by Father Mitchell Zimmerman
Some of you know Father Robert Barron as the host of the Catholicism Project, the beautiful videos catechizing the Catholic faith.
Others know him from his Word on Fire website, which includes his weekly audio homilies. Millions have watched his YouTube videos explaining the Catholic faith or commenting on popular culture from a Catholic perspective.
Father Barron has been intensely interested in the new evangelization spoken of by the last two popes, the re-presentation of the faith to those who once had it, but have lost it.
Father Barron is now the rector at one of the seminaries we use, Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, and wants to make the seminary a hub of the new evangelization. Specifically, he wants to awaken in new priests a competency in reaching people with new ardor and new methods. In a recent rector’s conference, he laid out for the seminarians seven qualities that will make a priest of the new evangelization.
I myself like to spend a few minutes each day kicking around Facebook or tweeting a bit. I will occasionally share a homily on my blog.
During our recent pilgrimage with the archbishop, I challenged the seminarians to use their social networks to get people interested in our pilgrimage and in vocations. Almost half of young people check Facebook as the first thing they do in the morning. This is lamentable in one respect, but an opportunity as well, and I do believe that we must at least try to preach the Gospel in the language of the culture. To evangelize the culture, we must know it and be competent in its methods.
Not all of our new priests will be the next Father Robert Barron or Archbishop Fulton Sheen. More important than their competency on the Web is, of course, their personal relationship with Christ. Tweeting can never replace prayer. Intimacy with Christ is the real sine qua non of the new evangelization.
Amid all the technology present, there is, as we all know, the danger of failing to be present to each other and a real inability to fall in love with another person with the vulnerability that makes us human. Our seminarians should spend much more time on fostering their relationship with Christ in prayer than on their Facebook pages.
Still, the new ardor that is the base of the new evangelization must be expressed through real means, and the methods of the new evangelization will change faster than any of us can predict or control. Please pray that our seminarians become docile to the Spirit, which will move us along this important path of how to speak about the truth and love of Jesus Christ to a culture which needs to meet him.