The recent episode of the walkout petition who made it to the Washington Post and to the very rooms of the Synod was a particularly striking demonstration that few can achieve a lot. It works, methinks, in many other ways.
Both on my blog and elsewhere I read comments that are absolutely brilliant (I do not mean long. I mean brilliant. I always scroll past the long ones). And then of course I read blogs that I found brilliant, but of which I have no idea of how many readers they have.
Blogger or commenter: what counts is what you say. How many read it is secondary. You can write soppy comments on a Patheos blog, and thousands will read you, but you will not influence anyone. You can write a pithy comment on a blog read by fifty people, and make a profound impression on the one person Providence directed to it.
Or imagine you are a Catholic journalist (in good faith. I know: rara avis), researching for a piece about the one or other issue relating to Francis. The man will click around, as everyone else does, and will stumble upon places with the most various audience. Small and big bloggers, and bloggers of whom he has no idea whether they are small or not so small, and their commenters. He will not be looking for platitudes. He will be looking for depth. The many blog posts and comments with a strong, coherent defence of Truth will give him a very useful narrative if he is honest, and will let him think twice about the rubbish he writes if he isn’t. The point strikingly made will stay with him, and form part of his own contribution. This is something everyone who follows blogs can observe: the discussion in the many small places gets picked in and amplified by the small number of big ones. Until, one day, the Washington Post publishes an article stating that Francis bats with the heretics, both the author and his editor refuse to backpedal upon the scandalised reaction of the same heretics, and actually answer them with another salvo.
Or you can put it in another way. Everyone of us would get inflamed with passion when talking about the Church in front of friends, relatives or acquaintances. In these cases, the audience is extremely limited. Still, we get all excited because we know that even to make a lasting impression on one soul would be a huge result, and that person could, say, discover the faith many years later, and remember us as one of the factors of his conversion.
Even a small blog, patiently written by a man who cares, will soon have such potential for conversion on a much bigger scale. Plus, it will reinforce the will to fight of many others, and let them know that they are not alone. When I started this little effort I hoped to create, in time, a small group of 60 or 70 “regulars” (the ones to be encouraged and reinforced in what they already know), plus the occasional heretic or atheist or rose water “catholic” stumbling on our virtual pub during the discussion, and hopefully led – with God’s grace – to think differently by what he reads. Those 60 or 70 would have been more than two school classes already. Not bad, for one who cares.
It’s not about how many people read your blog, or your comment. It’s about what impression you make on those who read it.
A big war is upon us. We need all the help we can get.
I have often written about the “American papist”, one of the best Catholic blogs around and the fruit of the energy and commitment of Thomas Peters. Even if the “American Papist” is rather intensely focused on a US-American perspective, the materials and the ideology therein exposed are extremely useful to Catholics the world over.
Mr. Peters has recently given a speech in Boston about Catholic Internet activism. I found the text both concise and instructive and his message of universal validity. You can find the text here. It is not very long and I hope that you will want to click and read it in its entirety.
The points I found most important are as follows:
1) The laity must lead the Internet battle. Mr. Peters is very diplomatic on the point but we all know what the reality looks like.
2) Motivated minorities drive the public opinion. This has always been so and even Lenin put the rule to great profit, also look at what the 1% or so of sexual perverts is doing in many Western Countries. Mr. Peters gives impressive examples of this. The episode of the Hyundai adv has been dealt with by me here and here. Activism works.
3) The Internet allows the laity to organise themselves in a small, but landscape-changing minority without the need to rely on the traditional mass media. I have written on this here already.
4) We, the small minorities of Catholics who really know what Catholicism is all about (instead of having some vague ideas about it) are called to do our job of spreading and defending the Catholic message, but we must be aware of all the difficulties that go with it. People are going to call us rigid, bigot, antiquated, a lot of things ending with “phobic” and the worst of all modern insults, “uncharitable”. This is our lot. Jesus has never said it would be easy. As Mr. Peters points out, to be a Christian is and remains a sign of contradiction.
Mr. Peters’ speech is a beautiful reminder of the fact that every one of us (those who write and those who read) have an important role to play in the defence of Christian values in their circle of relatives, friends and acquaintances. There’s a price to pay, but we know that we will be rewarded one day.