Matt Walsh’s recent blog on the Thanksgiving/Black Friday controversy titled If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem surprisingly takes aim at the American consumer. Typically, outrage concerning the increasing hours of Thanksgiving shopping is directed at major retailers, but Walsh points out that retailers need customers. If people did not shop on Thanksgiving, then the stores would not be open for the holiday.
It is easy to complain about the changing tradition of Thanksgiving. Last year, I warned that the traditional Thanksgiving family dinner could go the way of the Dodo bird, into extinction. I wrote about the sad transition:
At one point, our country valued giving God thanks, and for one day a year, we collectively expressed our gratitude to God for our food, homes, family, and country. The former importance of Thanksgiving is a testament to the Christian heritage of his country, but sentiments have changed, greatly diminishing the significance of the holiday. In its place, Black Friday has arisen.
Black Friday represents America’s obsession with stuff. In a few days, millions of Americans will wait hours in line, trample those who get in their way, and then fight to grab the latest must-have item, all in the name of a bargain. More than another event, Black Friday demonstrates the materialism and greed that has infiltrated our culture.
As I have continued to reflect on the sad state of Thanksgiving, I have begun to realize that the hostile takeover of Thanksgiving by Black Friday is not the main the problem. More troubling is that the cultural struggle is to keep two, ONLY TWO, days for God and family: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year reserved for family
Nearly everyone concedes there are 363 days a year for shopping. The only difference is that “social conservatives” are arguing for only 363 days of shopping, and the retailers are pushing for 365 days. That’s not a big difference.
Christmas already has become so absorbed by consumerism that it’s hard to find a young child that values the birth of Jesus over presents and Santa, and sadly, we’re witnessing the decline of Thanksgiving before our very own eyes the past few years.
Somehow, you are considered a countercultural radical if suggest two days, let me repeat TWO DAYS, with no shopping. That’s not the Catholic perspective. Rather, a clear priority exists in our faith: God, family, and then somewhere toward the bottom, shopping.
We need to abate our obsession with shopping, and find time to rest every week. It’s pretty clear in the Bible: “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” And in the Catholic Catechism, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound . . . to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body."
We shouldn’t embrace Sunday as a day of rest just because is a commandment and emphasized in the Catechism. It is also a wonderful and enjoyable practice. Growing up, I loved Sundays. We would get up leisurely, go to Mass, have a family brunch, and then play games as a family. There was no shopping, no activities, not even homework until the evening. It was a day for worshiping God and leisure time with the family. I cherished it.
If you are too busy Monday through Saturday that you must shop on Sunday, then you are too busy. Look at your schedule, and take something out. The 34 hours of television the average American watches per week, might be a good place to start, but do not skimp on God and family time.
Moreover, think of all the retail workers who are required to work on Sunday. They cannot go to church, they cannot rest, and they cannot spend time with their families.
Some might counter that it’s an economic necessity for stores and restaurants to be open on Sunday. I would respond that Chick-fil-A seems to be expanding even though they are closed on Sunday. Likewise, Paramus, New Jersey is one of the largest retail centers in the world, doing $5 billion in retail sales per year, but none of it on Sunday because of the town’s strict blue laws.
It would be wonderful to have one day per week where there is no traffic, no shopping stress, no running around. Even if a person is not religious or even Christian, they would agree that some down time with those that matter the most is a good thing.
Matt Walsh points out in his blog that there is a level of hypocrisy in individuals who complain about stores being open on Thanksgiving and then go shopping on Thanksgiving. I find it equally odd that proponents of family time and defenders of traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas practices fail to mention the collapse of Sunday as a day of rest.
I see the root cause of the increased amount of shopping on Thanksgiving not due to greedy retails stores or even shoppers hungry for a good deal. Rather, it is due to the blurring of sacred time and profane time, or more specially, the decline of sacred time. Sacred time is special time set aside for God, when worldly activities are suspended. Once the idea of sacred time, with Sunday at its center, decreased in importance, it was only a matter of time before all holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas included, were overrun by consumerism.
Are you upset with the collapse of Thanksgiving? Then, do something. Matt Walsh suggests we set out by not shopping on Thanksgiving. It’s a start, but we need to go farther than building a cultural defensive wall around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I suggest we begin by re-sanctifying time, holding holy each and every Sunday.
