Learning to Communicate Requires Learning to Listen, Contemplate and Speak

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on May 8, 2012

in Pope Benedict XVI

People go to the Internet and social media for many different reasons, some of them casual and very superficial and others very profound. In Silence and Word: the Path to Evangelization, Pope Benedict’s message for the 46th World Communications Day (May 20), the Holy Father points out that

Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, … many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.

The Holy Father also writes:

The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church’s mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.

And he writes in the same document:

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.

In his message, the Holy Father urges all communicators to find a balance between silence, contemplation and speaking in order to engage in the kind of dialogue that will bring peace, hope and happiness to their own lives and the lives of those they encounter and engage on the Internet. In light of the Holy Father’s message we might ask these questions:

  1. Do we see our presence on the Internet as a ministry?
  2. Do we prepare for this ministry with prayer and contemplation?
  3. Do we respond to questions of heart and faith with an invitation to quiet reflection or meditation on sacred scripture?
  4. Do we recognize that a warm, human response to even the most casual question, may lead to deeper conversations later on?
  5. When we are on the Internet, do we see ourselves as “heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace”?

You can read the Holy Father’s entire message here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Don McCrabb May 8, 2012 at 6:23 am

An encouraging and hopeful message. Also a challenging one. I know I work to frame a clear and compelling message for my website (I have a lot of work to do – I welcome your thoughts). Do I invite reflection and prayer. Is there space to ponder, muse, speculate, question, dialogue? Your article modeled well the Holy Fathers message. Thank you.

Maureen Spillane SND May 8, 2012 at 11:47 am

Very thought provoking Susan. Thank you !

Jean Ponder Soto May 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thank you for the questions that help us to reflect on our work in social media. They are always fresh and relevant.
Jean Ponder Soto
Santa Clara Univ.
Tepeyac Institute, El Paso, TX

Susan Timoney May 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Our experience with our archdiocesan page is that people respond most favorably to invitations to prayer and deeper reflection.

John November 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

You might want to pass along this Facebook tip: this guy gets huge traffic to his Facebook by tagging lots of people in Jesus graphics. People are notified that they’ve been tagged. Who can resist looking at the link!? It’s a little bit deceptive, because the people aren’t actually in the photo. To my way of thinking, it’s just harmless fun. Most people “Like” what this guy’s doing–seeing others in Christ. People who feel differently can hit the Report/Remove Tag link to the right…


Sr. Susan Wolf, SND November 6, 2012 at 5:53 am

Thanks, John. I feel uncomfortable with the “trick” part of this, but tagging is a way to get people to your Facebook page. I do not know how Facebook acts when someone is reported/removed by a lot of people. Does anyone know if they shut you down after a certain number of complaints?

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