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Scots Catholic

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Building a Peaceful World….on Social Media

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 5:43 AM Comments comments ()
Do we define ourselves by 'likes' and 'follows'?


It’s been quite a journey for social media over the last several years.  From meagre beginnings it has become the mainstay of human contact, the go-to means of communication.  It has, in many respects, been a revolution of seismic proportions and there are very few individuals who can say that they don’t have a Facebook account or haven’t at least been touched by its power.


And it’s not only on a personal level that social media has heralded meteoric change in communications.  It is perhaps now one of the biggest means of advertising for commerce and it has allowed countless charities and other organisations to promote their work and encourage people to donate or to simply take an interest in their activities.  And then there is the media.  Perhaps this sector has benefited most from the social media revolution, having access to millions of eyes with a few simple taps of a touchscreen.


But is it all sweetness and roses in this cyberland of 24/7, round-the-clock communication?  Is it a joyful and peaceful place where stories are shared and people find genuine happiness?  Is it making the world a better place? 


Whilst the social media experience of many people will have been a positive one, there are many more who have felt the full force of its darker, vitriolic side.  Take the recent case of Britney Mazzoncini from Glasgow.  At sixteen years of age she should have been in the throes of some of the happiest days of her life; finding her way in the world, making lots of solid friendships and enjoying life to the full.  Instead, her lifeless body lies awaiting burial; a victim of senseless online bullying via Facebook. 


Britney isn’t the only victim of social media’s darker side.  There have been many more.  And while it doesn’t always end fatally, there are still serious consequences for people and, indeed, society as a whole.  For example, social media is a hotbed of narcissism; encouraging self-centredness and an increasingly desperate craving for peer admiration. 


Consider this: have you noticed how social media has become a means for many people to assess their own lives?  They use it to gauge their own popularity depending on how many Facebook ‘likes’ they can amass and how many ‘retweets’ or ‘favourites' they can get on Twitter.  It seems to have become the go-to tool for many young people, particularly teenagers, to define the worth and meaning of their own lives.  One bad or distasteful comment and the chips can come crashing down.  One positive comment and the ego builds.  It is, in many respects, a rollercoaster ride of emotion; a potentially dangerous rollercoaster ride at that. 


Society has benefitted greatly from social media and many people use it sensibly and safely.  But social media has also created a significant amount of unrest in our world.  Why?  Because it is a very quick and reliable means of spreading hate.  In just a few short seconds I can tell a politician, a political party, a celebrity, a footballer or even the pope how much I hate them and I can even throw in a few expletives and some explicit content for good measure.  Now I am not going to do any of the above.  But sadly a growing number of people do, and do so on a regular basis.  Just this week I witnessed some horrifically vile abuse being levelled at the Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom.  All because she expressed an opinion.  She has now withdrawn from the leadership race because of the abuse. 


Ms Leadsom is just one of many people who have to endure vile abuse from the willing fingers of hate of a growing number on social media.  Is there a link between the recent break-up of British politics and the persistent hate levelled at politicians on social media?  Are people increasingly reluctant to get involved in politics and other high profile public roles for fear of abuse?  Sadly it is just too easy to spread hate, especially when you don’t even have to face the person you are abusing, hiding behind the veil of miles of fibre optic cable and 4G strength telephone signals.


When we use social media we should always consider the person on the other side of our comment or opinion as being, first and foremost, a human being.  They are just like us in the sense that they too experience sadness and upset at being abused or ridiculed.   They too feel hurt and pain when they are called a fool and it is revealed to them that they are hated.  There is not one individual who is exempt from experiencing that deep, hurtful, hollow feeling when another fellow human being puts them down.  We must remember that our comments and our opinions have the potential to destroy a person's life.  And that is no exaggeration. 


We, as a society, need to take much greater care when we use social media.  We are one family and no family member should ever experience the systematic hate and abuse from a brother or sister that is now part of everyday life on Facebook and Twitter.  If our difference is political then we need to engage with those whom we disagree with to try to advance the common good of society together.  If our difference is religious we need to engage with our detractors in order to reach the ultimate goal of objective truth.  If our difference is to do with a sensitively personal matter such as our sexuality, we need to appreciate individual differences of opinion and accept one another as a brother or a sister whilst acknowledging one another’s right to disagree with our own view.


