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Storytelling that speaks to the soul

Opinion

That you may tell your children and grandchildren (Ex 10:2) is the title of the World Communications Day message released by Pope Francis on the feast of St Francis de Sales (patron saint of journalists) on January 24.

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In Australia, the Church will celebrate World Communications Day on May 17.

Unpacking this year’s theme of storytelling, Pope Francis says stories leave their mark on us; they shape our convictions and our behaviour. They can help us understand and communicate who we are.

‘Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us,’ he writes.

‘Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together.’

Little did Pope Francis know when he wrote his message that it would have such relevance just a short time later when the world was changed abruptly and radically by the coronavirus pandemic. All of a sudden the need to ‘rediscover our roots’ became all too poignant.

While the pandemic has given rise to stories of despair and fear as the death toll has risen, it also has spawned countless stories of hope and goodwill, of generosity of spirit and of sacrifice.

We’ve found different ways to tell our stories and stay connected – Zoom and House Party gatherings, live streaming, social media – as well as old-fashioned singing from balconies and talking to neighbours across the street or over the fence.

While every story is important in its own way, as a journalist whose reason for getting out of bed is to tell stories, there are some that touch your soul and are so worth telling that they write themselves.

One such story is that of the Faraguna family who, in their darkest hour, put their faith in God and turned to prayer. When I first saw Adam Faraguna’s email on my computer asking for a priest to pray for his father, at a time when churches were closed, I could feel his pain and knew that somehow his request had to be followed up. To hear that his father Paul is now out of ICU and hopefully on the road to recovery is wonderful news. To be able to tell this family’s story is a privilege.

Another story this month that will stay with me for a long time is that of Howard Hendrick, a war hero and living legend who goes to bed every night thanking God for his good fortune. I had heard about Howard from my Loxton connections over the years and knowing how special Anzac Day was to him I decided to give him a call and see what he was up to. It was one of those conversations where you just can’t help but smile!

And then there was the story of my friend and colleague Debra Vermeer who “prayed” a book about her overwhelming sadness at not being able to have a child. Adept at telling other people’s stories, Debra has opened up with her own very personal story with the aim of helping others in the same situation.

Prayer is a common and timely theme in this month’s edition, coming as it does in a time of pandemic and in May when our focus as a universal Church is on praying the Rosary.

Our page of prayers for young people recognises that just as reading a book to your child is one of the greatest joys of being a parent, so prayer is one of the greatest gifts we can give children. It helps them make sense of the world around them, it teaches them humility and gratitude and, most importantly, it gives them hope.

I think for many adults, praying can be one of those things that we take for granted a lot of the time. You say the words or think the thoughts, which is calming and comforting, but it’s not until you really need them that there is this gut-wrenching desire to communicate with God at the deepest level.

Thankfully, only twice in my life have I had this experience: once when my brother had emergency surgery on both his eyes and was in danger of losing his sight, and again when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. In both cases, prayer helped me through the worst of these times.

As Pope Francis writes: ‘Telling God our story is never useless: even if the record of events remains the same, the meaning and perspective are always changing. To tell our story to the Lord is to enter into his gaze of compassionate love for us and for others. We can recount to him the stories we live, bringing to him the people and the situations that fill our lives. With him we can re-weave the fabric of life, darning its rips and tears. How much we, all of us, need to do exactly this!’

Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day can be found at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au

 

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