As arguably the second best-known Jesuit in America, FATHER JAMES MARTIN might be both the most unlikely and most well-positioned sage to guide our relationship with social media.
For a guy with half a million followers on Facebook alone, and who was the unofficial chaplain of “The Colbert Report,” Father Jim rolls up his sleeves and gets in it with us.
It’s hard to imagine that Ignatius of Loyola, when he founded the Jesuits, ever could have imagined that his order of “contemplatives in action” would someday be involved with the celebrity industrial complex that our globalized, hyper-connected world would create.
My relationship with social media can best be described by “should.” I should go on less. Should have better boundaries. Shouldn’t look at it in bed. Should, should, should. But it’s hard.
So I’m mighty thankful that guiding lights like Father Jim are meeting people, like me, where I am.
It could be his Philly roots, but Father Jim’s wonderfully approachable, joyfully humorous, straightforward style is deeply engaging. An Ivy League graduate, who is an articulate intellect, Jim is everything good about the gritty city of his boyhood—a city that values being a straight shooter, being “real” more than just about anything. In our weird times where so many are aggressively selling themselves online, Jim is a beacon of authenticity.
I was first drawn to him when he pulled back the veil of the priesthood in his bestselling My Life with the Saints. His candid writing about his own struggles with the vows of Poverty, Chasity and Obedience left me breathless in its stark contrast to the tenor of my childhood Catholicism.
He brings this same openness to our conversation. Father Jim talks candidly about the real temptation of fame in the online world. He credits a strong foundation of contemplative practice with helping him guard against it.
Jesuits are called to meet people where they are. And it’s pretty clear in 2016 where most of us are. On platforms designed to be addictive, how do we engage with each other in a way that leaves us full instead of empty?
Ours is the first generation tasked not only with figuring out the answers, but, perhaps more importantly, ensuring that we’re asking the right questions: Can virtual community be healthy? When does it denigrate our relationships? To what extent can an online community nourish us? And most importantly: What is real, authentic love?