TO WHICH COMMUNITY DO I BELONG?
Fr. Paolo Archiati, OMI, Vicar General
As I mentioned, I would like to say a word in this issue of OMI Information about what we might call the pitfalls, challenges and perhaps even the “temptations” that lurk beneath the media about which we have already pointed out several positive aspects in the previous issue. This list is likely to be longer than the first. But I will not give in to the temptation of unnecessarily lengthening it. I will limit myself therefore to emphasizing two or three challenges that the media can represent in relation to community life. These are simple reflections which I share without pretensions.
The first point I wish to make is the time factor. Among the many things that the media have changed, or are changing, it is our relationship to time and the use of the time that is given us. I refer in particular to three types of devices: television, the computer and the cell phone. Experts, in their analyses, discuss real dependencies that can be created in using these devices. The fact of being consecrated religious, of having made made vows, not only does not make us immune to these new “diseases,” nor does it exempt us from a serious examination of the state of our health and of our use of the time that is given us. If we put together the time we spend in one day in front of a monitor, a television, and in front of the small screen of the cell phone, we realize that it totals several hours in most cases. Certainly many of those hours are for work, for the service of the mission, for ministry, but a critical evaluation is mandatory, if not necessary.
Once, one of my confreres told me that he was edified by being in a community of Oblates where there was no television. He had found a model community, able to make a radical choice, since he personally considered television a real waste of time. I did not know whether to leave him in his state of edification or point out that there was no television in common because everyone had one in his room! Of course, this had solved at least one problem: deciding together what program to watch. But this is also a good community exercise, an opportunity to practice various virtues at the same time, without excluding the possibility of coming to blows over the choice of a channel -- something that has happened, even in an Oblate house!
When I speak of the computer, of course I am referring to its many functions, including especially the internet, e-mail, Skype and many other communications programs that are now increasingly accessible also with a tablet or a cell phone. In this case, in addition to the time factor, one should consider “what” is taking up this time: paperwork, writing letters or messages, chatting with friends, making new friends, looking at a movie, playing online games, and the list could go on. Time for the mission? Time taken from what other activities? A good evaluation of this aspect can help us to find a new balance in our “use of time.” With regard to the community life, I think it is important that the time given to the use of communication tools be balanced by what we give to prayer, the apostolate, reading or studying, working or resting, meeting with our brothers or the simple and cost-free being together.
Together with this theme of time, we should consider the different screens that catch our eyes, whether the computer screen or a television or a tablet or a cell phone. The fact that the computer is “personal” has made it become, over time, “individual”. This is a concept which is linked to just demands of privacy, which means: here I am and no one can come in. And since no one can come in, I can see and do whatever I want ... perhaps the language of teenagers but common for people of all ages. I know this is a sensitive issue, because it touches upon a person’s conscience, but what I want to emphasize is the importance of a regular and serious consideration of this subject, made in the light of our religious consecration and the values that are essential to it.
The other aspect that I would like to ask you to reflect upon refers to that special community that is located in the contact list of our phone or our tablet or our laptop. Here are the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the persons who constitute a community in some way “different” from the one we have been given and entrusted to us by the last obedience that we have received. How are these two communities related? Am I happier in the company of the brothers of my Oblate community in which a specific obedience has placed me, or in the company of this “new” community that I have created and to which I can add and subtract members every day at my leisure? If I need help, of whom do I ask it more spontaneously, of one of my brothers or of one of the names that fill my personal contact list? These are questions that I personally ask myself. Asking them in this bulletin is an opportunity to share them.
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