By Malin Jordan
As the 46th World Communications Day came and went last week, Pope Benedict XVI's theme about how to achieve effective communication - silence and word - reverberated through many circles of our "plugged-in" society in many different ways.
For the most part, it was business as usual for the secular world, but some Catholic communicators took note and tried to slow down.
I personally went "off the grid" for the entire weekend and didn't answer calls, texts, or emails. Nor did I Tweet, Facebook, publish any web content, read any web content, or watch TV. I didn't even pick up the archaic landline; instead I opted to pop by friends' and relatives' homes to look into their faces to communicate.
In stark contrast to the Pope's message of effective communication, the Montreal student protests (it isn't a strike) embodied a warped sense of communication.
As they move past their 100th day, I doubt they've read or heard of Pope Benedict's message, but their actions presciently show what effective communication is not.
They chant angry slogans, march with provocative and infantile messages on signs, and some of them use violence. All in a bid to communicate to the Charest government about what they want - though I'm not sure anyone understands what they want anymore. (It doesn't seem to be about a small tuition increase.)
With an obscured message and warped sense of communication, the protesters embody everything that is wrong with communication today. They shout for what they want, instead of seeking fair dialogue. They violently assert their message over and above other voices, instead of listening to the concerns of others. And they ignore and abuse rule of law and the proper right of free citizens in a democracy to exercise their right to protest, instead of effectively organizing and using peaceful means to communicate their message.
All of this successfully proves why the Pope's message (published in full on the main page of bccatholic.ca) is so meaningful and needed.
So it was quite engaging when I got back to work and learned of some effective communication that occurred in Montreal on the eve of World Communications Day.
Divergent from the students' belligerent communication, another group of students marched through the streets of Montreal and personified the Pope's "silence and word" message. More than 450 students and four bishops peacefully strode down Ste Catherine Street May 22 with a monstrance showing the Blessed Sacrament front and centre.
Part of the 2012 Montreal Youth Summit, the students accompanied Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine, Montreal Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dowd, Quebec Archbishop Gerald Lacroix, and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, from St. Joseph's Oratory to the Cathedral of Mary Queen of the World in silent witness and peaceful communication.
They weaved their way through the heart of the city while exposing the Blessed Sacrament for all to see and contemplate.
The bishops passed the monstrance between them when fatigue set in. Through their action the peaceful march communicated so much more in a couple of hours than 100 days of antagonism by students who pay the lowest tuition, by far, in Canada.
Echoing Pope Benedict's words that effective communication contains silence and word, the bishops and students communicated this proficiently, engaging passersby and residents hanging from windows, fire escapes, and balconies.
The procession brought out the best in people too. Kyle Ferguson, a coordinator for Catholic Campus Ministry, wrote that onlookers were drawn "out of the mundane and into the mystery and joy of Christian faith." He also noted onlookers applauded, took pictures, joined in, and watched with wonder.
It wasn't a protest; it was a procession communicating the love of the Gospel. It was a light shining in the darkness.
Successful communication does not always need to have the noise of words - the noise of slogans and shouting. Effective communications can embody the silence of action.
In the case of the youth conference and serene marching with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Montreal, the bishops and youth peacefully, and properly, taught many thousands of habitants that effective communication can be beautifully embodied with no words at all.