Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A common challenge of today’s world, and one that is becoming increasingly problematic, is our short attention spans. I do not think anyone would deny that it seems like today we have much more trouble focusing and paying attention to something for an extended period of time. It’s easy to blame the pace of our lives today, and technology, where we are bombarded with images and ideas rapidly. I know for myself I grew up in the early days of the video game generation, where entertainment has become intense and engaging, and compared to which so much of the world becomes dull and boring.
But perhaps one of the greatest causes that have been pinpointed is the internet. What studies have found is that people have much more trouble digging deeply into a topic, for example in a lengthy book, than in the past. We have come rather to prefer the webpage, where we can skim a news story or a topic quickly, and get the basic idea. We skip from link to link, page to page, getting a great deal of breadth, but little depth. We spend very little time in one area, and rarely dig deeply enough to get a substantial understanding – whether it’s current events, history, or science. Anything more challenging and serious has become hard to focus on.
Religion too seems to have suffered a similar fate. We can think of how we treat our faith. I know sometimes there are good reasons, but still, how many of us are rushing out of Mass, or are impatient if Mass goes beyond forty-five minutes? How many of us can sit for more than five minutes in silent prayer? How many of us are ready to truly read through the Bible or a whole book by a saint? We may give that forty minutes to God each week at Mass, we may give him a few minutes of silence, we may even read a few quick prayers and links about faith. But do we truly dig into our faith, and delve into a relationship that requires a great deal of time, energy, and attention.
Lent is certainly a good time to begin – trying to cut out those things that drain our attention spans, trying to give more time to prayer and to others. But I also want to encourage everyone in the parish to do something that will probably seem quite challenging – and that’s to attend the full parish mission this week. What does that require? It’s three days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, at 7:30PM, for one hour. For many of you it may sound hard to set aside three nights in a row, to listen to the same person speak on the same general topic, but I want to challenge everyone to make that effort.
Firstly, because Monsignor Fink will be speaking. As many of you have probably picked up since he has joined us, he is an excellent preacher, a master of the spiritual life, and an all-around great priest with a good sense of humor. Secondly, because the topic of spiritual warfare is incredibly timely. We live in dark days where the devil has great sway over the world. There are so many ways we are faced with evil, and this is a great time to strengthen ourselves for that battle. Finally, because it is a great opportunity to step back from our daily lives and actually give him a substantial amount of time. Rather than just those spare moments, or that spare hour each week, these three days can be a bit of a retreat, where they are set aside as a time to really focus on God’s presence in our lives, and ask ourselves how we can grow in our relationship with him. We have a God who is never outdone in generosity – so if we give Him this time, He will give us so much more.
I pray that all of us take advantage of this season of grace by challenging ourselves to grow in the faith and give it more time and attention. Especially through our mission this week, may we all deepen our relationship with God which will prepare us for life’s many battles and help us persevere to the very end.
Yours in Christ,