November 26, 2013 04:23
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
Well, the pope has done it again. His recent interview has unleashed a torrent of coverage. Even though, he distinctively stated that the church needs to talk less about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, the media has exploded with articles on these very topics. A quick Google news search yielded 950 articles written on these topics in the last 24 hours.
The coverage has been amusing. The worst offense was NARAL's Facebook post, which simply stated: "Dear Pope Francis, Thank you. Signed, Pro-choice women everywhere."
Okay, what's going on with the coverage of pope? Here's what I think is happening...
Editor: I want you to cover the Pope.
Reporter: But, I cover sports, and I really don't know anything about religion.
Editor: No problem. You just have to take a few quotes out of context and use the words controversial, groundbreaking, radical, and the like.
Reporter: I thought our job was to enlighten the people, not sensationalize the news and thereby confuse them.
Editor: Hahaha, you are new to this area. When I started covering Pope Benedict, my editor instructed me to do the same things, expect use words like backwards, archconservative, medieval, and so on. My articles were wildly popular. You'll do just fine.
Does the media purposely distort the sayings of religious leaders in order to make news out of something that is not newsworthy, or are they completely ignorant of church teachings? It's probably a little of both.
Every time I read an article about the church, I see a potential blog, clarifying what the church actually teaches and how the article distorts an out of context statement. Specifically, Benedict was made to look like a backwardness conservative, and Francis is made out to be a radical progressive.
Pope Francis greets a child as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 11. Addressing a group of Catholic gynecologists Sept. 20, the pope condemned abortion as the product of a"'throwaway culture."(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Undoubtedly, there has been a major shift is the way the message has been delivered. In the past few months, I have learned that appearances are very significant, but I also discovered that the "experts" exert little to no effort in discerning the substance of what they are reporting.
The Catholic blogosphere spends so much time clarifying what is in the news. Every new "controversy" is followed by hundreds of blogs trying to defuse the storm. As a blogger, I am tired, and I think many Catholics have a similar sentiment.
The saddest element of this trend is that the last two Popes have developed beautiful, nuanced theologies. Numerous times, the whole message has been overshadowed by one line, and the vast majority of people miss the whole message, only learning of one contentious line through the news.
I would suggest reporters invest in a little book called the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When reporting on a topic, lookup the relevant section in the Catechism. If the text is similar to the new, controversial statement (it almost always is), then it is NOT new and NOT controversial. I doubt that this will happen, but we can always hope.
For us Catholics, we need to invest in doing the extra work. Never get your religious reports from the media. Instead read the entire interview, homily, or speech of the pope. Seek out non-traditional media reports, written by an individual adept at theology for analysis. You'll find yourself less frustrated, far more informed, but also more inspired.
I'll leave you with a quote from the pope:
We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity ... I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.
If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.
In this perspective I would now like to continue by completing ... what matters above all is to tend one's personal relationship with God, with that God who revealed himself to us in Christ.
That is, the quote is from the "archconservative, backwards" Benedict, which shockingly resembles the "controversial, progressive" section of Francis' interview.
September 22, 2013 08:21
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
I was always perplexed by modern art. Why would anyone pay millions for a canvas painted completely blue? Furthermore, why should such a painting hang in a museum? I, with no artistic talents, could produce a better painting. Heck, my four-year-old could do better.
I finally got modern art when I picked up a book about Rites of Spring, a 1913 ballet. It was not any ballet. It was history’s most controversial ballet. The Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, departed radically from traditional music, using irregular rhythms and dissonance. Choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the performers danced in a choppy and disjointed style, far different from standard ballets.
Needless to say, the performance caused a riot. With boos descending from the audience and people leaving en mass, Stravinsky and Nijinsky hailed it a major success. In a flash, I understand the ballet, modern art, and all of post-modern culture.
In a Christian culture, the end means of art is beauty, and since beauty is an attribute of God, it is considered objective and timeless. Art from the Christian era, the Pieta or Notre Dame, is beautiful and will always be considered beautiful.
In the post-Christian worldview, art is detached from God, and there is no objective aim. Artists no longer desire that their art be beautiful, but new. Culture has thus become a rat race to produce newer and newer art forms, measuring their success in the shock factor.
