Some goals that we set for ourselves at the turn of the year are practical ones. We may want to lose/gain weight, add an activity to replace another, more harmful one, and so on. In a way it is sort of like a Lenten offering, but without the spiritual component. Yet do these secular offerings have to be strictly secular?
After something of a hiatus from regular blogging as a result of my trip to Barcelona, with the new year it is time to start getting back into the rhythm of things again. Fortunately my trip to the Catalan capital provided me with a wealth of material to think (and hopefully write) about, and I took advantage of the opportunity to sit down and think about some of the goals I want to achieve. Some of these were personal, some professional, and some have to do with writing I want to do this year on this blog and elsewhere.
Kicking all of this off was a very productive meeting with Father Ramon Corts i Blay, the pastor of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which I consider to be my home-away-from-home parish in Barcelona. I attended daily mass there last week, as I did during my previous Christmas stay in the city, and felt very much at home with the good liturgies, solid priests, and the beautiful surroundings close to our flat. Through correspondence with the parish secretary when I arrived in the city, I learned that Dr. Corts would like to meet me during my stay, and we got together on the afternoon of December 28th (the Feast of the Holy Family) in his office, to talk and get to know each other a bit more.
To be honest, I was surprised that Dr. Corts would want to meet with me at all. I am hardly some sort of celebrity or influential writer, for whom the pastor of a large and important urban parish in another country might want to make some time. So when I arrived for my appointment and was led through the somewhat labyrinthine corridors up to his office in the rectory, I was thinking that I would have to come up with something very useful to say fairly quickly, and then make my excuses and leave after ten minutes, tops.
When we sat down together on the visitors’ chairs in his office, Dr. Corts could not have been more gracious and interested in what I had to say. I explained how I had come across the parish during a previous visit in 2009, and that I adopted it as “my” parish for when I was in Barcelona. I also explained how I had been working on my project of CatholicBarcelona.com and the good results I had received from it so far, because I was making information about the interesting churches in Barcelona available in English to those who would be visiting the city. I surmised that I was basically doing the work which the Archdiocese should be doing, even though no one had asked me to do so, or indeed was paying me to do it.
This turned out to be the right note to begin our conversation – which ended up lasting half an hour – on a wide variety of topics, but particularly with respect to the use of social media by the Church in Spain. We agreed that Barcelona in particular ought to be doing more with the various means available to it to reach out to younger people. And Dr. Corts came away from the discussion telling me that he was now convinced that the parish needed to add an English page to their – already fairly good – parish website, because of the number of tourists from the surrounding hotels who come to mass at the Basilica on Sundays and want to know mass times, how to contact one of the priests, and so forth. Naturally I offered to read the text for him, as a native speaker, once it was ready and correct for any errors.
In short, it was a productive meeting for both of us, or at least I hope it was. It gave me some food for thought about what I ought to be doing with my own work, particularly after the long piece I wrote for The Kernel last month, and also a connection to a parish I like in the city I like best in the world. It also gave some useful information and ideas to the pastor of the parish with regard to how the Church in general and his parish in particular can reach out to visitors in ways which may be overlooked at present. There is a long way to go yet in parts of Europe with respect to the effective use of social media, and the Church definitely needs to catch up on this front in places like Barcelona.
Bell tower of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Barcelona,
on the afternoon of my meeting with Dr. Corts i Blay