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STRATEGIES FOR THE MERGING OF
MEDIA AND CATHOLIC FORMATION


Introduction

A mother was teaching her 3-year-old son the Lord's
Prayer. For several evenings at bedtime the little boy repeated it after
her mother. One night he said he was ready to solo.
The mother listened with pride as the little boy carefully
pronounced each word, right up to the end of the
prayer. "Lead us not into temptation,” the kid prayed, “but deliver
us some e-mail. Amen.”



Welcome to the Information Age and the Digital Superhighway… Look at
these two college guys chatting in the internet…


Devin: yo yo yo… SOS u? Gino: AAK. But CTRN working… Devin:
PITA. Gino: BFO! Devin: wanted ur opinion. Gino: GA shoot.
Devin: jen or lisa? Gino: IANAL but I think lisa’s a
better SO 4 u.

Devin: booyah GMTA… Gino: I mean, WWJD? Hehe HTH… Devin: TIA.
lisa here I come (WEG) Gino: TMI dude ROTF. Devin: bye.
Gino: TTYL.

Devin: yo yo yo (hello) … SOS (same old shit) u? Gino: AAK (alive and kickin’). But
CTRN (can’t talk right now) working… Devin: PITA (pain in the ass). Gino: BFO
(blinding flash of the obvious)! Devin: wanted ur opinion. Gino: GA (go ahead)
shoot. Devin: jen or lisa?
                                                                                   2


Gino: IANAL (i am not a lawyer) but I think lisa’s a better SO (significant other)
4 u…. Devin: booyah GMTA (great minds think alike) Gino: I mean, WWJD (what
would Jesus think)? Hehe HTH (hope that helps)… Devin: TIA (thanks in advance). lisa
here I come (WEG- wide evil grin) Gino: TMI (too much info) dude. ROTF (rolling on
the floor). Devin: bye. Gino: TTYL (talk to you later).


Welcome to the digital generation… This is the
generation for whom “windows” is a software and
“hardware” is not a store for buying screw drivers…
Keyboard is what is used to word process rather than
to play on a piano… Unzip is not a dirty word but a
necessary skill for big computer files… Neither is
web related to spiders nor paste related to sticking…
Pad is not a piece of paper… And while the sound of
the cat is “meeaw, meeaw” and the sound of the dog
is “aw, aw”, the sound of the mouse is “click.”


The digital technology today defines our very relationship with the
culture of youth and of the future… We have much catching up to do in the
Church…

We need to invent new expressions in order to infuse new
enthusiasm, resulting to a reinvention of ourselves and our
institutions… a defeat of habit that has become a source of boredom and
lethargy for young people… to create new perspectives…


Why? Because we are seeing a new generation who, in
fundamental and profound ways, play, work, learn,
communicate, consume, and create relationships very differently than
their parents.
                                                                         3


The topic given to my for this talk is “Strategies for
the Merging of Media and Catholic Formation.” So I am not going to
give the whys and wherefores of Media Literacy anymore.


But let me just insist one thing about Media
Literacy today. Our task as educators and
evangelizers today is not just to discriminate between good
and evil, right and wrong. The movement of media education
is towards empowerment.

Rather than demand that mass media itself protect us from its
“immoral” influence, empowerment suggests that by understanding
the moral, social, political or economic influence of media, as users
we can change the way we respond to it and interact with it.


Would you patronize a product, like Nike and Guess, that uses cheap labor?
You see, if we empower students to see media with
its consequences in real life, then we can change the way
we react to media messages…




WHAT MEDIA IS FOR THE YOUTH TODAY

What is media for the youth today?


   1. A surrogate parent and alternative school: an incisive
      force shaping new lifestyles and new criteria
      of judgment
                                                                          4


Young people today are desperate for guidance… Finding none,
they immerse themselves in a universe out of their parents’
reach, a world defined by computer games, TV and movies. (Newsweek,
10 May 1999, pp.40ff)

Here you see a most disturbing perspective to the increasing
phenomenon of overseas migrant workers… Millions of children
in the country are said to be “left-behind children”… The
OFW reality is creating a culture of absence as
well as divorce. It is said that 60% of couples with an
OFW partner become unfaithful, either the one abroad or the one left
behind…


In the TIME issue of 20 March 2006, dealing with
what’s coming soon for the future- a writer named
Caitlin Flanagan was asked about her view on family life in the future.


She said: “We really want this deep, meaningful time together in the
haven of our homes. But when people actually get home,
everybody races off. Mom’s got something on the
DVD, the daughter’s on Myspace.com, the son’s got
his video game, Dad’s checking sports scores and
his work e-mails, and everyone’s compartmentalized within the
household. I think there’s deep yearning for- I know
this makes me sound conservative, but I am- true
community, and I think it’s not good for families
if we each do what we want to do. I think it’s good for
families if we have a sense of obligation and commitment to our family and
maybe not to doing the things we each want to do but to being instead in
service to one another.”


   2. a new gathering space for the youth
                                                                         5


Identify the following logos or icons: Microsoft
Windows… Linux… Apple Macintosh… Internet Explorer…
Yahoo Messenger… Jonathan Abram’s Friendster… Sony
PlayStation… Microsoft Xbox… Nintendo Game-Cube…


Identify which ones are internet servers and rock bands: (Of
Geeks and Punks, Time, 13 October 1997)… 1. The
Verve Pipe, 2. Mr. Serv-on, 3. Tool, 4. Le Click,
5. Ginuwine, 6. Prodigy, 7. MindSpring, 8.
Infoasis, 9. Drizzle, 10. Panix… Answer: 1 to 5, rock
bands, 7-10, internet providers, 6 is both…


Are we connected with the world of the youth today?


Fortune Magazine, 15 September 2003, concedes in
its feature “Video Game Planet”: “Games are becoming
culturally pervasive, stealing time and dollars from other consumer
entertainment options like movies, television, and, ahem,
magazines… Of the other forms of entertainment, only
Internet usage is expected to grow faster than videogames- a fact that the
video game makers plan to use to their advantage…”


The article notes that 70% of American college students in 2002
played videogames at least occasionally. Asked whether they
have ever played videogames, the student response
scored 100%.

