The “New Evangelization” calls us to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world with “new ardor,” “new methods,” and “new expression.” This means sharing the message of God’s love with ever greater enthusiasm and relevancy. It calls for finding ways to make the message heard in the midst of our fast-paced, technology-driven society. And it requires delivering the message in a way that addresses the challenges of today’s culture.
Many resources are available to help us do this. But there is one, in particular, that has proven to be of great benefit throughout our diocese. This online resource is accessible through any computer or digital device, and it provides unlimited access to hundreds of Catholic programs, movies, audios, and e-books. It is called FORMED and is found at www.formed.org.
Handing on the Faith
The development of such a digital platform, which provides people throughout the world easy access to high-quality Catholic resources, is a great example of using “new methods” for evangelization.
A person sitting at home with a computer, a parent waiting at a child’s sports practice with an electronic tablet, a student away at college with a smart phone, or a family gathered around a smart TV are all able to access these great resources.
FORMED provides many opportunities for a person to grow in the Catholic faith, such as going “on location” with Bishop Robert Barron in his “Catholicism” series, where viewers can take in the beautiful Catholic churches and shrines in Europe, walk in the footsteps of our Lord in the Holy Land, or encounter Jesus in the face of the poor on the streets of Calcutta or New York City. The “Symbolon” series uses Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and personal testimony to help answer such questions as “Why do we need the church?” or “What happens when we die?” Weekly reflections in “Breaking Open the Word” help prepare for the Sunday Mass readings and provide ideas for applying the Word of God to our lives throughout the week.
Inspirational movies tell the stories of holy people, both past and present, whom the church holds up as role models and intercessors. Seeing how St. Augustine’s long search for happiness and meaning was finally fulfilled when he opened his ears to God’s voice and his heart to God’s grace or understanding how St. Maximilian Kolbe’s continual “yes” to God prepared him to make the ultimate sacrifice of his own life encourages us to live as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Digital audio recordings answer common questions about the Catholic faith on topics such as confession, purgatory, Mary, and the pope. Modern- day conversion stories include Father Donald Calloway’s amazing journey from convicted, drug-addicted gang member to Catholic priest and Dr. Allen Hunt’s 15-year journey from megachurch pastor to reception into full communion with the Catholic church.
Materials are available for all ages, including videos and books introducing children to the truths of the Catholic faith and the lives of the saints. Audios for young adults provide encouragement in chaste living, show the relevance of faith within a secular culture, and teach about the true meaning of love.
These and many more great resources can be used by individuals, in small study groups, or within parish programs and ministries, such as religious education, Catholic schools, adult faith formation, and marriage or baptism preparation.
An online platform such as FORMED is a tool that can be extremely helpful in communicating God’s truth, reflecting his beauty, and bearing witness to the workings of his grace. However, it is important to remember that a tool is not an end in itself but a means to help accomplish an end.
In the early years of Christianity, the Gospel was communicated by persons who traveled by foot or horseback visiting homes, synagogues, or other public places. With the invention of the printing press, the written word became more widely and consistently communicated. As technology continues to develop, the quality and accessibility of communication methods continues to improve. Today, we can bring some of the best Catholic presenters and teachers right into our own living rooms and classrooms.
However, two extremes should be avoided in an approach to technology. One extreme is to think that a video will do all of the work in converting a person to Jesus Christ, eliminating the need for human interaction. The other extreme is to reject technology simply because it is technology.
Effectively utilizing technology requires finding ways to use it in conjunction with the personal “accompaniment” called for by Pope Francis. My husband and I recently had a great experience of participating in the “33 Days to Morning Glory” — a preparation for consecration to Mary — with a small group of people in the home of a friend. The opportunity for discussion, along with the accountability of meeting as a group, really enhanced the excellent video segments of the program.
In addition to parish-wide programming, small groups of adults could gather for a study in a home. A person could accompany a friend by suggesting material to watch and then meet for discussion. Couples preparing for marriage can be asked to watch video segments and then discuss with their coordinator. The opportunities are endless.
Over half of the parishes in our diocese currently have a subscription to FORMED, which allows free access to all parishioners and persons living within its parish boundaries. You can call your parish office, check your bulletin, or go to your parish’s website to get your parish code, which is required the first time you sign in.
If your parish currently does not have a subscription to FORMED, you have the opportunity to check it out for free throughout the month of August. Our entire diocese has a free 30-day trial of FORMED. To access this, go to www.formed.org and log in using e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and password formed17.
In addition to a parish subscription, FORMED also offers individual subscriptions, which can be used by individuals or families within their homes.
Liz Hoefferle is director of religious education for the Diocese of Duluth.