All posts tagged: technology

Technology Will Serve, but Whom?

This is an essay about technology, a subject that tends to polarize, with proponents too often dismissing the critics as “pessimistic” and the critics too often tending toward the apocalyptic. Part of the problem is that we need somehow to learn to speak about technology again. We need to do so in a nuanced manner which does justice to the complexity of our current situation. A part of the problem is that certain technologies are not devices we make use of on certain rare occasions but are, in some instances, something more akin to companions the loss of which would, for some, be quite literally catastrophic. The human species has always been homo faber but the integration of technology into our lives is such that it mediates almost every facet of our lives, and we can only expect this process to continue. What I want to do is suggest not simply that we have a technology “problem” on our hands (this is obvious) but that those who adhere to the Christian religion have particular problems …

The Liturgical Critique of Technological Culture

  Over the past twenty years, rapid technological developments have completely transformed our social environment, leaving no doubt about the adequacy of Jacques Ellul’s earlier prognostications: ours is surely a “technological society.”[1] Such widespread integration of technology into culture raises a number of important questions for Christians and their calling to be “in the world, but not of the world” (See: John 17:14-17; Rom. 12:2).  I am specifically concerned with the following: how does Christian participation in technological culture affect our perception of, and participation in, the sacramental life of the church? Vice versa: how does our participation in the liturgy and the sacraments affect our perception of the technological society in which we are more and more involved? Such questions can be tackled by turning to the research of Walter Ong (d. 2003) and Yves Congar (d. 1995). By extending and synthesizing Ong’s sociological approach to technology along with Congar’s theological interpretation of Church and culture, I will argue: the liturgy of the Eucharist intrinsically orders the relative goods of all human technologies, for …

The Annunciation and Vocational Fear

  Mary said: My soul is deeply troubled; what can this greeting mean? Am I to give birth to my king and yet remain a virgin forever? –Antiphon for Daytime Prayer, Advent I prayed these words most days last Advent. It looked like my bishop would be ordaining me as a deacon this May. At least for diocesan seminarians, at diaconate we make our lifelong promises to be celibate, obedient and faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours. It comes up fast and raises a lot of questions. Is it commitment possible and worth the risk? Mary’s heart was full of questions—Luke’s gospel and this suggest as much. These are not necessarily questions of pious wonder:  she was deeply troubled, utterly unaware of how this Annunciation was going to happen or what might happen as a result. This year Church observes the Annunciation on April 9 because March 25 fell on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday evokes Abraham, who was willing to offer his son. Both Abraham and Mary show us how to approach celibacy, commitment …

Not All Sacrifice Saves

Sacrifice in the popular mindset entails a “giving up” or a “destruction” of something one loves. The word can also involve a calculative risk, wherein one surrenders what one values to get something of greater value in return. Robert Daley rightfully indicates that these prevailing notions of sacrifice represent pastoral and theological challenges.[1] Negative conceptions can be harmful because they sever us from our loves. Scheming notions can turn us into fratricidal envious individuals who maneuver against each other to get a bigger piece of the pie. Nothing heroic or saintly exists in such ideas of sacrifice. There can be, however, a heroic form of sacrifice that is detrimental to the human spirit, specifically when it takes the form of mastery over and against others. This hypertrophy of sacrifice with its language of heroism and conflict can seduce persons into a cult of hardness or virile fundamentalism, living in a self-absorbed dualistic “us” vs. “them” universe. Recent history has been marked by those yearning for self-mastery in the face of death and denying modernity’s tendency to …

The Sacrifice of Sagging Flesh

My great-grandmother’s flesh was soft under my 5-year-old fingers. Standing beside her as she spent time playing cards or dominoes with her grandchildren—my father and his brothers—or her children—my great aunts and uncles—I would hold onto to her arm, laying my head on her shoulder, touching the loose, sagging flesh of her arm. What today is considered grotesque—wrinkled and sagging flesh—felt good under my young fingers. I remember this scene fondly, because it was played out on numerous weekend evenings playing cards or dominoes into the wee hours. The laughter and banter around the card table was joyful, as she unleashed her dry wit in an attempt to out-wit my father and uncles in cards or dominoes. She had been a teacher in rural Texas, where my family has been since Texas was a Mexican state. She was born in 1893, and she had been a teacher from age 20. She walked 12 miles each way to teach at one of the rural schools that peppered the southeast Texas landscape in the early 20th century. …

Why Would Young People Want to Remain Catholic?

“This was like the synod for the American Church.” This remark came from one of the more than 20 bishops[1] during a closing conversation for the Cultures of Formation conference hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life and cosponsored by the USCCB committee on doctrine. It was a breathtaking three days. Some 550 registered participants and a few hundred more unregistered attendees considered the profound issues, the pressing needs, and the most ambitious hopes for what Pope Francis has asked the whole Church to focus its attention: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” While those of us who were in attendance will be unpacking what we heard and discussed for months and years to come, those who were not able to attend can sign-up for free follow-up resources, including a forthcoming digital conference, on the conference webpage. Since a comprehensive rundown of the whole conference would likely require at least an entire book if not a multivolume series, I would like to offer six initial reflections both to remind those of us who …

Single Life Is More Fundamental for Christianity than both Married and Religious Life

The question of single life and its place within the Church has once again become significant of late. Not only are men and women marrying later in life, but many people are finding that quite virtuous pursuits of career or service have not allotted them the time to invest in finding a partner. Online dating options alone cannot overcome the loneliness that is structured into the economic and social autonomy of most adults. Various youth and church groups, while well intentioned, are seriously ill-equipped to address all the challenges of singlehood. The complexity and challenges of the larger cultural and social matrix is important to keep in mind when considering any understanding of the single life. Here, the challenges of modernity assert themselves rather aggressively for our context is characterized in particular by forgetting. This seems an outlandish claim in a world saturated with information. But if we understand this correctly, it means that modernity is particularly skilled at forgetting the ideas, people, events, and history that shape its current perspective and reality. In the …

Review: “Connected Toward Communion” by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome

New media technology has connected us to astounding stores of information. The same technology has also been blamed for isolating those who develop unhealthy digital dependencies. New technology always giveth and taketh away. It begs the question, to what end are our technological developments aimed? If they are neither all good nor all bad, then cultivating a culture of communication that promotes the common good while avoiding the pitfalls of technological decadence is worth contemplating. In her book, Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age, Daniella Zsupan-Jerome offers a fitting response to the telos of technology question. Her lodestar is the collection of Church documents that have addressed the challenges and opportunities of mediated communication. From the Second Vatican Council’s Inter Mirifica to recent World Communications Day addresses, Zsupan-Jerome traces the Church’s thinking on the highly malleable subject of social communications. Much of the popular rhetoric surrounding new media relies on the language of connection for envisioning what this transformation means. Wired magazine, the magisterial guide for all things high …

Review: “Cybertheology” by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ

Much of what has been written in recent years about the intersection of theology and information and communications technology has focused on how best to use the Internet and social media to spread the Gospel. And in the context of the New Evangelization, we talk about evangelizing the culture, a far more difficult and ambitious task. If we are to succeed at either of these endeavors, then we have to know and understand today’s digital culture. This is harder than it would, at first, seem, largely because we miss the wood for the trees. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ’s Cybertheology: Thinking Christianity in the Era of the Internet enables us to step back, take a deeper look, and reexamine our assumptions. It is a slim, timely book that raises more questions than it answers, one that manages to steer a middle course between enthusiastic appreciation of the Web’s capabilities on the one hand, and sharp criticism of its deficiencies on the other. This delicate balancing act is no easy feat, neither is it wholly successful, but …