If you’ve spent any amount of time on any of the major social media platforms, one thing has surely become clear: social media has a lot of positives and a whole lot of negatives. We like to blame the social media platforms themselves for the negativity we experience, but if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves, most of that blame falls on our shoulders.
The content we post, the replies we offer up, and the manner in which we curate who we’re following goes a long way toward making our experience online either positive or negative. If we want to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the world through the means of social media, we’ve got to take time to reflect on what we’re choosing to put out there and what we’re choosing to consume.
When reflecting on the responsibility that comes with sharing the Catholic faith on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, there is no one more suited to take us by the hand and guide us than the one and only Blessed James Alberione.
Born in the Spring of 1884 in Fossano, Italy, young Giacomo Alberione was the fourth of six children in a family of farmers. A brief biography from the Vatican archives explains that his call to dedicate his life to God came quite early.
“When questioned by his first-grade teacher as to what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, ‘I want to be a priest!’”
At the age of just 16, he entered the seminary in Alma to do just that.
On New Year’s Eve in the year 1900, sitting on the cusp of a brand new century, James found himself kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament contemplating what the future would hold for Our Lord, his Church, and James’ very own life.
The Vatican archives detail what happened next:
“A ‘particular light’ seemed to come from the Host and roused in him a sense of obligation ‘to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century’: he felt ‘obliged to serve the Church’ with the new instruments provided by human ingenuity.”
This started Father Alberione down the path that eventually led to his founding of the Pauline Family, including the well-known Daughters of St. Paul, to help him carry out his mission to bring Christ and the Gospel to the world through the means of modern communication. He spent a great deal of effort making clear that he wanted the Pauline Family to be willing to engage in all forms of new media as they developed, almost prophetically knowing that technology would lead to developments in communication, and wanting to ensure the message of God, Christ, and his Church would have a voice in that space.
With that in mind I turn to the words of Blessed James Alberione, a man referred to by St. John Paul II as the “First Apostle of the New Evangelization,” and ask him to guide me through an examination of my presence and purpose on social media.
“The word of St. Paul is always valuable regarding these thoughts: All that is true, just, pure, loving, revered, what is virtue and deserves praise, all this must be the subject of your thoughts.”
Are all of my posts on social media focused on sharing things that are true, just, pure, loving, revered, virtuous, and deserving of praise?
This quote from Blessed James Alberione reminds us of where our focus should be. As we engage in social media, we should be there for the purpose of keeping the light of Christ alive and visible in that space. We aren’t there to tear people down, snap back at others, or post negativity; we are there to build up the kingdom, draw people to the Church, and encourage non-Catholics to take a close look at what the Church and the sacraments have to offer.
“You are not related through natural kinship, but through a spiritual one, that which holds you together is neither by means of blood nor of the flesh, but the desire to serve the Lord together.”
Do our connections on social media show evidence of the fact that we are all one body? When we see someone suffering on social media, do we pray for them and reach out to them? Do we offer to help those in need? Do we use social media as a means of speaking out again injustices around the world? Do we actually click on the ‘Go Fund Me’ link and donate to those suffering, even if they’re a world away?
Blessed James Alberione reminds us with this quote to stay focused on the fact that we are all sisters and brothers in the family of Christ, something that is so easily lost in this increasingly divided society that we find ourselves in. Father Alberione is calling us back to that family model of faith, and it’s a message the world of social media so badly needs to hear.
“In the silence of the evening, during our examination of conscience, let us ask ourselves: Lord, are you happy with me today?”
Do we ever look back over the content we’ve posted with the mind of Christ and ensure that our time on social media was one of charity, compassion, and love? Lord, are you happy with my posts today?
Blessed James Alberione is reminding us to make a serious examination of conscience at the end of our long day, to see where we fell short, to thank God for his grace active in our lives, and to prepare to do better tomorrow. The same can be said for our time on social media. Rather than just scrolling through the endless stream of posts before we head off to bed, why not reflect on the content we put out and consider if God would be happy with the work we did in the digital vineyard that day?
Blessed James Alberione may not have lived during the age of social media that we find ourselves in today, but the wisdom he gained through spreading the Gospel utilizing the media available to him at the time is timeless, and more than worth our consideration today.
Before you post tweets today, take a moment to reflect on the words of Blessed James Alberione and remember that you are a worker in the vineyard, a representative of Christ and his Church, even online.
Tommy Tighe is a Catholic husband and father of five boys. You can find out more about him at CatholicHipster.com.
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