Fr. Jacob Dankasa – My Blog

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

We celebrate Pentecost to commemorate the action of the Holy Spirit as He stirs the people of faith and removes their fears in order to empower them to live out their faith with pride. As people of faith, when we allow the Holy Spirit to stir us, we fly without wings to become His instruments, to allow Him to use us to stir others to holiness. To live out our Pentecost answers a call to take action and live out our faith. As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, I want to re-share these updated thoughts of mine.

There are various ways to live out our faith in the spirit of Pentecost. Here, I will recommend one way to demonstrate our faith particularly — using the social media, a refreshing trend that is changing the face of our society today. The social media today are one of the largest platforms for finding and interacting with thousands of humans within the shortest period of time without regard to geographical boundaries. Hence, there is arguably no better platform today for a broader outreach in evangelization than the social media. Whether you succeed in evangelizing a soul or not is another issue. But never underestimate the power of trying!

Sharing pictures is one of the activities users engage in on social media for different good reasons, though there are some who tend to be uncomfortable when people frequently share their pictures and activities on Facebook. They criticize them as just trying to show off. I wonder why there is such criticism when one of the chief purposes of Facebook is to encourage sharing (I add: decent sharing). If you’re uncomfortable with people who share their pictures and stories on Facebook, then I think you probably are in the wrong place.

Having said this, if you’re a person of faith, here is another good reason for sharing. I want to invite you to bring into social media an experience of Pentecost. As part of living out our Pentecost experience, I recommend that people of faith consider developing a practice of taking photos of themselves at beautiful locations around their church facilities as they attend weekend masses (or worship) and post these photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any social media they belong to. Let the world know that you are at church. This is not hypocrisy, this is not mere showing off — this is evangelism. The world should know how much you cherish your faith and how proud you are of the God you serve. No shame, no regrets! If there is anything to show off, let your God be first.

If we’re all convinced of who we worship, then we must demonstrate that we belong to Him. And no place can be more appropriate for showcasing this today than the social media. One thing is certain: I may not be able to see the inside of your heart, but what I see from the outside can either cause me to move toward God or away from Him. You cannot know how much influence you have on others and what the Spirit can do through you on social media. Don’t undermine the work of the Holy Spirit, because He lives — even on social media! You never can tell how many people will begin to go to church because you do. Pictures speak a thousand words — never underestimate the power of an image. Many people don’t have the courage to publicly demonstrate their faith, but that is what the Holy Spirit has come to help us with: to burn away our fears and our shyness, and — as He did for the pre-Pentecost apostles — fill us with courage to “renew the face of the earth.”

So, when next you go to your place of worship, let the world know that there is a God that you dearly serve — show him off! As we celebrate Pentecost, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to bring decency and civility into our relationships and interactions with one another on social media.  #HolySpiritInvadeSocialMedia

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When I was growing up in Nigeria, soccer (popularly known as football in the rest of the world) was the ultimate sport. I flipped channels each time I saw American football played on ESPN because I didn’t understand it. After I came to America, it took me some time to understand American football. But once I began to understand it, I found it very interesting. As a Catholic priest, I was even more drawn to it when I heard about the “Hail Mary” pass. I like the concept of the Hail Mary pass, now figuratively used in American football. In fact, I was fascinated by it. Unfortunately, it rarely happens. I tried to know more about how the concept of the Hail Mary pass was popularized in American football. According to Wikipedia (citing other sources):

“A Hail Mary pass, also known as a Shot Play, is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success. The term became widespread after a December 28, 1975 NFL playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, when Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach … said about his game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, widely believed to have pushed off, ‘I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.’”

Wikipedia added that the use of the expression goes back to around the 1930’s, and is used to describe “a long, low-probability pass…attempted at the end of a half when a team is too far from the end zone to execute a more conventional play, implying that it would take divine intervention for the play to succeed.”

It’s amazing that one person’s usage of the term “Hail Mary” to publicly show divine intervention in a game has become a concept that’s used today to describe a jaw-dropping and exciting play in American football. For me, as a Catholic, I liken it to the acknowledgement of our Blessed Mother’s intervention role in the lives of her Son’s followers. Intended or not, the Hail Mary pass shows the value of the Hail Mary prayer, because the prayer itself predates the usage of the concept in football. We can always go through our Blessed Mother for a last second victory, not because she is God, because she is not, but because she will intercede for us to her Son, the Son of God.

