One thing that is generally not indulged in here at Life At 25 is recommending a great many other websites. Yes, if you read this blog and you browse the Diocese of Knoxville’s website, you will find plenty of useful links to other websites. If you look at older posts on this blog, you might find links to other website that this writer has used to illustrate a point or reinforce a statement. That is not the same as saying “go here,” or “visit this other site on the internet.” I generally assume that if you are taking the time to read this blog that you know your way around major Catholic media sites, and it may likely be that a regular reader of both this blog and the Diocese of Knoxville’s website also knows their way around the Catholic blogosphere, so you won’t see “read so-and so’s blog,” or “you ought to use this Catholic media site.” This writer presumes that you can discern what is good in the world of Catholic new media, and of course hope that the contribution of this blog might be something that blesses you. However, I’m going to break that unwritten rule with this post and blatantly recommend a website that I believe can enrich your faith, or at least your Catholic internet experience.
Awestruck is a social media platform that was started by a couple of very nice fellows from South Africa, Norman Servais and Mark Eames. I was introduced to it when it was in its infancy a few years back by our own Father Christian Mathis, who was then the parish priest at St. Thomas the Apostle in Lenoir City, and is now the Director of the Catholic Center at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. If you look at Awestruck closely, you may see that it looks like a typical social media platform. Upon first glance, you might notice that Awestruck looks like a typical social networking site, and in many ways it is. You can post pictures, videos, and multimedia. Just like Facebook, you can make “friends” and connect with people (and you might even find a few people that you already know), and there are literally many hundreds of “groups” that you can join. There is a difference that I have discovered, however, between Awestruck and other social media sites: The people you meet on Awestruck are both serious about their faith and find great joy in it, and the groups I’ve so far encountered edify me. I’ve had social media encounters with faithful Catholics from all over the world. There is a wonderful prayer wall, a group dedicated to the Liturgy of the Hours, and an interactive Rosary.
There are groups of all sorts on Awestruck, and different dioceses have groups dedicated to what is going on in their local Churches. The Diocese of Knoxville has a group, but right now there are a whopping four of us on there, and only three of us are from the diocese! The interesting thing is that the other two East Tennesseans there may not know one another, but I know who each of them are, and one of them is a fellow confrere of mine in diaconate formation. Needless to say, it might be nice to find a few more locals there.
Some people reading this post will probably ask “what is the difference between Awestruck and Facebook.” It is a legitimate question because there are a lot of great Catholic people on Facebook. I am on Facebook, people from my parish are on Facebook, people at our diocesan chancery are on that social network. Many of our deacons and deacon candidates are to be found there, and many of our diocesan priests. Bishop Stika is on Facebook, and he is quite active, for which we can thank the Lord. When it is finished, this post will be posted to Facebook, so this blog will be the last place you will read the words “don’t use Facebook.”
Not everything on Facebook is Catholic or edifying to our faith, however, even when we try to make it so. At least that is true if you have a lengthy friends list as I do…there are a lot of things on Facebook that find their way to my feed second or third-hand that are less-than uplifting, but on Awestruck, you won’t find that, what you do find are people and pages and discussions that promote and uplift you in faith. There are faithful laypeople from all over the world, as well as deacons and priests on Awestruck, and if you are looking for an internet platform that might help you to truly witness the universality of the Church, Awestruck is one of them.
During Lent we look for ways to deepen our faith, and I will be talking about more of them in the coming days, but many of us use the internet every day, and some of us have to use the ‘net at some point. I would very humbly suggest that using a platform to bring us a little spiritual strength from others can be a great help in our walk with Christ, and certainly in our Lenten journey.