Vol. 167 No. 28 - July 09 - July 15, 2016
For most of Church history of communications, the preferred Catholic media was primarily understood as print, with national and diocesan publications and other parish bulletins printing millions of copies all over the world. The Examiner Weekly of the Archdiocese of Bombay, circulated all over the country and also to some of the Indian Catholic diaspora abroad is completing 166 years this week. It shares a humble place in the achievements and accolades of the Catholic Press.
Catholic communications engages multiple media formats, but print remains a communications backbone in terms of reaching Catholics who are registered in parishes, attend Mass regularly or financially support their parishes. Catholic newspapers were originally launched with specific purposes. The first was to inform and keep the Christians updated about the knowledge and events of their faith and to defend the Church from hostility and misunderstanding in an unsympathetic culture. The second was to help strengthen a sense of community and a bond with the Church among Catholics. The Examiner has striven to live up to this role as acknowledged by several of its readers.
Despite the rather robust presence suggested by this brief statistical overview, there are as many challenges faced by The Examiner as any other print Catholic publication despite its inherent strengths. These challenges include first and foremost the rapid changes taking place in the world of communications. Reading habits are changing, with a growing number of people accessing information through audio- visuals via digital media through mobile devices, tablets and computers and social media sites. Catholics are drawing most of their information about the Church from secular sources. This means that most Catholics are getting news about their own Church from sources that are unlikely to be sympathetic to, or even knowledgeable about, Catholic concerns.
This does not mean that print is dead, but that today it is no longer the predominant solitary voice of communication but only one of many formats available to Catholics. Although it is true that the audience for traditional media is aging,ironically, surveys show that younger Catholics who are visiting Catholic websites and reading Catholic blogs, are spurred to seek Catholic resources available on print bulletins and newspapers today. A heightened campaign needs to be made to make people aware that there are print media like The Examiner and other such media outlets that provide information about the Faith, as well as local news of the Church, national and international news. It also serves as a dedicated channel for Church leaders to speak directly to their people about authentic faith content.
There is a growing number of concerned Catholics who while seeking out information have a high trust in their local parish bulletin and their local diocesan newspaper also want to find trustworthy news sources. There are many reasons for this, but one can speculate that due to the ideological divisions in the Church and the lack of any sort of authoritative status for Catholic websites and social networking media, there may be a lack of trust. There are no recognized Imprimaturs for websites or blogs.
While escalating costs pose a challenge to maintain the print copy of The Examiner, it receives both subscriber and advertiser support with very little by way of active promotion from the parish setup. This Print media nevertheless remains the preferred medium by Catholics of all ages, and it is most likely to reach those Catholics who support diocesan and other church efforts financially. To abandon print is to abandon what remains our most effective means of communication today.
It is well known that in our diocese, those who read this 166 year-old Examiner are those who are loyal to the Church: It is read by those most involved, those most dedicated, those who, quite frankly, supply the financial resources to our parishes, schools and diocese; they have expressed their utmost confidence in The Examiner for its authenticity and reliability for faith formation and information which has been the trademark qualities from the days of its inception.
Religion is of its essence communication. The three monotheistic religions claim to be ‘revelations’: God speaking to human beings. For Christians, the gospel is the good news that must be spread abroad; in other words, broadcast. On a theological level, the central doctrine of Christianity - the Trinity - teaches that the One God exists in three Persons, who “communicate” eternally: the Father “generates” the Son and the Holy Ghost “proceeds” from the Father and the Son The Catholic Church’s consistent appreciation of the media as important instruments for effective dialogue is reflected in John Paul II’s apostolic letter to media workers on January 24, 2005, the occasion of the celebration of the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. Part of that letter reads: “In the communications media, the Church finds a precious aid for spreading the good news of the Gospel.”
Communication is the very heart of the gospel and evangelism. Just as Christ’s incarnation and work on earth was and continues to be God’s ultimate communication of His heart to love and redeem His people, the communication of God’s heart for people continues today through evangelism.
