Excerpt from the message sent by SIGNIS President Helen Osman to the bishops on the occasion of World Communications Day 2020
We in SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, are urging our members to see as a moment of grace this unique passage: faced with a pandemic we are called to create a narrative that can change lives and history itself.
With their fellow Catholics and all people of good will, they can weave a story worth telling those who come after us, one that will stir their hearts and give them courage when they inevitably face their most difficult times. Our Catholic tradition is an ongoing story that must be renewed with each generation.
I share with you here some key questions that flow from Pope Francis’s message on which our members are reflecting. Perhaps they will be of use to you pastorally.
Pope Francis notes that “not all stories are good stories.” In our time there are those who seek to exploit others or to confuse so that the very notion of truth is in doubt. Their technological savvy produce damaging false narratives that do great harm. The tale that the pandemic is due to a “Chinese virus” leads to attacks on Asian peoples, while rumors of dangerous fake cures abound.
The poor and the marginalized, especially migrants and other people on the move, suffer the most, as they are exploited and literally put in harm’s way so that others may be spared the brunt of the pandemic and our efforts to mitigate its effect on economic life.
- What are the basic tools we offer our people to be able to spot these false stories, which spread like a virus themselves? And better, how do we tell stories of faith and hope so they become the enduring narrative, the antibody to a plague of deception and lies?
If we believe, as the Holy Father says, that the great storyteller became flesh in our human history, then every person has the potential to be a vital character in the story of salvation. We are seeing that in our day in the heroic actions of doctors, nurses, first responders, and in the seemingly mundane actions of those we often have failed to even notice: sanitation and cleaning workers, grocery clerks, and farmworkers. All of them risk their lives to keep us healthy and fed.
- What are the stories in your diocese of these heroes that you can hold up as examples of Christ’s love incarnated in your communities? And how do you spread these stories? What media is at our disposal to make them known?
The Pope reminds us that the Holy Spirit writes the story of God’s love on the human heart. He not only cites as examples The Story of a Soul by St. Therese, but also The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. Many of the stories that relate to the experience of people today are told in secular media, printed and otherwise. In some cultures, the role of traditional storytellers serves the same role. In all cases, their power derives from their affirmation of deeper truths of the human condition, especially the enduring strength of love. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “If something is true, no matter who said it, it is always from the Holy Spirit.”
- How do you offer guidance to your people to see and reflect on the truth where it may be found in the media, arts, and in local traditions, perhaps in places they may not expect it?