Italian priest asks youth to give up Facebook, iPods and texting for Lent

Chicago (IL) – It’s being reported that for 2009, the Bishop of Modena, in northern Italy, has asked young Italians to give up sending text messages on Fridays, as well as using Facebook and iPods. As an alternative to the traditional giving up of chocolate and other certain other foods or activities, the Italian priest is instead asking youthful members of the congregation to give up aspects of technology for Lent, meaning no text messaging (the average Italian posts 50 texts each month), no social networking, no music listening and mobile video watching. Other priests are asking older members to abstain from using their cars and playing video games, in addition to giving up Facebook, MP3 players and texting.

According to Archbishop Benito Cocchi, this modern alternative to the more conventional traditions of fasting will help Italy’s youth “cleanse themselves from the virtual world and get back into touch with themselves.”

Under the new guidelines, if Catholics want to stay in contact with friends they won’t turn to Facebook or their smartphone, but instead would walk to the person’s house and greet them with a big, personal “Hello” — probably much to the surprise of the intended as this kind of out-of-the-blue contact is very rare these days.

The Italian priests are asking their congregations to go without some of the more common modern technology conveniences most of us take for granted and use regularly every day.

Imagine going without Facebook (or other social networking site), listening to music via portable iPods or MP3 player, instant messaging, texting, streaming video and audio, and especially going without cars. If someone were to really consider the extreme impacts technology has on our lives, and give it all up for Lent, it would almost be unreal. Consider what it is we use:

We get up in the morning by our alarm clocks. We leave our comfy beds of just the right firmness and pillows, along with our satin sheets and thick comforters, and turn on the light. We go to the bathroom and use running water and hygiene products created by machines (soap, shaving cream, razors, shampoo, etc.). We dry ourselves off with towels made by machines of materials (cotton) planted, tended to and harvested by machines, and delivered in raw form by machines (big trucks). We cook food stored in our refrigerator, using machines which built our pans, plastic which made the handle, spatulas which have been designed to not melt under typical cooking temperature ranges, or we grab something on the go as we drive our cars through the drive-through, paying for our food with a credit or debit card.

We make phone calls by selecting icons of the person’s face, or by name, or even by speaking their name, rather than by having to actually remember the number or punch it in manually. We use this mobile device which is smaller than our hand and puts us literally in contact with the entire world because of highly integrated technology.

We have traffic lights, air conditioning, heating systems, running water and plumbing, sound-insulated buildings so that even when it’s pouring down rain we cannot hear it outside, vaseline, hair dryers, hair products, makeup, desks, chairs, dressers, bathtubs, paper, pencils, roads, sidewalks, bicycles, and just so much more.

And of course many of those technologies are based on even more fundamental forms of technology like electricity which itself is based on a lot of advanced technology — even in coal-fired steam turbine facilities which use very advanced, highly efficient rotor/stator generators and computer-designed turbines, and of course solar powered, wind powered and nuclear are all very advanced technologies. Consider also the requirements of basic modern plumbing and water. Very few of us still have wells or septic systems, instead being hooked in to this major water network which operates daily with very little trouble.

We have refrigerators, air conditioners, ovens, microwaves, blenders, electric screwdrivers, air tools, cars (which have bearing, lubrication, structural engineering and about 5,000 other disciplines of various forms of technology), let alone buses, trains, airplanes, and so much more. It’s obscene actually.

Now, imagine going without all of it for 40 days. Most of us could not do it. Most of us would literally die because we don’t know what nearby water source is safe to drink, how to get food without buying it at the store, how to raise animals, how to grow crops, or really anything.

In truth, were someone wanting to share in the suffering with Jesus, it might be better to look to the future and their own personal needs, and those of their families, and consider truly if they want to be so dependent on technology. It might be a good time to reflect on the reality of our situation, rather than just giving up a few conveniences. After all, Christians believe Jesus died for our sins after suffering beyond anything any of us are able to endure … is it too much for Christians to consider for a time just how dependent on technology this world is, and how much they are as well?

See The IT Examiner.


Lent is a forty-day period of time each year leading up to Easter. It is a Catholic (and several offshoot branches) tradition which began in 325 with the first council of Nicea. It is symbolic act whereby man shares in the suffering of Jesus. For forty days each year, congregations are traditionally asked to give up smoking, chocolate, television, sex, or some other personal thing to them, and in so doing they remember what Jesus went through while fasting in the desert for forty days and forty nights before beginning His ministry, being tempted by Satan. And whereas many other Christian off-shoots do not follow this tradition, the Christian Bible teaches that if any man chooses to honor the Lord in a particular way, he should be allowed to do so because he is doing it to honor the Lord.