I mistakenly thought that artists wanted to produce beautiful paintings or beautiful music. The painter of the blue canvas did not want me to stand in awe of his work, but stand there confused, saying I could do that. Stravinsky did not want applause and rave reviews. He wanted boos and rioting. In both cases, they wanted to shock the viewer.
Here’s the catch. You cannot do the same thing twice. The second person to paint a blue canvas will not be in museum. You have to invent a stranger, more radical form of art, which brings us to Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus poses with Lady Gaga, two celebrities that perform and dress for shock value. (Image via Flickr, JOnasIsMyMiddleName)
I did not see MTV’s video music awards (MTV still exists?), but what I have gathered from my Facebook feed and the news, Miley Cyrus performed a tasteless and provocative number. The reactions have all been negative, but in terms of the world, she was a huge success. That is, winning today is measured by shock value, not beauty.
Miley Cyrus realizes all press, good or bad, only keeps her in the news for longer. Her act surpassed Britney’s infamous kiss with Madonna and Lady Gaga’s meat dress. She’s the newest, most shocking celebrity, but by doing so, she has ventured the farthest from true beauty. Was it worth it?
Sadly, we are far from correcting the course of our culture. I hope that eventually we issue a collective: ENOUGH! And, demand an end to shock culture and insist on a rediscovery of true beauty. In the interim, I am scared what will happen next year on MTV.
August 27, 2013 09:23
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
A few months ago driving to work, I listened intently to NPR’s special report entitled, Losing Our Religion
. The particular story that caught my attention was a group interview of young “nones,” people who do not identify with any religion. Having written my dissertation on the process of secularization and studied the phenomenon of “nones” extensively, the majority of responses were predicable. Until, they were questioned: do you pray?
To my surprise, every interviewee acknowledged that they pray. With great candor, one admitted hypocritically to praying when hitting rock bottom, yet not believing in God. Others revealed that they often expressed a spirit of gratitude or did a daily examination. While not directed to a personal God, these actions contain many characteristics of prayer.
Reflecting on these responses, I concluded that prayer is a very natural response to certain circumstances. We often pray to God when faced with a great difficultly – a death, illness, or loss of job, or we offer a prayer of thanks when something good happens. It’s intuitive. We don’t even have to think about doing it.
Now, it’s time for my confession. Even though praying is a natural action, I am very bad at it. I went to Catholic schools, attended religious education classes, and heard thousands of homilies, and yet, I struggle communicating with God in a personal and meaningful way.
What did you think of the responsorial psalm from last Sunday? Were you blown away by its profound meaning? If you are like me, then you probably don’t remember it. I am not an expert in body language, but are most people at Mass present only physically? Too often, when I am praying the rosary or night prayers, I am planning the next day or daydreaming about something else. I am merely saying words with no movement of my heart.
(Tom McCarthy Jr. | CR Staff)
I feel like I am not alone, and I would argue that it is more a problem with Catholics than members of other denominations and faiths. In today’s Catholicism, there is a strong emphasis on verbal prayers. We teach children to memorize certain prayers, but neglect to instruct them what to do mentally while praying the words.
Communicating with God through prayer has many similarities with interacting with a spouse. It is natural and easy to communicate with your spouse at first, but over time, it takes work to develop and deepen your relationship. You cannot say the same thing over and over again, and not expect the relationship to become stale. You have to create new ways to express your love in order for your marriage to be fresh and vibrant. The same is true with our relationship with God. If we repeat the same prayers while we are zoning out, we will not grow in our love for God.
Most Catholics assume other faiths are more attentive toward mental prayer. Eastern religions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, are focused on meditation, and Protestantism has a rich history of spontaneous prayer. Catholics have even sought to integrate eastern mysticism and revivalism into Catholicism in order to enhance their prayers.
Borrowing or inventing new methods, however, is not necessary as Catholicism has a profound tradition of mental prayer. The church has always encouraged mental prayer, and countless mystics have written on the subject, climaxing in the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. The current problem is not that Catholicism is opposed to this type of prayer, but that it has been forgotten and neglected.
We need to be part of a movement that restores mental prayer to the forefront by reading and learning from the classical texts. Yet even before exploring the writings of the mystics, we can begin with simple practices like taking a few minutes every day to meditate on the passion and death of Jesus while contemplating a crucifix or reading a passage from the Bible and then silently reflecting on it.
