Friday, January 6, 2012

Time to Go on a (Media) Diet?

Here is my January column that appears in this weekend's Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback here or on Facebook or Twitter.

So, you’re already re-considering your New Year’s Resolution by this time.  Maybe those resolutions to get your kitchen or finances organized, or to exercise every day, have been abandoned already.

Can I suggest watching your diet?

No, I don’t mean what you eat, but the media you consume—your “media diet.”  I once wrote a column for The Catholic Post called, “You Are What You Read” about making good media choices because it’s a lot like eating well.  The more you fill up on the good stuff, the less bad stuff you have time for, or even have a taste for.   And by “good stuff” in books, I don’t mean brussel sprouts, but dark chocolate that’s delicious and healthy.

Here are a few good choices for people looking to fill up on some great and nourishing reads.  As a bonus, all have topics that might help you keep some of those resolutions.

Hoping to do more as a family?  Two books provide help:

Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness by Marge Fenelon.  I’ve never met Marge Fenelon, but we are kindred spirits.  Reading each chapter of this excellent book, I felt like I was having lunch with a friend and getting encouraging counsel and spiritual uplift about family life and its inevitable ups and downs.  Fenelon is not writing from the perspective of a holier-than-thou, but rather a fellow traveler who’s been there, made the mistakes, and yet still calls us (and herself) to a Catholic vision of doing family life well.  She shows us having a strong, holy family is hard, but also fun and rewarding, work.

Media mindfulness—viewing media in light of our Catholic faith-- is a perennial interest of mine, and a frequent topic at our house.  And no one does “media mindfulness and literacy better than the Daughters of St. Paul.    Our fridge displays a Daughter of St. Paul magnet: “Control is for the moment—communication lasts a lifetime.” 

In this spirit, Daughter of St. Paul Hosea Rupprecht wrote How to Watch Movies with Kids:  A Values-Based Strategy to give tons of great ideas for parents, teachers and others who care about media literacy and mindfulness.  I so appreciated how each chapter ends; with “Saints to Guide Us” (for instance, St. Edith Stein on a chapter called, “Values Articulation,”) and with questions for family conversations. 

Thinking about living a healthier lifestyle?  Make sure you have balance in this area.

Weightless: Making Peace With Your Body, Kate Wicker’s heartfelt, personal book about body image and the spiritual life, is a resource especially well-suited to younger women.

Wicker leads readers through her own journey of an eating disorder and treatment, and now as a wife and mother yearning to hand on healthy body image to her young daughters.  She explores the role of having balance in all things related to our bodies, taking advantage of medical and psychological help when needed, but most of all keeping God at the center.  I love that that Wicker recommends (as do many resources) a “media fast” from unhealthy sources, and doing the same with her kids.  Throughout, Wicker tells readers, “If you love God, then love your body.”  Amen.

*Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed by the Culture by Teresa Tomeo. Tomeo, a Catholic radio host, writes persuasively about how damaging a constant and solely secular media diet can be.

Best by far is the chapter titled,” Extreme Media Makeover: Your Personal Media Reality Check and Spiritual Beauty Plan,” in which she encourages an inventory of one’s media consumption, and more of the sacramental life.  Tomeo is great at reminding us that silence (or fasting) is a critical aspect of a healthy media life:  “We have to silence the noise in our lives if we want to hear from God an live a more peaceful and less stressful life.”

Have you resolved to make work-life balance a priority this year?  Consider The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain.

At first glance, The Catholic Briefcase seems like book written only for business executives, but it reaches to such a wide range of people I’d recommend it for just about adult who works, inside or outside the home—pretty much everyone.   Hain is not only a business leader, but a recent convert, and he helps remind us cradle Catholics the richness of our faith, and the tools we all have available to keep us effective and holy in our vocation.

Each chapter offers interviews, encouragement and ideas not just for making realistic faith part of work life, but infusing an attractive Catholic culture into everything we do.   Especially helpful is advice on Catholic business networking, and making the spiritual life a priority.

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