High-tech Lent: Filling Up on Apps Can Break Your Fast

Filling Up on Apps

It seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person. Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten Liturgy exhorts: ‘Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.’ Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. [Pope Benedict XVI ].

Material diversions can overwhelm spiritual disciplines. Ceaselessly tuned in to entertaining media can distort our inner voice, preventing kindness and compassion from resonating in the heart.

Trivial pastimes and jovial amusements easily multiply, spreading from light moments of healthy distractions to addictive obsessions that muffle our conscience. They push us deeper and deeper into shallowness, and farther and farther from a devotional life.

As transient, frivolous thoughts increase, we become digitally desensitized, buried under emptiness, covered with nothingness.

The holy season of Lent is fast advancing; the choicest graces are being daily offered us; woe to the man whose mind is distracted by the fashion of this world that passeth away, and takes no thought for eternity and heaven, and, even in this time of grace, is like tamarick, a worthless weed of the desert. Oh how numerous is this class! and how terrible is their spiritual indifference!  Pray for them, O ye faithful children of the Church, pray for them without ceasing.  Offer up you penances and your almsgivings for them.  Despair not; and remember that, each year, many straying sheep are brought to the fold by such intercession as this. [Dom Prosper Guéranger].

Our descent continues, stopping only when everything professed, all principles and affirmations, become mere rhetorical echoes lingering as second thoughts in the back of an abandoned mind. Only the extended hand of Divine Providence can prevent total perdition.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the rudiments of the world, and not according to [the teachings of] Christ. [Colossians 2:8 (ESV)].

Invitation to Awareness

Newton’s first law of motion states that a body continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless a force is exerted upon it. Lent offers a “time out,” a stop order to reassess reality. Can we see how deeply we have sunk into an empty world where nothingness dominates?

Fasting as a religious act increases our sensitivity to that mystery always and everywhere present to us. It is an invitation to awareness, a call to compassion for the needy, a cry of distress, and a song of joy. It is a discipline of self-restraint, a ritual of purification, and a sanctuary for offerings of atonement. It is a wellspring for the spiritually dry, a compass for the spiritually lost, and inner nourishment for the spiritually hungry. [Fr. Thomas Ryan].

Have we so conformed ourselves to a material reality that we only respect what the secular world recommends and approves? Fasting offers a path to renewing our faith, to reestablishing our connection to God.

Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself. [St. Augustine, “On Prayer and Fasting,” Quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas].

Lent By-products

Fasting reminds believers that life is a pursuit of the sacred. Pleasure and happiness are by-products of this effort. Abstinence, forbearance, chastity — “not doing” — are major components of this pursuit. As we empty ourselves of the meaningless, we are naturally filled with the eternal.

[God provides] in a manner beyond all expectation; and for everyone who places his trust in God He [alone] is enough. Verily, God always attains to His purpose: [and] indeed, unto everything has God appointed its [term and] measure. [Quran 65:3]

During Lent, fasting should extend beyond food, to include abstaining from anything that distracts or impedes awareness of the Divine Reality. Fast from dependence on technology, from addiction to pastimes. At least during Lent, spend moments cultivating humility and spiritual virtues.

As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul. Imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things, and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life. [St. John Chrysostom].

During Lent too few detach themselves from the comforts of the world, to be emptied of self and be filled with the Divine. Fasting during Lent should be about hunger for God, not appetite for apps, a preference of the eternal over the ephemeral.

We can think of Lent as a time to eradicate evil or cultivate virtue, a time to pull up weeds or to plant good seeds. Which is better is clear, for the Christian ideal is always positive rather than negative.

A person is great not by the ferocity of his hatred of evil, but by the intensity of his love for God. Asceticism and mortificdation are not the ends of a Christian life; they are only the means. The end is charity. Penance merely makes an opening in our ego in which the Light of God can pour. As we deflate ourselves, God fills us. [Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen].

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