World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication afford the Church to communicate the gospel message. This year Pope Francis focuses on “That you may tell your children and grandchildren” (Ex 10:2)
Life becomes history. The passage, drawn from the Book of Exodus, highlights the importance of sharing “knowledge of the Lord” and meaningful memories, stories and experiences, so that they may transform people’s lives. With fake news becoming ever more sophisticated, people need the wisdom, courage and patience to discern and embrace constructive stories, Pope Francis said. “We need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life,” “Stories influence our lives, whether in the form of fairy tales, novels, films, songs, news, even if we do not always realize it,” he said, and people often decide “what is right or wrong based on characters and stories we have made our own.” “Instead of constructive stories, which serve to strengthen social ties and the cultural fabric,” he said, “we find destructive and provocative stories that wear down and break the fragile threads binding us together as a society.” “We need courage to reject false and evil stories. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread amid today’s many troubles.
The Scriptures and the stories of the saints are just some of those good stories, he said. As they always “shed light on the human heart and its beauty, the Holy Spirit is free to write in our hearts, reviving our memory of what we are in God’s eyes. Pope Francis, therefore, turns his attention to the story of Jesus, which shows how God has taken man to heart and that for Him “no human stories are insignificant or paltry”. “By the power of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope explains, “every story, even the most forgotten one, can be reborn as a masterpiece, and become an appendix to the Gospel.” The Pope asks everyone, no one is excluded, to make this talent bear fruit: to make of communications an instrument with which to build bridges, to unite and to share the beauty of being brothers and sisters in a moment of history marked by discord and division.
“The pope encouraged people to ask Mary to “teach us to recognize the good thread that runs through history” and to loosen “the tangled knots in our life that paralyze our memory.”
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE 54th WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY
“That you may tell your children and grandchildren” (Ex 10:2)
Life becomes history
I would like to devote this year’s Message to the theme of storytelling, because I believe that, so as not to lose our bearings, we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories. Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze. A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.
1. Weaving stories
Human beings are storytellers. From childhood we hunger for stories just as we hunger for food. Stories influence our lives, whether in the form of fairy tales, novels, films, songs, news, even if we do not always realize it. Often we decide what is right or wrong based on characters and stories we have made our own. Stories leave their mark on us; they shape our convictions and our behaviour. They can help us understand and communicate who we are.
We are not just the only beings who need clothing to cover our vulnerability (cf. Gen 3: 21); we are also the only ones who need to be “clothed” with stories to protect our lives. We weave not only clothing, but also stories: indeed, the human capacity to “weave” (Latin texere) gives us not only the word textile but also text. The stories of different ages all have a common “loom”: the thread of their narrative involves “heroes”, including everyday heroes, who in following a dream confront difficult situations and combat evil, driven by a force that makes them courageous, the force of love. By immersing ourselves in stories, we can find reasons to heroically face the challenges of life.
Human beings are storytellers because we are engaged in a process of constant growth, discovering ourselves and becoming enriched in the tapestry of the days of our life. Yet since the very beginning, our story has been threatened: evil snakes its way through history.
2. Not all stories are good stories
“When you eat of it … you will be like God” (cf. Gen 3:4): the temptation of the serpent introduces into the fabric of history a knot difficult to undo. “If you possess, you will become, you will achieve…” This is the message whispered by those who even today use storytelling for purposes of exploitation. How many stories serve to lull us, convincing us that to be happy we continually need to gain, possess and consume. We may not even realize how greedy we have become for chatter and gossip, or how much violence and falsehood we are consuming. Often on communication platforms, instead of constructive stories which serve to strengthen social ties and the cultural fabric, we find destructive and provocative stories that wear down and break the fragile threads binding us together as a society. By patching together bits of unverified information, repeating banal and deceptively persuasive arguments, sending strident and hateful messages, we do not help to weave human history, but instead strip others of their dignity.
But whereas the stories employed for exploitation and power have a short lifespan, a good story can transcend the confines of space and time. Centuries later, it remains timely, for it nourishes life.
In an age when falsification is increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels (as in deepfake), we need wisdom to be able to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to reject false and evil stories. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread amid today’s many troubles. We need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life.
