As a child, I attended St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Cincinnati every Sunday with my parents, my sister, my aunt, and my grandmother. A mix of stone and red brick on the exterior, the building was massive with high vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. There was a large sanctuary in the front of the church with alters to Mary and Joseph on either side, a choir loft in the back with a pipe organ, and in between rows of long dark wooden benches with kneelers that flipped down. The floor was hard tile fading with age.
The population of the church had been dwindling for some time, which would eventually lead to its closure, but while it was still open, the small numbers meant my family could stake out our own section where other parishioners wouldn’t overhear my dad’s jokes.
There was one joke he liked to make during the intercessions when prayer requests from the congregation would be read to the crowd with the ending line, “We pray to the Lord.”
To which, we’d all respond together, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
We’d do this back and forth for every individual prayer request, and if the petitions had stacked up and this went on for awhile, my dad would lean over to whoever was closest to him (with the exception of my grandmother) and mutter with feigned irritation, “Why are they bothering Jesus with this stuff?”
When he made the joke to me, I knew he was kidding, but it nonetheless prompted an important question of faith–why does an all powerful God who has seen the world since the beginning of time care about what is happening to me, a little nobody.
(In high school, I would come to believe that God wanted to hear from me because of His love for me–a love that I was unworthy of because of sin. My attempts to gain God’s attention during this period consisted of prayers in which I let Him know that I knew I didn’t deserve His time but would be grateful if He could reveal His plan for me anyway.)
Growing up, I pictured God as a man in the sky taking note of all these requests, processing them like a high speed computer, and granting or denying them according to His divine wisdom. It was a lot to handle, but He was God–not part of the human congregation down below growing weary of saying “Lord, hear our prayer.”
I gave up social media for Lent this year. My motivation for the tech fast was to see less posts that would make me feel jealous of others’ success, but I also found relief in seeing less posts about other people’s problems.
This feels bad to say because I want to be there for people, and I think sharing on social media is a good way to reduce stigma around issues many people face but that we have trouble talking about like debt, death, mental health, etc. Still, giving up social media made me realize how limited my bandwith for this information is, and it showed me the value of attention–mine and others.
I’ve posted three times on Facebook since my Lenten restriction ended in April. I’ve wanted to share things, especially the posts I’ve written on this blog, but I haven’t felt right asking for people’s attention while I’m figuring my writing out. I’ve conserved my own attention by only checking social media sites on Tuesdays.
I don’t think my current social media restrictions are the “right thing to do” on a moral level, but on a me level, it’s been the right thing for now. Because I’m not an all powerful God who can handle everything. I’m a little nobody trying to make good of some of the moments I’ve been given. A little nobody who wants to be there for people, who wants to share, but who hasn’t figured out yet how much I can bear witness to while still retaining the ability to create and connect.
Amusing coincidence, the Catholic Church in my hometown of Great Neck is also a St. Aloysius. I still have the class ring my grandfather got from the associated school. It is also a red brick building.
Cool! My grandfather also went to school at St. Aloysius.