Use technology to feed your soul
By Carmen Lagalante
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30–31)
These words of Jesus are the simplest instructions on how to become holy. They are easy to understand — but so very hard to live!
We have so many distractions in our world: email, chats, music, games, and more. We are always plugged into something, so how can we find a moment of silence to lift our minds to God?
One way is to turn those very devices into tools to help us remember the Lord. The very source of our distractions could become the tools that help us become holy! There are apps that can help us pray, be merciful, be mindful, and even hold us accountable. Social media can be a place where we can exercise our charity and be examples of virtue. Let me share with you how technology helps me in my pursuit of holiness.
Called to love God
We are called to love God, and prayer is the key to show God that we love him. St. Paul tells us we should “pray always” — and since we are always on our phones, we can easily find ways to use them as tools to help us pray. This can be as simple as setting up an alarm for prayer reminders, using some Christian music or tones such as church bells as alarm sounds so it’s clear it is a call for prayer. Keeping an electronic prayer journal makes it easier to keep up with a commitment to journal on a daily basis since you can do it anywhere. (I like using OneNote, but you can try using any of the many apps made for that purpose.)
My favorite prayer app is called Laudate, and it has everything I need: the Bible, the Catechism, traditional prayers, the rosary, and much more. It also features great podcasts that contain one of the daily Mass readings, along with meditation and music; these are the perfect length for my morning prayer.
Other useful apps include iBreviary (the Liturgy of the Hours), the Divine Mercy app, and Echo (an app that reminds you every night of the people on your prayer list). To find these and other prayer apps, all you need to do is search for “Catholic Prayers” in your phone’s app store.
I also love the virtual rosary apps that move you through the prayers, bead by bead, and offer many pictures to help with the meditations. Another favorite app is Magnificat; it requires a subscription, but it includes all the readings for the Mass, a meditation, and wonderful morning and evening prayers — and it lets you set reminders, too!
A good prayer life requires taking time to grow in our faith. We cannot love God unless we get to know him, and our capacity for understanding grows as we get older. It is easy to organize a Bible study with friends via Skype, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. You can also join Facebook groups and communities that focus on spiritual topics such as sacred art, Bible quotes, and respect for life. Create your own group with people from your parish and share prayer requests.
Called to love our neighbor
The second part of this commandment calls us to love our neighbor. The best thing we can give others is our time and attention. In this busy world, every second we spend thinking of others is an act of virtue. This first applies to those closest to us: our parents and family members. It can be hard to stay in touch with our parents once we are out on our own. If you are lucky to have tech-savvy parents (and siblings) who are connected to social media and have smart devices, keeping in touch is a lot easier. You can create a shortcut to Mom on your home screen and when you see it, just text her a “Good Morning,” send her pictures, or make a call.
Some messaging apps even let you call for free even if your family and friends live abroad (try WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Skype). Technology has even helped me with my less-techy father (who lives in Europe) because Google Voice, at one cent per minute, is an inexpensive way for me to call him. We also have a family chat group that keeps us connected and allows us to help each other, congratulate each other, and remember all those birthdays. These apps make it easy to stay connected with family, yet how often do we take the time?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that anyone whom we encounter is our neighbor, virtual encounters included. There are many ways to be merciful, but I find social media to be a very easy way to put this into practice. Just as people can be bullied by negative comments on their Facebook walls, they also can be lifted up with likes on their posts, a kind word, or even a simple, sweet emoji. People enjoy being appreciated and noticed, so it is an act of mercy to take time to view and comment on their posts, blogs, tweets, or other social media. I can’t tell you how many times a smile came to my face because someone favorited my tweet or liked my picture. Sometimes people post their struggles, and I love to reply with the praying hands icon to let them know “I’ve heard you and I’m praying for you.”
Let’s make people smile and feel better by the way we interact with them in the virtual world.
Technology can help us show our love in more traditional ways as well, such as giving money, donating items, or sharing our talents. The neighborhood app Nextdoor (NextDoor.com) is a great way to see the needs of those around us, and taking the time to recommend a plumber surely counts as an act of kindness. Leaving a good review for a seller on Amazon or eBay can help a small business thrive and let people know whom they can trust. Rate services, fill out customer surveys, and tell a company how helpful a cashier or delivery boy was. All of these small acts of kindness help us grow in our love of neighbor.
Technology has made it easy to donate money intelligently by making information about nonprofits accessible. Websites such as DirectRelief.org or GiveWell.org provide in-depth financial information about charitable organizations, letting you know where donations go and how efficient these charities are.
We are more likely to succeed in our attempt to become holy if we do not fight everything in our culture but instead use those very things to help us. The Church has always been good at this idea of “redeeming” what was already there in the pagan world by giving it a new meaning and purpose. Imagine if you were reminded to pray every time you looked at your phone. It is easier to use our devices as tools for holiness than to try and disconnect from them to be holy.
Feed your soul on Twitter:
Pope Francis: @Pontifex
Vatican News: @VaticanNews
Patheos Faith&Work: @PatheosFthWork
Bishop Robert Barron: @BishopBarron
Christian Culture: @Christian8Pics
Jonathan Doyle, speaker and author focusing on Catholic education: @beingcatholic1
Busted Halo, a website and satellite radio show for young adult Catholics: @BustedHalo
Today’s Catholic Teacher: @CatholicTchrMag
Cue up these solidly Catholic podcasts while you work out, drive to school, or even during your prep period! Find them in your favorite podcast app or at the links below.
“Word on Fire Show” is a weekly podcast on faith and culture hosted by Bishop Robert Barron. WordOnFireShow.com
“Discerning Hearts — Catholic Podcasts” covers lives of the saints, the basics of Catholic social teaching, the Sacred Liturgy and prayer in everyday moments of our lives as we fulfill our call to “be saints in the making.” DiscerningHearts.com/Catholic-Podcasts
“The Gathering Place” is a Blessed Is She podcast hosted by Jenna E. Guizar. Conversation and prayer for Catholic women. Anchor.fm/Blessed-Is-She-Podcast
“Pray Station Portable” offers a daily morning and evening prayer that you can take with you on the road, with prayers taken from the Liturgy of the Hours. SQPN.com
“Pray As You Go” brings together music, Scripture, and questions for personal reflection in a short daily prayer session. Pray-As-You-Go.org
St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology promotes Catholic Scripture study and offers Sunday Bible reflections. StPaulCenter.com/Studies-Tools/Sunday-Bible-Reflections
“Catholic Answers Focus” highlights in-depth conversations with Catholic leaders, newsmakers, and unsung heroes of faith. Catholic.com/Audio/Podcasts
When Carmen Lagalante isn’t teaching the students, she’s teaching the teachers. She’s online at JesusTeacherTech.com.
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