Computers, Candy, and Distractions

Computers, Candy, and Distractions

Some friendships seem timeless, even a little eternal. After all, don’t we all reconnect with some people we haven’t seen in years, and after 10 minutes or so, it’s as if the intervening years never happened? This happened to me recently when I drove to rural Iowa to see a Trappist monk and a Trappistine nun—friends I hadn’t seen in years.

The nuns make candy, and as the three of us sipped coffee and nibbled on chocolates, our conversation turned to the contemplative vocation we all live, whether in or outside monasteries. Some people think of monasteries as places where God’s presence is so palpable that prayer happens effortlessly and relationships are easy, almost heavenly. But, in reality, monasteries are filled with ordinary people who have joys and struggles just like the rest of us.

Our conversation turned to distractions that come our way during prayer time, times when we figure we’re supposed to be thinking holy thoughts rather than wondering what’s for dinner. After all, aren’t spiritual amateurs the only ones who get distracted and even bored when we pray?

That’s why it was so refreshing to hear a nun who has lived in a contemplative community for over 50 years admit she spends a lot of her prayer time thinking about computer programs and candy production schedules.

Turns out we’re all spiritual amateurs, aren’t we? Our saving grace, however, is that God always welcomes us back again—distractions and all—day after day.

Photo: James Thew/PhotoXpress


About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, "Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places" is available at He can be contacted at