Some of the “nones” in the NPR report were former Catholics. Why did they leave? Perhaps, they were not taught how to properly pray, and therefore, they felt that their prayers were fake and empty, prompting them to leave the faith. It is our responsibility to ensure that does not continue to happen.
Catholic instruction should move beyond memorizing prayers. It should help people develop a deep and living prayer life by building on people’s natural desire to pray and develop and deepen it with proper guidance. Only with this renewed focus on mental prayer will young Catholics see their relationship with God as meaningful and thus remain devoted to the faith.
May 29, 2013 12:25
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
Several months ago, the nation came to a halt due the mass killings in Newtown, and rightfully, every news station, newspaper, and the like covered the story for days. It precipitated a national conversation on how to prevent future massacres from gun control to mental health care. It was the innocence of the young children that struck a chord with people. How could anyone hurt a young child?
Currently, the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell is underway. For those unaware, he routinely delivered live babies during the third trimester, and then cut the spine of the baby in order to kill them, decapitating breathing, screaming, moving babies. He even joked that one baby was so big he could “walk me to the bus stop.”
Where is the new coverage? Where is the outrage? Where is the national conversation?
The murder of these innocent children has been greeted by silence.
The pro-abortion lobby is scared of this case because it shows the true face of abortion. You can dress up the issue with a discussion of privacy and rights, but the reality is a baby loses his or her life in the process. The trial, the grand jury report, and the pictures make this loss of life painfully clear.
Finally, a few honest journalists have picked up the story. Instead of repeating their work, I encourage you to read their articles in USA Today
and The Atlantic
and to share them.
April 12, 2013 12:50
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
I have a confession to make. I am a Patriots fan. Please keep reading. I’ll explain.
I grew up in Connecticut, watching the Patriots every Sunday; yes, even during those horrible pre- Belichick / Brady years. I move down “south” to attend graduate school at The Catholic University of America, fell in love with a girl from Baltimore, and the rest is history.
Her family is typical Baltimorean, and by typical, I mean crazy about the Ravens. Even though I sported my Patriot gear every fall and winter, they accepted me. I suppose by the grace of God. Needless to say, games between the Ravens and Patriots have become major events in our house.
Last year, I was particularly excited for the AFC Championship game, hoping for a little revenge for the 2009 Wild Card debacle. I never watched the game.
That Sunday morning, we received a call that my wife’s aunt had a heart attack and was at St. Agnes Hospital in critical condition. We spent that afternoon in a hospital waiting room, not in front of the television. The doctor informed us that she would have died, if she had not been brought in, and things still looked pretty bad.
When I eventually heard of Cundiff’s missing field goal. I felt nothing. My team was going to the Super Bowl. Who cares!
My wife’s aunt never improved. After several months of horrible suffering, she passed away. She was a saintly person, and as one relative stated, if she did not go straight to heaven, we are all in trouble.
Last year, I realized football is just a game, and it is not the players on the field that make watching the game great. If the Lance Armstrong case teaches us anything, it is that we tend to over idolize athletes.
It’s the people sitting next to you that make watching the game great. I’ll be wearing a Brady jersey on Sunday in a sea of purple, but there is no place I would rather be than with my family.
Aunt Mary Ellen, I love and miss you.
January 18, 2013 10:51
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
I am the father of two young boys, and I am concerned about their future.
For most of Western Civilization, males dominated society, but in the last 50 years, females have gained access to jobs and education historically reserved for males. Women not only performed as well as men, but in many situations, they outperformed them.
Today, more females are enrolled in college than males and more women are in the workforce than men. In the early 2000s, alarmists spoke of the decline of boys in education and the business world. Numerous books like The War Against Boys, Boys Adrift, and Save the Males, chronicle a dysfunctional boy’s culture and its impact on society. The recent recession reignited this discussion as men suffered greater layoffs than women, resulting in some commentators calling it a man-cession.
Statistics can be used to prove every aspect of the gender question: male decline, gender parity, or continuing female subjugation. Beyond the statistics, the cultural portrayal of young males is worrying. It’s become cliché to talk about the recent male graduate, living in his parent’s basement, playing videos games, eating pizza, and drinking beer. Digging deeper into our culture, where are model men in the media? From the harmlessness of the Bernstein Bears to the comedy of Ray Romano and silliness of Homer Simpson, fathers are portrayed as bumbling idiots.