A report cited from the Pew Internet & American
Life Project states: “Computer, video, and online
games are woven into the fabric of everyday life for college students…
Those aren’t just adolescent boys blasting Hell Knights
on Doom or stealing stretch limos with Grand Theft
Auto. One computer game, The Sims, has sold close to
                                                                            6


20 million copies, counting sequels and spin offs,
and its main audience is teenage girls.” And it tells about the
hidden things that girls want to do…


There is in the internet a portal for The Sims
Community, a network of fans of this internet gaming…


Combine this now with the spread of high-definition, widescreen
TVs, and the transition to multi-channel surround sound and you’ve got
interactive games that are almost cinematic… One executive adds:
better plots and graphics that will “make you cry.”


“The Wall Street Journal”, 23 February 2006, adds a step
further: Major League Gaming Inc. of New York is
seeking to elevate competitive videogame playing into a professional
sport, with total prize money for winners amounting to $500,000.


Mike Sepso, co-founder and chief executive of MLG,
said the inspiration for the league came from his
realization that some gamers, many of them teenagers, were
far superior in their game-playing skills to others, just as professional
athletes in established sports hold superior skills… His company is
also making deals with cable networks to have the competitions
carried on television.


Well, already in South Korea, the very first
Ragnarok World Championship was held on 18 July 2004!

By the way, video game addiction is a growing concern of the Korean
government (Manila Standard Today, 7 October 2005):
“Many of South Korea’s 17 million gamers- some 35%
of the population, principally males in their teens and 20s- are
                                                                        7


obsessive”… playing games for months, living on
instant cup noodles and cigarettes, barely sleeping and
seldom washing…


A phenomenon in Japan is the so-called “hikikomori” or
those who isolate themselves…


There is no English translation for this Japanese
phenomenon. Loosely translated as “socially
withdrawn” these are young people in Japan who just stay in their
rooms for long periods of time, only going to eat or use the bathroom but
still not communicating much to their parents, much
less to anyone else.

There are 1.6 million estimated number of cases, with 80% of them
male. Six months of confinement to the room make one a
“hikikomori” case… (Manila Standard, 15 Nov 2003)


This is partly due to surfing the internet and playing video games in
their own private rooms.


(Fortune, 12 December 2005) Talk about anime (TV and
film) and manga (print)… The hard-core fan base is very rabid…
The Anime Network ranks as one of the most popular on-demand
channels, after music and premium stations like HBO
On Demand… The Cartoon network’s late-night block of anime shows is
the top cable draw for 18- to 24-year-olds… On the manga side,
sales have more than doubled since 2002, to $125
million in 2004… Even women are starting to get into the once
male-dominated action…

Like video gaming, the anime is becoming a pervasive gathering
space for teens and young adults…
                                                                             8




   3. a producer of culture: The birth of new technology
      provides a new language for the interpretation
      of life… The different media help to interpret human
      existence in a new way and at the same time reveal the kind
      of understanding that man has of himself and of the world…


For example, the book has given origin and impulse to individuality,
favoring the logical and linear approach and emphasizing rationality.
Within the written text one can move forwards and backwards; but
the material it contains is set out in a sequential
manner.

Television prefers to use repetition rather than analysis, myths rather
than facts. It concentrates on turning events into a
spectacle… where choral consent is called for rather than any personal
approval.


The computer has given rise to a form of
communication which has developed into the combined use of
different media, interaction, interface, non-linearity, navigation, hypertext,
access, etc. Nowadays at no great expense a user can
set up an audio or video station and become a producer.

The Internet, like the telephone, has annihilated space and
time. But while the telephone carries only the
voice, the internet has become the means for a new
way of living and thinking. Nonlinear, bidirectional,
unconfined, interactive, mutant and floating, the network is a
place, a language, a way of using and thinking
communication…
                                                                                9


The July 2005 issue of Reader’s Digest articulated what many
of us here I presume feel about the culture being
developed by the digital camera.

Memories that used to be photos printed on paper are stored
in digital cameras, downloaded onto a computer, sent by
e-mail to friends and families, or erased if you
don’t like those unflattering bulges or unfriendly
companions.

The photo processing industry once hoped that the digital
camera would lead to more images being transferred
to paper. To date, this has not been realized.


Most pixel images never become permanent on print.
Photography, especially in the hands of the youth,
winds up on a computer of their friend on the other side of the world or in a
friend’s mobile phone memory… But not in the photo album
in the living room!


What’s more, Reader’s Digest contends, there’s
evidence that digital photography is, in fact, changing the way we
capture our lives, the way we treat those images, the
way we share the memories with others, and, indeed,
the way memories are made.

For one, because digital photos are virtually free,
“a happy snapper can take hundreds of photos of an event,
rather than ration the occasion to a dozen composed shots.”

This haphazard approach to freezing and framing lives and memories
is reinforced by the delete function… Images cheaply won
are easily discarded.
                                                                         10


Second, the photographer, however amateur, also becomes the editor.
Even a grade school kid can tamper a photo the same
way a National Geographic magazine editor “photoshops”
his pictures.

The child can get rid of any person in the shot he doesn’t like. If he
wants to make the rainy Boracay holiday look sunny,
he can click on a blue sky. If he wants a dimple on
his face to make him look cuter, deft shading will
fix that.


The printed photo, once a candid image and
unchanging memory becomes something that’s not only
cheaply taken and easily discarded, but also
endlessly manipulated.


Take this example of this poor child! Hitler, Kung Fu
Master, Shrek, Batman, Zorro, The Incredibles, Phantom of the Opera, Gollum
(The Lord of the Rings)


In this digital age reality and truth can be manipulated to one’s
taste and advantage…


The cover story of Newsweek, 27 March 2006, was all
about “Is Rampant Cheating Undermining Our Schools?”… “From
Beijing to Bristol, the rates of academic cheating
have skyrocketed during the past decade.

