Time to Unplug

Am I a voice calling into the wind? I wonder if anyone can hear me? If you stop by for a moment at this page, I hope you will listen.

Reaching our children by marketing new “apps,” creating rap songs for them to download on various gadgets and offering new cartoon/realistic video games could be adding to an already serious problem.

The IDOL of our world is technology. It replaces God for many young people. They are deeply devoted to their gadgets. They cannot live without them. They keep them close at hand and bow to them throughout the day.

Once our children are obsessed with technology, we face the danger that they will become addicted to it--compulsively turning to it without self control. I wrote about this before...scroll don't to my blog on addiction.

I know I sound like a fanatic. My friends remind me of the good things. Our kids have access to instant information. As a study tool, the internet is a marvel. As a communication tool, the internet takes us far beyond what was once only a dream. Through the internet, my son was able to email people in Poland for his history project. He tracked down the phone number of a man in Prague. The world is smaller and readily accessible as a result of technology.

But the problems I am talking about are very serious. We, as parents, must be on guard. The internet, cellphones, Ipads and earbuds should not be made available to kids who are not yet of school age. Fast flashing images, sound waves going directly into their ears, pop-ups advertizing, bizarre content alongside educational content…these are things that cannot be good for children.

The world of modern technology creates a fantasy world. People from far away seem to be near and they are often not what they seem. Images on the screen are so vivid and appealing, that the real world pales in comparison. The stuff that pops up is vulgar and dehumanizing. Yet it’s there alongside the educational stuff. What blares into the kids ears is seductive.

Meanwhile, our Lord, receives less and less consideration. Technology has created a new world and the holder of the gadget plays God. Even the “apps” about Jesus cannot replace real prayer. Video games of Bible stories cannot replace hearing Mom or Dad read the Word of God. Sweepingly beautiful websites are not sacramental.

How are we going to make the world of God’s creation relevant to young people again?

Isn’t it time to practice “unplugging” just to see what life is really about? Give it a try. Take a week break. And let me know how it goes!!


First Communion is Just the Beginning

It was a beautiful day. Sixteen nervous kids held out shaking hands to receive their First Communion last weekend. As a teacher preparing students for this day, I tell them they are becoming tabernacles for Jesus. They will receive Jesus in a way unlike any other.

Yes, Jesus is always with us and we receive his grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. We can hear his words in the Gospels and we can talk to him in prayer. But there is nothing like receiving him as the Bread of Life. There is nothing like becoming a tabernacle.

However, the sad reality is that some of the young people who receive the Eucharist for the first time, won’t receive Jesus again for a long time. Too many families see First Communion as the beginning and the end of their obligation for faith formation.

These young people who are so excited on this day, and feel the glow of love for Jesus, are like delicate new buds pushing up out of the ground of the secular world. Their experience is fragile and tentative. It needs to be nourished by weekly reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist. When parents make a big deal out of First Communion and then make excuses for not going to Mass on Sundays after that, they send a mixed message.

The message seems to be that “only the first time is important. Then, if you receive Jesus again once a year, that’s enough.” The bud doesn’t open. The flower wilts.

It is so important that our children see a love, respect and hunger for the Eucharist in their parents. Then their curiosity leads them to desire. And desire leads to deeper prayer and understanding.

One time is not enough. Tabernacle literally means “temporary dwelling place.” If we are to keep Jesus close to us, we need to invite him into the tabernacle of our bodies on a weekly basis.

Then, the tabernacle will glow with his presence. And the flowers unfold in loveliness!

(The photo is my daughter Brigit, at her First Communion in 2008.)


Beware: Technology Addiction is Real

Our society has made technology into a god. If you don’t believe you are susceptible to this violation of the First Commandments, consider these questions:
• Do you carry your cellphone with you wherever you go, even when it is not needed? Do you keep it close by at night?
• Do you send text messages even when you should be doing something else? Do you sneak around to send messages?
• Do you stay up late, answering email, texting, etc.?
• Do you think about texting or social networking or your apps, throughout the day?
• Do you check Facebook, Twitter, etc. during meetings, at school, while cooking, etc.?
• Do you spend significant amounts of money on technology even though it is not necessary for your work?
• Do you have a sense that you couldn’t live without technology?

Consider these same questions for your children. Are your children, even as young as 8, spending significant hours absorbed with cellphones, visiting social network sites or playing elaborate virtual reality games?

The word “addiction” comes from Latin and means “surrendering to something that becomes habit-forming and creates a sense of withdrawal when it is denied.” It is a process of becoming enslaved to a substance of thing. Do you want to be controlled by your cellphone?

Recently, I heard a youth leader telling a group of kids they would have to leave their cellphones at home during a weekend retreat. More than a few of the teens whispering, “There is no way that’s happening.” But they weren’t worried. They have learned how to be sneaky (and that is sure sign of addiction.)

An addiction that leads to sneaky behavior is dishonest. It is a sin. And lying is the doorway to other forms of serious sin.

What if we surrendered to God instead of surrendering to technology? The answers to the questions above would be very different.

• I am aware that Jesus is present, walking close to me throughout my day, so I talk to Him. He knows me. He is with me. He is trustworthy.
• I say prayers when I begin every activity. I want to do His will, not my will.
• I offer myself to God and ask Him to use me for His purpose. I surrender to Him.
• I am detached from the things of this world. How unimportant and insignificant technology is! The blinders are off now. I see that phones, cameras and computers are merely tools. I will not let these things enslave me. Instead, I stand before the Almighty One, the Holy One, the Merciful One and ask for help!
• All life comes from Him. My “thank you” for this gift is to offer my life to Him. As Jesus said, “Let it be done onto me, according to thy will.”

Consider--do you have an addiction? Are you ready to change? The time is now.