NextGen’s Blog: Meeting the “Demand of Justice and Charity”

It amazes me how much blogs have an influence on people of every generation. In the May 2008 edition of US Catholic Magazine’s “The Sounding Board,” a non-scientific poll of readership that is also open to anyone who logs-on to their website, and votes on a particular topic, exemplifies the power of Catholic blogging. The article for reaction this month was “Bring back men in black: Religious clothing allows Catholics to make a fashion statement about their faith, says a young priest who sports the look [cassocks and/or clerics at all times] that a previous generation put away.” In the May issue, the editors decided to show the polling discrepancies between mailed and online responses for the first time because a obviously conservative blog offered a link to the polling page and threw the results to one side: “More than 100 online responses came in just one day after a Catholic blog posted a link to this survey.” As a consequence, the results were quite skewed. For example, in reaction to the statement: “If more priests and religious wore distinctive clothing, more young people would be attracted to those lifestyles,” 32% of the mailed readership agreed, while 72% of the online poll agreed. Certainly this “Catholic blog” had its own agenda (one worth discussing in another entry), but the author made his or her voice heard very loudly in a widely read Catholic magazine through the use of blogging.

As a professional parish faith formation minister, I have been trying to help my co-workers in both my parish staff and the archdiocese understand the power and necessity of the internet: if you don’t have a GOOD and constantly updated website and use email and other electronic outlets, then our parishes, pastoral support, and programming do NOT exist to young adults, and our Church becomes even more out of touch than it already is for many young adults. Our generation, those of us in our 20s and 30s, knows this very well as we log on at least once a day to social networks, favorite blogs, news sources—both real and fictional, videos and our email boxes to keep in touch with people around the world at all times. We don’t just use technology; we take it for granted as a natural part of life. When we move somewhere, we first go to the internet to find out what’s available: housing, restaurants, stores, clubs, and, most definitely, places of worship. Inevitably, we use the internet and blogs to form our perspectives and views of the world while, at best, enlightening our consciences on moral and ethical dilemmas, and at worst, keeping us from developing compassion and empathy that comes from personal contact.

One of the first released, least read, and now most outdated documents of the Second Vatican Council: The Decree on the Mass Media (1963), for all of its currently useless discussion on the world’s “new medium,” television, does offer wisdom, inspired by the Spirit, very relevant to blogging today: “It is therefore necessary that all members of society meet the demand of justice and charity in this domain and that they try, through the media, to form and expand sound public opinion (§8).” All those responsible for media “have the power to direct humankind along a good or along an evil path by the information they impart and the influence they exert (§11).” May the blogging of NextGen always remember its call as followers of Christ in what is preached, and its ability to be prophetic in a world needing inspired and steadfast disciples.

“We are companions given to one another as helpers in doing God’s work.”

-St. Jane de Chantal

Becky Schwantes, a Minnesota native, is currently a Master of Social Work candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2008 and has worked as a parish faith formation minister, social worker and in college campus ministry. Becky also holds a B.A. in Theology and Social Work with a minor is Social Justice and Peace Studies from the University of Portland, Oregon. Her primary areas of interest are Christian Social Ethics, Eco-Feminist Theology, Mental Health and issues of Aging. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the world, walking labyrinths, singing, and laughing with friends. Her favorite saints are Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal.