Fr Stephen Smuts has reflected one of my closely-held convictions, that blogging can be a true Christian ministry. He linked to The Anglican Catholic in Priests on the Blogs. We find quotes of Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow about the pastoral role in blogging. As I have experienced, the blog (or for that matter other social media like Facebook and Twitter) can be used for good or evil. If used for the purpose of pastoral ministry and Christian teaching, then it is excellent and should be encouraged by bishops and religious superiors.
It is spiritually and emotionally wearing, especially when we have to deal with conflict, in an environment where a person would be more evil or lacking in empathy in his or her expression than he or she would dare in a face-to-face situation. In a way, this is reassuring to the priest who asks himself whether blogging really is a true ministry.
If a priest has a regular parish ministry, it is obvious that priority should be given to that. Some of us live in countries where this is the only possibility for a pastoral ministry other than the contemplative and intercessory ministry of solitary Mass and Office. Many bishops are sceptical about internet ministries because of the dangers of trolls and other mischievous commenters. Has anyone been brought to conversion through a blog? I don’t know of any, but people do write to me to say that it has made a difference in their feeling of being so tired of everything.
There are more and more of us priests doing it and writing blogs on our own account as well as on behalf of our Churches. Many bishops are only beginning to discover what the Internet really is and what it is not. Church websites are vital, but the dynamism of the blog is what keeps it interesting to follow.
My Bishop uses Facebook to great effect, keeping the tone light and social. I think this is a medium I need to discover better, as I have remained aloof from it for a long time. Used well, the potential is tremendous. Twitter uses very short messages or “tweets”, a concept I find difficult to relate to. Facebook is somewhere between the blog and Twitter.
Internet media is no substitute for actually being with people and fully interacting, but it does provide a way to interact with others when geographical distance would make it impossible without telecommunications. Imperfect as it is, it is a tool to use for ministry, teaching and simply making friends (sometimes Facebook “friends” become real friends!).
We have to be open and positive and use the resources we now have.