Media and the Message | #IStandWithThomasPeters

I want to take the opportunity of this post to thank my readers, listeners, and followers for their support on #IStandWithThomasPeters Day on social media this past Thursday.  The outpouring of masses and prayers, messages of support, blog posts, etc. was nothing less than astonishing.  As I understand it there is not a final number yet, but as of Friday morning the total number of donations more than doubled what we had hoped to raise on Thomas’ behalf, and of course you can still donate! While I would not presume to speak for them, I know that Thomas and his family are overwhelmed and grateful for all that you have done, privately and publicly, to offer encouragement and assistance as his recovery and rehabilitation continue.

I also want to acknowledge and comment on something which some of you experienced, with respect to what we will loosely call “negative feedback”, because you chose to participate in Thursday’s social media day.  I know that some of you were rather shocked to receive messages criticizing your support of this effort – messages which were sometimes particularly vitriolic.  In reflecting upon this, I think it would be useful to take a step back and understand both the possibilities and the limitations offered by new and social media, in order to understand these sorts of occurrences.

Sometimes we do not think before we hit the Enter button.  The relative anonymity of the internet allows us the freedom to choose to express our views in ways which we otherwise might not, if we were called to air them in person, face-to-face.  People who disagree may step over the line from legitimate criticism or exchanges of differing views, into something which bears little or no resemblance to a reasoned response; this type of behavior is particularly prevalent among those who do not actually sign their real names to what they post, but choose to remain anonymous or use pseudonyms.  Now even though I do sign my name to what I put out there, I daresay I am as guilty of crossing the line at times as anyone else, although it is something I acknowledge that I must continue to work on.

By the same token however, there is no reason to put on blinders and assume that everything on the internet must be sunshine, bacon, and unicorns, any more than this is the case in real life.  The fact is that some people are simply bitter, angry, and unpleasant, and they want to make you bitter, angry, and unpleasant also, for the simple reason that misery loves company.  These people need our prayers more than they need to be engaged in sparring matches.

Moreover, as much as some may not like to hear it, the online world is a place where arguments are going to occur, precisely because the internet is run by and populated with human beings – well, mostly (not including the spambots).  Human beings argue and disagree, sometimes in very harsh terms indeed. Christ had no hesitation in physically throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple while calling them “thieves”, for example, or publicly criticizing his theological opponents with rather harsh language, calling them “hypocrites”, “whitewashed tombs”, “vipers”, etc.  He even called St. Peter, the patron saint of those who speak before they think, “Satan” on one very memorable occasion, for missing the point of what He was trying to say.

In daily life and in online life, heated arguments will sometimes occur, which is the price of free will in a free society.  To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The way to keep these disagreements from getting out of hand is not to get down and roll around in the mud with your opponent, but to decide whether it is best to answer their criticism, disarm their attack, or simply ignore them.  Over the course of Thursday I saw examples of all three of these approaches, but on the whole people generally chose to ignore the negative and focus on the positive, which in these particular circumstances made sense so that the message was not muddled.

And the message I hope that you take away from #IStandWithThomasPeters Day is an overwhelmingly positive one, one which you will share with others.  It is a story about hope and love triumphing over suffering and sorrow, first of all, but it is also one about the powerful good that media can work in the lives of those in need.  There was no business or professional organization like the Red Cross or St. Jude’s campaigning on Thomas’ behalf.  Rather, a group of his family and friends made it their first priority to work closely together in as coordinated a way as possible, staying focused on the goal.  Each used whatever talents they possessed to the best of their ability, and reached out to everyone they could think of to ask for support.  The rest was God’s Grace, human compassion, and Thomas and Natalie’s story itself, one which ought to inspire all of us.

We have seen that, as has so often been said over the last few weeks and months, God is good, and that miraculous, amazing things really do happen.  Now not only is this very gifted and remarkable fellow going to be able to get the assistance he needs for the next few months of his recovery, but I have seen many of you begin interacting with one another by becoming Twitter followers, Facebook friends, sharing your blog posts with one another, and so on.  For everyone involved, it turned out that the fruits of this effort will not just benefit Thomas himself, but all who have witnessed what can result when people of good will are able to reach out and connect with one another.

Thank you again for your generosity, and God bless you!

#thankyou

Letter to a Gentleman | #IStandWithThomasPeters

Regular readers of this blog and listeners to Catholic Weekend will know that today is #IStandWithThomasPeters day on social media.  All day long, family and friends are asking for your prayers, financial contributions, blog posts, status updates, tweets, and so on, as Thomas Peters recovers from a serious accident he suffered on July 16th of this year.  The many needs, both spiritual and temporal, which must be met in order for Thomas’ recovery to continue are substantial, as you can read in this post on the Recovery Website chronicling his progress.

You will also know that I have not commented much publicly on all of this, other than to ask for your support.  Thomas has been and will be far more eloquent than anyone else in reflecting on his experiences, such as in this recent blog post, his first since the accident.  My own muddled words will likely serve as little more than a distraction from the task at hand, but I did promise that I would share a bit more than I have to date, albeit within certain parameters.

Last evening as I was thinking about what I ought to write for today, I noticed that there was an unpublished draft post sitting in my WordPress files.  It was something I wrote a few days after Thomas’ accident and then forgot about, since at the time blogging was not really a priority.  I share it with you now – with apologies to Thomas for its inadequacy – in the hope that you will seriously consider providing whatever spiritual and temporal assistance you can to someone who has not only been a friend to me, but indeed to so many.

+++++

July 22, 2013

Georgetown

Feast of St. Mary Magdalen

My Dear Friend:

I know that you will not be able to read this for a long time – perhaps not for a very long time indeed.  However I am writing this letter to you now, because one day you will read it and, God willing, you will also remember, that five years ago today you met this rather overly-intellectual, overly-talkative, and at times sadly overly-pretentious scribbler.  Five years is perhaps not a great deal of time by the measure of most people, and yet because of the fact that we are both rather intense fellows, I daresay we have managed to compress the equivalent of many decades of friendship into a much briefer timeline than said “most people” would find humanly plausible.

You will recall that I had forgotten the exact date of our first acquaintance until a few months ago, when I began preparing the speech I had to give at your wedding to the young lady of your dreams.  That young lady is probably at your side reading this with you.  And as she does so you are – quite correctly – counting your blessings all over again.

Yet let us take care not to in any way diminish what joy and blessings you yourself bring to the lives of those around you.  Time and again, you have been a source of encouragement and inspiration to countless numbers of people.  And at this particular point in your life as I write this, you are once again fulfilling that role, albeit in a way which no one would willingly choose to take on for themselves.  I hope you know, that whatever cross you must bear, I will be doing my best, however poor that best may be, to help bear it with you.

It would be folly and presumptuous for me to say that I know what you are going through at the exact moment I am writing this, or indeed what your wife, your parents, and family are going through.  My fervent prayer is that by the time you read this, fear and sorrow will have been replaced by triumphant joy for all, but most especially for you.  For we believe that it is through our sufferings that we gain our redemption, in imitation of Christ.  And by the time this period of suffering has passed in your life, you and He will be even closer than you were before.

There is little else that I need to say, for we do not need to say it.  I would only close this brief letter to you with one important reminder. On my birthday this year, part of the note you wrote me read, “I hope and pray we are friends until our last days.”  I am counting on you to keep that promise.

God bless and keep you always,

B.

twitter-picture

A Word to Clergy and Religious for #IStandWithThomasPetersDay

Following on from my post yesterday about #IStandWithThomasPeters day tomorrow on social media, I want to take a moment to speak to the clergy and religious who read these pages.

As you know we are asking for support for Catholic blogger, author, and speaker Thomas Peters, who was seriously injured a few months ago and now faces a long and uncertain road of recovery.  I know that many of those in the priesthood and consecrated life are well-aware of the years of work Thomas has done on behalf of the Church. I also are very much aware that many of you take vows of poverty, and even those of you who do not generally do not have much if any disposable income.

However one of the central aspects of what we are trying to achieve tomorrow is to encourage prayer for Thomas’ recovery, to whatever extent Our Lord decides that recovery should proceed, so that he can get back to one of the most important aspects of what he does: speaking up on behalf of the Church.

To that end, so far over a dozen priests around the world have written to say that they will be including Thomas in their mass intentions for tomorrow.  Now I know, many of you in parochial settings have to offer your mass intention tomorrow for someone in your parish community who has asked for prayers for a specific need.  Things are already on the schedule, as it were.  What I would ask those of you in these situations then, is to consider whether there might be some other time during the day tomorrow, when you can pray for Thomas and for the success of this campaign to support him and his family.

This naturally leads me to those of you who are consecrated religious – nuns and monks, friars and sisters (and even a Franciscan hermit with whom I am very familiar.)  It would be wonderful if you could speak to your community about including Thomas in your community’s prayers at some point tomorrow, where you normally would mention your intentions.  For example, I know several orders will mention their personal and community intentions before going into the refectory for dinner.

Your support in these times means a great deal to Thomas and his family, as he continues to recover from his injuries.  It would be wonderful to hear from you on social media or in an email tomorrow about what your parish or community is doing, if you choose to help us out. As someone educated by the Dominicans and an earnest champion of the teachings of the Church, Thomas is someone who cares deeply about the good work that you do, and wants to be back out there again speaking to it and encouraging it.

Thank you for your consideration, and God bless!

Pedralbes

Refectory at the Poor Clares of Santa Maria de Pedralbes, Barcelona