This October, we will be thinking about mission in the modern world as we explore our 2022 theme for the Salesian Mission Day: Communicating Christ Today. Within this theme are three key elements: Communicating, through experience of media education; Christ, the true source of all forms of communication of the Gospel; Today, exploring the relationship between young people worldwide and social media.
Communicating Christ today
Sharing the Good News about Jesus and everything which he has done for us is a key part of living out our faith. However, no matter how passionate we may be about our faith, we all struggle sometimes in communicating the Gospel in today’s constantly changing world. This is why the Salesian Mission Day 2022 is all about “communicating Christ today”.
This year, as we remind ourselves of the importance of mission, we are encouraged to consider how social media can be used to reach out in new ways and connect with young people through a means that they are comfortable with. In the words of Fr Alfred Maravilla, SDB, “Social media is a privileged forum to communicate Christ to young people. It is up to each of us to use it with missionary creativity!”
One example from whom we can learn this is Blessed Carlo Acutis – a young man, now in heaven, who loved Jesus deeply and used technology and the Internet to help others draw closer to Him. Carlo found that the Eucharist allowed him to encounter Christ in a very real and tangible way, and he called the Blessed Sacrament ‘my highway to heaven’. He wanted others to meet with Jesus in this way too and believed that modern means of communication could be used powerfully to make Christ known in today’s world and to help others to grow in faith. This inspired Carlo (at the age of 14) to create a website about Eucharistic miracles from all over the world. The website still exists and is available in 19 different languages! It can be visited at www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/liste/list.html and is a testament to his dedication to building up the faith of others.
Carlo died of fulminant leukaemia in 2006, but his story continues to inspire and uplift people in their walk with God. He often emphasised the importance of personal originality and once said “All people are born as originals but many die as photocopies”. He firmly believed that each person can communicate Christ in a distinctive and beautiful way, as a unique individual. Let us take heart from this and remember that God has created us all to be different, thus ensuring that the Gospel could be shared in a vast variety of ways.
Salesians on the other side of the world are also communicating the Good News of Jesus in creative and innovative ways. In Bolivia, Salesians run a radio communication network called ARTESBOL (Association of Salesian Educational Radio-Television Stations in Bolivia). Spread over seven different centres, this service plays a crucial role in connecting those who are most disadvantaged with the rest of the country, as well as providing them with a platform so that their voices can be heard. In fact, ARTESBOL radio stations were established primarily to serve those living in the most remote areas of Bolivia, following in the steps of Don Bosco to empower these isolated communities.
These radio stations are also a fantastic way to bring the truth of God’s word to many others in Bolivia. ARTESBOL’s mission encompasses all of society: it is “To be a group of radio institutions working in a Salesian style, evangelising youth and popular culture, educating, guiding, informing and involving people”. What a beautiful way to live out the great commission in today’s world!
Fr Matt Lowry is another fascinating example of stepping out in faith to evangelise through modern technology. He works primarily among college students in Phoenix, USA, and was spurred by them to start using social media, TikTok in particular, as a form of outreach. The TikTok account he created during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has grown hugely and now has over 146,000 followers – https://firstname.lastname@example.org – His videos provide an accessible way for young people to connect with God, especially as TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform and is hugely popular among young people today.
For Fr Matt, this platform provides an opportunity to reach out and spread the Gospel: “We have the best thing on the planet, the joy of the Lord, so let us share it out into the world!”. It may be daunting, but using these platforms is a way of accompanying our young people and journeying with them. Most importantly, we are not alone in this. As Fr Matt puts it, “At the end of the day, it is not about me at all; the creative one is the Holy Spirit. It is leaning on God and saying: God, this is your work”.
So, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), let us make the most of the opportunities before us to communicate the hope of Jesus through social media. It may take courage and involve stepping out of our comfort zones, but it is worth it!