One of the little spiritual boundaries I try to keep for myself is not looking at any social or news media before I've said my prayers and done my spiritual exercises in the morning. One of the funny side effects of this is that sometimes on days when I go to offer morning Mass at the Poor Clares, I first hear about big news stories from them. Today it was Whitey Bulger. Some weeks ago it was Osama bin Laden. It gives a friar a shot of goofy vanity in the morning, to think that he is so unworldly as to get his news of current events from cloistered nuns.
It reminds me of the great graces of my life, and one of the periods when God was working very hard on me. Not that I knew it at the time; in fact, I was almost totally ignorant. I was like an anesthetized patient; grace was operating on me and I was unaware of it.
At some point in early 1987 I had a dramatic conversion that was to have far-reaching effects in my life. Around the time I turned fifteen, I became a metalhead. I grew my hair long, I took up the uniform, I turned the radio dial all the way to left, from the popular music stations down to WNHU from the University of New Haven, which had an all-day Heavy Metal show every Saturday. Distracted by the noise and macabre mood of it all, I was distracted from the grace God was working in me: the experience had firmly rooted me in a critical turn with regard to tastes and values; I had discovered that the things everybody did, liked, and believed were not necessarily the right or best things.
From this my ongoing conversion proceeded in stages: to thrash, crossover, second wave hardcore, punk, Oi!, anarcho-punk, spirituality, Christianity, Catholicism, Franciscanism.
I rehearse all of this personal mythology just to make another point. When I first fell into the metal subculture, I became separated from popular culture. From early 1987 or so, I became almost totally unaware of popular songs, television, and movies. In fact, I didn't come to be aware of these things again until I entered religious life the first time in the fall of 1994. This was one of the things that made my adjustment to religious life so hard the first time I tried it; I was surprised to find televisions in friaries, and even more shocked to see things like People magazine. For years, it hadn't even occurred to me to watch television or pay any attention to the vapid popular culture of the world. At the time I thought of my entrance into religious life as a kind of culmination of a conversion process; how was it that I found therein a culture that seemed more entwined with the world's inanities?
All of that is another story and another complaint. I only bring it all up because I want to thank God for inspiring the flight from the world that was my 'cloistered' period. That awareness helps me to remember to keep good boundaries with this world's media.