Q: Archbishop J, why World Communications Day?
For 54 years, the Church has celebrated World Communications Day. This is because of the realisation that communications are at the very core of the Church’s mission. The Vatican II document On the Means of Social Communication (Communio et Progressio) says: “Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level it is the giving of self in love” (11). Love is the new commandment Jesus gave us (Jn 13:34): Communication is indispensable for living the commandment.
In the Pastoral Instruction, Dawn of a New Era (1992) the Church says: “Here, in the Word made flesh, God’s self-communication is definitive. In Jesus’ words and deeds the Word is liberating, redemptive, for all humankind. This loving self-revelation of God, combined with humanity’s response of faith, constitutes a profound dialogue” (6).
In the inner heart of the Trinity there is communication. Father gives all to Son and the Spirit, the Son gives all to Father and Spirit and the Spirit gives all to Father and Son. This is the model of Christian life, the model of discipleship, the model of marriage and of religious life, priesthood and lay consecrated life.
For the Church to be faithful to Christ, communication needs to be more than effective in ways of sending and receiving messages. Communication, as the sacred council says, is giving of ourselves in love.
World Communications Day 2020
The theme of World Communications Day 2020 is “That you may tell your children and grandchildren” (Ex 10:2). In his message marking today’s celebration, Pope Francis reflects on human history and the textured interconnections of our lives. He says: “Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze. A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another” (1).
The Holy Father sees human-to-human communication as the means to build meaning in our lives and engage in the common pursuit of the good. He believes as we understand the power of stories, we will learn how to bring about a more humane humanity—how to give ourselves in love to others. Our particular ability to tell stories separates us from all other living creatures.
He says: “We are not just the only beings who need clothing to cover our vulnerability (cf Gen 3: 21); we are also the only ones who need to be ‘clothed’ with stories to protect our lives. We weave not only clothing, but also stories: indeed, the human capacity to ‘weave’ (Latin texere) gives us not only the word textile but also text. The stories of different ages all have a common ‘loom’: the thread of their narrative involves ‘heroes’, including everyday heroes, who in following a dream confront difficult situations and combat evil, driven by a force that makes them courageous, the force of love. By immersing ourselves in stories, we can find reasons to heroically face the challenges of life.” (1)
By using the metaphor of the story, the Holy Father is showing at once what is unique to us humans and our interconnectedness, our capacity for constant growth and the power for love.
But from the beginning, Pope Francis says, “evil snakes its way through history” (1). He continues: “‘If you possess, you will become, you will achieve…’ This is the message whispered by those who even today use storytelling for purposes of exploitation. How many stories serve to lull us, convincing us that to be happy we continually need to gain, possess, and consume. We may not even realise how greedy we have become for chatter and gossip, or how much violence and falsehood we are consuming” (2).
From the time of the Fall, our story has been distorted by sin and greed and the dark emotions. As our technological capacities have increased so has the power of evil to induce. But, Pope Francis asserts, “whereas the stories employed for exploitation and power have a short lifespan, a good story can transcend the confines of space and time. Centuries later, it remains timely, for it nourishes life” (2).
And, for this reason, the Bible is “the great love story between God and humanity”, Pope Francis says. “At its centre stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfilment both God’s love for us and our love for God. Henceforth, in every generation, men and women are called to recount and commit to memory the most significant episodes of this Story of stories, those that best communicate its meaning” (3).
Through the story of the Bible we find salvation. By remembering the love that created and saved us, we are able to choose to weave mercy into our daily story. We can choose to live for others and for God, and so “open ourselves to the same vision of the great storyteller”.
So, the Pope concludes, “It is not a matter of simply telling stories as such, or of advertising ourselves, but rather of remembering who and what we are in God’s eyes, bearing witness to what the Spirit writes in our hearts and revealing to everyone that his or her story contains marvellous things” (5).
In 2017, the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference wrote a pastoral letter on communications. This document is now standard reading for all people in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese. Through reading and reflecting on this document, and the Pope’s message, you will find the tools to participate in the great story of faith of the Antillean people. You will also find a way to contribute to this story, as we together seek new ways of being Church in this digital milieu.
Communications is at the heart of the revelation of God to us. It is an indispensable way of transforming people, Church and society. It can also be destructive.
Read the letter of Pope Francis and the letter of the AEC Bishops, ponder them, and consider how you might contribute to our Antillean story, and the new way of being Church is this digital milieu.