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Living a spiritual life in a high-tech world

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Jeanne Hunt

Running through the airport, you realize you’re late for your flight. You forgot your watch, so you ask a well-dressed young business traveler for the time. He pulls out his cell phone to give you the time. You think to yourself, “Hmmm… he forgot his watch too.”

It’s time for your eight-year-old daughter to go to bed. You want to continue a ritual you had with your mother: reading the classics a chapter at a time before bed. You pull out Tales of Narnia. Your daughter stops you, saying, “O, Mom, that takes too long, and besides I saw the DVD.”

You’re attending a college graduation party for your nephew. He receives a heartfelt letter from his 82-year-old grandfather. He opens the envelope and says, “Could someone read this to me. I can’t read cursive.”

You call the local Catholic high school to find out what Bible they use for the religion classes. The head of the religion department calls you back to say, “Oh, we don’t buy Bibles anymore. We do all that online.”

Whether we like it or not, as the folk song goes, “the times they are a changin’.” What would have been considered common practice has now become obsolete.  Are we dismissing good practice for the sake of convenience? Was there some wisdom in the way things used to be done? Are we disregarding valuable experiences to be expedient? Did Grandma and Grandpa know something we don’t?

In this secular age, we need to face these questions head on. As we try to live spiritual lives in this hi-tech world, we may be sacrificing the essence of a spiritual practice because it takes too long, is inconvenient, or requires that we stop multitasking so we may sit with the mystery of God’s presence in the things that we do. In the interest of getting answers quickly and trying to saving time and money, I believe we’ve forgotten how to occasionally take the slow road.

Holding a real Bible in our hands and entering into a conversation with the “Word” is an experience that’s hard to replicate on our iPads. When my mother-in-law died, she gave me her personal Bible. In the margins are hundreds of comments that came from her beautiful soul. Because it’s written in her hand, because the pages are real relics of her relationship with God, she and I often meet to encounter the living Word long after her death. While electronic messages fade into cyberspace, paper messages remain. Her messages are written in her distinctive cursive hand, and I feel as if I have been in her company.

We are members of an ancient church. Catholicism is rich with practices and traditions that seem antiquated in our age. Rushing through a 30-minute Mass in order to get to soccer practice may block your soul from getting anything out of that Mass. The liturgy is meant to be slow and mindful. Weaning your self from the noise of the world and sitting in silence before the Eucharist can calm your mind and soul like no earthly tranquillizer. Owning a Bible, signing yourself with the cross, fingering rosary beads, telling your sins to a priest and receiving absolution — these practices are more than they seem. Each has a deep and powerful meaning that the world cannot comprehend. They come to us as touchstones of grace that lead us into the heart of God.

While the electronic age is a blessing in many ways, it’s time to reclaim some of the old ways. I invite you to take a stand for tradition! Wear a watch. Savor the mystery of a three-dimensional Bible. Write a page in a spiritual journal — in cursive. Give up the “fast Mass” for the 60 minute variety. What’s essential is that we look at our lives, decide to slow down, and encounter the divine mystery who is all around us.

Jeanne Hunt is a nationally recognized author and catechetical leader.

This Catholic Thoughts column by Jeanne Hunt originally appeared in the October 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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