3. The Story of stories
Sacred Scripture is a Story of stories. How many events, peoples and individuals it sets before us! It shows us from the very beginning a God who is both creator and narrator. Indeed, God speaks his word and things come into existence (cf. Gen 1). As narrator, God calls things into life, culminating in the creation of man and woman as his free dialogue partners, who make history alongside him. In one of the Psalms, the creature tells the creator: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (139:13-15). We are not born complete, but need to be constantly “woven”, “knitted together”. Life is given to us as an invitation to continue to weave the “wonderful” mystery that we are.
The Bible is thus the great love story between God and humanity. At its centre stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfilment both God’s love for us and our love for God. Henceforth, in every generation, men and women are called to recount and commit to memory the most significant episodes of this Story of stories, those that best communicate its meaning.
The title of this year’s Message is drawn from the Book of Exodus, a primordial biblical story in which God intervenes in the history of his people. When the enslaved children of Israel cry out to Him, God listens and remembers: “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Ex 2: 24-25). God’s memory brings liberation from oppression through a series of signs and wonders. The Lord then reveals to Moses the meaning of all these signs: “that you may tell in the hearing of your children and grandchildren… what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord” (Ex 10:2). The Exodus experience teaches us that knowledge of the Lord is handed down from generation to generation mainly by telling the story of how he continues to make himself present. The God of life communicates with us through the story of life.
Jesus spoke of God not with abstract concepts, but with parables, brief stories taken from everyday life. At this point life becomes story and then, for the listener, story becomes life: the story becomes part of the life of those who listen to it, and it changes them.
The Gospels are also stories, and not by chance. While they tell us about Jesus, they are “performative”; they conform us to Jesus. The Gospel asks the reader to share in the same faith in order to share in the same life. The Gospel of John tells us that the quintessential storyteller – the Word – himself becomes the story: “God’s only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (Jn 1: 18). The original verb, exegésato, can be translated both as “revealed” and “recounted”. God has become personally woven into our humanity, and so has given us a new way of weaving our stories.
4. An ever renewed story
The history of Christ is not a legacy from the past; it is our story, and always timely. It shows us that God was so deeply concerned for mankind, for our flesh and our history, to the point that he became man, flesh and history. It also tells us that no human stories are insignificant or paltry. Since God became story, every human story is, in a certain sense, a divine story. In the history of every person, the Father sees again the story of his Son who came down to earth. Every human story has an irrepressible dignity. Consequently, humanity deserves stories that are worthy of it, worthy of that dizzying and fascinating height to which Jesus elevated it.
“You” – Saint Paul wrote – “are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:3). The Holy Spirit, the love of God, writes within us. And as he writes within us, he establishes goodness in us and constantly reminds us of it. Indeed, to “re-mind” means to bring to mind, to “write” on the heart. By the power of the Holy Spirit, every story, even the most forgotten one, even the one that seems to be written with the most crooked lines, can become inspired, can be reborn as a masterpiece, and become an appendix to the Gospel. Like the Confessions of Augustine. Like A Pilgrim’s Journey of Ignatius. Like The Story of a Soul of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. Like The Betrothed, like The Brothers Karamazov. Like countless other stories, which have admirably scripted the encounter between God’s freedom and that of man. Each of us knows different stories that have the fragrance of the Gospel, that have borne witness to the Love that transforms life. These stories cry out to be shared, recounted and brought to life in every age, in every language, in every medium.
5. A story that renews us
Our own story becomes part of every great story. As we read the Scriptures, the stories of the saints, and also those texts that have shed light on the human heart and its beauty, the Holy Spirit is free to write in our hearts, reviving our memory of what we are in God’s eyes. When we remember the love that created and saved us, when we make love a part of our daily stories, when we weave the tapestry of our days with mercy, we are turning another page. We no longer remain tied to regrets and sadness, bound to an unhealthy memory that burdens our hearts; rather, by opening ourselves to others, we open ourselves to the same vision of the great storyteller. Telling God our story is never useless: even if the record of events remains the same, the meaning and perspective are always changing. To tell our story to the Lord is to enter into his gaze of compassionate love for us and for others. We can recount to him the stories we live, bringing to him the people and the situations that fill our lives. With him we can re-weave the fabric of life, darning its rips and tears. How much we, all of us, need to do exactly this!
With the gaze of the great storyteller – the only one who has the ultimate point of view – we can then approach the other characters, our brothers and sisters, who are with us as actors in today’s story. For no one is an extra on the world stage, and everyone’s story is open to possible change. Even when we tell of evil, we can learn to leave room for redemption; in the midst of evil, we can also recognize the working of goodness and give it space.
