New Media and the VirtuousPla.net
Cue the Star Wars music and imagine you are reading the words of this allegory as they scroll in large text from the bottom of the screen and fade slowly into a dark background:
In a galaxy far, far away there is a place stable and glorious that shines amidst a dark and fallen world. Protected by a formidable shield, all are welcomed and loved who choose to live there. Inside, where it is safe, there is order; there are resources and tools to sustain and protect the inhabitants. Outside are monsters that wander about, attack and destroy. Living in this place is a choice, and one can come and go, but if he stays he must be faithful to the solemn laws that keep the society coherent. The people who live there love the One who gave them this place, and the more they build up the place the more others, wandering among the monsters, are drawn to it.
Alright, you can switch off the music now and come back to the real world. When Tito Edwards contacted me about creating a new website for orthodox Catholic young adults who professed fidelity to the Magisterium, this was the vision that sprang to mind. It reflects something I've been noticing about the young adults of the new media. They are not part of the Catholic internet community that is com-boxing jabs, hooks and punches, haranguing about heresy, and indulging in assessments of other people's obedience. At least for the young adults that have been catching my attention lately, there's a more, shall I say, virtuous approach to evangelizing.
See, while grown-ups like me have been fretting ourselves to misery about how we may be failing to educate youth properly, bemoaning the apocalypse to come as our little children grow up in a scary world, there actually are real leaders and talented young adults out there who simply—tremendously—love the Church. As one of our contributors, Steven Lawson of Why I'm Catholic, wrote, "The truth is young adult Catholics don't need watered down teaching. They don't need laser light shows after communion accompanied by Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer.' Young adult Catholics need peers they can relate to, living the Gospel authentically and sharing the truth, goodness, and beauty they find there."
They crave the wisdom and the substance of the Magisterium.
We launched Virtuous Planet last week on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was also the day before World Youth Day. Our goal is to address today's challenges as Blessed Pope John Paul II advised at the beginning of the third millennium, by defending the values rooted in the nature of every human person so that "charity will necessarily become service to culture, politics, the economy and the family...and the future of civilization will be everywhere respected."
The theme of the World Youth Day was "Rooted and Built Up in Christ, and Firm in the Faith." Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech to young college professors, explained how to make the faith credible to human reason. "We do this by the way we live our faith and embody it."
Regarding the future of mankind, scholars who reflect on the whole Summa Theologica of St. Thomas have remarked that the message is really about how everything comes from the Holy Trinity through creation and at the end of the world everything goes back to the Holy Trinity. The allegorical "place" is the Church, an illuminated beacon in a dark world with the treasures and resources to sustain those who choose to be faithful to her teaching. As Tito remarked about a seventeen year old artist who posted her first watercolor painting of Madonna and Child, "The beauty of our faith will conquer the world."
I'm not really even sure how Stars Wars ended; I suppose it depends on your generation. I am, however, sure of the impetus for this new website. VirtuousPla.net, "the social network of the JP2 and B16 generation," is driven to add to the Catholic internet community "a new hope" that draws people into the treasures of the Church. Maybe that's the best way forward—onward and upward.
Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D., is a scientist-turned-homemaker raising seven children with her husband. She is pursuing an MA in Theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and writes about all that she is learning at Accepting Abundance. She's also proud to now be a chief editor of VirtuousPla.net.