The internet is the oddest of places. Even within limited settings as say, religious forums, you can go to a favorite haunt and discover after a few moments that an entirely different impression of you has been created by a few words. Opportunities for misunderstanding or at the very least, uncharitable thoughts abound.
Twice in the past week, I have been told that my faith is in error, and in opposite directions no less. One person accused me of not being a true Catholic for participating in the receiving of the Eucharist by hand, a licit practice sanctioned by the Church and her princes. How we come to the Eucharist in our souls matters more than the accident of how we receive. It is a difficult thing to be called a blasphemer about something so utterly central to our faith. The accusation made me wonder, how do we gather these angry brothers and sisters of our Catholic church and bring them back? How do we respond with love to them in a way that they can hear the beauty of Christ\’s desire to have real intimate communion with each of us, to break into every life and pour over every soul?
The other accused me of being docile sheep to the church to the point of being willing to gather firewood to burn heretics if a Bishop told me so. I\’d suggested we follow the counsel of Cardinal Chaput and pray and fast for Dr. Gosnell and others like him, as penance and reparation for the sins of abortion. Obedience to the suggestions of the Cardinals and the Bishops and priests and the Holy Father is not done blindly or in ignorance. But being asked to pray and fast for the sake of others seems like precious little time would be needed to discern if this was of the Holy Spirit. The person was angry at the Church for all the ways in which the humans which people Her, have failed. How do we pull these people who can rightly point to the flawed practicing of over 2000 years to see the beauty of the Truth of the Church, even if her witnesses miss the mark?
These people are on Facebook and in the comboxes of religious blogs because they crave a bigger community than the one they\’ve found in their lives. I must too or I wouldn\’t also be surfing around Facebook and Catholic blogs. Pope Francis just this week spoke about how the Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.
But, Father, this one is not Catholic! He cannot do good.
Yes, he can…\”The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! … We must meet one another doing good.\”
But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!
\”But do good: we will meet one another there.\”
So the Lord came for the true Catholics and the docile sheep and to those in between if we meet each other by doing good.
How to do good on the internet? Aside from setting limits on internet strolls, I talked with my family as many of us fall into the trap of \”hunting orcs\” when a topic, be it religion or politics or the love of a particular series in a science fiction genre. We came up with some rules for ourselves.
1) Speak truth in charity if the issue raised makes you come back to the site to read the position more than three times.
2) Pray about the topic and the problem each time. Seek out an actual friend with which to discuss the issue in question so as to gut check your own emotional response to something. Being called a blasphemer hurts. Don\’t think I wasn\’t ready to get up on my high holy horse and start announcing my bonifides like a Greek warrior declaring all she\’d slain before engaging in battle. I go to church. I read scripture. I pray. And so forth.
3) Do not seek to have the last word or \”win.\” Discipline yourself to not double back. This is a sublimation of the spirit that is amazingly hard. After all, after pouring out one\’s own wisdom in pithy phrases, who doesn\’t want to be validated or to take on whatever new argument has been presented?
But many in our family including, and perhaps especially, me need one more final rule, the self destruct button of all rules. Turn the damn thing off. Go outside. Bake bread. Walk. Kiss. Read a book or write a poem. Attend a mass. Pray the rosary. Play games. Garden. Do all the things you would be doing if the internet never existed, all the things that make for actual things and actual memories as versus virtual fossils of never to be read again thought left as so much intellectual litter cast on the information super highway.
Remember that the internet will still be there tomorrow. We\’re not trying for cyber immortality, we\’re trying for sainthood, which isn\’t achieved by victories in the comboxes, but by conversions of hearts, most importantly, our own.
© 2013. Sherry Antonetti. All Rights Reserved.
Photography: See our Photographers page.