INTERVIEW WITH ANTONIO GONZÁLEZ, by Catholic.net, on opusdeialdia.org
Madrid, May 6, 2009 – (Section “Analysis and Current Events”) – Interview with Antonio González, creator/administrator of opusdeialdia.org and Consultant to the Vicar of Opus Dei in Madrid.
He is one of the top 10 persons with the most number of friends on Facebook worldwide, a weighty description which does not go unnoticed in social networking sites. His apostolate is rather advanced in the Net: apart from being Adviser to the Opus Dei Vicar of Madrid, he publishes in more than 40 blogs, administers 20 web pages and is technical adviser to more than 100 sites, Industrial Engineer by profession, he is a numerary of the Prelature and administrator of the well-known website www.opusdeialdia.org –
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: One of the Catholic institutions that has most taken advantage of the Internet in order to communicate the Gospel with full energy is precisely Opus Dei. In www.opusdeialdia.org, the site which you founded and administer currently, we find an efficacious example of what it means to have a huge increase of cybernauts who visit the site. How was www.opusdeialdia.org born?
–Antonio González: On seeing the growth/boom of the Internet, I created a personal blog called <Soy del Opus Dei> (‘I belong to Opus Dei’) [http://soydelopusdei.blogspot.com] in which I responded to questions about God, the faith, family, vocation, Opus Dei… a kind of consultation spot. The originality of the blog consisted in that I published the questions and the answers. But not only those “in favor” of a Christian vision of life, but also virulent criticisms, to which I tried my best to give answers with affection and understanding. The blog kept on growing and many people began resolving doubts about the existence of God, wanting and deciding to be Priests, wishing to receive a more intense Christian formation, discovering their vocation as ordinary Christians within Opus Dei, etc.
So I also began a webpage during those times so people could read e-books of spirituality, books for prayer, books on John Paul II, Benedict XVI, various prayers, devotionals, etc. I called the page http://www.dudasytextos.com (Doubts_and_Texts).
I saw the huge demand that there was for a Christian vision on the Net, since a lot of people were entering into my little blog and my page for books reading. Thus, I decided to put them together in one website: OpusDeiAlDia (lit. “Opus Dei up-to-date”) which began in January of 2007. Since then, the Bible had been downloaded by 10,000 persons, the Missal-cum-Lectionary by 5,000.
Today, this webpage is entered/visited by 5,000 distinct persons daily, and has 4,000,000 hits/visits since Jan. 2007. I send monthly a newsletter to more than 6,000 subscribers.
In 2007, on seeing how the young ones each time searched less via Google and more on YouTube, I launched myself onto the world of videos. Now I have 4 video channels on YouTube with 88 videos, 200,000 views of the same, and 320 persons subscribed to those videos on those channels [translator note: http://www.youtube.com/videosopusdei]
In 2008, when I noted the impact of social networking sites, I got into some of them. I use them to spread my webpages. Concretely, I got into Facebook, which I think is the most significant: there I’ve got more than 4,500 friends…
This has helped me to widen my network of collaborators all over the world. And it has permitted me to direct a wider network of volunteers which helps me with my sites and blogs. The opusdeialdia group within FB now has more than 700 members.
Since I wasn’t capable of answering all those questions which came to me —some 100 mails daily—, in August of 2008 I incorporated a Forum within the site, where I would leave the various questions that were coming to me daily.
There, 10 users tirelessly answer all those doubts and questions which are asked. If not for them, the Forum wouldn’t have worked out. The ones who respond to questions range: from an Uruguayan Mom with many children, to an 80-year-old Priest from Spain, to a young, recently-married man, a 17-y/o boy or a 23-y/o girl. Thanks to them, the Forum has carried about 8,000 distinct messages since August of 2008.
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: I believe the following question leads to the objective of opusdeialdia.org. What difference is there between this site and many others related to the Prelature? What does a visitor find here that he doesn’t in the other?
–Antonio González: There are a number of differences, some I have commented on before: –My page is a personal initiative and I appear in it, with my photo and my profile, as I do in the various social networking sites; –My site is not the “official” Opus Dei website but rather a personal initiative. In fact, I’d had to ask the Information Office of Opus Dei to place a link to me from their site, and I’ve had to be told that they link only to official pages of the Church’s institutions: an answer which I understand perfectly well. —People can ask questions and they get answered immediately. —That they can ask whatever they want to ask (there isn’t any censorship, but, yes, a lot of respect.) All questions, even the “offensive” ones, are published, along with the answer. —They can send videos of personal testimonies, they can comment in the Forum on any news, enter the group in Facebook and upload photos or comments, etc. So, it’s a highly interactive site. —Right now, I can’t think of any more differences, the rest will have to be explained by the moderators of this site and the more than 300 webpages which have linked to opusdeialdia.
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: Whoever enters opusdeialdia.org bumps into information related to the Work, but they will also find many other resources for their Christian formation, and they can even debate via the Forum enabled for this purpose. What can you say about this ?
–Antonio González: Yes there are tons of resources for Christian formation. There are multi-faceted contents: audio Rosary, devotionals, Latin & Hebrew & Aramaic dictionaries, Greek & Latin Bibles, works of St. Augustine and of St. Thomas Aquinas, of Fathers of the Church, Encyclicals and books of the Popes, especially those of Benedict XVI and John Paul II, books on the Eucharist, on the Mass, the Passion, Our Lady, arguments on current issues… A little bit of everything…
As I may have said previously, I think the Forum is very enriching for the readers, as their questions appear answered by 7 or 8 different people. All are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and to the Pope, but each one has his/her own particular outlook.
There are many and varied questions: about the Christian vision of sexuality and pre-marital relations, about mortification, prayer life —many ask for prayers—, about various Church movements, asking for books for downloading, etc.
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: Your work in the area of mass media (digital communication) is not limited to those of the sites which we have been mentioning. Could you please make reference a little bit to your work in other sites, mentioning the more relevant ones?
–Antonio González: I also have experience in spreading other webpages with a Christian vision of life. I am consultant to webpages of Colleges, Universities and Centers of formation, so that they may obtain a better positioning when they are searched via Google. I have created courses of formation and have come into contact with business organizations dedicated exclusively to webpage positioning, so they may land as one of the first results in Internet search engines.
I spread these through social networking sites, principally via Facebook, a site that is particularly interesting. For this reason, I have created and promoted certain groups: Vatican.va, Catholic.net, Interrogantes.net, Aciprensa, Zenit and Fluvium, among others.
I help out in initiatives of all types. For instance, I have an Aunt who is a Dominican nun in Segovia (Spain). One day, I went to see here and she asked me what can be done with these new technologies so that many vocations could come to her convent. It occurred to me to take out the mobile and I took a video in which she spoke, about why she became a Nun and about the love she has for Jesus Christ. Soon afterward, I did a blog about those Dominican nuns in Segovia and attached that video and other news. I marketed the blog and voila! an explosion! 776 webpages and blogs putting links to that blog. It appeared in some 10 e-newletters in Spain, they did a couple of interviews with her on the radio, and one Sunday there came out a full-page article in full color in the most circulated newspaper in Spain!
Now, when you Google search “vocation nun”, the top 2 results that appear include the blog that I did (at least that’s the google result in Spain). This has encouraged many young girls to write her via email, asking for more information about the vocation to be a Dominican nun.
I’m ready to help in extending and spreading initiatives of this type through the Net. Whoever may need my help and advice can find my email on the lower part of opusdeialdia.org.
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: How did you get to start this work, and what has moved you to persevere in it?
–Antonio González: How I began, I’ve already said above. What has motivated me? Spreading good content on the Net [has made me realize that] many people are desirous of hearing about Jesus Christ.
For instance, there are people who Google search phrases such as: “I want to become a Priest”. I would much prefer that these persons find a helping hand, who would know how to help them, instead of one that would snuff out that flame which has been enkindled in his heart.
I do all this, trying to drown evil in an abundance of good, that is to say, making many people come nearer to Christ through the internet, instead of straying from Him through this means…
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: Social networking sites are also your field of action. You are found in practically all the more important ones and, in one of them, perhaps the most known, you’re on the top 10 of those with the greatest number of “friends” globally. In the message of the Pope during the World Communications Day 2009, Benedict XVI speaks precisely of this means which is the Internet and calls upon us to promote a culture of respect, of dialogue, and of friendship. Web 2.0, concretely those social networking sites: are they making possible a more effective marketing/promotion of these objectives? How can a Catholic contribute to this? What are you doing about this?
–Antonio González: In the cited message (World Communications Day), Pope Benedict XVI said: “It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent”. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm.”
It is precisely this that I try to do: evangelize this <digital continent>. And those social networking sites are a means of getting there. At the start, all of us may have been rather reluctant to have a mobile phone, but today almost everyone has one. Afterward, it was a struggle to open an email account, but now almost everybody has one or several. Well then, with social sites, I think something similar will take place: almost all of us will get into them. And I think that it’s better to get there at the start, rather than at the end.
Seeing these tendencies of social networking sites, I’m ending up profiling this week a site which combines Facebook and WordPress or Blogger. That is to say, one which permits whichever user to come in and do his own blog and, in addition, his profile is like that of the social sites: he can upload photos, leave comments on others’ profiles, “friend” other users, etc. It would be a site in order to talk about life, family, education, marriage, religion… But I’m still finalizing technical details.
A proof of the importance of these social networking sites is that the campaign done in the election of Obama found its key in the Internet: a social site was created for and by the supporters themselves, through which they were able to solicit donations. The biggest Facebook group right now is the Fans of Obama group. All his speeches were being published in that site as he spoke (with text and video).
—Jorge Enrique Mújica: To your judgment, what else can a Catholic do at a personal level, in order to take advantage of these modern technologies so that he/she may propagate the message of Christ with better results?
–Antonio González: By participating in the new opinion generators which are found on the Internet. Having one’s own blog; putting one’s comments on those blogs and forums which he/she reads. Publish new content; having one’s profile on those social networking sites and intervening whenever opportune, for example, to defend Pope Benedict XVI when he is unjustly attacked, as has been happening lately.
Sending letters to those mass media (means of communication), mobile text messages to TV programs which permit texting, lending support to good initiatives through, e.g., financial donations… taking over “the announcement of the Gospel with enthusiasm”, as we have cited, from the message of the Pope.