The Catholic Church in McLuhan’s “global village”

By Robert Duncan
Catholic News Service

Thursday the Vatican will release Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day 2013. The topic is “Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith.”

The weekend may be a good time to return to the thought of the man Life Magazine called “the Oracle of the Electronic Age,” and reflect on the value his observations have for us today.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian Catholic philosopher of communication who owed part of his conversion to Catholicism to the writings of G. K. Chesterton. His insights about media sparked debates that continue to resonate.

In 1965, appearing on Canadian television, McLuhan predicted the coming of telephone commerce and “world connectivity.”

“The sort of dialogue among all the elements of our world that is going on actually and without benefit of bureaucratic blessing, or an official blessing, the kind of exchanges and interchanges of imagery and awareness of peoples of the world, this is the pattern that education will tend to resort to more and more,” McLuhan predicted.

In the video below, McLuhan outlines his theory of “the global village,” saying, “These new media have made our world into a single unit. The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message all the time. A princess gets married in England and — boom boom boom! — we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa; a Hollywood star gets drunk — away go the drums again.”

If the late Catholic media theorist had this much to say about television and the sciences of his day, what might he think of the world of Facebook and Twitter?

Marshall McLuhan: the global village

Robert Duncan is a multimedia journalist in the Catholic News Service Rome bureau.

Catholic Charities directors head to Holy Land to strengthen understanding of faith-based service

Jerusalem will be the base for a group of diocesan directors of Catholic Charities during a two-week visit to the Holy Land. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Jerusalem will be the base for a group of diocesan directors of Catholic Charities during a two-week visit to the Holy Land. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Diocesan Catholic Charities directors, through Catholic Charities USA, will explore the roots of faith-based service during a two-week trip to the Middle East.

With stops throughout the Holy Land, the West Bank and Jordan, the directors will see biblical sites as well as several vital projects supported by Caritas Jerusalem and Catholic Relief Services. Participants will have the chance to study Scripture, history and theology as well after their arrival Jan. 19.

Kathy Brown, senior director for mission and Catholic identity for Catholic Charities USA, said the immersion trip is the agency’s first to the Middle East in the three years of its O’Grady Institute program.

Named in honor of Msgr. John O’Grady, the second executive secretary of what was formerly the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the institute was developed in 2009 to aid diocesan directors in what Father Larry Snyder, current Catholic Charities USA president, calls “formation of the heart.”

The institute is designed to build upon Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”). Father Snyder envisions that it will help participants strengthen the Catholic identity of their work, Brown explained.

The Holy Land visit is the first for the institute. Traditionally, the visits have encompassed visits to Freiburg, Germany, and Rome. The institute returns to those locales May 24-June 8.

Father Don Senior, a Scripture scholar and president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, is accompanying the group to offer insight into the significance of the sacred sites on the trek.

Participants in the projects will be able to discuss the economic and social realities of the region with people benefiting from the church-run projects.

“As Father Larry has said, it’s a living seminar about the Bible and about people who are living the Gospel in a sometimes difficult holy land,” Brown said.