Social media is in desperate need of a lesson in polite, tolerant engagement.  If we really do want a society of peace where love rules and hate is crushed then we need to begin by building a culture of peace on social media.  Starting today.

Should I Evangelise?

Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:02 PM Comments comments ()

Do you speak openly about your faith to others?  Are you not afraid to be frank about how your religion shapes your moral code?  Do you even go as far as to try to bring others round to your way of thinking on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter?


In the New Evangelisation just a few years back, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged us to get out into the world to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And he wanted us to use every available platform at our disposal in order to do this.  He used the humble but powerful image of a mustard seed from the Gospel, suggesting that if used effectively a small seed of faith has the potential to bring people to God.  His words were: "I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it".  In today’s age we are blessed to have social media forums like Facebook to speak more openly about our faith and to tap into a seemingly infinite knowledge base.  While social media can often be a curse there is no doubt it has opened up new avenues of opportunity for spreading the Gospel.


Yet, while some people seem content to do this, many more are not.  In today’s secular relativist world it is undoubtedly a big challenge for people to spread their faith by means of social media.  There is fear of criticism and mocking.  There is also fear of offending people or of compromising long-held friendships.  It is a significant problem for our faith and our Church.  And it is an even bigger problem for Jesus. 


While new age beliefs are thrust onto social media at an astounding rate, somehow managing to gather almost unanimous support in the process, Jesus is left to feed off the few scraps that are left.  People would rather post and read quotes about being true to oneself and looking after number one rather than the horrific thought of making love of God and neighbour our priority.  Quotes from famous authors or even the Dalai Lama have the potential to be of untold worth, but their value often pales in comparison to the Word of God or quotes from the Saints.


The Christian message is a tough one because it asks us to put ourselves in third place, behind God and all those around us.  It also asks us to take up our cross on a daily basis and follow Jesus, accepting the suffering that this will inevitably bring.  It also expects us to toe the line on controversial issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.  It is, in all respects, a challenge of great proportions.  But it is not without its rewards.


And as if this challenge wasn’t difficult enough we are also expected to take Jesus’ message of love and mercy to all people.  Not just one or two, but to everyone.  Had Jesus not called the Disciples to his side and taught them his message, what hope would there be?  Had the Disciples not then taken that message of Jesus to others, what hope would we have today? 


You see our faith is a faith of action, full of energy and enthusiasm, drenched in positivity and hope.  We can’t just settle for our own evangelisation or the evangelisation of those closest to us.  This is not the Christian way.  We must be prepared to carry Jesus and his Gospel message to as many people as we possibly can through our life.  We need to put Christ at the centre and be his voice to all nations, all peoples.  To be truly Christian we must do as the disciples did and carry Jesus and his message to all people, be it on social media, the internet, on the phone, or in person.  Had the disciples failed to do this we would have no Jesus in our lives.  Imagine how empty that life would be? 


Remember, your duty to spread the message of Jesus Christ is not just limited to the people close to you.  In fact, it isn’t just limited to the entire human population of our world in your lifetime.  Like the disciples, your witness will hopefully carry the message of Christ well into the future so that another 2000 years from now people are talking about the great disciples of this time and how without their powerful witness the faith would be dead. 


Jesus told the apostles to "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature".  We need to be disciples for Christ in today's world.  Let the future generations rave about your willingness to speak up for Jesus and how you never shied away from openness and honesty about his loving and merciful message.  Let your children and grandchildren see you stand up for something that will bring eternal life to millions and millions of people!  And remember, you don't need to be a great orator or writer to evangelise.  As Pope Francis has said:  “We evangelise not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus".  So don't worry, let the joy of the Gospel speak for itself!


The phrase ‘do not be afraid’ appears often scripture.  It is a strong, powerful message from God about how we must feel when it comes to our faith.  In doing Christ’s work and spreading his message we have no need to be afraid.  He is on our side!


