Oh No, There are Catholics on Facebook!

Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the issues brought about by the social media frenzy of our modern culture in his message titled “Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.” After reading this letter I wanted to share some of the key points that the Pope has ever so eloquently expressed in his letter.

catholics-on-facebook

In this digital age it’s not surprising to find your friends from middle school, high school, or college on Facebook. To think of it even your mom is on Facebook. But what you might find even more difficult to believe is that there are even Catholics on Facebook! These are Catholics of all types: practicing and non-practicing, lapsed Catholics, cradle Catholics, Catholic converts (like me), and more. Some of them hide their faith, while others make it their priority to let everyone know they’re Catholic. Some use Facebook for business and others for keeping in touch with friends and family.

Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the issues brought about by the social media frenzy of our modern culture in his message for the 45th World Communications Day titled “Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.” In this document our Holy Father explains the importance of social media and the integral role, if properly approached, that it can play in our lives as Christians. After reading this letter I wanted to share some of the key points that the Pope has ever so eloquently expressed in his letter.

Authenticity in Evangelization

In case you are not familiar with the word evangelization, it means to share the Gospel or in our case the Christian faith. This term has been somewhat hijacked by evangelical Christianity, but Catholics shouldn’t be afraid of this word. It doesn’t mean that you should be standing on the street corners with a megaphone telling people that they’re going to go to hell. Rather, it should be a witness to the love of Christ brought to life in our words and deeds.

Evangelization begins with relationships. Social media, in turn, is built around relationships. The only problem is that the relationships we create on social networking sites like Facebook are often times not authentic relationships. We’re not completely honest about who we are and it can become a sort of fantasy land making it very easy for us to create a fictitious image of ourselves. Pope Benedict XVI has called on us to be authentic and to be aware of the limits of digital communication:

“The one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.”

It is easy to forget that although we are online, the same rules apply. Sin and evil still exist, and just as in the real world we are called to lead by example. If Jesus were around today and he had a Facebook account, I’m sure “practice what you preach” would still apply. We can’t let the virtual world coerce into thinking or acting differently than we would in our everyday lives.

“Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence.”

When you’re logged into Facebook you’re just as much of a witness for Christ as you are at work. You are a representative for Jesus and your online actions should reflect that. You wouldn’t expect see an elected official or public servant on Facebook swearing and sharing inappropriate photos. The bar has been set very high for Catholics, so it’s definitely a challenge but it’s worth it.

To Share or Not to Share?

Facebook focuses heavily on the aspect of sharing, or the publication of personal information such as thoughts and beliefs. As Christians we are called to share ourselves, but above all we are called to share the message and the person of Jesus Christ.

“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.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to become a Facebook-evangelist, but on Facebook you should not be different to who you really are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. That’s just living up to the childish notion that we have to act like them for them to accept us. You don’t have to fit in, Christ didn’t.

If you’re Catholic, then your religious status should be set to Catholic. But more importantly your presence online should be Catholic. Practice what you preach. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk! In the real world we are drawn to virtuous people, those whose lives are consistent with the teaching of Jesus. So too will people be drawn to an ever so virtuous Facebooker.

You’ve Got Friends

Of course Facebook and all the social networking websites provide us with the great opportunity to socialize and evangelize, but we have to keep in mind that our online identity can never and will never replace who we are in the real world. Pope Benedict XVI stresses the fact that face-to-face communication and real world relationships are essential.

“Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!”

I’d like to invite you to read our Holy Father’s letter in it’s completion here. Obviously the Pope does a much better job than I could ever do in writing about this topic. For that reason I have quoted his letter various times and used as a base for my writings here today.

Share Your Thoughts

Comments have been closed for this post.