Thank you, Holy Father, but I'm still not joining Twitter

After writing two rather gloomy blogs earlier this week it is good to end the week on a note of hope. “Hope” is a supernatural virtue after all, not just a vague pipedream about better weather or winning the lottery. For Christians, “hope” rests in the promises of Christ and his resurrection from the dead and  two items of news fill me with this kind of hope right now, despite the often depressing features of the society we live in. One is the news of the death, yesterday, of Fr John Edwards SJ of Farm Street, which a friend has just emailed me. I don’t know any details except that Fr Edwards, well-known as a retreat-giver as well as conducting innumerable parish missions (he once came to our parish), had concelebrated Mass earlier in the day and that he was very much looking forward to his death.

This last piece of information is the one that raised my own spirits. Fr Edwards looked forward to death because he longed to meet Christ face to face and for “the life of the world to come”. Death for him was not the final catastrophe that those of no faith sometimes imply. It reminded me of the story of another priest, the late Fr Algy Sheerburn, onetime chaplain to the forces, who chose not to have treatment when he was diagnosed with cancer. The reason he gave was that “All my life I have been told to look forward to heaven and now people are trying to persuade me to postpone the day.”  For me, these are two great examples of men whose priestly lives were a preparation for the joy of eternity.

The second piece of good news is the Holy Father’s Twitter debut. I once briefly tried to join Twitter if “joining” is the right word, but gave up when I couldn’t work out the instructions (I’m pathetic when it comes to understanding my computer). My flirtation probably lasted half an hour before I decided Twitter wasn’t worthy of my contributions anyway. Now I have been suitably humbled by news that Pope Benedict, who regards Twitter as a tool of evangelisation rather than the instrument of an infinity of inanities, has tweeted that the way to celebrate the Year of Faith is “by speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need”.

He then tweeted, in response to the question “How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?” with the response, “We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock on which we build our lives and his love is always faithful.” Finally he tweeted that the way to cope with the demands of life is “to offer everything you to do the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember he is always beside you.” This is simple, sturdy and age-old advice that we need to be reminded of constantly. Thank you, Holy Father, for lifting me from my gloomy thoughts. I’m still not going to join Twitter, though.