When I think of characteristics that first attracted me to the Paulist Fathers, the Paulist preference I observed of meeting the culture where it is and affirming what is good in it has always been a big factor.
I find that my awareness of the faith-culture dynamic is hyped-up during Lent. I ponder the ways in which Lent and our culture may or may not get along.
Think of that classic Lenten spiritual image of the desert, that place where Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days. What I immediately observe about the desert is its tendency to be void of “things”; access to many of our usual services and luxuries is generally not possible. I could bring a smartphone and play Candy Crush or 7 Little Words for a while, but the battery would die out. I’d need a big ol’ bag of extra chargers. One could set up a House of Cards streaming marathon on the big screen, but you’d need an extremely long power cord, and I suppose an ethernet cable as well.
Especially in reference to the technological sphere – our reliance upon which seems to be a hallmark of American-Canadian-Western culture – our culture can be cumbersome. Its ability to adapt is limited by the God-ordered nature of…nature.
The desert demands that we enter into it on its own terms. The fewer things that “work” in the desert, the more the bare necessities alone have a place in the desert-wanderer’s backpack.
Is this a perfect analogy with the Lenten spiritual life? Yes and no. Yes, I do find that I need to cut away from things and find some time for silence to simply be with God, just as I am; no distractions. I do from time to time need to have nothing but the necessities of life to remind myself of my total reliance on God, and of my need for thanksgiving for all that I have. But “no,” the analogy is not complete, in that I don’t think I could put a hard and fast rule on technology not having a place in the Lenten experience. As we can affirm culture for the principles (and people) it values, I think technology can be particularly affirmed for its potential to foster access to the spiritual and the transcendent. I mean, I am typing this, right?