Communication Technologies — Some Thoughts for Monastics

Mobile phones and gadgets should not be used at church to avoid bringing others into temptation

I have come to the conclusion that mobile devices should not be used at Church. In the past, I also used to read mystery prayers from my phone, but one of the attending archbishops said to me: “You may not think of it this way, but one cannot get rid of the impression that you are busy texting.” I immediately put my device away and decided not to use it anymore so this does not become a temptation for others.

Sadly, many faithful – even priests at the altar – continue to use their phones to make telephone calls. I always ask them to go outside whenever I see this.

I accept that it might still be appropriate to use the phone for accessing text or information needed at this very moment. I often travel around the parishes, and we have the custom of singing the hymn “Come let us worship and fall down before Christ” after the little entrance. Sometimes, I do not have the text of the hymn before me on paper (although I usually prepare my notes beforehand), or I may have the wrong text, so I reach out for my phone. But this happens very rarely.

Let me say this again: I know from experience that using gadgets at church may become a temptation for some. I am also aware that something we do very often eventually becomes a habit, which may later be very difficult to overcome. Communication technology has indeed broadened our horizons, but we still should not rely on them too much, and use our memory and thought abilities more instead.

Working in front of a computer may make prayer more difficult

The world and its people are increasingly going digital, which poses a major challenge for our time. Digitalisation is indeed making our life easier in many respects, but it also encourages or even pushes us to take on increasing amounts of work. It is often thought that because computers are increasing productivity, people can take less time to complete their work, so they should be given more tasks. For a monastic, this becomes a big challenge – they feel as if they are losing their footing, as they are left with too little time and space for prayer. What have our traditional monastic obediences always looked like? They were things like weaving and gardening, which could all be done with incessant prayer. A common obedience for our monastics is to make candles. They also pray as they do their work. But it is a lot harder to pray while working in the printing house, and those doing editing and proofreading find it the most difficult; these are the jobs that need a lot of concentration, which interferes greatly with prayer. Some monastics can keep the prayer in their hearts, but this takes a lot of experience.

Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin and Germany. Photo contributed by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) /
So I insist that all monastics who do these obediences stop every thirty minutes, make ten bows and say Jesus’ prayer 25 times before going back to their work. I know from experience how effective this can be. Many are concerns that this would distract them from their work, that they might lose their train of thought, but these worries are not justified; in fact, prayer gets us to think more clearly and gives us fresh thoughts. I used to pray in this manner while I was still a student at university; I would break every thirty minutes and say my prayers. My productivity always increased afterwards. Sticking to this rule, however, takes self-discipline.
Lastly, new monastics often bring with them their regular habits from worldly life. One example is following the news all the time and trying to remain up-to-date on world affairs. This is not necessary for a monastic. However, this habit is so deeply ingrained that people have to use a lot of self-control to stop it.

Alas, some of the things that are happening cannot be ignored, but I still do not read or watch the news every day. I know that if anything happens that I need to know about, our parishioners will alert me to it. If this is indeed something important, the monastics will know about it from me or the hegumen. In any event, the race to know the news first, which is so common in the world should have no place in a monastery, as it distracts all monastics from their works.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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