How much do I love the Church?

Sketch by Angela Sealana, (c) 2013.
Sketch by Angela Sealana, (c) 2013.
Sketch by Angela Sealana, (c) 2013.

Even today, some say, “Christ yes, the Church no,” like those who say, “I believe in God, but in priests, no.” They say, “Christ: yes. Church: no.” Nevertheless, it is the Church that brings us Christ and that brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God’s children.

Of course it also has the human aspects: in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins – the Pope has his, as well: he has lots of them; but the beautiful thing is that, when we become aware that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God. God always forgives: do not forget this. God always forgives, and He receives us in His love of forgiveness and mercy. Some people say – this is beautiful – that sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity: the humiliation of realising [that one is a sinner] and that there is something [exceedingly] beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think about this.

Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church?

  • Do I pray for her?
  • Do I feel myself a part of the family of the Church?
  • What do I do to make the Church a community in which everyone feels welcomed and understood, [in which] everyone feels the mercy and love of God who renews life?

Faith is a gift and an act that affects us personally, but God calls us to live our faith together, as a family: as the Church.

- Pope Francis, today’s General Audience

Paying Serious Consequences for Ignoring Media ‘Temperature’ [MM Monday]

MarshallMcLuhanSpeaksTV

It’s Memorial Day. You can find my remembrance of a friend in Friday’s post, 7 Slow Gives. I think he would rather I spend today’s post on McLuhan.

Each Monday, of course, we consider the observations of the foremost media philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, who was (is) a dedicated convert to Catholicism. McLuhan was interviewed countless times by – it would seem – every radio, television, or print outlet possible.

Sometimes, the interviewer dared to touch this question: What do you mean by ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ media?

While some media professors still grapple to explain McLuhan’s concept to students, my lame attempt to explain it is this: ‘Cool’ media require more sensory involvement on the part of the receiver, a more active engagement – like TV, whereas ‘hot’ media, like radio, do not. Think about how many elements your brain is processing while watching TV, as compared to listening to radio.

In interviews, McLuhan would often cite the foolishness of broadcasting war on TV — a ‘hot’ subject on a ‘cool’ medium. In other words: war is straightforward. We don’t need to decipher it. Television, however, is so involving that, McLuhan said, on TV “war becomes unbearable.”

And today? We find ourselves in a post-TV age, with younger generations’ interests in social media and the Internet clearly surpassing interests in TV. I find the Internet to be extremely cool; intensely involving. So much so, that we become easily burnt out. Our brains are trained to stress emotion and analyze several stimuli at once, rather than comprehend the linear nature of hot media such as print.

McLuhan wouldn’t have at all been surprised by our world today. Human dignity is so easily discarded in TV shows, video games, and real-life — not because we’ve slid down some unexpected moral slippery-slope, but because we’ve failed to determine the effects that our media consumption would soon have on our identities — as individuals and as the human race. As McLuhan said, loss of personal identity leads to violence.

We’ve been irresponsible.

I’d love to see the Church grab these concepts and carry them like a burning torch, but as I see it, we (the Church) are too occupied playing ‘catch-up’ with advertising agencies’ and professional broadcasters’ media tricks. As much as I enjoy working with media, and as much as they fascinate me, I realize the need for balance that we are dangerously ignoring. Let’s not forget that God’s gifts must be received with prudent hands.

7 Slow Gives. (But I love you, Jen Fulwiler.)

JakeBouma-SoupisetTattoo

It’s Friday, and I have a multitude of things to share with you, inspired reader. However, since I am from San Antonio and not Austin, I speak and think and blog considerably slower than Jennifer Fulwiler, Mother of the 7 Quick Takes.

Therefore, here are my 7 Slow Gives:

1. I have finally done it. I have found someone who sings Adele better than Adele. You think it’s impossible? I give you Sarah Simmons singing “Someone Like You.” Serious. Goosebumps. Sarah, by the way, is currently a contestant on NBC’s The Voice; if you’re not watching the show, her performances are definitely worth looking up on YouTube. (Especially her audition, Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us.”) Off-stage, her humility has seriously inspired me.

2. Someday soon, I will give you three book reviews. Firstly, Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood by the illustrious woman whom I am beyond honored to call a friend, Pat Gohn. Ave Maria Press graciously sent me a review copy of the book before its launch, but since I am a workaholic goober, I have not yet shared with you the utter joy this book has given me. However, I have recommended the book to friends and family, resulting in the purchase of several copies AND in Pat’s booking as a speaker for San Antonio’s Catholic Women’s Conference. I believe in this book’s message! Go buy it!

3. Speaking of the Catholic Women’s Conference, I am also astounded to announce that I’ve been convinced into speaking there, as well. Yes, that’s right, I’m speaking at a major conference. Thanks to the incredibly humbling response from women who attended the Catholic Women’s Luncheon in April — where I spoke about hope and the Eucharist — I will be giving that talk to approximately 2,000 women on September 20, 2013. Registration for the conference should open this week, and you’ll want to go: Dawn Eden, Pat Gohn, Heather King, and Fr. Nathan Cromley (Congregation of St. John) are speaking, as well as the coordinator of the conference, Nan Balfour. Many have praised it as the model for Catholic women’s conferences.

