Monday 8 February 2016

Geekpriest - Roderick Vonhogen - Confessions of a New Media Pioneer

Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer
Roderick Vonhogen
Servant Books a division of
Franciscan Media
ISBN 9781616366773

Father Roderick came recommended to be by a friend who is a recent convert, but this book completely blew me away. Father Roderick's faith, his passion for new media and his commitment to living for Christ Jesus is inspiring. A few times I found myself unable to put the book down, even though I should have and saying to myself just one more section. This book is filled with stories, personal struggles, and a plethora of geekdom knowledge and experience. I highlighted over thirty passages in a book of just 164 pages. I have already recommended it to a few friends.

Going back and writing about his time in secondary school, attending an event with the pope in the Netherlands he states: "When the pope lifted the consecrated Host to show it to the crowd, it suddenly dawned on me that this had to be the secret of John Paul II's strength and calmness. It was God's own love, offered to us in the Body and Blood of Christ. Now I understood why the pope was unfazed by all the criticism around him: He was filled with God's love, even for those who attacked him so aggressively." And meeting the pope and writing about all the opposition to his visit even by Catholics Father goes on to say "John Paul II became the most influential superhero in my life. But if I truly wanted to follow his example, I would need to take a few more steps." He was changes but he knew that was not enough he knew he needed to grow he says "First of all, I thought, if God truly exists, if everything I hear in church is not just a metaphor or a fairy tale but reality, then I must get in touch with God. I knew that the best way to do that was to pray. But how on earth did that work?" And so began the journey that he is still on today. He struggles and strives to know Christ and to make him known. You could almost say that Father Roderick's motto is "With abundant grace comes great responsibility." And again later while he was a seminarian he had the opportunity to meet the pope and the man who would become pope he says "Looking back, it still feels surreal that, as a young seminarian, I had the chance to personally meet John Paul II and the man who would succeed him in 2005 as Pope Benedict XVI. We all need role models to inspire us, and these two men of God became my role models for life." And what Role models they were and how they helped to shape not only his call to the priesthood but his call to using the web as a ministry.

Father Roderick has a Superhero Checklist, this section was incredibly powerful, drawing from the comic book world he makes parallels to spiritual development and finding our personal vocation:

Superhero Checklist
Seek Solitude
Study and Read
Discover Your Strengths
Acknowledge your weaknesses.
Be Humble
Listen to your friends
Expect trouble
Do not be Afraid
Be faithful and persevere.

This whole section I read over a few times on being humble he writes "It's an attitude Jesus himself asks of his followers on multiple occasions. Life is not about honor and prestige; it is about becoming a servant to others, about humility in all you do because everything you are and the talents you have received have been given to you as a gift. Finding your calling in life ultimately comes down to finding the answer to the question: "How can I help?"" and in the section on be not afraid he says "Jesus kept saying to his friends and followers, "Fear not!" The essence of faith is abandoning fear and beginning to trust again: trusting yourself, trusting others, trusting God." Even if we can only learn to live these two we will have a much greater and better impact on our world. In summarizing this chapter Father says "Discerning your calling in life is one of the most important things you can do to find true happiness. Happiness ultimately never depends on material possessions, or even on success in life. It stems from the inner knowledge that you are who God wants you to be, that you are doing what he wants you to do." We can all learn from the examples in Father Roderick's life and the examples he draws from the stories that have shaped the world, Tolkien, Star Wars, and many more are the tools he uses to draw out the truth of the faith.

There is an amazing section in the book called The Disney examination of conscience. It was an excellent little piece of advice. I will be honest and say that I love the sacrament of reconciliation and I love the liturgy. Even when I have attended mass in languages I did not understand I have always felt the presence of God in service. Father Roderick states: "Liturgy is, in many ways, a ritualized form of storytelling as well. Every time we leave the worries of our daily lives and enter a church or a cathedral, we are transported to another world, a place where stories, songs, images, colors, and rituals all lead us to discover the hidden mystery of our world: the love of God that transcends liturgy itself and becomes something that can change the way we live in the present and give direction to the future." That is what makes mass so amazing.

Quoting from one of his teachers on using new media as a tool for the Catholic church he says "Our Church has the most beautiful message in the world, but who is going to notice it if we do such a lousy job presenting our message in the media?" I must admit I am a little late to the pod cast party. Only really having started to listen to some of them in the last 6 months. I was always the blog or book guy. But some of the Catholic podcasts I have discovered are amazing and going back and listening to old series by Father Roderick or those he mentions gives a lot of great food for the spirit and the mind.

Father Roderick has a section on his physical transformation called From Couch Potato to Marathon Runner. Highlighting how he made some changes and then started podcasting on that as well. He also found the healthier he got his body the healthier his spirit became. He says "At the same time, I had noticed how much my new running passion had started to positively affect my spiritual life and my working discipline. What if I were to record a podcast about these topics- something about the connection between body, mind, and soul, about how to get physically healthy, but also about how to maintain a healthy spiritual life? The series Health and Holiness was born." He says "The show had two overarching goals: a reflection on how to live a healthy and balanced life, and a question that was perhaps even more important: how to live a holy life." And again he has a list:

Runner's Tips for Wannabe Saints
Running a marathon begins with running the first mile.
You'll never finish if you don't set a goal.
Progress is made by training and constantly pushing your boundaries.
Be sure you have the right equipment.
Follow a training schedule.
Seek advice from other runners.
Don't overdo it.
Don't give up too quickly.
Stay hydrated and pay attention to what you eat.
Enjoy the process!

This was another section of the book that I read through a few times. There are so many gems of advice in this section! But a few of my picks are "In the same way, holiness begins with the resolution to become holy. You have to take the first step. Start reserving time in your life to live with God. Make it a firm appointment in your agenda if you are busy." And "Your spiritual progress can also benefit from good advice. Find a spiritual director, and share your journey with friends, either in your local community or perhaps even via the Internet. Sharing your spiritual struggles and progress can help others, and it will benefit you, too. And don't forget the saints! They have shown that it is possible to live a holy life. Read about their lives and take advantage of their experience!" He also declares "Your spiritual life requires a similar balance. Develop reasonable habits. Don't expect to pray for hours every day, or to be constantly, 100 percent focused on God and ready to receive the most beautiful mystical experiences. You might disappoint yourself if you can't keep it up. Take small steps first, and let the Holy Spirit guide the process." One of the most important to me is "In your spiritual life, good nutrition and hydration are just as important. Here I'm not just referring to the prayer books you take with you to the chapel. We are constantly consuming information and entertainment, but just like junk food can have nefarious consequences for our health, so can junk media. Without becoming overly scrupulous, ask yourself whether or not a book, a movie, a video game, or other forms of entertainment are really enriching your life. Good content can enrich your spiritual life; trash media can hamper it. Be picky- it's for your own good!" With advice like that how could you not give this book a try?

The final list is the book is:

Seven Things Pope Francis Taught Me
1. It's Not About You
2. Be Humble
3. Don't forget the poor.
4. Never despair.
5. Don't pursue what you don't need.
6. Protect others in friendship.
7. Reach out to the world and reach for the sky.

So to end the same was he does in the book what are you waiting for!

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

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