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What keeps me Catholic? The Catholic press

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November 1, 2012

By Michael Daley

Though some may see this as a pathetic attempt to ingratiate myself to my editor, I’m actually serious. The Catholic press helps keep me Catholic. Perhaps even more importantly, I have it to thank for my wife June.


Back in the summer of 1994, in between graduate school, I returned to Cincinnati to work at St. Anthony Messenger Press (now Franciscan Media) as an intern. Little did I know at the time that my meager, hourly wage eventually would turn to priceless, marital bliss. Shortly after beginning work there, I met a recently hired graphic designer. Every Friday, I’d stop by her cubicle and say, “If you’re not doing anything this weekend….” Though I wonder sometimes whether it was good judgment or pity on her part, she finally said “yes.” The rest is history.


I was reminded of this interesting turn of events cleaning out my desk this past summer. With my wife’s mandate to keep only what was necessary, I came across an award that originally was given to the long-time editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, now deceased, Father Norman Perry, O.F.M. It was the Matchmaker Award 1995. The reason for him winning it read: “For your insight in hiring Mike Daley as the summer intern for 1994 and including his love life in the staff meeting prayer. The weeks of prayer paid off in the end.”


Fast-forward some 20 years to today and the Catholic press finds itself in a trying situation. The need for engaging, formative, informative, faithful, and challenging media has never been greater, though circumstances are making it ever more difficult to survive. Financial constraints, changing patterns of news access amongst generations, and, to be honest, a loss of moral and institutional credibility — all present significant challenges for the future of the Catholic press.


It would be understandable, in an attempt to increase its market share, if the Catholic press began a slow slide toward more sensationalistic, one-sided, feel good, entertainment-based stories. Looking at newsstands or surfing the internet, it appears that’s what people want or all they have time for today. Substance is out and the sound-bite is in.


As Pope John Paul II said, however, in one of his last addresses, “The modern technologies increase to a remarkable extent the speed, quantity and accessibility of communication, but they above all do not favour that delicate exchange which takes place between mind and mind, and heart and heart, and which should characterize any communication at the service of solidarity and love.”


So, whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, websites, films, magazines or books, the Catholic press still has a vital and essential role to play. For me, it centers on the word “conversation.” Where and when other sources of news and media may discount the role and value of religion, the Catholic press highlights its place in society. It must continue to mediate between the values of a faith tradition and the ideals and practices of a larger and increasingly secular culture. Sometimes the Catholic press, whether through a book or movie review, shows a reassuring connection. At others, perhaps through an analysis of a current event or legal decision, it demonstrates a stark contrast between the two.


Within the church, it can serve as an antidote to Catholicism’s growing internal polarization and, unevangelical, incivility. At its best, the Catholic press, while always remaining true to the substance of the faith, expresses the breadth and depth, the plurality and diversity of the tradition. In affirming Catholic identity many voices and viewpoints deserve and need to be heard.


I can think of no better way to develop faith than through the multiple expressions of the Catholic press. In fact, it’s what keeps me Catholic.

Daley is a freelance writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School.

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