4. If USPS hasn’t lost it (as I suspect), I’ll soon be receiving my new friend Elizabeth Scalia’s book Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. This is a book I’ll happily endorse prior to reading because you’re likely a victim of our superficial culture (like me) and know it’s all-too-easy to become an idolator in the Temple of the Internet, the Temple of Body Image, the Temple of Pleasure, etc. Plus, our lively Catholic Weekend conversation with the author convinced me of Elizabeth’s brilliance and humanity. As part of my continuous search for excellent spiritual reading, I look forward to unmasking Strange Gods.

5. Since it’s been raining so much lately, I’ve re-visited my practice of requesting books from the local library, and a gem has just arrived: From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart : Rekindling My Love for Catholicism by Chris Haw. I’m a sucker for great conversion stories, so I’m looking forward to (finally) reading Chris’ journey. If you haven’t already watched my old pal Brandon Vogt’s interview with the author, do. Chris’ insights — his having participated in the ‘new monastic’ movement — are what I’d definitely call thought-provoking, deep, and inspiring.

JakeBouma-SoupisetTattoo
Byzantine-inspired tattoo designed by my artistic mentor, Paul Soupiset.
(Read its fascinating story by clicking the photo.) (BTW, this is not my arm.)

6. That reminds me of my non-Catholic friend with a monastic heart, artist Paul Soupiset – whom I truly consider a mentor. As a senior in high school, I interned with USAA’s youth relations magazine, and Paul served as the project’s art director. He co-founded an award-winning branded content marketing firm, Toolbox Studios, in the heart of San Antonio’s downtown. My short time spent at Toolbox was super-formative. Paul inspired the creative parts of my brain and soul. A few days ago, Paul was featured on Patheos for his illustrations in a Christian adult faith formation resource, animate.Faith. Enjoy the Art of Paul Soupiset on Facebook or simply PaulSoupiset.com.

7. Happy Memorial Day to all you inspired U.S. readers. I’ll be remembering my friend 2nd. Lt. Matthew Fenner, U.S. Army, who tragically died at age 25 during officer training in 2010. Matt spent a long time in the seminary before deciding to pursue lay life in the military. During his seminary years, we attended the same university and often hung out in the University Ministry center. Matt had a sharp wit. I could count on him to inspire a smile, or a throughly-fulfilling conversation on topics such as literature, philosophy, theology, and/or Monty Python. I miss him.

Be assured of my prayers this Memorial Day for all who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one serving in the armed forces.

My friend Matt, once a member of the Church Militant. May perpetual light shine upon you.
My friend Matt, once a member of the Church Militant. May perpetual light shine upon you.

Take a top-notch, Catholic retreat with new media!

RCSpirituality

The fine folks at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction have created a beautiful, flexible source of refreshment for your spirit.

Click here if you can’t see the embedded video above.

You can visit their website and download (or stream) the retreat parts – either by text, audio, or video. Check back each month for a new retreat guide. I am totally digging this. Catholic new media need mo’ prayin’!

Truly, a renewed focus on our Lord is just what the good Doctor ordered. Go check out RCSpirituality.org.

What many CathMedia projects lack: Intercessors

rowing-together

rowing-together

Working full-time in Catholic evangelization has taught me some crucial lessons about ministry in the Church (lay apostolate; not the ordained ministry). One such lesson is this: If you start a project, saturate it with prayer. Do not launch it until you have a team of dedicated Intercessors who will offer prayers and sacrifices for your outreach activities daily.

Oftentimes, we lay people think that taking care of our own personal, spiritual well-being is enough. We think: “I’ll go to Confession more frequently. I’ll say more Rosaries and novenas. I’ll read more Scripture. And I’ll pack Holy Water with me everywhere I go.” That’s all important, BUT alas! we have forgotten that spiritual battle is not one-on-one combat. Spiritual combat is a team sport.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 warns us,

Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help.

Christ appointed the twelve, and he sent them out two by two. When he appointed the seventy-two, he sent them out two by two. If these people, who knew Jesus firsthand, face-to-face, couldn’t do it alone, then I know I can’t. Let’s be honest: Any Christian with decent self-knowledge knows he cannot face spiritual warfare on his own.

WHY, then, when launching a new endeavor, do we fail to secure a team of persons who will support us in daily prayer?

I think it’s because 1.) we’re forgetful, and 2.) we’re proud…in a dangerous way. We don’t realize how weak and vulnerable we are alone. We need each other. I’ve learned, however, from involvement in organizing major conferences, apostolates, and outreach efforts, that an intercessory team is absolutely essential in the success of any Christian endeavor. Without them, we walk a spiritual tightrope.

