Two of the most searched items on the internet are pornography and religion. Questions are often raised about the Church and the internet. Throughout YOUCAT there are many reasons why young Catholics are ‘needed’ in the area of translating the message of faith into a language of their peers. Paul VI wrote about the need for evangelisation to find a new language that is understood by the people.
YOUCAT raises questions about dangers that result from the media (460). “Many people, especially children, think that whatever they see in the media is real.” Therefore if we glorify the cult of personality (reality television) or anti-social behaviour, violence or sex, YOUCAT notes that “this is a sin of those in the media who are responsible and also of those supervisory authorities that ought to put a stop to it.”
Young people need to be helped how to judge and examine that not everything they encounter online is real, just or true. Some young people have committed suicide as a result of what they read online. There are many people now who are ‘addicted’ to their new forms of technology. Smart people are using smart technology in ways that that are addictive and that can lead to a ‘turning away’ from things that are good.
There are numerous people who have already heard of Jesus, but don’t necessarily ‘follow’ Jesus. Our challenge is to stir up and rekindle a new awareness and familiarity with Jesus. We are called not just to announce but to adapt our approach so as to attract and to urge an entire generation to find again the uncomplicated, genuine, and tangible treasure of friendship with Jesus. Lumen Fidei reminds us that faith “cannot remain private”. We need to find new public spaces to express the message of faith in actions and words.
As the internet becomes more influential in the lives of young people and as more children access the online world from both school and home, Catholic families and leaders must be prepared to deal with the challenges that cyberspace presents. We must become salt and light in cyberspace. We need to reach out, engage and evangelise our young adults using ‘new media’. The Church is challenged to provide new tips that will help young Catholics to witness to faith even online.
We live in a world which is searching for meaning. The message of the Gospel needs to respond to this new reality. YOUCAT provides a textbook about faith. Online support from Catholic dioceses and parishes through websites and social media are making some inroads, providing new signposts for people searching online. An increasing number of bishops and priests are now using social media to reach out to new ‘followers’. This new expression of faith is to be welcomed. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have all embraced new emerging media. Pope Francis has tweeted over 150 times in six months! He is continuing the tradition of disciples embracing new media. Most likely if St Paul lived today he would blog and upload his sermons to the internet via podcasts! We all need to reach out in new ways at the service of the Gospel, inviting people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus’ first followers were fishermen. Whole continents of people are waiting for evangelisation online. Not only do we need new methods of proclaiming the Gospel, we need new media and all its possibilities to assist us.
St Isidore of Seville patron saint of the internet pray for us!