By Pauline Sister Hosea Rupprecht
If you've never heard of World Communications Day, you're not alone. Each Sunday before Pentecost (May 21 in 2023), the Church celebrates social communications media as God's gift to humanity, with great potential for evangelization.
In this year's message, Pope Francis addresses "Speaking with the heart." Jesus once warned the Pharisees that what makes one unclean comes from the heart. "For from the heart come wicked thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness and blasphemy" (Mt 15:19). Of course, if our hearts are filled with joy, compassion, love, gratitude and forgiveness, then those very qualities will overflow into our lives and communications with one another.
To be better communicators of God's love, both in our words and in our lives, Pope Francis presents a few challenges for us within this digital age:
Purify one's heart. If we are to speak the truth with charity, we must purify our hearts. Our hearts will never be totally pure due to sin, but we strive to grow in virtue each day. The Holy Father states, "Only by listening and speaking with a pure heart can we see beyond appearances and overcome the vague din which, also in the field of information, does not help us discern in the complicated world in which we live."
Communicate cordially. This seems like a no-brainer, but I recently saw a news segment about an airline passenger who was unreasonably and loudly complaining about a crying baby on the plane. His shenanigans caused the flight to be diverted, and he was arrested. His communication was far from cordial. Pope Francis refers to the risen Jesus, who speaks to the distraught disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). Jesus speaks to them from his heart, respects their suffering and doesn't impose himself on them. Jesus' cordial communication made it possible for their hearts to burn within them.
Be authentic. The Holy Father presents St. Francis de Sales as a model of communication that comes from love. St. Francis was convinced that "in order to speak well, it is enough to love well." This 17th-century saint believed that "we are what we communicate." "Speaking from the heart" means being real in our communications.
Speak according to "God's style." This challenge touches on the synodal process. Francis says, "We have a pressing need in the Church for communication that kindles hearts, that is balm on wounds and that shines light on the journey of our brothers and sisters." This kind of communication first listens to the other without prejudice and then speaks, nurtured by closeness, compassion and tenderness. If we can model this kind of communication in a polarized world, what a gift it would be to our culture.
With these challenges, Pope Francis calls all people to grow in a way of communication that speaks the truth from the heart, “which is essential to foster a culture of peace." Only when we speak from the heart can the "miracle of encounter," as the pope calls it, take place.
Amen to that.
Daughter of St. Paul Sister Hosea Rupprecht is the associate director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, a ministry of the Daughters of St. Paul.