Yesterday, I was speaking with my mother over the phone as she was watching the children of my sister and brother-in-law. It was early morning and my mom was watching “Daddy Day Care” with my two year old niece and three year old nephew. As they started watching the movie, my mom turned to another activity for a moment. My three-year-old nephew promptly informed his grandma, my mother, that she should quit the activity and pay attention. “No playing on the Ipad or talking on the phone during the movie, neither!” At three years old, a child knows when another is distracted and not connected.
My nephew oﬀered me a great lesson in wisdom. When we are distracted by multi-tasking, checking out a text or glancing at the TV while with another person, it is noticed. Even a three year old who can barely talk is acutely aware and frustrated.
Technology and busyness permeates our culture in such a way that we are always tempted towards distraction. The problem is that when we give into distraction we cease to be present to the presence of the other person.
Distraction compromises our relationship with God and with others. How many of us have been a part of a visit with another person at work or dinner where the other party is continuously checking their phone or glancing at one of those ﬂat screen TV’s fastened to the wall? These distractions introduce a separation from the personal encounter and sharing of persons that such visits are created to foster.
Distraction not only compromises our relationships with others, but also with God. How often do we ﬁnd ourselves at Mass or at prayer thinking about everything except God? Now, needless to say, distractions are going to happen. St. Theresa of Avila notes this in her writings. However, we often intensify our distractions in prayer and at Mass by the choices that we make. For example, we over commit ourselves to other activities and are reduced to “ﬁtting Mass in” or “ﬁtting prayer in” during the day. With such an abundance of activity it is very diﬃcult to be prepared for prayer and Mass in a manner that allows us to be present to the Presence.
I must admit, I have had to work hard against the immediacy of technology distracting me in encounters with others along with being over committed during the day to the point of trying to “ﬁt prayer in.”
The presence of God and others are oﬀered to us in the present moment. Moreover, the present moment is the only real time we have. The past is over and the future has yet to come.
I want to thank my three-year-old nephew for teaching me the wisdom of being present.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam,
Fr. John F. Jirak
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