By Basilian Father Chris Valka
In response to my previous post, “Responding to the pope’s challenge on ‘new media’,” I have been asked to share a little more about my own efforts in the “new media.”
My hope is to provide a few practical applications and reasons for using blogs and podcasts, in addition to offering a little technical expertise as to how one might get started.
Currently, I administer two blogs:
- “reVerb” features my own homilies and retreat talks in an audio format (complete with RSS feed for iTunes) and is located at: http://www.reverbhomilies.wordpress.com.
- “Attuned” is a sort of “greatest hits” collection of inspirational and captivating interviews designed to give people an introduction into the world of podcasts. Also available as an RSS feed, it may be found at www.attunededinterviews.wordpress.com.
Attuned is actually a remake of a different blog I began as a campus minister. I often spoke to many students who wanted to learn more about their faith, but few of them had the time or concentration for additional reading. Thus, I created the blog now known as Attuned so that students could listen to something “on-the-go” during the week. Once a week, we would gather at a coffee shop on campus to discuss the interview and their thoughts. More or less, it was a book club without the books – perfect for college students and busy people.
My hope has always been that Attuned would not only give parishioners and students a place to go for quality interviews, but more importantly to advertise those podcasts that are worth the listen. You will notice that not all are Catholic or religious, but each one makes for quality conversation, which I believe is the purpose of mass media. As I understand it, the media is a means to an end; a way to build community, if we let it.
reVerb came about in response to the family members of the sick and homebound who do not have an opportunity to get to Mass every Sunday. While these individuals receive the Eucharist, and could read the readings at home, they missed the homily — until now. In addition, some parents of young children explained the difficulty of concentrating during Mass while “entertaining” their little ones. Humbled by the requests, I decided it was time to put my technical knowledge to use.
As for a little technical know-how. . . .
Blogs are fairly easy to create, and free, using sites like WordPress or Blogger, and I find are the best way to post ideas on the Web. Recording one’s homily or presentation requires a digital recorder (which can be purchased at just about any electronics store for around $50) and a lapel microphone, which I found at Radio Shack for roughly $10.
In order to minimize edit-time, I turn on the microphone just before I read the Gospel and turn it off just after the homily. Once I get home, I plug it into the audio input of my computer, edit the file and upload it to a server. (At this point, one has to have some simple audio-editing program, such as Apple’s Garageband.)
When all is said and done, the online aspect takes an additional 30 minutes of time, but I can attest, it is well worth the time. Not only do those who were not present have the opportunity to hear your thoughts, but so do those who wish to hear again in the middle of the week, or those who want to share it with friends.
Now, there are people coming to church who never came before; people scheduling appointments that I have never met; people asking really good questions and engaging in wonderful discussions about their faith. I have found the key is keeping the audio fairly short and concise – and it doesn’t hurt to be a bit provocative from time to time.
Certainly, these new forms of evangelization are daunting, but then again, so is any form of evangelization. We are called by Jesus and challenged by the pope to take the Gospel to all who are willing to listen, and if we are to do so, then we must learn to utilize our own energies through the media and each other.