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Cultural trends open the door to spreading the joy of the Gospel

Being creative in evangelization means thinking differently, and reaching others in new ways. Sometimes it means connecting via outlets popular in the secular culture.

Take for instance last summer, when Pokemon Go was all the rage. The mobile game, which uses augmented reality to collect virtual creatures, attracted millions of users — driving swarms of players to unsuspecting churches, businesses and other landmarks. A number of parishes in the archdiocese welcomed visitors who stopped on their grounds in search of virtual Poke Stops.

Pokemon seems to be a mere distant memory, and a new creative trend is slowly replacing it this summer — hiding painted rocks in public places as a measure of spreading kindness to others. That joy is extended into social media, with Facebook groups and Instagram pages documenting the activity's hide-and-seek elements. It's a perfect combination of the analog — putting down our devices to create — and the digital — picking up our devices to connect with others on social media.

Teens at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Ferguson painted inspirational messages and images on dozens of rocks to share with 4,000 other teens attending the Steubenville STL Mid-American youth conference in Springfield, Mo. Those lucky enough to find one of the painted masterpieces were encouraged to share it on Instagram. (Follow the group's Instagram account steubystlrocks.) Likewise, the St. Louis Review got in on the activity and started a Facebook group to share these messages across the archdiocese. (Catch us at Catholic STL Rocks! on Facebook.)

In his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), Pope Francis called us to "abandon the complacent attitude that says: 'We have always done it this way' ... to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization."

His words ring true, but we also see that this must be done with an optimistic attitude. Sometimes we recognize cultural trends as unimportant (Pokemon is a prime example, in our opinion) — but taking an optimistic approach helps us to see the value and good that can come of these small efforts.

As for the rocks, Our Lady of Guadalupe youth minister Lorena Jimenez noted: "You never know, somebody might pick it up and they're having a bad day and it might encourage them in such a way — maybe they're waiting for a sign."

We must be that sign to others, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem. Ultimately it might serve as a bridge between the secular world and the joy of the Gospel message. 


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