In a world glued to its tablets and computers, it’s never a bad idea to pray for the media. CNS photo/Karen Callaway

Sr. Helena Burns: Believe it or not, media needs our prayers

By 
  • March 23, 2022

There’s a saying in the Media Literacy Education community: “Media Literacy isn’t just teaching with media, it’s teaching about media.” I believe this could also apply to prayer and the media: “Let’s not just pray with media (e.g., praying with a prayer app), let’s pray about the entire world of media itself.”

A unique and profound part of the spirituality of my congregation, the Daughters of St. Paul, given to us by our Founder, Blessed Fr. James Alberione (MediaApostle.com), is to pray for the media in a comprehensive way.

Blessed Fr. Alberione absolutely loved media and media technology. He was always looking for the next big thing that could be used not only for preaching the Gospel, but also for the general uplifting of humankind. We have many photos of him blessing various printing presses and sound studios, grinning ecstatically from ear to ear as he does so. He truly believed that human beings, Christians in particular, were capable of “sanctifying the media” through intelligent and virtuous use.

Fr. Alberione was known for his startlingly original, pithy and memorable sayings regarding media. One of my favourites is: “There are those who let themselves be dragged by the current. Others use media in edification and joy.”

Before I became a Daughter of St. Paul, I was all about ecology, conservation, animals and the environment. I never wanted to learn how to drive a car (planning to bike everywhere and live off the land). With regard to technology, I was a bit of a Luddite. But Fr. Alberione convinced me (through his writings; he died in 1971) that if I wanted to help my contemporaries, I would need to reach them through the media. He wrote, for example, that: “We are not called to save people who lived 200 years ago and had no radio, TV or cinema.”

I already knew how much media had influenced me for good and for ill. I loved books, writing, poetry, drama and the arts, and so decided it would be truly amazing to “give God” to someone through a magazine, a film, a song. I was thus hooked and converted to the “Pauline Option” approach to media. Allaying my fears of my somehow participating in, encouraging and adding to all the overuse of energy sources, harms to nature, evil content and addictive habits of media user was Fr. Alberione’s concept of “reparation” for media misuse and abuse.

In a nutshell, “The Pauline Offertory” is a prayer that every Daughter of St. Paul recites daily, placing the intention in all the Masses said around the world that day, that evil media will go away and good media will increase. In addition, we pray in atonement for “errors and scandals” spread by the media; that the effects of evil media will be repaired; that those “deceived and seduced” by “these instruments” may return to the Father. (Find the prayer at HellBurns.com.)

In other prayers written by Blessed Alberione for the media, we pray specifically for artists, writers, directors, marketers, etc., entrusting them to Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Blessed Carlo Acutis, “the first Millennial saint,” was a computer geek and a fan of Fr. Alberione’s thought on media. Carlo limited himself to one hour of videogaming per day, knowing how it could suck up so much precious time needed for other facets of life.

We can use media well in our lives and help others do the same with the three “D’s.” Discipleship, Discernment and Discipline. Discipleship: Do we want to follow and imitate Jesus Christ in everything we do? That needs to include media, which is “the stuff of our lives” these days. Discernment: The Bible and the Catholic Church give us rich and definitive tools of discernment with which to evaluate media messages. Discipline: Whether we realize it or not, we love self-discipline! Say what now? We know that if we want to be good at a sport, a musical instrument, our job, even our relationships, we need to be incredibly disciplined in how we go about them. If we want to use media optimally, we need to be very intentional about the who, what, when, where, why and how of our media engagement.

If getting a handle on media seems overwhelming or even hopeless in a thoroughly media-saturated world, hang on to these words found on the walls of every Pauline chapel around the globe (spoken by Jesus to Fr. Alberione): “Do not fear. I am with you. From here (the Tabernacle) I will enlighten. Live with a penitent heart.”

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

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