Twenty-three years ago, under the pseudonym Catherine Maurice, a woman wrote a book about recovering her small daughter from autism. Still in print, the book is called Let Me Hear Your Voice, a quotation from the Song of Songs, God’s love song to humanity. In 1993 autism was not the byword it is today, and the author weaves into her story general information about the illness: its spectrum of symptoms and possible causes, the challenges of diagnosis, and the history of treatment, including treatments available at the time the book was written.
Very quickly, in her daughter’s case, Maurice stumbles upon what is still the gold standard for the treatment of infantile autism: an intensive course of behavioral therapy called applied behavioral analysis that was developed by psychologist O. Ivar Lovaas at UCLA in the 1970s. Following Lovaas’s protocols, employing part-time therapists but also giving herself wholeheartedly to the work, in a little over a year’s time she recovers her daughter to the point that she is indistinguishable from her peers.
There is a kicker, however. Near the end of the book, as her daughter’s recovery nears completion, the author’s two-year-old son is also diagnosed with autism. His fall into the condition is more dramatic than his sister’s; his resistance to therapy frighteningly intense. In the face of this devastating second diagnosis, the mother’s courage and faith almost fail. But following the same protocols, employing the same methods, she recovers this child, too, completely.
Catherine Maurice is a Catholic, but on the face of it, the book’s title notwithstanding, Let Me Hear Your Voice is not a particularly religious or pious work. It is not the story of a miracle or a faith healing. Maurice discloses her Catholicism, and the reader is aware that prayer undergirds the therapy, but the book is about the therapy, not the prayer. Specifically, it is about the importance of choosing methods of treatment that are supported by scientific data. Applied behavioral analysis is all about data: its daily collection and interpretation. The method is empirical, hard-headed, and results-oriented. In the same spirit, before it is anything else, Let Me Hear Your Voice is a piece of high-level journalism, a clear-eyed reporting of what happened.
Then again, on a deeper level, the book is profoundly religious, more religious perhaps than its author intended. In this reading of the book, autism is not only a developmental disorder afflicting particular individuals, but a metaphor for the spiritual condition of fallen man. “O my brethren and friends,” the French mystic Mathilde Bertrand-Boutlé has written, “what a horrible thing it is to draw one’s life from God and yet not to love him!”
Maurice’s autistic daughter is indifferent to her mother. She never follows her around or tries to imitate her; never calls her or asks for her help. She looks through her, avoids eye contact with her, and gravitates to solitude. Alone, she attaches to parts at the expense of the whole, and resents and strongly resists being intruded upon. Self-contained and self-motivated, unable either to generalize or contextualize information, she engages in a limited repertoire of ritualistic, self-stimulating behaviors that sometimes cross a line into self-abuse.
In this reading of the book, the mother is God, watching a child of his wander away from him into darkness: a heartbroken but also a determined God, determined at any cost to bring the child back. Only for a brief moment near the beginning of the story does the mother’s resolution waver (“For a brief moment I forsook you. . . . In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you”), when her increasingly remote child ceases to acknowledge her altogether.
I sat down on the floor, back against the wall. “That’s not Anne-Marie,” I whispered. “I don’t have to love her because that’s not Anne-Marie.”
This frozen hostile calm lasted for a couple of hours. Then it shattered under a storm of grief, doubly violent for having been denied. No, I could never turn away from her. She was lost in her own world, and . . . I had only to look at her mournful face . . . to know that wherever she was wandering . . . it was neither a good nor a happy place. My peace and my happiness were inextricably bound up with her. Her future and mine were one. As she was drawn deeper and deeper into that dark wood, she carried in her small hands my broken heart.
From this point on, the mother doesn’t turn back, concedes nothing to the condition that has overtaken her daughter. There is no political correctness in Maurice’s attitude to autism; no nod to “neurodiversity.” Like the God in Donne’s sonnet, “Batter my heart, three-personed God,” she storms the walls of her daughter’s condition. Like Francis Thompson’s hound from heaven, she pursues her daughter’s recovery with a relentless, single-minded tenacity. Watching the therapists she employs, she learns not to be deterred by her daughter’s powerful resistance, even when it means that her good-mother image—like God’s reputation in the world—is a little tarnished in the neighborhood. Like God, she sets her sights high, commits both herself and her child to a demanding, sometimes painful therapy (life!), and receives back in the end a fully alive, loving, talking, and laughing child. By the time this happens, the shaken reader feels he has come very close to the heart of God himself, that wounded Sacred Heart that, in Christ’s words to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, has so loved men.
