When a "Godincidence" went viral ...
The other day, we published an article about Fr. Goyo Hidalgo (a Spanish priest serving in the archdiocese of Los Angeles) and how one of his tweets about a “Godincidence” went viral—he called a wrong number and ended up reaching someone who needed to talk to a priest, but was afraid to call. He tweeted about it, and the story ended up all over social media and Catholic websites.
Aleteia reached out to him by email with a few questions about this experience, and he kindly replied, sharing with us what it’s like to have God work through him and through his mistakes.
Aleteia: What has it been like to have a tweet go viral like this?
Fr. Goyo: Well, I don’t know if this was viral, but it always surprises me that these things become this big news because, to me, they are normal simple actions of God that happen every day. We just have to be open to being an instrument of God’s actions through us. I have had other tweets that were also viral, but again, to me, it was a very normal day to day action of God in our lives. I love these stories because it is very clear that the whole “viral news” is obviously not about me, but God using my mistakes.
A few years ago, a similar story happened to me. I went to the hospital to anoint a sick person, only to know later that it was the wrong room. Hours after the person went to confession, received communion and got anointed, she passed. It was on December 31. It was a great story that went viral, but again, obviously not me. I made a mistake. I was not the hero. God used my mistake once again. God’s love for us and His actions should go “viral” every day because He loves us through ordinary things and if we see through these things, they become extraordinary.
Has this tweet led to more people contacting you to talk?
Yes and no. I get at least 100 messages a day on social media as it is. People are thirsty for God, but they don’t know how to approach Him and they always want to talk to a priest. Twitter makes it easier for them to communicate with a priest and I am happy to answer them all. Before I go to bed, and almost as part of my prayer, I go to the chapel and I pray for the people who sent me messages and I answer them right there and then. It is an amazing ministry.
When you started using Twitter, did you imagine the impact some of your tweets would have?
Not really. I am a bit goofy and I love to joke, so I kind of started using Twitter for my friends and family, but then I discovered the amazing effect that social media has in our “new” evangelization, so I started posting a lot for messages of Hope, Faith, and Joy. It has helped me tremendously to know how to bring the Gospel and the joy of God to those who might not receive it hadn’t it been for social media. I really love this way of evangelization. God can and will use our own experiences of life to reveal Himself to us and social media is part of how we experience the world today.
I tell all my friends not to be afraid to use social media for evangelization. In fact, I have given several workshops on “how to use social media and still remain Catholic” (that was the title). It is amazing how much we can bring the Gospel message to others and at the same time not to feel overwhelmed by social media. It can be done. It should be part of how we evangelize.
How do you keep a healthy balance when it comes to using social media as a means of evangelization without letting it distract you from the rest of your ministry?
I schedule certain moments when to post and spend time on social media. At first, it was difficult, but you get used to it. It is a habit; plus like I said before, I incorporate it in my daily prayer. Now I don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on Twitter. Many of my posts are stories and examples of how I meet God in my daily circumstances so it helps me to be attentive to God’s actions in and through me daily, in the simplicity of life. I use a lot of things that happened to me when I was a child that, in hindsight, were ways of getting to know God. I speak of my conversion, my difficulties and my joys in this journey to God, so it is easy to relate to others and their joys and struggles. It is simply living and inviting God in whatever I do, so I just do whatever I have to do on that day being aware of the presence of God, so I don’t have to spend too much time on social media. I just simply tell my story. That’s easy enough.
A priest called the “wrong” number … and God made great things happen.
A 4th-century model for our Twitter debates: Why we shouldn’t shy from them