Friday, May 6, 2011

Home from Rome 2: The Vatican Blogmeet

I have read widely about the meeting over the last two days. Of the general reports I recommend Edward Pentin's 3 page piece for Zenit as being a most thorough and comprehensive treatment. As for the bloggers themselves, the general assessment seems to be that the Vatican scored a great success and I endorse that view. As you know, I was sceptical beforehand and had been irritated by the PCCS's assumption that many bloggers would be in Rome for the Beatification anyway.  Judging from several remarks made from the platform, I think they revised that opinion,  acknowledging the distances from which many of us had come and that we had made the effort to there simply because the Vatican, and by extension the Pope himself, had called us. We regarded the invitation as an honour and that we must therefore do everything we could to accept. I guess all of us felt a tremendous sense of responsibilty to the blogosphere which is our 'virtual' home and workplace and where many of our friends and colleagues also live and work.

When the programme of the meeting was published, some of the bloggers with whom I was in touch feared that it would all be very controlled and that we would be 'talked at' by various Vatican officials. I tended to share that expectation. Well, we now know that it wasn't at all like that. Hilary White gave an extremely honest and enthusiastic interview on Vatican Radio, in which she described her scepticism beforehand and her delight when it was melted by the way the Vatican officials welcomed us, by their genuine desire to listen to us, and to seek our help in their own dealings with and understanding of , the 'new media'. Hilary said that the Vatican approach to us was respectful and even humble. We were told that the Vatican had no intention of controlling what we write and that if they formed  a Free Association of Catholic Bloggers, accreditation to it would be totally voluntary on our part. The word 'free' was the operative one.

When I arrrived in the room with my Paix Liturgique friend, the first person we met was Dylan Parry (another of God's little providences) and we settled down at the left hand back table next to him. Dame Catherine Wybourne was immediately in front of us and it was great to meet her as we had agreed to do by email beforehand. Most of the people there were festooned with every kind of electronic gadgetry. In a way I was glad to be insufficiently geekified/nerdified. It allowed me to concentrate on what was going on in a different way. I had my headphones for the necessary translations. And that was enough. The first thing that communicated itself was the sense of a community, of people delighted to meet others whom they had only known on line until the Vatican gave us this chance to meet each other in reality. That was an added gift. Nobody seemed ill at ease. We were all geared up in our own way, and raring to go.

As you know I'm keen to avoid repetition of what you will have read on other blogs, so will concentrate here on things that have not been mentioned, or emphasised, elsewhere. They may sound like criticisms but they are not meant in that spirit.

First I think there was too much emphasis on the Social Networks, on Facebook and Twitter for instance. Most of us know that these activities are not the same as blogging. Blogs have a memory, archives etc. and they enable their followers to see the author reacting to different issus, and share the author's own spiritual journey. Spirituality brings me to another point. The emphasis was almost completely on the blog as a purveyor of news, not as a sharing of its author's spiritual pilgrimage. On this blog for instance, I do deal with current issues, particularly as they are caused by, or affect the Holy Father, but I try to make it more spiritual than temporal. There was absolutely no chance to mention this aspect, and sadly none to mention specialist sites like my Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog, founded as it was as the result of the Year for Priests initiative of the Congregation for Clergy. (That was another sad thing about the shortness of notice for the meeting. There was insufficient time to contact Cardinal Piacenza, although I did everything I could and faxed him a few days before I left for Rome.) I'm sure this aspect will come up when I eventually get round to contacting Dame Catherine again.

One of the priests speaking from the platform did say that running his blog was rather like building a parish community and I thought immediately of Father Mark who through his blog Vultus Christi , which is mostly spiritual, has managed to gather a group of Oblates and Friends of his small Benedictine Priory in Tulsa. He put us all on a private Facebook group and communicates monastery news to us in that way. Note, blog to Facebook, not the other way round. Someone else said that there was a need for digital Pastors on the blogosphere and I hope that idea will be taken up more widely..

I am glad we were not asked to fill in an evaluation form at the end of the meeting. (Shades of G.C.S.E Moderation meetings!) We all needed time to reflect but I do think it is right that we  let the PCCS have some grateful feedback in the coming days.

Finally, something has been chasing round inside my head since the meeting.And it was about the way the Vatican officials, including Archbishop Celli and Fr Lombardi, comported themselves, in the way they treated us. Last night I put together the following string of words: respect for the dignity and contribution of each blogger to the mission of the Church; gentleness and gentility, openness and a willingness , a desire to listen; holy charity, and humility, which many saints have taught is the beginning of all virtue. At this point I stopped, because I suddenly realised that these are the characteristics of our beloved Pope Benedict. They seen to be rubbing off  on his representatives. Looking back, it was almost as if he had been personally in the room.

And something I haven't seen mentioned anywhere. I think it was Archbishop Celli who invited us to close the meeting by praying the Our Father together, and then led us all in doing so.

Sorry about any mistakes. May tidy this up tomorrow.
God bless all here!

In Christo pro Papa


A Reluctant Sinner said...

An excellent refection on the meeting, and thank you for mentioning me! You, to, were sent by Providence.

Thank you


A Catholic Comes Home said...

Glad you have mentioned the spiritual part of blogging in your post Jane.Although I enjoy and benefit from blogs that purely impart news etc.I do think that the spiritual ones have a very important part to play.I know that many, including yours ,have helped me tremendously.

Jane said...

Thank you both for these supportive comments. I don't think we will ever get back to a situation we regarded as 'normal' before the Rome meeting. Great progress has been made. We follow!

God bless,
In Christo pro Papa

shadowlands said...

Great stuff!!