In the end, when Maurice’s youngest child also succumbs to autism and all the work has to be done over, following this way of reading the book to its almost unbearable conclusion, the reader realizes that for God, the harrowing drama of recovery is never a singular, or even a twice-told tale, but a perennial one. Every child of his, every child of Adam and Eve, wanders away from him into darkness, and has to be brought back at great cost.
Twenty-three years after Maurice’s book was published, we have an epidemic of autism, or “autism spectrum disorder,” which includes classic autism (Maurice’s children’s diagnosis); atypical autism, which exhibits some but not all of the defects of autism; and Asperger’s syndrome, which is much more common in boys than in girls and is characterized by average or above average language skills but impaired social skills.
At the same time, all around us, we have an epidemic of something else. On the street and in the office, at the dinner table and on a remote hiking trail, in line at the deli and pushing a stroller through the park, people go about their business bent over a small glowing screen, as if praying. On a recent transatlantic flight on Delta Airlines, flying into the morning, for the duration of the twelve-hour flight no passenger was permitted to raise the shade of the window next to him, lest the light from the sun interfere with the screens of the subdued passengers.
Sixty-four years ago, in her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor saw all of this coming. Describing the beautiful movements of a night sky over an artificially lit street in a small town, she commented dryly, “No one was paying any attention to the sky.” The cinema on the lit street was O’Connor’s metaphor of choice for the alienation of modern man, mesmerized by huge, internally generated images as if he were walled up behind his own eye; today everyone has a tiny cinema of his own, on the seat back in front of him or in his pocket, that he can carry everywhere.
This latter epidemic, or experiment, has been going on long enough that people are beginning to worry about its effects. Nearly every week in the New York Times, there is an opinion piece about the adverse effects of technology on everything from people’s posture to their attention spans, from their ability to process information to their capacity for both healthy relationships and healthy solitude. A university professor reports, for example, that some of her colleagues are banning computers from classes and requiring students to take notes by hand because it turns out that students on laptops aren’t taking notes at all—aren’t listening, sifting, and prioritizing what they hear—but instead are trying to transcribe lectures verbatim, as if they were court stenographers.
In another essay called “From Army of One to Band of Tweeters,” an Army major writes that his soldiers on social media aren’t building bonds of trust and group identity with other soldiers, that they don’t know how to work together and don’t have each other’s backs, which means that they go into combat at greater risk.
In another piece, an executive at a consulting firm describes how, after years of skimming online, he lost the ability to read books, or “deep read” in Maryanne Wolf’s phrase, herself a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts who experienced the same loss.
Testimonies like these are cropping up everywhere, but for a comprehensive survey of the emerging situation on the ground, the interested reader might look at Sherry Turkle’s recent book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. A sociologist and psychologist at MIT who has been studying people’s relationships with technology for thirty years, Turkle is an optimist. She believes that we can resurrect risk-taking, relationship-building conversation and redesign technology to work better for us. But she also describes in exhaustive, chilling detail the mostly horrifying effects recent technology has had on families and workplaces, educational institutions, friendships and romance. After reading her book, the reader can only conclude that many of the promises of technology have not only not been realized, they have backfired. If technology promised greater connection, it has delivered greater alienation. If it promised greater cohesion, it has led to greater fragmentation, both on a communal and individual level.
Even if the Church could keep screens out of her sanctuaries, people strongly attached to them would still be people poorly positioned to take advantage of what the Church has to offer. If thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else used to be a marker of human foolishness and a temptation to be resisted, today it is simply a possibility to be checked out. The new phones, especially, turn out to be portable Pied Pipers, irresistibly pulling people away from the people in front of them and the tasks at hand. Researchers have demonstrated that all it takes is a single phone on a table, even if that phone is turned off, for the conversations in the room to fade in number, duration, and emotional depth. All it takes is a single student surfing the Internet in class for everyone around him to learn less.
