We are living in a fast-changing world. St. Francis of Sales is said to have stated that ‘knowledge is the eighth Sacrament for the hierarchy of Church’. With the growing digital world and the coming of AI, Church leaders cannot be on the other side of the digital divide. Digital literacy is paramount for pastoral care in the 21st century.
The Church confidently looks upon the possibilities of evangelization offered to us by the digital world. Digital life has become central to the faithful and given its strengths as well as dangers the need to develop pastoral response is very important. We cannot generate old fuga mundi or escapist approaches to the growing digital life in our society. The challenge is to embrace an incarnational approach and develop prudence or what Aristotle called phronesis or practical wisdom that will be a guide as one navigates through the digital environment.
We need to think about our faith through the logic of the web. The digital world today is not just a place that we go to during our leisure. It has almost transformed our experience of life. Face to Face experience is replaced by the next best thing. The first-hand experience is replaced by the second-best thing. It has indeed put our life on acceleration. Our experience of time has changed.
We have passed from Orality, Literacy to Electracy. During the oral stage, our experience of time was circular. We needed the knowledge to return to us often to be able to fully grasp it. Past was important to us during our oral stage. With the finding of alphabetical writing, we stepped into linear time. It made us look into the future. Today we are lost in an endless now because of the digitization of everything. Our experience of time makes us drown ourselves in the present. Everyone is having the world at his or her fingertips with a smartphone. Digital life is no longer distant to us. It has entered the intimacy of our life and hence no pastoral care can be blind and deaf to its influences. It digital world exploded over us and we need to develop pastoral response quickly and fast.
The challenge is to enable the Christ faithful to discern and discover ways of being light and salt in the digital world. The priest as a leader of the faithful has the task to make the church digitally present as their people especially the young manifest natural and spontaneous affinity to the digital world. This is why priests as leaders of the church have the challenge to accompany the youth as they explore the digital world.
To be able to be effective guides, priests have the challenge to learn the beauty of digital communication. It will open several possibilities to bring the digital world to the service of the Word. While effectively tapping the potentials of the digital world to serve the ministry in the church, priests also have the challenge to become guiding lights that foresee the dangers that lie hidden in the digital world. The digital world does multiply out reach and hence can become the best tool for the leaders of the church to be all things to all people.