1. Finding soul food

When I told my sister that one of my greatest pleasures was to watch television, she was horrified. Yes, I find some of the PBS programs very informative and even inspiring. The web, even more than TV, has become our mental environment. One can find soul food in excellent programs on nature, science, even cooking, plus a few Sunday celebrations where everybody sings, in churches decorated with art, and inspiring homilies. Yes, I find soul food in the media.

Facebook has reached 2 billion users. Half the Facebook users log in every day. In the U.S. one out of every five internet pages is viewed at Facebook. Data for 2017 indicate that Facebook is accessed 15 days per month and 8 times a day by its users, while Twitter is accessed 7.5 days a month, and 5 times a day. WhatsApp is used by more than a billion customers in 18 countries; it has become the most popular messenger. The cell phone generation finds most of its soul food in the social media.

2. Avoiding addiction, poisoning, and kitsch

There is a kind of opioid epidemic going on in the media today. It will not kill you, it will only sedate you. It is like the opiate of the masses Marx wrote about.

Regularly watching the news on TV is anxiety producing. When reading the same news in a newspaper, one can skim the article or skip it altogether. On the radio, twitter, and the hourly news reports, we always get "the latest," as if the previous newscast were obsolete. And the current newscast will also be obsolete in an hour or two. Getting the latest news is like running after time: you will never be able to catch it or stop it. All you get is latent anxiety.

Cell phones can easily be addictive when people take them along wherever they go. Very important people do not answer the phone; they have their secretary do that, and then they answer later at leisure. Most of us are not important enough to have a private secretary, so we receive throughout the day messages that say "My message is important to you. Would you want to miss me, would you? Please answer NOW! NOW!" And we oblige. Cell phones are addictive because they make us feel powerful.

With Halloween and Christmas we enter the season of kitsch. Walt Disney was probably the most influential commercial artist: Mikey mouse and Santa Claus bring his aesthetic into stores and homes. Artists like Matisse, Chagall, Cocteau, Leger, Rouault, Le Corbusier etc. have decorated churches, but where can you find O'Keeffe or Pollock except in museums? Kitsch is like fast food: it pleases but does not satiate.

DISCUSSION: Where do you find soul food on television, CDs, your cell phone, and the internet? Do students use their phones in class like a secret addiction? What would Advent or Lent feel like without taking one's cell phone along? Cell phones are our favorite pets, aren't they? They keep us on a short leash.


1. Myfavorite soul-food
            My favourite soul-food on a regular basis is the good old fashioned newspaper-style journal called "The Catholic Worker" specifically from Houston.  Care for the poor and the migrant, including their stories, systemic challenges in the economic realities of the world, and a great model in Dorothy Day.  I read every word.  And after feeling somewhat guilty for my failings, I feel nourished and rejuvenated in the Good News lived vibrantly!
      Mark Miller, (Toronto)

2. Community meals
            Mealtime should be a time of community.  Gene LaVerdiere years ago wrote copiously on how central meals were to the nascent church.  Again and again the scripture describes meals, from the Hebrew scripture "banquets in the sight of enemies" to the Passover meal before leaving Egypt. The Christian scriptures also have many references to meals
Dee Christie,

3. The media-ted human relations
                 We have created a situation in which human relationships are increasingly mediated, and social-media-ted by electronic gizmos. “Connection” has largely come to replace “communion.” We measure our significance as persons by the number of Facebook “friends” and Linked-In “connections” we have. But possessing “friends” without acquiring the skills constitutive of friendship (a la Aristotle, Cicero, and Aelred) is nothing short of demonic.
 Rick Steele,

4. Phones are our lifeline
            In this day and age, life comes at us at a furious pace.  Part of that is because we have access to an entire world of information at our fingertips.  At work, emails or texts are expected to be responded to immediately, even if it is Saturday night. I have received phone messages at work on Friday nights, followed by another message on Monday morning with a frustrated “I called you a few days ago and haven’t received a response.”
            Phones are our lifeline.  They are the first place we get our breaking news and they are the way we communicate with many people at one time.  Texts arrive constantly and they catch our attention because our phone lights up when they come.  These things have contributed to our absolute addiction to following social media sites for the constant flow of information (or sometimes misinformation) and for our connections to people. 
            I thank Pope Francis for speaking out.  We need to change our ways.  Certain times/places should be sacred in order to listen to each other.  Our phones should be turned off and packed away at dinner. I am inspired by this to make some changes in my own home...
Mary Whiteside,

5. A disturbing trend
            Several disturbing trends seem to be indicative of a major crisis in civilization. Work culture has devolved into group chats where emotional firestorms erupt over nothing, reputations are destroyed, sullen silences predominate meetings, and CEOs make decisions based on mob rule.
            The same holds for classroom culture where irate parents descend like vultures on principals and teachers daily, based on group chat histrionics. Conversations cannot address any of these issues because they necessarily involve complex sentences, even paragraphs and nuances which go out the window in revolutionary times like this.
            The speed alone of the interactions, reactions, judgments, condemnations is alarming. Caffeine, alcohol, coke, pot, antidepressants may all be factors in creating an altered group sensibility, ripe for chat violence and chaos.
Clare McGrath-Merkle,