The Faith Goes High-Tech

When Christ told His disciples to spread the gospel to the entire world, He didn’t specify how. Modern apostolates are using any means necessary to evangelize, including CD-ROM, wireless and DVD technology, and a cell-phone service that can provide you with the examination of conscience if you called it from the confessional line.

When Learning is Fun

Such means seem particularly effective in conveying the gospel to the young.

Just ask Tom Ayral.

“I brought my four children 'The Living Gospel' CD-ROM while they were doing their homework,” said Ayral, a software salesman from Oak Park, California. “The 9-year-old played with it for about an hour and a half, and the 5-year-old went through the story and asked if he could play it again. It blew past all my expectations of it.”

What Ayral likes best about the product is that, unlike other commercially-available educational software, this one “makes it fun to learn about Christ's life and the Christian story.”

Produced by the former executive of the Creative Communication Center, Fernando Uribe, the CD-ROM is an interactive animated compilation of the gospel for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Uribe co-wrote and directed all of the Creative Communication Center's popular animated saint videos.

“Sometimes, The Living Gospel, Uribe said, allows parents not to have to insist too much about learning the faith.

“You don't have to beg your children to play with the CD-ROM,” he said.

Featuring full-color images, the CD is separated into 11 chapters that tell the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension. As the story is told, different images appear on-screen. The computer user can click on various elements within the story to learn more. For example, when the Nativity story's wise men are selected, they introduce themselves as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

In addition, Chapter 6 contains an interactive loaves-and-fishes game. Children use the computer to help the disciples feed the hungry.

“Most games have children shooting people for entertainment,” Uribe said. “Here they are being introduced to the apostles and feeding people.”

Seven Prayers in Seven Languages

Dede and Wayne Laugesen of Boulder, Colorado, are aiming for even younger children with their DVD “Holy Baby: Seven Prayers in Seven Languages.” The inspiration for the DVD came from Pope John Paul II's declaration of October 2002 to October 2003 as the Year of the Rosary. Hoping to create a product that would encourage prayer and help others learn about the rosary, the Laugesens originally set out to create a full-length adult DVD on the development of the rosary. When their efforts seemed to go nowhere fast, they prayed for focus. Afterward, everything fell into place.

“Within 10 minutes after our prayer, the whole project was marked out on the grease board before us,” explained Dede Laugesen, a former broadcast journalist and now a mother of four. Instead of producing a DVD for adults, they ended up creating one for young children.

Working with a professional photographer, an animator, musicians and a technician, the Laugesens produced a DVD that introduces children to the seven prayers of the rosary — the Sign of the Cross, Apostles Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Fatima Prayer and Hail, Holy Queen — in seven different languages: English, French, German, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The product is modeled after the “Baby Einstein” products the Laugesens had seen being used with their own children in the church nursery. “Holy Baby” uses an animated baby dressed as a nun, Baby Scholastica, along with visuals, music and prayers to captivate young viewers and teach them to pray.

Catholic Exchange on the Move

The Encinitas, California-based Catholic Exchange, the popular Web portal, is capitalizing on a technology that more and more people are carrying everywhere they go — the cell phone. By so doing, they are following Pope John Paul II's lead in being the first American organization to offer Catholic content via the wireless telephone.

In early 2003, the Pope began sending brief daily inspirational messages via Italian wireless telephones. The messages became so popular among young people that they were later offered to Irish subscribers. The Vatican hopes to soon offer the service in Brazil.

In October, Catholic Exchange began offering Catholic Exchange Mobile via Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile wireless telephones. For a $5.99 per month fee, subscribers to the service are able to access a vast amount of content including but not limited to Catholic Exchange's daily Catholic news, Vatican news, the Saint of the Day and a live image of the Blessed Sacrament. In addition, the mobile service also provides an archive of Catholic prayers and devotions that are not available via Catholic Exchange's Web site.

The beauty of the content, said Catholic Exchange's editor and president Tom Allen, is that people do not have to be tied to their computer.

“A huge majority of Sunday-going Catholics are not sharing in the wonders of catechesis and evangelization,” he said. “With Catholic Exchange Mobile they can access those faith resources whenever it's convenient for them.”

Allen admitted to accessing an examination of conscience and the prayers said before confession via his telephone while recently standing in line waiting for the sacrament of reconciliation.

“It's like having a prayer book, concordance, Bible and Catechism,” he said, “at your fingertips.”

Tim Drake is features correspondent with the National Catholic Register and editor of Saints of the Jubilee available at 1stbooks.com. He resides in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

(This article originally appeared in the National Catholic Register.)

Tim Drake

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Tim Drake is an award-winning journalist, the author of six books on religion and culture, and a former radio host. Widely published, and a long-time contributor to the National Catholic Register, he serves as Senior Editor/Director of News Operations for the Cardinal Newman Society.

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