A preview from NC Catholics - March 2016 - “A time to engage / a time to fast”
At the beginning of Lent, I suggested that all of us might benefit at times from limiting the use of technology and social media. I mentioned that the spiritual discipline of fasting helps us remember our total dependence on God and the need to create more space for Him in our lives, which are often consumed by the things of this world. I believe that such fasting is helpful to us on an ongoing basis as we seek to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
Please do not get me wrong. I certainly understand the many needs for social media and the use of technology in our lives. The Church embraces such resources in response to its call to share our faith with others and to spread the Good News. Pope Francis is known for his use of Twitter (@Pontifex) and has an incredible number of followers throughout the world. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org) avails itself of modern technology to provide countless resources to the faithful as they seek to grow in their knowledge of the Catholic faith. Locally, I am very proud of our Diocese for the creative and effective ways we use technology through our website, videos, podcasts, social media, and more (go to DioceseofRaleigh.org for links). Personally, I tweet a reflection each morning (@BishopBurbidge) on the Gospel passage of the day. We can never tire of appropriately using all the resources available to us to reach the faithful, especially our young people, in ways that will certainly engage them.
So why the suggestion to fast at times from the use of technology and social media? Such fasting on a daily basis at given moments creates the space for God we so desperately need in our lives. Imagine the strength and serenity we would experience if the first thing we did in the morning was not to check messages and the news but rather to dedicate that time to God asking Him to speak to our hearts. The same at the end of the day. Are we able to shut down and make sure the last thing we do before going to sleep is not checking messages or texts, but rather reflecting upon our day and how God was present to us and asking Him to help us sleep peacefully so that we may rise refreshed and renewed?
Why else should we fast at times from the constant use of technology and social media? Simply, as I am sure you know, because it has the potential to consume us in unhealthy ways. It is becoming common to see married couples, families and friends out to dinner or in their homes sitting at the table reading messages and texting and, thus, not paying full attention to one another and truly appreciating the time together. In our offices and schools, we email and text even though it would be just as easy to speak to one another in real time, person to person. How often have we been at a meeting or in a conversation with others only to notice that the whole time they were looking at their phones and, thus, not truly engaged? Fasting from technology and social media will actually allow us to create the space for one another in a genuine, personal and respectful manner.
On a more serious note, we also know the very real temptations and dangers of social media and technology, especially as related to offering images and photos that are not pure, chaste and totally respectful of the dignity of the human person. Sadly, addiction to pornography is a crippling problem in society and impacts men and women of all ages and in all vocations. If such addiction is paralyzing you, please know that help and support are always available. Of course, asking the Lord for His divine help is essential, a power far greater and stronger than any temptation we face. But the Lord also provides instruments to help us. Thus, know that you can call our Catholic Charities Office or the Office for Human Life and Dignity and confidentially ask for resources, assistance, or counseling. You may wish to reach out to your parish priest or someone you trust who will have the ability to assist you or to provide the necessary references.
We often speak about the New Evangelization. What is new? The Gospel is not new and neither are the truths and faith we profess. What is new is the way we bring these gifts to others, including a commitment to use appropriate tools and resources whenever possible. At the same time, nothing is more important in our lives than deepening our personal relationship and intimate friendship with Our Lord Jesus. No doubt, fasting periodically from the constant use of technology and social media will help us in that process. May God bless all your endeavors as you seek to grow ever closer to Him and all those you love.