Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Catholic Bloggers: Are We the 1st Corinthians of the Internet?

And If So, What Can We Do About It?

My talk from the Catholic New Media Convention 2012. You may hear it along with the Q&A, the panel discussion I was on afterward, and every talk from that terrific conference, if you purchase their Virtual Ticket. The handout that went with the talk is available here as a pdf to download.

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Apostle Paul,
Russian Orthodox icon,
via Wikipedia
Good afternoon everyone. I’m Julie Davis. I am very honored and pleased to be with you today.

I’ve been blogging at Happy Catholic for 8 years now where I’m not always happy but I’m always happy to be Catholic. I’ve been podcasting for 5 years at Forgotten Classics and almost a year at A Good Story is Hard to Find .

I’m here to ask the question: Are Catholics Bloggers the 1st Corinthians of the Internet?

First of all, what does this question even mean?

Let’s begin by considering this scenario.

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Imagine that in a dream one night you find yourself in a parish where there are several drunks at Sunday Mass; where some members are claiming that there is no resurrection of the dead and that Jesus is not really present in the Eucharist; the president of the Altar Society is not talking to the head catechist; there is public unchallenged adultery; a group is dabbling in New Age spirituality; and Masses are abbreviated for the sake of Sunday football.

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This sounds like the parish from Hell doesn’t it? It’s author George Montague’s updated version of the problems that Paul addressed in his First Letter to the Corinthians.

The 1st century Corinthian church was in such bad shape because they were enthusiastic but immature Christians practicing a brand new faith that didn’t have many guidelines. They were surrounded by a melting pot of cultures and religions in a city whose very name meant debauchery and drunkenness to the rest of the world ... and they allowed themselves to be influenced by them.

To top it off, they carried their squabbles into public court. It was not only driving away fellow Christians, but they were a terrible example to the Corinthian pagans who didn’t have any other idea of what Christians should be like.

So, now that we have the context: let’s talk about Catholic bloggers. Are we the first Corinthians of the internet?

Well, we exist in a vast melting pot of cultures and religions on the internet where it is easy to be tempted to compromise our faith so that we can “get along” or get something we’d like.

To the world of the internet, we are the face of the Catholic Church. We’re the Catholics they visit every day, watch as we live our lives, and judge the rest of the Church by. We might be the only Catholics they “know” … so in that sense we are as important or moreso as the Pope or a nun on the news or the local Catholic school. Just like the Corinthians were in their pagan world.

Now, we do have a lot more guidelines about our faith than the Corinthians did, but those guidelines are some of the very things we argue about ... to infinity and beyond. I’ve got to say if there is something that Catholics bloggers are great at, it is arguing. We aren’t always good at settling the argument but, boy howdy, can we argue. Some of the time, not very politely or forgivingly or kindly.

To be fair, Catholic bloggers come from as many different backgrounds and faiths as the secular environment we inhabit. A certain amount of confusion or misunderstanding is probably inevitable. …

But guess what?

Outsiders don’t care that we’re human, that we fail, that everyone makes mistakes and nobody’s perfect. They’re watching to see how we really live and what difference our faith in Christ makes every day, in all circumstances.

Tertullian, around 200 A.D. reported how outsiders saw Christians: “Look,” the pagans say, “How Christians love one another and how they are ready to die for each other.”

Can people today say that about the Catholic blogging community? Which Catholic bloggers am I willing to die for? It should be all of them, but is it? What about those “spirit of Vatican II” bloggers? Or the Latin Mass bloggers? How about the blogger who says I should forbid my daughters to date non-Catholics?

I’d like to pop off with a “yes, of course, I’d die for them” but what do my actions show? I can be a pretty big jerk. I’d like to say the answer is always yes for all of us Catholic bloggers. But we know that isn’t true either.

None of us sets out to cause discord, but like an avalanche, one hasty remark can lead to another, a few other people join in, and before we know it, we’re in the middle of a flame war.

It isn’t pretty. AND it isn’t any different than any non-Catholic blogger’s behavior.

Above and beyond our effect on outsiders, what does this behavior cost us? How do we affect the spiritual health of the Catholics we’re brangling with? Not to mention other Catholics who read us. It causes heartache and anger, and sows dissension. It can even turn people away from the Catholic faith or away from God altogether.

