I had a few days away at a Media Conference. It was held in the Pontifical University of The Holy Cross, Rome and gathered over 400 people from all parts of the world. The focus was communications and media and the experience was very good.
Certainly you become aware of the vastness of the task of communication of the message of Christ and the Church in a world where so much has to be communicated every day. The church’s role is a role among many others.
I enjoy communications and believe that if something is worth sharing it ought to be shared. Also, in keeping with my father’s much loved quote about an old neighbour I never knew; “It’s all right in talking but no harm to say nothing”, I realise too that there are times for silence. I think the Book of Ecclesiasticus figured that out a while before I did … “A time for every purpose under Heaven”.
The variety of people at the conference was matched by the variety of languages. Here I feel very inadequate as I’m a one horse race when it comes to languages. Even my Irish is poor (to my shame) but it was incredible to hear people deliver papers in a variety of languages, Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese and to have another translate as they spoke so that all could hear, like that first Pentecost Sunday, “in their own language”.
I walked this street each day, to and from the conference. It’s called Via dei Coronari and was an eye-opener. Narrow, full of life and people. A great variety of shops and cafés and all that makes a city a city. It is also the traditional Pilgrim Route to St Peter’s and, in this Year of Mercy, to the “Holy Door of Mercy”. It was incredible to meet so many people making that pilgrimage. (The picture above is of one such group. I had just met them, watched their faith in motion and decided to take a photo when they passed. I hope the journey’s end was good for them).
I was struck by the fact that there is such a variety of people wanting in a variety of ways to share the Gospel. Every tool is used and every moment seen as an opportunity to promote “the good word”. Technology is to the fore and the desire to embrace new technology seems very much at home with communications. I think of Jesus using the withered fig tree, writing in the dust on the ground, pointing to the liles in the field, the hairs on our head, stars in the sky and any other image that came to mind to help plant in the minds and hearts of those he encountered the means to grasp his message.
My own part in all of this is very small but I suppose it’s my part. In the diocese, I try to do a bit around communications (our website, twitter, notifying media about diocesan events etc) and on this blog, I like to think I share something of the journey too. The days in Rome reminded me again of the vastness of the world and its people, the many languages that are out there and the need to find some way of being involved with people.
Around the days, I had the chance to meet some people. Some I knew from before and a few I met for the first time. We attended the General Audience in St Peter’s on Wednesday and I had the chance to be relatively close to the Pope and to see his enthusiasm around people. I stood beside people I didn’t know and eventually spoke to a girl beside me. She spoke English and was so full of joy. The day before her sister had been married in Rome and all her family had travelled to share the day with her and her husband. Six brothers and six sisters, she was the youngest and spoke of the joy of seeing her sister and her husband share the “sacrament” of marriage. That to her, and by the sounds of it, her entire family was the core of their faith. Marriage is a Sacrament. It was “a blessing” to be in Rome to celebrate her sister and boyfriend’s day. She asked me where I lived and told me she would pray for my parish!
I left, glad I’d seen Pope Francis (even at a distance) but perhaps even happier that there are so many people out there to whom the Faith means so much. Joy around faith and IN faith. Now there’s a message!
I’m glad I was there … as you can see below, I wasn’t the only one:)