It is 10:10 pm on May 21, a normal weekday like many others. After reciting Night Prayer I say goodnight to my sisters and I go to my bedroom. I start checking the various emails, messages and phone calls from the day, as well as ones from the past few days to which I have not yet replied. To my great surprise I notice an unusual message: a priest from Congo, who is pastor of a parish in Naples, forwards me a voice message from a woman I had never heard from. This may seem like something simple, but I ended up receiving an incredible and surprising gift: the message, in fact, was from a 41-year old woman named Patrizia, who has been suffering from ALS since she was eighteen. Because of her illness, she does not speak, walk or move. Yet she was able to “write” me this message by indicating the various letters with her eyes, and her words were then translated into a voice message by a special program on her phone. Her message is short and simple, and yet has profoundly impacted me. In it she expresses her gratitude for the daily reflections on the Liturgy of the Word that she receives. Here is what she shared with me:
“Dear Sr. Tiziana, thank you for your message. I have had ALS since I was 18. I am now 41 years old. I eat smoothies, and my arms are almost completely paralyzed. I am able to use just one fist to write text messages — it takes me a half hour every time. My illness had deprived me of many things, and yet, I am always happy, because the Lord dwells in my heart, and I thank Him daily. Best wishes, Patrizia.”
It has been almost three years since I started recording 5-minute audio meditations on the Gospel of the day. After praying during my daily Holy Hour of Adoration, I try to offer some reflections on that day’s Scripture along with concrete advice for how to apply it to daily life. I usually conclude with a possible resolution and by quoting an aphorism connected with that day’s topic.
What a wonderful gift is technology! With just a few clicks, I am able reach over two thousand people every day. In turn many of these people forward this vocal message to their prayer groups or to some of their friends and acquaintances. Over the course of a day, thousands of people have the opportunity to listen to and reflect on God’s Word.
Now I would like to go back to Patrizia, because she is a totally unexpected gift from God.
After receiving her first message, I asked her if she would like to support my apostolate through prayer. She agreed with joy. Every day, as soon as she wakes up, she offers her daily prayers and sufferings for me and for all the people that I will encounter in some way during the day (which means that all of you reading these words are included). Patrizia does not cease interceding for all the intentions entrusted to us, and the fruits of her prayer and sacrifice are already visible.
One of these fruits involves a married couple I know whose son is autistic. Right after I spoke with Patrizia, this couple received a special grace. They were looking for some institutional and financial help for their autistic son, and they unexpectedly received funding from an association which supports people with ALS. It is as if the Lord wanted to give us evidence that Patrizia’s prayers are powerful. Of all the possible organizations this couple could have received funding from, help came precisely from this association that takes care of people with ALS, just like Patrizia.
How beautiful is the Communion of the Saints! The prayers and sacrifices of such holy people as Patrizia are a reminder that good will always prevail over evil.
This experience reminds us of how much good we can accomplish by using technology in a holy way. Every day I thank God for giving mankind creativity and intelligence, and I also thank all those men and women of science, past and present, who have given their lives to enable advancements in technology.
We live in a truly privileged era, and it is up to us to make the most out of it in order to build up God’s Kingdom. I hope that this witness can lead us to reflect on how we use technology.
Many people complain that today’s society lacks communication skills, that we have replaced real relationships with virtual ones, that we have lost our ability to concentrate, and that education is sliding. The temptation amidst these concerns could be to condemn all technology.
Yet we as Christians are called to model the use of this impressive two-edged sword known as technology. Yes, it is two-edged sword, but has a great potential for good, if we can only channel this instrument wisely.
Let us not be afraid to make use of these new ways of communication. May the example of wise, balanced and holy people inspire us as we develop these digital assets in the effort to reach the hearts of many people.
We can ask for the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a young man who died at age fifteen but was already known for his holiness. Carlo was an expert in technology and is now a candidate for patron of computer scientists. May he inspire and guide our use of today’s social networks.
Mary, Mother of the Word, and therefore mother of communication, pray for us.
Suggested concrete resolution:
I will revisit my current use of technology, with a firm resolve to avoid wasting time or using it for any sinful purposes.
I will explore new ways of evangelizing through creative use of social media and other digital tools.