Another amazingly-succinct and insightful pastoral letter has been released earlier this month by Pope John Paul II. His letter The Rapid Development, written to those responsible for communications, exhorts Catholics to not be afraid of the communications media, but to use the media to promote the truth.
the Church is not only called upon to use the mass media to spread the Gospel but, today more than ever, to integrate the message of salvation into the “new culture” that these powerful means of communication create and amplify. It tells us that the use of the techniques and the technologies of contemporary communications is an integral part of its mission in the third millennium."
What does this mean for us? We must work towards finding a way to integrate communications media into our Catholic faith in such a way as to effectively evangelize and promote the truth, while remaining 'removed' from the world and living a 'balanced' life. Too little use of communications media can be a hindrance to advancement of Jesus' Gospel message; too much use can ruin a person's life!
There is most certainly a difference between speaking to a person directly, face-to-face, and indirectly, as through text or pictures on a website, on TV or on the radio, and this fact must be respected. Communications media can help us, but it is by no means a complete solution to evangelization and education. One should not become caught up in the media (watching TV, blogging, writing, reading news, etc.); nor can one ignore it.
John Paul II is spot-on in his analysis of the current situation in the U.S. and many other media-saturated countries:
"The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial, and social behavior. We are dealing with a complex problem, because the culture itself, prescinding from its content, arises from the very existence of new ways to communicate with hitherto unknown techniques and vocabulary."
This situation can be helpful or harmful: Because of the pervasiveness of the media, Catholics (or anyone else using the media) can quickly spread large amounts of information among many thousands—even millions—of people. Conversely, forces opposed to the Catholic Church are easily able to spread blatant misinformation, lies, and non-truths.
Catholics of the 3rd Millenium (myself included) must find inroads—through blogging, websites, video, audio, radio, television, telecommunications, and other forms of media—by which we can promulgate the Catholic faith. For centuries, our Church has continued to adopt new ways of bringing people closer to Jesus and ultimate fulfillment of Heaven, and the Church will continue to evolve to bring Jesus to millions more.
Another interesting aspect of this letter is the fact that Pope John Paul II, who some in the mainstream communications media have deemed as unfit for the Papacy, is continuing his well-written, sound pastoral letters. In my opinion, the Pope is not the one who is in need of retirement; it is the writers who accuse him of being 'too old'. It is obvious from all the Pope continues to do that he is a blessing upon our Church and continues to share a profound, inspired wisdom.
The full text of John Paul II's apostolic letter can be found here.