Catholics urged to give up texting for Lent
They say idle hands are the devil's tools. But this Lent, it may actually be texting fingers doing the dirty work. That's what Roman Catholic bishops are telling the faithful, urging them to give up technology such as iPods and behaviors such as text messaging until Easter.
As the Associated Press reports, Catholic groups in Italy's Modena and southern Bari are calling for a ban on text messaging every Friday in Lent, which began a week ago.
"It's a small way to remember the importance of concrete and not virtual relationships," the Modena diocese said in a statement. The diocese hopes the texting ban will draw attention to the conflict in Congo, which it says is fueled by a struggle over mines that supply minerals used to make cellphones. Digging hands are the devil's tools?
Lent is about becoming more aware of God and who you truly are, said Father James Heft, a professor of religion at USC and the president of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. For some people, that might mean giving up things they are addicted to, while for others, it means engaging more with friends and family. And for some, it might mean doing away with distractions such as Twitter, he said.
"These are all things that can be tools, but they can be addictions," he said about technology. "They can contribute to an inability to silence the self."
What people give up for Lent often reflects the times, Heft said: In the 1950s, his family gave up television and popcorn. Now, there are dozens of Facebook groups about giving up the social networking site for Lent. Some members have already failed. Other Catholics are giving up candy, Diet Coke and Rod Blagojevich.
You may think giving up technology is an impossible task, but perhaps the real question is, What Would Jesus Do?
Some Catholics answer that God would want them to stay in touch in a connected world.
"Why would people not want God to live with the times?" asked Silvia Beltramini, a Catholic school grad who is now an event designer living in downtown L.A. Lent, she said, is about personal growth, which doesn't always mean taking away something important. She's meditating once a day, for instance.
This decree, she said, "sounds like something a nun would say."
Other suggestions from Catholic bishops: Give up TV, ride bikes instead of driving cars, stop throwing gum on the street.
No word on whether Catholics should also give up the Internet, but it seems that YouTube is still kosher. Someone at the Vatican signed on to the pope's YouTube channel just an hour or so ago.
-- Alana Semuels