Apparently, our kids are not the ones we need to be worried about when it comes to screen time. It’s us. Or maybe it’s them too. Either way, somebody somewhere some people everywhere are spending a lot of time staring at their devices. I’m guilty, for certain, so I decided to at least attempt to pretend to do something about it.
A few months ago, I downloaded an app for my phone that tracks my phone usage. It doesn’t just track total time, it tracks which apps I’m using and, even more appallingly, how many times I pick up my phone.
Let me repeat that for you. It tracks the number of times you pick up your phone, which, for me, is a shockingly high number. I pick up my phone more often than I used to pick up my baby. Scary.
Before using this app, I had been working really hard to reduce my mindless time on the screen. I was already bored with Facebook, so that took, like, 2 minutes to check. I’m still enamored with Instagram, but it doesn’t take much time to scroll through your high priority (friend) posts, and I had already entirely given up on Twitter. Tweets just make me mad. Other than those apps, I typically use my phone for email and texting, googling and shopping, but not much else, so I was expecting pretty low numbers.
Except they weren’t. Low, that is. All of those short 2-6 minute phone pickups/app checks really added up over the course of the day. Initially, I wasn’t bothered much because I think we all need a little time during the day to check in and check out.
What did bother me is that around this same time, I realized I wasn’t doing much to foster my spirituality.
Sometimes this happens to me because, as beautiful as they are, Catholic prayers can be routine. For a person like me, too much of a good thing is not a good thing at all. It becomes mundane or boring or just another part of my day and I stop connecting with the act itself.
This same personality trait is why I have a hard time with exercise routines (I get bored), repetitive jobs (I get bored), cooking family favorites for dinner (I get bored), and the list goes on. I am constantly searching for a little something to shake up my days and help me to see or experience things in a new and different way. This is why, as much as I love prayers like the Rosary, I have a hard time praying them every day. It’s also why I have a ridiculous number of books on faith and spirituality — instead of focusing on the repetitive, they help me see faith in a slightly different way, encouraging growth in my own life. I also know, though, that repetitive prayer is an easy and powerful way to keep in touch with God. After all, Jesus taught us one special prayer to be used any and all times we need to check in with him! I needed to find a way to successfully keep both ways of prayer and growth in my life.
There had to be some way to recapture a few of those 6 minute phone pickup moments and use them for prayer. What I needed was a way of praying that was slightly different (again, to combat the boredom), and quick. I finally decided to check into a form of prayer introduced to me during one of my college theology classes, Liturgy of the Hours.
Liturgy of the Hours is a form of prayer that nearly all who enter religious life (priest, nun, monk, religious sister, religious brother, etc) commit to praying. Some must, according to their vows, and others are strongly encouraged to make it a part of their daily prayer life.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying it out using my favorite Catholic App, Laudate (it’s my favorite because it’s FREE).
The Psalms are the base of Liturgy of the Hours and perhaps why I was drawn to begin this type of prayer. The Psalms are one of the books I accidentally ignore, but are filled with hope and love and light for the way forward.
Honestly, I’ve been loving this simple way to incorporate prayer into my day. I don’t get bored, because each day, I get to read something slightly different and reflect on something new. And, it’s quick. So quick! It just takes a few moments to reset my day and refocus my energy. Maybe the best part is that it’s one more way that I can feel unified and connected to Catholics across the world (especially those fully committed religious Catholics!)
So far, I’ve only prayed two of the designated hours: Lauds and Compline. It’s been rather nice to pick up my phone, and instead of jumping straight into the typical apps, make a detour into prayer. There’s something satisfying to checking in and checking up instead of checking out a couple of times a day.