So it is not a matter of simply telling stories as such, or of advertising ourselves, but rather of remembering who and what we are in God’s eyes, bearing witness to what the Spirit writes in our hearts and revealing to everyone that his or her story contains marvellous things. In order to do this, let us entrust ourselves to a woman who knit together in her womb the humanity of God and, the Gospel tells us, wove together the events of her life. For the Virgin Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19). Let us ask for help from her, who knew how to untie the knots of life with the gentle strength of love:
O Mary, woman and mother, you wove the divine Word in your womb, you recounted by your life the magnificent works of God. Listen to our stories, hold them in your heart and make your own the stories that no one wants to hear. Teach us to recognize the good thread that runs through history. Look at the tangled knots in our life that paralyze our memory. By your gentle hands, every knot can be untied. Woman of the Spirit, mother of trust, inspire us too. Help us build stories of peace, stories that point to the future. And show us the way to live them together.
Rome, at Saint John Lateran, 24 January 2020, the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales Franciscus
Resources for World Communications Day 2020
Life becomes history”, the Holy Father says, “I would like to devote this year’s Message to the theme of storytelling, because I believe that, so as not to lose our bearings, we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories. Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can regard our world and its happenings with a tender gaze. A narrative that can tell us that we are part of a living and interconnected tapestry. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.”
Click here to read the full text of the Pope’s message.
Welcoming the Pope’s message for World Communications Day, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore, said, “The relationship between the generations is a favourite theme of Pope Francis which he emphasises again today in his World Communications Day message. Throughout his pontificate the Holy Father has sought to develop the synergy that exists between younger and older people by regularly asking them to join forces to make the world a better place.
“That night, at the 2018 Youth Synod, Pope Francis launched a book called Sharing the Wisdom of Time. In the preface he says ‘the Lord wants me to say: that there should be an alliance between the young and old people.’ Pope Francis goes further to explain that this cooperation entails sharing experiences of older people, heeding their advice and creating a strong bond with the new generations who are hungry for guidance and support as they prepare for their future. This is exemplified in his World Communications Day message this year. :
Click here to read Archbishop Eamon Martin’s welcome of this year’s World Communications Day message.
Sharing the Wisdom of Time
In the book Sharing the Wisdom of Time Pope Francis has asked young and old to join forces to make the world a better place.
Pope Francis views elders as reservoirs of wisdom and historical memory and believes their insights will offer future generations much-needed understanding and direction. More than 250 people were interviewed for this book and a collection of stories was sent to the Vatican. These encompassed universal themes of love, loss, survival, hope, peace in the face of unimaginable tragedy, and above all, faith. Pope Francis received every story, prayed over them, and responded with sensitivity and grace to 31 of the stories and the issues they raise. The stories are organized in five thematic chapters: work, struggle, love, death and hope, and each chapte
In his Preface, Pope Francis lays out his reasons for this collection of wisdom stories and the movement he hopes it inspires. He also contributes as a fellow elder, offering a story from his own life at the start of each chapter. And in his own wise and compassionate way, he serves as a spiritual shepherd, commenting on dozens of heartfelt stories.
The book, which was curated by Father Antonio Spadaro SJ, is available to purchase from Messenger Publications at this link.
- Prayers of the Faithful relating to Communications
For the Church throughout the world:
For Pope Francis, Church leaders and Christians everywhere.
May they communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ
with courage and conviction.
Lord, hear us.
For all involved in the work of communications and media
especially during this pandemic:
that their work may serve the cause of truth and justice
and bring real benefits to all.
Lord, hear us.
For a desire to be faithful witness to the Gospel:
That people everywhere may hear
God’s good news for the world.
Lord, hear us.
- Prayers for Communications and Media
Prayer for Communicators
Lord, let the good news of your marvellous deeds fall on every ear,
and let all tongues rejoice in your wisdom,
your compassion, your faithfulness,
and your love.
Make me bold and let me share your Word
with those you desire to reach.
As my heart overflows with your love,
speak through me.
Let me proclaim your glory and your majesty,
and tell of the kindness you have shown your people.
This I ask, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Communications Prayer for those working in Diocesan and Parish Communications
you blessed the first disciples
with the power to spread God’s love
throughout the world.
