Wordle & the Word of God

The newest social media trend has users logging onto Wordle on a daily basis to see if they can guess a five letter word in only six attempts. It works like hangman, essentially, in that you choose letters, their proper location within the word, and the algorithm kicks back which errors you make. After a series of elimination, you get the correct word and a shareable link that will show your social media followers a graphic indicating how accurate your guesses were and how many attempts it took you to get the secret word.

As a word nerd, I’m a big fan of this fad. As a Catholic, I’m even more excited. Why? Because wordle is giving us a blueprint to evangelization.

Since the inception of accessible Internet, the Church has issued numerous charges for us to lead the world in online evangelization efforts. And we have certainly charged forward. We’ve created online learning platforms to learn the faith. Our parishes found out how to bring Church into our homes during the unprecedented pandemic. We have mastered the art of podcasting, social media marketing, and other online evangelization efforts in droves.

We’re producing so much content right now, it seems impossible for the world not to notice.

And yet, as many Catholic online outreach organizations and low follower count social media evangelists will tell you, the world isn’t noticing as much as we would like it to.

Enter wordle.

The key to wordle’s success on a global scale is found in three unique characteristics:

1) It Makes Us Think

John Paul once wrote that “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Fides et ratio). Our entire belief system as Catholics is a synthesis of logic as it leads us to even deeper truths about the world.

The process by which we come to the correct wordle is primarily a game of logic. We activate our reason to achieve the fullness of our desire– to figure out the dang word!

Evangelization is no different. Our balance of faith and reason allows us to not only experience the world, but to understand it as it relates to our fullest existence in Christ.

In other words, through logic the world will ultimately seek the source of all creation– and we need to be there to help them figure it out!

2) It Builds a Community

I first caught wind of the wordle phenomena on when I saw the unique graphic being posted across every demographic of my social media feeds. From super holy religious folk to the most secular of souls, almost all of my online peeps would post the grey, yellow, and green boxes of their word work that day. It was cryptic, like being on the outside of an inside joke, which sparked my curiosity. Like the pagans said to Paul in the Areopagus, “You are bringing some strange notions to our ears and we would like to know what these things mean” (Acts 17:20), so too was I like “You are bringing some strange box graphics to my social media feed and I would like to know what these things mean.”

So I went to the website to pursue the knowledge that would link me to the worldwide community obsessed with this word game.

3) It is Quick

Look, I have no qualms with anyone who wants to read the Bible, the entire works of Chesterton, or the whole Catechism in a year. But if that’s your first invitation to a hopeful convert, that level of commitment might lead them to run the other way quicker than the 5G connection they’re scrolling on.

Wordle takes less than a minute to play and share. It’s the perfect time crunch activity to do when you’re waiting in line at the store, during a commercial break, or when you’re on the john. Quick, easy, effortless– all good things when it comes to getting a simple message across.

And yes I realize that the Catholic faith is an endless land filled with countless jewels that can be mined for eternity. Time dedicated to knowing, loving, and serving God can and should take up all the hours in our day. After all, didn’t St. Paul tell us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5: 17)?

My point isn’t that we should limit the richness of Catholicism to a one minute piece of content, but that if we want to be successful in converting the digital world, it’d be wise to make our online evangelization simple.

One bonus reason why wordle is effective that needs no explanation:

4) It’s Fun.

A good online evangelization effort will tick all of those boxes. Heck, an in-person evangelization effort would too! Which just goes to show us that the best way to proclaim the Gospel is to take what’s working in the secular world and to baptize it. It’s how missionaries have operated for centuries. It’s how digital missionaries can do it now!

Head over to wordle and do two things for me:

  • 1) See how many guesses it takes you to discover today’s five letter word and
  • 2) Pay attention to the four points I made in this article.

If my calculations are correct, there’s a good chance you’ll discover a deeper understanding of another five letter Word – one that became flesh so that everyone, be they Catholic or not, might have eternal life.

I hope you won’t need six guesses to figure that one out.

image: Wachiwit / Shutterstock


T.J. Burdick the author of several books and articles on the Catholic faith. He writes and speaks on how to grow in holiness amongst the distractions and difficulties of the current age. When he is not spending time with his family or writing books, you can find him teaching courses on the Catholic faith through Signum Dei (signumdei.com). For more about T.J., visit his site at tjburdick.com

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