Just twelve months ago today, the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, I was at the Cathedral in Liverpol for the visit of the relics of St Therese. Now, five days after the conclusion of Pope Benedict's visit, it seems clear to me that, given the media hostility that preceded both events and their subsequent success there is an important lesson to be learned about the generally "invisible" nature of reality, as far as the news media are concerned.
It is not entirely true to say that we humans see what we expect to see but it is nevertheless largely true.
One of my favourite stories concerns the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Some have speculated that they did not recognise the risen Lord because He was somehow disguised. Others suggest that some miraculous or supernatural event prevented them recognising Him. I have long suspected,however, that what prevented their seeing Him as Himself was their belief that He was dead and that dead men just don't come back. It was only when Jesus had explained the likelihood of His rising- as indicated in the scriptures- to them- and their minds were thus opened- that they saw Him. In other words, it is all about mind set.
Pope Benedict's homily in Westminster Cathedral was rich beyond words- yet commentators seized upon just one part of it, the reference to child abuse., to the exclusion of anything else. They found what they were looking for. It was the subject upon their agenda.
From time to time one comes across Catholics who are critical of the Church or of the Holy Father. After a little inquiry it becomes obvious that, quite unthinkingly, they have swallowed misconceptions current in the media. Sometimes one doesn't have to scratch very deeply to uncover them. References to the Holy Father's "policies" or "opinions" is generally a give away.
But it can go deeper. Before the Papal Visit one could easily be forgiven for thinking that Pope Benedict was walking into an overwhelmingly hostile country where even Catholics would prove apathetic if not, even, hostile. Things turned out differently and the images were so clear as to be undeniable.
There are doubtless many features of modern life which contribute to increasing secularism and worse but the values implicit and promoted in the media are, in my view, the chief cause. I hope and pray that by turning out to welcome the Holy Father last weekend we contributed to breaking down the media assumptions that hinder the progress of truth in our countries.
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