In it, there is also something of an admonition to the Church, that we not act too much like the man in the video.
1. It would seem that the old man has been sheltered away in his apartment for too long while the world has passed him by. We in the Church also have been hunkered down for too long, afraid to engage the outside world.
For the last 50 years, we have been very inwardly focused, debating things like liturgy, who should have power and authority in the Church, how to structure this or that internal program, etc. And though these are all important, while we were focused inwardly, the culture headed away from us at warp speed.
Our primary job (“Go and make disciples”) was set aside and almost wholly eclipsed by lesser (though still important) matters. And thus we are much like the old man in his apartment, seemingly out of touch with what has happened on the outside.
2. The specific text of the letter he is typing is also telling for the Church. The letter (written in German) begins this way: Dear Friend, It is about time I write you again, not simply because I owe you some long lines, or my guilty conscience has gotten to me … Indeed, in many ways the Church has been too silent, at least collectively speaking. Many Catholics tell me that they never hear topics addressed from their pulpits that need addressing: abortion, divorce, homosexuality, same-sex “unions,” fornication, modesty, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, death, judgment, Heaven, Hell, euthanasia, witness, courage, and so forth.
Yes, many Catholics would attest that Church leaders might well begin by saying, “It is about time that I write you, that I speak to you …”
And if Catholics in the pews feel that way, how much more so unbelievers in the street? A Church too silent, too inward in her preoccupation, needs to begin the conversation with many again: “It is long past time that I speak with you …”
3. The old man is still typing using an outdated method of communication: the manual typewriter. This is a problem for the Church, too. While it is true that we proclaim an ancient and unchanging wisdom, the challenge for us it that our proclamation of it must be non nova, sed novae (not a new thing, but in a new way).
Not only have we been slow to pick up on the “new media” but we also struggle to proclaim our magnificent faith in compelling ways. Collectively, we are doing much better, but we have a long way to go. Many parishes and priests still have little Internet presence. Too many homilies are filled with abstractions and generalities and do not apply the faith to modern issues frequently enough. Too many catechisms look like comic books from the 1970s.
And while some may wonder how it is possible to stay abreast of all the latest technology, it is too important to ignore. Parishes and dioceses must invest resources and enlist skilled staff to ensure that all forms of modern communication are being used and that the results are professional.
Please be assured, dear reader, that I do not mean that the Church’s job is merely to be “relevant” and to reflect the current age. That is not our job. Our job is to represent the teachings of our founder and head, Jesus Christ. But we cannot be content to use the equivalent of a manual typewriter in doing so.
We have to be as wise as serpents in the use of new technology, while being innocent as doves when it comes to embracing the false relevance insisted on by the worldly minded. The message cannot change but the means must progress and the results must be both professional and savvy.
4. At last the man journeys out into the world and finds out what has been going on. A crisis and the inability to continue on as usual has driven him to venture out into the world. Similarly, the Church, like a sleeping giant, is now waking up and going back out into the world. We cannot continue to do business as usual. The various crises within and outside of the Church have driven us forth. The Church’s presence in the new media is growing and is becoming more and more professional. EWTN, Catholic Answers, New Advent, and many other Catholic websites are now engaging the culture.
5. But then comes the twist at the end of the video. The man, while having made some progress, misses the boat. We discover that his use and understanding of the new technology is flawed at best.
Similarly, we in the Church must not simply think that having all the latest technology is enough. We have to know how best and most effectively to use it. Otherwise, we risk making silly mistakes like the one made by the man in the cartoon.
Enjoy this video and learn its lesson. Pray for the Church, that we learn to get it right and that we have the courage to journey outside the comfort of our own four walls to preach effectively the truth we have received.