- Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches.
– LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
For Christian disciples, Jesus Christ is the primary sage. I see him as being the consummate storyteller. Between the stories of the Reign of God he told, and the story of the Paschal Mystery (life, death, and resurrection) he lived, we have treasures that we cannot risk losing.
In my mind’s eye, I envision disciples of Christ doing the same, that is, proclaiming God’s activity through stories, in a broad sense of the word. As Jesus the Sage taught in words and deeds, we disciples are also called to be sages by living the Story actively and proclaiming it verbally (and other media), ‘making real’ if you will, the Reign of God through what we communicate and what we live out.
These are the voices and actions we do not want to risk losing “amid the noise and distractions of an information overload.”
Recently, as part Catholic Education Ministries’ In the Ministry of the Word process, I met with a group of catechists, Bible study members, and other interested folks to explore the role of media and technology in our ministry.
We were talking about Pope Francis’ admonition to take care not to lose the voices of our great sages.
As an exercise, I asked us all to think about the sages in our lives, and to share stories about them, making them ‘heard’ in our little community. (I wonder if others notice that brief histories of parishes and schools often neglect stories of the great sages that make the Reign of God ‘real’ in their communities because of their focus on describing buildings, establishment dates, and founding fathers and mothers, etc.)
One name immediately bubbled up. There is a man in the parish, well into his nineties, who has been widowed for some time. His story is simple. After losing his wife, he made the decision to do something to “please God.” He sends cards of encouragement to young people. If he sees an announcement in the paper about an achievement, he will cut it out and mail it in a card to the young person with affirming words. He tries to pay greater attention to those who are outside the sports environment, since it seems often that less attention is given to non-athletes. This gentle sage sees his efforts as an act of prayer, an act of simply doing what the Holy Spirit is calling him to do.
If Dr. David Walsh is correct in saying, “Whoever tells the stories defines the culture,” I can see how we can define and improve our American culture by narrating the story that this gentleman lives, especially online where the din needs to be tempered with stories such as his.
With people spending more time online, while spending less time in deep reading and reflection, one of our methods can be to pepper the Internet with short stories.
How do we do that?
Our own FromtheHeartMN.org blog is filled with stories of people. Also, our diocesan magazine, TheCentralMinnesotaCatholic.org, tells stories about sages such as major league baseball pitcher Trever Miller and his wife Pari. I see that many people pass on these stories by liking the blog and magazine on Facebook and sharing particular posts. This is how we tell the stories and define the culture. I wonder if a parish bulletin can share about a ‘parish sage of the month?’
You’ve seen photos with on Facebook and Twitter the elicit a little emotional punch (think Grumpy Cat or Cute Baby) while making a point in a few effective words of superimposed text.
I am constantly searching for free online tools that provide a quick way of adding text to photos without having to create an account. One is Pablo.buffer.com. Play with it, you need not buy the product offered by the site. This photo was created there, and people can see its point even as they scan posts online.
Also try the Trading Card creating tool from BigHugeLabs, again, no account is needed.
As an exercise at our gathering, we simply opened our eyes and digital cameras and went around the parish community center to snap photos exhibiting the ‘story’ of the parish. Here is the result, as compiled in Adobe’s Spark Video (see my explanatory post about this tool):
It is tempting to give up on the noise of the Internet, where everyone seems to be vying for eyes and ears. But if we can commit ourselves to keeping our Sages in the public light with their stories echoed throughout the Internet, we can insure that they will not go unheard. Stories like the man that lit up our discussion of sages, a man for whom God is, no doubt, pleased.