After the Fast

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

April 13, 2001


After the Fast


            Lent is over.  My 40 day long “TV fast” has come to an end.  Since so many people wrote to ask me about it, I thought you might want to know the results? 

            I haven’t had a chance to debrief all the other 20 people in my parish who joined me in the TV fast.  Most seemed to keep it pretty well.  There were a few problems.  Some teens reported that their teachers gave homework assignments which required watching TV.  Some people said that visiting others made it impossible, since the TV was always on there.  I think both are reasonable exceptions to the fast.

Speaking for myself, I got much more than I gave up. 

            I feel more peaceful.  There isn’t the constant haranguing to buy things in my house anymore. There isn’t the endless noise.  When I  go to the nursing home or hospital now I am now so aware of the constant nagging presence of the TV.

            I was hard to give up TV during meals.  Since I live and eat alone, it was like loosing my only dinner companion.  But I discovered that NPR is a good substitute on the radio.  It has no commercials.  Radio allows you to use your imagination more.  It has very good coverage of the big new and more off-beat stories that never make it on TV.  In the morning I particularly like the “Writers Almanac” with Garrison Keilor.  He ends every episode with a poem.  Nobody reads poetry on TV much.

            I can’t say I really exercised more. I thought I would, but I didn’t.  In fact, I tended to eat a bit more.  Perhaps food was a compensating pleasure.  But since I wasn’t watching the TV late at night, I gave up my customary late night bowl of cereal .  That in itself helped me stabilize my weight during Lent.

            The biggest dividend was more time. I definitely had more time.

            As a result, I prayed more.  The half hour I used to waste on the “blood and guts” local news, I spent reading the Bible or writing in a prayer journal. 

I read more; not just magazines and news papers either.  I read a laugh out loud novel set in the Catholic India called “The God of Small Things”, by Arundahati Roy.  Reading was a pleasure TV had squeezed out. 

            I got more sleep.  I got to bed earlier.  That is a great dividend.

            I did miss some things on TV.  I missed seeing some of the “final four.”  I missed the footage of the release of the aircraft crew from China.  But that is small price to pay.  

            On Sundays I allowed myself to watch videos.  I discovered that there are some great educational videos.  I watched the whole PBS series on the early church.

            The biggest “insight” of these 40 days was the wonderful feeling of freedom.  I really can change things in my life. Even a 50 year old man, set in his ways, can change.

            I started to think about all sorts of things I want to change.  Challenges I want to undertake.  New priorities for my life.  Giving up TV made me realize that time is valuable.  I want to do a lot more with my life than watch it go by on a screen.

            I won’t go back to the TV.  Not like before. It is going to remain unplugged unless there is a special event.

            Giving up TV for Lent was a great grace.  I feel freer.  Free to tackle those other habits in my life that seem so unbreakable. 

Free, with God’s help, to break my vices and develop some virtues.

In only 40 days, that is a huge lesson to learn.