Becoming More Creative
Fr. Sebastian M. Michael SVD
Reading the signs of the times and motivated by a desire to make the truth of our Christian faith more alive and meaningful to the modern world, not least to our young people who are much influenced by the new methods of communications which have been developed in the wake of the information revolution which began in 1969 when the first man landed on the moon, the Pontifical Council for Culture organized its Plenary Assembly on the theme “THE CULTURE OF COMMUNICATION AND NEW LANGUAGES” from 10-13 November 2010 in Rome.
An Enriching Experience
It was an enriching experience for me to meet very prominent, international film makers, artists, musicians, internet experts and other intellectuals and listen to them and learn about the art of communication in today’s world.
The Plenary Assembly helped me to get a view of the global situation and an understanding of the present predicament of the world, the concerns of the Church and its efforts to respond creatively to the dynamic changes which are a permanent feature of the modern world.
The Plenary Assembly provided a wider perspective on the situation. Some resource persons presented their view on “Man in the Midst of the New Technology and the Responsibility of the Church to be a Formative Influence in the Shaping of the Modern World”. Special attention was given to the youth. Hence, it was pointed out that in communicating the Christian message for the modern world, we should take into consideration the interaction between art, faith, spirituality.
In the context of increasing individuality and multiplicity of choices, modern means of communication, especially the new vistas that are opening up within the digital culture holds a strong fascination for many people not least for children and the young. Music and film – potential means of manipulation – are often strongly evocative and capable of exerting a powerful emotional appeal, can now make use of the latest channels of communication like You Tube, Face Book and other electronic and digital media boosted by strong commercial interest in the powerful market economy of the modern world. This field is not neutral. It often promotes secular and hedonistic values among young people. Hence there is a need to bring Christ and Christian values into the heart of the internet and the digital world. The importance of exploring the possibility of an evangelization of culture through the medium of the modern languages and tools of communication is a matter of urgency.
In the Plenary Assembly a special emphasis was placed on the need for our Christian faith and the mystery of God to be expressed in a simple and straight forward way to modern men and women. We should bring out the intimate relationship between faith and art. We are called by God to demonstrate in our lives the love of God, to expound and explain the symbols of the Christian faith, to bring to light the depth of meaning they contain and thus rediscover our Christian roots.
Theory and Praxis
Though I had some knowledge of the impact of modern means of communication, the Plenary Assembly helped me to understand the wider issues involved in a concrete and practical manner. I was made aware of the need to become acquainted with the new language and the new media which is creating a culture of its own. Now we need to understand this new cultural language, listen to the voice of the digital language community, to be aware of new trends and the sociological changes taking place in the contemporary world. Knowledge of the “Digital Anthropology” of the modern world should help us in the field of inculturation and evangelization. I understand that it is very important to listen to the voice of the city, to understand the aspirations and anxiety of the digital generation. Our concern should be the world of television, cinema, art, music and architecture. Modern people are often harassed by persecution, frustration, disturbance and fragmentation. To perceive truth or a deeper meaning to existence has for many modern people become increasingly difficult in the midst of the rise of a New Atheism. For the Church the modern situation constitutes both a challenge and an opportunity. We must take full advantage of the modern means of communication in order to present a coherent worldview of love and salvation which will bring to light the ultimate purpose and meaning of life.
In short, my participation in the Plenary Assembly helped me to understand the newly emerging challenges for the Church to communicate Christ and His life-giving message to the contemporary world. It also made me aware of the internet and digital world and the cultural revolution which is on the way in the world of today. We have an opportunity as well as a challenge. The Church has a long tradition of making use of all means available in order to propagate the Christian faith. As inheritors of a great tradition, we, the members of the Church must become more creative in using art, music, architecture, films, internet, face book, mobile phone and social networking sites to communicate the person of Jesus, the meaning of His Passion, Death and Resurrection to the contemporary world which is increasingly becoming secularized and atheistic. A new apologetics is required to meet the challenge from the new digital culture in the making. Our Christian life need to be permeated with an understanding of the modern cultural language in liturgy, art, music and film.
After the completion of the Panel Assembly, I felt it was my duty as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture to share the insights and experiences I gained with the people of the region where I work by organizing seminars, workshops and to disseminate the knowledge we obtained during the Panel Assembly in order to help the Local Church to respond positively to the challenges of the present times.