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Sr. Helena Burns: In surreal times, make your own news

  • February 18, 2021

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In surreal times, make your own news

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

There has been a massive resurgence of a kind of Neo-Apocalypticism of late, due in no small part to the persisting coronavirus pandemic with all its fallout; the embrace of Socialism/Marxism/Communism by the West (particularly among the young); racism in the spotlight again; civil unrest and violence; emerging globalist totalitarianism; the dominance and imposition of gender ideology; the undermining of the family and rights of parents; ever more radical abortion and euthanasia policies; “surveillance capitalism”; the rise of “fake news”; and now, sweeping censorship of free speech by left-leaning Big Tech.

What’s not to get all apocalyptic about?

If you’re anything like me, you want to know the truth, no — you need to know the truth, you need to know what the heck is really going on, and your fevered mind won’t rest until you get to the bottom of it all.

Being in the field of media literacy, it’s also my job to be able to guide others to some clarity as well. What do you do when the goalposts (or pipes) of journalistic standards keep moving? As an article in Our Sunday Visitor sagely summed up: Truth was the real victim of 2020/2021.

I am not so much fearful as I feel like a sitting duck, like I’m somehow being manipulated, like I don’t have the freedom and choices I used to have; like I’m being played, set up, snowed. It’s one of the worst feelings ever. And this uncertainty can paralyze us, freeze us, so that we feel like we can’t really plan or build toward a seemingly suddenly determined future, so … why bother? To which I will now tell myself — and anyone like me: “Do it anyway.” Remember that encouraging poem attributed to Mother Teresa that was really written by a 19-year-old student at Harvard? It’s also called “The Paradoxical Commandments.” Check it out.

Recently, a priest in confession told me that it’s possible Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was tempted by Satan thus: “What’s the point? The world will look the same or worse after Your ultimate sacrifice. People will reject the Redemption. People will still choose to go to hell. Why bother?” Thank God, that, being God, Jesus “did it anyway.”

We are living in surreal times. Times of upheaval and rapid change on many fronts. It’s important now more than ever to engage those critical thinking skills that are the basis of good philosophy, media and news literacy. But we may also want to take a break if we’re becoming obsessed news junkies (unless you were one already), and remember that local news matters, too: the news of our city, our parish, our town, our street.

Make your own news with your family, friends and acquaintances. Make your own news and your own noise with God. Nothing is too small for Him to be concerned and interested in.

I often have to remind myself that in my thirst for knowledge, Jesus Himself is the Word. He is “at work even now” on His own Good News. In the final analysis, isn’t our belief or lack thereof in the truthfulness of the information we consume based on trust? Do we trust this particular source? Our screens are daily filled with so much ephemera that won’t mean diddly-squat 48 hours from now, and certainly not in eternity. So just how much of my blood, sweat and tears should I give it now?

For many, the pandemic has felt like one, long, never-ending Lent — and perhaps has even given us some extra time to step back and contemplate our lives — but maybe this actual Lenten season 2021 we need to go smaller, rather than trying to orchestrate or even comprehend “what is beyond me” (Psalm 131).

If there are people with evil designs on our world who are putting their machinations in place, remember this: People who play God don’t pray to God. We do. And God is stronger than all, and ultimately, God’s plans will triumph.
It’s good to have big dreams for the world, but often, the reality is that our part to play may be more modest than we think. Smaller, but highly effective if we execute if faithfully.

“The true Christian, in humility, is convinced that each one of us needs only to carry a pebble to the great edifice. Whoever does their part well will bear much fruit” – Bl. Fr. James Alberione.

(Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA.  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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