It is encouraging to see that the Church has come a long ways in the digital age–granted, we call her out for being so outdated, but the wheels are turning and we are making grounds and gaining a larger following!
The Church has always been at the fore front of new media battles, God has ensured that for every new and amazing invention we take great advantage for His purpose. Here is a brief history of the way the Catholic Church has used every major communication device for the greater glory of God.
A Brief History of The Church and Media
- Hand Written Print: For the first 1500 years, the Church’s only option for communication was the very expensive and monotonous hand written print. While not a pioneer by a long shot, it embraced it and immediately saw it’s importance to the Cause of Christ’s mission for them. They would print on parchments, scrolls and books. The primary use was for printing sacred writings. As primitive as it was, without this medium, evangelizing new lands and proclaiming His love for the world would have been even more difficult than it already was.
- Johannes Gutenberg: At around 1440 the first major example of the Church adopting a new technology for the greater glory of our beautiful and merciful God. The movable type printing press immediately became the perfect tool for Catholics to share religious texts allowing Christianity to shift from listening to the word or God but to own, read and internalize it.
- Radio Technology: The radio was introduced to the world in the late 1800s and gave birth to a brand new medium of communication. Thanks be to God that he gave us a mind who astutely jumped on for a new way of evangelizing. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen harnessed this technology to spread God’s message to a weekly audience of 4 million people who tuned in to America’s most famous evangelist.
- Bishop Sheen and Television: In 1951, Bishop Sheen was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York. Soon he began a new mission in America’s airwaves. In this medium, Bishop Sheen reached 30 million weekly viewers. His show Life is Worth Living blessed many homes and continues to inspire to this day.
- EWTN and Mother Angelica: In 1981 God gave us a spiritual giant that debut her show out of the garage of her order’s monastery. Despite it’s humble beginnings, EWTN blew in to popularity reaching more than 146 million homes in over 146 countries.
- Internet: The internet exploded the old ways of communication. It brought new faster and more interactive ways of to interact with an audience. Again the Church took advantage and published Vatican documents making it being one of the earliest organizations to have created a website.
- Blogs and Social Media: With the internet, the church seems to have dropped off the radar even with their early attempts to harness the internet. The Vatican had a great start. But a static website with no interaction in most cases will be doomed. Blogs and social media changed that. It allowed fans and followers to interact with each other. The Church began to fall behind in this medium and finally started to get encouragement from Church leaders including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
- Social Media: At the around turn of the 20th 21st century a new revolution was coming to light. The interaction of users inspired by blogs gave birth to social media. Friendster allowed real world friends to communicate in a virtual environment and exploded with popularity. In it’s first three months, the site had over 3 million registered users. 1 year later MySpace came out and competed with Friendster supporting a youth-friendly culture.
- Facebook and YouTube: In 2004 a group of Harvard students started a social media for college students only. The site grew large in popularity because of it’s exclusivity to people with a college e-mail address which appealed to college young adults who didn’t want to mingle with their parents or children. The site gained over 200 million users in its first 8months and eventually opened itself up to the world gaining over 955 million monthly active users at the end of June 2012.
- You Tube: You tube came in to the scene in 2005 and quickly became the next major New Media creation. Now owned by giant Google, YouTube is the most popular online video destination. The site receives over two billion views per day, a devastating blow to the three major television networks’ statistics combined. Internet video revolutionized entertainment.
- Twitter: In 2006 twitter created a more concise way of communicating with fans and friends. The micro blogging platform allowed you to update your fans 140 characters at a time. Making it ideal for entertainers, athletes and popular bloggers. In 2012, Pope Benedict finally joined the digital continent by creating his own twitter account. The pope got over 1M followers within the first week of joining twitter.
The new media has revolutionized how we interact with each other and even with our faith. Every day Christians around the world take to the internet making themselves vulnerable to all kinds of evil and sin. Pornography is the second leading purpose users worldwide access the internet. If there is a widely ignored sector of evangelization it is the internet. It is up to us as lay, priest or religious people to keep God’s body in the digital world healthy and working. By adopting the new media, we answer the call by Pope Benedict XVI to enter the “digital continent”. Let’s give our fellow Christians and non-Christians a fighting chance on the net. Let’s create a new media that will evangelize the world over help move the Catholic church forward in the name of Christ.