A Challenge Worth Taking

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is slowly beginning to feel like normal around here. It is summer and it is hot! But there are also signs of a new normal as well. Back in February with the BIG FREEZE, when the power went out for days, I got a little head start on my regular Lenten fast from TV. With the arrival of Easter, I decided not to turn the TV back on. I have also tried to limit the time I spend on screens – computer and phone. This has been a challenge. As I progressed, an amazing thing happened… I found more time for other activities such as reading, praying, walking, thinking, studying, etc. Good things that seemed to always be getting the squeeze before. I have noticed that as I limit my screen time, I am less stressed about things too!

During the summer, things around the parish normally slow down a tiny bit. We always have activity around the parish, but summer is a time of preparation for the rest of the year. However, there is still a lot that continues – Masses, confessions, weddings, funerals, anointings, appointments, office hours, etc. We try to limit group meetings and activities on parish grounds during the summer from June 15 – August 15. This was the practice when I became pastor in 2008 and it is a good one. This gives us a little breathing room and allows everyone (parishioners and staff) to have some time to be with family, take vacations and it lets us tackle maintenance and repair issues with less disruption. The activities we have during the summer are primarily focused on youth and family socials. In August, we celebrate our parish feast day.

In other words, we all need to take time to re-charge. The last year and half have been very stressful and tense. None of us were immune from the tension. The Lord knew what He was doing when He commanded a weekly sabbath. God did not make us to go, go, go 24/7/365! All of us need periodic down time and we need time with the Lord. Rest, recreation, and prayer are as essential to our health and well being as is food and water. The great challenge for many is not to fill up our rest and recreation time with “stuff”. Downtime needs to really be downtime. Today, one of the major obstacles to put aside (and a number of other things) are our screens (phones, computers, devices). They steal our attention, time, and play havoc with our will and desires. The devices are both subtle and powerful. The screens just pull us in, and we lose track of time, and we lose contact with others. We become isolated even in a crowd. It is amazing how binary digital code and light images on a screen so effectively steal our freedom, entraps us, and can even warp out thinking.

To truly rest, I encourage you to limit your screen time. Fast from screens on a regular basis. Set limits to when and where devices are allowed. Devices are wonderful inventions that help us in many ways, but they can also be dangerous to us and our loved ones if misused and or abused. When misused, devices can weaken, harm, and destroy relationships. They can lead us into sinful activity, and they keep us from enjoying the good things God wants for us and that we desire for ourselves and our families. Obviously, it is not the device itself, it is how we use them.

Try this – no phones at the dinner table. Period. No screens before or after certain times. Have certain days (Sunday?) with limited or no screen time (rest days/fast days). No screens when the family is gathered. Shared common screen experiences – everyone watching the same movie, show or video at the same time together. Get outside in the backyard. Go for a family bike ride, take a walk with someone else with no phone on. Play a board game or work on a puzzle rather than turning on a screen. Pick up and read your bible or pray the rosary together.

In pace Christi,
Fr. Troy