“Shepherds lead as they follow” Even to Twitter – UPDATED

Anyone who thinks that Benedict XVI’s foray into Twitter is not, in its own way, shaking the earth, needs to pay attention. If you check out the #AskPontifex you see a roiling energy — the feed is teeming with it — aggression and curiosity and timid love and preening hatred are crashing into each other. It reminds me of dark water a few hours before a storm.

I like what Sam Rocha has written about it, here:

Why would he come here, to this wild place? Why dwell in virtual reality, this projection, this wastebasket for time and thought?
What brings such a man to such limited space? Doesn’t he have better things to do?
The answer is simple, it seems to me. He needn’t say a word, type a character, silence is fine.
The accounts are not for him to say things and teach us and tell us wisecrack jokes or factoids.
His presence is what matters and justifies and makes it all make some sense.
When sheep go to the cliffs and gather there, the shepherd must follow, treacherous though it be.
Being a shepherd is about being. Dwelling, presence. Not much else.
There are other things to do, perhaps, but first a shepherd must be.
So Benedict comes to show, not to say. He came to hang out, not to party.

Yeah, you’ll want to read all of Sam’s post.

I also like what Sister Mary Ann Walsh wrote here:

With the push of a button, I sent a tweet with #AskPontifex to the pope at @Pontifex, the new Twitter account the Vatican set up for Pope Benedict XVI. It’s nice to go straight to the top.

Have you asked a question of Benedict, yet? You should. Do not be afraid!

For those of us who are keeping track of the feed, yesterday was interesting, indeed. After the first rush of irreverent, sometimes funny, sometimes ghastly tweets to the pope, including what looked like an attempt by a few to completely hijack the thread in service to their own obsessions, someone must have told the Vatican about the “block and report for spamming” button (and perhaps assured them that it’s not uncharitable or suppressive to use it) and today, #AskPontifex’s waves are a little less foamy, all around, although I am sure the haters will create new handles and dive in, again, seeking to make a splash.

In private chat, a Patheos writer said he wanted to ask a question but was intimidated. I admitted to similar feelings here — but I got lucky. Leah Libresco asked a question in one of her blog posts that struck me as a terrific tweet for @Pontifex, and so I linked it there by its title: “Is judgement always about punishment?”

Once crossed, the questioning-the-pope Rubicon
seemed quite easy to manage. Taking a line from Elizabeth Duffy I linked her post with her question, too: “what does help for young moms look like?”.

Then I made my daily stop at this online Adoration site (because it’s hard to find, where I live) and that spurred another question: “Is online Adoration, w/live feed of the Real Presence useful and valid?”

If you are still wondering what questions you could possibly ask the pope that have a chance of being answered (and let’s face it the more pointed a question is, the more likely it can be answered in the twitterverse) pray about it while you go about your day. Keep the whole notion of questioning the pope in the back of your mind while you’re stuck in traffic or chasing after a kid, or plowing through email. I’ll bet questions that reflect the reality of the struggles and joys of living a life in faith will bubble to the surface of your consciousness.

And imagine, as Sam Rocha suggests, how incredibly different the world is going to seem if there begins a kind of dialogue between the Vicar of Christ and we everyday folk — the sort of interaction we see in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter walked among the people. It’s as though we’ve come full circle, and Peter’s reach has been extended to every corner of the world, via phone and mother board.

And if you really don’t have a question for the pontiff, why not send a little tweet of support?

We humans are weird like that. We’re quick to lash out, and we never mind taking the time to complain or write a letter expressing outrage and offense, but we rarely think to take the time to say something kind to another, even within our families, and certainly not to those who seem so far away from our daily lives, but who actually impact us more than we realize.

I’ve been going through one of those phases where I wonder if I should just stop blogging, shut up and go away because I’m so sick of myself and so unsure of what God wants of me, or what I even have to offer, and this morning someone sent me a small email of encouragement — it wasn’t even about me; it was about other bloggers at Patheos, but it was like a balm of reassurance. The Holy Spirit had tapped someone on the shoulder to “speak to the weary a word that will rouse them”, and I was so very grateful for it.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit will use you to speak a rousing word to a pope whose whole life has been about serving Jesus Christ. Why not you?

Lisa Hendey is even offering you an incentive!

UPDATE (some related items of interest):
Read this really excellent piece by David Gibson on the Vatican’s tremulous embrace of new media, beyond Twitter.

It’s tough being Catholic; always has been

Fr. Jonathan Morris talks to Imus

Blast from the Past:
Benedict: A Shepherd who is Led

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Brian

    This is really making me think of getting an account. The thing is that I don’t think I have anything meaningful or interesting to share that can be expressed in under 140 characters, or even under 210 or whatever the new limit is.

  • Elizabeth

    Please don’t stop blogging, even though I can see why you’d want to. You’re like a super-conscience that is available to people. That is no small project. And, while I hadn’t been visiting your page for a while, I recently came back and was struck by your absolutely beautiful writing. You’re not just pithy, you’re often poetic. I can see why you might need a break–just know that you are very appreciated.

  • deiseach

    What made me laugh, in the selection quoted, was the one asking why men have nipples, because I’m fairly sure St. Thomas Aquinas actually covered this question (if I’m not imagining the whole thing, I believe the answer boils down to something like “For beauty”).

    Yet another reason I love being Catholic :-)

  • Peggy m

    The Washington Post had an article by Michelle Boorstein about our tweeting Pope. She states that “The Catholic Church” has largely sat out the social media revolution, which was a surprise to me. I see the Church all over blog land, Facebook, etc. I guess Ms. Boorstein thinks “the Catholic Church” is the Vatican, although even that would be incorrect. I suppose she really only meant Pope Benedict XVI, or that she has no clue about the Church’s presence in social media.

    And Ms. Scalia, if you quit blogging I will suffer(!)