“What’s turning students into crooks? First and foremost,
technological advances have made cheating easier than ever. From
purchasing “original” essays from Web sites like
Gradesaver.com to “outsourcing” computer-
programming homework to experts in India via sites
like Rentacoder.com, students can now buy A’s for
the price of a school lunch. At the same time,
                                                                    11


mobile phones and MP3 players have given test takers new tool: picture
messages lets them contact friends outside the
classroom with photographed copies of whole
exams...”


Admittedly, the real culprit is competition, where top educational
credentials are increasingly seen as the only sure
vehicle to success…


David Callahan, author of “The Cheating Culture”,
remarked: “We’ve passed the tipping point, where cheating is so
common that it’s an accepted social norm.” Sociologists
further argue that “the upsurge in school
dishonesty also reflects attitudes in the culture
at large, where cheating has become acceptable and even
admired.”



NEEDS OF THE CATHOLIC EDUCATORS IN
THE FACE OF MEDIA

   Knowledge of today’s youth language: To remain alongside young
    people in their development and journey of
    faith, to enter into harmony with them, new and
    effective ways of communication have to be
    found


TEACHER: Harold, what do you call a person who keeps on talking
when people are no longer interested? HAROLD: A teacher. Joke!
                                                                             12


If you want to touch the hearts of the young, you
must learn and understand their language… And be present in the places
and in those times that they consider their own…


    Training to work professionally in media: We in the Church
     lament our lack of professionalism and of a pioneering spirit in the
     field of media… “We are not yet capable of building a new areopagus
     in the actual contexts we are living and working”… If our
     skills do not keep pace with the changes, sooner
     or later we shall be left behind…


    Creative spreading of Catholic values and work through media: In
     a culture of the superfluous we should bear witness to
     the culture of the essential… In the face of the
     gigantic empire of the media, we must select different
     terrains and strategies so as to present an alternative to the
     dominant culture being shaped by media.




REJUVENATE THE CHURCH IN A DIGITAL
WORLD
I say this again: The digital and information technology today
defines our very relationship with the culture of youth and of the future.


The question for us in the Church now is not the
teaching of the faith, but the learning of it… Our
concern is not how to teach, but how this digital generation
learns today?
                                                                       13


A mother would remind her children just before
entering the church to be silent once the Sunday Mass is going
on. “Yes, mommy.”… “And why is it necessary to be
quiet inside the church?” asked the mother. And the
kids would answer in chorus: “Because people are sleeping
inside.”


This gives certain urgency to evolving approaches
to education and formation…


   1. A high-speed or fast-paced culture: Just think of the e-
      mail and the downloading of the latest songs from the
      internet to the MP3 players… from Wi-Fi to Wi-Max…


For the digital generation, they actually embrace and enjoy
change. They look for something different each day and get bored very
quickly.


This is the opening prayer of the Mass of Ascension Sunday in
Pilipino: “Ama naming makapangyarihan, gawin mong kami
ay magkaroon ng banal na kagalakan at makapagdiwang
nang may utang na loob sapagkat ang iyong Anak na
aming Manunubos ay siyang tagapaghanda ng aming
pananahanan na kanyang pinanggalingan upang kami’y
panguluhan at kanyang tinunguhan upang maging pag-
asa kailanman ng sambayanan niyang kanya ring
katawan bilang Tagapamagitan kasama ng Espiritu
Santo magpasawalang hanggan.”


The prayer has only one sentence. By the opening
prayer of the Mass, young people have already
switched the remote controls of their concerns to other channels… That is
the same for almost all opening prayers of the Mass in Tagalog…
                                                                         14



A young parishioner was always bored at the long,
unprepared homilies of the parish priest who would often do a lot of
other activities other than parish work. One day the young
lad approached the priest and suggested:
“Father, you better write your sermons and publish them in one
book.” The priest very meekly revealed: “I
actually already asked somebody to publish my
sermons after I die.” The young lad remarked: “The
sooner, the better, Father.”


The older generation complains that young people
today suffer from attention deficit disorder. But what looks
to some adults like a lack of attention in the
youth is, rather, an MTV and internet and anime style of
interacting with information.

Our young people today have a rapid-fire information
consumption capability. They think not in a linear, logical way but in
a mosaic way… This is the anime way… One short story
after another, and then combining at the end to
complete the whole pattern of the story…


How do we motivate and mobilize this generation? Studies on
leadership skills point out that story-telling can
better accomplish these objectives than are
bulleted points.


Information for this generation is more quickly
remembered when it is first presented in the form of an anecdote or story.
We need to use more a nonlinear approach that involves
metaphors and examples…
                                                                        15


University of Michigan business professor Karl E.
Weick (“Encouraging the Heart”, p. 102) has studied
how we make sense of the often complex and contradictory choices and
decisions that go on daily in our lives. He says:


“The answer is, something that preserves
plausibility and coherence, something that is reasonable and
memorable, something that embodies past experience
and expectations, something that resonates with other people,
something that can be constructed retrospectively
but also can be used prospectively, something that
captures both feeling and thought, something that allows for
embellishment to fit current oddities, something that is
fun to construct. In short, what is necessary in sense
making is a good story.”


Our modern culture is nearly empty of stories of heroes and saints. And so
we turn to media for stereotypes. Through stories we gain access to the
spirits of saintly youth. Through their spirits we capture the
preoccupations and projects that make life meaningful for young people.


But there are associated problems in this high-speed or fast-paced
culture: those who are slow tend to become marginalized.
Categories like the aged, the disabled, the poor, or those who
do not fit into the prevailing social model, become similarly
marginalized.


Because of the influence of media in our culture,
one author on leadership (John C. Maxwell) believes
that we have lost sight of what it means to mentor people so that
leaders can reproduce leadership in others.
                                                                            16


He contends that the number of quality leaders we
have for our population (talking of America, he can very
well speak of the Philippines, I guess) seems
disproportionately small. Why? Because we have a microwave
mind-set… People want instant everything…


Instant coffee, instant milk, three-in-one… Federal
Express, Pizza Hut Express… McDonald’s drive-thru and
you get your order in seconds… You order books,
reserve your movie, and secure your airline ticket on-line… Wi-
Fi and WiMax…


A jingle of Rejoice Shampoo sings: “Instant ayos, parang
magic talaga, kinamay lang umayos na.”


But doesn’t the mentoring of leadership happen like
a simmering in a crock-pot, instead of heating in a
microwave?


We also know the pitfall of a fast-paced life. It is a world
propelled by ACTIVISM, which results in physical tiredness,
psychological stress, and spiritual emptiness.


The core challenge today is education to the adventure of prayer life… a
spiritual life that explores the depth of God and soul… a respect for the
sense of the sacred and mystery…


There are simple mysteries in life that we find difficult to understand…
You simply have to stare and share the mystery…
                                                                          17


Quicksand daw, pero dahan-dahan kang hinihila pababa. Boxing
ring daw, pero hindi naman bilog kundi square… Kung
ang plural ng tooth ay teeth, dapat ang plural ng phone
booth ay phone beeth, di ba?…

Kung ang vegetarian ang kinakain ay vegetables, ano dapat ang
kinakain ng humanitarian? E, di humans!… Kung ang mga infants nag-
eenjoy ng infancy nila, dapat ang adults enjoy din sa adultery…
Kung ang tawag sa mga taga-Poland ay Poles, dapat ang
tawag sa mga taga-Holland ay Holes. Ganoon.


Kung tatanggalin mo ang pakpak ng buttefly, pwede mo na bang tawaging
butterwalk?... Bakit pagsinuot ang slippers, hindi ka nadudulas?...
At kung sinasabi nating amoy-araw, lasang-ipis, o mukhang-
anghel, meron na ba talagang nakalanghap ng araw, nakatikim ng ipis, at
nakakita ng anghel?... Ewan… Mahirap sagutin.

O bakit ang No ID, no entry, ay hindi mai-Tagalog sa mga school? Kasi ang
Tagalog ay: Walang ID, walang pasok! Common mysteries of ordinary life!


“Spiriting prayer into school,” featured Time magazine (Time,
27 Apr 1998). After the 1963 US Supreme Court
ruling on banning compulsory prayer in public
schools, politicians are now bickering about
bringing back prayer. But prayer has become, in
fact, already a major presence through the many after-school
prayer clubs. It is claimed that such groups not only have
been legal but have also become legion.


The core challenge today is education to the adventure of prayer life… a
spiritual life that explores the depth of God and soul… a respect for the
sense of the sacred and mystery… Jesus Christ as the lord of their stories…
                                                                              18


The greatest content of Catholic education is Jesus
Christ, the Word-made-Man and the Risen Lord.


This is what we educators can explore in video
games… Many of the elements of human life are present in video games:
man’s relation to his parents and neighbor, sex and love, revenge and
violence, culture and history… But the main difference from
real life is that in video games the player always
counts on “another life.” And this is the center of the Christ-story…


There are games with direct               or indirect relation to
religion. “Matrix” for example            whose character has all the
characteristics of a new messiah- the     dual nature Neo and
Thomas Anderson, who had to               die to conquer the
matrix…

One video game, for instance, called “Black and White”
is said to have as underlying theme the question:
What would you do if you were God? Would you be just or vengeful?


There’s the Battle Acolyte/Priest of Ragnarok… While serving
God and witnessing the miracles, the Priest is the
only one that decides to join the world of adventure following the voice of
God. With a well-trained spirit, the Priest helps members
of the group heal. Also, he has exceptional fighting skills
against undead monsters and by purifying their souls,
returns them to the ground…


I had a visit of one of our students in our school in Tokyo, a young man,
21 years old, who is studying foreign relations. He had gone
to our schools in Papua New Guinea as a volunteer… I could
sense that he loves serving the poor. He went twice
to our training center in the squatters’ area of Tondo. He
enjoyed his visit there. He even wanted to visit our house
                                                                           19


with 500 street children in Alabang, but we didn’t
have time.

He is not a baptized Christian. Actually, he has no
religion. But he says that the god he believes in is Jesus
Christ…

On the day he left for Tokyo on March 19 (2005), he
attended the ordination of our seven Salesian deacons. It was his
first time to attend an ordination ceremony. But
since they are used to hearing Mass in our school
in Tokyo, he lined up during communion time, to ask for the blessing
of the priest, as they do for little children in
America… Not knowing that he was not Christian, the priest gave him
communion…

I was just informed later after the Mass. This
young man has the seed of Christian spirituality.


Youth today are not so much attracted to religiosity as to spirituality…
Religiosity is about ritual. Spirituality is about relationship- with a
god, with a soul, with a neighbor…

The essence of spirituality at its deepest and
highest levels of understanding is a seamless and
intimate experience of oneness and wholeness with God and our circle of
concern and influence…


   2. A self-directed and interfaced culture: What is referred
      here is the interaction between man and
      machine which is carried into human mentality.

This has developed in man today an attitude of man
wanting to be the active subject of his own personal and social life…
                                                                        20


This change stems from a fundamental preference for
interactive media rather than broadcast media.



Nothing reflects this preference more than the
decline in television viewing hours. Television
audiences are becoming smaller and more discriminating. It is not
television specifically that is coming under
attack, but rather, the nature of broadcast culture itself.



Broadcast technology, like television, is hierarchical. It depends
upon a top-down distribution system. Someone somewhere
decides what will be broadcast and our role in this is
limited to what we choose, or do not choose to watch. There is no
feedback from the viewer to the broadcaster.

Where this generation finds power is on the
Internet because it depends upon a distributed, or shared,
delivery system rather than a hierarchal one. This distributed, or
shared, power is at the heart of the culture of interaction.


There is a shift from the traditional types of
pedagogy, from instruction to construction.


Youth today become enthusiastic about the knowledge they
themselves discover. It is futile to force the youth today to profess a
dogma they have not discovered themselves.