The image of the deadbeat dad - childlike, lazy, and obsessed with fantasy football - is countered by super-mom - worker, caregiver, and husband-sitter - able to balance soccer games, board meetings, and making the perfect apple pie.
Are these archetypes descriptive, I hope not, or prescriptive? That is, do they represent reality or do these images help create reality? I am apprehensive over the latter. Society sets the standard so low for boys that they might not rise above mediocrity, or by promoting these subpar models of manhood, boys might think this behavior is acceptable.
Beneath these images, true troubles exist in the culture of boys. Nearly universal exposure to pornography is destroying a generation of boys’ ability to properly interact with females. Altered by hours of perusing images of women, most boys view the opposite sex as objects for their gratification, not as individuals deserving love. Boys also appear to be more susceptible to new addictions, especially video games, and sadly many relate better to imagined realities than the real world. On the flip side, girls have the added motivation of centuries of adversity and countless media depictions of strong, young female characters. They have something to prove, but boys are lost in the midst of the modern world’s challenges.
Reflecting on the “crisis” of boys, I realized it’s not a crisis of boys but of men. Some, if not most, of boy activities are fitting for young individuals. Regrettably, males do not grow out of these activities. Is it more of a problem that boys play hours of video games or that men do the same? Girls will eventually drop their obsessions of Justin Bieber and Edward Cullen, but male fascination of sports heroes does not disappear; it only becomes most sophisticated. Are man caves really boy caves with beer replacing soda?
The missing process of male maturity is aided by the lack of real men. Media images, as mentioned above, reinforce the juvenile father figure. Real-life models are also in short supply. Today, a staggering 41 percent of children are born out of wedlock, and it increases to 53 percent for children born to mothers under 30. Where are the dads? It is a vicious cycle of men not being there for their sons, which then produces a new generation of sons with no positive male models.
Fortunately, I had a wonderful father, a model of selflessness and holiness, and after my wedding and move to Maryland, I gained a father-in-law with similar qualities. It’s my task to follow their examples and show my sons what it is to be a man.
Girls are statistically doing better than boys, but boys are doing fine. Girls are merely performing exceptionally. Much more importantly, girls are better at making the transition to adulthood. Contrarily, boyhood has been extended into the 20s and 30s, and just when you think a boy has become a man, a childish mid-life crisis rears its head.
For a man crisis to be averted, society needs to adjust its image of immature fathers, and real fathers need to start playing their role, providing an example for future generations.
October 12, 2012 04:17
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
Hate has had a long run, but it’s time to retire the word and all its forms: hater, hatin’, hateful, hate group, hate speech, and so on. Any usefulness of “hate” has been undermined by its overuse and misuse. It does not mean anything now, and its use only incites more animosity.
It’s a classic retelling of the boy who cried wolf. If every instance of insensitivity is labeled hate, then how do we decipher between real hatred from exaggerated hatred? A person that does not like your outfit is not hatin’. A person that posts an article on Facebook that you disagree with is not full of hatred. A person from the other political party is not a hater.
We need to expand our vocabulary and use more appropriate and less incendiary words as the situation merits: rude, unkind, insensitive and the like. Reserve hate for truly vile acts. Wade Page’s shooting rampage at a Sikh temple that killed six people is clearly a hateful act. Better yet, only use hate to describe actions, such as hating murder, and avoid using hate for a specific person or even a group of people. Still better, throw the word into the dustbin of useless words, avoiding it altogether.
The problem has been exacerbated by a news industry that values sensational stories over substance. Additionally, watch groups and anti-defamation societies, though founded with good intentions, are more interested in drawing attention to their own organization than addressing intolerance, and together with the media, they often turn gaffes and out-of-context statements into hate speech, resulting in protests, condemnation, heated rhetoric, and (you guessed it) more hatred.
The sad story of Floyd Lee Corkins reveals the dangers of the name game. He recently entered the offices of the Family Research Council, yelled “I don’t like your politics,” and then opened fire on the security guard. He somehow believed that shooting an innocent person was an appropriate way to express his displeasure with the Family Research Council, labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
As a nation, we need to turn down the rhetoric. Labeling something hateful, doing a hateful action, or increasing hate awareness are not going to diminish hate. More often than not, a vicious circle of increasing hate ensues from these actions. It’s time for society to collectively kick hate to the side. The answer is much simpler. Return hatred with love; that is the only true remedy.
