Technology and Souls

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

November 1, 2006


            Does technology save souls? No.

            Does it help? Maybe.  Or maybe not.

The American Catholic Church seems to have a love affair with gizmos. An implicit faith that these gizmos will help us communicate the faith better

            Twenty years ago our Archdiocese opened up a media center. It had a complete selection of film strips. That’s right kids, film strips. Those illuminated pictures with the “ding” going off every few seconds, to tell you to turn the knob and go to the next frame.

Today our children would laugh those film strips off the screen, if we could even find a film strip projector to show them.

            In the 1980s I went to the Holy Land. I came home with hundreds of beautiful slides to show on my new Kodak “carousel” slide projector. It worked well except when it jammed up and melted the slide of the Mount of the Beatitudes down into the Sea of Galilee.

Today now my projector sits in a closet with a burnt out bulb. Nobody  wants to look at the slides.  They want movies.  

            When I came to my current parish some 12 years ago, we installed televisions and VCRs in every classroom. Now we are replacing the VCRs with DVD players.

            Back in the early 1990s we put up a satellite dish so we could get religious channels like EWTN. Two years ago we tore down the satellite dish. Now we get EWTN on a cable.

            In the late 1980s our Archbishop ordered every parish to get a FAX machine. He loved FAX machines. Hence forth all archdiocesan communication would via FAX. Every parish had to have a dedicated FAX telephone line so nothing would interfere with urgent diocesan business. For a while our FAX machines chugged away all night, grinding out communications.

The messages came on curly FAX paper on long rolls. After a few days the paper turned brown. It seems like the archdiocese never really trusted the FAX machines. They also sent out hard copies through US Mail.

            Now the FAX machines are quiet. Today we get giant packages of information via e-mail. I “open” all of it. I down load some of it. I read a little of it.

            What really gets my attention is a regular old letter.   

            The other night we had a parish presentation on annulments. I spent several hours trying to put stuff on a disk for a “power point” presentation. I gave up. Instead I just typed up a regular old paper hand out. People were happier with that. They didn’t have to take notes.

            I wish I had all the hours back that I’ve spent learning outmoded technologies. I would be a year younger.  

            Does technology help us communicate better? Maybe.

But it does it save any more souls that before.

            People still want the personal touch. They want to talk to the priest. They want to hear the teacher. They want to ask a question.

            I’m sure next year we will have to buy and learn some new gizmo. Maybe we will have pastoral letters on I-pods or MP-3 players, or what ever.

It won’t make any difference.

Souls are still saved one at a time. They still want and need what Cardinal Newman said was the way God speaks to us in prayer. They still want “heart speaking unto heart.”