For the new evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time in which the social communications media are most influential. Therefore, knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. Contemporary reality demands a capacity to learn the language, nature and characteristics of mass media. Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine inculturation of the Gospel” (Ecclesia in America, 72).
These words of St. John Paul II certainly proves true in regards to Catholic radio. In few short years of its existence, Catholic radio has had remarkable effects in the life of the society in general and that of the Catholic Christian communities in particular. Numerous conversions to the Church had taken place. Deepening of understanding of Catholic beliefs has been established through a more informed broadcasting. Superstitions that were unquestioned before to be part of the mainstream Philippine culture had been purged. Many Catholics had been enlightened about numerous misconceptions on the Church and her teachings.
At the present, Catholic radio is found, in part, to be particularly efficacious in the sphere of evangelization and catechesis in the Philippines, precisely because, our culture is becoming predominantly, a culture of media, and the age of technology. The people’s attitudes and ideas, desires and aspirations, even their religious and moral beliefs, are shaped for the most part by their choices of media consumption.
To understand the efficacy of Catholic radio in building up the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, the Church, it is important to answer the question: “Why a Catholic Radio?” Further, a more related query should be: “In what ways Catholic radio can assist the Church in fulfilling her Christ-given missionary mandate “Go and make disciples.”
Why Catholic Radio?
Indeed. Why Catholic radio? This is the essential question which needs to be asked and answered. Are there not a multiplicity of efforts already in place in the Church to aid her in her mission of evangelization and catechesis? Is not the media best left to the secular efforts of those involved in entertainment, news, etc.? Or, perhaps, should Catholics simply remain morally ambivalent about their choices of information which compromises their Catholic beliefs in preference to a more entertaining secular media? In relation to the last query, there is even a tendency to adapt secular and immoral standards in Catholic shows and programming that the specifically Catholic identity is diluted, if not completely washed out.
In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI answered our question as to why we should establish and use particularly Catholic-programmed stations. He said.
“Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize…”
In making this statement Pope Paul VI links the prophetic mission of Jesus Christ, “I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God” (Lk 4:43), with the mission of the Church to “Go and make disciples…teaching them all that I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19-20). This mission of the Church is precisely derived from Christ’s mission. It is his Mystical Body that carries on his mission.
It is not the questions then of “Why evangelize?”, that needs answering. It is evident in the Church’s missionary and evangelistic activities. Rather, the more pressing questions then, is how specifically Catholic our message that is being disseminated through our radio stations. The problem is not so much as not having or having a radio station; but rather the problem is the lost of specifically Catholic identity in our broadcasting.
In Redemptor hominis, St. John Paul II calls to mind that “Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself” (cf. RH, 8) and that “man is made in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Gn 1:26). It is this fundamental understanding of man’s nature that calls for Catholic radio. How?
Catholic evangelization transmitted through radio affirms the most fundamental meaning of man as one who is made for God. This “sense of the religious” (see CCC n. 28) in man, according to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes nn. 9-10) is triggered by a deeply human experience of positing for himself some of the most fundamental questions as: Why man exists? What is the purpose of life? Why is there evil in the world? Although human philosophy attempts to answer these questions, it is only through divine revelation in Jesus that they are adequately answered. The Catholic Church intends to transmit this revelation with the assurance of the Holy Spirit, present in her midst. It is in keeping with the divine wisdom that the authentic teaching of Christ should be preserved and transmitted faithfully to future generations that Christ established the Church with the sapiential action of the Holy Spirit.
Hence, the proclamation of the Gospel by the Catholic Church becomes evidently necessary as Christ’s teachings may be subjected to contradicting interpretations declared by non-Christians or non-Catholic Christians alike. Unfortunately, although the Catholic Church had the guarantee of authentic truth, we, among other Christians are less zealous in the work of evangelization in the field of radio broadcasting. As for example in the United States, there are only eighty Catholic-programmed stations. This compares to over 1,600 non-Catholic Christian broadcast stations in the US out of a total of over 17,000 licensed facilities. As the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it: “We Catholics have the light, but our Protestant brethren have the fire.” We have the truth, but we have forfeited the zeal to spread it; and others, taking it (Gospel) up, spreads uncertainty, confusion and God forbid, even errors.
The Father’s of the Second Vatican Council understood this need of man for God and to hear the truths of the Faith proclaimed:
“Therefore, this sacred Synod advises them of the obligation they have to maintain and assist Catholic … radio and television programs and stations, whose principal objective is to spread and defend the truth and foster Christian influence in human society” (Inter Mirifica, 17).
St. Paul himself, faced with a culture whose religious ideas and philosophies ran counter to the teachings of Christ, and even with sometimes openly hostile religious leaders, nevertheless found it imperative to preach “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and and folly to the Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). Yet in preaching in a way that would have seemed folly to the experts of his time, Paul became the single most effective evangelist in all of human history.
Is mankind any different today? Is not the Crucified and the message He proclaimed a stumbling block to the prevailing religious sentiments of today? Is not the wisdom of Christ folly to secular humanists in their human wisdom? Has the power of Christ become lessened in our time that we need to tailor our proclamation of the Faith in relevant language more palatable to our modern sensibilities? Need we hide the Light of Faith under a bushel basket and let out only faint rays, almost indistinguishable from those of other faiths, so as to somehow lure listeners into listening long enough to give them a snippet of Jesus Christ? Is our faith in God’s power to convert so feeble that we rely more upon the skillful crafting of our own words to bring about conversion? Do we really believe that by merely providing a form of Christian entertainment wherein we sow tiny seeds of Eternal Truth that we will have the same success of St. Paul in bringing about the conversion of entire cities?
Today, just as in Paul’s time, the foolishness and weakness of God will prove to be stronger and wiser than man (cf. 1 Cor 1:25). We need only obey Christ’s command and follow St. Paul’s example.
Pope Paul VI sums up the imperative for radio programming that is specifically, unapologetically and thoroughly Catholic:
“The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 18).
Let us conclude this with the words of St. John Paul II in his document for the celebration of the millennium, the Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 40 (January 6, 2001):
To nourish ourselves with the word in order to be “servants of the word” in the work of evangelization: this is surely a priority for the Church at the dawn of the new millennium. Even in countries evangelized many centuries ago, the reality of a “Christian society” which, amid all the frailties which have always marked human life, measured itself explicitly on Gospel values, is now gone. Today we must courageously face a situation which is becoming increasingly diversified and demanding, in the context of “globalization” and of the consequent new and uncertain mingling of peoples and cultures. Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).