In 1996 in Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II actually entrusted this task to us: “The Church entrusts to communities of consecrated life the particular task of spreading the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the ecclesial community, and even beyond its boundaries, by opening or continuing a dialogue in charity…” (#51) (Foundations, Chapter 4)
It is essential for religious to understand exactly how a spirituality of communion relates to our specific vocation to religious life, because in the 2002 document, Starting Afresh in Christ, “we are reminded that one of the tasks of consecrated life today is that of spreading the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the Church community…” (#28)
The PCSC in Ethics in Internet repeats a definition of the common good from Gaudium et Spes #26 (see also CCC #1906) that can help us evaluate how each of the examples above contribute: “The common good—‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily’” (#3). To this principle is added a complementary one from Ethics in Communications “the fundamental ethical principle is this: The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons.” (#21).
To conclude this introductory session on communal aspects of the new media, Pope Benedict XVI offers a profound reflection on how God can enter into our availability in a radical way that transforms us, and draws us to Him. From Values in a Time of Upheaval:
Yes, we are entitled to rejoice that God exists, that he has shown himself to us and that he never leaves us alone. It is a comfort to know the telephone numbers [and I add, the email addresses] of friends and good people; this means that they are never very far away from us, never completely absent. We can phone them, and they can phone us. God’s incarnation in Christ tells us that God has written our names in his address book, so to speak. We can call him, without needing money or technology. He is always within reach of our voices. Thanks to baptism and confirmation, we belong to his family, and he is always on the line: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt 28:20).
… Jesus promises the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), and he gives him the name ‘Paraclete’ several times in the course of the same discourse. What does this mean? In Latin, this word is translated consolator… The word consolator tells us that we are never completely alone, never completely abandoned by love. Through the Holy Spirit, God has entered our solitude, and he opens a breach in its wall. This is the true consolation, not only a consolation in words, but a consolation in the power of reality. (pp. 163-165).
Consider this example:
Sister Sarah was a patient advocate at a Catholic hospital. She was not responding to messages or complaints. She was missing meetings. Her paperwork was late or incomplete. All of this was because she was caught up in online relationships that had nothing to do with work. She complained that real life was “paper work and angry, demanding patients and staff…nothing but headaches.” The Internet was more interesting, less troublesome and could be accessed when she wanted, without angry reactions from other people.
The document, Fraternal Life in Community states: “Ours is a time for edification and constant building. It is always possible to improve and to walk together towards a community that is able to live in forgiveness and love. Communities cannot avoid all conflicts. The unity which they must build is a unity established at the price of reconciliation. Imperfection in communities ought not to discourage us.” (#26)