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At the 2011 National Meeting, Sr. Marysia Weber, R.S.M., a Religious Sister of Mercy, gave a very popular talk on the effect of the new forms of media on priestly and religious vocations.
Sister made the point that studies have shown that people today are more narcissistic, hardly a good foundation for religious life. There is also more of a blurring between fantasy and reality. One example was that of a youngish priest who spent hours on a social networking site after 11:00 pm each night. As a result, he was late for Mass, lost his prayer life, and could not fulfill his pastoral duties.
And how do people hear the voice of the Lord when they are glued to technology 24 hours a day? Can they really give it up for, say, monastic life?
“The internet is a useful tool, but it can be harmful if not used with discretion or excessively,” she said.
If you want a very thoughtful and insightful perspective on these questions and issues, please visit our website to order Sister’s talks. Three topics are covered: The Church and Electronic Media, Unanticipated Effects of Regular Internet Use, and The Interface of Virtual Reality with Actual Reality. They are available on CD and also in MP3 format.
Last Friday, the Jamaica Plan (NY) Gazette published an upbeat article on the Daughters of St. Paul, whose motherhouse is located in Jamaica Plain. The Daughters are known for their use of the media in spreading the Catholic faith.
The article, entitled “High-tech nuns living on the edge (of JP),” highlights many of the Daughters’ projects, including their award-winning “Ask a Catholic Nun” page on Facebook, which has 13,745 fans.
What particularly struck me, however, was the discussion of the Daughters’ expansion into the world of smartphone apps:
“There is a whole new audience, a whole new space to share with God,” Sister Kathryn said. “People can snatch a few moments here and there to commune with God,” she added, showing off their latest app, “Beginning Contemplative Prayer,” a companion app to Sister Kathryn’s book of the same name.
The app boasts eight 25-minute audio prayers, prayer ideas and a five-week personal plan for growth in contemplative prayer, which includes a different morning, midday, and evening prayer for each week. Sister Kathryn has written several books, mostly self-help books, for Pauline Books, their publishing arm.
Another of their apps features the Rosary being prayed out loud. It has an email function that allows the user to let others know that a prayer has been offered on their behalf.
“We pray while we create these things and we pray for the people who will receive them,” said Sister Patricia, who works on the apps.