The constructivist approach to teaching and learning
means that rather than assimilate knowledge that is broadcast by an
instructor, the young construct the knowledge through their own discovery.
                                                                          21


This requires the mentorship of the educator or the
evangelizer as a learning partner… a steersman, a
“kybernetes,” from which the word cybernetics is
derived.

But there is also a pitfall in this self-directed world.


It is a world where INDIVIDUALISM attacks everything we
profoundly believe in about GOD AS TRINITY, a communion in diversity…


Asiaweek, 7 Dec 2001: “High on me. Today’s youth in
Asia are more self-centered, according to a string of
recent surveys across the region.”

Many Filipino Catholic youth are nominal Catholics,
as evidenced by 44.9% of them who seldom practice
their faith, and 3.8% who never did… In general, the
Filipino Catholic youth tends toward a faith that is personalist rather than
that with an ecclesial or community dimension. (Catholic Survey 2002)

Faith formation for youth happens today within the context of a
vibrant and wide community, that is, a community that is
part of a world wider than its own and embraces a purpose that is bigger
than itself.

We do this by education to solidarity, political participation, and
volunteerism.


The high school graduates of an elite school for
boys in Manila were asked what their ambitions in
life are… All of them, without exception, answered
“personal success”… And personal success means for them
big money on their first jobs…
                                                                            22


More than your personal success we have to form our
students to discover something beyond self… And that is what
we call “significance.” And “significance” means,
embracing a world wider than self and giving one’s self for a purpose that is
greater than one’s own… Instead of trying to be great, be
part of something greater than one’s self.


Here we see the beauty of the celebration of the
Eucharist… The Eucharist is GIVING. Eucharist is a
SACRIFICE…Christian life must be seen as a GIFT… a
donation… “My body is given… my blood is shed.”


A school girl shares: "I'd like to help the homeless, but they're never home."


Looks have become a measure of self-worth… "In adolescent girls'
private diaries and journals, the body is a consistent preoccupation,
second only to peer relationships."

50 years ago, when girls talked about self-improvement, they were
thinking of doing good works or doing better in school. Now everything
comes down to appearance.

We must propose to the youth the message of the
Eucharist: TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL, YOU MUST FORGET SELF,
FIND A PURPOSE WORTH DYING FOR… GO THE DISTANCE… Take the
hero’s journey… EMBRACE A WORLD THAT IS BIGGER THAN YOURS…


We, educators, must be preparation to be cultural animators of justice,
peace and solidarity to the young and the poor…


The U.N. worldwide conducted a survey. The only
question asked was, "Would you please give your
                                                                        23


most honest opinion about a solution to the food shortage in the
rest of the world?" The survey was a HUGE failure.

In Africa they did not know what "food" meant. In Western Europe
they did not know what "shortage" meant. In Eastern
Europe they did not know what "opinion" meant. In the Middle East
they did not know what "solution" meant. In South
America they did not know what "please" meant. In Asia they did
not know what "honest" meant. And in the USA they did not
know what "the rest of world" meant.


Just kidding! In most cases, this is a stereotyping of
peoples brought about in very powerful ways by media. In many
cases, a patterned thinking developed by the very people themselves
also because of media.

John Paul II lamented that stereotyping is distressingly
common in media (Ethics in Media, 2000)…


This poem was written by an African kid. The
English translation goes: When I born, I black. When I grow up,
I black. When I go under the sun, I black. When I
scared, I black. When I sick, I black. And when I die, I still black…
And you white fella, when you born, you pink. When you grow up,
you white. When you go under the sun, you red. When
you cold, you blue. When you scared, you yellow.
When you sick, you green. And when you die, you gray… And you call me
colored!


The problem with stereotyping is that is creates foe images,
which in turn create prejudices, which turn to hatred and
violence…
                                                                             24


This is a news item on 9 Feb 2006 from a local
newspaper in San Diego. It talks about the plight of
thousands of child soldiers in Uganda and Sudan who are forced by the
Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel paramilitary group… Abducted in the
night, these children are tortured and indoctrinated into
fighting in the civil war… Those who refuse to join are
brutalized and, in extreme cases, forced to murder a neighbor or family
member…


Three San Diego filmmakers made a documentary about
it called “Invisible Children”. It is fast becoming a call for
action for high school and college across America…

Poway High School seniors Brian Henry and Matt Ducot learned
of the human rights abuses when they and 13 other students in the school's
Digital Media Production class were asked by the
documentary's makers to view 75 hours of raw
footage of Ugandan children. The students were
given the job of distilling interviews into vignettes to be included
in a DVD release of the documentary.

Brian and Matt edited footage of a boy named Steven, one
of an estimated 1.8 million people living in camps for those
displaced by the fighting.

“There were so many kids there, and it was kind of unbelievable how little
resources they have there,” Matt said… I beg your
indulgence for being personal, but Matthew is my
sister’s son in San Diego…

World literature teacher Lacey Segal said that
after seeing the film, many of her students were
inspired to incorporate the cause into their senior
projects. Some are selling bracelets and t-shirts to raise awareness,
while others are throwing “Invisible Children” screening parties,
interviewing Sudanese refugees or creating a companion curriculum that
                                                                         25


will be available on the film's Web site,
www.invisiblechildren.com.

In the midst of a media-mediated world that favors
individualism and narcissism, we are called to re-educate
our young people to live for beyond self… in no half
measures… for others… for the common good…


   3. A polyphonic vision or multiplicity of reality: It is more
      difficult today to attain to certainty or truth because we are
      immersed in a sea of all the truths claimed to
      be absolute.


Tatay: 'Nak, bili mo ko ng soft drink. > Anak: Coke o Pepsi? >
Tatay: Coke. Anak: Diet o regular? Tatay: Regular. Anak:
Bottle or can? Tatay: Bote Anak: 8 oz o litro? Tatay: Leche!
Tubig na nga lang. Anak: Mineral, distilled o purified? Tatay:
Mineral. Anak: Iced cold or hindi? Tatay: Nanloloko ka
ba? Hampasin kita ng walis dyan, eh! Anak: Tambo o tingting?


