Today is World Communications Day, which we mark every May, on the feast of the Ascension. This is appropriate: in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus sends out the eleven disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” – a task that involves a lot of communicating! Not surprisingly, this important day was initiated in 1967, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), by Pope Paul VI. The communications media at the time had become wider reaching and more culturally influential, thanks especially to television, no doubt.
Fast forward to 2023, and we can see how communications media have proliferated since then: depending on our cable package or streaming service, we can watch TV 24/7, including content from around the world in just about any language. We can read newspapers and magazines and social media online anytime we want – from a staggering number of places and perspectives. We can contact people whenever we like by email, text, phone and video calls no matter where we (and they) are.
And yet, many people find that we’re not connecting with each other in meaningful ways. We’re not listening to each other’s point of view. We’re quick to judge, criticize and cancel people when we disagree with them. Even though it’s easy to communicate these days, many voices go unheard amid all the background noise.
Pope Francis, in his very pastoral Message for the 57th World Day of Social Communications, spells out some of the issues at play here, saying, “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.” He titles his message “Speaking with the Heart” and calls us to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). After all, he notes, “it is the heart that moves us towards an open and welcoming way of communicating.”
Although his message is especially aimed at communications professionals, he says: “In a historical period marked by polarizations and contrasts – to which unfortunately not even the ecclesial community is immune – the commitment to communicating ‘with open heart and arms’ does not pertain exclusively to those in the field of communications; it is everyone’s responsibility. We are all called to seek and to speak the truth and to do so with charity.”
Whether we’re on Twitter, or posting on Facebook or Instagram, or sending a text or email, or talking to a neighbour or family member in person, we are to speak with love, remembering that the one we are addressing is also a beloved child of God.
And so, with Pope Francis, today we pray:
May the Lord Jesus, the pure Word poured out from the heart of the Father, help us to make our communication clear, open and heartfelt.
May the Lord Jesus, the Word made flesh, help us listen to the beating of hearts, to rediscover ourselves as brothers and sisters, and to disarm the hostility that divides.
May the Lord Jesus, the Word of truth and love, help us speak the truth in charity, so that we may feel like protectors of one another. Amen.
Anne Louise Mahoney is managing editor of Novalis. She is the editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.