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Turn Off the Television

Turn Off the Television

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund)

Although Anglicans don’t generally acknowledge the “patronage” of professions, diseases, or other aspects of everyday by the several saints — this is something decreed by the Bishop of Rome (one of his “detestable enormities,” I suppose*)

* The reference is to a petition in the Great Litany as included in some editions of The Book of Common Prayer of 1549: “From all sedicion and privye conspiracie, from the tyrannye of the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, from al false doctrine and herisy, from hardnes of heart, and contempte of thy word and commaundemente: Good lorde deliver us.”

— I nonetheless have fun with adult education and confirmation classes by mentioning the patron saints of various things, including today’s saint, Clare of Assisi, who is the patron saint of television.

Simone Martini 047.jpg“What? Why?” is the usual response. How is it that a 13th Century nun is the patron saint of a 20th Century technology? It is because of a pious legend about her life in which she saw from afar the celebration of the Holy Mass. One Christmas Eve, according to the story, Clare was too sick to attend the Eucharist, so the Lord granted her a miraculous vision to see the Mass as if projected on the wall of her cell. Since “television” is Greek for “vision from afar,” Pope Pius XII chose Clare as its patron in 1958.

Clare certainly has her work cut out for her. Nielsen currently estimates that there are more than 115 million television sets in the United States alone and that the average American household receives about 120 channels. The Center for a New American Dream estimates that the average American is exposed to 52,500 television commercials each year. With all of that broadcast media and advertising going on, one suspects that it’s rather difficult to avoid “an inordinate love of this world.”

It’s been proven scientifically that television does all sorts of bad things to human beings. Research has shown that those who watch a lot of TV have lower satisfaction with their lives and experience higher anxiety. Other researchers have demonstrated that our brain activity slows while we watch television and that during TV viewing our brains release endorphins (“feel good” chemicals) encouraging less physical activity. TV actually turns us into “couch potatoes.” TV is just plain bad for us!

So why not give Clare a hand? Let’s turn the TV off! I know this will be difficult for some; it will be difficult for me. I am a child of the 1950s; I grew up with television — it was my after-school and Saturday morning babysitter! I have a habit of turning it on just to have background noise. I convince myself that I work better with the television on because it gives me something to tune out thus enhancing my concentration. That’s sheer and utter nonsense, and I know it! But the habit is hard to break. So here is a list of some things you and I can do instead of watching television:

• Say the Daily Office

• Pray or meditate

• Read a book (like, maybe, the Bible)

• Exercise – take a walk, go swimming, ride your bicycle

• Visit friends (and encourage them to turn off their TV)

• Keep a journal, write some letters, start blogging

• Get out of the house and take a class at a local community college

• Clean house, organize a room

• Make your own list of things you can do while not watching television

In any event, lighten Clare’s patronage workload . . . or add to it by enlisting her aid . . . turn off the television. Perhaps we need a new petition in the Great Litany: from television and its detestable enormities, good Lord deliver us!”

The Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, an EfM mentor, and a writer of Daily Office meditations offered on his blog, That Which We Have Heard & Known.

Simone Martini 047” by Simone Martini – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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