Here’s the challenge: let your life be a life of evangelisation.  Don’t be afraid to share Christ’s message with other people.  Let your work reverberate down through the generations where it has the potential to bring millions of lives to eternity with God.  Don’t keep good news to yourself.  Use your mustard seed.  Evangelise.




Scotland votes ‘Yes’ to Christianity!

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 3:46 AM Comments comments ()
 
A year-long research project commissioned by Transforming Scotland has found that a majority of Scots have a positive view of the Christian faith. 
 
 
Despite the most recent Scottish Household Survey suggesting that a fairly large minority of 47.3% of Scottish people have no faith, the view of Christianity is broadly positive. Alan McWilliam of Transforming Scotland said: “The research has shown that a significant number of the Scottish public think the church is a good thing for a community, because it strengthens and cares for those within it, and acts as a positive influence for young people.  The fact that people still see the church as a positive contribution to society is hugely encouraging.”
 
 
In the South of Scotland 67% of people had a favourable impression of Christianity.  In the Lothians this figure was 54% with 62% stating that they believe Christianity has good principles and good values.  In Glasgow 54% had a favourable impression of Christianity with 49% saying it was a faith they respect.
 
 
Bizarelly, in covering the outcome of this report the Herald saw fit to ask the Scottish Secular Society for its opinion. Knowing the Scottish Secular Society and what it stands for I’m amazed the Herald would stoop so low as to ask them for an opinion on this report.  They are an organisation which continually spews out deeply bigoted views, particularly in relation to Christianity, and most of what they produce on their website and social media pages is nothing short of hatred as they lay out attack after attack on all things Christian.  I’m now certain that they do not represent the views of most secular people in Scotland, something that this report seems to prove.  Indeed members of the group have recently discussed whether or not they need to change their ways in order to be more appealing.  We can but hope and pray that they will one day join the majority of our Scottish brothers and sisters in seeing Christianity as a positive thing for our country. 
 
 
Thankfully most of Scotland does appreciate what Christianity brings to the table and are willing to admit that this is the case.  Christianity is without doubt a cause for good and something incredibly positive. It is the light which can bring us all out of the darkness.  While Scotland may have said no to independence, it most certainly says yes to Christianity.
 
 
 

Abortion and Planned Parenthood: God help those who see yet do nothing

Posted on August 20, 2015 at 9:36 AM Comments comments ()
We can't keep quiet about this any more
 
With Cecil the Lion still firmly in the minds of the masses, a new story of a horse being sexually assaulted in the north of Scotland has come to light.  And just like Cecil, the story has been given top billing by mainstream media outlets.
 
 
The stories of both Cecil and this horse are sad and horrific in their own way.  But they really do pale into insignificance when set against the backdrop of the brutal videos being released by the Center for Medical Progress in the United States, videos which prove that Planned Parenthood is harvesting the body parts of aborted babies without consent, and for profit. Not only this, but the latest video released on Wednesday proves that Planned Parenthood is removing the brains of aborted babies whilst they are still alive.  Yes, you heard right.  Tiny little human beings are having their little faces torn in two with scissors in order to remove their brains.  And all this whilst they are still alive; their little hearts innocently beating away not appreciating what despicable horror is about to come their way. 
 
 
If you have thus far ignored or would rather not talk about these videos and the disgusting behaviour they evidence, then perhaps it is time to consider changing your ways.  How anyone can look at this carefully obtained evidence dating back a number of years and still think the abortion industry is a clean, clinical, safe place is beyond me.  While my Catholic faith insists that I do all I can to protect all human life from conception until natural death, I have no need whatsoever to reference my faith in arguing against abortion.  Secular arguments against abortion are more than sufficient to show the horrors and inherent wrong of this barbaric practice.
 
 
Please, please talk about this.  Open up the discussion on this horrific crime against humanity.  Let people know what is really going on behind closed doors. Ask your friends and family what they think of it; bring it up on social media and at work.  Consider joining the defund Planned Parenthood protest on Twitter(#ProtestPP) this coming Saturday.  Remember, this isn’t some dead, invaluable piece of meat we are dealing with here. These are human beings.  Little innocent human beings just trying to live, and yet grown adults are nonchalantly tearing them up into little pieces for profit. 
 
