TV Fast

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

March 1, 2001


TV Fast


            I may live to regret it, but I issued a public challenge to our parish on Ash Wednesday.  Fifteen brave souls took me up on it.

            At our mass for youth, I encouraged our young people to make some time for silence in their lives.  Silence to allow time for God’s voice to be heard.

I mentioned all the sources of endless and meaningless noise: the internet, the cell phone and, above all, the television.

            I issued a challenge.  Join me in a 40 day “TV fast.”

            Disconnect the cable. 

            Undo the satellite dish.

            Unplug the VCR.

            Turn off the Nintendo.

For 40 days and 40 nights (not counting Sundays), provide time and space for a new kind of pleasure: silence.  Silence for reflection, for reading, and for prayer.

There were audible gasps among the roughly 200 young people assembled in our parish hall. When asked how many thought they had the strength to do it, only a smattering of hands went up.  I would have had more takers for swimming across the Chesapeake Bay.

I promised anyone one who could honestly say they had given up TV for 40 days, that I would treat them to dinner after Easter.  I even put a sign up sheet at the door outside the hall.

After Mass I had 15 takers. Four from one family.

In our culture, this is not an easy challenge. It won’t be easy for me either.

I live alone. The TV provides a lot of company.  I put it one in the morning when shaving and again in the evening when cooking and eating dinner.  Like many American’s I want up to the minute news from CNN and continuous weather from the Weather Channel.   Yes, I really like TV.

But lately I’ve discovered something else about the TV.  It bothers me.  It irritates me.  It makes me unhappy.

First of all, there is the endless selling.

I don’t want all that selling in my home.  In a half hour of programming, nine minutes are commercials or promos for other programs. Sporting events are no longer sporting events.  They are sell-a-thons. 

Secondly, with some great exceptions, commercial TV has become a cultural sewer.  Not just the low-lights of  MTV or “Married With Children” either.  I’m talking about even high brow shows that drag us into worlds where we don’t want to go.

For example recently I saw an episode of “Law and Order” about men who give their wives insulin shots to place them in a coma, so that they can pretend they are having sex with dead bodies.  Perverts like that may exist, but I don’t want them in my house.    Apart from the coroner, who really needs to know about such things?  A diet of such “entertainment” corrodes the soul.

Third, I need more time and more sleep.

Like most Americans, I feel rushed.  I don’t have enough time to get things done.  I seldom read or reflect.

Also, like many people, I don’t get enough sleep.  I am often tired. Our teenagers seem even more exhausted to me.  They get up early.  They claim they don’t have time to do their homework, yet they stay up for Letterman and Leno.  This is an addiction that physically and spiritually hurts us.

I know I am better off praying silently for fifteen minutes and getting to bed 45 minutes earlier.  Who really needs the late news of car wrecks, murders, rapes and fires. 

Will I be able to make it to Easter without the TV?  I’m not sure, but I am already happier in the silence.

Besides, I have 15 people challenging me and 200 teenagers who heard me promise it to God for Lent.

So, stay tuned.  There is much more to come now that the TV is off.