So I think that we could make an argument for the fact that the Catholic bloggers are the 1st Corinthians of the internet, to some degree.

So what do we do about it?

Easy. Just be better Christians.

Simple. Right?

Done and done.

Yeah, I wish ... We’d have heaven on earth if just saying that made it so. How do we get there, as bloggers, from where we are now?

Jesus gave us the short version: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Or to say it the way I sometimes have to think of it ... “Don’t be a jerk.”

Here’s the thing though. As he himself said, Jesus came not to replace the law but to perfect it. That “short version” came from Leviticus where it says:

“… You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18 (NAB)

Now why do I bring that up?

Because although “love your neighbor” is beautifully simple and can help us keep our eyes on Christ ... sometimes we need more details.

And here’s what I love about that. We have Leviticus giving us “love your neighbor.” But at the same time, the Hebrews were also given The Ten Commandments.

God knew that we needed things spelled out sometimes, so he gave us “love your neighbor” as the perfect summary to the heart of His love and he gave us a list to help us dig deeper.

Now, I love lists. I love making them. I love reading them. I love crossing things off of them.

Even when I already know what’s on that list, sometimes looking at it refreshes my mind and helps me reorder my day. Just the way any of us might reflect on the 10 Commandments and get a new insight into how we’re living.

My Golden Rule for Catholic bloggers would be “keep your eyes on Christ and never blog without prayer.”

When I began thinking about it, I realized that I have broken that big statement down into an internal set of ... we won’t call them commandments ... but perhaps guidelines.

These are things that I turn to whenever I am tempted to strike out in anger, let hurt feelings guide me, or just generally be a jerk. Without these I’d be an even bigger jerk sometimes. Certainly I’d be a jerk more often. So they’re not only good for me, they’re good for you too.

I have 11 of them. Ready? Here we go!

11 Guidelines for Catholic Bloggers

1. Remember Christ chose you.
We all got into blogging for different reasons. But whether we realized it at the time or not, we were not the ones initiating the choice. Jesus said (John 15:16):

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.

Jesus chose Pat Gohn to show the right way, the Catholic way, to put women first. He chose the B-Movie Catechism blogger to share his love of his Catholic faith AND his passion for cult cinema and really, really bad movies. He chose Terry Prest (at Idle Speculations) to share a love of Catholicism, history, and art ... all entwined in a way that feeds our senses and opens our eyes.

He chose you and he chose me for this unique, public ministry in this time and in this place in history. It’s an international and public witness offering Christ’s friendship … and ours … to others in what St. Josemaria Escriva called the “apostolate of friendship,” … the idea that faithful friendship in everyday life shows God to those we love.

Now as to whether my blog is always worthy of God, that is a different story but because Christ chose me I have a greater responsibility than the average blogger. And so do you.

As a friend, telling the world about my faith, do I stand by Jesus in every trial? Is my friendship a credit to Him? Do I, as Madeleine L’Engle said:

Show them a light so lovely they will want with all their hearts to know the source.

I wish I could say yes. When I fail is when I know that I quit looking at my first and best friend and began looking at myself. Instead of listening to Christ, I’ve been shouting about me.

Which leads us to #2.

2. Know when to put on the brakes
Some you have met my brakes. My husband Tom ... say hi Tom ... is my safeguard against going off half-cocked. I’ve got a quick temper, a defensive response to criticism, am a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian and am super-stubborn. That’s a dangerous combination.

I count on Tom to slow me down, show me the other side of a disagreement, and stop me from lashing out. Now, I have to recognize the danger signals first and go to him, so that is my responsibility.

Sometimes I don’t see the danger. Sometimes, I deliberately ignore the danger. Because I want my own way. I don’t want to be stopped. Because, as Happy Catholic, I’m right and they’re wrong ... according to me.

It is pride and it is deadly — to me as a blogger and to the Catholic blogging community. Every time I go my own way, every time I don’t put on the brakes, I am sorry later that I didn’t fight that temptation.

Why didn’t I fight it? I stopped praying, I took my eyes off Christ and sometimes I forgot that that Catholic blogging involves the invisible world as well as the visible. Such as #3.

3. The enemy is prowling like a lion.
It follows that if we have a personal mission from Christ, then there will be powerful opposition, just as there was to Him. 1st Peter says:

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-10 RSV)

As Catholic bloggers we are tempted in subtle ways to be envious, to let others glorify us, to denounce without even asking a clarifying question first … to appear perfect.

Each crisis … whether a crisis in the world around us or a crisis of faith … is window of opportunity for God to show us how to die to self, to mold us a bit more into Christ’s likeness … and to be an example for the world.

The solution to defeating the prowling lion can be given in one word: humility. Jesus tells us exactly how to achieve that humility … which takes us to #4.

4. Turn the other cheek.
In theory, this is wonderful. In practice, we all know it can be excruciating. Jesus told us:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Leo Tolstoy in What I Believe tells of reading the Sermon on the Mount to a rabbi who responded to each saying with, “This is in the Talmud.” But when Tolstoy read “Do not resist one who is evil” the rabbi was silent. He asked Tolstoy, “Do Christians ever keep this law?”

Do we? Or do we come up with reasons why “just this time” it’s ok to make an exception?

When we rationalize not turning the other cheek ... and we all do it ... I'm one of the worst ... we are placing ourselves and our desire to win or have our own way, above Christ. We are glorifying ourselves above his command.

The truth is that Christ didn’t stop and explain it. He just told us to do it. Whether we understand it or not. We are called to be obedient just like Christ was.

Which feels darned near impossible sometimes. And which takes us to #5.

5. Lord, have mercy on me and bless the other person.
As a blogger I’ve benefited from this prayer more times than I can say. It is remarkable how many times I have prayed it when I am frustrated with someone only to have examples of my own identically bad behavior pop into my mind. It is not only humbling, it reminds me that at some time I have probably upset someone else just as much, in an identical way.

It helps me to see that person through Christ’s eyes, to remember that Christ loves them just as much as He loves me. I often am reminded at these times of St. Therese of Lisieux, who also struggled to love those around her. In Story of a Soul: she says it helps her to remember that God is the artist who creates souls. And that there is no artist who is not pleased when his work is admired.

Because of that, I often find myself asking Christ to show me something lovable about the person I am upset with. What does He see in that soul He created that makes Him smile with tender love?

It all comes down to asking Christ to help you. Even if you are less than enthusiastic about the prayers, your willingness to pray at all is something that God will work with to help you.

Which, of course, takes us to #6.

6. Know how to gauge success.
It’s not about numbers. Or followers or comments or book deals or SEO or speaking engagements or any of the other ways we invent to gauge our success.

We were called to tell the good news. How are we doing at that?

I remember when I first began blogging I came across a blog, whose name I can’t now remember. But the person was reflecting on the past year of blogging, saying that they had only had about 6 regular visitors but they didn’t count the time wasted. I have always tried to keep that mindset.

But we all have those days. Those envious days when we need to regain perspective. Those days when instead of rejoicing at someone else’s success for the kingdom, we think, “What about me?”

I can prescribe nothing better for that than The Curt Jester’s Litany of Blog Humility. Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester, is a “must read” for me every day but it is his litany which speaks so much to the Catholic soul … which loves nothing better than a good litany, some humor, and a lot of sincerity … Here’s a bit:

From the desire of my blog being read
Deliver me dear Jesus

That other blogs may be loved more than mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That Google may never list my blog
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

You get the idea. It is in your handout and, more importantly, on The Curt Jester’s blog where you may find it any time as long as you have internet access.

(That my internet may fail, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it...) Which leads us directly to ...

7. Do something face-to-face.
It is easy to think that blogging is all the “volunteering” or “ministry” you need to do. Blogging is important. As I keep saying, Catholic blogging is an important, public face of the Church.

But there is great truth in the saying that “actions speak louder than words.” Every parish, large and small, has a real need for Catholics willing to sacrifice something more precious than diamonds these days ... our time. All the blogging in the world is not as valuable sometimes as just showing up.

I will never forget reading Jen Fulwiler’s posts about being driven crazy by a group of little girls who rang her doorbell and ran away. Eventually she wound up inviting them into her home and becoming their friend as they did things like making cookies and talking. Her time gave those girls guidance and memories I bet they’ll never forget.

That personal time does something valuable for us too. We have to stretch in order to react to unpredictable requests, to work alongside someone you don’t click with, to answer questions out of left field, to keep the peace when volatile subjects arise. I really realized this when my husband and I helped with RCIA last year. No one could predict the sorts of questions and situations that arise when you’re in a small group as the “actual Catholic” facing 10 possible converts from all sorts of backgrounds.

There’s nothing like real world experience for sanding down your rough edges and helping you understand the other guy’s point of view.

Which takes us to #8.

8. Get outside your “Catholic” box.
Whether in real life or on the internet, don’t let yourself get into the habit of only hanging out with Catholics. That can skew your perspective in surprising ways. It is nice, for example, to discover that some people have no reaction at all when you say “guitar Mass” to them.

For one thing, being a well-rounded person is going to make your blogging more interesting and also more relevant, even if you are reading something as seemingly irrelevant as nature blogs. For another thing, God uses everything to weave a rich tapestry. Leaving the Catholic “box” is going to inform your worldview, your prayer life, your soul in ways that make life just plain more fun.

Also, simply by being a Catholic blogger, someone who is practiced in speaking up about faith and the Church, you’ll carry that worldview into places which might never see a Catholic otherwise.

This is one of my passions because I really believe you don’t have to have a “Catholic” blog or podcast to make a difference. For example, the knitters in the Ravelry forums know me as the Catholic who chimes in to mention that Catholics don’t worship saints. A recent StarShipSofa podcast, introduced a story as narrated by “our friend Julie from Happy Catholic blog,” … not a common thing for science fiction fans to hear. On Goodreads after 258 comments between me and six atheists ... a friendly discussion ... I was approached by a Muslim and a Hindu who wanted to be my friend. They said I was the only one in the whole discussion who made sense to them and they wanted to talk to be about God. And I must say that on the rare occasion when someone from one of these venues suddenly shares how God has touched their life, it has had a powerful impact on me.

Obviously knitting and science fiction are some of my passions, but pick your own passion and dive in. When you get outside that box, is when it can be very, very exciting to be Catholic.

Now, this does not lead us to another guideline. But here we are anyway ... at #9!

9. Apologize.
Here’s the thing. Blogging is a medium composed of writing. Misinterpretation is easy because we can’t use (air quotes) “nonverbal cues” to show additional intentions. [Did you get that ... air quotes ... nonverbal cues?]

Studies show if you write something positive, the reader thinks it’s neutral. When you write something neutral, they think it’s negative. And we’re blogging about religion ... so you’ve practically got a formula for starting a fight.

We make mistakes. It’s only human. I get angry, I make hostile remarks, I am unneccessarily critical. The most we can do after we have been jerks is to openly and honestly admit it, in public if it was a public disagreement. We apologize and hope that they will understand.

It can be really hard to apologize. Sometimes you’re admitting you were wrong. Sometimes, you are admitting you were a jerk. Always, you’re admitting that you were less than perfect ... and that is why we really don’t like to apologize.

We lost our focus on Christ, we lost our self-control, we lost our humility, and we don’t like to lose ... which takes us to #10.

10. Allow yourself to lose.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote a terrific book called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. I recommend it to all of you. She tells this story:

One time I was talking to Canon Tallis, who is my spiritual director as well as my friend, and I was deeply grieved about something, and I kept telling him how woefully I had failed someone I loved, failed totally, otherwise that person couldn’t have done the wrong that was so destructive. Finally he looked at me and said calmly, “Who are you to think you’re better than our Lord? After all, he was singularly unsuccessful with a good many people.”

If, as we were just saying, we don’t like to lose, we must remember that it is because our focus is distorted. We are not looking at Christ and following His example. Because we’re gonna lose a lot of the time. And we tend to forget, it wasn’t about us in the first place ... which leads us to #11.

11. God grants the increase.

We’re all familiar with the parable of the sower from The Gospel According to Matthew. Jesus tells of seeds falling on the path, devoured by birds, scorched by the sun, choked by thorns, and as Jesus says:
Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Later, explaining the parable to his disciples, Jesus says of the seeds that fell on good soil: As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

I had never noticed this detail until recently: all the seeds are sown on good soil, but all do not bear the same fruit. That’s nature. All seed does not yield the same amount. And yet Jesus regards it all as a good yield.