In the gospel of John 19:26-27 when Jesus entrusted his mother to John and John to his mother, a mutual mother-child relationship was created. The gospel tells us that from that moment “John took Mary into his home.” Like John, Catholics should make devotion to Mary a daily part of their family and personal lives. During this season of Lent – and beyond – we should take devotion to our Blessed Mother into our homes. Twenty-four seconds before the end of a game, a 50-yard ball was thrown, a Hail Mary was said, and a near-impossible playoff game was won. When you are seeking God’s intervention in your life and in your family, consider seeking the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Pray the rosary always. And as St. Pio of Pietrelcina (one of those who understood the greatness of devotion to the Blessed Mother) would say: Pray, hope, and don’t worry.

Friends, Christ threw a Hail Mary pass in the last seconds of his life by giving her to us as our mother. So, catch the Hail Mary pass and take her home for a touchdown of relationship and devotion. It will be a victory like no other.

The book “Technology for Ministry: Best Practices for Evangelization on Social Media and the Internet in Africa” is now available both in hard copy and Ebook version and can be obtained online on Amazon here

Book Brief:

With the rise of citizen journalism, the blogosphere and the social media, anyone can write and publish on the Internet. This raises the question of information quality. Religious information is one of many victims of online misinformation. In a time of information overload, how do you distinguish what is quality and credible information and what is not? How do you distinguish real news from news designed to mislead? How do you identify or verify credible sources online? This book answers these questions and provides a how-to guide for clergy, religious and lay faithful on the best ways to assess and identify quality and credible information from online resources. It provides suggestions from a professional and religious perspective on how to engage in the decent use of the social media. While the title of the book focuses attention on the African audience, the book itself is written with a global perspective, especially to benefit people of faith worldwide who are interested in the decent use of the tools of the new technology to interact, to learn, to teach and to find credible information.

About the Author

Rev. Father Jacob Zenom Dankasa, Ph.D., is a Catholic priest ordained in 2004 for the Catholic diocese of Kafanchan, Nigeria. He has served as diocesan director of communications and diocesan chancellor for the diocese of Kafanchan. He has worked in pastoral roles in parishes both in the diocese of Kafanchan and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, USA. In addition to bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and theology, he holds a master’s degree in mass communication from St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, USA, with concentration in new media convergence, public relations, and global media. He earned a doctorate in Information Science from the University of North Texas, USA, with specialization in human information and communication behavior, and information theory and designs. His research interests include new media in organization; information behavior; social/community informatics; and usability/user experience in information systems. He has conducted research on the information seeking behaviour of the clergy, the use of new media and mobile technology for learning and for evangelization, and online social networking in faith communities. He has published several scholarly research papers in top international peer-reviewed journals on topics of information, communications, technology and the use of social media.

Modern media have penetrated every sphere of human life, and they are influencing the way things are done. By modern media I mean the new media technologies (social media, smartphone/tablet technologies, apps, online games, etc.) which are convergent of the traditional media (television, radio, newspaper, etc.). Central to this convergent media is Internet technology. Because the influence of the modern media is both positive and negative, this article enumerates both the pros and cons of these modern media for the family. Young people of today are certainly born online and raised by technology. This paper is aimed at helping families, especially those raising children, develop a strategy for harvesting the benefits of the growing technology innovations and preventing their pitfalls. The goal is to nurture the family in an online environment guided by ethical and moral values of decency and respect.

The Positive Influence of New Media Technologies for Families

  • They create opportunities for networking among families to keep them together regardless of geographical distance.
  • They have provided families with tools that enable them to form family prayer groups online through group blogs, group chats and conference calls.
  • More families are able to own personal electronic bibles that can be used anywhere and anytime. These can be used for individual or family reflections to enhance and encourage growth in the spiritual life.
  • Modern media tools can be used to create small Christian support groups (e.g., WhatsApp and Facebook pages and groups).
  • They bring families very close to sources of information.
  • New media have exposed more grass-roots people to the process of engagement, especially in democratic and political landscapes.
  • Through social media and the Internet, more people and families find connections that lead to the acquisition of jobs, enrollment in institutions of learning and other opportunities which were previously not possible.

 The Negative Influence of New Media Technologies for Families

  • New ideologies can be spread easily through the Internet and the social media. These are mostly negative ideologies meant to mislead the gullible. They include atheistic ideologies, religious extremism, social behaviors contrary to faith and nature, and other ideologies opposed to family values. Those which promote false sense of independence from one’s culture and family are especially dangerous.
  • In the developing countries of Africa, for example, there is the eroding of cultural values which are replaced by foreign, and often, misunderstood, cultures because they appear flashy on the Internet. Losing the sense of respect in manner of speech, and the distorted understanding of beauty through immodest dressing and disrespect for the body are examples of this cultural erosion.
  • The new technologies provide more access to pornographic and obscene images and videos which takes away intimacy in marital relationships and replaces it with sensual pleasure derived from imaginary objects presented on a screen. A British newspaper carried out a survey which revealed that 66% of women have watched pornographic videos, while nearly nine out of ten men (88%) do the same, and a quarter of them watch such videos every day (The Sun Newspaper, April 2, 2009). This trend is growing worse with increasing access to the Internet through mobile devices.
  • There are many websites today that connect people for sex and immodest dating. These are connect-online-and-meet-offline-sex-matching websites. Through the Internet, cheating is now easier; for example, AshleyMadison.com is a website that facilitates extramarital affairs. When the identities of users were exposed several years ago, many were family people. Similar sex-matching websites are expanding to other parts of the world. These types of websites encourage adultery and destroy the family.
  • Pedophiles infiltrate the Internet and commit sexual crimes with vulnerable children.
  • The growing use of mobile phones and chat applications for sexting is a destructive trend. People send nude photos of themselves with others, sometimes with strangers. This is carried out by both children and adults. This is a dangerous trend that works against decent family values.
  • Modern media can take away good human relationships. Some people may relate more to their smartphones than to members of their family. In such situations, someone other than the parent or other family member, may have great influence over a child, a husband or a wife than his parents or spouse. Never underestimate the danger that such external influences can pose to the existence of a family.

How the Church Can Help Families

Despite the negative influences that the modern media are capable of exerting on the family, I strongly believe that the benefits of the new media technologies outweigh the negatives. We live in a generation that is highly influenced by the new technologies, and this trend will only grow, not slow down. Young people of today are born into this movement of technology take-over. In the future, that may be all they know and use. What is needed is to teach people how to use these new media technologies to engage in positive activities that will help, and not destroy, them. The challenges are even greater for African families because of the gap that exists between the young and the old in technology adoption in Africa. The gap between young Internet-savvy users and parents is presumably large among African families, considering the interest level difference between the old and the young and the age gap of Internet users in Africa. This gap between young and old Internet users is gradually closing in the Western world, though it is still wide. But the excesses of usage may even be more difficult for African families to control because many people in Africa access the Internet on private cellphones, not through computers that can be guided and controlled by parents or supervisors.

The negatives of the new media technologies pose some special challenges to families raising young children. The Church needs to come to the rescue, to help families develop ethical standards on the use of Internet technology guided by Christian values. Below are some suggestions for the Church and its functionaries.

