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The practical value of virtues in the social network

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Father Matthew Spencer is a member of the Oblates of Jt. Joseph order of priests serving Granite Bay, Loomis, Roseville and Rocklin at St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church. Prior to joining the order, Spencer was a technologist working on information systems engineering. After suffering a brain injury and surgery that nearly took his life, Spencer re-evaluated his life during the rehabilitation period which he says took over three years.

“I realized I needed to do more than work with the technology,” he said.

So Spencer turned to a life of ministry with an appreciation for the benefits of technology. He is currently the executive of communications for the order, and continues to apply his technology expertise to support the ministry operations.

Spencer offers insights for parents concerned about the adverse impact of technology. “We have a tendency to try and fit all of our youth issues into one box,” he said. “We want it to be a black and white problem with one solution.”

When it comes to addressing the issues of youth (anxiety, depression, addiction, exploitation, bullying), he encourages parents to not emphasize the technology, but rather aim for the root of the problem in the individual person. According to Spencer, honest conversations about the practical value of virtues are worth considering because they may help youth understand their own power (through embracing wisdom) to be safe from the nefarious agendas and manipulations of others in the social network and in the flesh.

Fr. Mathew’s talking tips: The practical value of virtue in the social network

  • Prudence is knowing how to use the gifts we are given. Girls may dress and present themselves in social media with less modesty because they believe that is their value. But their value is in relationships with God, family and in the community.
  • Chastity is not just about sex. It is about a respect for who we are as people. It is the ability to recognize that we are more than what you see on the outside. “The problem with porn is not that shows too much,” he said. “It is that not enough of the actual person is shown.” When our children realize that their body is the sacrament of who you are as a whole person, including the divinity within perhaps they can begin to accept chastity as how we express our authenticity as magnificent sons and daughters.
  • Humility is the foundation of all virtue that helps us receive the wisdom to overcome the manipulations of others. No child wants to be duped or misled and they get a lot of fear and fakery in the social network. In this regard, humility is not thinking less of yourself; rather it is not thinking of yourself at all. When you put God and others first, it is possible to experience the power of God’s love in ways that bring about a peace of mind of knowing that when you tame your own ego, things get a lot easier.

(Look for a more extensive article about this conversation in the 2014 Winter Edition of Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly.)

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