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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sometimes Bad, Sometimes Good: Media's Impact on the Family

by Edwin Rodrigues 

Technology has endowed us with much power!

Just a click of the mouse or a “send” command on a smart phone can instantly transmit information and connect people scattered across the globe.

People can form groups where important updates can be shared with all the members instantly. In any given circumstance, in good times and in times of sickness, an update can ease fears of the worst or -- God forbid -- break unpleasant news without delay. The Internet and the various platforms of social media are indeed inventions to be marveled at!

Thankfully, good people have developed applications that give us access to the Order of the Mass and Daily Readings, the Liturgy of Hours, Saint for the Day and the Bible. My personal favorites are the Laudate and EWTN apps. These and many others are available free!  On EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) I listen to Daily Mass and other rich Catholic content, which evangelizes with God’s own power! I can even get the latest Vatican news.

I've seen people very effectively using Whatsap, a mobile messaging app that allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS (text messaging). It's all done voluntarily, of course with inspiration from The Holy Spirit. One member of the group shares about the saint of the day, another shares Mass Readings, and yet another reflections.
All of this sanctifies and unifies everyone in the group besides confirming each other in the faith. “For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
Catholic means universal 
Sharing such hallowed content is a positive step in the direction of charity. Catholic means universal, and the Church’s outreach is global.

The modern means of communications are very potent tools for the spread of the Gospel. That is why every year, Holy Mother Church observes the Sunday before Pentecost, as World Communications Day. The celebration came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which recognized our Church must fully engage the modern world.

“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the followers of Christ as well,” (from the opening statement of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on “The Church in the Modern World.”

So while the Catholic Church is orthodox in its teachings there is always a pristine freshness and newness in all of its undertakings! 

But alas! Three words -- “fallen human nature" -- manage to creep into the conversation and we lose control over moderation and modesty in the name of modernity!

And once this sets in, much havoc is created as platforms such as Facebook, Whatsap (which are in and of themselves innocuous) are reduced to tools of addiction and selfish pleasure. Such is never gratifying. It leaves those indulging themselves disappointed and craving for more.

Also, the temptation is to present oneself as good-looking and well to do. These are forms of deception that the evil one loves to play with.

When we lose touch with Jesus, we automatically lose touch with reality and goodness. Precious time --  running into several hours in a day -- and money, which could have been used for noble and constructive pursuits, are exchanged for fleeting moments of self-centered entertainment. There is a real risk of one becoming narcissistic. Perhaps those who get caught in this vicious circle are looking for happiness. But unfortunately for them joy remains elusive. For Joy comes from being close to The Lord, who is Joy Himself.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) This is evident in families that are not rooted in prayer and built on the Rock, who is Jesus Himself. Members of a household could be living under the same roof, and perhaps be present at the same table at a given moment but still ironically they could be so disjointed. Watch. Each member is busy communicating and yet there is “zero communication.” Each one is engrossed in side conversations with other friends on their phones. Little or no eye contact is made. Occasionally, someone might burst into laughter on reading a joke. The family goes through the motions of consuming the food while entirely missing out on the fellowship and grace of a meal! This is where media --through poor choices on our part -- can erode the fabric of the family.

What once was keenly anticipated as “family time” is now replaced by distractions in the form of “data.” Little children yearn for undivided attention. Even Pope Francis encourages parents to spend more time with their children. “Waste time with your children!” he quipped. "Do you play with your children?” Neglected children consequently imitate their parents and waste precious family time with mobile phones and other gadgets. Parents who are busy find it convenient to entertain their kids with nifty gadgets and then a new faulty pattern of living is born!
These clever shortcuts are detrimental to building up meaningful lasting relationships. Most of the people who are entangled in these patterns are beginning to experience an interior void. The virtual is robbing us of the real. Consequently, there could be some children with very high IQs, but lacking emotional maturity. Once people have easy access to the internet (in the absence of self-control), there is a great risk of getting sucked into our permissive culture.

Lord have mercy! For it’s very difficult to get rid of porn and game addictions. They create permanent neural pathways that make a person susceptible to sins of the flesh.

Having considered some of the merits and demerits of the media, we cannot leave ourselves hopeless. For  in the Lord is our hope and our strength. Christ is always the Victor and he has given us a strategy mentioned by St. Paul:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the
 heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

With this in mind, be alert and keep on praying. What is heartening also is that while the forces of darkness are at work, Catholic Radio in particular has gained much momentum and popularity in many parts of the world, which include the affluent U.S.A. and the impoverished Haiti. So, everything is not bleak especially for those who through Divine Providence come across good Catholic Radio such as EWTN and its affiliates.

EWTN’s outreach is global and its content reaffirming for someone struggling with  faith. One can get live coverage of papal events. There are testimonies of witnesses who have converted and chosen life when they were contemplating suicide or an abortion. Many have returned to the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After wandering in the wilderness for many years, they sought the sacraments because they heard what they needed to hear over the airwaves.

God’s Word speaks to the heart and it never returns empty. So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:1) Amen!

Author Edwin Rodrigues can be found on Twitter at@EdwinEd1667 


  1. Padre Pio once said that he bilocated in a manner as yet not capable of being understood, experiencing it as a sort of extension of his personality. Now, with the Internet, we all have the power of being in more than one place at once. In this wonderful reflection from Edwin on the double-edged sword that is the Internet, we learn how we may utilize it for the sake of the New Evangelization, embracing the true spirit of Vatican II to spread for the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

    1. Thank you Michael. That is a wonderful comment. God bless you.

  2. J.M.J. Thank you, Edwin, for so many insightful points to ponder carefully. Social media is a jewel . . . social media is a burden . . . social media is a joy . . . social media is a temptation . . . all the foregoing is true. May Our Lord and Our Lady inspire us to use our computers, telephones and other means as They Themselves would. Once again, Edwin, many thanks.