During a meeting the other day, one of the participants said she found the people in her community to be “time poor." Impoverished might even be a better way of describing our current culture and reality.
Whenever an event is thought about for our Parish here in Charlestown, an inordinate amount of time is spent thinking about the best time to schedule it, because adults, children, parents and families are so. . . busy. One of the strategies to increase attendance in the Religious Education Program, for example, is to prepare and send out a schedule in August/September for the entire year. In this way, parents are able to mark those days and times on the family calendar (likely on the refrigerator in the kitchen) holding them more or less as commitments.
More and more there are competing demands placed on individuals and families for their limited available time. This requires that choices be made. Children’s programs and sports go to the top of the list of priorities. Sunday is especially that day, no longer sacred in any way, which fills up with various pursuits. Some parents say their children are exhaustively stretched by time commitments—and of course, parents more so.
Everybody is “crazy busy.” Isn’t it fascinating how we respond to one another when asked, “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” with how busy we are? Sometimes we go into great detail about just how very busy we have been, are and will be. And if one does not answer the question with the “busyness response,” the other will come right out and ask, “Been busy?”
There are reasons why we have become this way, and consequences for adopting this posture. I have been thinking about this for some time and wonder if one of them might be that we are trying to in some way validate our own significance in the world—to ourselves and others. Might it be the case that, in spite of our professed busyness, deep down we are unsure of the value of our own time and work? Perhaps the message we have received somehow is that the busier I am, the more significant I am.
We all know that this present reality is relatively new—maybe within the past 20 or 30 years. And I would venture to say that many of us wish it were different. This way of living puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us all. Rather than having the time to pray about and discern how to live deliberatively and with purpose, we can feel like marionettes being pulled in different directions at the same time by a number of puppeteers. What message are we teaching our children about a meaningful life; what kind of legacy is this?
A well written column by Tim Kreider on this phenomenon was in last Sunday’s New York Times. Among many good insights, Kreider posits that this thing about “my busyness” is what I have deliberately chosen; and that those who are poor and working two or three minimum wage jobs, never talk about busy. They talk about being tired.
I wonder if all of this frenzied activity is masking a deeper longing for something that was once a part of our culture and presently is rapidly diminishing. In this increasingly secular time, God is less of a fixture; community worship even less common an activity. In buying into the values of our secular culture, we are substituting our need for a deeper relationship with God with an inflated sense of busyness and importance—and it isn’t working. Each one of us is the work of God’s hands. The further we move from God, the deeper our restlessness, emptiness and hunger. We try to fill it up with all that in the end fails to truly satisfy, for there is no busyness that can do so. I know this from personal experience—‘cuz I’m really a very busy guy!
— Fr. James Ronan
Pastor, St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish