Though they’re gifts from God, living and working behind our media screens can sap our energy and leave us feeling listless and spiritually dry. Growing our spiritual lives while immersed in a digital world requires a media spirituality that centers us in Christ, the perfect communicator.
Blessed James Alberione developed Pauline Spirituality to root modern-day communicators and media users in the Word and the Eucharist. Alberione’s spirituality of communications follows the example of the greatest evangelizer and lover of Christ, the apostle St. Paul.
In Alberione's thinking, St. Paul did not wait for people to approach him, but instead he went forth to proclaim Jesus to every person he encountered in the ancient world – Jew, Greek, Roman or Arab. His message always drew on the culture around him, making connections for people with the stories, poets, and orators of the times. Paul realized that cultural stories often touch upon humanity’s deepest yearnings. When in Athens, he went to the Areopagus, the “public square” of learning and philosophizing, there discovering altars raised to various gods. When he saw the altar to an “unknown god,” Paul found the hook to attract his audience. Human beings long for a connection with our creator, in whose image and likeness we are made. So, he quotes from their poets and writers to speak to them of the One God, creator of all, and of Jesus Christ, Redeemer of humanity. He started with the people's culture to address their deepest desires and lead them to Christ.
In 1958 Blessed Alberione wrote about how media apostles must imitate the example of Paul: “St. Paul held all peoples in his heart. He affirmed that his heart had opened wide to embrace all nations. In his intentions, his prayers and his desires all were present. We are to have love for people, therefore, and show it especially towards those who live in the darkness of ignorance. We are also to nourish zeal for the salvation of all people not with words, but with action – the apostolate performed with fervor and love.”
–The Public Square
The darkness of ignorance proliferates our media feeds. We can prayerfully consider how to address the intellectual confusion of our day through our media interaction. St. Paul guides our approach in communicating the truth of the human person and humanity’s ultimate search for God, through a passion for the Gospel and love for each human being we encounter, in-person and online.
To be authentic communicators of truth, we need to be imbued with Christ, the goal toward which we tend as missionary disciples. The Pauline media Spirituality of Alberione roots us in Jesus Master, as Way, Truth, and Life for humanity, present tangibly in the Word of God and the Blessed Sacrament. These are the pillars of a media spirituality. As communicators, we listen attentively to the Word in the Scriptures, meditate on it, and sit at the feet of the Master present in the Eucharist. There, like Mary, we experience “the better part” (Lk 10:42) and become imbued with Christ so to go forth and communicate Christ in the digital spaces and with our neighbors face-to-face. As disciples of Jesus, like Paul, we enter the “public square” with the Gospel of Christ seeking to change hearts by pointing out the beauty, truth and goodness of God present in the world and in the cultural stories of our day. Each one of us can do our part.
A laptop user browsing the internet in this undated file photo. Sr. Nancy Usselmann, a Daughter of St. Paul recommends "praying the media," or praying over all the news, headlines, divisions and stressors we find on the internet, in order to remain spiritually vibrant. (OSV News photo/Yui Mok, PA Images via Reuters)
–Praying the media, praying the news
Though we are surrounded by media and sometimes feel the need to break away to pray in silence, we can also pray the media we use each day. We can pray the news. As we scroll through our social media feeds, or watch a news broadcast, or listen to a podcast, we consider the situation in our world. We offer intercessory prayers for all that we heard or read. Instead of feeling anxious and disturbed by the news, we make this a regular practice to grow in media mindfulness and discernment regarding media messages and to raise up the needs of the world to God.
St. John Paul II called Blessed James Alberione “the Apostle of the New Evangelization,” who gave the church a spirituality for everyone who engages with media. To be Christ’s missionary disciples, we can pray the media we use each day and communicate Christ in the Areopagus of the digital culture.
Sister Nancy Usselmann, a Daughter of St. Paul, is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles and a media literacy education specialist.