The World’s Language

Ever since Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, Catholics have been expecting a “new Pentecost.” So where is it?

Today, we are too often like the apostles before Pentecost. They hid away in the upper room — and we often surround ourselves with like-minded people, and enjoy our faith out of view of the nastiness that bothers us in the world.

But then the Holy Spirit came and gave them to courage to step out. They began speaking to people from every land, and every one of them understood them in their own language.

Today, the Holy Spirit still “makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as he re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between earth and heaven,” said Pope Benedict XVI. “The Holy Spirit is Love.”

In honor of Pentecost Sunday, here are some of the languages that prevail in the world that Catholics need to speak. Catholics can reach the world in any of these languages — as long as they use the international language of love.

1. The News.

Now, more than ever, people are obsessed by the news.

Newspapers may be failing, but more people are reading the news than ever before. In fact, reading news online has become a major factor in many corporations. Where employees have instant access to the news, they use it — constantly.

Whenever a major event occurs, we either read about it ourselves within hours, or hear about it from someone who has. We hear about major court decisions and legislative achievements, massacres and natural disasters, while those involved in these events are still reeling from their effects.

It can be easy to lose perspective in all of this. In fact, it is common to lose perspective. We give greater attention to bizarre crimes and celebrity embarrassments than we ever could before.

A new Pentecost of charity can transform the way we deliver — and receive — the news. Catholic journalists can become fluent in the news, presenting both sides of an issue fairly and accurately — including giving Church’s teaching its due place. And audiences can become better stewards of the news, giving victims of crimes, embarrassments and mishaps — even celebrities — the privacy they are due, and not putting our own purity of heart in the hands of random reporters.

2. Radio.

Broadcasting by radio has become cheaper and easier than ever before — and the number of avenues for reaching listeners is far greater. Catholic AM and FM stations can be run by a single person with a computer. But in addition to traditional radio, there is Internet radio, podcasting and satellite radio.

A great number of Catholics are answering the call to reach souls over the airwaves. The Catholic Channel on Sirius satellite radio and Relevant Radio are two organizations that regularly feature the National Catholic Register as a source of news.

Other radio apostolates include EWTN Global Radio Network with a worldwide reach, the Catholic Radio Network, Ave Maria Radio and Saint Joseph Radio. A new Pentecost can encourage 1,000 such projects to blossom — in mutual encouragement and support.

3. Television.

Newton Minow described television as “vast wasteland” in 1961, when television consisted of a few channels of programming that would be considered fairly high-quality in our day. Today, television has gotten far more vast and far more empty. First came cable television. Now comes online video sites, such as YouTube, which put professionals and non-professionals on equal footing.

As our front-page story attests, Catholics are learning this new language, too.

But “YouTube Catholics” have a tough job. The medium’s audiences are unforgiving. They want quality, and will click away from anything that doesn’t provide it.

Video apostles who want to reach an Internet audience with Catholic content have to be just as vigilant about quality — or they  will never deliver the message their audience needs. 

Whether that is fair or not, or whether it is ideal or not, is beside the point.

As the Holy Father put it in Brazil: “We must not limit ourselves solely to homilies, lectures, Bible courses or theology courses, but we must have recourse also to the communications media: press, radio and television, websites, forums and many other methods for effectively communicating the message of Christ to a large number of people.”

When will the new Pentecost come? It has begun already, and will grow stronger as more of us learn to speak out in the world’s language.

Charity demands it.