We live in a culture that seems to encourage us to be distracted and always busy with constant activity.
So many of us seem to feel pulled in different directions, trying to do so many things at once — this is true in our work, in our family responsibilities and also in our ministries and work for the Church. Multi-tasking, a word that didn’t exist a generation ago, seems to have become a way of life.
I worry sometimes that our technologies — especially devices like cell phones and tablets — are becoming more than just tools that help us accomplish tasks and make our lives easier. I worry these technologies are changing the way we think and the way we experience reality.
Are we losing some of our attention span, our ability to concentrate? Are we becoming more anxious about what to do with “downtime” and silence and the space between messages and status “updates”?
The problem is older than the new technologies. In spiritual manuals of earlier generations, it was called “activism” — a mentality that says that life is all about activities and “doing.”
This mentality is easy to see in “workaholics” — those people who seem to live only in order to work. But all of us, I think, are subject to this temptation and more and more in this culture of constant communication.
All of us, I think, know the feeling of getting caught up and consumed by our activities — even the good things we are doing to help other people and serve the Gospel.
The temptation is to use our work as an excuse — to say we don’t have enough time to pray, there is just too much to do. The danger is that we come to see time spent with God as time wasted, time that is boring or not productive.
What we need is wholeness and integrity in our lives, a balance of work and prayer and rest and recreation. We do not need to reject technology or retreat from our responsibilities. But we do need to make sure that we are keeping things in their proper perspective.
There is an expression from St. Augustine — “much strength and great speed, but all off track.”
That’s how it is with our life — if we are not rooted in prayer, in the natural everyday rhythms of contemplation and conversation with God.
No matter how tireless or generous we might be in our service to others, no matter how much we are accomplishing for the Church in our ministries — if our lives are not grounded in prayer, then we are not living the way God calls us to live.
A life without prayer is never healthy and this is one of the reasons people “burn out.”
This can be especially true in the Church.
Pope Francis cautions us against thinking that our Christian mission can be reduced to activities, structures or programs. He calls “pastoral activism” an “ever-present danger.”
“What the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all … loving attentiveness,” he writes in Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
October is a good time to reflect on this because this is the month the Church dedicates to the holy rosary.
The rosary is a contemplative prayer. And we all need more contemplation in our lives, more prayer.
The rosary is a perfect prayer for a time of distraction, a remedy for activism.
When we pray the rosary, our thoughts are turned with loving attention to Jesus — to the mysteries of his life, to the face of God that he shows to us.
The rosary opens our hearts to God’s plan, his loving will for our lives. This prayer teaches us to listen and to watch — as the Virgin Mary did — for the signs of God’s purposes and work in our daily lives. This prayer teaches us to trust God and seek to do his will in our lives — again, as Mary did.
The more we reflect on the life of Jesus, the more we realize that everything he did came from a deep place of prayer, from his loving dialogue with the Father. Big decisions, important gestures — all were made after periods of intense and deliberate prayer.
And of course, Jesus is our model. Even with all the duties and pressures we face, we need to make time for our relationship with God — every day.
Just getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning may give us the time we need to begin our day with prayer. Of course, that means going to bed a little earlier — even though we may think we still have work that “needs to get done.”
Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, to help us to grow closer to Jesus and be like him — to make prayer the center of our lives.