Rooting out sin

| Vincenzo Randazzo | October 20, 2017 | 2 Comments


I recently watched a video prescribed by the USCCB for parents informing them about the dangers of pornography and cyberbullying. It opens up with a conversation between two mothers talking at the kitchen counter. One is looking for a recipe online for her friend. “That’s strange, my history is deleted,” she says ignorantly.

“Uh oh,” says her friend. “That’s not a good sign.”

“What do you mean?” asks the first woman.

“Well, let me tell you about what happened with my son Billy … .”

You get the picture.

Please know that I do not watch these instructional videos with popcorn or in my spare time. It was a part of training for my work, and the video is certainly a good thing, despite its inevitable all-around awkwardness. Its lesson for parents was to install internet filters on all devices, be compassionate to your children if they fail, and keep a close eye on children’s use of technology.

All good things. However, if pornography is a war tactic of the devil, and that video was supposed to be a counter attack, then — well — God help us.

“There has to be a better way to fight this,” I thought. “This video is like mortification or penance.”

Then I realized there is a better way: mortification and penance.

St. Paul wrote, “If you live a life of nature, you are marked out for death; if you mortify the ways of nature through the power of the Spirit, you will have life.

In 2017, when occasions of sin seems directly proportional to occasions of internet access, mortification is necessary for Catholics. It’s reported that a quarter of internet searches are for pornographic material, and it is a third of downloaded material. Meanwhile, technology addiction could be affecting even more people. CNN reported that American teens spend nine hours a day in front of a screen, with all sorts of negative consequences on the brain.

While it might seem like we need something extraordinary to fight this culture, I fear we are forgetting the Church’s ordinary prescription for fighting sin: sacrificial offerings, fasting, prayer and mortification. Mortification has been the way saints purified their souls and the souls of others since the crucifixion. A sacrifice, offered up to God in love and as a prayer to purify our culture, is an effective way to fight this battle. This does not mean becoming a hair shirt-wearing desert monk, but it might mean doing something extreme.

“If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off,” Jesus said. He exaggerates to prove a point: There are things in our lives that have to go, and to get rid of them might hurt. But it’s worth it. If you are unwilling to cut off the source of your sin, don’t mope; pray God gives you the strength to overcome your addiction and cut something else off, even if it seems unrelated. Cut off coffee or TV or music in your car.

Do something for the love of Christ. And pray for the strength to grow in self-control. It’s sacrificial love.

But, to be clear: If your computer is causing you or your child to sin, forget the Net Nanny. Consider throwing your computer out. Show repugnance for sin. Really, I mean it. If your smart phone is an occasion for you to sin, get rid of it. Do it. You and I both know it is better for you to enter heaven without your iPhone than to go to hell looking at the Apple’s “forbidden fruit” logo and thinking to yourself on the way down, “That’s ironic.”

It might be a very difficult thing to do, but who cares? In “The Way,” St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “To defend his purity, St. Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, St. Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, St. Bernard plunged into an icy pond. … What have you done?”
Let’s do something.

Randazzo is an evangelization manager in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and director of development at St. Stephen in Minneapolis.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen