Monday, 1 October 2012

Catholic-Link launched in English!

To celebrate the launch of Catholic Link's English language site, with permission I have published below an interview with Mauricio, a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), who blogs at Catholic Link's Spanish site by Fr Joan Carreras del Rincón. Fr Carreras is the founder of Asociación de blogueros con el Papa [Association of Bloggers with the Pope] which will be holding their second meeting in early October. Mauricio talks about how Catholic-Link started, the principles behind it and the lauch of the English language version.

The SCV is a Society of Apostolic Life of Ponitifical Right, founded in Lima, Peru in 1971. They do not have a presence in the UK, but their sisters, the Marian Community of Reconciliation (also known as the Fraternas) have a community in Manchester.

Catholic-Link is a great resource for catechists and really for anyone doing apostolate with young people. The launch of their English version is excellent news.

Fr Carreras: I am lucky enough to be interviewing a young blogger for whom I feel great admiration. He is the author of a very young, dynamic blog: Catholic Link. I feel admiration because he unites various qualities which are not often found in young people: critical maturity, thoughtful statements, wise commentary. To these characteristics found in those hardened by experience he adds those typical of youth: technological mastery, being in tune with young people’s problems, a certain unworried air…

Mauricio, how did the idea to create this blog come about? How long have you had this liking for blogs? Are your interest in blogging and your eagerness to evangelise related in some way?
Mauricio: Catholic-Link arose very quietly. The truth is that at the beginning I never through that it could reach the dimensions it now has. Before launching the blog I used to send different videos, which I thought were useful for apostolate, to various brothers from my community (I am a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae); one of them, a priest who is a good friend of mine, advised me to create a blog where I could put all the material, organised by categories, with labels. The idea seemed a good one so I did it and started to publish things there. Initially, and I think it’s stayed that way, the blog had a very informal, familiar style, that of a friend explaining to another friend how to do apostolate. It seems to me that this was one of the elements which sparked the warm welcome which the blog started to receive. Very rapidly, many seminarians, catechists, consecrated men and women, and people generally involved in apostolate (the majority being young people) started to write to us saying that they were using our videos and that the page was helping a lot in their apostolate. VE Multimedios, an association which produces websites for the Church, even offered to upgrade our site for free when they saw our work.

 In considering all these testimonies, I started to realise what a great responsibility we were assuming. This was the point, I think, at which I started to get interested in blogs. I discovered that Catholic-Link was a channel for encountering other people and, through them, thousands more. It’s easy to underestimate the impact which a blog can have. However, in the times in which we live, globalisation and interconnectivity mean that a blog really can become a wonderful source of apostolate. That’s why we bloggers see our role as one of such great importance within the mission of the Church. We need Catholic bloggers, passionate about what they do, keen to form themselves, enterprising, attentive to the signs of the times, available not just to write excellent posts but also to place widgets on their blogs. Beyond all this, the most important thing according to my way of seeing things… we need Catholic bloggers who are in love with Christ and the Church. If Catholic communicators are not the greatest lovers of Christ and his Church, who will believe us? We can have great communication skills – creativity, knowledge, eloquence, etc, - but if I am lack love then “I am a clanging cymbal”.

Catholic Link has a very modern, young style. Sometimes, Catholic evangelisers don’t connect with young people: do you think the language and pictures used on occasion can not only not attract young people but put them off?
I’ve been a religion teacher in a Catholic school in Rome for a year now. For me, it’s been a gift from God; I’ve learned a lot from my pupils. One of the things that I’ve understood is that young people have real difficulty understanding how they can make the contents of the faith become part of their lives. My pupils understand that God was made man, that the Lord Jesus died on the cross for us all, that he rose on the third day and appeared to the disciples, but they don’t understand how this has changed their lives. They don’t understand how these events can alter their relationships and their understanding of their surroundings, how this is the greatest marvel which has occurred not only 2000 years ago but here and now. And I don’t blame them. Our culture, even in Italy, is no longer a Christian culture. A culture which is interwoven with Christianity reconciles the rupture between faith and life; the culture in which we live lamentably widens it. Young people, and the rest of us too, are victims of this. Therefore our language often serves to distance others from faith, because we ourselves don’t really know how Christ illuminates the simplest things in our lives. Our posts, our publications, the pictures we put on facebook and the videos which we edit, sometimes, not always, show little co-naturality with a God who became flesh, who became human life, whose incarnation and sacrifice revolutionised the way of understanding everything, starting with myself from the most superficial to the deepest.

Put another way, reality is Catholic! Reality comes from God. The world is standing on my territory, and not the other way around. Faith is not an aspect of life that we have to get other people to start living. Faith is reality itself, seen from a more realistic angle. I think this is the point. To witness with great valour and joy that God loves and sustains the world. He became incarnate! And he is present in my life and yours, he takes care of the least and the greatest, from the precarious weekly finances of my house to the mystic prayer of the most spiritual Carthusian. God has revealed that he is close to us, that he is not indifferent to human suffering or human joy. Well, I could be wrong, but I think that doing apostolate on the internet doesn’t have so much to do with connecting with young people as with connecting, first of all, with the immense, daily, simple, boundless, practical, theoretical, incarnate riches of our Catholic faith. From this perspective, I think that it would be very difficult for a young person not to find themselves questioned by the apostolate we carry out.

It’s also important to be very respectful in terms of the stages a young person has to pass through in order to know the Lord. Christ himself taught his disciples progressively, a little at a time, until the day he found that they were mature enough for him to reveal that he would have to suffer the cross. Our apostolate must try to imitate Jesus’s reverent love. I know that one can have one’s heart in one’s hand and want to announce to everyone, once and for all, that life is more ‘full’ on this side; however, if we don’t patiently spend some time building a boat, it probably won’t be enough to throw a rope, especially when the river that must be crossed has burst its banks.  

Recently, you offered an English language version of Catholic-link. How do you do this? Do you translate everything?
We translate some content, especially when time is short. But the idea is to produce our own material, being that the English-speaking countries have different ways of thinking and approaching the faith. Thanks be to God, some young people - two Americans and a Philippine - are taking the project forward.

Has the spread of viral videos ever given you any problems in terms of copyright violation?
As I explained, Catholic-Link came about in a very informal, familiar way and has continued to grow, carrying the vices and virtues of this way of doing things. So far we haven’t had any problems with copyright violation but we are aware that the size and spread of the site demands greater care and attention to this important aspect.

What are your expectations for the II meeting of Bloggers with the Pope, in Santander, from the 5th – 7th October?
For us, it is very special that we have been invited to the meeting. Among the bloggers who will participate we are definitely the most inexperienced so our main expectation is to learn from very experienced bloggers and evangelisers. We believe that initiatives such as this one help to strengthen links of friendship which can benefit the apostolate of the whole Church. I have to say, as well, that (modesty aside) this meeting is not like any other meeting of Catholic bloggers: the Association which has invited us and of which we form part has among its principal objectives the promotion of fidelity to the teachings of the Holy Father. I think that one expectation shared by all the participants will be that of seeing how to become effective, faithful spokesmen for the Church. Fr Federico Lombardi, who is in charge of the Holy See’s Press Office, considers Catholic bloggers to be the “public opinion” of the Church. What a responsibility! This II Meeting of Bloggers with the Pope could be an excellent occasion to organise ourselves as a concert of voices in tune with the reconciling message of the Pope; something which is so very necessary in these times.

How would you encourage young people to start a blog?
I think that there are many well-intentioned young Catholics who want to start blogging but think that they have to be well formed in theology and humanities, so they end up getting discouraged and giving up. It’s true that one has to be very well formed to be able to communicate the Truth. However, starting a blog doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop being formed, does it? On the contrary, a blog could be the perfect occasion to take your Catholic formation more seriously. On the other hand, a Catholic blog doesn’t necessarily have to deal with theology, philosophy, defence of life or the analysis of reality. One doesn’t have to restrict oneself: the evangelisation of culture, to which the Vatican Council II invites us, directs us towards the evangelisation of all human realities. Do you study law, economics, architecture or medicine? Well, there you have wonderful scope where the Church undoubtedly needs you! Go for it!

One further idea. Go for it, yes. But go for it if you love the Church and understand its place in the world and the Plan of God. Ambiguous speeches by Catholics sometimes do more harm than the strongest onslaughts of those outside the Church. Firstly, be convinced; study, pray and when you are ready, then go for it. If not, well, there are many kinds of blogs you could start whose topics will not be an occasion for you to cause damage.

How are you thinking of contributing to the Year of Faith? Will you do something special on Catholic-Link?
Undoubtedly so. We have some quite ambitious projects which I wouldn’t want to give away due to discretion and healthy mistrust of self. For now, every day on Catholic-Link we are trying to grow in the service that we offer, forming ourselves better, listening to the Holy Father and publishing material which can help many people to nurture their faith and love for the Lord Jesus and his Church. I am sure that the II Meeting of Bloggers with the Pope will be an excellent occasion to find ways of collaborating for this purpose.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Thank you, Mauricio, for the sincerity and passion with which you have spoken. I hope to see you in Santander in less than a week. Until then!

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