A young priest in Italy has become a YouTube sensation, in one of the more unexpected consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, Fr Alberto Ravagnani, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan, didn’t even have a YouTube account. With the closure of his church due to nationwide lockdown measures – Milan is one of the cities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Italy – Fr Ravagnani set up a YouTube account in order to keep in touch with his young parishioners.
Recording short videos on catechesis and spirituality, Fr Ravagnani, who is 26 and was ordained only two years ago, found himself “going viral”. His channel, which was set up on 15 March this year, now has over 72,000 subscribers, and his videos have been watched hundreds of thousands of times.
Fr Ravagnani, who is an associate pastor at the Church of St Michael the Archangel in Busto Arsizio, said in an interview with local media that his newest apostolate was inspired by one of his heroes, St John Bosco. Bosco, who like Ravagnani, worked extensively with young people, devised a variety of activities and performances to hold their interest.
Ravagnani sees his YouTube channel as an extension of that pastoral outreach. The young priest’s new fame has attracted attention from all over Italy, and he’s been featured in every newspaper in the country.
Speaking to the Italian Newspaper, Fr Ravagnani said that his work was about responding to contemporary needs: “Holiness is not an abstract virtue: it is embodied in space and time and we are all called to it, in the here and now.”
Although he accepted that there are dangers associated with the internet, he stressed that priests and catholic educators need to reach people, and young people in particular, where they are. He added that the key to re-evangelising the youth of today, in his view, is clarity, approachability, and distinctiveness.
If we forget that, Fr Ravagnani went on to say, “we risk that the kids won't listen to us: not because they don't want to, but because we're not talking to them or because we’re just telling them what everyone else does.”