St. Augustine’s instruction to read the books our candidates are reading[i] might today sound something like, “download the apps your students are downloading.” Whether we love it or hate it, technology is part of the world in which we live. More importantly, it is part of the world in which our young people live. To be merciful toward them, just as the Father is merciful,[ii] is to stoop down and meet them right where they are – living in a digital age, fully immersed in an online culture – and from there lift them up, elevate them, and put them in touch with Jesus. When we stretch ourselves beyond our natural comfort zones and learn new methods of teaching for no other reason but love, we in a small way imitate the mercy, compassion, and divine condescension of God the Father in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
And that is the good news: the Good News of Jesus Christ! God the Son did not become incarnate because it was the best way for Him to save us: He became incarnate because it was the best way for us to be saved. It was the clearest expression of His merciful love. Mercy, Pope Francis declares, is “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.”[iii] Meeting our students in the online world in which they live just might be the most merciful way for us to preach the gospel to them and the best way for us to help God save them from all that ensnares and enslaves them.
St. Augustine says in his Confessions: “Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.” If something exists, it is at least to some degree good, because God, who is Goodness itself, is holding it in existence. Satan is most certainly using technology for evil, to lead souls away from Christ. It goes without saying, then, that we should cooperate with God and use technology for good, to lead souls closer to Christ.
Jesus saved the souls in Hades by descending into the abode of the dead and there preached the Gospel to them.[iv] Such is the mercy and divine condescension of our loving Father. Through Jesus, He used the very tool of our destruction – death – to raise us up to new life. Why can we not do the same? For our students, parishioners, youth group members, and young people: the very tools of their destruction can be transformed – nay, “baptized” – into instruments of their salvation. We do them a great disservice by simply divorcing them (and ourselves) from all created things. It benefits them more when we teach them how to use them well and how to orient them to the greater glory of God.
The ageless Holy Spirit of God has ushered in a new era in the Church. With the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis says, “the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way . . . to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning.”[v] New phase. Same evangelization.
The content of our message remains the same, but the mode of delivery is to be brand new. “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new.”[vi] The truths we teach are eternal, but the methods we use to communicate them must be fresh, alive, and innovative. It is possible – and merciful – to use modern tools to teach eternal truths, to echo down the perennial articles of our Faith in a contemporary manner. Pope Francis says, “In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us.”[vii] I was certainly surprised to realize how technology can lead others to holiness, how it can be used to draw others closer to Christ, and how it can even be used to give glory to God. Join me at the St. John Bosco Conference this year to learn how you can use technology to teach and how those you catechize can use technology to learn – all for the greater glory of God, who stoops down to meet us where we are in order to lift us up to where He is!
Rania Saade will be speaking at the 2016 St. John Bosco Conference this summer. Hope to see you there!
[i] cf. St. Augustine, The First Catechetical Instruction, chapter 8, no. 12.
[ii] cf. Luke 6:36.
[iii] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 2.
[iv] cf. 1 Peter 3:18-20.
[v] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 4
[vi] St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine, chapter 10, no. 27.
[vii] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 25.