As we arrive at the halfway point of the Lenten season, many of us have had the opportunity to reflect and most importantly, reconcile ourselves with God by performing penance for our sins. All Christians are taught that they should give up something for Lent and most do make a sacrifice of some sort. People have customarily given up things that are often found comforting and indulging such as junk food, smoking, caffeine, etc. The reason we give up anything at all during Lent is to remind ourselves of the sacrifices made by Jesus which thus brings us closer to him.
This Lenten season, I decided to give up text messaging. I did not pioneer this concept in the least. As a matter of fact, I learned of this concept from the Vatican. In 2009, the Catholic Church told Italians that they should give up texting for Lent. Mind you, this was almost ten years ago while we were nowhere near the point of proliferation that technology has reached today.
As one might surmise, the Church’s suggestion to abandon text messaging in Italy was met with mixed reviews. On one hand, bishops and parishioners applauded the suggestion. On the other hand, some opposed it with the line of reasoning that if it is unlikely to get younger people to attend Church, it would be further unlikely to get them to stop text messaging because the Church tells them to stop.
We have heard of the CEO Christian before. This acronym stands for Christmas Easter Only which refers to Christians who only attend Church on Christmas and Easter. It is not certain where this term originated, but perhaps we can agree that it derived from those that are critical of their fellow Christians who only attend Church twice a year. It is firmly argued by members of the Church that the changing dynamics of the Christian family or just the family in general, has been a significant contributor to the departure from religiousness in America. Whatever the reasons, people attend Church less often than they did. Statistics can invariably support this fact, especially regarding the Catholic Church.
CETTO stands for Christmas Easter Thanksgiving Text Only. I created this acronym because I could not help but notice that in America, where Thanksgiving is a major holiday for families, we tend to not see our loved ones unless a holiday obligates us to do so. In the long spats of time that elapse in between these holidays, many families tend to communicate with one another thru text messaging. Therefore, most families are held together by intermittent familial gatherings as the bricks, and text messaging as the mortar. There is nothing wrong with text messaging those we love to send them a picture or to send a quick “I miss you” or “I love you.” It’s the “ONLY” part of the CETTO acronym that is the problem.
We should not be okay with abandoning the two most important things that maintain our society’s integrity: religion and family. The family unit is the most sacred facet of the Christian Church. We are told by the scriptures that the love between a husband and wife should be unconditional, forever lasting, and most importantly, the antidote to the influences of evil. There are myriad reasons for this line of thought, but the simplest takeaway is that the family unit is where morality is instilled and that is normally connected to a family’s religiousness. Temptations of any kind will be weaker and less fertile in the minds of families that love one another by being together more often and speaking from their hearts on the telephone if distance separates them. If we replace our human connections such as face-to-face visits, phone calls and Sunday Mass with text messaging, then we are unwinding the fabric of civilized society one text at a time.
I am not making an argument for abandoning text messaging altogether. I am making a statement that we should all be more conscious of the importance of going to our places of worship more often with our families than just on the big holidays, and that we must supplement electronic communication with old-fashioned communication. I am reinforcing that people need to abandon lifeless objects as intermediaries between ourselves and those we love. Texting can easily become the only means of communicating that we have with one another since it is easier and can be done while multi-tasking. In order to achieve balance, one must weigh the benefits of texting to its drawbacks.
When I abandoned text messaging, two things happened. I focused more on my professional work as well as on my passion projects like Italian Enclaves. I also found that most importantly, my relationships with my loved ones benefited. At least for me, if I can hear someone’s voice, as opposed to reading their text, I am able to read the emotional content of their words much better which ultimately validates our relationship. Texting can lead to misinterpretations; it can unquestionably lead to miscommunications.
Texting has also replaced handwritten cards. Families sometimes substitute hand-written cards with text messages or e-cards. I find that sending a handwritten card is much more intimate as it takes time to purchase the card, write the note, and mail it out. These ritualistic steps although old-fashioned, show the recipients that time was taken to show them love and attention. Generally, when people received a handwritten card, they would pick up the telephone to call the sender and express thanks which would lead to a positive emotional connection. We may all have experienced an instance where we take the steps of getting a card for someone, write a note in it and mail it, only to receive a text message from the recipient thanking us for the card. At that juncture, the sentiment is invalidated and the evolution of social behavior sadly takes away from the human element.
For the remainder of this year, I implore people to try reverting their means of communications to those used before text messaging. A time not-too-long-ago, people spoke on the phone and visited one another. Try this. It may leave you feeling more fulfilled. It may not. Either way, any attempt at seeing your loved ones in between holidays is time well spent. The Church will never close its doors to you, so don’t just go on Easter and Christmas. Try spending a little time there in between those holidays. Light a candle. Say a prayer to thank God for the blessings you have, not just to ask for help when you are in despair. If your family is fragmented like many, be the catalyst. Every family has certain people who act as the glue to keep everyone else together. Be the glue. Don’t let the matriarchs and patriarchs take our traditions to their eternal resting places. Carry out your family’s traditions even if there has been a break in those traditions for years. Reinvigorate your family with spontaneity. Not every conversation needs prefacing with a text. If you are from a younger generation, pick up the phone and call an older relative. They’ll be happy to hear your voice. I promise you. I also guarantee hearing their happiness over the phone will make you happy.
Thank you for taking the time from your day to read this. Let’s make CETTO families better again.
God bless us all and God bless America.