Saturday, 24 January 2009

A day for journalists

On the feastday of Saint Francis de Sales, I would like to give a big shout out to fellow Catholic journalists. I know we're probably the least popular profession, but please spare us a prayer today.

Every day on the way to work I ask for the intercession of St Francis, the patron saint of journalists - and boy do I need his daily help! In this increasingly secular age, it's really difficult to be a Catholic reporter in the media. The industry itself is suffering in the current financial situation with papers closing, journalists getting made redundant and working hours changing considerably. And with the BBC's continued bias against the Catholic Church and pro-lifers, this is such an important day to pray that the mass media will strive to "respect the dignity and worth of every human person" as the Pope puts it in his message for the World Day of Communications released yesterday.
A quick look at St Francis. He was born in France in 1567. He knew for 13 years he had a vocation to be a priest. God made His will clear to Francis while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times, each time the sword came out of the scabbard and came to rest on the ground in the shape of the cross.
Francis was at times over-ambitious as a priest. He wanted to lead an expedition over the border to Switzerland to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. By the time he left the expedition consisted of himself and his cousin. His father refused to give him any aid for and then diocese was too poor to support him.
The Catholic Online website says: "For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. And after three years, his cousin had left him alone and he had not made one convert."

"Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people."
I suppose it is for this reason that he is the patron saint of journalists. Not only did he write the content, he delivered it, so maybe he could be the patron of paper boys and girls as well!
This way of communication and the way he played with children impressed adults as well. In the end, he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism, only 20,000 short of his target.
In 1602 he was made bishop of the diocese of Geneva, in Calvinist territory. Then, shortly after, he decided to go into the religious life. He gave spiritual direction to lay people at a time such a thing was thought of as unusual. His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, was written for these lay folk in 1608. Written originally as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe. St Francis died in 1622.
He's also the patron saint of writers, meaning today is a special day for bloggers as well. Today, Pope Benedict has a message for us in his letter for Communications Day, to be celebrated in May:

The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other’s traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening.

The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realize its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy.

We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

1 comment:

Tim Stephenson said...

Hi Richard, As a keen reader of your blog I was wondering what your thoughts were on Pope Benedict's latest announcement:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5585738.ece
Regards, Tim