Young people today find themselves increasingly
alone and alienated. It has less access to parents. But with
more access to the electronic landscape, it also comes face to
face with a multiplicity of situations it cannot easily make sense of.
Personality becomes fragmented. Identity becomes weak. And
the self becomes conditioned and dependent on the
most seductive bidder.


There is the new phenomenon of the BLOGS… The world
of BLOGS, short for weblog, is a constellation of
five-million-plus journals that have exploded in cyberspace in the past few
years.
                                                                    26


BLOGGING is number 1 among the tech trends to watch in 2005. And
there is no escaping it, proclaims Fortune magazine
(24 January 2005). According to a blog search-
engine and measurement firm, 23,000 new weblogs are created
every day. That’s about one every three seconds.



Freewheeling bloggers can swarm around a new site
or piece of information in cyberspace. They can prod and
poke at it. Some blogs of little consequence involve kids talking
about their dates and teens posting pictures of their cats. But others
which are more profound and insightful can boost a
religious message or destroy a business product.



Blogs make people feel heard. Blogs provide a tool for talking
to a wide world. Blogs commit people to an open dialogue with other
people. This is very promising, indeed.


But it can also be very painful because now you cannot
hide from your mistakes. You have to face them before a hundred, a
thousand, a million people in cyberspace… Our boys who are
computer savvy can create their own blog about teachers
they do not like…

And this pain is something you cannot easily stop.
The blog binds. Unless we are able to train them to be respectful of
the truth…


Now there is vlogging… short video diaries and homemade reality
internet shows, vloggers are using the power of cheap
online technology to invite strangers into their
lives…
                                                                          27



In a society suffering from information overload,
information literacy seeks to form smart information
consumers.

Information literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and use
information from a variety of sources to make a wise discernment of
the truth and effectively communicate the knowledge to others.


The best-selling book “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown is
a piece of fiction that pretends to be scholarly
research.

The author weaves his NOVEL in such a way as to dupe many
of its readers and reviewers to believe that it is factual work. It has
created a lot of confusion and controversy because
although it is in reality only a romance and a
thriller, it has positioned itself as well-researched conspiracy
theory and spiritual manifesto.


What is really disturbing about the response of the
readers to this book is that many who have read it are
finding it difficult later to distinguish between what is novel from what is
documentary. Readers have lost their ability to
distinguish between falsehood and reality… giving to
falsehood the acclaim that only the truth deserves…


It’s like people paying really close attention to
instructions like: If you can’t read or write, please phone this
number… Warning: No trespassing without permission…
Be kind. Please rewind. (a label on a DVD disc in a rental
shop)… (a sign on a gym door) Do not open this door
when locked…
                                                                              28



Then there is the documentary “The Gospel of Judas” by
the National Geographic Society shown this April
2006… An initial scholarly assessment of the 31-page
Coptic text lends credence to the authenticity of the said document, which
appears to date back to the 3rd or 4th century A.D.. The manuscript
is said to have surfaced in Geneva in 1983 and has
only now been translated, in happy coincidence with the
release a month after in May 2006 of the film version of Dan Brown’s “The Da
Vinci Code.”


What’s new? St. Irenaeus of Lyons already wrote about this gospel as a
Gnostic heresy in 180 AD. What was discovered as a
manuscript written in 300 or 400 AD is obviously a
copy of the earlier writing…

The documents paints Judas Iscariot in a positive light as the only
apostle who really understood what Jesus was after, and describes
him as obeying a divine mandate in handing Jesus
over to the authorities… One hundred years after World War II,
anyone can write about Hitler as a holy man.

The enormous economic success of “The Da Vinci Code” surely explains
much of the buzz swirling around “The Gospel of Judas”, and we can
be on the lookout for Judas spin-offs in the months
to come. (The Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2006)


But why is it that we find the faith of so many Christians thrown into tilt with
every recycled theory that hits the media? Press coverage
claimed that the document will “shake Christianity to its
foundations” by offering a rival account to explain the
betrayal of Jesus…


A disturbing reality of our age is this: Truth can be
manipulated according to one’s personal agenda and convenience.
                                                                    29




An easy consequence of this culture is relativism. The
network shows how one can live today in the
simultaneous presence of contradictions.


Closely linked to this is what we call as “nomadism”…
On the internet one navigates from one network to
the other… This is sometimes reflected in one’s
lifestyle of passing from one experience to another without
commitment…


In 2004 Britney Spears was married to Jason Alexander, her
childhood friend… 55 hours later, Britney divorced Jason… By
December of 2004, she has a new husband with her,
named Kevin Federline… This 2005, Renee Zellwegger rushed to
the altar to marry Kenny Chesney. They separated after four
months… Paris Hilton’s wedding to Greek shipping heir
Paris Latsis in 2005 was scrapped. She was seen
smooching another Greek, Stavros Niarchos III, a day after the
breakup… In 2005, Katie Holmes broke-up with Chris Klein. In the
same year, she got pregnant with Tom Cruise… Brad Pitt said
goodbye to Jennifer Aniston and said hi to Angelina Jolie…
Chika!


Pardon me for mentioning celebrities. But they
epitomize to us all what is lacking in our world
today, more than ever…“commitment.”


In its positive form, “nomadism” can foster
detachment. But where maturity is lacking, it
fosters an alarming inability to make commitments consistent with
one’s own faith vision and personal project of life.
                                                                          30



Two priests are arguing whether or not Pope
Benedict will abrogate the rule on celibacy and
allow priests to marry… Fr. Stephen is very firm: I don’t
think the Pope will allow our generation to marry.
Perhaps in our children’s generation…


Consumerism looks at relationships as just another commodity,
something to be bought, used, and disposed of at one’s convenience… A
friend, too often, is just another novelty item that is quickly
and easily purchased and replaced when something new and
more interesting comes along.