It’s a relief to remember that it is not all up to me. If I sow the seed as best I can then God will yield the increase. It’s especially a relief after I’ve been looking over a list like this one of all the ways I can go wrong as a blogger.

At those times, it’s good for me to remember what Caryll Houselander said:

Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness. But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us, Christ would not be there. If our being there means that Christ is there, that alone makes it worthwhile.

We … you and me as the public face of the Church … it may be that you being on the internet today means that for one person, Christ is there too.

And that person saw Christ because … we remembered Christ chose us … we put on the brakes … we turned the other cheek … we prayed … because we would die for each other.

And I hope, and I believe … Jesus will regard it as a good yield. Because it’s not about us. It never was.

If we are pointing to Christ, then we are being His good and faithful servants, as a public face of the Catholic Church. And that is what it’s all about.

Thank you.

36 comments:

  1. This is excellent Julie! Great job!

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  2. Thank you for the encouragement...and of course the work you do!

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  3. Spot on Julie,

    #7 & #8 have been my MOD over the past four six months hence one sees me on-line less and on-line in the so called Catholic blogoshphere less still. Interestingly, my world has relaxed and opened up. I am enjoying my world (which includes my faith) more and opportunity to really talk about faith(as opposed to combox fatal feud) and to share/live it has also opened up.

    As a result of practicing #7 & #8 more I find many of the other #s are cared for or in some cases eliminated (at least in degree if not in kind as all of these principles are those that are basic to life/living).

    Also as a result of #7 & #8 I find I am much (even MUCH) less interested in the issues (or so called interaction over issues) that I used to be so interested in (even worked to a lather over) as a Catholic and in particular as a later in life convert clergy Catholic.

    Finally, it is much nicer on the home front because I no longer live on the Internet. - Oh and of course, I am getting more art done!

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  4. Pope Paul VI says in Evangelii Nuntiandi that the world is far more willing to pay attention to witnesses than to teacherrs, and when it does pay heed to teachers, it is because they are also witneses. And so I ask myself: how did we get to that sad state of affairs wherein the Vicar of Christ has had to remind us by way of a formal exhortation - and that, almost 40 years ago - that actions speak louder than words? I suspect that the behaviour that so afflicts the Catholic blogoshere afflicts Catholics, period - that is, whether we are posting, or not. Moreover, this lack of Christian love was evident long before the internet came of age. Evangelii Nuntiandi was published in 1975. Who knew then about blogs!? The absence of Christian charity in the blogoshere, so well described above, is merely an extension into a new medium of the evil that arises out of the human heart. And we who profess to know the Lord of Lords, the giver of Life and the Redeemer of the world ought to have known better. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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    1. Agreed. I would say that for a lot of people, whether Catholic or not, blogs have a feeling of authority that simply speaking to a Catholic friend may not. Which is why I keep mentioning that bloggers are a public, important face of the Church and that they have a greater responsibility to stay charitable, etc. But, for me, at the heart, these are guidelines I have to use in real, hands-on life (so to speak). That's how I could come up with them so handily ... I need them so very much myself. :-)

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  5. Indeed some of the ugliest language comes from some of the more popular bloggers, both in posts and in the combos. Some of these folks have national presences and it is hard to see the derogatory language they employ for rhetorical effect in defense of Catholic issues. It's fine to have a point and be passionate, but that sometimes descends into "being a jerk." Jane

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  6. I am sorry to have missed your talk last week. I was too busy trying to wear all the hats of buying at CMN for the bookstore and attending a few of the talks at both the Catholic Writers and the CMNC. So much to learn and to do. Thank you for this post.

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    1. Julie, I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to talk to you. That's the way it is during those big meetings. The big fish are busy making things work right so that we others can benefit. Thank you for doing just that! :-)

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  7. I found this very enjoyable and although I am not a blogger I am wondering if I can share this a few of my friends who are bloggers.

    Maureen prolife70@citytel.net I can't seem to get the letters right

    Maureen

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    1. Maureen, feel free to help yourself! :-)

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  8. Fantastic - I will be using this guide often. Thanks for this.

