Too Much Entertainment

Once upon a time, I was in ninth grade and there were two things I liked more than almost anything (besides reading): music and video games (namely Pokémon and Unreal Tournament). So when I came home from a rough day of being a freshman in high school, I would blow off steam by sitting in front of the family computer (that is, if the seat wasn’t already occupied by my brother) and destroying pixelated soldiers in Unreal Tournament.

One day I had the brilliant idea to enhance my killing sprees by listening to music while playing the game. So I was merrily running along in a fictional militaristic world, flak cannon in virtual hand, blasting enemies into freshets of imaginary blood while listening to Bon Jovi. Pure nerdy bliss. My blood pressure was low, my ears were filled with the sounds of the game and the music, and then my mom looked over at me and said, “Maggie, that’s too much.” (Or something like that. At the time, I was angry at having my joy interrupted and didn’t bother to remember her exact words.)

That was back in 2002, before everyone on God’s green earth had a cell phone, before social media really took off, before mp3 players and iPads and Kindles, and before video games looked so realistic that you couldn’t tell the difference between animation and a live-action movie. I feel sorry for teenagers today, who have three or four times as many modes of entertainment and thus three or four times as many distractions. It’s not just too much. It’s way too much.

I help with my church’s youth group, and this past Sunday’s session was about how we are consumed by technology, social media, materialism, and other modern-day distractions. The teenagers were given a slip of paper on which they were asked to estimate the number of hours per day they spent on social media, browsing the Internet, texting, and so forth. The findings weren’t shocking to me or any of the adults present, especially because a few of the teenagers were tied to their phones during the night. Even so, we hoped the exercise made them realize that there was a lot of unnecessary “noise” in their lives and that the noise can prevent them from being able to sit in silence, to meditate, and to pray.

We taught the teenagers that there is a simple solution to escaping from all the “noise,” and that is spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, AKA Eucharistic Adoration. Just a few minutes of silence and/or prayer per day can put things back in perspective and stop the noise long enough to help one remember that the world and all its distractions will pass away, and all the “entertainment” we have can never fill the gap in our souls that yearns for God.

Patrons and Patronesses

One of the many things I love about my faith is that there are thousands and thousands of others who have lived it heroically and who have been recognized for doing so. We have the canonized (recognized by the Church) saints, the foremost of whom is Mary, the Mother of God. And we also have millions of other saints who lived holy lives and now reside in heaven but are not formally recognized by the Church. These can be our own relatives, friends, and loved ones who have lived by and upheld the Precepts of the Church, so in a way, you could ask your own dearly departed grandfather to intercede for you and become one of your patrons.

We usually have quite a few saints who are our patrons and patronesses: the saint who shares our given name, the saint we choose as our patron when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, the saint who is the patron of our occupation or hobby, and others whom we look up to and strive to imitate. So my patron saints would be St. Margaret (there are many saints who share her name, but I particularly like St. Margaret of Cortona), St. Agnes of Rome (I chose her when I was confirmed), St. John Bosco (patron saint of editors), and several other favorites: St. Maria Goretti, St. Padre Pio, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine of Hippo… I could go on and on.

It is comforting to think about all your friends in heaven who can pray for you and whom you can call upon for help. I know that there have been many times when I have called on Sts. Agnes and Augustine and they have pulled through for me. It is also nice to know that every day on the calendar is the feast day of at least one saint, so there are always people in heaven watching over us as we walk through this valley of tears. 🙂

Trust Takes Time

What is trust? I could break the word down into a handy acronym/mnemonic, but I’ll leave that to my fiancé, who is a much better wordsmith than me. 🙂 So I’ll rely on good ol’ Webster:

trust (n.) assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

When I think of trust, I think of that time in ninth grade when we were asked to do trust falls in PE class (What did that have to do with PE? To this day, I have no idea.), and I did not trust my classmates to catch me as I fell backward because the previous week, they had thrown me quite roughly over the volleyball net, leaving me with a bruised tailbone. (Our student teacher had a lot of unconventional ideas about what high school PE classes should look like.)

To get back on track in a very “Captain Obvious” manner: There will come a time when everyone on earth, even yourself, will fail you. This should not completely break your trust in these people but should remind you that humans are weak and that trust is better placed in Someone else.

But the question I struggle with is… How does one place trust in God? Is it simply a matter of letting go of what you want for yourself and conforming to His will? If that is the case, how does one discern His will? Sometimes I wish it was as easy as locking oneself into a cloister for hours of prayer or spending years in solitude composing a work such as the translation of the Latin Vulgate or the entire Summa Theologica… oh, wait, that’s not exactly easy.

Discerning the will of God and learning to trust in him are probably even more challenging in today’s secularized world than ever before, especially with all the distractions that face us. Nobody seems to have time for spiritual matters, even spending five minutes in church after Mass has ended. Everyone’s got a to-do list a mile long and an equally long list of places to be.

I think a simple way to trust in God would be to invoke His name in every situation. If it’s a sunny day, thank Him. If you hear that someone in your family is sick, ask Him to heal that person. If a project goes well at work, thank Him. If you lose something, ask Him (or St. Anthony) to help you find it. Another way to trust in God would be to look back at the past and previous situations where you requested and received His help. If you were able to trust Him then, you can surely trust Him now.

When we fail to trust, it is most likely caused by a lack of patience on our part. We read about the saints and other spiritual heroes, we see stuff on social media, and we assume that trust in God and habits of prayer come easily and quickly, when in reality, it takes a lifetime. We trust in God to give us the answer, but we forget that He gives us the answer in His timing, so when we lose patience, we lose trust in Him and feel as though we can rely only on ourselves or on our fellow humans.