Like many powerful forces in this world, online communication is capable of building-up humanity or tearing people down and apart from each other.
The stakes are particularly high for those who wish to evangelize online. The presence of Catholics in social media, blogs, news media comment streams, and other fora has the power to bring people closer to Christ and His Church or to drive them away. Salvation is at stake.
There are myriad questions about how Catholics can navigate these digital waters in a Christ-like manner. How much screen time is too much? Which news sources are reliable? Is it ever worthwhile reading comment sections at the end of news stories or blogs, let alone contributing to them? When is it effective to share my beliefs and opinions online, and when is it counterproductive? Why do people on the Internet seem so angry, when the same people are usually kind in every other sphere of life? And how can I share my Catholic faith online in a way that is attractive, appropriately challenging, and persuasive?
It would be impossible in an article of this size to take on all of these questions in any meaningful way, but we will consider three activities that are essential to our engagement with the digital world. These activities are evangelizing, socializing, and not scandalizing (leading others to sin).
At the turn of the millennium, Pope St. John Paul II wrote that the time had come for all of the Church’s energies to be devoted to the new evangelization. Given the astounding amount of energy most people today invest in various online activities, it would be impossible to follow this papal mandate without evangelizing in the digital world.
As early as 1963, Pope St. Paul VI recognized the privileged opportunity for evangelization presented by the mass media. Although it predated the Internet’s rise, Paul VI’s Decree on the Media of Social Communications (Inter Mirifica) offers a great deal of wisdom concerning evangelization in media like the Internet. Paul VI writes the following in Paragraph 2:
The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss.
How do digital media “spread and support the Kingdom of God?” Before thinking about how evangelizing Catholics use these media, it is necessary to see that the simple fact that these media draw people together provides a critical foundation. It is worth noting that the words communication, community, and communion all have the same root-word, meaning a “bond” or a “link.” Communication performed rightly binds people together, and over time fashions community out of what would otherwise be a mere collection of individuals. When the bonds of community are elevated and spiritually intensified by God’s grace, then communion begins to form.
Read more at Catholic World Report