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On Choosing The Good News

July 28, 2022 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

I’ve taken to walking for exercise at night to avoid the intense and damaging rays of the summer sun lately. On my outings, I typically see very few others outside also taking advantage of the clement evening weather. Perhaps one or two individuals at most. Often I find myself somewhat eerily alone. There are many good ways to spend free time, but I believe research would bear out my thesis that many spend a large portion of their day away from work in front of screens.
There will always be bad news. Thanks to our ever-present devices and Internet we can treat ourselves to a steady stream of negativity all day long every day. That is one way of using connectivity. There will always be somebody else, someplace else, more beautiful, exotic, or interesting than where we find ourselves at any given moment. There will always be someone younger, better looking, richer, or seemingly happier than we think ourselves to be. The images, voices, and other data available on the Internet merely confirm this to be true.
What the Internet cannot ever replicate is our own lives in which we encounter the irreplaceable beauty of immediacy, unfiltered and real. Replacing the real with a substitute comes at a cost. Everything we do mentally or spiritually, just as with what we eat or drink, has a result positive or negative. Ulterior motives inform the choices of those who select the content we see on screens.
Whether to sell something to us or get us to do something like vote for a particular person or get a vaccine, or to make us fearful, there are a variety of reasons for the things offered. Very few of them may have anything to do with what we really need at any given moment. We are often manipulated by those who choose digital content.
No doubt much of the mental illness rampant today results from living life on the Internet.
Suffering will not end until life itself does. Seeking answers to suffering from strangers has become all too common. Perhaps the trend of transgender ideology, seeking to change the unchangeable and loving choice of God to make us who we are, has been fed by virtual reality. Someone on a screen can manipulate reality to make us believe they are happy with the choices they are encouraging us to make. Only those among whom we live every day can teach us the invaluable lessons of balance, perspective, experience, and contentment.
Families inundated with electronic devices, who know and love each other best, often do not spend time in conversation. Instead, young and impressionable children are left free to roam the dangers of the Internet where predators often seek them out. Parents wouldn’t knowingly release their children among dangerous strangers. But they in fact do it all the time when they give them portals to the Internet.
Many of our young people are encountering pornography at earlier and earlier ages before they are able to integrate, reject, and overcome the evil they thus confront, often for the first time alone.
Adults can now access impure images with an ease unimagined in the days of my youth when one had to risk public shame to be seen walking into an “adult” bookstore. This has resulted in a plague of addiction to objective misuse and demeaning of others through pornography, a sin and an occasion of further sin.
Use of phone apps which enable sinful encounters with others are also on the rise, sometimes among priests as well as laity. We have all suffered the shame and scandal of religious leaders who descend into the abyss of addiction very publicly, sometimes into illicit sexualized images and videos of children. This in particular is an evil very difficult for most of us to understand. But addiction has its own strange and mysterious roots of iniquity.
The pain of repeated behavior is sometimes a public cry for help from those who simply have lost nearly all control over their own impulses.
Given the dangers, I am of the opinion now that priests should not have their own computers and should only use a common office computer in a publicly accessed area of the rectory or parish office. The dangers are too real and the results of a fall are too devastating to warrant the risk.
Anyone with addictive impulses or behavior should severely limit their uses of the Internet. Parents should supervise any online research by children so that they can see what their children are seeing. Education should not be 100 percent virtual. Controls and filters are abundantly available.
Fewer children play outside today. Nothing can replace a childhood spent in the woods, playing in the dirt, riding bikes, building forts, making friends. The lessons thus learned while young inform every life for the better. Real relationships built through play enable adults to navigate the complex wickets of work, marriage, and family all the better.
Some by necessity spend all day working in front of screens. There has to be a balance in this, as in all things. Screen time should be rationed so that other areas of life necessary for overall mental and spiritual, as well as physical, health are not neglected.
Examination of conscience can include a review of screen time and a decision to walk more, read more, and certainly pray more. All of these do much to boost positivity which in turn feeds spirituality. Good news should bring good results. We were not made for virtual reality. And encountering the world through someone else’s eyes, which is in reality what much of the content on the Internet in fact is, cannot substitute for our own contemplation and encounter with reality.
And when we encounter reality without filters we more perfectly encounter ourselves. Our own thoughts, impressions, ideas, creativity and ingenuity becomes possible only if we take away the lens of the other and plunge aided only by our own senses into all that God has made. This is an irreplaceable method for encountering He Who is Himself the “good news.”
Encountering what the Lord has made with our own five senses enables us to more readily and regularly encounter Him by means of mental prayer or meditation. Can we have a true friendship with Him if we are neglecting the building blocks He offers? Being Catholic means a choice to believe in the Good News. Being Catholic means always putting first things first; choosing the good, the true and beautiful of the Gospel.
We must decide in light of our faith in Christ that our goal is eternal life with Him. His will be done. His will for us is happiness, joy, and love with Him. It begins now but will be perfect, permanent, and possessed unassailably only after this life is through.
The highest and best use of the gift of the Internet is the glory of God and the salvation of souls. How does your use of this resource align with putting first things first? Our Catholic faith situates all within the context of the encounter with the true and Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. All is interpreted within this intimate encounter, flows from and leads back to Him as source and summit. Good news indeed.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
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