Being adult


The month of February has been Catholic Press Month for a long time. This means a lot to a few editors, writers and publishers but why should you care?
The short answer to that question is because you are an adult — or, if not yet at the age generally considered adult, you are aimed in that direction and hope to get there. The work done by those editors, etc., is intended to make you a better adult Catholic: better informed about the world, better informed about the Church community, better informed and inspired in faith, more open to growth in faith.
If you pay attention widely, the Catholic press helps to make you a more integrated, whole and holy person.
That is not an exaggeration.
Reading The Catholic Messenger and a book or two a year like Timothy Radcliffe’s “What Is the Point of Being a Christian?” and subscribing to a well-grounded magazine like St. Anthony Messenger will make you a better adult. Period.
How can such a claim be made? Because that activity of reading good material does two things crucial for adult health: you experience a call, a tug, an invitation to grow, learn, discover something new about the world, about yourself; and you find direction, meaning and instruction from people worth your trust. They assume that you have the desire to grow and the courage to keep swimming in the mystery of faith.
When Catholic Press Month started, most emphasis was placed on the bishops’ need for spreading their message. Newspapers, magazines and books were seen as tools of top-down evangelization, means of spreading a presumed fullness of truth about the Church and our faith.
That remains a function. But we realized more clearly in the last century that readers could not be treated as children — not if they were expected to reach a faith worthy of adults. They had to be treated as agents in their own development.
There is a truth of human dignity — it must be respected with room for individuals to speak, even in error — as well as a truth of received faith.
This newspaper, for example, once did not print letters from readers. That was policy. The editors viewed their role as instructing and inspiring the readers, not listening to them or engaging in dialogue or facilitating an exchange of views. Communication was top down only.
We don’t operate that way now. We try to be a forum in which readers can express their views and represent their place among the people of God. Sometimes this makes the editors wonder if that simpler old policy wasn’t better, especially when political passions appear to overwhelm the virtue of Christian charity in letter writers. But the forum must remain open so that all of us can experience the truth of variety in our community.
A parish community is often small enough for us to encounter other Catholics with different and various standpoints. We experience something of the universality of the Church this way. Across larger communities like the diocese and the worldwide Church the only way to have that same encounter is through the media. Our most stable medium here is The Catholic Messenger.
It cuts the distance between us. It displays the variety in our unity. It helps us be a more adult community.
Frank Wessling

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