The Angelus, Jean-François Millet, 1859-60
Musée d'Orsay, Paris [Web Gallery of Art]
I have received many messages on Facebook, through texts and emails about luck, eg, ‘Please pass this on to 10 persons and after three days you will receive luck’ or, especially on FB, ‘If you really believe, pass this on to others’ or ‘If you believe, press Amen’ etc.
Thank you for your question. What you ask about are high-tech versions of a very old phenomenon: chain-letters. I get quite a few but never pass them on. Most are an expression of good will and concern from friends, accompanied by prayers. That's good and I usually thank my friends for remembering me.
Just today I received an FB message, a photo with this message: ‘One day you’ll be just a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one. Type ‘Yes” if you agree.’
There’s nothing wrong with the first part of this. But ‘Type “yes” if you agree’ is a mild form of ‘blackmail’, laying a guilt trip on the receiver. The sender clearly has only good intentions but why should I as a receiver be asked to type ‘Yes’ and perhaps be made feel a little guilty if I don’t?
Many of the FB messages and emails of this kind that I receive are connected with saints, eg, St Thérèse of Lisieux, or with the Blessed Mother. They sometimes say, things like, 'Send this to ten people in ten minutes and you will receive a special blessing within two days,' as in your question. This is a distortion of our Christian faith, though well-meant. We cannot earn God's love. The First Letter of St John says, ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 Jn 4:10). We're saved by God's unconditional love, pure gift, shown in Jesus dying on the cross for us. We're not saved by sending emails, text or FB messages to our friends! I have a friend in the USA who kept sending me this kind of email. I know her to be a devout Catholic. However, one day an email arrived from one of those on her email list asking her gently not to send any more of that kind. I then emailed her to tell her that I thought the same way as her friend. She understood.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Devil is behind all of this, rather a misunderstanding of our faith and of God's love that is beyond what we can imagine. I think it's wonderful to know that even if I'm the world's greatest sinner God still loves me. But once I have even a small idea of the fact that God loves me unconditionally, then I want to do God's will. We find the same thing with people who love us. We want to return their love, di ba?
A more harmful variation of this is with some 'healers' who tell poor people such things as 'offer up a chicken/pig/whatever and your child will get well.' Or 'say some huge number of prayers. If you don't, something will happen to you.' Quite possibly the Devil is a little more involved with that, though the 'healer' might not be aware of that. It certainly doesn't come from God.
Our prayers cannot 'force' God. Real prayer acknowledges God as the source of everything. The model for all prayer is the 'Our Father,' taught by Jesus, God become Man. It's basically a prayer to submit ourselves to God's will.
On the other hand, modern technology enables us to share lots of good news with our friends, eg, links to uplifting stories. We can also send links to stories about the difficulties Christians and others may be face in a war-torn world. This can be a way of sharing the Gospel, sometimes challenging us. But we can also be overwhelmed by a deluge of such messages, in which case we can simply delete them, which doesn’t in any way hurt the sender.
Blessed Mother Teresa (from 4 September ‘St Teresa of Kolkata’)
Christ says: I know you through and through – I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to me, I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your need and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his own image. [Source: The Living Spirit]
Blessed Mother Teresa on Prayer