As Marc Barnes observed in these pages (“The Screen and the Book,” May 2015), an infinitely malleable screen isn’t an invitation to stability, but to restlessness. If people continue to insist that reading on a screen is not different from reading a book, we know now that they are wrong. The evidence is in, and Marshall McLuhan was right. Media are not neutral. As much or more than the content they convey, media themselves send messages, influence behavior, and communicate values. Current media, and the fear of missing out that they foster (a motivator now so common it has its own acronym, FOMO), drive lives of continual interruption and distraction, of virtual rather than real relationships, and of “little” rather than “big” talk, because if you may be interrupted at any time, it makes sense, as a student explains to Turkle, to “keep things light.”
Inevitably, in some of our young people especially, we are reaping deficits in emotional intelligence and empathy; loneliness, but also fears of unrehearsed conversations and intimacy; difficulties forming attachments but also difficulties tolerating solitude and boredom. In an already famous experiment conducted at the University of Virginia in which student subjects were asked to sit alone for a brief time without a device or a book, many students—though they insisted at the outset that they would not—chose to give themselves electric shocks rather than sit alone with their thoughts.
If this experiment makes one think uncomfortably of the self-abuse associated with autism, consider the testimony of the faculty at a reputable middle school where Turkle is called in as a consultant. The teachers tell Turkle that their students don’t make eye contact or read body language, have trouble listening, and don’t seem interested in each other, all markers of autism spectrum disorder. Like much younger children, they engage in parallel play, usually on their phones. Like autistic savants, they can call up endless information on their phones, but have no larger context or overarching narrative in which to situate it. Students are so caught up in their phones, one teacher says, “they don’t know how to pay attention to class or to themselves or to another person or to look in each other’s eyes and see what is going on.” Another says uneasily, “It is as though they all have some signs of being on an Asperger’s spectrum. But that’s impossible. We are talking about a schoolwide problem.”
Can technology cause Asperger’s, or symptoms that resemble those of genetically caused autism spectrum disorder? This is not a question that Turkle wants to answer. She sidesteps, but in sidestepping, points to the deeper issue. “It is not necessary to settle this debate to state the obvious. If we don’t look at our children and engage them in conversation, it is not surprising if they grow up awkward and withdrawn.”
“Look at me!” In the protocols developed by Ivar Lovaas for treating autism spectrum disorder, every discrete trial in the therapy, every drill, every interaction with the child, however seemingly innocuous, is prefaced by this clear command: “Look at me!” If absence of relationship is a defining feature of autism, connecting with the child is both the means and the whole goal of the therapy. Applied behavioral analysis does not concern itself with when exactly, how, or why a child becomes autistic, but tries instead to correct, do over, and even perhaps actually rewire what went wrong, by going back to the beginning, to earlier stages of development when the language one uses with a child is instinctively simplified and attention is everything. Eye contact—which we know is essential for brain development, emotional stability, and social fluency—is the indispensable prerequisite of the therapy, the sine qua non of everything that happens. It is almost as if the therapist or involved parent has to recapitulate for the child an earlier experience of a nursing mother, who, as biology would have it, gazes at a child whose immature eyes can focus only on her, because anything closer or farther away is a blur.
There are no shortcuts to this method; no medications or apps to speed things up; no machines that can do the work for us. This is work that only human beings can do, with their human eyes and human voices. It takes time—as the dependent stage of a developing child is longer than for any other creature—and presence, and not just any presence, but the continuous, reliable presence of a committed caregiver.
Indeed, Lovaas specifies that for the therapy to have a chance of succeeding—almost a 50 percent chance, where stringent criteria are met—it must not only be started early and be sufficiently intensive, but it must also be carried out in large part by parents themselves. Parents must be trained and involved, so that the treatment carries over into the home and continues for most of the child’s waking hours. Implicit in this requirement is the idea that there are foundational relationships that are templates for all other relationships, and for learning itself.
Maurice’s book, in other words, is not fundamentally the story of a child acquiring skills, though she acquires them perforce. It is the story of the restoration of a child’s relationship with her parents. In this work of restoration, the child’s gaze comes back first. In intermediate, breakthrough moments, she greets her father when he comes home from work, and calls her mother for the first time ever in the night. And in the end, when her parents take her to be re-evaluated, her recovery is confirmed when the doctor, who greets the child who shyly returns his greeting, knows immediately what has been accomplished.
“Congratulations,” he said softly.
He knew. Even before we’d said anything, or gone through the videotaping, the parent interview, the Vineland test . . . There is a quality to the gaze of a normal child . . . a connection, a recognition of the other as a person, an interest, that flashes out in the very first moments of a meeting. . . . Dr. Cohen was seeing the absence of autism.
If it is impossible to overstate the emotional power of this restoration, it is also impossible to overstate the time and commitment that were required to bring it about, especially today, when we have so little time, and such a faltering, diminished capacity for sustained engagement with small children. The very qualities that such engagement requires, whether our children are sick or well, are the same qualities being bred out of us by technologies that condition us to crave stimulation and distraction, and by a culture that, through a perverse alchemy, has changed what was supposed to be the freedom to work anywhere into an obligation to work everywhere. In this world of total work (the phrase is Josef Pieper’s), the work of helping another person become fully human may be work that is passing beyond our reach, as our priorities, and the technologies that enable and reinforce them, steadily unfit us for the work of raising our own young.
Everywhere today we see parents—rich and poor, educated and uneducated—unable to find the time, marshal the resources, or summon the will to do this work. It is becoming almost a cliché in our culture: the preoccupied, distracted parent and the frustrated, disheartened child, unable to compete successfully with his parent’s computer or phone. Well over a century ago, in his novel Bleak House, Charles Dickens played this situation for laughs. In a chapter called “Telescopic Philanthropy,” Mrs. Jellyby endlessly dictates letters about the natives of Borrioboola-Gha in Africa, while her house is a shambles around her and her children falling down stairs.
Today we have many Mrs. Jellybys, fixated on remote sites, but the effect on their children is not comic. In a Barnes and Noble bookstore recently, a young child, in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout the store, kept saying, “Daddy! This is a triceratops. He has three big horns. . . . Daddy! This is a stegosaurus. He has a spikey tail. . . . Daddy!” For as long as I was in the store, the agonizing litany continued. Again and again, the strong-willed child tried to force her father’s attention, while her father, as I observed when I went to the children’s section to see, sat in a chair a few feet from his daughter, his legs spread and his whole upper body bent over the glowing screen of his phone.
If in Let Me Hear Your Voice a parent is in anguish because a young child has disappeared, in Turkle’s book, as often as not, it is young people who are distressed because their parents are unreachable. Some of the most painful testimony in Reclaiming Conversation is the testimony of teenagers who hope to do things differently when they have children, who hope someday to learn to have a real conversation, and so on. If we think of technology addiction as a young person’s problem, Turkle’s book reminds us that it was an older generation that first fell under technology’s spell. At the middle school Turkle visits, as at many other schools across the country, it is the grown-ups who decide to give every child a computer and deliver all course content electronically, meaning that they require their students to work from the very medium that distracts them, a decision the grown-ups are unwilling to reverse, even as they lament its consequences.
Parents, too, like these teachers, usually know what their children need—more time with attentive caregivers, more human connection and conversation—but in our world of total work, they often scramble to find someone else who can give it to them. If the school or county won’t provide it, they may hire help themselves. But what if the nanny, like everyone else, wants always to be on her phone?
At this point, we have approached what Turkle calls the robotic moment, when we will have made ourselves into the kind of people who are ready for what robots have to offer. When people give each other less, machines seem less inhuman. When people rarely have the full attention of other human beings, robot babysitters may not seem so bad. The robots, at least, will be reliable! In a world like this, the deep metaphorical drama of Catherine Maurice’s book will finally have been turned on its head. In the child’s existential experience, it will not be man who has fallen away from God, but God himself who has disappeared, leaving the child an iPad or a robot as a consolation.
Surely the time has come for the Church to speak to these issues. Surely this is her moment to share what she knows and has always taught. For all the current concern about technology’s effects on human relationships, little or nothing is being said about its effects on man’s relationship with God. If human conversations are endangered, what of prayer, a conversation like no other? All of the qualities that human conversation requires—patience and commitment, an ability to listen and a tolerance for aridity—prayer requires in greater measure. A book like Donald Haggerty’s Contemplative Provocations reminds us just how much time, silence, and patience with apparent absence are preconditions for a relationship with the Divine. Any Bible, opened at random, reminds us that the original parent-child relationship, the ground or template of every other relationship, is our relationship with the God who created us.
This relationship—this conversation—the Church exists to restore. Everything in the traditional Church is there to facilitate and nourish this relationship. Everything breathes, “Look at me!” When Catherine Maurice describes a skilled therapist, working with her daughter—
[She] constantly focused Anne-Marie’s attention to her and only to her. . . . She used her whole body, her face, her hands, her voice, to keep Anne-Marie still and listening . . . and then filled up that created attentiveness with an impeccably organized and precisely-paced curriculum—
she could be describing the Church, working with us.
For centuries, the Catholic Church has been a place of prayer and recollection, deep reading and peaceful communion. It has been a place of limited social interaction, where the mind can wander and the nerves relax; a quiet place, far from the noise and incessant demands of the world. It has been a place where the poor have had access to certain luxury goods of the rich: great art and music, spaciousness and silence. If the rich have always taken expensive, unplugged vacations in remote, unspoiled places, in our churches the poor, too, have had a place of retreat from the world. The church’s thick walls and subdued lighting, her “precisely-paced” liturgies and the narrowing sight lines of her nave, drawing the eye to the altar and the tabernacle behind it—everything in the church is designed to ward off distractions and render man “still and listening.” Everything is there to draw him into the Church’s maternal embrace, so she can fill him with God.
Besides this way of prayer and contemplation that has been described as a mutual gaze (“I look at him; he looks at me”), there is a second path to God, equally enjoined by the Church, and that is the way of charity to the neighbor, but not the neighbor in the abstract. Catholicism, Christianity generally, and other religions as well have always inveighed against telescopic philanthropy. “Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asks Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus’s answer is, the one you encounter on the way.
This encounter cannot be elided or put on hold, pushed to the periphery or dissolved into an abstraction. Man cannot vault over the particular to reach the universal, or bypass the present to seize the future. Virtue is either concrete or it is nothing. Man’s path to God, like Jesus’s path on the earth, always passes through what the Jesuit Jean Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment,” which we could equally call “the sacrament of the present person,” the way of the Incarnation, the way of humility, or the Way of the Cross. In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a book that teaches by inversion, the fiend Screwtape urges his nephew to envision his human prey as a series of concentric circles, and then “shove all [his] virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy.” The tradition of Zen Buddhism expresses the same idea in positive terms: Be here now.
Both of these privileged paths to God, equally dependent on a quality of undivided attention and real presence, are vulnerable to the distracting eye-candy of our technologies. In an essay in these pages, “Reckoning with Modernity” (December 2015), Bruce Marshall wrote of the Church’s need to discern modernity on her own terms, “by searching her own mystery.” In the past, the Church has censured the content of certain media: the violence in video games, for example, or the pornography available online. But preoccupied with content, and excepting a few recent remarks by Pope Francis, she has overlooked the greater danger of the delivery system itself, or the form of the screen, which for many people turns out to be as irresistible as pornography and as addictive as any narcotic, with the result that it is on its way to becoming as formidable a distracter in the life of the Church as it is everywhere else.
Increasingly, when people come to church, they bring their smartphones with them, which means that they bring cameras with them and computers, video games and movie screens. Despite signs by the doors asking that cell phones be turned off, electronic ringers go off during Mass; people scroll and text in the pews; screens pop up in one’s peripheral vision. Some of these individuals are following the day’s readings on their phones; others are shopping for shoes. For the person sitting behind them, it scarcely matters what they are doing. The mere sight of a smartphone is distraction enough, both because of the possibilities it suggests to the imagination, and because fortunes have been spent making sure that its phosphorescent display attracts and holds man’s gaze. Small as they are, these phones turn out to be very powerful competitors with an environment that was refined over centuries to help man focus on God alone.
For now, this phenomenon is mostly confined to the Church’s periphery, but it is only a matter of time before it moves to the center. Not long ago, in my parish, a young man seated near the altar fastened his small screen to the pew in front of him and began filming the Eucharist that had been placed in a monstrance on the altar for adoration. More recently, a priest with a reputation for inattention when hearing confessions left the confessional with a lit iPad under his arm. On another occasion, a woman in line to receive Communion began texting on her phone. When it was her turn to receive, she looked up, stuck out her free hand, took the Eucharist, popped it in her mouth, and went back to her phone.
One word for what this woman was doing is multitasking. In her book, Turkle is at pains to show that multitasking is a myth, that anyone trying to do more than one thing at a time is doing nothing well. We could also call what she was doing multi-relating, another temptation or illusion widespread in the digital age. Turkle’s book is full of people who are online at the same time that they are with friends, who are texting other potential partners while they are on dates, and so on.
In Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her, Joaquin Phoenix stars as a man who falls in love with his intuitive operating system, the seductive, enveloping voice of Scarlett Johansson. He is thrilled when she says that she returns his love, but crushed when he finds out that she is in love with all her clients; that she is “intimate” with all of them to the same degree that she is “intimate” with him. This is the situation in which many people find themselves today: thinking that they are special to someone because of something that transpired, only to discover that the other person is spread so thin, the interaction was meaningless. There is a new kind of promiscuity in the world, in other words, that turns out to be as hurtful as the old kind.
Because who, after all, can do this? Who can actually multitask and multi-relate? Who can love everyone without diluting or cheapening the quality of love given to each individual? Who can love everyone without fomenting insecurity and jealousy?
Only God can do this. God and those saints who, having faithfully followed the path marked out for them to the end, participate, in heaven, in the radical availability of God.
Apart from the way of sanctity, human beings have no purchase on God’s loving omnipresence. Yet it is in the nature of our technologies to subliminally suggest to us that we do. This is the lie, or illusion that they are selling: that with these throbbing devices in our hands, we can be like God. Is it only a coincidence that the logo of Apple is an apple with a bite taken out of it, the sign of original sin?
The Church’s definitive mystery is a mystery of real presence: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, above all, but also her own uninterrupted presence in the world and in history. There is nothing “virtual” or disembodied about the Catholic Church. Her Gospel—her whole life—is a communication of real presence: God made man; God with us; God still with us, in the sacraments and in the baptized. For centuries, the Church has spread this Gospel by face-to-face encounters, live preaching, tangible sacraments and real texts, media ontologically well suited to a message of Incarnation.
The new media, on the other hand, aren’t so compatible with the Church’s message. Although they dress themselves up in the language of older media (texting, friending, Face-book, and so on), testifying by this appropriation to the inextinguishable attraction of real goods, in truth they are poor platforms for real relationships of any kind. A man who places a screen between himself and the Eucharist—a screen that, etymologically speaking, filters, veils, or even entirely conceals something from view—is not drawing closer to Christ but moving further away, across that grid of increasingly abstract circles Screwtape described in The Screwtape Letters.
When an individual needs to be healed of the effects of screens and machines, it is real presence that he needs: real people in a real world, ideally a world of God’s own making. In Reclaiming Conversation, adolescent boys attending an Internet- and phone-free camp get to experience, for the first time, things that should have been their birthright: time in nature, time alone, deepening friendships, uninterrupted conversation. Nature is restorative, but it is conversation itself, unfolding in real time, that strikes these boys with the force of revelation. More even than the physical vistas surrounding them on a wilderness hike, unrehearsed conversation opens up for them new territory, open-ended adventures. “It was like a stream,” one boy says, “very ongoing. It wouldn’t break apart.”
The Church is God’s new creation, born from the pierced side of the crucified Son. In the firmament of the Church, in Gregory of Nyssa’s beautiful words, “purity of life is the sun, the virtues are the stars, transparent goodness is the air, and the depths of the riches of wisdom and knowledge, the sea.” In this new creation, in the waters of baptism, the new man is born, restored to his true parent, and a conversation begins that over the course of his whole life reminds man of who he is, that he is loved, and that someone watches over him always.
A thief and a robber, Satan never comes in by the front door. He doesn’t attack orthodoxy directly—why should he?—if he can undermine this crucial conversation and distract man at Mass. Even if the Church could keep screens out of her sanctuaries, people strongly attached to them would still be people poorly positioned to take advantage of what the Church has to offer. Anxious people, unable to sit alone with their thoughts. Compulsive people, accustomed to checking their phones, on average, every five and a half minutes. As these behaviors increase in the Church, what is at stake is man’s relationship with truth itself. What is threatened is his ability to enter into a conversation with the One who alone has the power to immunize him against spiritual deceptions, against counterfeit signs, false lights, and siren songs.
Patricia Snow is a writer in New Haven, Connecticut.