Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Emilio Bataclan in yesterday’s first triduum Mass in honor of St. Pedro Calungsod wondered if young people can still have faith considering that they are busy with all sorts of distractions like the latest gadgets and online social networks.
The good bishop has a point. Gadgets and the Internet may not be the best platforms for living the kind of human and spiritual values that the Church and even other faiths have been teaching for millennia.
On the other hand, as Pope Benedict XVI himself said, modern communications devices and the Internet can be a tool for evangelization and may not be as inimical to matters spiritual as they can seem at first blush.
Enter “Catholic” in the Facebook search box and see how many evangelically motivated fan pages and accounts have blossomed on the so-called badlands of virtual reality.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines itself has reaped windfalls with the use of social networks to introduce and promote devotion the teenage Filipino saint coupled with the mascot Pedrito.
Elsewhere on social networks netizens are getting a daily dose of inspiration from “Pope Benedictions,” a page that periodically shares pithy quotes from the Holy Father.
The faithful around the world are receiving the Catechism in installments through accounts that feature the Catechism of the Catholic Church or stories from the US-based National Catholic Register.
Yet to return to Bataclan’s point, the Christian cannot afford to harbor any illusion about the using gadgets or the Internet for evangelization.
Not only is digital communication limited in its effectiveness as an aid for spreading Christian spirituality (because this is best accomplished by one-to-one disciple making).
These forms of communication also have cracks through which evils from useless polemical exchanges (many based on theological issues) to pornography enter.
So parents, teachers and all sorts of mentors ought to do their best to be like St. Pedro Calungsod in transmitting the faith face to face.
The integrity of online evangelizers will depend on how well they learned their faith when they were not facing or swiping monitors and screens or clicking and typing on keypads.