A week from now I will be in Madrid, Spain at the World Youth Day gathering with Catholics from all over the world. It will be a week of youth rallies, prayer, meetings, catechesis, bonding, communion and community building. The great finale of the week will be an overnight vigil followed by a sunrise mass with Pope Benedict attended by millions of people.
I am very honored and blessed to have this opportunity to represent my community in a faraway land. I am overwhelmed with what is ahead of me. This is the most dramatic pilgrimage I have ever taken. Besides taking a few pilgrimages here and there to grottoes, shrines, and churches in the USA, I have never before traveled so far to deepen my faith and my relationship with God and the Church.
I am not really sure how to get ready. I am reading about Madrid and Spain and reviewing my basic Spanish skills. I am making a packing list and running errands. I have gathered up some cool and comfortable clothing, a digital camera, and fresh journal. I am trusting that God is guiding me through all this.
And, I am praying. I am praying for an open heart and mind so I may grow. I am praying that I warmly love all that I encounter so that my efforts at vocation outreach shall be fruitful. I pray that the experience shall enlighten the hearts of young people from around the world so that they may grow in love with God and God’s people and be willing to devote themselves to building the reign of God.
I ask for your prayers for all the pilgrims, for the Catholic Church, for Christians everywhere and for young people who are searching no matter what they believe. Thank you!
p.s. I’ll do my best to send an update from Spain!
I watched The Social Network last night, mainly because I was curious. Similarly, I joined Facebook five years ago, shortly after it started and around the same time that I entered my community, because I was curious. Curiosity is usually what causes me to conform, even if I have mixed feelings or I am not really sure how an action may fit with my Christian living.
The story of the creation of Facebook is very real: it’s friendships, energy, ideas and passions spiraling around young, talented people in a legalistic, money-driven era. The true story felt like a visual time-capsule to me, like something that historians and psychologists will be able to study in 50 years when they are trying to make sense of why humans relate as we will then.
The film reminded me that it’s true that organic, creative projects change the world and humanity forever. This fact echoes my understanding of the Gospel- the call to build the Kingdom that gives me great joy. In collaborative communities we create change and help people connect more deeply, and it’s really powerful and good. Plus, the story got me thinking about how relationships can be twisted collisions of trust and distrust, hope, love, faith, confusion and betrayal. Is that a tragedy? I am not sure. This reality seems to fit with the story of Jesus, too.
Nonetheless, I am disturbed. I have found it fascinating- and frustrating- to participate in the evolution of human relating and communication during the past five years, since Facebook (and now Twitter, etc.) have become as common as eating. (At least for the 8 percent of us on earth who actually have internet connection, I suppose.)
Lately I have tried to be more conscientious about how much I use Facebook, mention Facebook in conversations and hear others talk about Facebook each day. Naturally then, I was amused at mass this morning when the priest told a story about how he reconnected with an old friend through the internet and Facebook.
I suspect many of us have had similar experiences. I imagine that a lot of us have found Facebook a helpful tool in fostering relationships and reconnecting with friends. I have, and it is very exciting. I appreciate being able to read headlines and see pictures of babies, weddings and ordinary life stuff of people I know with as much ease as reading a newspaper. This is good, I think, because I believe that relationships are the meaning of life. We grow in union through communication and communion, through all of our relating to each other. In addition, the technology permits a different type of Gospel witness, and this is good.
Nonetheless, I have questions and concerns. I heard a story about a friend-of-a-friend who learned about the sudden death of her aunt through a Facebook post recently. I know of other tragic- and joyous- momentous news that has been shared through family and friends exclusively through technology. I doubt that this is good for our souls and spirits. When things are deep and meaningful, it doesn’t seem healthy to relate with each other without the raw mess of human emotion, inflection and reflection.
Does it hurt us when we learn about big things in our close friends’ lives at the same time as their other 650 Facebook friends/acquaintances? Why does it suddenly seem so hard to relate to each other in real, old-fashioned types of ways, like through visits, phone-calls and hand-written letters as we live and love? Have we lost our human touch?
Certainly, our society has been drastically changed by Facebook technology. Likewise, the way we relate and communicate has radically shifted.
Is this God’s will for us? Is this what Jesus intended when we were commissioned to build the kingdom? How does our modern technological communication impact our souls, our freedom, our prayer and our ability to relate to each other as God designed us?
On this Feast of the Holy Trinity, we are blessed with renewed focus on God who is perfect relationship and who is Love and Truth. In the Trinity we know a love so self-giving and constant that the union changes all creation. We learn how to Love if we listen in prayer to how God the Parent, God Incarnate and the Holy Spirit relate together as three-in-one.
How did God design us to relate to each other? Since we’re made in God’s image, I believe it’s just like the Trinity. Let’s love, give, share, care, hold, touch, heal, help, communicate, commune and just be together in the real, raw mess of relational love.
Let’s love each other, in the boundless, eternal non-technological, human ways. The Bible tells us so:
Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. – 2 Cor 13:11-13