  • Develop and engage families in educational awareness programs on the benefits of the new media and their potential dangers. Parents who are not familiar with how the Internet works are more likely to ignore the dangers. Organize diocesan and parish seminars that target parents and children. These events should be conducted by experts in this area.
  • Promote and encourage families to engage in the use of the tools of the new media. Parents of young children should communicate with their children and have access to their social media platforms. Parents should be encouraged to join their children in using the social media. It is not enough to give rules to children; parents must lead by example. Discuss issues with children in a way that is nonthreatening. Merely stating the right and wrong, or even cautioning young children on the dangers of the Internet alone, is not sufficient to keep them from engaging in unwelcome practices. Parents should teach family values to their children on the Internet. Therefore, participation of parents in social media is very important.
  • Families should be encouraged to organize family activities frequently to increase the bonds among family members (e.g. sports, reunions, and celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries of marriages). This may likely minimize dependency on media technology that may be harmful to family relationships. This type of dependency removes an individual from the family and places his interest more on a piece of technology or on an outsider. There should be a balance between the use of the new media and participation in family activities.
  • Families should be encouraged to use a variety of media and resources to check facts about issues. Not everything on the Internet is factual or true. Education on this aspect will minimize the dangers of indoctrination with the wrong ideologies of religion, culture or atheistic values that are often found on the Internet.
  • The Church should provide precise answers to issues that concern faith and morals and educate people on the best and most credible Internet sites or media to use when seeking relevant answers to their questions or concerns.
  • Church leaders (bishops, clergy and religious) must learn, understand and get acquainted with the knowledge of current social, moral and religious issues in order to provide informed answers to people’s questions. Families should be encouraged to seek counsel with their pastors on controversial issues, especially about the Church and society, that are often misrepresented on the Internet. This means that the pastor must be familiar with these issues. There is a need for continuing education for pastors on these issues.
  • Finally, church leaders must learn and practice how to best use the tools of the modern media in order to teach others. Our society is growing more sophisticated through the new technologies. Church leaders that ignore this fact may find themselves irrelevant and left behind in the future of evangelization.

I love the new study that showed the relationship between religion and mental health. The study found that “women who attend religious services, especially Catholic women, are much less likely to commit suicide.” With so much things to worry about in our world today, the Church community can be a place to find peace and consolation. Click here to read the news on the study.

In my church community (St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Richardson, Texas), we have a small gathering place called the ‘forum’. People meet, relax and study in the forum, with coffee, donuts, cookies and free Wifi. But my most impressive moment is what takes place at the forum among some of the older members of our church everyday of the week after our morning masses.

Every morning, many senior citizens of our church community gather together in the forum after the morning mass and share their time together. This is an informal gathering where they have some coffee together and share stories. The joy that radiates from these older members of our community knows no bound. They talk and chat with strength that is unimaginable of people their age, and express their inner happiness in laughter that is so infectious. Sometimes they celebrate their birthdays. Some among them may be struggling with illnesses or the weight of old age, but none of these deters them from this magnificent communal expression of joy which is seen from the energy they exude. Certainly, they have found their strength in their faith community and their joy is unstoppable. Their expressions of happiness and sense of life-fulfillment give me hope that old age is not a burden but a gift. I admire them, I love them and I envy them. May God bless their hearts.

I have talked to a few of them and asked them about the gratification they derive from coming together every morning. The answers I received were amazing. They expressed how they go to bed at night always hoping to be gathered in the morning; they feel stronger when they listen to the stories of others and share theirs; and they find comfort in one another. For some of them, it takes away loneliness and isolation, and makes them feel that life is worth living.

What else can someone of that age ask for than to live life in happiness feeling the sense of a family. This is what the church community is and this is what it should provide. The very elderly in our communities should find a second home in their faith communities, they should feel loved and welcomed. I invite more older members of our community to come share this joy and live life at its best. Make your 80’s feel like 20’s again!

I dedicate my blog post this Holy Week to all senior citizens in our various faith communities. May the Passion of Christ strengthen and brighten your days.

Go and find a home in your faith communities!

The sacrament of reconciliation or penance is a very important sacrament of the Church. The Catholic Church in its teachings encourages the faithful to utilize this sacrament as a free gift of God’s forgiving grace. Going to confessions to receive absolution and forgiveness heals the soul of the penitent. In a state of mortal sin, confession is required before reception of Holy communion, except a grave reason prevents one from approaching the sacrament. In a state of venial sin, however, a good act of contrition can be said before reception of holy communion.
However, as important as the sacrament of confession is, it must not be used as a pretext to remain in the very acts that cause one to sin. One should not feel too comfortable in perpetually committing sin simply because the sacrament of penance exists. Efforts are needed! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1451) states that “among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies first place. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” If you find yourself going to confessions every day or every week, or at any opportunity of seeing a priest, then you may also need to examine yourself if you are making enough effort to stay away from those sins that take you to confessions all the time.
Our efforts to stay away from sin is very important. As we seek the gratuitous mercy of God and are encouraged to approach the sacrament of penance this season of Lent and in this year of mercy, let us also make a renewed effort to abstain from occasions of sin.


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