By John Norton
This issue of the newspaper contains an updated Catholic Guide to the Internet (see Pages 9-12). The one we published last August was so successful that we ended up selling more than 50,000 extra copies of that In Focus, which we ended up reprinting as a smaller, bulletin-sized piece. (That'll be available for this year's, too.)
Our goal is to make the guide as useful and topical as possible. So this year's guide includes a section on Catholic finance and volunteering (a nod to the global economic crisis) and an expanded section on vocational discernment (a nod to the Year for Priests that started in June).
It also takes into account Pope Benedict XVI's focus this year, in his annual Message for the World Day of Communications, on digital social networking. Some observers were surprised at the tone of his letter; it was strikingly upbeat and positive about new communications technologies, calling them a "gift to humanity," even as he admitted that the digital world took some effort for "us adults" to understand and utilize.
The pope said young people in particular had grasped the potential of the new technologies to "foster connectedness, communication and understanding" between individuals and communities. He noted some of the plusses have been the ease with which families can stay in touch, the improved access of researchers and scientists to data and collaborative teams, and the creation of dynamic new forms of learning and communication.
He said it was not surprising that the new communications technologies exert such a pull on people; after all, he said, we are created in the image of a "God of communication and communion."
Naturally, the new media must be used responsibly, Pope Benedict said: "I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship."
As someone who was the first, back in the early '90s, in my circle of friends to have an e-mail address and who has stuck pretty close to technological developments through the years, I know that navigating the vast array of new opportunities for digital social networking can be overwhelming. Our guide has several sections to help, listing some of the most useful and/or popular blogs and Twitter feeds.
And we've also updated other sections dedicated, for instance, to "Prayer," "Scripture" or "Official Sites."
Of course, our goal was not to come up with a comprehensive directory of good, Catholic sites. But if we failed to mention your favorite site, don't hesitate to let me know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be publishing readers' site nominations in an upcoming issue.