August 20, 2012 08:10
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
Guess how much media the average teenager consumes every day. You might want to sit down for this one. According to a study by The Kaiser Family Foundation, the answer is ten hours and 45 minutes! My first thought is how is this even possible? Excluding time at school and sleeping, teens must spend every moment connected to some form of media.
The extensive study used surveys and media-use diaries of individuals aged 8 to 18, and it included only recreational use of media; using a computer or reading a book for school assignments, for instance, was not counted. The research was conducted in 1999, 2004, and 2009, and the evidence shows a steady increase of media use over time. The breakdown in hours and minutes is: four hours and 29 minutes watching TV, two hours and 31 minutes listening to music, one hour and 29 minutes on computers, one hour and 13 minutes playing video games, 38 minutes reading print and 25 minutes watching movies. Teens are adept at media-multitasking – watching TV and surfing the internet at the same time – and therefore, are able to consume all of this content in seven hours and 38 minutes per day, slightly more tenable, but still over 53 hours per week.
There is a lively debate about the merits or problems of media in the lives of young Americans, but I think one overlooked issue is the question of influence. Parents like to think they are the most influential individuals in their children’s life, and if not them, perhaps an inspiring teacher or dynamic priest. What parents fail to realize is that a short dinner conversation, one hour class, or weekly homily is dwarfed by ten hours and 45 minutes of TV shows, music lyrics, and YouTube videos.
Parents need to acknowledge that their teens are most influenced by people their children have never met in person. Everything from the way they dress to their values are most likely acquired from what is coming off a screen or flowing through their earphones. What are the messages being sent to our children? Like most parents, I am not really sure, but I am fairly confident that they are at odds with Christian ideals.
The high numbers are driven by young Americans’ nearly constant accessibility to media and little parent oversight. The study reveals that few parents, only 30%, set rules about media use. Many teens also have access to mobile devices that give them immediate access to media. In the last five years, the number of eight- to-18-year-olds who owned cell phones jumped from 39% to 66% and those who owned iPods or mp3 players rose from 18 to 76 percent. Responders also documented that 70 percent have a TV in their room and 50 percent have a videogame system in their room. In short, parents give their children these devices and then walk away, leaving teens to determine appropriate time limits and content.
In addition to this statistical evidence, I have noticed a shift in children’s behavior. I was always perplexed by the large number of children at our local bus stop and the lack of anyone playing outside or at the playground after school. Now I know why they are not outside. They’re watching TV. I have also observed a change in college-aged students. Not long ago, students would talk to each before class, but now they sit silently in their seats, listening to music or playing with their phones. I have seen similar behavior in adults on the metro, waiting in line, or walking on the street, all connected to media, oblivious to the person next to them.
My sons, three-weeks-old and three-years-old, are too young to fall within the parameters of the study, but my older son has revealed to me how even young children can feel the pressure of media. It is scary how adroitly he can use a tablet, selecting games, playing videos. Perhaps, the closest I have gotten to locking up our only TV was after my son’s third birthday. I assembled his present, a sandbox, for half a day, and then after five minutes of playing, he said: “Can we go inside and watch a TV show.” I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. With the start of school, my children will feel the pressure of keeping up with the latest shows and songs, and I am sure the demands for new devices and more time to use them will only increase. Looking ahead, I can understand many parents’ frustrations and also their disappointments in regards to teens and media use.
There are some positive elements to media. Watching a good movie is a great release. The internet is a treasure trove of information. Yet, 10:45 of daily media consumption is excessive, unhealthy, and sadly, the new norm. Too many parents have forfeited their role as parents. They let the media entertain, instruct, and distract (effectively, raise) their children. It’s no wonder that it is hard to relate to teenagers and that they appear so different from their parents. Parents need to regain control of their children’s use of media, limit the time, observe the content, and most importantly, replace it with more face to face interactions.
July 28, 2012 08:59
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
If you have ever toured the European countryside, you are familiar with the layout of the traditional farming village. Designed before the advent of automobiles, the towns are small clusters with houses grouped close together, surrounded by communal fields. The parish church is typically located off the central square, within walking distance from every area of the community.
