By Jan Carlo Anolin and Marjaleen Ramos
For Catholics, Lent is about the traditional observance of fasting, abstinence, and praying. But herein also lies the biggest spiritual challenge: What are the things are we willing to give up during the 40-day period of Lent?
Fr. Louie Coronel, O.P., former parish priest of Santisimo Rosario Parish in the University of Santo Tomas, said the act of sacrifice is a sincere offering to give up oneself in self-denial that should lead to the conversion of heart or metanoia.
“Our Lenten sacrifice must be directed by the love of God in order for us to be loving, especially to the poor and the needy. We deny ourselves in order to affirm the mystery of God’s love and be more loving. In a nutshell, it’s all about love,” Fr. Coronel told Manila Bulletin in an online interview.
While prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the traditional Lenten observances mandated by the Sacred Scriptures, Fr. Coronel said the discipline must come from the heart and out of love and must not be limited for the sake of doing it just because it is part of the tradition.
For instance, one could give up technology and social media as a form of Lenten sacrifice.
At the same time, these platforms could also be a tool for evangelization and aid for oneself and for others toward spiritual growth.
“If such detoxification will moderate us in order to focus on love, if it will help us focus more on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, then giving it up for Lent in order to give in to God’s love is a good Lenten sacrifice,” Fr. Coronel said.
However, he said “fasting” is not only fasting from food but ranges in all senses and that such detoxification
could be beneficial as well.
Specifically, there are few things one could do on social media during Lent such as watching inspirational videos on YouTube, sharing spiritual journeys from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday through Instagram, posting Visita Iglesia experiences on Facebook, blogging about the daily Gospel reflections, and composing our own prayers.
“Most importantly, whether we fast from social media or use it as a Lenten observance in itself, we must ask ourselves if we will become more loving through this observance,” Fr. Coronel emphasized.
He said people must use the social media and not the other way around.
Art Samaniego Jr., technology editor of Manila Bulletin, said it becomes problematic when people allow themselves to be defined by social media.
Reuel Hermoso, a supervising fellow at the Development Academy of the Philippines, echoed Samaniego’s view on social media and technology saying devices such as radio, television, and the Internet have helped people’s lives to be more convenient and interesting but can also serve as a distraction.
Grace Espiel, teacher and a mother of two, said people have made technology and social media a part of their lives that they spend too much time on it forgetting in the process the importance of family and religion.
According to a report from Hootsuite and We are Social, Filipinos spend an average of 10 hours and two minutes of screen time every day, making the Philippines one of the top social media users in the world.
Meanwhile, a study from National Study for Barna group revealed that 37 percent of Millennial Catholics are most likely planning to fast from technology while elders, given their less usage of modern devices, are least likely to say they plan to give up technology
for Lent with six percent.
This includes the usage of social networks (16 percent), smartphones (13 percent), television (11 percent), video games (10 percent), movies (9 percent) and the Internet (9 percent).
“May we use our modern-day digital tools to preach the love of God. It is our hope that in the term social media, we may focus on the word ‘social,’ not on the ‘ME’ in media; may we focus on interaction and reaching the world through God’s love. ‘Selfie’ generation as we are, may we not become selfish but instead [throughout] self-denial we can become more loving,” Fr. Coronel said.