Consider, then, if you’re spearheading a major project, how you might reach out to some potential Intercessors and ask for their daily prayers: religious men and women, priests, the homebound, the retired and elderly, those in hospice or hospital care. These persons offer so many gifts to the Church through their prayers — gifts which oftentimes are overlooked. Dear brothers and sisters in Catholic new media, let’s reach out to these valuable members of our spiritual family! Let’s ask for their precious prayers. May our projects and souls benefit, and may the Body of Christ grow stronger.

Are we blind to new media’s effects on man? [MMMM]

Photo: McLuhan in his office (University of Toronto)

Your Monday was McLuhanless, so let’s make Tuesday a day to reflect on one of the core messages of Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message.

So often, people hear this phrase and think they know what it means. McLuhan, however, was speaking less about message and more about the impact that various media have on humanity. His reflections have helped me quit glorifying new media (ie. Internet-based, social media) in my work; now I guide my consultees to recognize both the positive and negative effects of these media. And I believe this is a fair-headed, more Catholic approach.

McLuhan:

By stressing that the medium is the message rather than   the content, I’m not suggesting that content plays no role–merely that  it plays a distinctly subordinate role. Even if Hitler had delivered botany lectures, some other demagogue would have used the radio to retribalize the Germans and rekindle the dark atavistic side of the tribal nature that created European fascism in the Twenties and Thirties. By placing all the stress on content and practically none on the medium, we lose all chance of perceiving and influencing the impact of new technologies on man, and thus we are always dumfounded by–and unprepared for–the revolutionary environmental transformations induced by new media.

With all we’ve got to deal with in the Church, we can’t afford to be unprepared and dumbfounded. We’ve got to take off our blinders and put on our McLuhan Glasses, realizing the impacts new media have on families, on youth, on culture, on religion.

(Quote from McLuhan’s interview with Playboy, 1969)

Astounding, inspiring videos: Children who know their faith

Samuel celebrates Mass

Forget “kids say the darndest things” — these kids say heavenly things! Today, I’m so please to share with you some children who simply amaze me…

Three-year-old ‘celebrates’ complete Mass

Talk about baptismal grace! This little Colombian boy can’t even read, but he knows the Mass! Samuel is an orphan who goes to Mass with his grandmother twice a week, and he wants to be a priest when he grows up. (As if it weren’t evident enough!) If you can’t understand Spanish, here’s a summary of what he covers here:

  • He sings an Entrance Hymn, greets the faithful, announces the Mass intention
  • Begins the Mass properly, all the way through the entire Penitential Rite, Gloria, and Collect
  • He has someone from the congregation read the first couple of readings (off camera) and then leads the Alleluia and announces, “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke…. St. John!” and ‘reads’ a string of random phrases from different pericopes. Then, he gives a little homily and ends saying, “May it be so!”
  • He offers the chalice and paten. Imploring the congregants to give thanks to God, he leads then in the “Holy, Holy, Holy…”
  • Asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit to transform the gifts into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and eloquently recalls the Last Supper of the Lord. He even asks blessings on Pope Francis.

Little Isaac sings Salve Regina

Not sure how old this Canadian boy is, but he sure does love Mary! I’m completely in awe of his Latin and his beautiful smile while singing to Our Blessed Mother.

Two-year old schools you on Catholic theology

Of course, if your dad were Dr. Michael Barber, you’d probably be just as learned. I love the light in his eyes!

Have any other amazing Catholic kid videos to share? I’d love to see ‘em!

What Pope Francis & a naked rockstar have in common

Pope Francis General Audience waves to baby girl

Pope Francis General Audience waves to baby girl

As a person who works in ministry, I’m very familiar with the concept of needing things. Do you know the cycle?

Need resources —> Need people to help acquire those resources —> Use those resources to help people —-> Need resources

In the Church and nonprofit world, we have capital campaigns, special collections at Mass, tithing, benefactors, sponsors, advertisers, grants, and the list goes on…and the needs continue.  Many ministries spend precious resources toward acquiring the resources necessary for their work. Is this the best way to acquire resources? Is it the only way?

Consider: Pope Francis’ words and witness have stressed the humble, human connection between two people. He pleaded with global leaders present at his Inauguration Mass:

tenderness…is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Amanda Palmer knows about that. She’s gone from paying her bills as a ‘living statue’ on the street, to rock goddess with a cult following. She firmly believes that her life as a ‘living statue’ made all the difference; she learned about connecting with fellow human beings. Amanda says:

When we really see each other, we want to help each other.

Are we doing enough of this in ministry? Are we being tender? Tenderness can frighten me. But vulnerability, humility, meekness — these are the crown jewels of Christ, and the virtues Pope Francis has been extolling for weeks (and the Church for millennia)! Are we listening?

Listen to Amanda’s story. Then, challenge yourself to ask: How much do I truly value personal connection and relationship? Does my ministry / apostolate / parish take our community (people-network) for granted? How can I improve those personal connections?

Let’s not be afraid of tenderness, closeness, and the human connection. If we got that right, I wonder whether we’d find ourselves lacking in resources.

P.S. Social and new media are not the magic wand with which we can answer the need for human connection. But they can be a start.