Thank God For The Internet
Today I would like to talk a bit about Joe Bloggs. Joe Blogg is a bit of you (yes, you), you, you and… You. Joe Bloggs is, in a way, us.
Joe Bloggs is a wretched sinner, but in the end he is a good guy. In him concupiscence – the lot of all of us – always mixed with a desire for sacredness and purity, for a wholesome, well-ordered life able to counter with a reminder of the things of heaven the attraction for the sins of this earth. Joe Bloggs is not a saint. But he never liked to be a sinner, either.
Joe Bloggs is a smart guy. He knows that religion isn't a private matter, like his passion for model trains. Even if he is not trained in Catholic matters, and has never heard of the Social Kingship of Christ, he confusedly but at the same time clearly perceives that Christian rules must be the fundament of societal organisation, rather than merely the personal choice of individuals. If it's right, it is right for everyone and must, therefore, apply to everyone.
Joe Bloggs sees – has seen for decades now – strange things happen in the last decades, and the strangeness has become more and more alarming in the last two years. He knows that something is very wrong, because all his being shouts it to him.
At the same time, Joe Bloggs is unable to formulate exactly what is wrong, and why. Those he was taught to recognise as spiritual guides – the priests, the bishops, the pope – appear confused or worse, and talk like mediocre politicians on the look for easy approval. They keep repeating the same slogans of mediocre or populist politicians, a rhetoric of peace and love in which he feels religion cannot find its fulfilment, because religion must, in the end, be something serious, and it could therefore never be as childishly senseless as that politician's rhetoric.
Joe Bloggs does not know where to turn to. The newspapers and magazines he reads are full of the same rubbish, and they look at religion like a zoologist looks at the life of a termite house: will the pope do this, will he steer the church there, will there be married priest, and the like. Joe Bloggs keeps thirsting, and finds nowhere to drink.
One day, Joe Bloggs decides to surf a bit on the Internet. He does not know it yet, but his life will never be the same. There it is, the well-ordered society he was so confusedly looking after! An army of simple people – most of them laymen – has taken it on themselves to fight for it, and dedicate to it the time he dedicates to his model trains.
At the beginning this is, for our friend, no more than a pleasant surprise. But something has changed now. The next time he feels confused he will know where to look. And the next. And the next! In time, Joe Bloggs will learn to navigate this world, discern the blogs most congenial to him, make of them a regular reading.
As he reads, he learns. He starts to buy books he never thought existed – much less, would be read by him – and he even enjoys them. He realises reading is not enough, and a life of prayer slowly develops. As the prayer develops, other thoughts begin to appear: how comes his grandma always attended Mass, his mother seldom, and he never? Oh yeah, because Father Frederick Aggot was always so shallow and trite, and bored him to death at Christmas and Easter with the need of not kicking the cat…
But perhaps is there more to that? More books about the Mass follow, and then the decision is taken: next Sunday, to Mass. And what about communion? Well that can't be, his grandma – who was smart, was she not! How many things he starts to remember about her now! – would have said. General Confession is it, then. Trembling at the start, and crying of joy and consolation at the end.
A new Joe Bloggs is slowly being shaped; by Grace first, but by his willing collaboration with it, too. Prayer, reading, and Mass attendance work on him almost imperceptibly, and still very clearly. He is still a sinner, but he now puts up a fight against his sins. The comfortable numbness of his former days has made way for a keen awareness of his own sinfulness. He now understands the meaning of the word “Catholic Guilt”, and he is strangely proud of it! He begins to really change: abortion, contraception, “social justice”: so many false teaching he took for granted are now revisited, as he allows himself to be led by Truth rather than think he is the source of it or, at least, of his own one.
As he reads more and more he discovers more and more. The Social Kingship of Christ is no mystery anymore; on the contrary, it is so natural, and so coherent he wonders how he could ever think otherwise. And in fact, the same happens for all the many teachings of this extremely complex, fascinating world: they match in a most wonderful way, like as many Lego parts; they can be easily understood alone – contraception, abortion, adultery, the lot – but he also becomes aware of how harmoniously they combine, how they come all out of the same mould. Like the most fascinating, complicated mechanical watch, every part is both a wonder in itself and a tiny part of a much bigger wonder.
We leave Joe Bloggs to his readings now – have I told you? He has started some light penance recently; to think he used to mock the old women who did it when he was a boy! – and make some short reflections:
What was the vehicle chosen by God's grace to bring Joe Bloggs back to the fold? Was it the state television channel? The newspaper he still subscribes to (not for long, I assure you!)? A documentary? A movie? The parish magazine? The boring, blabbering priest he remembers ruining his Easters?
It was countless other people like him, simple men and women with a mortgage and a bad dishwasher, who have taken the keyboard or the smartphone and have started saying like it is; in blogs, on facebook, on Twitter, on Internet forums, on every one of the very many ways in which simple men and women can now have their voice heard.
By God's grace, Joe Bloggs has heard their voice. He will never be the same. By God's grace, Joe Bloggs has been given a vehicle, an instrument of learning and growing to counteract the terrible tragedy of the modern Church; a Church disfigured to such an appalling extent that not even the numerous churches around him had awoken in him more than the slightest religious feeling, much less quenched his confused thirst for truth.
With blogs and forums, with Facebook and Twitter, in who knows how many other ways in the future, Joe Bloggs has now discovered the wonderful, divine Lego construction the parish priest so accurately kept away from him, or did not know, or simply hated. He is now a different man. His life has become more difficult, too. But he would never come back.
Imagine a pope ravaging the Church at every step, and no Internet to show the world – and some bishops – how many we are, and how stubborn, and how righteously angry. Imagine a heretical pope publishing his delirious encyclicals without any resistance, any open criticism, any mockery of his infinite childish stupidity. Imagine him prepare a quasi-doctrinal coup with a bunch of heretical cardinals without fearing world indignation in a matter of hours, when most bishops are still reflecting how dangerous it is to speak out.
Thank God for the Internet.