Knowing the large number of Catholic blogs and apologists on social media sites and forums, I am not the first to discover the importance of the internet as the new tool for evangelization. I can though, give a first hand experience of how social media, specifically, Facebook got me out of my cradle Catholic apathy to rediscovering Catholicism.
I went to Catholic schools my whole life K-12 and grew up in a pretty religious family (we said the rosary in any car ride longer than 15 mins). But as the case with many people who grow up Catholic, it can be hard to recognize how it impacts your life. I had little things here and there where I felt God’s presence, but nothing overly dramatic. I went to Church every Sunday (even if it meant driving 45 mins from our campsite to the nearest church), and my parents were the type that forced us to go through our teen years. Although many would argue that this type of force is not the best or even a method one should use, it would send a powerful message later in life, when I went to university and the bubble on my Catholic upbringing would burst. Later when I would be hearing university professors and friends bash the Church, and I was questioning my role in it, I could look back at my parents example. If they thought church was so important that they never missed it, and that they would fight with us for hours about going, I figured there must me something too it. If we had missed mass a few times, for sports, family gatherings, work etc growing up, I would not have thought that religion was all that important, and would have probably believed what my profs were saying and realized that I didn’t need religion, or at the very least, be even more apathetic towards it.
It’s a daunting thing, leaving your Catholic school, where you are surrounded by likeminded people. Not likeminded on all things, but for the most part everyone believed in God and Catholicism. So what a shock it was for me in my first year to have a history professor bash the Church. This type of attitude I saw a lot over the course of my undergraduate, everything from; killing the planet with our large families and being sexist to being a religion full of brainwashed people with low IQs. Now I had this huge dilemma. I had my family, and teachers of my childhood who believed in this religion on one side, and I had educated university professors and bright college students on the other saying the exact opposite. It was a frightful thought, that only one of those parties could be right and I was beginning to think I had been wasting an hour every week on a religion that was so abusive to humanity.
Enter Facebook, the emerging social networking site and one that I, like every other college student, would begin to use daily. Originally, when people were involved in discussions, on Facebook, their reply would show up on their wall. It was one evening, procrastinating from studying, that I noticed someone was having a discussion on a Pro-Life group. Now, I love debates, so I figured reading this one was a far better alternative than studying for midterms.
At first I thought that this was going to be anything, but an intellectual debate, after all we are talking about Facebook, but I was in for a surprise. I was impressed by the level of intellect, heck I didn’t even know the meaning of some of the words they were using! There were many different discussions on that group and I followed many of them for several months. It was incredible to be a fly on the wall, so to speak, reading this convo, by two extremely intelligent people. In the end not only was I convinced that abortion was terribly, terribly wrong, but the Oxford guy on the pro-choice side, did a complete 180 and began to defend the pro-life side against other pro-choicers that entered the discussion.
It was on this pro-life group where there was also a discussion between Catholics and Protestants and after I had been completely convinced about the issue of abortion, I checked into this discussion to hear what both sides had to say. I remember reading it and being so impressed with how the Catholic was answering every question. He not only answered them in a way that made logical sense, but he had facts to back himself up. On this discussion there were also others who would add in little things here and there, and sometimes people would recommend books. One book caught my eye, “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis, because I knew I had seen it on a shelf in my parents house. This book would also have a tremendous impact on my life, along with “Rome Sweet Home” by Scott Hahn (that conveniently was also in my parents library).
From this group I saw links to other Catholic Facebook groups such as, “We’re Not Crazy We’re Just Catholic” and “Catholic Global”. These groups I would frequent more often now, because on their discussion boards I would see people post the exact claims that many of my university professors and friends would make. I wanted to see if they could give a sufficient explanation or whether they just brushed it aside. Every single question and every single time they had an answer and I was amazed at the inability to be stumped. The arguments they used all had facts from science, nature, and history, and used logic and reason to back up their statements. It just made such complete and utter sense to me that I was in awe. This realization gave me a lot of excitement and such a feeling of peace that I had not had in a long time. Even though I was a cradle Catholic, I still had a re-conversion experience of sorts and now I see why converts are some of the most enthusiastic Catholics out there.
I may have come home to the Catholic Church without Facebook, but as a young person surrounded by friends who were just as clueless about Catholicism as me, too prideful to ask my parents, and too shy to ask a priest, Facebook gave me an opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations. It gave me the opportunity to learn at my own pace. Those discussions were there at any time and you could always go back and read if you fell behind. It helped me to trust my Faith, because I was was now confident in the Church’s ability to be right all the time. In a world that is full of moral relativism, it was freeing to realize that I was not in charge of what was was right and wrong, God was. This was probably the best part of all.