It’s Ash Wednesday and, for Catholics all over the world, the day that marks the beginning of 40 days of Lent. This year, aside from the customary pledge to give something up, people have something else to keep up for the next few weeks—listening to Pope Francis’ daily audio messages on Telegram, a messaging app.
The outreach is part of the “Keep Lent” initiative organized by the Pompeii parish near Naples, Italy. Users can add the channel @pgpompei to their Telegram feed and listen to the pope read one verse of the Gospel every day, providing them with guidance all the way to Easter.
Last year, the pope’s “Keep Lent” messages were shared via WhatsApp. But those who subscribed have been encouraged by the organizers to download Telegram instead, which they describe as “like WhatsApp, but better.”
In his first message, Pope Francis recommended doing good deeds—albeit privately, without caring for other people’s approval. “When we do something good,” the pontiff said to the 3,600 people currently following the channel, “sometimes we are tempted to seek praise and to be rewarded: that’s human glory. But it’s a false reward because it makes us focus on what others think of us.”
The idea that the one thing to give up this Lent would be other people’s approval, as long as one is doing the right thing, is potentially a provocative idea for the church. With a bit of a stretch, one perhaps could apply it to all of the Catholics who support human rights, such as loving regardless of the gender of the beloved, regardless of the Vatican’s stand on them.