World Communications Day was celebrated yesterday 24 May 2020. Pope Francis wrote his message for the day, with the theme of storytelling, back in January. In it he prophetically wrote: “I believe that so as not to lose our bearings, we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories, stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together.”
He continued: “Stories leave their mark on us; they shape our convictions and our behaviour. They can help us understand and communicate who we are.”
Human life is inextricably linked with storytelling, he went on. “The stories of different ages all have a common “loom”: the thread of their narrative involves “heroes”, including everyday heroes, who in following a dream confront difficult situations and combat evil, driven by a force that makes them courageous, the force of love. By immersing ourselves in stories, we can find reasons to heroically face the challenges of life.”
Unfortunately, he said, not all stories are good stories. “ ‘If you possess, you will become, you will achieve…’ This is the message whispered by those who even today use storytelling for purposes of exploitation. How many stories serve to lull us, convincing us that to be happy we continually need to gain, possess and consume. We may not even realize how greedy we have become for chatter and gossip, or how much violence and falsehood we are consuming. Often on communication platforms, instead of constructive stories which serve to strengthen social ties and the cultural fabric, we find destructive and provocative stories that wear down and break the fragile threads binding us together as a society. By patching together bits of unverified information, repeating banal and deceptively persuasive arguments, sending strident and hateful messages, we do not help to weave human history, but instead strip others of their dignity.”
He continued: “In an age when falsification is increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels (as in deepfake), we need wisdom to be able to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to reject false and evil stories. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread amid today’s many troubles.”
The Bible, he said, is the great love story between God and humanity. “At its centre stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfilment both God’s love for us and our love for God…The history of Christ is not a legacy from the past; it is our story, and always timely. It shows us that God was so deeply concerned for mankind, for our flesh and our history, to the point that he became man, flesh and history. It also tells us that no human stories are insignificant or paltry.
“When we remember the love that created and saved us, when we make love a part of our daily stories, when we weave the tapestry of our days with mercy, we are turning another page. We no longer remain tied to regrets and sadness, bound to an unhealthy memory that burdens our hearts; rather, by opening ourselves to others, we open ourselves to the same vision of the great storyteller,” he said. “With him we can re-weave the fabric of life, darning its rips and tears.”
Read the full text here.
Watch Fr Dominic Howarth’s homily for World Communications Day.