Brandon Vogt is a fellow Floridian and lives relatively close to where I do. We have never met, but I did win a free book (Confessions by St. Augustine) from one his blog giveaways. I just wanted to say congratulations and thanks for the book!
Article from the Orlando Sentinel
In the three years since he converted to Roman Catholicism, 24-year-old Brandon Vogt has become a well-known Catholic blogger and the author of a soon-to-be-published book on the church and social media. Now he has been invited to Rome by the Vatican.
Vogt will be one of 150 bloggers worldwide to participate Monday in a conference in Rome on the future of the Catholic Church and new media.
To Vogt, a mechanical engineer from Casselberry, the conference is like his book come to life: a recognition by the Catholic Church that social media are the method God has chosen to speak in this day and age.
"I take the blogging conference as a big sign that the Vatican recognizes we're behind [other denominations], and we need to get on board," Vogt said. "It's the most potent tool the church has ever had in its arsenal to reach the world."
His book, "The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet," includes contributions from 11 other Catholic bloggers whom Vogt met through his own blog, The Thin Veil. Scheduled for publication Aug. 1, the book includes sections on role of new media in evangelism, faith, community and activism.
Some of the book's contributors also will attend the Vatican conference, which includes panel discussions by Catholic bloggers from around the world and Vatican officials. It follows today's beatification of Pope John Paul II, which is a step toward his sainthood.
During the beatification ceremony, the Vatican will demonstrate its embrace of social media with YouTube videos, blogs, tweets and streaming video of the event. Vogt sees this use of social media by the Vatican on the eve of the blogging convention as the fulfillment of Pope John Paul's own advocacy of new technology.
"New media is going to open up the world to people in ways the church has never seen before," Vogt said. "The question is whether the church is going to be there or be absent."
The Catholic Church has been slow to adopt social media as a means of spreading the Gospel and attracting people to the church. The interactive nature of Twitter and Facebook have been a concern for church officials who fear those forms of dialogue can become forums for anti-Catholic diatribes.
When the Orlando Catholic Diocese, for example, started its own Facebook page in 2010, it allowed only "fans" and not "friends." You could read what the diocese was doing, but you couldn't speak back.
The church is going to have to overcome its fear of what people might say if it wants to use social media to spread the word of God, Vogt said. Social media is all about conversation and dialogue — which makes it different from the books, radio and television that came before it.
"[New media] enables people around the world to share, comment on and discuss a wide variety of topics," Vogt writes in his book's introduction. "Unlike any of the past technologies, New Media is grounded on interactive community."
But Vogt also cautions that social media have their drawbacks. Some elements of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — forms built for short attention spans — go against the principles of spiritual contemplation such as prayer, contemplation and meditation.
"The church should use these tools of social media enthusiastically but prudently," Vogt said.
The Catholic Church announced its plans to hold the blogging conference about three weeks ago and invited Catholics participating in social media to apply online. A week ago, the Vatican posted on its website the names of those chosen to attend.
Brandon's name appeared 17th on the alphabetical list between Bohdan Pankevych and Carol Glatz.
"It was like middle school, going down the list to see if I made the cut," Vogt said. "I turned to my wife and said, 'I'm going to Rome.' "
He will be going to Rome on his own dime. The invitation did not include plane tickets or lodging.
Nonetheless, the opportunity to participate in a Vatican-sponsored conference is a thrill and an honor for Vogt, who became a Catholic in 2008, the same year he graduated from college, got married and moved to Orlando.
"I'm profoundly excited," he said. "To see something like this coming together is exactly why I wrote the book."