As is his custom, the Holy Father today, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales (patron of writers and journalists), released his message for World Communications Day, which is marked this year on Sunday May 24, the Feast of the Ascension.
I want to dedicate this year’s Message to the theme of storytelling, because I believe that in order not to get lost we need to breathe the truth of good stories: stories that build, not destroy; stories that help to find the roots and strength to move forward together. In the confusion of the voices and messages that surround us, we need a human narrative, which talks to us about us and the beauty that lives there. A narration that knows how to look at the world and events with tenderness; that tells our being part of a living fabric; that reveals the intertwining of the threads with which we are connected to each other.
Man is a narrating being. Since childhood we are hungry for stories as we are hungry for food. Whether they are in the form of fairy tales, novels, films, songs, news…, stories influence our life, even if we are not aware of it. We often decide what is right or wrong based on the characters and stories we have assimilated. Stories mark us, shape our beliefs and behaviors, they can help us understand and say who we are.
Man is not only the only being who needs clothes to cover his own vulnerability (cf. Gen 3:21), but he is also the only one who needs to tell himself, to “put on” stories to keep his own life. We do not only weave clothes, but also stories: in fact, the human ability to “weave” leads to both fabrics and texts . The stories of all times have a common “frame”: the structure includes “heroes”, even daily ones, who in order to pursue a dream face difficult situations, fight evil driven by a force that makes them courageous, that of love. By immersing ourselves in stories, we can find heroic motivations to face life’s challenges.
Man is a narrative being because he is a being in the making, who discovers and enriches himself in the plots of his days. But, from the beginning, our story is under threat: in history evil winds.
“If you eat, you will become like God” (cf. Gen 3: 4): the temptation of the snake inserts into the plot of history a hard knot to untie. “If you own, you will become, you will reach …”, those who use so-called storytelling still whisper today for instrumental purposes. How many stories narcotize us, convincing us that to be happy we continually need to have, to possess, to consume. We hardly notice how greedy we become of gossip and gossip, how much violence and falsehood we consume. Often on the frames of communication, rather than constructive stories, which are a glue of social ties and the cultural fabric, destructive and provocative stories are produced, which wear down and break the fragile threads of coexistence. Putting together unverified information, repeating banal and falsely persuasive speeches, striking with proclamations of hatred, human history is not woven, but the man of dignity is undressed.
“The Holy Spirit, the love of God, writes in us. And writing in it, he fixes the good in us, he reminds us of it.” — Pope Francis
But while the stories used for instrumental and power purposes are short-lived, a good story is able to cross the boundaries of space and time. Centuries later, it remains current, because it nourishes life.
In an era in which falsification proves increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels ( deepfake ), we need wisdom to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to repel the false and wicked ones. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread between the many lacerations of today; stories that bring to light the truth of who we are, even in the ignored heroism of everyday life.
…The history of Christ is not a heritage of the past, it is our history, always current. It shows us that God has taken man, our flesh, our history to heart, becoming man, flesh and history. It also tells us that there are no petty or small human stories. After God made history, every human history is, in a certain sense, divine history. In the history of every man the Father reviews the story of his Son who came down to earth. Every human story has an irrepressible dignity. Therefore humanity deserves tales that are at its height, at that dizzying and fascinating height to which Jesus raised it.
“You” – wrote Saint Paul – “are a letter of Christ written not in ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets, but on tables of human hearts” ( 2 Cor 3: 3 ). The Holy Spirit, the love of God, writes in us. And writing in it, he fixes the good in us, he reminds us of it. In fact, re-cording means bringing to the heart , “writing” on the heart. By the work of the Holy Spirit every story, even the most forgotten one, even the one that seems written on the most crooked lines, can become inspired, can be reborn as a masterpiece, becoming an appendix of the Gospel.