September 7, 2020
The ping of my cell phone has become a familiar sound, but since there’s no way to distinguish advertisements and nuisance texts from important messages, I rarely respond to those pings immediately. Attempting to limit electronic messaging as much as possible, I also don’t do Facebook.
Family and friends have my phone number so texting on a regular basis, often accompanied by photos with family updates, has become an easy go-to form of communication. Among my favorites are photos of 6-year-old Audrey displaying a toothless smile after losing yet another tooth, Andrew and Callie settling into their college dorm rooms or Natalie claiming ownership of the family’s new puppy.
Not all photos chronicle hallmark events. There’s the selfie of 16-year-old Olivia hanging out with her mom, a picture of Stephanie’s family attending Mass on their patio when their parish church was closed, beach outings, basketball games and, well, you get the picture.
There’s no denying it: the digital age has brought families, separated by miles, together in ways generations ago could never fathom. Today, sending messages and photos across the country in a matter of seconds has become commonplace.
To the digitally challenged — to which I claim a longstanding membership — modern technology is nothing short of a miracle. It keeps us connected despite being socially distant, and for families who are scattered across the country, it’s a saving grace.
As a columnist, I’m always in awe of the number of emails I receive from readers who share their faith journey with me or seek answers to age-old questions. It’s a reminder that our spiritual connection is also enhanced by the digital age. Like the internet, our spiritual thoughts, prayers and needs are transmitted to the throne of God, sometimes directly, other times through intermediaries like Mary or the saints who pray for us.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century Cistercian monk, wrote that angels are messengers, whose work is service, sent to help heirs of salvation to bear our prayers to God in heaven and return to us laden with graces.
Centuries before the internet was invented, prayer connected people to God through multiple servers. Like a magnetic field that draws us, our deepest need for happiness and wholeness seeks a connection to the divine source in whose image we have been created. Every message that interferes with or obstructs that relationship with God should be deleted from the inbox of our mind without wasting time to explore it.
The world is filled with advertisements trying to allure us with false promises, which is why we need to stay connected to all that is good and life-giving. The media bombard us with negative messages, but there is an antidote. Turn off the television, hit delete or unsubscribe to what is of no value. I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand, but striking a balance is essential to maintaining proper mental, emotional and spiritual health.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about swimming in the mud, and it was one of those columns that hit home and drew comments from numerous readers. It seems a lot of people feel as if they’re swimming in the mud, which makes staying spiritually connected a matter of survival.
There’s never been a time when the world hasn’t experienced one crisis or another. The difference today is that the pandemic has brought a global crisis close to home, making it more personal.
While the world waits for a medical breakthrough, we need to arm ourselves with spiritual PPE, and there’s no better personal protective equipment than prayer followed by Godly wisdom to inform our actions.
Due to COVID-19, many parish adult education programs have been put on hold, but happily, the wisdom of theologians and spiritual mentors is only a click away. Through programs sponsored by Word of Fire, Center for Action and Contemplation, FORMED and the Carmelite Institute of Studies, to name a few, we can remain virtually connected to our faith. Through the internet, we even have access to the weekly audiences of Pope Francis.
For bookworms like me, who prefer prayerful reflection with an actual book in hand, underlining and commenting in the margins, purchasing books without having to leave home is a blessing.
We can curse the darkness or light a candle. Jesus said we are the light of the world. These days we may have to light the world electronically. Whether through donations to charitable causes, supporting friends and family or growing in our faith, staying connected spiritually is not an option; it’s a matter of survival, and there’s no time like the present, and it’s never been easier.