Region by region, the U.S. bishops are making their ad limina visits to Rome, praying at the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, reporting the states of their dioceses to various Vatican offices, and meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
In January, it was the turn of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl and bishops from neighboring states (and the Virgin Islands).
In his address to the group, the pope underscored the importance of laypeople in transforming the societies in which they live, and he used wording that called to mind a similar appeal to the laity by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.
“Here once more we see,” Pope Benedict told the U.S. bishops, “the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.
“The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.”
The pope couldn’t have provided a better introduction for Catholic Press Month, marked every February in dioceses and national churches around the world.
I would argue that there are few better ways to become an “engaged, articulate and well-formed” lay person than taking advantage of Catholic media. In fact, I might even go so far as to make the audacious claim that one cannot be an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic without reading/watching/hearing good Catholic newspapers, magazines, television, websites, or radio programs.
If I am right, we’ve got a lot of work to do. A national survey last year found that fewer and fewer Catholics are getting their religious news and information from religious news sources. Instead, whatever religious news they do get comes from mainstream secular news outlets, whether print, online or television broadcast.
If they’re serious about their faith, that just won’t work. Consider that again this year tens of thousands of pro-lifers — largely youth and college students — braved the lousy weather to March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23. Tens of thousands of young pro-lifers! What a story, by any standard! And not a single word about it appeared in pages of The New York Times, according to its website.
If you’re reading this, you don’t need convincing, I know. Thank you for your support of OSV Newsweekly, the most popular national Catholic newspaper, and thanks in advance for helping to spread the word!