I expected to like Brandon Vogt's The Church and New Media. I like Brandon; I like his blog, The Thin Veil; and I like new media well enough, too.
I had not, though, expected to find myself poking my husband in the ribs at fifteen-minute intervals, asking, "Have you ever heard of the website One Billion Stories?"
"Hey, you should check out www.eCatholicChurches.com!"
"Hey, did you know . . . ?"
I needed to read this treasure trove with a notebook at hand. The sheer wealth of useful information I've taken away can help to maximize performance in my office, enhance communications at the parish level, and help on a more personal level as I reach out to others in my family and neighborhood.
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the "Digital Continent"—that new global community which is connected, not by ethnicity or national origin, but via the Internet. Before him Pope John Paul II reminded us in Redemptoris Missio that we must not only use the media to evangelize, but we must integrate the gospel message into the 'new culture' created by modern communications. And before those two media-savvy popes, the apostle Paul spread the gospel message in distant lands, reaching out to the crowd gathered at the Areopagus and telling them about the one true God.
Were St. Paul alive today, he would most likely welcome the opportunity to use new media. Paul wrote letters which were carried from town to town and painstakingly copied; but how much simpler would the transmission of the gospel have been, had Paul enjoyed access to podcasts and webinars, Facebook and Twitter and Google+!
Pope Benedict launched the Vatican's new website, www.news.va, on June 29, 2011, by pressing a button on his iPad. He spoke again about the importance of social media at his Angelus address on September 18, 2011—calling on all Catholics to participate in the "new evangelization." So the Church today, following on the heels of the apostles and great missionaries and communicators like Bishop Fulton Sheen, must take advantage of the tools Pope Benedict has called "gifts from God."
Brandon Vogt's The Church and New Media can help with that! The book is a compendium of advice and information from many of the most popular media voices in the current age. In Part 1, theologian Fr. Robert Barron, founder of the popular website WordOnFire.org and The Catholicism Project, National Catholic Register blogger and former atheist Jennifer Fulwiler, and successful campus minister Marcel LeJeune all offer helpful tips for evangelizing the culture.
Part 2 features the wise counsel of Catholic Answers' Mark Shea, whose experience as commentator and blogger makes him keenly aware of the great potential and the pitfalls of Internet communication—citing comboxes, for example, as a way to interact with people who may have a very negative view of the Church, but who can be educated and possibly transformed by learning more about the Church's consistent message. (I took some comfort in Shea's casual approach to blogging, noting that by its very nature, it's more hastily assembled than a book: "It ain't world peace," Shea says, "but it's still good.") Taylor Marshall, whose popular blog Canterbury Tales always offers a new look at a saint or a scripture, talks about using new media to unwrap ancient truths. And Fr. Dwight Longenecker, convert and author whose faith journey took him from fundamentalism to the Anglican priesthood and finally to Catholicism, offers insights into how to communicate with readers from other faith traditions.