    Jason @ Ascending Mount Carmel

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  9. Brava, good woman. I was going to quote Paul VI as Anonymous did at 4:05pm. I tell folks who want to be catechists or anyone writing in the "ministry" sense of the word, to "Make a connection, tell a story, be a witness." I also call it my own guidelines for blog posts, podcasts, and columns. Thanks for your ability to do all three for me at this blog, and when we have worked together in person.

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  10. I like your eleven rules. Thank you.
    TeaPot562

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  11. Jose Maria Escriva is the founder of Opus Dei. I realize that the editor of New Advent is a huge fan of Opus Dei, which is probably why he is increasingly posting Opus Dei articles like your own on his site, but now it's getting to the point of subliminal advertising with you unnecessarily sprinkling Escriva's name in the article. I hope it was not to lure people into Opus Dei without scaring them away by mentioning Opus Dei outright. I suppose I'll know the answer if my post gets deleted :).

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    1. Anonymous, that never occurred to me, actually. I have absorbed many of Escriva's principles through my continual use of the "In Conversation with God" series of devotionals. They were written by a priest from Navarre University which I discovered after reading them for some time, Escriva helped to found. I originally planned to mention that in my talk, as I am not an Opus Dei member but I know that simply seeing his name often prompts a knee-jerk assumption that one is. However, the original talk ran to 45 minutes and it needed to be 25 minutes, which made it leaner and more focused (and therefore better). However, it did remove many of those explanatory references.

      If I'd have had more than 11 guidelines, one that I would have included was to always act with charity and never to assume we know someone else's hidden motivations. We don't like it when someone does this to us. And from my own experience, we so often get it wrong, based on our own filters and thinking.

      Believe me, I am too much of a contrarian to join Opus Dei. Or another such group. I've got my hands full just being a faithful Catholic, what with my inclination to say, "Oh yeah? Make me!" :-D

      Luckily, God is good and patient and the Church is a kind mother, with 2,000 years of teachings for me to read when I wonder why something is the way it is.

      Hope that answers your question. Please pray for me and I'll pray for you. :-)

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  12. Great talk, Julie. I wish I had been at CNMC this year (its the first one I've missed) to have met you IN PERSON. I plan to subscribe to Happy Catholic now to receive regular messages from Jesus through your humble efforts. Thanks for being a reminder that "All is gift" and that our efforts are all about him, not about us. Praying for you....

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    1. Thank you Scott ... here's to CNMC 2013 and a real meeting! Just one more reason for me to get there! :-)

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  13. Thank you, this was great!

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  14. “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” -- G. K. Chesterton.

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  15. I can't believe some of the language used by some well-known bloggers and the responses that are posted and all of this in the name of Christian dialoging? How can anyone possibly think this behavior is acceptable? Even when they are called out on it they become defensive and verbally attack you. What part of "love your neighbor as yourself" are they not getting? Pride (you know one of the seven deadly sins) creeps in and they let loose with the most disparaging comments. Comments on all blogs are also not monitored and profanity laced and blasphemous comments become part of the "dialogue". Who is minding the store? ~Mary

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  16. Fantastic! Couldn't agree more with your guidelines for Catholic bloggers. God love you.

    -Travis
    Catholic1.net

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  17. You can't be serious in believing that God chose you to be a blogger? Blogging isn't a religious calling; its a social phenomenon. The problem I see with most bloggers and worse, with most Catholic bloggers is the effrontery to tout that in some way they each/all have some special, unique insight above and beyond what true theologians give us.

    I think each Catholic blogger (particularly anyone who has no formal, academic, theological training sanctioned by Church authority) should include a caveat in each posting that clearly states that the words are the OPINIONS ONLY OF THE BLOGGER AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THE AUTHENTIC TEACHINGS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

    Is blogging any different than dinner party discussions pre-Internet? Was that type of dialog chosen by God?

    Sorry, my take on all the Catholic bloggers is they're mostly on ego-trips; unfulfilled, wanna-be theologians. And if there is some thought that somehow filling the Internet with one's own conclusions and musings...I refer back to Jesus' admonition to go find a quiet, dark room and pray alone. If you trumpet your 'Catholicity' then you already have your own reward. Recall the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

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    1. Hi Anonymous ... I know, it does seem odd from the outside. If I'd had more time in my talk I'd have shared my very personal experience of not being asked, but being told to begin a blog while in front of the tabernacle. I don't share that story usually because it sounds either crazy or smacks of entitlement. I can only say that I fail often and rise again only with Christ's help. No wonder such a claim sounds arrogant. But it is true nonetheless.

      And actually, I would say that any conversation we have where God, faith or the Church is the topic actually is an encounter driven by the Holy Spirit. Dinner party discussions, parking lot encounters, and all. To deny that is to be less than aware of God all around us. Do we make mistakes? Do we misuse opportunities? Of course. We are human and so we make mistakes. I am no saint (though I dearly desire to be one, as should every Christian for that is our ultimate calling). But it is in the struggling to rise and try again, with Christ's help, that we move a step closer to Him.

      You bring up the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Interestingly what comes to mind for me is Jesus looking into another tax collector's eyes and saying, "Follow me." And Matthew got up and followed him. Unworthy? Yes. A sinner? Definitely. But unable to deny what he saw when his Savior looked at him and asked him to become something completely unexpected. Such is the blogging call.

      I can't explain it. I can ask for your charity and prayers as you consider the topic. Next time leave your name so we can have a bit more personal conversation. :-)

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    2. When we endeavor to live a genuine Christian life, God can and will lead us into areas where He will put our natural and learned skills to good use for HIs purposes. There are many jobs and needs and thus many different tasks. Im certain that God would call some to blogging for a specific purpose.

      Im also certain that there are also others who blog to feed selfish vain needs.

      Which is which? Aren't we supposed to look at the fruit to see if it is really Gods work someone is doing?

      I will admit to moments of jealousy that God didnt ask me to be a famous blogger...the tasks He assigned to me seem burdonsome much of the time (and that media conference sounded like a lot of fun). I have a side blog where I muse about my vocation (and try to share the wisdom I have had to work way too hard to learn) but obedience tells me to do what Ive been led to do and me OK with God choosing other stuff for other people. I am so seldom jealous that I hardly knew how to react to this inner feeling...He is working on me.

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    3. I re read my above response and it doesnt sound as nice as I had intended it to, Im sorry.

      When I say that some people blog for the wrong reasons and they show it by their fruit...I meant that God will discern that ...its our job to show charity and assume good motives and even if they show hints of error, we should still interact in love and kindness.

      I also acknowledge that God doesn't MAKE anyone famous bloggers. We each go through life given ability and even opportunity, but we have to DO THE WORK and improve/learn over time. I didnt wake up one morning in my vocation either.

      I like your blog and I wish you success and fruit.

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  18. Wow, thanks Julie, both for blogging and for posting your talk which had so many good points, one of which I really needed today as I wonder if anyone reads the things I write!
    Just being a presence, hopefully, of a Christian trying hard to live Christ's word in the world without guilt, remorse, doubt all tripping us up is a hard thing to do. People like you help us remember we are not alone in our "trying" and as a community of faith and believers we are here to remind each other to keep trying and not give up!
    Thank you!

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  20. I was only able to get down to CNMC on Thursday. I wish I could have made it to the bloggers' conference and heard you speak. What you said really hit home, especially about humility. I've been struggling a lot with blogging for the right reasons, and you've given me good insights. Thanks for posting this!

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  21. Julie, thanks for the shout out, but thanks much more for clarity. Sure wish I could say I was a blogging saint and had never violated any of these guidelines, but...

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  22. For “turn the other check” (#4), I would add, throw back a little love. When comments are becoming tense, try offering some small complement (without lying) like, “I see you are knowledgeable about XYZ” or “you express yourself well” or “you seem very sincere & passionate about what you believe”. The love seems to neutralize the hate almost immediately.

    We’ve had our blog going for almost a year (Two Catholic Men and a Blog) and have picked up a couple of atheist/secularist in the com-box that were more hostile in the beginning, but have now become more civil and respectful.

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    1. Excellent tip. There were a few other things I'd have added if I'd had the time ... like when someone asks for forgiveness, give it to them. But I hadn't thought of your point which I will be trying to recall in future tense situations. :-)

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