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DO YOUR RECREATIONS THREATEN TO TAKE UP TOO MUCH OF YOUR TIME AND ENERGY?

ARE WE TO READ ONLY HOLY BOOKS?

“QUESTION:

I read a lot but much of it is ephemeral fiction. If I am to be a good Catholic should I stop this and only read Catholic books?

ANSWER:

Many of the saints show us an example of single-minded dedication to the work of the Lord, shunning any secular entertainments, and spiritual writers often warn us about wasting time on trivial pastimes. However, they also tell us that recreation is part of a balanced life. St Francis de Sales says:

‘There can be no doubt that it is a defect to be so rigorous, boorish and unsociable as not to be willing to take any recreation ourselves, or permit others to do so.’ Reading popular books, enjoying sports or hobbies, or engaging in other recreations, can help us to unwind, to be balanced in our life and outlook, and cultivate good relationships with others.

What St Francis de Sales and other writers do insist on is a proper balance in our activities. The holy bishop uses the example of playing chess for five or six hours, leaving us exhausted and weary in spirit. Today, highly sophisticated entertainments are available to us that are open to misuse or even act as a kind of addiction. Books are written to a formula that makes them ‘unputdownable’, computer games lure people to spend hours trying to complete a level and television programmes are designed to hook us so that we give too high a priority to catching the next episode.

In the language of St Francis de Sales, we should not set our affection on recreation ‘to such an extent that we long for them, occupy ourselves with them and become too eager about them’. In other words, recreations should serve us as part of a balanced life, not become our master. So with books there is no harm in reading fiction to relax, but we should also find time to read books that deepen our faith and spiritual life, and exercise self-control over how much of ourselves we give to any recreation that threatens to take over and use up too much of our time and energy.”
– This article entitled “Catholic Dilemmas” by Fr Tim Finigan was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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“BL***** B******!” – “I CAN’T STAND ‘THE ARCHERS’; IS IT A SIN TO HATE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS?”

QUESTION:

“‘I can’t stand any of the characters in the Archers [a British soap-opera-style radio series] and find myself yelling at the radio. But if I really hate the characters is this a sin? After all, fictional characters often display personality defects which we encounter in real people.’

ANSWER:

‘Fictional stories and drama have always given life to their tales by featuring evil characters, often exaggerated in their malevolence. At best, such creative writing can help us to form sound ideas of good and evil, and to explore more dilemmas, though sometimes fiction is also used deliberately to undermine moral principles. Although we are not hating real people in the ‘Archers’, we can use popular drama to examine and evaluate our attitudes to real people.

Our Lord tells us that we must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. In the case of people with indisputably evil qualities, that love can in some cases even include the withdrawal of common courtesies in the hope of giving correction or showing our displeasure at evil. But we are not allowed to hate the person.

Moral theologians speak of three types of hatred: abomination, enmity and malediction. To make an enemy of someone or to wish harm to befall them cannot be justified, but antipathy towards the evil characteristics or actions of an individual can be justified if it is directed towards those qualities or actions. For example, we quite rightly abhor a sexual predator’s addictive nature which leads them to harm and abuse others. We have to be careful that this does not descend to the common hatred of enmity or wishing for someone’s death or ill health.

Popular drama, novels and films do have the function of acting as a safety valve. It is amusing to recall how previous generations used to boo and hiss at the dastardly villain, enjoying the venting of sentiments that would normally be unacceptable. The absurd modern phenomenon of people abusing soap stars in the street is a warning of the importance of making a clear distinction in our minds between how we respond to fictional characters and how we treat an unpleasant neighbour.'”
– This article – part of the feature “Catholic Dilemmas” – by Fr Tim Finigan was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue January 31 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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