Today, the fourth of April, is the feast of a great saint and bishop of the Church, Isidore of Seville, who fell asleep in the Lord on this date in the year 636. Isidore came from a family of saints (two brothers and a sister in the glorious company!), and is often thought of as the last of the Church Fathers. Through his preaching the Visigoth kings of Spain were converted from Arianism (a pervasive and powerful heresy which denies the full divinity of Christ) to the Catholic faith.
But Isidore is most especially remembered for his great learning. He knew, essentially, everything there was to be known in the seventh century A.D., and wrote a kind of encyclopedia which was truly, well... encyclopedic, a compendium of human knowledge, agriculture to zoology - a work so vast, so complete, so well organized that it remained a standard textbook for the next 900 years.
Isidore's vast accumulation of knowledge, of information, prompted Pope St John Paul II to propose Isidore as "Patron Saint of the Internet." And this seems fitting. Pope Benedict XVI in his consideration of Isidore noted that "rather than the precious gift of synthesis it would seem that he possessed the gift of collatio, that is, of collecting, which he expressed in an extraordinary personal erudition."
That sort of names the problem, or a problem, with the internet, doesn't it? It's a vast sea of information, a collection, but without order - the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the evil, the true and the false, all jumbled together and ever at our finger tips either to inform or deceive. It is a tool by which we can communicate and share and entertain, or by which we can slander and exploit or even be enslaved. For many it is simply the near occasion of sin. And, "having information at our fingertips is not the same as having it stored in our mind."
What we need, of course, is virtue - the prudence that allows us to use this tool rightly and righteously, and perhaps even more the temperance that allows us simply to log off and read a book, watch the bees buzzing about the yard, or to have a real chat with a real person with whom you are in the same actual room. Virtue develops from practice - intentional decisions which become disciplines which become habits which become character, who we are. But, given our fallen natures and that we are so often at war with "the devices and desires of our own hearts," at every step of the way we must be carried along by grace - grace which is amazing and abundantly poured out for us in Christ. As the Catechism says, "Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues" (no. 1811). And there is no other way in which we will persevere in the virtues; indeed, "no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4.12).
All of which is to say it is a good idea to pray over our laptops and phones and to seek good St Isidore's intercession that ever more dependent on the grace of Christ we may become virtuous, both online and off.
St. Isidore, pray for us!
God bless you,