By Sister Julie Vieira
Billboards and signs are all around us! On my short 1.7 mile commute each day I pass by a stream of messages advertising everything from hamburgers to deals on car insurance. It’s not always easy to connect with each and every message but once in a while I hit upon one that is exactly what I need! (What? The International Cat Show here in Toledo??)
Social media can sometimes feel like driving by billboard after billboard, sign after sign, message after message. As we sift through our newsfeed, we have to navigate status updates, posts and articles our friends found (questionably) interesting, the latest meme sensation, and every once and a while, a personal message.
Yet in the midst of all these messages, we have the opportunity to encounter the Good News and to draw closer to God and one another in community.
For a number of years now, I’ve worked together with other Catholic sisters and nuns and a vibrant online community to use social media as a way to truly “share” the Gospel and to be with people in their day-to-day life. There are some obvious (and not so obvious) ways of doing this!
Engaging around spiritual content directly is a great way to share the Gospel. A compelling quote from Scripture or an inspiring saying can help bring the Good News to other people’s news feeds. A link to a service, outreach opportunity, uplifting story, or bible study is another way. We can also take the opportunity to respond to others’ posts and updates and bring a good word of hope, encouragement, or congratulations.
But how about content that is not all that obviously spiritual? These, I confess, are my most favorite ways to share the Gospel. On social media, I will often post about my latest biking adventure (e.g., how I swerved to avoid a caterpillar on the trail) or a deep thought beginning with the word “apparently” (e.g., “Apparently wooden spoons do actually catch fire. #conventkitchen”).
Wait! What do caterpillar bike incidents and convent fires have to do with the Gospel? EVERYTHING! The very simple theological truth is that God is with us in all things, including how we are on social media. Just as God speaks to us using multiple languages – our native tongue, our theological tradition, symbols and landmarks that are personally important to us – God can also speak the language of social media and use it to communicate truly Good News. Anything we post can be a vehicle for an encounter with God. When I post on social about random things, for example, I am opening a door to my friends, followers, and fans to engage with me around a remarkable or mundane moment that invites conversation. This conversation may start as chit chat, but have you ever noticed in the offline world how a little bit of chit chat can reveal a significant truth or lead to an important conversation? The same happens in social media too!
An LOL cat video might brighten the day of a person struggling with sadness. A friendly banter about Mac vs. PC might be the first chance someone has had all day to take a break from an intense work day.
Next time you are on social media, be on the lookout for how God is active in the chit chat of your newsfeed. Find ways to use any kind of post – spiritual or totally random – to engage with others and be with people where they are. Sister Julie Vieira, IHM, is a Catholic sister and co-founder of the popular website aNunsLife.org, an online ministry and pastoral presence that utilizes Internet technology and social media to connect people with Catholic sisters and nuns and the rich tradition of religious life. She also works with religious communities and other organizations in the area of utilizing social media to foster a culture of vocation. An avid bicycle rider, Sister Julie often posts about her adventures on her blog Horarium of Now at horariumofnow.org and on social media via #bikingnun.
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