 
With the greatest respect to Cecil the lion and the poor horse in Scotland, both of whom suffered great pain and misery, their need is not as great as the millions of little babies routinely disposed of each year through abortion.  If you are not abhorred enough by the Planned Parenthood videos to take some kind of action then God help you.
 
 
If you haven't yet seen it, here is a link to the seventh video exposing more barbarity on the part of the abortion industry: http://www.lifenews.com/2015/08/19/7th-shocking-video-catches-planned-parenthood-harvesting-brain-of-aborted-baby-who-was-still-alive/
 
 

Commandments for how to behave online and on social media

Posted on January 23, 2015 at 9:36 AM Comments comments ()
 
The Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES) has produced a new poster detailing the “10 Commandments for Proclaiming theJoy of the Gospel on-line”.  In what appears to be a spin-off from Pope Francis encyclical letter, Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel),SCES is encouraging young people to behave responsibly, and in a manner befitting of their Catholic faith, whilst they use the internet and social media. The poster will be officially launched during Catholic Education Week in February.
 
The SCES website states: ‘To encourage responsible and respectful use of the Internet for "Proclaiming the Joy of the Gospel", the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES) has produced a poster to illustrate the "10 Commandments for Proclaiming the Joy of the Gospel on-line". It is hoped that these will encourage both young people and adults to use the opportunity provided by social media to tell the 'Good News' of Christ.’’
 
The commandments, produced by Martin McMahon of Taylor High School in Motherwell, are as follows:
 
1.      Be positive and joyful.  Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour.  As Pope Francis says, no funeral faces or sourpusses.
 
2.      Never bear false witness on the internet. Never ‘like’ a lie.
 
3.      Fill the internet with love.  Seek to include a sense of solidarity with others in the world.
 
4.      Avoid aggression and ‘preachiness’ online.  Try not to be judgmental.  Instead try Pope Francis’s approach of tenderness.
 
5.      Have a broad back when criticisms and insults are made.  When possible, gently correct.
 
6.      Pray in the digital world!  Establish sacred spaces, opportunities for stillness, reflection and meditation online.
 
7.      The Church has always been about gathering.  Create connections and build community.  Share posts that have a powerful Gospel witness.
 
8.      Promote online behaviours that keep everyone safe.  Use the internet responsibly.
 
9.      Respect your dignity and the dignity of others in all that you do online.
 
10.  The internet has the power and the potential to bear witness – share the Good News online.
 
While the Ten Commandments given to us by God can never be replaced nor replicated, these commandments for appropriate online behaviour should definitely be encouraged among our young people.  And while SCES should be applauded for their efforts to promote these online commandments, it will ultimately be down to parents and families of young people to make sure that these commandments are followed. 
 
Perhaps it would be useful for us to all consider having a copy of these commandments alongside the Ten Commandments of God somewhere in our home to remind our children, and indeed ourselves, of how we should behave on the internet and social media as well as how we should make best use of it.

Ignoring modern day distractions and discovering what is truly good (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 31st August 2014)

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 9:23 AM Comments comments ()
You won't find true love in Albert Square
 
Sunday’s Second Reading (Romans 12:1-2):
 
Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.
 
 
It’s quite difficult to not model ourselves on the behaviour of the world around us.  Everywhere we turn we hear voices and read texts telling us what it is to be normal and how we are to behave. 
 
For anyone who watches soap operas on a regular basis you will be familiar with the idea that showing hatred towards your family and friends is perfectly normal.  You will be familiar with the idea that sleeping with another person behind your partner’s back is perfectly normal.  
 
While many may shrug off the misdemeanours of the residents of Albert Square and Weatherfield as being harmless; there can be little doubt that these performances are noted by children and young adults.  However, what is perhaps more worrying is the effect it appears to be having on adults who appear to be very inclined to buy into the nonsense. 
 
It isn’t only soap operas that are to blame.  Most of what we now watch in TV land is filled with people fighting, people hating, people criticising, people gossiping and so on.  Add to that the influence of a secular media along with the hatred dished out on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and you have all the ingredients of a war on Christ’s fundamental commandment to love our neighbour. 
 
