CV NEWS FEED // Catholics who follow daily updates on Church news and cultural issues would be wise to acknowledge and combat the real danger of replacing one’s spiritual life with refreshing a news outlet page, argued a wife and mother in a recent op-ed.
Wife, mother, and author Simcha Fisher posed the question, “Can too much Catholic news make you spiritually sick?” on January 15 on The Catholic Weekly.
Although modern-day Catholics have incredible access to news updates on the Pope and the Church, Fisher noted she strives to limit and skip over much of the news, especially by reminding herself of “Medieval Peasanting.”
“‘Medieval Peasanting’ means reminding myself that there once existed Catholics who couldn’t read or write and who never strayed more than 10 miles from the place where they were born,” Fisher explained:
They had some vague notion that the Holy Father lived in a far-off place called Rome and they ought to pray for him every day. They said their prayers and did their best to obey the commandments, and when they failed, they repented. That is how they lived their faith.
“When they had the chance, they received Jesus in the Eucharist with glad hearts and gratitude and fear of the Lord. And so should I,” Fisher wrote.
Yet, this image of medieval peasants is “an idealisation of medieval life. Medieval people, peasants and everyone else, were not automatically holy simpletons just because they didn’t have the internet,” she acknowledged:
They were just as prone to vanity and pettiness and selfishness and idiotic mind games as I am. Where I have the distractions of trolls and Twitter ratios and doomscrolling, they had the distractions of toothaches and fleas and runaway infections.
Fisher continued, “Just because they were disenfranchised, that doesn’t mean they were magically able to fix their eyes on the Lord with unwavering attention. But they were supposed to try. And so am I.”
“I am supposed to be pursuing eucharistic coherence in my own life, and if the political and ecclesiastical discourse on eucharistic coherence is distracting me from that, I should chop it off,” she wrote.
It is certainly possible to inform and enrich one’s spiritual life by “reading about the church, and keeping up with news about the church, and listening to podcasts about cultural issues, and having strong opinions about bishops and liturgy and politics and education and devotions and social justice and canon law and copyrights,” Fisher wrote.
“But they’re not your spiritual life,” she continued. “And if you give them too much of your time and attention, they will crowd out your actual spiritual life, and pollute what remains.”
“Spending time talking about and arguing about and acting on Catholic issues is not the same as actually being Catholic. It’s not the same as being a child of God,” Fisher wrote:
Being a child of God means praying, and meeting God in the sacraments, and changing your life when the Holy Spirit asks it.
In a caveat Fisher added that she was not telling Catholics to ignore headlines, bury their “heads in the sand,” “or pretend everything’s fine in the church or in the world, or to refuse to act when action is necessary.”
Rather, “I’m trying to remember what’s really going on when I do let my mind and attention and heart be constantly engaged by these matters. It may not be what it seems,” Fisher wrote.
Fisher shared that growing up, her mother read books on theology extensively, because she found it an interesting subject.
“But it didn’t make her holy,” Fisher wrote. “She said so all the time. She was eager to make sure people understood that she read theology because she found it interesting, the way some people find baking or cryptology or golf interesting.”
Her mother’s spiritual life, Fisher explained, was actually more like that of a medieval peasant who simply followed the teachings of the Church, fasted and prayed, and repented when she sinned.
“There was some overlap, of course, between her fascination with theology and her practice of her faith… What she read informed how she acted—of course it did,” Fisher wrote:
But she understood that they were not one and the same thing; and most importantly, she understood that reading about God was not a substitute for acting like his child.
Fisher concluded, “So what’s really going on in the church in America and the church everywhere? Jesus is there, forgiving sins in confession, and making himself present in the Eucharist. That’s what’s really going on! That’s the big headline. Don’t miss it.”