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CIVILTA-INTERACTIVE Jul-20-2012 (410 words) xxxi

Catholics need help experiencing interactive prayer, magazine says

A teenager is seen using an iPad in St. Louis in March. Finding ways for the church to offer its spiritual treasures in an interactive world is the subject of an article in an influential Italian Catholic magazine. (CNS file/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The church must offer people -- especially the young -- a spirituality that responds to their computer-driven desire for interactive experiences, said an influential Jesuit magazine.

The Italian magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, said the church does not have to invent a new spirituality for a new generation. It just has to recognize that because of intensive computer and social network use people have changed, so the church must change the way it offers its spiritual treasures.

The key, the magazine said, is to help people take the step from superficial interaction -- "surfing the net" and clicking on link after link -- to contemplation.

First, people must recognize the need "to safeguard spaces that allow interiorization to develop." That means a bit of silence and being out of arm's reach of the computer or smartphone, the magazine said.

But the church also must offer Catholics ideas of what to do with that quiet time, and the magazine started with something its Jesuit staff knows something about: the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits whose feast is July 31.

The exercises, it said, offer a systematic formula for helping someone take the already-interactive experience of reading to a new level.

For example, its suggestion for contemplating the birth of Jesus begins by asking the reader to "see with the imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, considering the length and breadth of it, whether it is a flat road or goes through valleys or over hills; and similarly to look at the place of the Nativity, to see how big or small it is, how low or high, and what is in it."

The reader is asked to look around the cave or grotto and see who is there and then to imagine himself or herself in the scene as well, watching, listening and helping, if possible.

In the exercises, the magazine said, the person praying imagines being in the biblical scene, shares the emotions of those present and tries to relive the mystery, "interacting with the personalities and the environment."

Through the use of prayerful imagination, the Bible becomes a "virtual reality" for the reader, it said. How deep the experience is depends on "the intensity of the relationships and interactions that are created during the contemplation."

The church needs to help people "learn to live their spirituality interacting and immersing themselves in the word of God," the magazine said.


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