Don’t Let Wi-Fi Leave Your Prayer Life Dry
Vatican Aide Encourages Setting Aside Times of Silence
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In the age of cell phones and the Internet, the Holy See’s spokesman warns that your prayer life could be in danger.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, made these remarks on the most recent episode of the weekly Vatican Television program “Octavia Dies.”
“There is an interior and spiritual dimension of life that must be guarded and nourished. If it is not, it can become barren to the point of drying up and, indeed, dying” the Jesuit priest said.
“Reflection, meditation, contemplation are as necessary as breathing. Time for silence — external but above all internal — are a premise and an indispensable condition for it.”
Father Lombardi offered these reflections Friday on the occasion of “Pro Orantibus” Day, a day for men and women religious who dedicate themselves to a life of contemplation and prayer.
“In the age of the cell phone and the internet it is probably more difficult than before to protect silence and to nourish the interior dimension of life,” he observed. “It is difficult but necessary.
“For believers, in this dimension prayer, dialogue with God is developed, life in the spirit, which is more important that physical life itself. Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill the body as much as the one who can destroy our soul."
“What is true for the individual person, is true for the community of the Church, true for humanity," the spokesman continued. "If for each one of us it is essential to know how to preserve dialogue with God in daily life, for the Church it is essential to have the sign and reality of life dedicated to contemplation and prayer, and for humanity it is essential to know there are beacons of light, sages and masters of the spirit.”
Without attentiveness to and cultivation of the spiritual life “you will lose your soul," added Father Lombardi. "And today this is a very grave threat, and it is the most irreparable misfortune.”
I tend to agree, but reading WDTPRS actually enhances my prayer life.
Thank you! It’s not mentioned that often how the modern world attempts to suffocate the soul with television, internet, cell phones – all sorts of technology that do not allow the soul to breath or the mind to rest. I think we should all be very careful how we use these and not to grow attached to them. Here moderation is extremely necessary to not flood our souls with the influx of fast moving media.
Pax Christi tecum.
I have to say that I am uncomfortable with the encroachment of mobile phones into our daily lives and that we therefore always be available to other people: be they family, friends, or colleagues. I get the sense that the mobile phone has placed even greater strains on modern relationships by creating new ‘irritants’ such as not responding to the other person’s message quickly enough, or not being available when the other person wants to speak to you.
Obviously there are great gains from the mobile phone but I am not sure that the benefits therefrom outweigh the losses. But, as always, since these losses are less ‘measurable’ in terms of profit and time they are usually disregarded.
There is a very good article on online pornography in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review by Marysia Weber that touches on the effect of electronic media on the prayer life:
“Over time, the use of electronic media has increased exponentially. Each day, people spend hours checking and writing e-mail messages, using cell phones, listening to and answering voice mail messages, pagers, and Blackberries, and using iPods and palm pilots. Society conditions us to respond immediately to the hundreds of messages we receive daily. Society has also influenced persons to believe and imitate what they see and hear on television. Watching television, playing computer games and Internet surfing often lead to dissipation rather than refreshment and relaxation.”
“Indiscriminate reception of images also dulls the mind and moves the will to the emotional reactivity of the sensual appetites. If passive reception predominates, emotions may overcome the capacity to reason and the imagination becomes uncontrolled. Spiritually, this is called sloth. Simply defined, sloth is a sluggishness of the mind that neglects to begin a good action. Saturation of the senses promotes an aversion for the things of the spiritual life. The person who suffers from sloth may no longer even strive to live a life of virtue.”
Craigmaddie: I have to say that I am uncomfortable with the encroachment of mobile phones into our daily lives and that we therefore always be available to other people
I agree, and that is why I operate on the principle that the cell phone is “for my convenience, not yours”. So I feel free to not answer it (and later check my messages), and also to limit who gets my number.
I have noticed a recent trend with people who call my office phone, and when I do not answer (because I am not there), they leave a message, but then when I get back later I see on the caller ID that they also subsequently called a few more times — I guess to see if they might catch me. So impatient! Back when I was in the business world we were taught to respond to our calls within 24 hours at most, but within the same day as possible. Even when I follow that principle now it seems it is not fast enough for a growing number of folks. This is what the electronic age has brought upon us, and articles such as Fr. Z has posted here and you have pasted in your comment are helpful for us to read as reminders of the need to slow down and use modern means of communication in moderation and not become enslaved to them.
And now even the haven and sanctity of holy Mass has been breached by countless cell phones going off, even during the consecration. I think there is something devilish about that. We never used to have to worry about that before. I see no possible end to that violation.
The best thing for my spiritual life, outside of the sacraments of course, has been learning to turn off my computer when I’m not using it. It sounds silly, but really it’s true. When it’s on I feel a certain need to use it, also I play online games and keep in touch with friends from college online so there is no lack of things to do. Turning it off has given me a certain freedom from that, and this came at the advice of my confessor. (On top of all that, waiting for it to boot up and connect gives me time to say the Prayer Before Connecting to the Internet!)
We have to be selective and prudent. Tech advances have their uses as long as we don’t lose ourselves in them.
As someone who designs these things for a living, I would like to draw people’s attention to an oft neglected feature that has been incorporated into these toys since day one: the OFF switch. Whenever I hear of people’s lives being ‘taken over’ by these things I can only give one response – “TURN THE [expletive] THING OFF!” It takes over only if you let it.
Boy did I need to hear that!
Thank you, thank you, thank you Father for posting this. Ours is one family that will be making some changes starting today.
joanofarcfan mentions the curse of mobile phones going off during Mass. In Britain by law churches and cathedrals have to display a ‘No Smoking’ symbol. It would be so much more sensible to have a ‘No Mobile Phone’ sign on display – I saw my first one in October in the porch of a Paris church and amusingly the Cathedral of Notre Dame has recently put up a ‘No Baseball Cap’ sign! Truly a sign of the times when male visitors have to be reminded to remove their headwear on entering a place of worship.
Ralph McInerny has an interesting article over at The Catholic Thing on a similar topic: http://www.thecatholicthing.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=824&Itemid=2
TO Art re: “the OFF switch”
I think one of the issues here though is man’s fallen nature. Man has a tendency toward sloth and toward satisfaction of the sense because of his downward bent will and his darkened intellect. In flesh wars against the spirit and often times the flesh desires to be fulfilled by playing online or talking on the telephone too long etc. Sometimes man just isn’t strong enough to just turn the device off and instead chooses to indulge. I think that can be an issue. Obviously they should turn it off but I think it is too optimistic to think they always will when they should.
Pax Christi tecum.
I agree wholeheartedly. I acknowledge that the solution while simple, it is not easy and requires us fighting against our own desire for what is comfortable.
It’s almost as if people are expecting something. We are a people seemingly always “anticipating”
an event. How many people rush out as soon as the mailman comes? Or run to their PC’s when a
new mail alert sounds? I remember thinking about this is college as each week friends would eagerly
anticipate the weekend parties, as if something extraordinary (or at least new and different)
was going to occur. Is this our built in “waiting for the coming of the Lord” perhaps?
Let me add, or put it another way, it’s almost like people are fearful that they will
“miss something”, and so they stay plugged in “just in case”. I’m pretty sure the second coming
of the Lord will not be by email or voicemail.