There continues to be a lot of debate on the merits of using social media for reaching the unaffiliated and growing our members as evidenced by a recent article. This past weekend when news of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others dying in a helicopter hit the news - it was social media that allowed us to grieve as a community.
As a Laker Fan I'd watched Kobe make the sign of the cross when his name was called when the line-up was announced at the beginning of games for years and knew he was Catholic. But, for many other fans they had no clue that he was a member of the Holy Catholic church.
The very first post about the death of this global icon that posted to my personal feed came from Bishop Robert Barron.
Then less than an hour later my Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the new president of the USCCB also posted a message.
Seeing these posts were a source of comfort to see our church leaders to offer our traditional prayers for someone who dies in such a public way on social media. The next day my own pastor, Monsignor John Barry posted too. This post was not about condolences, but how Kobe served as a model for our faith because he made going to Mass a priority. Even though he and his daughter were participating in a basketball tourney later that morning they visited his parish to pray before leaving. Monsignor Barry's Sunday homily had included him recounting a conversation with a young person who said he attended Mass as long as it didn't interfere with his soccer. So many families are struggling with competitions being in conflict with Mass times.
Then a post from @CatholicConnect with a quote from Fr. Dave Barnes who shared how attending Mass provides many with the comfort and consolation that Kobe and Gianna had a personal relationship with Christ that gives so many a sense of peace that they rest with the Lord.
Lastly, Bishops from California, Nevada and Hawaii are in Rome for their AdLimina and they all joined together to offer prayers from the Vatican for the Bryant's and all the families affected by the tragedy.
In this instance social media has been a great tool to share the grieving of such a beloved athlete and to exhibit that the #mambamentality included heading to Mass being the priority over the sport. So many families are placing their kids' sports commitments over attending Mass and having the G.O.A.T of basketball setting a standard is a great example of this medium serving as a new way evangelize in more subtle ways - that resonate for a new generation.
May we all be inspired to share our faith more boldly on social media and to make Mass a priority in your life like Kobe did.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them.
May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.