Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter entitled In the Beginning of the New Millennium (Novo Millennio Ineunte) reminds us that St. Peter and his companions trusted in the Lord when he urged them to "put out into the deep" (Lk. 5:4) and do the work of spreading the Gospel.
This image of the Apostles as fishers of men extends to all of us today, especially those in the field of new media. It charges us with a responsibility to "rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost."
Those of us drawn to this new evangelization and the role of Catholic media in it have been anticipating Brandon Vogt's book, The Church and New Media, for some time.
I must confess that I fancied myself somewhat of an insider when it comes to new media, both as a consumer and a producer, so I was pretty curious about the content of this book. After all, there are some pretty well known new media personalities weighing in on the digital revolution—and thanks to Vogt, their collective voices resound beautifully in this collection.
It is an excellent source of inspiration for those of us already on board. I certainly can't claim to know much, not even a lot, of what's happening right now in this new evangelization, but I do have a little bit of a clue.
What I discovered in this book broadens my view of new media and my place in it, via:
- Fr. Robert Barron's lively engagement with his audience
- Jennifer Fulwiler's discovery of the Catholic faith through blogs
- Lisa Hendey's advice for fostering community and sharing
- Matt Warner's models for empowering parishes
It is filled with personal stories of successes and challenges that we all face when we first step into this "digital continent." The book also inspires me to do more.
But here's the thing that makes this book an essential resource: it speaks to all of us, regardless of our comfort or expertise in all-things-digital. In Cardinal Seán O'Malley's foreword, he reminds us that "[w]e are called to be missionaries and evangelizers in our families, communities, workplaces, and social networks." That responsibility flows naturally into our online lives, too. (By the way, the Cardinal blogs here.)
We can no longer compartmentalize. Our online personas are extensions of RL (real life), and we must fearlessly and earnestly embrace this opportunity for spreading the Good News.
Those of us who know this can find great inspiration for moving into deeper waters. For the beginners, this is probably the best manual available; it's filled with best practices, loads of information, and best of all, real stories about real people using new media for evangelization.
In the Afterword, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan shares his hopes that "this book will give the Church courage and wisdom to embrace New Media" and exhorts us to "invest in this gift wisely." (Dolan blogs at The Gospel in the Digital Age.)
I can't think of a better way of taking the advice of this cardinal and this archbishop than to give a copy to every pastor, every D.R.E., and every catechist at your parish, and watch what happens!
For more conversation on The Church and New Media, visit the Patheos Book Club.