Pope Francis, in the Joy of Love, reflects on the importance of allowing time for each other, to enable love to flourish.
He says “Love needs uninterrupted time, where everything else is put into second place. Time is needed to talk things over, to share plans, and to listen to one other.”
But for families living in a digital age that precious time for each other is under huge pressure especially from the relationship we’ve developed with our smart phones and digital devices.
Of course, we love all the benefits this new technology brings. We can instantly access news and information from all over the world. We are now more connected with people online than ever before. We can stay in touch with friends and family even when they are far away.
But these devices also have a hidden cost that can disrupt the very fabric of family life. For these little gadgets vying for our attention every minute of the day, may seem pretty harmless. But it is so easy to click on the latest news update, check emails, watch a video of a cute kitten … awwww. These never-ending updates distract us from the most important update of all, the one that is unfolding right in front of us.
The irony is that while we are more connected online, we have never been so disconnected from one another. And as our world is getting faster and faster, the frenetic pace of society where we are always virtually connected can cause huge problems.
Couples come home exhausted after work, not wanting to talk, and take refuge in online distractions. And when a couple no longer knows how to spend time together, it is easier to flee from what has become an uncomfortable closeness and take refuge in an undemanding virtual world, than to face the real challenges of family life.
With all these pressures, it is tempting to disconnect from the real world and our true selves. With the right photo filters and a few carefully selected pieces of information, we can create an online persona which is likeable to others. And we love to be liked. Quite literally.
But as Pope Francis says, living in a family makes it hard for us to feign or lie, we cannot hide behind a mask. We have to face our true selves.
For the spirituality of family love is made up of small everyday gestures of kindness and attentiveness to the other. From giving full attention to each other as we share our daily adventures, to offering a sympathetic ear when others have had a challenging day.
These small acts of tenderness knit together the very fabric of a loving and joyful family, where God has his dwelling place.
So, if we can just switch off our phones and tablets and give each other uninterrupted time, we will find the space where the true joy of love can flourish.