6:15 AM – My alarm I set on my phone the night before goes off. I switch off the alarm and proceed to check my texts, Facebook, and Instagram as I brush my teeth and get dressed to go to the gym.
6:30 AM – I get in my car to drive to the Rec. I connect my iPhone to my car stereo and start listening to a podcast.
6:42 AM – I get on the bike, still listening to the podcast, now through my AirPods. SportsCenter and the local news are on huge flat screens above my head. I ignore them as I play a game on my phone to keep my hands busy while my feet pedal on the bike.
7:15 AM – I get off the bike, open Spotify, turn on one of my weightlifting playlists, and walk towards the bench press. I get my warm-up set in, and it’s back to Facebook or Twitter for about ninety seconds before my next set.
This is an average morning for me. I’ve been up for only an hour and I’ve spent most of it on my phone. Why? Was any of that actually useful or fulfilling? Did any of that facilitate an encounter with Jesus?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not “anti-technology”. I love having a virtually limitless library of music and podcasts in my pocket. I use Google Maps and YouTube daily. I get a lot of work –youth and young adult ministry for the parish – done from my phone. I even have several apps on my phone that I use for prayer and listen to a few Catholic podcasts on a regular basis.
However, for all the good I get out of my phone, most of it amounts to just pointless noise nagging for my attention. We’re surrounded by noise. Noise that distracts us. Noise that makes it really hard to focus. Noise, especially incessant noise, that can drown out the voice – the still, small voice – of God.
It is necessary to leave our interior turmoil in order to find God. Despite the agitations, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present. He is in us like a thought, a word, and a presence…
Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise
A few weeks ago, I took a group of eighteen high school students and two volunteers on a sixteen-hour bus ride from Grapevine to a summer camp nestled in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast corner of Georgia called Camp Covecrest. It was loud, it was messy, it was hot, it was constantly high-energy, it was almost always chaotic. I was constantly counting to make sure every one of our teens was at every session (I can proudly say I didn’t lose anybody). There were a lot of different things constantly vying for my attention.
One of those constant things is Jesus, who is constantly reaching out to encounter us. He is always knocking at the door of our hearts. He wants to break through the noise of our lives and draw us into a life-changing encounter every moment of every day.
It would have been really easy for me to just get caught up in the business and the tasks and the noise of summer camp and not carve out time for the silence where Jesus wants to encounter me. It also could have been really easy for our teens to sleep in, to check out during sessions, or to not take prayer time seriously.
They could have just made a fun week away from home all about them, but our teens went all in for Jesus at Covecrest. I woke up just before sunrise every morning that week to have some coffee and quiet time with Jesus and, without fail, I’d see at least three of our St. Francis of Assisi Young Church teens sitting on the deck overlooking the lake watching the sunrise with their Bibles and their prayer journals, encountering Jesus first thing in the morning. Most mornings, several of our teens got up early to go to the Sacrament of Confession before breakfast. We had teens convincing their fellow teens to go to Confession. We had teens praying with their fellow teens, empowering their fellow teens, and growing in faith and fellowship with their fellow teens.
Our teens inspired and encouraged me that week with their witness to prayer and fellowship. They unplugged, shut out the noise from back home, and in that silence, encountered Jesus.
Now that we’re back in Grapevine and submerged back into the noise of daily life, the challenge is to decide to unplug, to carve out silence into our daily lives, to allow space for Jesus to speak.
What “noise” in your life is drowning out the silence where Jesus wants to speak? For me, it’s training myself to spend some time in prayer before spending time checking Facebook in the morning. I challenge you to unplug and open yourself up to an encounter with Jesus daily.
This blog was written by Sam Ford, Coordinator of Middle School and Young Adult Ministry here at St. Francis of Assisi. If you’re interested in writing a blog for St. Francis of Assisi, please contact Joseph at [email protected].