Silver Surfers and the Church

Many years ago, when our community was something of a pioneer in its use of internet technologies — everything from videos to online conferences — we tended to assume that ‘the net’ was where we’d encounter young people; and, by and large, it was. As time has gone on, however, we have come to appreciate that there is another group the Church sometimes forgets: the so-called Silver Surfers. Although some older people still feel a little awkward when it comes to contemporary technology, there are many more who don’t; and they have both the money and the leisure to make the most of what the Church offers online. So what does the Church offer?

I think the only honest answer must be: a mixed bag. There are lots of blogs (of unequal value) and resource sites (likewise), plus livestreams of worship and news outlets. But is there anything of particular value to the older person, that speaks to the concerns we tend to have as we grow older? What would be helpful? I ask because we have a couple of new web sites waiting to be launched once our position vis-à-vis Cor Orans is clearer, but I realised yesterday that they need some re-writing precisely because we haven’t done a very good job of thinking about older users. I would welcome any thoughts you have on the subject, bearing in mind that ours are monastic sites rather than general purpose ones.


16 thoughts on “Silver Surfers and the Church”

  1. Your site, together with Facebook interactions and Twitter is exactly what this Silver Surfer needs – your daily prayer often prompts me to think more widely, yet another Benedictine site contains mainly personal prayer requests some of which are heartbreaking like children and even babies with cancer.

    You often have a lot of good Benedictine teaching in your blogs, and I find these really helpful and they often contain humour – keep it up as long as you can. You have my prayers for that.

    What I wish the Church would do is to communicate its teaching and explain things so that the ordinary person in the pew can understand. Certainly, over the years, the ‘mystery’ has gone but recent Mass translations have tried to latinise English with awful effect. I fear for new lectionary translations as I know that my parish priest struggles with some of the lengthy sentences and badly constructed English. For readers like myself I need to understand what I am trying to put over before I proclaim it, and good, natural English is important for that, especially if it is to be used when English is widely used but isn’t the native language such as where pidgin English is used – where helicopter is translated as ‘magimix belong sky’ – what they make of consubstantiation is beyond me and them.

    However, what you do is to communicate, share, and listen; something the Church does not do. In our diocese, parishes are being linked, and Sunday Masses cut largely to one per church. What is going to happen to weekday Masses makes me shudder, yet any plans are unknown, a bit like the mismanagement of Brexit. The bishops seem to be like rabbits caught in the headlights, unable to react, unable to consider other approaches such as allowing part time married or unmarried priests, female deacons or clergy, allowing Eucharistic ministers to hold services during the week or weekends. Communicating with them seems to be totally beyond them, yet I can have quite detailed discussions with my own elderly but despairing parish priest. Until the Church learns to communicate and interact in a way like you do I fear for the future, but you are doing it right and always endeavour to do it better. I wish the Church did.

    • Thank you, John. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and I appreciate your taking the time and trouble to respond so fully. It really ought to be easier for us all to interact — ought to be being the operative phrase. Bless you!

    • Morning John, really interesting and thoughtful post. Picking up on the language issue (magimix) May I ask the country from which you are texting?
      I have previously experienced English as the vernacular in remote parts of northern Canada but not come across the translation issue.

  2. From my experience with (a) Premier Christian Radio, 1m+ listeners (b) large catholic parish, 1,900 weekly mass attendance in six masses (c) my own family, eldest was 98.
    Depends on whether housebound or still active in parish. If the former then two things (1) streamed liturgy (2) connections to parish community.
    If latter then all activities that parish offer.

  3. Catherine I am 82 yrs of age. When I found your site it became a great gift to me. We Silver Surfers can find plenty the word spoken in Gods name translates to what ever age you are. Like speaking in tongues maybe . Keep up the good work whenever your health allows . God bless you.

  4. Well being housebound I have found the live streaming of Daily Mass (not my own parish sadly) a huge help as well as this Blog, the digital edition of the Catholic Herald, the app Universalis with its wonderful audio version all helps especially as my eyesight fails. What I have not been able to find is any kid of forum where I can chat and get to know other catholics in the UK. There seem to be many in the US but the culture difference is so extreme I find them unpalatable and irrelevant. I’m not suggesting you start one but for us older folk shut away from ordinary parish life it would be a real blessing.

