TWEETING WITH GOD
Pope Francis defined the project ‘Tweeting with God’ as very important: blessing it, he put his hand on one of books and sank in a deep prayer for while for all people who will read these texts in search for the truth in their life
A phone rang on Friday afternoon. I had just had a meeting with the youth of a junior high school in Grójec where I had told students about St. John Paul II when on the screen there appeared Michel’s number.
- I am in Poland till Monday, so maybe we will meet? – I heard on the phone. During a short talk I found out that Michel had arrived in the meeting concerning academic pastoral ministry and that he had just received a message about rewarding his book ‘Tweeting with God’ during Fair of the Catholic Book. It was evaluated as the best book for young people. The history of its writing is incredible, as well as the history of its author is unusual.
Fr. Michel Remery, a priest from Holland, and the general vice-secretary of the Europe Episcopal Conference Council now, emphasizes that the book is the work of many young people, whereas he only published it. It started with questions asked to him. Because of the lack of priests in Holland, Fr. Michel served in three parishes. On Sunday after the Holy Mass he stood at the door of the church in order to talk to leaving people. Among them elderly people were domineering. In the parish in Leiden, where he worked, only two young people used to come to the church. After the Holy Mass they used to come up to him to ask questions, but he did not have enough time because he had to go to celebrate the Holy Mass in another parish. It was similar there. So he asked a small group of these people to send him their questions. Soon, via an email, Twitter and also pieces of paper, he received over a thousand of them (!). A lot of them concerned personal issues, but there were also those which concerned faith and the Church. Fr. Michel took down to arranging the material. He grouped the questions, suggested answers and discussed them with the youth during special meetings, which were attended by more and more people, including those who did not go to church. Some people simply encouraged others. Not only were they working on the book but they also went together on a pilgrimage to Surinam, Rome, the Holy Land, Poland and also on the World Youth Days in Sidney and Madrid. It was not the priest who encouraged them to these journeys – it were them who organized the journeys and asked him to go with them. How did it happen that they made such a great relationship?
A man with crutches
It is March 2005. I am standing outside the Roman Palazzo Farnese and I am looking around to find the priest to whom I had gained contact a day before. I know that he participated in the World Youth Days about which I had written a book. He is coming on time, moving on crutches without any difficulties. He had his one leg in plaster.
- I was skiing – he explains. - Soon I will be able to walk normally.
He is tall, speaks perfect English (later it turns out that he also speaks perfect Italian, Spanish: when I am asking him about Latin language, he says that he speaks it worse because he must think about formulating sentences – in other languages he does not need it). A few minutes later I am listening to his story whose central point is his journey for the World Youth Days in Manila in 1995. At that time he was studying architecture at the Politechnic in Delft.
- I did not fling myself at God – he said. - When I used to enter church, I saw a small group of elderly people and a priest who used to grieve that the youth did not come there. But he did not say anything about Jesus. I do not know why I was chosen to represent the Holland youth in Manila. Maybe because I had used to be an altar boy. When I was going to Manila, I thought that the Church was dying, and the Pope was an elderly man who said what we were not allowed to do.
On the Philippines he experienced shock. He saw the Church which is young, alive, happy and extremely full of people (5 million people were at the Holy Mass there on the ending day of the World Youth Days). And the Pope?
- I saw how much he loved us, how he was happy to be with us.
Michel participated in the so-called Youth Forum. He was chosen to read a message at the Forum at the end of the ceremony. Later he went up to John Paul II.
- We had a short talk about how to live with this message which we had received for ever – he says. - it was a very important moment in my life. I remember how the Pope emphasized that we should try to live with this message. He also said: 'I will pray for you so that you could live with it, so that you could get to know Christ and love Him more and more, so that you could speak about Christ everywhere where you are and regardless of what will happen'.
It is impossible
He returned to Holland with a strong commitment that he must share what he experienced with the others. He visited many universities and spoke about it. He graduated from the university of architecture, found a good job – first in the Royal Air Forces, and later in the Shell company. However, he was concerned about something. He decided to take a year-off which he spent in a religious community in France in order to think on his life. He returned to work, also had a girlfriend to whom he was planning to get married. And then he got ill.
My illness lasted a year – he says. - It changed into a yearly retreat. One morning I understood what I should do. If I was to be honest with God and myself, I could not be an architect but I should become priest. When I heard it, that is, when I understood this message from God, at once I tried to find reasons for which I could not listen to this voice. I was trying to tell myself that I had misunderstood it. But after two weeks I had to admit that God asked me to become priest. And then I felt peace. I felt that it was the right decision. Even if it was to be difficult, even if it entailed many changes, it was the thing which I had to do. And I said: 'All right, God, not we both know what you expect from me'.
Fr. Remery told me this story a few weeks before the death of John Paul II. On 2 April 2005- still moving on crutches – he walked to the Square of St. Peter in order to accompany the Holy Father in his last and most important journey.
Look for and you will find
When he was travelling throughout Europe during his Roman studies, Fr. Karol Wojtyla spent 10 days in Holland. In the book 'A gift and a mystery', being John Paul II, he mentioned this journey: 'I was shocked by a strong structure of the Church and pastoral ministry in this country, developing organizations and alive church communities'.
Half a century later there was no sign of him. However, there were still young people who found a priest ready to meet them. One of the fruits of these meetings is the book 'Tweeting with God' which has already been translated into 10 languages, including English. It is incredible not only because it answers many questions: from evolution, through the Great Explosion and Crusades, to the prayer, sex and purgatory and sin. Answers are in a short version (tweet has got 140 signs) and in a broadened version. The book has a special internet application – via a phone or a tablet one can have an access to liturgical texts, truths of faith and, certainly, tweets. Each chapter is equipped with a photography – when it is scanned with a phone, there is an access to the application on Internet. The form of publication (invented not by the priest, but by his young cooperators) leads not only to deepening knowledge about the teaching of the Church, but also to deepening a personal contact with God and searching for what one has got to know virtually.
Pope Francis acknowledged the project ‘Tweeting with God’ as very important: blessing it, he put his hand on one of books and sank in a deep prayer for while for all people who will read these texts in search for the truth in their life.
There would not be this all, if it had not been for the young man who met with the elderly man two years ago with belief that it is possible to gain the youth for God.