Heres something a little scary. OK, more than a little scary.
Journalists, at least Catholic journalists, are supposed to be saintly.
Hey, being a saint is a wonderful thing, Im sure. And being credited with a miracle or two would suit my ego just fine.
But the first requirement of sainthood is that you have to be dead and Im not quite ready to go yet.
Journalism, almost by definition, is about the here and now. But I guess Catholic journalism is also about the here and hereafter.
That, perhaps, is what Archbishop John Foley, president of the Vaticans Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was getting at when he brought up saints and journalists in the same breath in January, calling on journalists to live exemplary lives. Otherwise, he said, many people will not listen to our message because the messenger
appears to lack credibility.
Though, after four decades in this businessmostly in secular journalismthe saintly bit might seem to be a stretch. However, the archbishops comment gives me an opportunity to acknowledge that February is Catholic Press Month.
It also lets me turn the saintly bit on its ear and suggest thatat least as much as Catholic journaliststhose who read Catholic newspapers and listen to Catholic radio and TV also should seek to lead exemplary lives. And Ill concede that its partly our job to help them by sharing good newsand the Good News.
Once a year I get to rattle on about how importantand how under-utilizedCatholic media is in accomplishing that task.
Thats understandable, perhaps, in a major media market such as Chicago where the 2.4 million baptized Catholics who live in Cook and Lake counties are bombarded daily with far more secular firepower than the Catholic Church can muster.
Some of what gets broadcast or printed or blogged is good, informative and supportive of the churchs mission. A lot isnt.
Catholic media, of course, shouldnt be all fluff and phony good news. But neither should it revel in and celebrate bad news. Archbishop Foleyhimself a former editor of the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphiaunderstands that.
People, he said, will not listen to the good news we seek to share unless we are honest with them about the unfortunate bad news that sometimes occurs.
Stealing a beat from broadcaster Paul Harvey, its the role of the Catholic media to tell the rest of the story.
Foley put it a little better: Its the mission of the Catholic press, he said, help people realize they are not alone in practicing their faith. Catholic newspapers not only provide authentic information about the church and society, but they also form a true sense of Catholic community. That would also be true for Catholic radio and TV, both of which the Archdiocese of Chicago labors to offer.
However, Catholic mediaperhaps especially newspapersare only going to be successful in their mission if they reach the very people who would benefit from the message of faith they offer.
And with lots of media vying for the eyes, ears and pocketbooks of people, Catholic media has to work harder.
While most dioceses have parish programs in place, The Catholic New World is in the process of developing support among pastors to encourage readership. (Hint: Tell your pastor its a good idea.) Catholic radio and television take every opportunity to promote their offerings.
One final word. In his message for World Communications Day, May 8, Pope John Paul II challenged secular media to make the world a better place by fostering harmony and reconciliation among people. He conceded, however, that mass media is capable of causing untold harm, giving rise to misunderstanding, prejudice and even conflict.
Maybe Catholic media can give them some Good News lessons.