I forgot my phone. Many of you will relate to this experience. For me, the most recent time this happened was a day I was traveling that was filled with family visits. The morning and afternoon were the Confirmation of my niece and the family party that followed. We went straight from there to dinner and a play featuring my nephews. Once I realized that I didn't have my phone, I asked my daughter to text my wife and my other daughters to let them know that I could be reached through her. I also asked if I could take pictures with her phone when I felt I needed to.
It was a whole, busy day without a phone. I felt silly forgetting it. I thought about traveling all the way back to get it, but it just wasn't practical. At first, I was a little unsettled. There were times I reached in my pocket to check the latest news or to take a quick picture only to remember it was not there. After a couple of hours, I leaned into the experience. There was not really anything that would go wrong. I could be reached in an emergency and I had a phone to use if I needed it. I took a moment to pray each time I was missing my phone. After a while, I began to feel more present, more intentionally with the people around me. At the end of the day, when I got back to my phone, I called home. It felt good to touch base, but in the end, I felt blessed by the day; time passed at a different pace and I felt lighter and freer.
I was glad for this day of an unchosen "technology sabbath." It reminded me to strive to have the right perspective about engagement and being connected. Still, it didn't make me want to give up my phone entirely. I use my phone to help me pray during the day. I wake up to a prayer for the day. I read the daily lectionary readings. I sometimes use an app to pray the rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours. For me, the key is having the right relationship with technology. Sometimes, I will put it aside to be more present, sometimes I will use it to be more connected with God, with others, with world and all of the things that are happening that call me to pray.
I think this is a good pattern in our ministries with youth. We can provide some unconnected time, an evening, or a weekend retreat away from technology. We can also use technology in our ministries and help youth use their media to pray, and to be connected to people and communities who they care about.
I once witnessed singer and storyteller, ValLimar Jansen, leading a youth keynote in which she did a blessing of cell phones. She asked the youth to look at their contact list and consider that this was not just a list, but a community of people who need our prayer and our care. She told them that "the phone in your hand is a tool for evangelization, for spreading God's love." They held up their phones and received the blessing. Many young people probably never looked at their phone in the same way again.
This feels like an important part of our ministry today—we help youth to re-frame and see everything in their life through the eyes of faith.