“What’s it really like to practice law?” I once asked a close family friend, a female corporate lawyer, before I filed my law school application.
“It’s not like on TV,” she said, “when you see all these big dramatic courtroom moments, where you’re spotlighted enunciating your theatrical speech and the scene ends with the smell of victory and resounding audience applause.”
Well maybe not your career, my twenty one year old self thought smugly. Mine will be spectacular. John-Grishom-best-seller-to-blockbuster-spectacular.
A decade later, I found myself asked the same question, and laughing as I repeated her answer, “It’s not like TV at all!”
Let’s face it: for most of us regular Catholic folks, our lives are not reflective of Hollywood movies, soap operas, or even the so-called reality TV shows. No one I know has amnesia. I’m not someone’s long lost relative heiress. My true love didn’t rescue me from the mob while trying to save New York in a red spandex costume. Our living room is decorated with cheerio crumbs instead of Pottery Barn’s white sofas. My momma friends socialize sipping chowder in a deli without canned laughter accompanying us. My “confessional” does not involve a camera or a million viewers. I’m just a regular blogger who will never make any top ten list. And the most exciting thing that ever happened in a courtroom was that I forgot to two-hole-punch a document, sending a Judge into a tizzy.
So why is it that we subconsciously or intentionally view our lives and our reality through the lenses of a media screen? Fitting a square peg through a round hole can undermine our Catholic teachings, endanger our virtues, and skew our God –given reality.
I’m not advocating that we cut off entertainment completely. (I escape by writing Catholic novels and rented some seasons of 24 partly because my husband looks like he could have been a branch of Keifer–Donald Sutherland’s family tree.) Rather, I think it would be wise to thoughtfully consider the programs we watch, the books we read, the movies we support, the music we play and if necessary, to let go of the media whose content is inconsistent with our soul’s best interest.
“It would be a matter of prudence to safeguard the purity and sanctity of our souls to the best that we can control it,” my confessor once told me. Baltimore Catechism’s take on this is: “to avoid near occasions of sin.”
Obviously, my struggles and experiences vary from yours but I offer my guide questions (which include the 7 deadly sins) as a starting point for some deep Lenten reflections:
1. Is the newspaper I read truthful to our Catholic teachings or patently biased to the ways of the world?
2. Am I becoming more aggressive/angry/depressed (as opposed to staying informed) when I read /watch certain political opinion?
3. Do certain shows subtly present an immoral or illicit lifestyle as the norm, or as humorous rather than harmful to society so that it affects my tolerance of sin?
4. Do the books I read titillate my imagination or do the disturbing graphic scenes leave my mouth tasting like I just gargled vinegar?
5. Do the ads and commercials make me constantly want things that are beyond my means or my needs?
6. Am I introducing inappropriate programs to the children in my home? Is my excessive use of media tantamount to sloth?
7. Do I make an effort to study the movie ratings and reviews, which warn me of potentially lustful and violent scenes? (Granted, their ratings are not always accurate but at least you can do a due diligence research.)
8. Do the songs preach explicitly tacky or subliminally pornographic messages?
9. Is the need to impress through social media ballooning up my pride or fostering envy?
10. Are the magazines/articles I read feeding my gluttony or nurturing my spiritual/prayer life?
Ten is a good number to stop. I’m sure you can add or subtract to that or fine-tune your media examination of conscience and manage your solutions as your situation calls for it. That is, so long as you keep me on your reading list.