Many years ago, in Quezon City, the governing General Chapter of the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, established four priorities with which the order would pursue preaching in the postmodern world.
The fourth priority concerned the use of mass media to preach the Gospel. Following this, the Vatican and practically every diocese in the world established websites. Many went with Facebook accounts and Pope Benedict XVI went with a Twitter account.
The College of Cardinals hadn’t elected Pope Francis for five minutes before he updated his status. My understanding is that he tried to check out of his hotel online but couldn’t until he went to the hotel and realized that he had checked in under another name.
With all this modern communications technology, thus, it should be no surprise whatsoever that Mark Hart, executive vice president of Life Teen International, came out with a book titled, “Tweet Inspiration: Faith in 140 Characters (or Less).”
Bishop Fulton Sheen began mass media evangelization in 1930 with a radio program called the “Catholic Hour” and then moved on to television, eventually gaining acclaim for “The Fulton Sheen Show.” His purpose was simple: reach the most people for the salvation of souls.
Since then, Catholic radio stations, Catholic television networks, and Catholic websites on the Internet have blossomed. The televised Mass for shut-ins is a great pastoral tool for reaching the faithful who cannot make it to a church.
We live in the world of the Tweet and Hash tags, the Facebook update, and the sound-bite, and in doing so, we’ve reduced our understanding of issues important to the human person to the minimal.
Mark Hart, in his preface, recognizes this very subject as he discusses the isolation of people who use mobile devices and social media as a primary method of communicating. He illustrates the problem with the image of a postmodern family, sitting at a restaurant table, each with a smartphone, tweeting away, ignoring each other’s presence.
We’ve seen this in other public places, people walking around staring at a mobile device, oblivious to the surrounding world. Take the video gone viral in which a woman, concentrating on her smartphone, walks into a large fountain at a shopping mall. We might think it’s funny until we realize that a rising number of automobile accidents and deaths are caused by texting while driving.
Despite all this, our faith, in fact our society as a whole needs human connections. Mark Hart’s book steps into this milieu by delivering sayings and Scripture quotes that bring meaning to that isolation.
Hart writes, “I don’t share tweets about the Catholic life because I have it figured out — I share them because I don’t.” Sharing the faith, just as it was with Bishop Sheen, is Hart’s purpose, to bring the Good News to those trapped, without realizing it, within the seduction and isolation of social media.
The book is a collection of actual Tweets and Hart covers the whole spectrum of Christian life, from Church life, to the thoroughly mundane where we need the wisdom of God the most.
In one Tweet, Hart writes, “Children: God’s most beautiful alarm clocks” (Ps. 127:3).” Parents can relate to this.
To the mundane, Hart’s writes with a bit of humor: “Gift bags are a socially acceptable celebration of laziness. I salute the man who invented them. Oh yes, it had to be man.”
Busted. More than once I’ve shouted, “Just grab a gift bag, we’re late!”
Hart uses Scripture verses, as well, with a contemporary twist, sounding a bit like Confucius: “The road to heaven is narrow. The road to hell has an HOV lane” (Mt. 7:13-14).
Hart’s pithy sayings are the type we can keep with us in the fast lane: “The devil loves complacency.”
On the sacraments he writes:
“My godson: ‘What happens when I receive the Holy Spirit?’
Me: ‘You become one of God’s Jedi.’ Him: ‘Ya, that’s pretty much what I figured.’”
What kid can’t identify with that?
Hart’s book is small in dimensions, easily carried in a purse, briefcase, or man-bag, a great tool for contemporary contemplation on the things important to Catholic children, teens, parents and old folks like me.
Servant Books publishes the book, which is available everywhere and, of course, comes in a Kindle eBook edition. Be sure to follow Mark Hart on Twitter,