Just moments after the Pope’s audience with the Schoenstatt Movement in Rome, his words were reverberating in twitter and in blogs. Which words? The Pope’s strong words about the state of marriage today. These clear and straightforward words were picked up quickly and passed on. The world of the media heard them.
“Marriage has never been so attacked as it is today,” and “the family is bludgeoned from all sides” are some of the tag lines that were passed around twitter (@kathysamira, @newsva_en, @mattswaim, @nmlusa, @CatholicNewsSvc, @CNAlive, @LOsservatoreUSA, and many more tweeted along these lines) and it was also the title of several blog posts such as at news.va and CatholicCulture.org, and here at CatholicVote.org.
Were the rest of the Pope’s words also heard? I have my doubts. Of the positive message from the Pope, of what he said we must due to heal the difficult situation of families today, of the Pope’s hope and call to us, I did not see any tweets or posts that day. Not even one. And some even took his message to the next lower level of calling out against the secular media as if in a taunt, as in the John White’s CatholicVote.org article linked above.
I think we must respond to this. I think we must discipline ourselves as Catholic media to not just jump for the negative, not just jump for the polemic, but to really take in the whole of what is said. It really does require discipline. Human nature ramified and multiplied across social networks can cause negativity to spread like a plague. But our vision must go beyond, must be higher, must be supernatural. Yes, this is difficult. I can empathize with John White seeing that perhaps there is also pain and frustration behind his words. As Catholic new media, we are called to overcome our anger and frustration by offering it to God by spending time in prayer with Him before we write, before we react. Only then can we transmit more than emotions, only then can we transmit more than intellectualisms, only then can we fulfill our mission in Catholic media, which is to transcend and truly transmit heart and soul.
What else did Pope Francis say?
So what did Pope Francis say, in the totality of his message? Now, over a week later, some people are beginning to write about the full story (see Marge Fenelon’s blog and also here and here).
Along with his strong clear words on the state of the family today, he urged us to “accompañar” the suffering. This means to “go with them,” to really walk with them, as Pope Francis said, “body to body.”*** This means to give our time to others! Pope Francis even said, to “waste time” with them, that Christ was the first to teach us how to “waste time” on others. What a beautiful phrase! Is not time our most precious gift from God? More than money, it is our time that we must steward; it is our time that the world asks of us. Time means presence, and presence, being there, means sacrifice and an extension of the self. It means a decision, because we decide to be with them instead of with another or on our own or sitting at home and comfortable. And nothing grows, nothing heals, without sacrifice. And patience, Pope Francis said! Truly wasting time, with patience – that is what helps the suffering.
Reconciliation and a Covenant Culture
The Pope also offered us the antidote to how our culture tends toward conflict and encourages a provisional or “throw-away” relationship with each other and with the world: he tells us to create a culture of bonds, a culture of covenant and of solidarity. With these words, the Pope spoke right to our hearts, for creating a “covenant culture” is one of the core aims of the Schoenstatt spirituality, one of the treasures that the Schoenstatt Movement wants to offer to the Church and to the world. We cannot heal and renew our world without healing and renewing our relationships, our bonds with each other, our bond with Christ. Immediately Pope Francis drew the connection to the renewal of the “new Covenant” in Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, in which the renewal is not only in an imitative way, but in a way that “very deep, very real, and very profound.” Pope Francis also spoke of how essential it is to never forget that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is also a renewal of the covenant with God, that “carries us to holiness with this culture of encounter, of solidarity, or the creation of bonds.”
In another part of the audience, he spoke of reconciliation and asking for forgiveness as “ a beautiful thing.” In speaking of the Movement and the Church’s mission to go out, Pope Francis said, “I mean to go out, to go out of ourselves. A Church or a Movement, a community closed in on itself gets sick…A Movement, a Church that goes out will make mistakes. But it is so beautiful to ask for forgiveness when one has erred. So don’t be afraid. Go out in mission!” Pope Francis also highlighted asking for pardon when we don’t live up to being living witnessing of our faith: “It is evident that we all get lazy [at times], that we all have weaknesses, that we all have problems and don’t always give a good testimony,” he says, and then he emphasized our “capacity to be humbled within, the capacity to ask for forgiveness when our testimony isn’t what it should be.” Reconciliation and humility are essential parts of creating a culture of long-lasting bonds, of firm and free relationships, a culture that is rooted in the eternal instead of in that which passes away.
I think this call to a covenant culture must be a part of how we approach social media and new media as Catholics. With our words, spoken, written or tweeted, we are called to create bonds, to bridge the gaps, to foster reconciliation and humility, and thus work towards the renewal of the world in Christ.
Renewing the Church
I will close with what Pope Francis said about this renewal, and here he also mentions the media. “Renewal of the Church,” Pope Francis said,
“One thinks of a great revolution, no? Someone over here says ‘the revolutionary Pope,’ all those stories, no? But this is perhaps one of the most ancient phrases of ecclesiology…The Church has to be renewed continuously. This is from the first centuries of the Church. And they fought for it…the saints did the same, I mean those who carry the Church forward are the saints. They are those who are capable of renewing the holiness [of the Church], and renewing through their own holiness, to renew the Church, no? They are the ones who carry the Church forward. So first, as the first favor I want to ask of you, as help, is holiness. Holiness. Don’t fear a life of holiness. This is what it means to renew the Church. Renewing the Church is not principally [about] making one change here, another change there…that’s not renewal, no? Right here, it’s public so I can say it, the Curia has to be renewed, the Curia is being renewed, the Vatican Bank must be renewed. All of these are renewals from the outside. That’s what the newspapers are saying. It’s curious. Not one (newspaper) speaks about the renewal of the heart. They don’t understand anything of what renewing the Church is. [Renewing the Church] is holiness. To renew the heart of each one.”
Pope Francis closed the audience with these words, just before the final blessing:
“And that is what you all desire, right? That in this world of broken connections, (“desencuentros”), of defamations, calumnies, destruction from what we say, all of this, you all carry this culture of encounter forward, renewing the covenant. And of course no one can be educated on his/her own. They need the Mother to educate them. Thus I commend all of you to the Mother so that she continues to help you walk forward in the renewal of the covenant. Thank you.”
May we respond to the Pope’s call, and help him to forge a culture of covenant, that lasts! Amen!
***Please note that all the translations of the Pope words are my own, translated from Spanish. I tend to favor translating the meaning of the words rather than the literal word for word translation.