Journalists, including those in the Catholic press, spend a lot of time traveling to report on events. Here in the Diocese of Green Bay, this includes covering stories taking place miles away. It requires a lot of driving.
Many years ago, I began using a smartphone with GPS navigation that directs me to my location with mostly flawless accuracy. (My friend Siri can sometimes lead me down the wrong path, but not often.)
Prior to iPhone navigation, I used a Garmin portable GPS device. It mounted onto my car’s windshield and plugged into the cigarette lighter. I just touched the screen to enter a destination, choice of roads (fastest route, most use of freeways, etc.), and away I went.
The GPS (global positioning system) is a satellite-based navigation system controlled by a network (constellation) of satellites. Placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense for military use in the late 1950s, the GPS was made available for civilian use in the 1980s. Today, there are at least 25 satellites in the GPS constellation.
Smartphones use the same GPS technology as the earlier Garmin devices, but the technology is called “Assisted GPS” or “A-GPS” because it also uses cellphone towers and Wi-Fi networks.
Not only do the GPS devices lead us to our destination, they can tell us how fast we are traveling and how far we have left to travel.
Before GPS, I relied on the free online web mapping service, Mapquest, for directions. It was as easy as typing in my starting and ending locations and printing out directions.
Mapquest started as a map publisher and later began making maps with computers. As the World Wide Web evolved in the early 1990s, Mapquest found its niche as the top online mapping service. The name even found its way into our lexicon as a term to describe printing out directions from a computer (“I did a Mapquest”).
Using Mapquest was much handier and more precise than the old-fashioned way of taking directions over the phone and writing them down on paper. The drawback with phone directions was deciphering the handwriting while driving.
In the world of personal travel, technology advancements have made it easier — and more relaxing — to find our destination. But the spiritual traveler knows that faith, prayer and a relationship with God, not technology, lead us to our ultimate destination of eternal life.
With the season of Lent just around the corner, it’s time to turn to those traditions as we journey to the cross. The time-tested spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving provide a safe and sure path to Christ.
Next week, on Ash Wednesday, and throughout Lent, use your smartphone, Garmin, Mapquest or hand-written directions to help you get to church.