by Father Mark Goldasich
Recently, I’ve had a couple of wonderful experiences on social media, proving that this means of communication can indeed be, well, social.
If you’ve used it at all, you know that social media can, at times, be very antisocial, meaning that people post some of the most awful, negative, misinformed, divisive and hateful comments. The Web’s anonymity seems to give some people license to toss all decency and politeness out the window.
Happily, there is another side to things. For example, in mid-December I received a message via Facebook that Jill, a former student from my days of teaching at Marymount International School in Rome, was seriously ill. Her cancer, which had been in remission, had now aggressively returned. I immediately responded to the message, promising prayers. A few moments later, my phone pinged with a message from another of my former students and then it pinged again and again as messages were posted to an MMI group site.
When I mentioned I’d remember Jill in my Mass the next morning, all in the group wanted to know the exact time of Mass. Armed with that information, these former classmates promised to stop and pray at that time, in whatever time zone they found themselves. These alumnae live in California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Canada, Italy and the Far East, to name just a few spots. Sadly, Jill passed away later on the day of the Mass. There then followed a flurry of messages to her family, assuring them of prayers and posting memories from literally around the world. The family was both grateful and comforted.
Then last week, the father of a good friend of mine passed away and I was asked to do the homily at the funeral Mass. Since he was well known to a number of my Facebook friends, I reached out to them to share their thoughts and impressions with me. How incredible to get messages back — in record time — not only from those who live nearby, but from others scattered across Kansas, North Carolina and even the Dominican Republic. This was a way for all of us to be together at this time of loss, though scattered by distance.
These positive uses of the Internet and social media got me thinking about how the Internet might play an integral part in your Lent this year.
Last week, for example, we alerted Leaven readers to a “digital Lent” offered by the Apostles of the Interior Life. They’re providing daily video and audio reflections throughout Lent via our archdiocesan Digital Media Center or via the smartphone app “Catholic Media ArchKCK.”
I’d also like to suggest a few more sites that might prove helpful in making this season a time of deep spiritual growth. Since many parishes handed out Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Jesus” book this past Christmas, the author is inviting people to experience the Best Lent Ever®. After signing up at: DynamicCatholic.com/Lent, you’ll receive a daily email with a short video that will “guide you through each of the 40 chapters of the book and share simple ways to bring Jesus into your everyday life.” Kelly says, “Don’t give up chocolate this Lent.” Instead, “do something life-changing.”
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students has a great app in the Apple Store or Google Play that gets right to the “meat” of Lent. It’s called Lentsanity. One of its most unusual features is the Meat Police. The app will send you a push notification before lunch and dinner to “remind you to not eat meat on Fridays during Lent.” (I guess you’re on your own for Friday breakfast!) In addition, the app has infographics, articles, videos and recipes.
The Irish Jesuits and Loyola Press will offer an online Lent retreat. The site also contains a wonderful daily prayer format. Its home page is a helpful guide on meditation that walks you step by step through each day’s prayer, accompanied by some soothing music if you choose. This is a great place to check out, both for beginning pray-ers as well as seasoned ones.
And now that Ash Wednesday has come and gone, just for fun, Google “A Catholic Guide to Ashes” to see an illustrated chart of what style of ash you received this year. Someone has a great sense of humor.
These websites serve an essential Lenten purpose: to turn us inward in order to better turn outward in service of God and neighbor.
May these Lenten days transform your Internet into an “Inner-net” of reflection and conversion of heart.