Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea, facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years…. [W]e want to qualify ourselves by living in the digital world with a believer’s heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet’s incessant flow of communication. -Pope Benedict XVI

I am excited to announce that a paper I presented at a Year of Faith symposium at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception is available for FREE via their theological and pastoral journal, Seat of Wisdom. It is entitled: “A New Door of Faith: Catholic Identity, Evangelization, and Renewal Through Social Media.”

A special thank you to the wonderful people there who hosted us and made the symposium so enjoyable. This was a very special opportunity for me, because although I feel called to help singles fulfill their vocation to marriage, I have other ideas and objectives too!

In the paper, I discuss the fragile state of Catholic identity in the U.S. and how social media can be used to build stronger identities…particularly through the use of niches.

At the same time, I touch on the problem of losing Catholics via social media. What if you don’t fit in? We’ve got so many categories, but sometimes, they aren’t enough…

In particular, we have busted a serious leak when it comes to Catholics with mystical leanings. This is a new focus area of mine. The Charismatic movement isn’t cutting it. Frequently, people with unusual charisms feel forced to leave the Church, or at least, the “orthodox” scene, in order to grow and serve others.

I have unique insights into this phenomenon because I was raised New Age/metaphysical. Would you believe that most of the truly gifted “psychics” I know were raised Catholic? And that a shaman I know has a lot of Catholic clients?

There are bridges to be built! Do we really think that if we bully spiritually sincere people in our pews, that they won’t Google a more supportive tribe and take their gifts of prophecy and healing elsewhere? Not only does it emotionally scar them, but we waste God’s gifts.

While “liberal” Catholics are more open, they are not always loyal to natural law or core doctrines that really make us Catholic….so that’s not the best home for a devout mystic who has been pushed out of an “orthodox” community. With the Internet offering tons of paths out of these conflicts, people are less inclined to do the hard work involved in working things out.

Further, examples I offer in the paper encourage people to use digital media to evangelize. As I mentioned in my book, I met Christ via the Internet. It happens! The Internet is not always a waste of time.

Social media is also a tool for renewal because it is so compatible with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be fast, fiery, inspirational, and hit us in our hearts. In the paper, I describe numerous examples of censorship in the Catholic world…it goes back a long time. The online universe gives people freer reign to express their God experiences, which is great, but also introduces fresh concerns about quality, peer review, and bias.

Even as a fan of the digital universe, recent weeks have reminded me of how people can misuse social media. We’ve all seen comments that are designed to goad that would never pass in person. Who has time for that nonsense? Clearly, some people do, but it doesn’t mean we all have to stoop to that level.

Happy Tridiuum!