A big part of the reason that Bishop Richard Stika authorized the creation of Life at 25 was to spread the message of the Diocese of Knoxville’s 25th Anniversary and of the growth of East Tennessee’s Catholic community through the means of the internet and new media. While I am not certain how often His Excellency reads this blog, I do know that using what we’ve come to call “new media” as a tool for evangelization is close to the bishop’s heart. One of the speakers at our 25th Anniversary Eucharistic Congress and Family Weekend will be a priest who has been a pioneer in using the internet as a tool and a means to confront the secular culture with charity and love, but also with truth-Father Robert Barron.
Many in the media world know that Father Barron is the creator and host of the acclaimed television documentary miniseries Catholicism. Some might know that he is the President of Word On Fire Ministries, or that he is the Rector of Mundelein Seminary. If you aren’t one to visit the popular streaming website YouTube on a regular basis, however, you might not be aware that Father Barron regularly uploads videos explaining and defending Church teaching and Catholic intellectual ideas.
That is work enough for any zealous priest-rector, but Father Barron takes that work further. Not only does he upload well thought-out and intellectually rigorous commentary, he then opens it up to commenters. As the comments begin to come, he and his staff take the opportunity to respond in charity to counter-arguments as time and opportunity allows them. Father Barron doesn’t just produce movies and make a few YouTube videos here and there, he is actively using the internet as a tool of evangelization.
Father Christian Mathis, who is one of my co-authors and has been the person largely in charge of Life At 25, alluded to the necessity of doing this in a post back in June, and indeed the Church expects us to use all of the modern means of communication at our disposal to spread the Good News. It is to that end that Father Christian has his popular blog Blessed Is the Kingdom, which has become increasingly recognized within the Catholic blogging community for its fine commentary and prayerful spirit. Deacon Pat Murphy-Racey‘s busy schedule doesn’t allow him to post as often as he might like, but when he does post, it is usually a kind of homily-in-print, and is well worth reading and reflecting upon. Father Michael Cummins’ exceptional blog The Alternate Path can help anyone who wants to look honestly at a deeper spirituality, and Father Mike isn’t afraid to deal with subjects that some other people in ministry are often hesitant to touch. Father Ronald Franco, CSP, is the Paulist pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Knoxville, and he is known in the blogging world as the City Father. His pointed posts often challenge the mind and the heart to re-examine how our faith should cause us to behave in the public as well as private arena. Frank Weathers helps explain Why I Am Catholic in one of the best lay Catholic blogs in our diocese.
Outside of East Tennessee, Deacon Greg Kandra’s Deacon’s Bench from the Diocese of Brooklyn is largely what inspired me to start my own personal formation blog, which has admittedly gone somewhat quiet lately while I do my level best to try and minister through Life At 25, which I sincerely pray is a blessing to someone. One of my favorite blogs by any priest anywhere is Father Martin Fox’s Bonfire of the Vanities, which I discovered way back when I still lived in Cincinnati, and that is where Father Martin is still ministering from today. Father has been one of the pioneers in the world of Catholic blogging when it comes to members of the clergy taking up that virtual pen, he’s been at it since July 3rd, 2005, which was shortly before Nicole and I moved permanently to East Tennessee.
The reason for mentioning all of these great Catholic blogs and bloggers from East Tennessee and beyond is not because we always see eye to eye or because I expect we’ll all toot each other’s virtual horns, so to speak. Often, in fact, the kind of content each of us produce is very different, sometimes radically so (and if you know I read your blog and I didn’t mention you, it wasn’t with the intent of leaving you out). Each of us is attempting, in the way that the Holy Spirit is calling us, to reach the world of the internet and new media with the light of the Catholic faith. Father Barron has used his considerable media savvy and God-given talent and skills as a preacher, teacher, and theologian to bring Catholic thought not only back to mainstream television, but also into the world of new media. For all of us who are a part of that world, Father Barron has become our generation’s own version of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. We could all learn a thing or two from Father Barron, not in order that we might copy him, but that we might carry ourselves with the same humble but clear-in-the-faith attitude that he has in his own work. We all would like to be agents of the Word On Fire.