Alexander Graham Bell had no idea his invention would ring in a chip off the ol' block!

     Today is a significant anniversary, the 122nd occasion of the famous command, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you." It signaled the first phone call ever made when Alexander Graham Bell, known to all today as "Ma Bell," summoned his assistant from another room in the same house in the city of Boston, Mass. It was the beginning of an evangelization tool that has surpassed all Bell ever conceptualized. Think about it, in six to eight thousand years of known civilization, it has only been 122 years since the telephone was invented. Since that time the technology has advanced to such a degree that it defies description. You're receiving this message over a phone wire that Bell could not have imagined. We send faxes, talk for hours on end over modern contraptions that have far surpassed the tin-can tied to a string. Today there are no strings, cellular reigns and cable is inventing new fiber optics as we write that will eventually render the wire obsolete. We wonder if Bell ever gave a thought to satellites. It has to amaze all at the leap society has taken over the past century, specifically the last three decades. This editor first learned typing through the patient tutoring of Father Clarence Zachman, OMI in 1958 in the fifth floor tower of the seminary in Carthage, Missouri pecking away on antique Underwoods and Royals. Less than ten years later I bought my first portable Brother typewriter, and in 1982 we splurged and bought a Correcting Selectric that was supposed to have all the gadgets. It didn't and it cost a pretty price of over $2,000. Today computers have dropped to well over half that price and can do everything, including make coffee. It is amazing what one little chip can do and to think we owe it all to Alexander Graham Bell. Or do we? Actually, we owe it all to God if we use these technologies the way the Almighty intended. He knew of computers long before He questioned the disobedience of Adam and Eve, long before He summoned Noah to construct an ark, gave Moses the Ten Commandments, or sent His Only-begotten Son to earth two thousand years ago.

      Many have said computers are the invention of satan, just as they sent out the alarm about the telephone over a century ago. But that is not true for God created man and man created these inventions. It is the use that we utilize them for which determines the attributes or demerits of it; the same with phones and computers. In the hands of one who is intent on following his own agenda, giving in to the seven deadly sins, it can be a tool of avarice, greed, lust, you name it as society has seen from "phone sex" and shady dealings via the phone. The same for the internet where pornography is quite prevalent; but on the other side of the coin look at the advantages to both when used for the honor and glory of God. Everything but the Sacraments can be achieved on the phone and over the internet. It is the greatest, fastest evangelization tool ever created. It is the quickest and most efficient way to reach millions in striving to follow Christ's command in Mark 16: 15 , "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature." Jesus said "whole world." This includes all seven continents - every corner of the earth. We know for a fact His apostles were not able to reach these but over the next two centuries His missionaries would reach most places, but often there were pockets or countries where they were not able to penetrate. Now, if they have a modem, God's Word can reach them in seconds. No dusty sandals and months or years of travel but rather the Word and teachings of Holy Mother Church can reach someone on the other side of the world in milliseconds - all through the thin optic fiber and a computer chip that has launched this generation into the future in ways no one would ever have dreamed. Certainly not Alexander Bell, who might have been scared away if he knew the abuse his name would receive from customers so used to having things immediately. He created a monster, but it is up to us to soothe this monster and to turn any negative stigmatizing the phone or computer into a positive for the good of God - for His Honor and Glory.

      We hear so often the complaint, "There's so much bad stuff on the internet." We can't argue with them, there are a lot of filth, hate and satanic things out there, but conversely there are just as many good things out there as well. Just as a library has many bad books - you know, the kind that are "banned in Boston" - there are many, many more good books on the shelves that far outnumber the bad ones. The same with the internet. Frankly we have never seen a pornographic site or a hate site, but then we don't go searching for it. The same holds true for those who are looking for evil - even to trying to identify the antichrist: be careful what you're looking for, you could find it! If we look for the bad, we're sure to find it - either on the internet or in our fellow man. Conversely, if we maintain the goal to always look for the good both on the web and for the God-given qualities in our brothers and sisters, we'll more readily find it and be happier, more content for our efforts. We must remember that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, and a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. If we search for the good trees no matter if it's person-to-person or when on Bell's invention or sitting in front of our monitors, then we're guaranteed to find the good fruits and benefit from them. So the next time that phone rings, you begin to dial someone, or click the browse and/or search button, say a little prayer that God will keep you on the straight and narrow information highway that will not detour to decadence or anything not of God. If we can keep that in focus and continue to consider everyday "Prayday" as we practice what we preach, then we can indeed "preach" in a good sense over the phone and web through our example and prudence. With this in mind, we can be assured of special graces for the success of each one of our particular lay ministries God asks of all of us. Consider His words in Luke 11: 13, "Therefore, if you, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Good Spirit to those who ask Him!" We are all sinners, but if we call on the Paraclete - the Consoler - the Sanctifier to aid us in our evangelistic ministry as communicators, then we can be assured we will be touched by the Spirit and convey to those we meet whether person to person, via phone, or through cyberspace all that God intends for good. That is the purpose for these modern contraptions - spawned from a tin-can for, though maybe "Mr. Pentium" did, we doubt Alexander Graham Bell had any idea his invention would evolve into a chip off the ol' block!

Michael Cain, editor

Daily CATHOLIC          March 10, 1998