Over the centuries, the message has not changed; however, the means to communicate and deliver the message has changed. Although the communication of the gospel essentially takes place from one person to another through words and signs, over the last century, with the radical evolution of technology, the means by which this communication takes place has changed and multiplied exponentially.
We are constantly bombarded by the media and the prevalent culture of unbridled ambition, materialism and individualism. The message that is conveyed to us is that the end of self-gratification matters more than the means towards the end. The destination is the be all and end all of life, not the journey.
The issue here is when the destination is warped, the journey is bound to be affected. It is like saying that it is okay to cheat, as long as one passes the exam. The human obsession with power and pelf is nothing new. During Jesus’ brief sojourn on earth, He locked horns time and again with the hypocritical Pharisees. These ‘vipers’, to use Jesus’ very apt term, turned the people against Jesus so that they could go on merrily conning the Jews and thus amassing ill-gotten wealth. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” queried Jesus (Mark 8:36). In Mark 8:35, Jesus said. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”
We are living in a virtual world – literally. A world of our own making, created in our own image and likeness. The evidence for this is not at all difficult to advance. In fact, our virtual world has replaced the ‘real world’ and we have become so ‘conditioned’ to living in it, that we have even altered our perception of what used to be called ‘reality’. Our realities are no longer ‘hard facts’ out there. Our realities are created for us largely by the media of mass communication, which, by and large are owned and controlled by the new ‘moguls’ of communication, who want to manipulate how we see things and how we react to events and ideas.
It will take an entire book to describe this new world in which we live; so we shall only cite a few examples to show how this mind-bending alteration is being exercised and the subtle ways in which people’s perception of reality are being manipulated.
As we prepare for the next edition of World Youth Day in Krakow later this month, let us ask how the vision and hope of St. John Paul II have impacted our own efforts in pastoral ministry with young people. The experiences of World Youth Days in recent years have brought much new life to each of the countries where the great events have taken place. One of the important goals of World Youth Day is to instill hope and vibrancy in the church – to differ with the cynicism, despair, and meaninglessness so prevalent in the world today. Pope John Paul II knew well that our world today offers fragmentation, loneliness, alienation, and rampant globalization that exploit the poor.
During World Youth Days, bishops and cardinals serve as teachers and catechists. Thousands of young people gather around them to hear reflections based on the Word of God, and in particular on the theme of the event. This novel invention has taken on a life of its own, becoming an intrinsic part of the celebrations. How many times was this evoked at the 2008 Synod of Bishops in Rome, that focused on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church!” The catechetical teaching sessions on Scripture have become not only a unique encounter between generations, but also an opportunity to proclaim and preach the Word of God across cultures, offering to young people concrete possibilities for living a biblically rooted life.
May 8, 2016 will forever remain for me one of the most significant days in my life. On a Marian Pilgrimage to Europe with some 95 fellow parishioners, I was one of the four from Orlem [with Ralph, Evan and Lenny] chosen to shoulder the statue of the ‘Virgin of the Rosary’ in a candlelight procession at Fatima. Overwhelmed by the rare privilege, I had goose pimples on my skin and butterflies in my stomach, even as I couldn’t help but make the cry of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, “Why should the Mother of my Lord come to me?” (Lk 1:43), my own: “Why should the Mother of my Lord choose to be borne on my shoulder?”
The Madonna links
From Lourdes in Orlem to Lourdes in France, the twain doth meet! If the recitation of the Holy Rosary at Fatima followed by the procession was an unforgettable experience in Marian spirituality, a similar exercise at Lourdes was heightened by a different faith perspective: the grace of healing for body and mind through a Marian faith rooted in Mary’s Son, Jesus. It being the 11th of the month, there were sick brought in wheelchairs making up virtually half the sea of humanity that formed the procession with the statue of the Immaculate Conception. A collage that comprised an astonishingly beautiful painting of Our Lady of Lourdes by Anita Bhatia of our parish and the names of each of our SCC communities embedded in a flower was presented in the name of our parish to the Shrine at Lourdes as a memento of the occasion when the twain did meet!
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