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Terence Wong

Saved by social networks

By  Terence Wong, Youth Speak News
  • November 16, 2012

The Internet is a wild and complex place, filled to the brim with all sorts of information ranging from nice fluffy baby photos to explicit content. It’s hard to imagine it as a space where one can be motivated to learn about faith, yet that is exactly what it became for me thanks to social networks like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

As a cradle Catholic, for years I was a Catholic in name only. Going to Mass was routine, and I had numerous doubts and questions that I couldn’t see being answered by the Catholic Church. I was stuck in the spiritual mud. And I had no desire to learn or examine any long-winded papal encyclicals and the writings of the saints or take a scant look at a timeline of our two millennia-old religion.

Entering university, I joined a Catholic group on campus primarily on the prodding of my parents and my not knowing what to do otherwise. The group helped me live out my faith, but it was the Internet that helped solidify my return to the core roots of Catholicism. 

In between the hours I spent researching online for my school work, I looked into apologetics, reading through to-the-point commentary on questions Catholics struggle with.

Many people don’t have time to learn why the Church has always taught against abortion, teachings based on the first-century didache (teachings of the apostles) and reinforced by Pope Paul VI in his 20th-century writing Humanae Vitae. Surprisingly enough, I learned about these teachings through simplified Internet memes.

It may seem odd to learn so much about intricate subjects such as ecclesiastical authority or the sacrament of confession through small, quirky images with simple subtitles, yet the simplicity of memes nudged my curiosity.

One meme about the sacrament of confession involved two simple caricatures. One wore a roman collar saying, “Forgive all the sins!” The other replied, “Detest all my sins!” This meme gets to the point that reconciliation at its core is simple and easy. But it also spins off a whole lot of other ideas and questions regarding the full procedure involved in confession.

This is the beautiful side of the Internet, the generating of curiosity and satiating it, reinforcing the realization people have that they are not alone. Following a Catholic on Twitter or re-blogging another Catholic meme showed me and others that there are Catholics who practise their faith even in the sort of online “wild west” that is the Internet.

Every time someone shares another Catholic meme, I am inspired to learn more, whether by asking the complicated questions behind the meme, by searching for answers on Catholic networks such as the Patheos blogger network, by starting a public discussion on Twitter or by sharing the meme again on another social network so that others may see it.

Simple messages work best when they motivate people to explore the meanings behind the simplicity.

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