The church was not only the geographical center of the village, but also the main meeting place for the people of the town. In the pre-modern period, people would gather for Mass every Sunday and holy day, and they would return repeatedly for devotions, processions, and other public prayers. In short, the parish was a central hub for spiritual and social activities.
The rise of industrialization ended the farming village’s place as the main organizational unit of European society. Starting in the late 1700s, former farmers rushed into urban areas to find new jobs, and the mass migration destroyed the local, religious culture of the village. In the cities, young people found themselves unrestricted from traditional moral parameters, no longer a part of religious community, and susceptible to new secular ideologies, such as Marxism. Many of the new, urban poor, therefore, dropped their attachment to religion.
The fall of the village parish is part of the theory of secularization, often overshadowed by more well-known elements of the thesis, including the modern state's replacement of the church’s role in education, health care, and welfare, and the secular intellectual shift during the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution. The link between industrialization and secularization, however, was not lost on some contemporary Catholics who created the Catholic Land Movement in order to recreate the traditional farming community as a means to revive the faith, a movement that ultimately failed.
The American story runs counter the European experience as our country was founded by primarily by agrarian Protestants. Catholic immigrants did not arrive en masse until after industrialization and settled predominately in urban areas. Unlike their European counterparts, American Catholics recreated their parish communities in urban areas, spurred on by intense anti-Catholicism that excluded them from most of society. In cities across the United States, Catholic ghettos grew in numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, organized along ethnic lines and centered around the parish church.
The ethnic, urban parishes had separate schools, associations, social clubs, festivals, and a slew of religious activities such as Masses, novenas, and Forty-Hours' devotions. At the height of these parishes, typical American Catholics lived in close proximity to their church and visited it several times a day for educational, spiritual, and social activities. Outside of the home, their lives revolved around the parish.
The typical American parish began to unravel in the 1950s as Catholics moved out of the city to the suburbs, a result of post-war prosperity and raising tensions in urban areas. Suburbanites might live a ten-to-fifteen-minute car ride away from their parish, nixing frequent visits to it, and they more frequently opt to send their children to public schools instead of parochial schools, further rupturing the connection between parishioner and parish. Consequently, today's Catholics only visit their parish for Mass on Sunday.
The new suburban attitude compounded the negative effects of the new geographic layout of the parish community. Prosperity did not bring a fulfillment of material desires, but a want for more. People’s highest concerns were for a larger house, a nicer car, and more household items; thus, materialism supplanted religion. In the 1950s, American had just survived the Great Depression and World War II, and Americans were living a much more comfortable life, a life which did not need spiritual intercession; accordingly, attendance at parish events declined. The suburban life also offered much more competition to parish activities. Children were placed into recreational sports, music and dance classes, and a number of other activities. Families were so busy that attending a church activity on weeknight became impossible.
It is bleak period for parish life. While some parishes are thriving, many urban churches are closing and some suburban parishes are being merging. Sadly, most Catholics think they are “active” members of their community, if they attend a donut social after Mass.
Reestablishing vibrant parishes is fundamental to reviving Catholic culture. Primarily, the local church needs to be a destination for prayer. In addition to attending Mass, parishioners should be encouraged to frequent confession, adoration, stations, and other religious devotions. Parishes also needs to be reestablished as a place for education, providing accessible and authentic Catholic education for school-age children and ongoing adult education with Bible studies and other classes. Next, parishes would benefit from the establishment of numerous associations: youth, young adult, women’s and men’s groups. Membership in an organization, such as the Knights of Columbus or Legion of Mary, undoubtedly brings an individual closer to the parish community. Lastly, parish communities could add a social dimension by sponsoring more events like movie nights, dinners, or dances. It is the duty of the laity to help organize all of these events, support them by being present, and encourage other individuals to attend them as well.
Like the European case, the decline of the parish was only one piece of the puzzle in a increasingly secular America. The cultural revolution of the 1960s and confusion over the implementation of the Second Vatican Council added to the reduction of parish activities. Nonetheless, I see the revival of the parish as a tightly knit community - physically, spiritually, and socially - as foundational to the resurgence of American Catholicism.
July 12, 2012 03:07
« Older Entries
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi