Monday, February 8, 2016

A Simple Explanation for the Drop in Mass Attendance

Many people nowadays wonder why attendance at Sunday Mass has dropped so drastically. For example, here in the Hartford Archdiocese on any given weekend, the number of people at Mass is a full 65% less than during the 1960s.

If you want a simple explanation, I’ve got one. (You see, I’ve got a gift for simplicity. Or at least that’s what I think people mean when they complement me with the title “Professor Simpleton.”)

Back in the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council offered a new and fresh perspective on faith and the Church. If you take the time to read the Vatican II documents, they’re very profound and insightful.

Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t bother to read the documents, because they were too busy declaring that “the spirit of Vatican II” now lets us practice Catholicism any which way we feel like it. (Emphasis on “feelings.”)


For example, for many centuries the Catholic Church was viewed as a stern organization that demanded people do certain things: go to Mass, say the Rosary, no meat on Fridays, go to Confession, etc. These were obligations that Catholics had to do. And a lot of Catholics truly thought if they forced themselves to do these things, it would put them in God’s good graces, regardless of whether they themselves had cold and bitter hearts completely devoid of love. This was an attitude, regrettably, straight out of the Pharisees’ playbook.

In an attempt to shift the focus away from the strict practice of religious rituals, the Church tried to emphasize God’s love and mercy and our need to be in a relationship with Him. Catholics shouldn’t go to Mass because we HAVE to, instead we should go because we WANT to, out of sheer gratitude toward the God who created us and loves us.

Well, somewhere along the line, this idea got muddled. It was interpreted to mean: “Yippee! I don’t HAVE to do religious stuff anymore unless I WANT to. And guess what? I don’t want to. But God still loves me and I’m still going to Heaven! Yippee!”


Despite this widespread way of thinking, the Church clearly teaches that we are obligated to attend Mass each weekend. Vatican II never changed that. If you truly believe that Vatican II said that we only have to go to Mass whenever we feel like it, and God really won’t care either way, you really need to look up those documents online and read them.


It’s sad that so many people view Mass as an unpleasant chore. If folks only understood what happens at every Mass, our current problem would not be the fact Mass attendance has dropped 65%, it would be concern over how to build enough new churches to hold all the people clamoring to go to Mass.

The fact is, at every single Mass, an astounding, supernatural miracle occurs: bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It’s not a mere ritual; it’s not a symbol; it’s a breath-taking miracle, clearly taught and instituted by the Lord. And it happens at every Mass. In a way unlike any other, Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist. It is the most awesome and sublime gift God Almighty can offer to us: the gift of Himself.


If Catholics really understood what the Eucharist is (though it’s not a “what,” it’s a “who”), Mass attendance would be on the rise, regardless of whether people thought they HAD to go or if they only WANTED to go. 

So that’s my explanation, and I’m sticking to it. You may call me Professor Simpleton if you’d like. But oftentimes the Lord’s most profound truths are the simplest, such as this one: He loves us, and He wants us to love Him back. Mass is the perfect place to do this.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

DON’T Say It Again, Sam

Marge Dweebler enters the living room and says to her husband, “Vern, are you watching that stupid video again?” Vern does not answer. Marge looks at him closely and stops short. “A bow tie? A white dinner jacket? You’ve got to be kidding me!” She notices his hair is slicked back and he’s chain-smoking unfiltered Camels. “Vern, when did you start smoking?”
     
“That’s so long ago I don’t remember,” he replies without looking at her.
     
“Are you going to come to bed tonight?” she asks.
    
“I never make plans that far ahead,” Vern mutters, his gaze remaining fixed on the black and white images on the TV screen.


“Vern, please!” she says. “You’ve watched that video a hundred times. All you ever do is sit there like a zombie and recite lines from the movie. Oooh! I curse the day you bought that stupid DVD!”
    
“Not an easy day to forget,” Vern says. “I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”
     
Stop it!” Marge yells. “Oh, Vern, you’re driving me crazy. Don’t you care about me?”
     
“Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would,” he says.
     
“That’s it! I’m leaving! I’m packing my bags and taking the kids, and we’re going to my mother’s house!”
     
Vern looks up at her and says, “Tell me, who was it you left me for? Was it Laszlo, or were there others in between? Or aren’t you the kind that tells?”
     
With that, Marge screams and stomps out of the room.


The next morning, Vern arrives at the office and sits down at his desk. His boss walks in and says, “Dweebler, we need to talk. We’ve got a little prob—” He stops in mid-sentence and stares at Vern. “A trench coat? A fedora? Vern, this has gone far enough. People are starting to talk. I hate office politics as much as the next guy, but—”
     
“I’m not interested in politics,” Vern says. “The problems of the world are not in my department. I’m a saloon-keeper.”
     
“No, you’re not,” his boss says. “You’re a district sales manager. And your little fantasy world is hurting business. I want to know what you plan to do about it.”
    
“You want my advice?” Vern asks. “Go back to Bulgaria.”
     
“Vern, Come on, pal,” the boss pleads. “This has become a real problem.”
     
“Yes, well, everybody in Casablanca has problems,” Vern says. “Yours may work out. If you’ll excuse me.” With that, he get up from the desk and begins to walk away.
    
“That’s it! I’ve had enough,” the boss yells. “I’m calling Security! You’re finished, Dweebler!”
     
Suddenly, Vern pulls a pistol from the pocket of his trench coat. “Not so fast, Louis,” he says. “Nobody’s going to be arrested—not for a while yet.”


“Whoa, whoa, hold on, Vern,” the boss says. “Don’t do anything rash.”
     
“Louis, I wouldn’t like to shoot you,” Vern says, “but I will if you take one more step.”
     
“Vern, we can work this out,” the boss says, his voice trembling. “I know some doctors who can help you. How about I call them? They’ll come over and talk to you.”
     
Vern answers, “You call the airport, and let me hear you tell them. And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.”
     
“Yeah, yeah. OK, Vern, I’ll make the call,” the boss says as he fumbles with the phone.
     
Within five minutes, police detectives, SWAT team snipers, doctors from the State Hospital, and Marge Dweebler arrive at the office building. They cautiously approach Vern’s office. Marge begins to weep when she sees him. “Oh, Vern!” she sobs.
     
“Oh, it’s ‘Richard’ again,” Vern says sarcastically, turning toward Marge. “We’re back in Paris. Your unexpected visit isn’t connected by any chance with the letters of transit? Seems as long as I have those letters I’ll never be lonely.”
     
A SWAT team sniper whispers, “I’ve got a clear shot. Should I take him out?”
     
One of the doctors, a movie buff himself, sizes up the situation and says, “No, wait. I’ve got an idea.” 

He slowly walks toward Vern and says, “It might be a good idea for you to disappear from Casablanca for a while. There’s a Free French garrison over at Brazzaville. I could be induced to arrange a passage.”

 

Vern looks at him with surprise and says, “My letter of transit? I could use a trip. And it doesn’t make any difference about our bet. You still owe me 10,000 francs.”
     
“And that 10,000 francs should pay our expenses,” the doctor replies.
     
“OUR expenses?” Vern says.
     
“Mmm, hmm,” the doctor nods with a smile. Then the doctor nonchalantly reaches up and sticks Vern in the arm with a hypodermic needle filled with a sedative.     

Vern’s eyes slowly glaze over and a crooked smile spreads across his face. As the doctor gently guides him down the hall and toward the elevator, a dark, misty fog rolls in and envelops the black and white world of Vern Dweebler. He turns to the doctor and says, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Simon Peter’s Diary

(It’s a little known fact that St. Peter kept a personal diary. He recorded detailed accounts of his years traveling with Jesus. Some biblical scholars say Peter’s diary assisted Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John when they wrote their gospels a few decades later. Others say a certain smart-aleck blogger is just making the whole thing up. Well, we shall leave it to historians to decide. In the meantime, here is what may or may not be a section of St. Peter’s diary, which discusses the event described in the gospel reading at Mass this weekend.)

Dear Diary:

He did it again. That wacky Jesus once again made me feel like a knucklehead. Why do I even hang around the guy? Is he THAT special? Well, yeah, I’m starting to think he just might be special—really special.

You remember the entry I wrote here a couple weeks ago? Jesus healed my mother-in-law of a fever, but before he did it, I really put my foot in my mouth. When he heard she was ill, he said he could cure her, and asked to see her. And of course I jumped in and yelled, “Whataya talking about? She’s sick, she needs her rest. Let her sleep, for crying out loud.” Frankly, I thought the fever was so bad she’d probably die.

Jesus ignored me and went right into her bedroom. He told the fever to get lost, and blammo!, she sat right up, suddenly in perfect health. Well, the rest of the guys were thrilled because ol’ Ma began to feed them, but I lost my appetite. Jesus really freaked me out.


So yesterday, practically the same thing happened again! Me and my crew had been out fishing all night, and trust me, it was our worst fishing trip in years. Totally skunked. Over eight hours on the lake and not a single fish. We returned to shore, completely discouraged and began cleaning our nets. The whole time I’m thinking to myself, “How am I gonna pay these guys? They put in a full shift on my boat, but I don’t have a single fish to sell. I’ll probably have to borrow money from my mother-in-law again. Crud. I knew I should’ve put them on commission instead of salary.”

Then Jesus walks up, smiles at me, and climbs into my boat. He asks me to push the boat out a little bit, and then he sits on the bow and uses my boat as a stage to preach to the people who had gathered at the edge of the water. I’m standing there, waist-deep in the water, looking like a total doofus, trying to finish cleaning my nets while Jesus is talking away.


When he finished, he tells me to sail out to the deep water and put my nets down for a catch.

My first impulse was to rock the boat and dump him overboard. Then I was about to say, “Hey, wait a minute, pal! You made me look like a dope when you healed ol’ Ma, but seeing as how I don’t know jack about medicine, I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut. But this is different. I know what I’m talking about here. I’m a professional fisherman, while you’re just a professional—um, I don’t know what you are, but it ain’t fisherman, that’s for sure.”

But then he smiles at me again with that look of his. It’s impossible to get angry at him, he’s so sincere and gentle, you know? So instead I just say as nicely as I can, “Look master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a single fish…”

Before I could finish with something like, “…so I appreciate your enthusiasm, but there are no fish out there today. I’m going home and get some sleep,” he looks at me again, but this time with those intense eyes, the ones that say at the same time “I love you” and “I’m not budging.” I could tell he was not going to take no for an answer. And since he did bring ol’ Ma back from the brink of death, I just shrugged and said, “…fine, if it’s your command, I’ll lower the stinkin’ nets.”

So I whistled for the crew and told them we’re going back out. As you can imagine, they were about as happy as a sheep at a wolf convention. They were already wondering how or if they were gonna be paid.

We sailed out about a quarter-mile and let down the nets. At this point we were pretty much humoring Jesus. I was already rehearsing in my head a few sarcastic comments I was going to say to him when we returned to shore empty-handed. But then, out of nowhere, we were smack-dab in the middle of the biggest school of fish I’ve ever seen. Our nets were starting to tear under the sheer weight of so many fish. We called to another boat to come help. In 20 minutes we filled both boats to the point where one more minnow would’ve sunk us. It was unbelievable! The greatest catch of fish in my entire life, and probably in the entire history of this lake.


We were absolutely joyful and exhausted as we slowly made our way back toward land. No loan from ol’ Ma this time! And I’m so glad the guys are on salary instead of commission! I think I might give them a bonus anyway.

Then I looked over and saw Jesus staring at me. He had that weird smile again. Then it hit me, like getting smacked in the face with a cold mackerel. He knew. Just like he knew how to command a fever to leave ol’ Ma’s body, he knew exactly where the fish were. I think he somehow even commanded the fish to jump right into our nets.

Who is this guy?!!

I was gripped with fear. Jesus is not an ordinary preacher or physician or even professional fisherman. He is much more. He’s a mystic, a prophet, a guy with an inside pipeline directly to the Almighty Creator. I suddenly felt unworthy to be in his presence. I said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Jesus just smiled again and said, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.”

OK, so what does THAT mean?

Well, I made so much money selling that huge catch of fish, I can afford to shut down the fishing business for a few weeks. I think I’ll follow Jesus for a while and see what happens. I wonder if we’ll end up doing anything interesting?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Math Is Life

Back when my kids were still in school, they often complained about their math homework. I always reminded them, “Math is life.”

My goal was to make them realize that math is not a tedious exercise designed by sadistic school teachers to torture students, but rather it’s the foundation of all of life’s endeavors.


 Technically speaking, math IS life. If you break down living organisms to their most basic elements, you’ll have quite a puddle on the floor. You’ll also have biology, chemistry, and physics, all of which are specialized fields of mathematics, which means math is life and life is math.

This is why theologians say the language of God is mathematics. OK, maybe theologians don’t say that, but mathematicians say it since they’re desperate to convince kids that math is not a tedious exercise designed by sadistic school teachers to torture students, but rather was invented by God, so go blame Him.

By the way, God’s native language is ancient Hebrew, and math is His second language, but He speaks it so fluently you can’t even detect an accent.

When I told my kids that math is life and they should be grateful for the opportunity to acquire such useful knowledge, they replied, “Yeah, well what about algebra? No one uses algebra in the real world.”

“All right,” I conceded, “algebra is, in fact, a tedious exercise designed by sadistic school teachers to torture students, but all the other types of math are very important. You can’t survive in the modern world without good math skills.”


Despite my passionate sermonizing, my kids remained skeptical. Apparently, most high school students in America nowadays also do not see the need to be proficient in math. A recent study found that 12th-graders in the U.S. rank 19th out of 21 developed nations in math skills. (A statistic which caused the average high school senior to say, “Cool! We’re in the top half!”)

Ignorant high school students eventually become ignorant adults. They then become easy prey for people who possess good math skills, but who do not possess the knowledge of Who created math and what He plans to do to those who swindle the least of their brethren. I speak, of course, of the folks who run gambling casinos and state lotteries.

Lotteries are nothing more than a tax on people who did poorly in math class. That being said, however, when the nation was caught up in “Powerball frenzy” a few weeks ago, I shamefully admit that I participated. But I’ve got a good excuse. My co-workers set up an office pool and anyone interested in joining threw in two bucks. They bought a bunch of tickets, and if any ticket won, the money would be split evenly among all those in the pool.


I fully understand the odds of winning Powerball are so infinitesimally small it’s effectively zero, but here’s the unlikely scenario that haunted me: one of the tickets actually would win, and every single employee at the firm would get 10 or 20 million dollars — except me. And the next morning I’d be the only person who showed up for work. I can barely do my job, let alone the jobs of 19 other people. And who would answer the phone when I was in the bathroom?

So I grudgingly joined the office pool, not because I had ridiculous fantasies of becoming rich, but because I had nightmarish fantasies of being the only person left in the company who still needed to work for a living. 

And guess what? We did not win. Wow, who saw that coming? So there are two lessons here: “math is life,” and don’t waste your two bucks.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Biblical Heroes Answer the Call

In the Scripture readings at Mass for the weekend of February 6th and 7th, we get an interesting look at three of the greatest heroes in the entire Bible. The first reading describes the call of Isaiah, arguably the most important prophet in Israel’s history. Hundreds of years before the fact, Isaiah wrote numerous messianic prophesies, all pointing toward the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.


In the second reading, from his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul discusses his call to ministry and lists some key points of the Good News. A tireless missionary, Paul spread the message of salvation through faith in Christ throughout the known world.

Finally, the gospel reading describes the call of St. Peter. Jesus explained that Peter would no longer spend his time out on the boat catching fish, but instead would begin winning souls into the Kingdom of God. Jesus declared to Peter, “From now on you will be catching men.”

So, this week we see three great heroes of our Judeo-Christian heritage, each one called by the Lord to do great and wonderful things for the faith. And, of course, each of these three great heroes accepted the call with joy and excitement and confidence. Umm, not exactly.

In each case, when our three heroes received the call by God, they were filled with doubt and fear. The first words out of Isaiah’s mouth were, “Woe is me….I am a man of unclean lips.”

St. Paul didn’t mince words describing his worthiness to be called by God. “I am the least of the apostles,” he wrote, “not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Just like Isaiah, Paul considered himself far too sinful to be a spokesman for the Lord.


St. Peter also made his feelings plainly known. “Depart from me, Lord,” he said to Jesus, “for I am a sinful man.”

These three biblical heroes learned an important lesson: the closer a person gets to the holy and perfect Lord, the more that person becomes aware of his or her sinfulness. When Isaiah, Paul, and Peter found themselves in the presence of God’s bright light, their shortcomings become glaringly obvious. They each felt unworthy to be singled out by the Lord for such important missions. But that’s not surprising. Everyone is a sinner. Those who are close to God know it—and know they need forgiveness—while those who are far from God think they’re just fine.

So, is there a lesson here for those of us who are not biblical heroes, those of us who make up the vast throng of nameless schlubs sitting in the pews each Sunday? Well, certainly there is. If the great Isaiah, Paul, and Peter felt unworthy to do anything special for the Lord, then we sure as heck shouldn’t even THINK of doing anything.

No, wait! That’s not the lesson. The real lesson here is that you don’t have to be perfect to do something special for the Lord. God calls every single believer—biblical hero and nameless schlub alike—to help spread the good news of the Gospel.

Nowadays we Catholics are faced with a severe shortage of ordained priests, a situation that’s going to get much worse before it gets better. Jesus’ words were never more true: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:12).

God is calling each and every one of us to pitch in and help. He knows we’re sinful; He knows we’re fearful; He knows we’re unsure of ourselves. That’s all right. So were Isaiah, Paul, and Peter.


And who knows? If we are faithful and answer God’s call, maybe someday future generations will look back and refer to us as heroes. (Although personally I’m more comfortable with being called a “nameless schlub.”)

Friday, January 29, 2016

What Did Jesus Know, and When Did He Know It?

(This essay is based on the Gospel reading at Mass this weekend, Luke 4:21-30)


One of the most fascinating questions regarding Jesus is this: What did He know and when did He know it?

Even though Jesus is the Eternal Word, the One thru whom the entire universe was created, during the Incarnation He willingly lowered Himself to our level, temporarily giving up some of His omnipotence and omniscience (power and knowledge). The letter to the Philippians says, “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;…he humbled himself” (Phil 1:6-8).

So, Scripture clearly teaches that during His time on earth, Jesus did not know everything. For centuries scholars have debated exactly what did He know and understand about His mission. Did He know all the important details about His three-year ministry before it even started, as if He had a copy of the Bible as a reference source? (“Oh wow, I see that tomorrow I’m supposed to give the Sermon on the Mount. I’d better go review my lecture notes.”)


Or were the specifics kind of murky? Was Jesus proceeding each day on faith and trust in His Father, uncertain of the daily details but confident that His Father would guide Him when necessary? When did Jesus realize that He had to die to pay the price for mankind’s sins? Did He know that gruesome fact from the very beginning, or was it revealed to Him at some point in the middle of His ministry?

In this week’s gospel reading, we hear about the very early stages of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He had recently been baptized by John the Baptist and experienced the 40 days of temptation in the desert. Now He returned to the Galilee region and began to preach. Initially He had success. Verse 15 of the fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (a little before this week’s reading) says, “He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.”

But then Jesus went to His hometown, Nazareth. In the local synagogue, the very one in which He was raised, He got up in front of the congregation and read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…”

The gospel reading this week picks up the story here. Jesus rolled up the scroll and announced to the assembly, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”


The message was crystal clear. Jesus told them that HE, little ol’ Jesus who grew up in that very town, is the one, THE one, who has been anointed by God Almighty Himself. He told them very frankly that He in fact is the long-awaited Messiah for all of Israel.

At first many people were amazed and impressed. But then some said, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” and they didn’t mean it as a compliment. Basically, they were saying, “Wait a minute! You’re just the lowly son of a lowly blue-collar worker from a lowly little village in the middle of nowhere. Who do you think you are, pal?!”

The situation quickly deteriorated, and we read, “The people in the synagogue…were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill…to hurl him down headlong.”

Whoa, do you understand what this means? The people were so angry at Jesus they tried to throw Him off a cliff! They tried to kill Him!


So, I wonder, did Jesus know beforehand that this would happen? Or was He completely shocked by the behavior of His long-time neighbors? Did He get up in front of the congregation expecting a positive reaction, like He had experienced in nearby villages? Or did He get up thinking, “OK, it’s really gonna hit the fan today.”

Just wondering.

Jesus was able to get away from the crowd safely. Scripture doesn’t give us any information about how He got away or what He was thinking at that moment. I wonder if He went back to Mary’s house and nonchalantly said, “Hi Mom. They tried to kill me today, but I knew that would happen. What’s for supper?” Or did He exclaim, “Ma!! I almost got killed!! What’s up with that?! Is this gonna happen every time I say something?!!”

Did Jesus lock Himself in His bedroom and pray feverishly, “Abba, Father. What gives?! You never told me anything about THIS?!”

I suspect at this point some people think I’m being a bit irreverent and even blasphemous. “Hey Dunn, you can’t say that about Jesus! You’re being disrespectful to our Lord and Savior!!”

I’m not trying to be disrespectful. I’m just speculating about what He knew and when He knew it.

After all, we know some basic things for sure about Jesus: 1) He was sinless. He was morally perfect. 2) During the Incarnation, although He was sinless He also was fully human (remember the Philippians verses), which means He experienced the emotional highs and lows common to all people. 3) In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was so distraught He actually asked His heavenly Father if they could try a different plan.


Thru it all Jesus never sinned. But being confused, surprised, and distraught are not sins. Those are common human experiences. I’m just wondering if Jesus ever experienced those things, that’s all. If so, this week’s gospel reading seems to be a likely occasion for surprise and confusion.

No, I’m not being irreverent and disrespectful. Contemplating Jesus’ possible surprise and confusion during His ministry helps me to relate to Him better. It makes Him seem less of a robot, emotionlessly following a carefully-crafted script and more of a real person with real daily struggles who must trust in His heavenly Father during times of uncertainty—just like all of us. 

The daily struggles and doubts and lack of knowledge are certain to occur. If Jesus experienced these same struggles, it wasn’t a sin. We can learn from His example. He handled these struggles by trusting completely in His heavenly Father. We can and should do the same.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Flat Screen TVs Are Everywhere

One of the most amazing inventions during the past couple decades has been the flat screen TV. Not too long ago, having a quality television meant you had to own a big, hulking cube — with at least as much depth as width — and it had to weigh more than a mid-sized Buick. The “big screen” TVs of the 1990s were like having a washing machine sitting on a table in your living room, except instead of a round window with soapy clothes swirling around, you had a square screen, and oftentimes, what was available to watch on TV was more boring that watching soapy clothes swirl around. (Still true today, actually.)

Nowadays, it’s amazing that such quality, high-definition images can appear on a device which in many cases is no more than an inch deep and weighs less than 15 pounds. If you suddenly showed up in 18th century New England with a flat screen TV, you definitely would be burned at the stake for witchcraft. And if you did a frantic Google search on your iPhone to try and explain to them that the technology is not demonic, they’d just throw more logs on the fire. (But come to think of it, I’m pretty sure Siri is a minion of Satan.)

Even more amazing than the quality, thinness, and lightness of modern flat screen TVs, is the cost. You can get a rather large screen for only a few hundred bucks. This is a double-edged sword. It means almost every household can afford to have a big, beautiful screen hanging on the wall in the living room. But on the other hand, it means every public facility now is plastered with flat screen TVs.


There are some places that have traditionally had televisions, such as bars and restaurants. But in “ancient times” (20 years ago) there was a single 19-inch TV up in the corner above the bar. Patrons would say to the bartender, “Hey Fred, put on the Knicks game,” or, “Hey Fred, turn on the news.” These days it’s not just the patrons of bars and restaurants who are plastered; the rooms are plastered with flat screen TVs. It’s actually cheaper now to install a wall full of TVs than it is to put up wallpaper. You can’t go out to eat these days without being blasted from all directions by blaring TV images.

Other facilities that never had TVs in the past now have them: the Motor Vehicle department, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, doctors’ waiting rooms, car repair facilities, and funeral homes. I was at a wake recently and the big screen TV had a heart-warming slide show of the dearly departed, but someone was able to fiddle with some buttons and put on the Patriots game.

There’s a small diner a couple blocks away from my office that has a terrific and inexpensive lunch menu. But they have a couple of big screen TVs that are always blaring The Jerry Springer Show during the lunch hour. It’s a proven fact that if you watch Jerry Springer for more than 10 minutes, your IQ drops 30 points. I no longer can eat lunch in that place. I have to order take-out and bring it back to my office. (And no, I don’t watch Springer on my computer.)

Although I complain about being inundated with TVs, whenever I’m waiting in line and there is not a TV to watch, I find myself getting uncomfortable and fidgety. I grab my iPhone, press the button and say, “Siri, I need some entertainment.” Dutifully following her master’s command, the screen in my hand starts playing The Jerry Springer Show.