It is not easy to be a writer. How does one take a series of lines and symbols, form them into some semblance that will elucidate truth and impact on a reader’s lived experience? Language is a complex issue; different words have different meanings. To add to this, similar words also have different meanings and connotations. We use different words to say the same thing. Some use lots of words to say absolutely nothing at all. There are even those in our society whose words are not confined to just one place in time. These words have such depth and meaning that they will resound through the ages for years to come. The writer of such words will in a sense attain a small immortality. This is no easy task and is even more difficult when one is a person of faith.
To be a Catholic writer is even more difficult. If we are to be truly authentically Catholic then we must hold true to the traditions which have been set down for generations by those gone before us. The difficulty then becomes in offering a reader a true fusion of ancient traditions and modern contexts. It is not an easy process and for this reason I believe Catholic (and indeed those within the broader Christian context) writers are to be commended for their efforts. The Catholic writer puts much at risk; should they disagree with the Church on a particular issue they risk the scorn of their peers for putting such a view into the public domain. If the writer adheres fully to dogma they will be criticized for not being ‘open-minded.’ The Catholic writer is often referred to in terms of left wing or right wing, liberal or conservative. When in reality such pigeon-holing of a person is a dangerous and ultimately futile exercise.
Even more difficult yet is to be a Catholic journalist. The Catholic writer can express their views and opinions as they see fit safe in the knowledge that their words will not be presented unless they desire it. This is not the case with a Catholic journalist. The journalist must be ready to write the truth which must then be presented to editors, sub editors and any number of other participants within a newspaper or news broadcasting body. The journalist must be willing to entrust their work to these people in the confidence that once the editor’s work is complete the printed piece will be an accurate representation of what the journalist has written. The relationship between editor and journalist is an act of faith for both parties. The two may be at odds with each other but must work together for the common good of the reader. This is no easy calling.
Generally a journalist must remain impartial and write the facts as they are presented. They do not offer a commentary on the scenario but rather must report the scenario as it happens. They must report the Truth as opposed to a version of the truth – a mistruth or a downright lie. This is even more difficult for a Catholic journalist. Such a person must remain authentically Catholic in being Universal. The Catholic journalist is for all people. The story they write must be written so that all can understand. Insofar as they can the language they use must speak to all people effectively, while staying true to the ancient traditions. The cause they campaign for must be for the common good and not just for the good of Catholics. This requires independent thought. Such independent thought will comfort the afflicted and can shake others out of complacency.
To be an authentic Catholic journalist requires the fundamental basic call of all people; the call to holiness. The Catholic journalist must be a person of prayer. Their strength and drive must come not from the hype of a story, or the momentary accolade they may receive but rather must come from God. They must be driven in the knowledge that what they are pursuing – Truth – is a noble endeavour. By pursuing Truth and desiring to write the Truth the Catholic journalist will become an agent of the Kingdom of God.
This requires humility. The Catholic journalist is constantly faced with the dangerous prospect of comparing themselves to the story they are writing about. How can one write about the prayer life of a person such as Blessed (now Saint) Mother Theresa and not feel inadequate for example? However we should not be comparing ourselves to such people but in reality should only attempt to live up to the commandments of Christ. The lives of the Saints are the lives of good and righteous men and women and their words and actions have reverberated through centuries. The work of a Catholic journalist remains (at least for now) a printed work which may be a story today while tomorrow it may be used as kindling for fire on a cold night.
Every once in a while however the work of a Catholic journalist will play some small part in the shaping and/or reshaping of a society. For this reason the Catholic journalist must not be content with mediocrity. They must strive to do their absolute best in writing a story. This also requires courage. So often a Catholic journalist (myself included) will be told “Don’t write about that, it’s too controversial. Things will never change.” Unfortunately for too long in our society injustice, indecency and social evils were given space to breathe and allowed to perpetuate because of fear. While each of us has the potential to be an agent of change in the world for the service of Christ’s kingdom, there are other agents at work who will attempt to stop this change from taking place. We must remain committed to our cause. It took the courage of journalists (of a particular faith and none) to write about and expose such wrongs. Each one played their own part in bringing to an end social immorality.
In the final analysis the reader may be wondering: why is this particular piece included in the blog? This is not a piece of news or current affairs therefore why is it taking up space? The honest truth is because this particular writer believes faith does matter. Faith cannot be resigned to some small niche in our lives as though it were a dark secret. Our faith must inform how we view the world and how we want to live in the world. Do we want to be shaped by our environment or are we willing to have the fortitude to shape the environment in which we find ourselves? Each of us has a vocation to live out. To paraphrase one of our Saints, be that and be that well. Why should we care? Personally, I identify with the writer’s vocation and through that I have found peace and this has enhanced my relationship with God. This has made me a better person. I can only hope that by my life I have helped make a better world. Shouldn’t that be something we each strive for?