I usually spend several minutes each day looking over various news websites to find out what is going on in the world and in the Church. Yet it seems to me that it is most often a distraction rather than a positive enlightening experience. The world is a mess, the US is going down the tubes, politics are more important to bishops than the salvation of souls, and the Fr. Pflegers are getting away with making a mockery out of the Church each day. After reading all of this I often find myself in a state of frustration. What can often be neglected however are my own imperfections, and they are many. I think that Satan loves the latest news stories because we all get a chance to see how terrible and messed up everyone else is, and he knows how we tend to get distracted by all of this. We even end up making the latest news stories the core topic of our conversations. Yet how does this really help us in our own spiritual lives? I often wonder how much difference it would have made if I had not been aware of most of the news that I read over the past several years. How much of it was really necessary for me to know? How much of it was a cause for scandal or anger for me? Would my life be any different? Perhaps I would be a more holy person than I am now? Despite knowing all of the atrocities that have gone on in the world and in the Church, me knowing about them has not changed it one bit. I have been following the charlatan Fr. Pfleger for years, and have commented on him, hoping that the Cardinal who is responsible for his actions would do something, yet as we all know, nothing has changed. So my new goal and challenge is to refrain from reading or watching the news for one month. No internet, no TV, no newspapers. Instead I will focus on my spiritual reading and prayer and see how much difference being isolated from the latest headlines has on me.
I have been reading a lot on the Desert Fathers and various monastics who fled to the wilderness to get away from all of the various distractions of the world. It seems to me that they all wanted to focus on their own sins and failures rather than those of others. The news certainly can have its benefits, but in today's times it is largely a source of scandal and most often focuses on humanity in its most negative light. Satan has certainly had his grubby claws in the news media for quite sometime now and he knows that if he can keep us occupied with the sins of others, that we will be less inclined to look at our own spiritual lives. These two stories from the Desert Fathers illustrate my thoughts. Anyone want to join me in my 30 day seclusion from the latest headlines?
Abba Isidore went one day to see Abba Theophilus, archbishop of Alexandria and when he returned to Scetis the trethren asked him, 'What is going on in the city?' But he said to them, 'Truly, brothers, I did not see the face of anyone there, except that of the archbishop.' Hearing this they were very anxious and said to him, 'Has there been a disaster there, then, abba?' He said 'Not at all, but the thought of looking at anyone did not get the better of me' At these words they were filled with admiration, and strengthened in their intention of guarding kthe eyes from all distraction.
A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, 'My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother's faults'. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), 'In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping?" "I am weeping over my sins," the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, "You do not have any sins, Father." The old man replied, "Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them. "