    • Thank you, Stuart. We ran a Benedictine Forum for a few years but it died the death, so to say, because we couldn’t interest any of the other monasteries (I wrote to every Benedictine and Cistercian community in the British Isles because, although we were happy to run it and fund it, we didn’t want to dominate it with our opinions and views). A more general Catholic Forum would probably be a good idea, but I don’t know who would be willing to take it on.

  5. Referring to sick and housebound parishioners there is a massive problem. The majority of them have no connection to the internet, and I don’t think that there is widespread screening of services. What they really lack and miss is the day to day or week to week contact. I have been a visiting Special Minister of the Eucharist for about ten years, and after attending Mass myself, took the Eucharist to the sick, but mainly elderly housebound, some of whom I have been visiting for most of the time. It is a real privilege, and I have attended quite a few funerals. What I find happens quite often is that their health deteriorates and they are hospitalised. We have a good system of following up when they are in hospital, but the problems come when they are discharged, either to rehabilitation or to a care home. Often we don’t know when and where they are discharged to, and if to rehabilitation, where they go from there. Often we lose contact unless we have their relatives contact details.

    In one such case, it took me three months to find out where one of my housebound had gone, She was delighted to see me. When we normally visit we take copies of the parish bulletin and diocesan newspaper. Apart from a short eucharistic service we spend time generally chatting, and I think that that is what they really appreciate. When they go into care homes they are often catered for by the local parish, but it is not their parish and the direct link is often broken. Parish priests very rarely visit people in their homes these days, and many religious sisters have moved away due to falling numbers. I have seen this lack of contact affect members of my own family.

    Obviously we visit parishioners from other parishes who move to residential homes in our area, but the relationship just isn’t the same.

    As priests become fewer in number, parishes share clergy and often the number of Masses declines. I used to attend Mass and then take the Eucharist to the sick. Now I have to take the Eucharist to the sick first, and then rush back for Mass. This has cut the amount of time I can spend with each person, whereas before, if it took longer than expected I just had lunch later, but I hadn’t denied them contact time.

    With an ageing population and fewer priests and parishioners prepared to do the visiting, our longest standing and most faithful parishioners will inevitably miss out, and I find it terribly sad.

  6. Sometimes I’d like a website to explain the younger generation to me. I don’t have family and at the moment all the neighbourhood children are just that – children not young adults so I have little contact with young people. At the moment I can’t think of an example from the Church, but it was a BBC article about young people wanting to change the starting time of their schools because the mornings were so difficult for them, that made me wish for explanation.

  7. For silver surfers like me, help with bereavement, loneliness, doubt about what lies ahead both in this world and the next, filling the void of relative inactivity and ideas and connection to helping others. That’s the selfish bits dealt with.
    Reinforcing the Lord’s message of peace, goodwill and love for everyone and that, no matter how one feels, there is always so many people out there who are worse off than one can possibly imagine. They need our help and understanding and, if nothing else, our prayers.
    Your work on Facebook and Twitter and your blogging are so inspirational and have given me guidance and a whole new group of friends.
    God bless and care for you. May the Lord bring you much needed relief from the pain, discomfort and nausea from the sarcoma and the treatment. Peace and love be with you.

  8. I felt a bit sad reading some of the comments here – all heartfelt, but many conveying a sense that the writer feels left out, left behind, or unvalued. I hope that impression isn’t the case: Everyone, whatever age, has a right to be loved and wanted.

    My grandparents and mother are lapsed Catholics, though my grandmother talks fondly of the community support she recieves from attending womens groups, and knit and natter sessions at her local Catholic church, even if she doesn’t attend services. What they seem to value most is having some joy, friendliness, and being cared for. It seems a bit sad that these are not things any of my family associate with church. If a blog or website can somehow give a sense of that spirit, without it all being too personal or needing more resources that are feasible, it seems like it might be some of the way there.

    • Thank you. I think many people have commented in general terms, on what they would like to see from the Church as a whole, rather than what might be possible for us to provide as Benedictines. I take your point about the Church not appearing to offer the kind of friendliness that many encounter in the groups they support.

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