Give me a new power to proclaim your word
through my own unique gifts
and through the channels of clear communications.
Make me wiling to receive that word
as it enters my daily life.
Bless all who use their talents
in the field of communications.
Guide those who send out the message
and those who receive it,
so that all people
may come to know your truth
and be renewed by your love.
We ask this through
Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Prayer of Saint Francis de Sales
Be at Peace
Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are,
will deliver you from out of them.
He has kept you hitherto,
and He will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will bury you in his arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and everyday.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Patron of Journalists, Writers, Editors and the Catholic Press.
Prayer for Journalists
Almighty God, strengthen and direct, we pray,
the will of all whose work it is to write what many read,
and to speak where many listen.
May we be bold to confront evil and injustice:
understanding and compassionate of human weakness;
rejecting alike the half-truth which deceives, and the slanted word which corrupts.
May the power which is ours,
for good or ill,
always be used with honesty and courage,
with respect and integrity,
so that, when all here has been written,
said and done,
we may, unashamed,
meet Thee face to face, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Social Media Prayer by Meredith Gould
Christ has no online presence but yours
No blog, no Facebook page but yours,
Yours are the tweets through which love touches the world,
Yours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared,
Yours are the updates through which hope is revealed.
Christ has no online presence but yours,
No blog, no Facebook page but yours.
By Meredith Gould
Social Media Prayer by Brenda Drumm
Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer for Grandparents
you were born in the Virgin Mary,
the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne.
Look with love on grandparents the world over.
Protect them! They are a source of enrichment
for families, for the Church and for all of society.
Support them! As they grow older,
may they continue to be for their families
strong pillars of Gospel faith,
guardians of noble domestic ideals,
living treasuries of sound religious traditions.
Make them teachers of wisdom and courage,
that they may pass on to future generations the fruits
of their mature human and spiritual experience.
help families and society
to value the presence and role of grandparents.
May they never be ignored or excluded,
but always encounter respect and love.
Help them to live serenely and to feel welcomed
in all the years of life which you give them.
Mary, Mother of all the living,
keep grandparents constantly in your care,
accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage,
and by your prayers, grant that all families
may one day be reunited in our heavenly homeland,
where you await all humanity
for the great embrace of life without end.
Prayer was written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. For more resources on grandparents visit the website of the Catholic Grandparents Association
Archbishop Eamon Martin’s 10 tips for engaging on the digital highway
- Be positive and joyful. Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour. Remember that it is the ‘joy of the Gospel’ that we are communicating, so, as Pope Francis says: no ‘funeral faces’ or ‘sourpusses’!
- Strictly avoid aggression and ‘preachiness’ online; try not to be judgemental or polemical – goodness knows, there is enough of this online already! Instead, try Pope Francis’ approach of ‘tenderness and balm’.
- Never bear false witness on the internet.
- Remember ‘Ubi caritas et amor’. Fill the internet with charity and love, always giving rather than taking. Continually seek to broaden and reframe discussions and seek to include a sense of charity and solidarity with the suffering in the world.
- Have a broad back when criticisms and insults are made – when possible, gently correct.
- Pray in the digital world! Establish sacred spaces, opportunities for stillness, reflection and meditation online.
- Establish connections, relationships and build communion. Church has always been about ‘gathering’. In this, it is worth considering an ecumenical presence for the Christian churches online. The internet tends to be a place of ethical and intellectual relativism, and often of aggressive secularism. The scandal of disunity among Christians can be easily exploited and exaggerated. Therefore we must seek to share resources so that we can have a powerful Gospel witness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people started noticing online: ‘See how these Christians love one another’.
- Educate our young to keep themselves safe and to use the internet responsibly.
- Witness to human dignity at all times online. Seek, as Pope Benedict once said, to ‘give a soul to the internet’. We are well aware of the pervasive prevalence of pornography on the internet which can ‘pollute the spirit’, destroy and degrade human sexuality and relationships, reduce persons to objects for gratification, draw millions into the commodification and commercialisation of sex, feed the monster that is human trafficking.
- Be missionary, be aware that with the help of the internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds. In this regard, let us foster and call forth charisms in younger committed people who understand the power and potential of the net to bear witness.
Hashtag for World Communications Day 2020 The hashtag is #WCD2020.