By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series
Every year Advent seems to catch us off guard. As the weeks pass from one to four, we come out of the darkness into the marvelous light of awareness, so appropriately symbolized by the four candles of the season. The often sloppy habits with which we are far too comfortable begin to call out like John in the desert: “Repent, Repent, you can do better than this! Wake up, Wake up!”
Advent is a time of reconciliation, which means I am a little more busy than usual. After teaching classes the long Monday after Thanksgiving break, I went directly from school to a neighboring parish to hear confessions for a little over two hours. When I finally got home late that evening, I just flopped in a chair and turned on the Saints and Patriots Monday Night Football game. While I intended for my mind to relax, I soon found myself thinking about the contrast between all that I saw on the television and all that I just heard during the confessions.
As I watched the fans, listened to the commentators and thought about the Fantasy Football implications, it occurred to me how much energy so many people devote to a game that is so temporary and of which they have no control! I could not help but wonder: What would the world be like if even a fraction of our time and emotions were put into prayer and the relationships with those near to us?
Of course, this is not to say there is no value in leisure, sporting events and the like, but I could not help but question their purpose and priority. As I began my classes the following day, I wondered about the balance of other things, so I decided to give my students an assignment to determine their daily time/activity allocation. Personally, I was curious — just how many hours in a day are devoted to Facebook, video games, texting and sports?
Upon completion of the assignment, my students were also amazed at how much time they spend procrastinating and daydreaming; nor did they realize how much time they spend texting (some over five hours a day). Most of them spend far more time playing video games than doing homework, and if video games, Facebook, and TV are combined, they occupy more hours of the day than sleeping. In the end, many of them are quite unhappy about the way they spend their day, especially when I asked them if I could show this list to their parents, teachers or future employers!
Many of us associate Advent with confession and repentance; thus, it is fitting to spend some quality time examining our conscience. However, this is also the beginning of a new year (liturgically speaking) and so it seems also appropriate to make a new resolution. Perhaps a good start is to do your own evaluation of your daily activities. What takes up your time? Does this usage represent the relationship you want with God?
In the end, everything comes down to our purpose. Just as no one activity is bad, nor is any one activity good outside of our purpose. Thus, it seems our goal is to be more purposeful with our time, our energy, and our emotions. If we are, I am betting we will all have far less to confess when Christmas comes alive.
Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May and is teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan.