Probably you’ve heard, you can get an indulgence if you follow the events of World Youth Day via Twitter.
Of course the secular media is reporting that you can get an indulgence “through” Twitter, as if it’s something you can download. And wouldn’t that be an interesting topic for another day? I can’t be the only one who reifies technological processes in my imagination, picturing digitized data as twinkling clouds that swirl through the air and down through the vent in the side of my laptop. Zwoosh! Downloaded. I may be a technological moron who engages in magical thinking when it comes to computer stuff, but the typical secular person is just as childish when it comes to understanding and imagining spiritual things. I suppose that, when they hear “grace” or “salvation,” they think of moonbeams or pixie dust.
Anyway, about those Twitter indulgences. The usual crowd of indignant neckbeards are grousing at the loosey goosey way Francis is handing ’em out for cheap — forgetting, apparently, that there’s a long tradition of earning indulgences through doing things that by no means guarantee a spiritual experience. The actual action you perform — going to Mass at a certain church, finishing a certain novena — isn’t necessarily a difficult thing. In part, it’s kind of a hook, something to grab your attention and give you some structure, so that you get the spiritual benefit of the proscribed action, and you’re also motivated to do the other things necessary to gain an indulgence. Here’s a good overview.
It occurs to me that Francis has actually done something brilliant here — something even the Frankophobes can’t argue with: he’s making the media help him catechize the world.
I mean, imagine if he sent out a tweet saying, “Your word of the day is ‘indulgence,'” and then went on to define it. No one would care. Instead, he’s made it into a story, and now people are actually having to look it up and see what the deal is. Haters gonna hate, but plenty more people will learn something they never would have otherwise.
Love that man.