THE APOSTOLATE OF THE RADIO
THE RADIO AND THE QUESTION OF RELIGIONLike the press and the cinema - indeed more so than them even if it is a new arrival - the radio has already assumed a preeminent and unrivaled place in the life of today's world. Given its indisputable characteristic as a "universal vehicle" of culture and ideas, it was rightly called "a sower of good and evil that casts its seed to sprout in the world."
It is beyond dispute that the radio has sown good in the world and continues to do so. In many cases it is proving to be a wonderful and productive medium of instruction, education, civilization, universal brotherhood, and apostolate.
But it has sown a lot of harm and continues to do so! Just as with the press and the cinema people have made the radio a lethal weapon that harvests victims for the kingdom of Satan. Actually, quite a number of moral
disasters find their origin here! So many times, in so many nations, there have been conflicts because of radio's approach to religion and its cavalier treatment of morals!
Were proof necessary it suffices to examine radio programs worldwide and reflect on their effects on the major part of radio listeners.
From all parts of the world come complaints from people - some more or less official, others more or less authoritative - but they accomplish nothing.
Other people reacted with noble ideals but lacked the courage to implement them when faced with the difficulty of the task. So, very hurt or resigned to the situation, they let things slide, trusting in the intervention of divine Providence.
Others, most people, took no interest in it at all while a sizable majority sided with the listeners, and even when the topic, music or comedy offends their religious feelings, they cannot make the effort to give it up.
Few people concerned themselves in a manifest and constructive way. So it was that this laborer looking for work was not always employed for the true, the good and the beautiful - for God and souls - but often for the world's use and misuse.
The need for a sense of direction
The need and, indeed, the duty of Catholics to intervene is clear from the above. But not by way of unconvincing criticism or simply by passive resistance. Such action has to be helpful, intelligent and organized; its base is action, prayer and sacrifice, because what needs to be done is to demolish in part what is already constructed and then to replace it with a material that is more refined and noble, such as our religion offers us: Catholic dogma, morals, and worship.
This is, in other words, a work of defense, improvement, and conquest.
Work of defense: this is a prudent and charitable enterprise which aims to convince the authorities - the managers of national and international radio stations - and the public, to keep to a minimum the scandals and sins caused by the radio. It is true that broadcasting, because of its simply auditory nature, is not as insidious as the cinema, yet it is no less true that what you cannot see or read you cannot listen to either.
Work of improvement: to make known and to spread Catholic broadcasts; particularly those of Vatican Radio.
Work of conquest: seize every means, supernatural and natural, to consecrate to God's glory and the best interests of people this
gift of God's power so as to make it a powerful means of apostolate. "The progress of the arts, of the sciences and of human technique are all true gifts of God and must be ordained to his glory."1
What needs to be done is to set up Catholic stations and increase religious broadcasts, to gradually penetrate the world of radio broadcasting in such a way that ordinary programs reflect Catholic tastes, feelings and thinking. To this end we need executives, technicians and writers who are trained in a Catholic way.
Faced with an organization of Catholics, who propose such an aim, our opponents could object that the radio, as all other inventions and discoveries, is not just for the use of Catholics but for the benefit of all peoples and nations, independently of the religion they profess. In defense of their actions they could also show that they are not held to consider the feelings of Catholics when the vast majority of radio listeners have diametrically opposing tastes to theirs.
This is not the place for useless discussion. The organization and the means that our opponents have will overpower us anyway, even if we tried very hard to prove that the Catholic religion is to be respected
inasmuch as it is the one that conforms most to natural moral principles and to the truth.
The best solution is to act courageously, trusting in God alone.
An example of this has come to us from North America over the past ten years. In an almost completely Protestant environment, a select group of Catholics proposed to confront and to solve this important problem of the radio and pledged themselves to broadcast without pay. What at first seemed impracticable is commanding the attention of American listeners day by day and is achieving unexpected moral and material success.
Why could this example not be imitated in all countries?
Initial attempts and new visions
Fr Vittorio Facchinetti, radio's first apostle, and now the Bishop of Tripoli, wonderfully grasped the work that awaits the Catholic apostolate, especially in the field of winning over the radio.
Initially he launched his idea in the Frate Francesco magazine on the need to consecrate this wonderful gift of God to the apostolate.
He tells us what was contained in this article
in his book La radio e l'apostolato religioso.
We quote here his exact words:
"Commenting on the saying attributed to Bishop Ketteler, 'If Saint Paul were alive today he would be a journalist', I made it quite clear that our greatest saints would, if they were alive today, grab the microphone and, in a spirit of fervor and joyful exultation, launch their message of peace and good will to the whole world. I then went on to remark how everyone knows that the radio is a prodigious vehicle for opinions and for speech. It is thus fitting and we have a duty to attempt to use it for announcing the word of God to people and to have this marvelous instrument serve the noblest and holiest of causes, which is the evangelization of the nations. How can we not think of Christ's command to his apostles: 'Preach my gospel to all creatures: what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops': 'quod in aure auditis prœdicate super tecta';2 and not consider that it was reserved to our century, we could say, to implement the Teacher's command, and to give practical expression to God's prophecy: 'My word will be heard throughout the world.'
"In effect, the voice of the preacher which starts out from the silent and sound-proof broadcast studios radiates outwards on the power of sound waves with the rapidity of lightning,
scales the roofs of our houses, is picked up by a receiver antenna, and, in a more or less melodious and high-pitched tone, penetrates the walls of our houses and reaches our ear and our heart. We do not know if this voice reaches the dark depths of the universe, crossing the immensity of space and mastering the din of the storm and the hurricane... but what we do know is that we hear this voice around us even if we are in the remotest part of our home, even if we are confined to bed through sickness, even if we do not want to trouble ourselves to go to church. Actually, for those who have deserted this church for years and who perhaps today would not know how to find their way back there, the radio is a useful tool to shake them out of their indifference, to enlighten them in their darkness and to get them to resolve to think, to reflect and to change their life."
After mature consideration, Fr Facchinetti courageously presented himself to his superiors and obtained permission to use the radio to announce the word of God. This permission was at first restricted, later extended to an association of helpers and, little by little, achieved its present expansion.
The enthusiasm that this new form of apostolate has sparked, the results it has achieved and what it promises for the future can be ascertained, in part, from the edifying and moving letters which Fr Facchinetti has collected and on which he has commented
in his already mentioned book: La radio e l'apostolato religioso.
This work, which was started by the zealous Franciscan and carried on by so many of his confreres in the apostolate and in the priesthood, merits the warmest applause and leads one to hope for a greater expansion in Italy and its imitation throughout the world. A hope that the radio be utilized not only as a fruitful instrument for broadcasting, education and civilization, but also and especially for preaching God's word to all the peoples spread throughout the world.
Thus the radio opens up for the Catholic apostolate a future full of promise.
1 Pius XI: Encyclical Vigilanti cura.
2 * Cf. Mt 10:27.