We don’t have to just sit there and take it. Whether it’s one more biased news story on what Pope Francis allegedly said or another commentary on how the Catholic Church needs to conform to the world instead of the other way around, we can do something about the attacks on our faith — attacks that have been coming at us at a rapid-fire pace. Having a proactive versus a reactive approach is always something I advocate with my radio listeners, and I was recently reminded of just how successful the proactive approach can be.
The topic of engaging the culture was front and center during a recent Vatican conference in Rome, where I heard some very encouraging real-life stories about very proactive Catholics. They didn’t have a media platform but were able to get themselves before a large audience — not just once, but regularly.
The Sept. 19-21 conference was presented by the Pontifical Council for the Family, in connection with Catholic jurists from around the globe, to review the Charter of the Rights of the Family on the document’s 30th anniversary. I was privileged to be part of a panel of journalists from around the world who were asked to share their insights on how the media portray and impact the family.
One of my fellow panel members was a Catholic mother based in Australia who pens a popular column in a major daily newspaper. Angela Shanahan told attendees how frustrated she was with the Australian media’s coverage of women’s issues, especially coverage of stories relating to motherhood and moms like her who chose parenting as their vocation versus work outside the home. So one day she decided to write a letter to the editor. Her letter was published and because it received so much response — much of it negative but a lot of response, nonetheless — the powers that be at the publication asked her to start contributing additional opinion pieces and a columnist was born.
During the same session, one of the attendees, an attorney based in Nigeria, shared a similar story. He had written a letter to the editor of his local paper in response to several biased stories pertaining to the Church in Africa. He too soon found himself not just writing additional op-ed pieces for the publication but covering issues and events related to the Church. He told me he was a lawyer by training and that law is still his full-time profession, but he does a lot of writing as well.
Granted, not everyone who submits a letter to the editor — no matter how poignant or well-written the piece may be — is going to end up with a column or a job in media. But that’s not the point.
The bottom line is our willingness to engage the culture. Even if that letter to the editor never gets published or if the email to the local news director never receives a response, chances are someone at that news outlet has taken the time to at least read your correspondence.
And who knows the impact that might have? Given the powerful influence of the mass media and the misinformation machines that love to pounce on the pope and all things Catholic, we have to do what we can to defend and explain, in a Christlike manner, the truth and beauty of our faith.
We are not responsible for what so-and-so decides to do with the information, but we are all called to evangelize and this type of evangelization can have a far-reaching effect. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t expect us to be successful; only faithful.” The important thing is to at least give it a shot and let God do the rest.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.