St Paul, in today’s reading, is mindful of the nonsense that goes on around us.  While he may not have had the benefit of television, radio or social media, he was clearly aware of worldly influences encouraging people to do the wrong thing. 
 
Every day we are being encouraged to do the wrong thing.  The mainstream media, including TV news bulletins, are constantly blaming people for things gone wrong.  If it isn’t the social worker’s fault then it is definitely the fault of the psychiatrist, or is it the police?  Pope Francis has been persistent in his call to stop criticising, to stop gossiping, to stop complaining and to stop being divisive.  If you weren’t aware of this then you don’t listen to Pope Francis enough because he talks about these things all the time.
 
We need to be aware of what is going around us and how it influences us.  We should realise that true joy is found in the love we offer Christ and the love we offer our neighbour.  What you see on Eastenders and Coronation Street rarely passes for love.  What we see in the mainstream media rarely passes for love.  And when we gossip about people, are we not going against the commandment to love?  What about when we criticise or complain unjustly, aren’t we also going against Christ’s commandment?  Each time we do these things we do them to Jesus and that is not good.
 
True love cannot be found in a TV schedule nor can it be found on the front page of today’s tabloid.  True love is found in Jesus Christ.  Listen to the words of St Paul when he encourages us to offer our living bodies as a holy sacrifice.  We must work hard to make our bodies pure so that they can be used by the Holy Spirit to spread the love of Christ.  It's not going to be easy but surely with perseverance we can succeed?  Why don't we start by studying the scriptures and studying Church teaching on all matters and immerse ourselves in Good News for a change?  Perhaps then we will discover the true will of God.  Perhaps then we will discover what is truly good. 
 

Don't Become a Virtual Family

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 9:14 AM Comments comments ()
Interesting article from the Integrated Catholic Life website considering how we, as Catholic parents, can develop a more balanced lifestyle where faith is the centre of an increasingly technological age.
 
Click here to read the article:
 
 
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: Jesus: the only Way (Friday 16th May 2014)

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 7:53 AM Comments comments ()
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
 
Today’s Gospel (John 14:1-6):
 
'Jesus said to his disciples:
 
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’
 
Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
 
Jesus said:
 
‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. 
No one can come to the Father except through me.’'
 
 
It is interesting that Jesus tells his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled and to trust in God still.  There is a suggestion here that the disciples’ faith may be waning somewhat, that they may be struggling with what they are witnessing in Jesus.  And who could blame them?  Here is a man, living in their midst, who is the saviour of the world!  Here is God made man eating and drinking among them, performing miracles day after day!  Their simple human minds must have struggled to take it all in; to appreciate who Jesus really was.  Perhaps the disciples were also struggling with other people around them who did not share their faith and who would mock them for believing in this Jesus character; this Galilean who supposedly worked miracles and claimed to be the Son of God.
 
So Jesus, knowing the disciples minds, encourages them to continue to trust in God and also to trust in him.  He wants them to keep the faith despite troubling thoughts and doubts.  He wants them to keep the faith despite the abuse they may receive from those who don’t share the same conviction of faith.
 
And isn’t this so true of our world today?  Don’t we as Catholic people struggle to maintain our strong faith in an increasingly secular world?  Whether it be in the workplace, in the home, or even on Facebook or Twitter, don’t we find ourselves in a struggle to keep the faith where that faith is deemed to be yesterday’s news and worthy only to be consigned to the dustbin of history?  Is it not a struggle to defend our faith because of our basic belief in the right to life from conception to natural death?  Is it not a struggle to defend our faith because we see marriage as between one man and one woman?  Is it not a struggle to defend our faith when we see the sinfulness of some Catholic clergy who abused young children in their care?
 
Yet Jesus comes to us here and now and urges us to trust in God and to trust in him, just as he did with the disciples around two thousand years ago.  He tells us that he has prepared a place for us in his Father’s house.  We have a home in Heaven!  There is actually a place for each one of us in the Kingdom of God!
 
But how do we get there?  That is the very relevant question asked by St Thomas, and Jesus gives him an earth shattering reply when he says ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.’ 
It is only through Jesus that we can get to God and the place he has prepared for us.

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