disheartened that it is writing about these kinds of things that generates the most web traffic. I suppose this is the Catholic of version of the old journalistic saw, "If it bleeds, it leads," except, of course, when we write about our brothers and sisters being martyred throughout the Middle East, to which most simply turn a blind eye because it is not "happy-clappy," reminding us of what Jesus says it means to follow Him.

All of this causes me to reflect on the word "apostle" and its variants, "apostolic" and especially "apostolate," the latter of which is an old-fashioned term for what Catholic blogging certainly is. Stated succinctly and in Christian terms, being an apostle means being "one who is sent to witness to Jesus Christ." In his Message for The 45th World Communications Day, which, in my opinion, remains a "must read" for anyone seriously engaged as a Catholic in digital media, especially blogging, the Holy Father observed,
To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christians are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15)
All of this, in turn, put me in mind of something I posted back in mid-June about Karl Barth's take on being an apostle, part of which read: "The importance of an apostle is negative rather than positive. In him a void becomes visible. And for this reason he is something to others: he is able to share grace with them, to focus their attention, and to establish them in waiting and in adoration." In CL-speak, this means laying bare the need that I am, which first means acknowledging this to myself.

Am I seeking to focus "their" attention on the One to whom I seek to give witness, or am I seeking only to draw attention to myself? After all, it is very easy to develop an exaggerated sense of one's importance, especially in the so-called "digital age." The humbling reality is that anyone with internet access can blog. So, what does it mean for a blogger "to establish them in waiting and in adoration"? It can't mean saying nothing because there would be no point. So, the perennial question is always and shall always remain about what to say. This brings me full-circle and, so back to Ephesians chapter four: "No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption" (verses 29-30).

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