Nearly a month ago I traveled to Boston for the Catholic New Media Conference. I have my initial reflections here, but a few things in particular required some further thought. No matter the session or group I was in, over the course of the day, one thing continued to pop up, trolls.
In the roundtable discussion I gave my initial, analogical reflection. We need to be like Bilbo Baggins (I’m not in any way partial to hobbit wisdom). In dealing with the three, rather hungry and slow witted trolls on the way from The Shire. Bilbo, figuring out that they turned to stone at day’s break, continued to engage them in conversation until the sun rose. I made the comparison that when speaking to trolls engage them until the Son rises. It was more comical than terribly helpful especially when five very vocal trolls take over your combox and each has differing views attacking you or each other. Your combox turns into the halls of Moria during the invasion of the goblins, loud, intense and no way out. Engaging them as such per comment would consume your time, your patience, and your charity.
Well, when I arrived back into my hotel room that afternoon, I was catching up on the Liturgy of the Hours before going out for good company that evening. It just so happened that that Saturday was the memorial of the French Jesuits who were martyred in Southern Canada. The Office of Readings was a letter from St. Jean de Brebeuf. He’s writing to his fellow Jesuits on the European continent about the relative nearness of his own martyrdom. Towards the end of the letter he said this,
“My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all.”
Now my mind immediately went to trolls who are above all influenced by some sinful inclination, of different varieties and with different circumstances but all with lack of charity. They are an opportunity for those of us in new media to participate in Christ’s cross, to receive with him the buffets and slanders and misunderstandings. The combox can be a walk up Calvary. A means for us to grow in holiness. Then, trolls are a gift, a means to sanctify us, and when one person is truly sanctified, others around him/her are invited to deeper sanctity (I call this the equation of sanctity. Think of Monica and Augustine, Andrew and Peter, Albert and Aquinas, Ignatius and Francis Xavier.)
Then, in the next ‘hour’ one of the psalms was Psalm 141 which held the title, “A Prayer When in Danger.” I found the first nine verses pertinent. It can be a prayer on our lips when dealing with trolls.
I call upon thee, O LORD; make haste to me!
Give ear to my voice, when I call to thee!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!
Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD,
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Incline not my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity;
and let me not eat of their dainties!
Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness,
but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head;
for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.
When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,
then they shall learn that the word of the LORD is true.
As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land,
so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.
But my eyes are toward thee, O LORD God;
in thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me,
and from the snares of evildoers!
“Keep a guard over my mouth, O Lord” what a great prayer in speaking with a talking to trolls! And I couldn’t have made a better connection to the Biblo analogy if I tried! The psalm does two things: 1) it brings the Lord into the equation and 2) it allows for us to separate ourselves ever so briefly from the frustration of a troll.
I hope these paltry insights are helpful to you. And continue on in your proclamation of the gospel.