Friday, 6 May 2011
Guild of Catholic Bloggers' planning meeting - 2:00pm - 4:00pm tomorrow in Westminster Cathedral's Hinsley Room
First of all, I would like to thank those who sent the many positive responses that have come my way regarding this proposed Guild of Catholic Bloggers - or whatever it might end up being called. Bloggers from various sections of the Church have been very encouraging and have already pledged support for the venture. There has also been support from Catholicism's grass-roots right up to the Church's hierarchy. Having said that, the whole project still seems daunting, especially after one Vatican official told me on Monday that I had really stuck my "head above the parapet!"
But, I do believe that if this is a work of the Holy Spirit (which I think it is), then all will be well. If it is God's will that bloggers come together to celebrate their faith face-to-face then it will end up being for the good of the Church and will lead to the salvation of souls. Personally, I need a place where I can link up with others, in the real world, to seek guidance and advice from and to share my blogging experiences with. I also want to dedicate my blog to God and wish to attend a Mass with or pray with other bloggers and users of the new media. Some bloggers have accused me of weakness, saying that bloggers shouldn't mix with others - but, if that's the case, then, like St Paul, I rejoice in my weaknesses - "for when am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10).
Also, I admit that I have been concerned recently when reading some blogs - usually the same ones that would probably want nothing to do with a meeting space for Catholic bloggers - at how utterly uncharitable some of the content can be. Surely, blogs that claim to witness to Christ's love for us and to his Gospel, should not be places of unbridled vitriol and hate? I have been guilty of falling into the temptation of anger and self-righteousness on this blog, so understand perfectly how easy it is to become addicted to "internet rage"! So, I would dearly love to have a group that could help me in my struggles against these temptations to judge, to boast, or to live a deluded form of online Christianity.
A Guild of Catholic Bloggers would hopefully encourage the virtue of Charity amongst its members. Meeting others in the flesh, even perceived "enemies", and being able to speak with them over a meal or after a special Mass, might actually help us to see the other blogger as a human being. It's so easy for me to think that those whom I criticise on my blog are somehow not human beings, created and loved by God. The internet can be an unreal, or surreal place - where people have no faces, and humanity is replaced by plastic keyboards and computer monitors. I need help in overcoming this problem of mine, whereby I can see the microchip in my brother's eye, but fail to notice the hard-drive in my own! (By the way, such is my lack of knowledge of all things technical, that I have no idea whether that allusion makes any sense!)
Well, first of all, I think it should be open to as many people as possible - including any Catholic, or any one who identifies with the Catholic faith, or who is faithful to the Magisterium. Those who use the new media either as bloggers, users of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and so on - including those who comment on blogs - would be able to join. I am not one for charging people for services and am therefore unsure about a membership fee - though something like £10 (or a donation) might be useful in helping to cover some basic costs.
I believe in the light-touch approach and can't stand bureaucracy. So, any officers or whatever that an organisation such as a Catholic Guild needs should be kept to a minimum. Someone will have to organise the annual Mass, meetings, workshops, blognics, etc; someone might also have to look after the money; and, of course, someone would need to get the teabags and biscuits!
As mentioned above, any Guild of Catholic Bloggers should have the spiritual welfare of its members as its main aim. It shouldn't exist to control others, to try and change other blogs, or to curb the individuality, independence and opinions of other bloggers. I do believe, though, that it could help those who are struggling: be it because of the anger generated by online debates, or because of something such as being stalked, hounded or bullied by an online presence. It would hopefully provide a space where those who are serious about their Catholicism and about proclaiming a Gospel of Love could come and support one another. It would not be a pressure group, or (hopefully) just a place for one type of Catholic blogger. Things that spring from the Holy Spirit tend to be, I think, quite organic - so we should let Him guide the process.
There will, of course, be other things to discuss at tomorrow's planning meeting. These might include the role of the hierarchy in any Guild - would we need the permission of a bishop to use the word "Catholic", for example? We might like to ask a bishop or archbishop to sponsor the group? I have already had some positive responses from one or two members of the hierarchy. If this were to happen, though, would many bloggers be put off from joining? I know that many who blog see their role as a counter-weight to the authority of certain bishops. Having the patronage of the Bishops of England and Wales hasn't hindered the work of the LMS, though - which can hold its own opinions about matters which might challenge some bishops. It is possible and valid for Catholics to hold differing views, even to those offered by their bishops, on many things - but I do think we have, as Christians, the responsibility to do so charitably.
Another matter to discuss will be the group's name, its saintly patron, and its logo... There will also, of course, be time for any other business and matters arising.
So, if you are in or around London tomorrow, or able to get here, and are a Catholic and a blogger or user of the new media, please feel free to come along to this meeting. So far, I am expecting about 10 - 15 people to be there. We will be meeting in the Hinsley Room, which is to the right of Westminster Cathedral (behind St Paul's Bookshop and the SVP primary school). To get to it, walk down Morpeth Terrace and turn left once you see a smallish building that looks a bit like a bungalow - it is about halfway down, about where the Cathedral's sacristy would be. The meeting will start informally at 2:00pm, so that we can all get to know each other. The business side will begin at 2:15pm and we should be finished by 3:30pm.
I will be meeting a couple of bloggers before the meeting itself, and we will be attending the 10:30 Mass at Westminster Cathedral - it is a beautiful Mass in Latin (the ordinary rite) and is sung by the Cathedral's world famous Choir. After this Mass, I might give a mini tour of the Cathedral (not that I'm an expert). The Hinsley Room itself will be open for use from 1:00pm, so please feel free to bring sandwiches, etc.
Hope to see you tomorrow!
[Image: A photo taken from last Monday's Vatican meeting with bloggers]