Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 03 April 2019
A follower is protesting the title of my Lenten blogs called “40 Shades of Lent”. She, or he, wrote us that “Our Roman Catholic Church is pure and sacred to be associated with a title of a pornographic movie.” Our follower also suggested to us to “Please inform your Bishop and Priests before posting these titles on social media.”
Our follower is absolutely right that the title of my lenten reflections is indeed from E.L. James’ novel published in 2011 and later adapted into a movie in 2015. I have never read it nor seen any of its movie adaptations that were both a hit and a trending topic in 2016. At that time, I thought of having a series of reflections for Lent distinct from my regular Sunday homilies I have called “The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe” since 2006. I thought that if everybody was talking about “50 Shades of Grey”, why not ride on the strong recall of the brand by having my “40 Shades of Lent” where people can find the many colors and meanings of our sacred season?! After all, Lent’s motif of the color violet comes in many shades and hues, too!
That’s it, pancit! In no way does the title “40 Shades of Lent” becomes erotic or, as our follower described, pornographic simply because of its similarity with the book or movie title “50 Shades of Grey”. But her, or his, contention has opened for us a springboard for discussion regarding the way we deal with modern media if you can bear with me.
We live in a “mass-mediated culture” where every baby is now born with a mouse. If Jesus were with us today, maybe He would have directed us priests to “feed my geeks” instead of telling us to “feed my sheep”. Since the time of the great St. John Paul II to Pope Francis today, the Holy Fathers have all recognized this reality, asking us to find ways in proclaiming the Gospel among the young people without losing our Christian identity.
“The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the gospel message.”St. Pope John Paul II , “Religion in the Mass Media” (Message, 1989 World Communication Day
The need for an equilibrium in our approach with media.
The two most media savvy Popes, St. John Paul II and Pope Francis have both noted in their speeches that young people today practically live in the world of media; hence, the need to reach out to them. Problem with us in the Church, both among the clergy and the laity, is when we respond in both extremes when some end up succumbing to the world of media while there are those at the other end rejecting it altogether or in some forms. What we need is some degree of equilibrium wherein we try to keep technology and media in their proper places. See the many instances when priests embrace media and technology so much that churches lose the sense of sacred with giant video screens all over with a barrage of tarpaulins in all sizes that make one wonder if it is a house of worship or videoke bar. On the other hand, there are those who reject media and technology, stepping back in history like in a parish in Poland recently where priests and the faithful burned some books including the Harry Potter series they deemed as sacrilegious and have evil forces.
It is difficult to achieve such equilibrium or balance in our dealing and use of modern media in the ministry for as long as we remain in our Pharisaical stage, of associating almost everything in the world and of the world as evil and sinful especially books and music. The gospel accounts teem with many instances when the Pharisees and scribes questioned Jesus eating and drinking with tax collectors and known sinners of His time. How sad that until now we still don’t get what He had said during that time.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.Mark 7:15
Equilibrium is first achieved in the constant examination of our hearts so we can respond properly to the spirit of modernity not easily reconcilable with the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Attaining that equilibrium calls for a return to the contemplative spirit where we try to maintain our spirit of silence and prayer amid the constant changes in thoughts and beliefs including values often due to the growing efficiency of technology. Let me share with you the very words of a communication expert to conclude this piece that I hope may enlighten us to see the various shades of colors, including shadows and lights that surround us in this modern world today.
The contemplative spirit is not easily acquired, but without it people find it hard to discern the valuable from the worthless, or the enduring from the transitory. Contemplation puts us in touch with reality in a world in which a host of communication technologies work to sustain a multitude of illusions and images: a media world. The contemplative spirit helps us to see and hear beyond and through the sights and sounds we take for granted. The contemplative spirit is an attitude of mind and heart that enables us to focus on the essential, important things. It refuses to be hurried into premature rejection or acceptance of technology. If we Christians allow it to inform our use of communication technologies we shall learn to be realistic, but always hopeful, able to love and reverence our culture even as we strive, with God’s help, to transform it.James McDonnell, “Communicating the Gospel in a Technological Age: Rediscovering the Contemplative Spirit”.