Consumerism teaches us that nothing lasts, including
relationships. Like a product that wears out or breaks down, we don’t repair
it; we throw it away and buy a new one… We are conditioned to
think that eventually everything grows obsolete.
Faithfulness is negotiable because relationships are not programmed to
last.


Time magazine survey as featured in Manila Standard
(11 Nov 2002): Filipinos are among the youngest to be
initiated into sex (16 yrs. Old), as compared to Hong
Kong, Thailand and Singapore (18 yrs. Old… Filipinos
also topped the list of those hooked on pornography and recorded the
highest homosexual activity.


There are very positive signs today coming from America itself…
According to an Associated Press report last Dec.
10, the National Center for Health Statistics said
that the percentage of girls aged 15 to 17 who had had intercourse
declined from 38% in 1995 to 30% in 2002. For boys the decline was 43% to
31%.
                                                                        31



In the 18-19 age bracket there was a slight
increase in sexual activity for females, up to 69% in
2002, compared with 68% in 1995. But for males the percentage dropped
from 75% in 1995 to 64% in 2002.


Additional data on the study, published the next
day by the Washington Times, showed that
adolescents' most common reason for delaying sex
was because it was "against [their] religion or moral values."




CONCLUSION: SYNTHESIS

I wish to conclude and synthesize my talk in the
framework of Catholic campus ministry… More than the teaching
of theology, campus ministry involves:


   Liturgy and Prayer Ministry: creating a climate of
    prayer in the campus through liturgies and the
    sacraments, and other devotions…

   Growth and Guidance Ministry: organizing retreats and
    recollections, growth seminars, mentoring
    sessions… empowering people to cope with their
    problems through individual and group
    counseling; providing spiritual guidance;
    fostering vocational and career orientations

   Vocations Promotion and Leaders Formation Ministry: fostering
    and supporting vocations to the religious and
    priestly life; forming leaders towards peer
    ministry, school animation, and social
    transformation
                                                                           32



    Education and Prophetic Ministry: educating members of
     the school community in the faith through
     systematic and regular religious instructions…
     speaking out for the moral, religious and
     spiritual interests and integrity of the total
     campus and inquiring into the larger social
     issues of the time, promoting programs for
     social consciousness and extension services


Let me start from the last one cited. For the
Education and Prophetic ministry, it is obvious
that we need to integrate Media Literacy into the theology
curriculum. But its orientation is not about discriminating
media, but about empowering the audience. Because whether we
like it or not, media is always business, and so on
its own it will not protect us from its negative, or even evil,
influence… Media is not something from which we must defend
ourselves. It is a massive educative factor that can be our ally as it
moulds mentalities and creates culture in very powerful ways…


But more than Media Literacy, because of the
polyphonic vision of reality today that leads to a
fragmented view of truth, we need to embrace
Information Literacy as the key competency skill for life-long and life-wide
learning today… In an Information Age that is filled
with data smog, a person must be able to recognize
when and what information is needed and have the ability to locate,
organize, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.


In its most basic form, Information Literacy is
about knowing the scope, treatment, authority, relevance, and
timeliness of the information.
                                                                       33


In the teaching of theology, we need to bring back the value of
story-telling. Reality-based television shows are all
the rage, because we fund human drama engaging. But
it is sad that we find more enjoyment in watching and
talking about people in contrived circumstances than we do in engaging in
the fascinating stories going on around us where amazing heroes are doing
the right things against incredible odds…

Teaching dogma can be approached not only as instruction but more as
construction, allowing the youth to discover the dogma
and construct their own meaning. The handy digital video cameras
can be used to produce their own so-called “indie films.”… I
will end with an MTV made by a first year
engineering student constructing videos from “The
Passion of the Christ” with the music of Bryan Adams “Everything I Do”
(theme song from the movie Robin Hood).


In the prophetic ministry, to counteract the culture
of individualism and narcissism, our Catholic youth must be
formed to participate in the social and political
arena as servant-leaders, particularly in the Church of the slow and
marginalized.


For the Vocations Promotion and Leaders Formation
Ministry: Give time and tranquility to mentor student leaders and
to make explicit proposals for the priestly and religious life…

But be careful… In a media-mediated culture, “leadership” and “authority”
depend on mass appeal. One cannot lead without
propaganda. Today, we do not only expect leaders to
lead well, but to entertain, charm and seduce the audience.

In a social model based on the printed word there are
two requisites needed for entry to public life and
                                                                          34


the exercise of authority: the ability to read and write;
unless you have these you cannot lead, or even take
part, in public discussions… On the other hand,
electronic broadcasting forces leaders today to rush into spectacular
presentations, in a frantic search for audiences, and so forging a
dangerous link between the truth and numbers…


For the Growth and Guidance Ministry: an education
to the sense of keeping one’s word and a formation to
commitment and fidelity, for instance saving sex for marriage…
which presumes that there is mutuality of relationships with
the youth who only listen to messengers and messages they can feel…


For the Liturgy and Prayer Ministry: an education to
prayerfulness and to a sense of mystery in prayer, especially through a
meaningful celebration of the Eucharist… which demands a careful
and creative preparation that approximates the kind of
preparation media gives for each production number…


Finally, we notice that for every negative trend,
like secularism, there is always a refreshing countertrend, like the
desire for spirituality among young people… But the challenge
for us is to communicate our particular charisms to the youth and
inculturate them as youth spirituality, distinctly Vincentian or Franciscan…


Today’s media culture gives precedence to surface over
depth, simulation over the real, style over substance,
packaging over product…

But in the face of this psychology of media, we
need a “cultural conversion” as well… Today, to be
efficacious we must be authentic and transparent. To be present we must
be perceptible.
                                                                               35




“He who has a message and no propaganda will not get very far.”       (Joel
Augustus Rogers, Forbes Global, 13 Nov 2000)



In these past decades we saw an increasing denial to of any
particular mark of distinction to spirituality, signs of belonging
to a particular vocation… All ways of appearing as
different from the world were to be avoided.


