Every year in May, the Church celebrates World Communications Day. Our mission is to “go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News”. What a big responsibility, a wonderful gift and a great and exciting mission! The media and our involvement in the media can be central to this mission. Our websites, our writing, our social media, our videos can play a central role.
The Church and the Society of Jesus have improved so much in these areas over the last ten years but there is still a long way to go. Where are the specific points of growth? We can take a leaf out of the book of secular and commercial companies. They are communicating about everyday products, employ great creativity, and are able to provoke passion and inspire action.
So, the call to us is to be creative also about the Kingdom, about the message of Jesus. He Himself used parables and stories to engage with people. He spoke of the prodigal son, the lost coin, the workers in the vineyard. And when asked “Who is my neighbour?” he did not respond with an intellectual discussion but rather told the unforgettable story of the Good Samaritan. The first hint to how to tell good news is to tell a story, to speak of real people and times and places, to be vulnerable. Through the vulnerability of Earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7), the grace of God is alive. Jerome Nadal gave three hints for good communication: Spiritu, Corde, Practice. A translation as well as an explanation could be: Inspired by the Spirit, speaking from the heart, and linking to the everyday.
Here in the Jesuit Curia we have produced Jesuit Stories, a series about the work of Jesuits and mission partners around the world, about the way to live the Universal Apostolic Preferences. These stories speak spiritu, corde, practice. We want Jesuits and mission partners around the world to send us their stories, told in their way, with their cultural flavour. A second initiative in the making is to work with the Communications schools of Jesuit institutions around the world. It will include the dimension of learning (via provided materials and recorded workshops), creativity (through research and production), as well as networking and promotion of young talents (by displaying these essays and films in our and our partners’ media). Above all, we believe the initiative should raise awareness of the crucial aspects of Jesuit mission reflected in the four Apostolic Preferences.
Creativity and imagination are so central today and can push people towards God…or away from God. Theologian Michael Warren asks, “Who is imagining your life for you?” Some people allow their lives to be imagined by the advertising gurus. Can we help them to imagine their lives in a Gospel manner? That is the central challenge of Gospel communications today.