Evangelisation through blogging

Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski

The fashion for memoirs has come back. But in the form of web pages. Such journals are called blogs. Naturally, this is a certain abbreviation, referring to the old well-known experiences, since a blog is not a common journal. But what is it? Well, it is not easy to answer this question, one reason being that memoirs are very personal and secret texts, often revealed after somebody's death and a blog is open to all people, intended to be read.

Everyone blogs

The biggest blog search Technorati.com says that a new blog is created every second. What does this mean? It means that someone has begun writing systematically - not necessarily daily - his/her own journal. On what subjects? The subjects vary. One can write a personal blog, about one's own experiences. The subject can be narrowed, i.e. to cycling or computers. The age of bloggers does not matter, either. Almost everyone can blog: teenagers and elderly people, workers and university professors, atheists and clergymen. It has been estimated that there are over 70 million blogs around the world. The dynamism of blogging makes us assume that the blogosphere will be doubled in five months.

Brief history of blogging

As practically in other events concerning history it is hard to define the beginning of blogging although its history is short, only 14 year old one. The term 'web log' was used for the first time by writer Jorn Barger. Tow years later web page designer Peter Merholz used the term 'we blog'. Then 'blog' was simply accepted. For the first six years blogging was reserved for the initiated, i.e. computer programmers, knowing the Internet 'html' language. But about the year 1999 that knowledge was not necessary. 'I remember learning the language of Internet web pages when I studied in Rome in 1996. I was fascinated by computers', recollects Fr Tomasz. 'A thick English volume of several hundred pages. But actually it was quick to learn the language. And I had a purpose to learn it - a web page I promised to create. Thanks to simplified computer programmes anyone can design, and then update, a web page nowadays.

Why do people blog?

There is no single reason, just as there is no single definition of a blog. The pioneers of blogging saw it as the embodiment of the freedom of speech. Gutenberg was regarded to have brought the freedom of speech but in fact until the era of blogging there was the rule that everyone could spread his ideas but only few could afford it: those who had money for paper, printing and distribution. Among other things people blog because they want to break the monopoly of the totalitarian countries or big media concerns that rule over public opinion due to the power of their money. Media concerns felt the threat of the most popular bloggers and now we can find blogs of the most popular journalists - the flagships of the companies - in their on-line editions. For politicians blogging is an element of political marketing. The effectiveness of this tool is measured by the number of quotations in traditional papers. In Poland the pioneer and master of political blogging is Ryszard Czarnecki, European Parliament Member of 'Samoobrona' (Self-Defence Party). One can divide blogs on the basis of subjects. Thus there are blogs about travels, fashion or humour. They reflect the shop window of the press reading room, which in turn reflects human interests and passions.
But blogs are not only journals. There are photoblogs, their main part are photographs; videoblogs with films and cartoonblogs.

Catholic part of the blogosphere

Catholics got interested in blogging relatively late. They take up subjects relating to faith. One of the first bloggers belonging to the Catholic hierarchy is Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, Metropolitan of Boston (www.cardinalseansblog.org). His blog will have existed for a year by September. Why does he do that? 'I value the possibility of direct contacts', he says and adds that he is above all concerned with young people who are domineering among Internet surfers. Cardinal O'Malley writes his blog every Friday. He includes many pictures. The comments show that the readers of his blog are most often Catholics although there are also people who are far away from the Church. As they say themselves they like the idea of 'the Church from inside'. The blog of Cardinal O'Malley became so important that it aroused the interest of the CNN, which spoke about it in their news services. But blogs of the hierarchs of the Church are rare: one cardinal, several bishops and that's it. And most certainly nobody would guess that the pioneer of blogging among the successors of Peter was Archbishop Oscar V from the Philippines (ovc.blogspot.com). He began writing his web journal in May 2004 when the blogosphere was in its infancy. A year later other bishops from this only Asian country with Catholic majority joined him. Currently, there are seven hierarchs including the President of the Bishops' Conference Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

Religious and lay

Religious congregations, including the contemplative orders whose members do not leave their walls, have their blogs, too. There are also Catholic thematic blogs. Some deal with the protection of human life, some write about the liturgy and others about the social teaching of the Church. Their authors do not only embrace clergymen. It is the laity that is behind most of the religious blogs.
What about the Polish blogosphere? Unfortunately, no bishop is a blogger, at least in an official way. But we can easily find priests' and nuns' blogs. No accurate statistics can be given since there is no list of Catholic blogs like the list of English blogs.

Place to share experiences

As far as priests are concerned bloggers are mainly young priests who look for effective ways of being with people. 'I simply started writing, without having any philosophy. Realising that this form of communication between young people is very popular I decided to write about daily things, ordinary problems, my reflections and experiences', says Fr JaCo, a priest from southern Poland (http://ksjaco.blog.onet.pl). 'I did not place my personal date because I intended that from the very beginning. Those who read my notes know that they deal with a priest and that should be enough', he explains his decision. Anonymous bloggers are quite common. Another priest who is a blogger told us about a nun whom he knew who wrote as an anonymous Christian. 'She evangelises in an excellent way', adds Fr Mariusz Sliwa from the diocese of Przemysl. In his opinion the anonymity of the Internet where one can hide behind his/her nickname helps young people to open themselves. 'Some people are not courageous enough to approach a priest and talk about their problems' Fr Sliwa explains. In a relatively short time about 50,000 people have visited his blog (http://ks-mariusz.blog.onet.pl) and 2,000 wrote their comments.

Evangelisation tool

What keeps them blogging? After all, this task requires systematic writing. Both priests give the same answer: they feel that they help people. 'I can see that it is very useful since I receive many e-mails in which young people tell me about their lives', Fr JaCo said to 'Niedziela'. 'I have met many people who sought help here. Most of them experienced serious problems, commencing with atheists, those in love or those who heard religious callings. I think I helped many of them', Fr Sliwa adds. Fr JaCo told us about one specific case of an internaut who was so burdened with his problems that wanted to commit suicide. 'I had the impression that the person gave up this idea because of this form of acquaintance.'
How do they find priests' blogs? It is hard to say. An anonymous priest from southern Poland says, 'I trust that it was God that led them to read my blog!:) See yeah!

Collaboration: Rafal Ksiazek

"Niedziela" 28/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl