The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Internet, the World, the Church

The internet is truly a remarkable resource. Yes, I know full well that much of its content is pure garbage of the sort that any civilized, moral society would ban. That's the problem with our progressive Western culture's absolutist approach to free speech, a relatively recent innovation that would have shocked our founding fathers. They were men who believed that natural law and the moral sense of the people imposed boundaries, even on such rights as freedom of speech. Fortunately we can usually block most of this garbage from entering our homes and upsetting our peace of mind. But I digress...

I have actually watched the internet develop since before it was the internet, long before Al Gore had even heard of it. Indeed, back in the early seventies, when I was teaching computer science at the Naval Academy, I would often log into the internet's predecessor, what was then called the ARPAnet, a Department of Defense project meaning Advanced Research Project Agency Network. Once logged in I would browse the network, seeing what useful or interesting things were available on the university, government and corporate computer systems that were tied together via the ARPAnet. It was all very exciting back then, and by today's standards very limited and very slow.

Now we can communicate with family and friends via online video phone calls, basically for free. We have direct and immediate access to millions, perhaps billions, of books and articles and documents. We can learn languages. We can study everything from basic reading skills to small particle physics. We can witness world events as they happen and sample a thousand different viewpoints on what it all means, and do it all almost instantaneously. And to think that all of this, and much more, has become possible in such a short time. It truly is remarkable.

Actually, I was very ready for the internet's arrival. I had been an amateur radio operator since the age of 15 and my involvement in the hobby allowed me to communicate with other "hams" throughout the world. We'd talk about a whole range of subjects, although we would usually avoided politics and religion. Everything else, though, was fair game. As the internet began to mature I simply viewed it as a better way to do what I had already been doing since 1959.

Vintage Ham Radio Equipment of the 1950s

And now, thank God, the Church has embraced the internet as a prime medium to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, to extend its reach to places where its voice might never otherwise have been heard. How many people, who would never think of approaching a Catholic priest in person to ask about Jesus Christ, might readily visit a Catholic website to get answers to their questions? How many conversions have been precipitated by a visit to a Church website? Who knows? Maybe we bloggers even have a positive impact.

Almost daily I stumble upon some wonderful website that brings another essential element of the faith to the world. Today, for example, as I was researching information on the number of Catholic worldwide, I was led to the Vatican website of the Pontifical Mission Societies, a site I never knew existed. It's really a wonderful website, filled with information on the status of Catholic missions throughout the world. Here's the link to the English-language homepage: Agenzia Fides

It's easy to keep the garbage at bay, and just as easy to enjoy and take advantage of all the good that the internet offers. Perhaps we should develop a strong devotion to St. Isidore of Seville (left) whom the Church has declared the patron saint of the internet. A bishop and doctor of the Church who lived from 560 to 636 A.D., St. Isadore spent much of his life documenting all "universal knowledge" in anticipation of the aim of today's internet. Let's ask him to help us eliminate the garbage and strengthen the Church's growing presence on the worldwide web.

St. Isidore, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. I like so much the internet! If it wasn't for it, how could I find so many people that think like me? It's a blessing.