There was an ardent desire to become “normal” like the
rest of the world, with nothing to distinguish us from
others, making visible to the world that we have been
won over by Christ and are in love with him in a very charismatic way.


But if our distinct form of spirituality has lost its
prophetic force and visibility, what purpose does it still serve, especially
for youth today?


Ultimately, after all have been said and done, the
aim of Catholic education is to form saints from our students…


Conclusion

Allow me to end on a personal note to illustrate my point about
making clear each of our school’s distinct spirituality for youth.


Last year, a former high school student of my
school was killed along the streets outside UST… His
name is Jef Marty…
                                                                        36


Jef loved to draw, to swim, to play the piano, to collect posters, to read
books, and to surf the internet as a grade school kid… His
talents were not only varied. His interests were not shallow.

It is no wonder that Jef tried to reason out to the people
who robbed him of his cell phone if he could keep his books. His books
meant his duties. Here in Don Bosco he was taught that
to be holy one must do his ordinary duties in
extraordinary ways… And for men whose business in
life is to steal and to kill, a student who took his duty
seriously was a reminder of what they could never be anymore… When
Jef died, he was a dean’s lister in UST…

Consistent with his personality in grade school,
Jef is described as “intimidating” at first glance.
But once you got to know him, Jef was actually an
amusing person who would do anything just to stir up a few laughs. And
although a person with a strong sense of duty, Jef
has a happy-go-lucky side as well. Here in Don
Bosco youth are also taught that holiness consists in being
happy.

But that happiness and light-hearted disposition
were grounded on Jef’s relationship with Jesus Christ, especially in the
sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist… I am sure Jef
regularly approached these sacraments… It is in
this context that I remember him. As he approached
me to make his confession during his retreat in Don
Bosco Batulao, I greeted him with “Hi, Long” (his
nickname among his peers), to which he answered:
“Father, my life will be short.”

Here in Don Bosco, youth are also taught that we
can only become holy through friendship with Jesus through his
sacraments… Jef did not only hear Mass. He was an
active member of his parish choir… That night of October 14,
                                                                      37


2005 when he died, he was already pronounced “dead-
on-arrival” at the UST Hospital. As the doctors were
desperately trying to revive him, a Dominican
chaplain gave Jef a conditional absolution. The
priest would attest that Jef opened his eyes, as if to say “thank
you” to the priest for the last sacrament, and then Jef finally expired.


But what strikes me most about this young man was
his capacity to love even to the point of the cross… A real
servant-leader whose high school yearbook motto was
“An act of kindness is a good investment” and whose profile
recognized him as someone who “derives pleasure from helping
people in any way he can.”


Jef was pretty good at drawing anime. And together with his
love for video gaming, he hoped to become a good video game
designer one day… But he shifted his interest to
nursing… Not so much because he wanted to earn more
by leaving the country one day. He is quite well-off,
living in a condominium by himself… Jef changed his plans
because he wanted to embrace a cause greater than his own and a world
bigger than himself (he was six feet and two inches tall,
by the way)…


His reason was because as he experienced many
sufferings himself, he wanted to unite his life with those who
were suffering as well… Nursing for Jef was not a career choice
for reasons of convenience. It was a divine call for him,
as he himself would put it that his beautiful four-
page reflection paper in UST.


Jef said: “Whenever we look at someone who is in a
state of suffering, we see not only the suffering person, but
                                                                             38


Jesus as well, and through this, be reminded of the
salvific love he showed for each and every one of us by sacrificing
himself.”


I have heard stories from girls’ schools of how
some of their girls would slash their wrists in an attempt to
commit suicide because of broken families… In Italy, three
girls, one aged 16 and two aged 17 years old,
stabbed to death 18 times a 60-year-old nun called Sister Laura on June 6,
2000…

Their reason? They wanted to sacrifice her as part
of their being members of a satanic cult that is quite spreading in
Italy among young people. This October 2005, exorcists from all
over the world gathered in Rome for an international convention because
authentic satanic possessions are becoming more and more rampant…
On closer look at the three girls who killed an
innocent nun, the reason was simpler than satanic
possession- broken families and separated parents mean troubled
teenagers and evil lives…

And here is where the beauty of the soul of Jef is… He tells us
that it doesn’t have to be so broken… From this moment, I
will let Jef speak for himself, word for word,
through excerpts from his reflection paper which I
have been using for my meditation for several days
already…

“Whenever you hear the word “suffer”, what comes
into your mind?... I have come to realize that
salvation is rooted in suffering, for was it not Christ who
suffered and died for us to save our souls from
eternal damnation?

Ever since I became aware of suffering, I have
always asked myself and others questions. For
                                                                               39


instance, why do we suffer? For what purpose do we
suffer? How is salvation connected to it?...

As a young child I could not understand. I simply
couldn’t see the justice in all of it. Why did I
have to get sick? Why did my parents have to leave for the US
without me? Why did my parents separate when I was
four years old? Why did I have to endure fourteen years of not being
able to feel the warmth of a mother’s embrace or the reassurance of a
father’s touch? Why did my first love have to die at
such a young age? So many questions left
unanswered. Yes, the meaning of suffering is a huge mystery… I have
gone through a lot of it myself…

Jef then continues: “It was said that “For God so
loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal
life.” The keyword is love. Let me ask you. When you love
someone, isn’t it that you are willing to suffer for this person if it means his
or her happiness?... Living with this knowledge, Jesus
inspires us to do the same…

Christ taught each and every one of us to do good by suffering and to do
good to those who suffer as well. This can be accomplished
through acts of selflessness and unconditional love.”


Then Jef quotes St. Paul: “That I may know Christ and the
power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may
attain the resurrection from the dead.”



MTV: Everything I Do / The Passion of the Christ
                                                                40


You must have realized that much of what I actually
said is nothing new… The real journey consists not so much in
seeking new lands, but in seeking with new eyes…

I forgot now which author, either Chesterton or
Hemingway, but he said: Stare at a familiar thing until it becomes
unfamiliar, then you will be seeing it for the first time…

				
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