YouTube is more than popular. It's epidemic. Every day thousands of Average Joes broadcast themselves to the world. Millions more view them. Even presidential politics is playing out on this stage. YouTube is a window, revealing the contour of humanity, the terrain of "the world," as in "go into the world and make disciples."
What YouTube reveals is a humanity that is wandering, having lost Due North, lost its moral compass and searching for identity — but as lost and searching as they are, it is where they may be found. If the first century A.D. had YouTube, it's where St. Paul would have set up shop.
It is where Google has set up shop — at the cost of $1.65 billion for the opportunity to advertise on this new mass media, emphasis on "mass." Among the thousands who broadcast themselves and the millions who watch, are some looking for distraction — an anesthetic from their sense of mortality and incompleteness. Others look to connect — to be part of something bigger than themselves. Google just looks to sell. But at least advertisers have a message and they are trying to connect with an audience.
What about us? Do we have a message? Our faith tells us that we do. A message and mission. That brings us to the core of our own identity crisis. We've forgotten who we are. The truth is we all yearn more deeply to encounter who we essentially are. We may have the script and be well-versed in Church teaching and what we're supposed to do. But if we're honest, there are moments of great disconnect. We may be suffering our own loss of Due North under the shadow of a "faith" associated with external obligation, with something cold and impersonal, ritual without relationship. Many of us are bewildered — in the wilderness — and yearning to recover an experience of our identity.
Christ was sent into this tragic situation. He came into our wilderness. He came to remind us and to give us an experience of who we are. He is God's revelation of man to himself. John Paul II was a champion of the power of human experience, confident that an authentic encounter with human experience would lead people to Jesus Christ, our Polestar. We would be naturally inclined to mutual, self-giving love. We would live out of the experience of this Great Mystery: we only find ourselves by losing ourselves. Where do we find this compass and Due North? The family.
I can really only speak from my experience. People often exclaim, "Six kids! In seven years? Don't you have a TV? Are you from Utah? How do you do it?" Experience with our first child was a radical lesson that our time is not our own, nor is our money, our sleep, our energy… our lives! Each additional child merely put another exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Dying to self, we experience the Mystery, an exhilarating life in death. So have others. Quite often our house is full of people. They are drawn to this vitality. They share in it and help bring it about. They are uplifted and edified by our children who respond to them as they would to a present on Christmas. Most notably, this "evangelization" is not a stretch, not a plan, not even a conscious thought. It flows naturally from who we are.
Family is where our compass is calibrated. Family is the God-given occasion for us to encounter Him who is the true, Due North. The life we possess is a participation in God. Family is the sanctuary where this icon and image of the Trinity is encountered and nurtured. Do more than think about this! Drown in it. Explore that place where you so completely uncover your incompleteness (original solitude) that it impels you toward completion (original unity), which is a participation in the inner life of the Trinity. And what do we find in that place? The very essence of sexuality. As John Paul II intimated, the heart of the sexual urge is the urge for completion. Imagine if the same powerful force driving the porn industry was ordered toward its proper end? Every knee would bend. Holiness would spread throughout the planet, as it would be the most natural inclination of humanity.
When Christ came to reveal man to himself, He came into a family and into a story, for every family is the bearer of a story. The story of Christ is the center of history, but every family story is a strand in the great story God is weaving through time.
In the stories of our grandparents and parents we encounter God and discover or recover our identity. There is real power here. A few years ago, a young man asked if my film company would capture the amazing story of his grandparents. At a young age he had already navigated through some very difficult times, and — like the rest of the YouTube generation — yearned for identity, seeking it through the familiar, natural, medium of film. Though we had many "big" opportunities on the table, the experience of helping that young man find himself in the story of his own family was so powerful that we concluded nothing is bigger than one family. We had found Due North and redirected our faith-based film company toward productions which capture a family's story (www.IDVidPro.com/DVDLegacy).
The story doesn't end there. Recently the young man graduated from the Catholic University of America. He had discovered his identity, largely in the story of his grandparents, and became naturally active in Catholic ministry. This fall he will be entering the John Paul II Institute.
If you are a parent or grandparent, your story is a precious heirloom to pass along to future generations. The values you lived by, the struggles you have endured, and your advice and counsel is the story that God is telling through you. You have a message and a mission. Go into your own family and make disciples.