Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 14, 2017.
John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae reminds us, “when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern God’s living and saving presence” (no. 21). Admittedly, I have seen the danger of the reduction of humanity which results in a loss of dignity of the individual person. Days when I struggle with patience, I sometimes reduce my children as tasks to be managed and the ultimate goal is getting them to bedtime by the arbitrary deadline I impose on the family.
Obsessing over Human Praise
As a person with OCD, it is a daily battle to combat my compulsive urges for order and stability. Unfortunately, my control-everything mindset does not simply reside in my home-life—it seeps into the workplace as well. I get to be so goal-driven and task-oriented that sometimes I miss the entire purpose of my job [and well, any job for that matter]—to help others! Over the past couple weeks, I sought out acknowledgement from the superiors in my department and I got a little frustrated when I did not constantly receive “corporate praise”.
Saint Teresa of Avila once said, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” I would do well to heed this advice. I am grateful I came across the saint’s words as I began a fresh week. Focusing on the virtue of humility got my mind thinking. Eventually, my thoughts landed on a book from our living room bookshelf—Max Lucado’s You are Special. This is a story that I relate to more and more with each passing year. God mysteriously stirred the story of the Wemmicks in my long-term memory bank to remind myself the true meaning of life! Let me explain:
God is a Merciful Judge
The tale begins with the average day for wooden creatures known as Wemmicks. Tirelessly, grey dots and golden stars are being placed on each individual. Dots represent a defect in a Wemmick whereas stars signify a positive attribute. All the Wemmicks were created by the same woodcarver—Eli. Punchinello is a Wemmick who receives only grey dots—and a lot of them! He encounters an unblemished Wemmick without the stain of either dots or stars. Punchinello learns that visiting Eli on his hilltop residence grants Wemmicks the knowledge that they do not have to be defined by the type of markings they gave each other. We even discover Eli’s love prohibits dots or stars from sticking to the wooden creatures!
An obvious allegory for the Christian life, I am reminded that any good reward [or lack thereof] I receive at work does not increase or decrease my dignity as a human person or as an adopted son of God. God is a merciful judge. He allows every day to be a new opportunity to love Him and to love my neighbor. The reception of confession is a powerful tool I have utilized in the past couple months to help combat my scrupulosity.
Doors of Hell are Locked from the Inside
A second lesson gained from You Are Special is that it is my own pride and limited world outlook that prohibits me from experiencing a foretaste of Heaven in this life. I am reminded of the famous quip of C.S. Lewis about the Afterlife, “The doors of hell are locked from the inside!” What this means is that the misery and despair of hell—that is existing apart from God—is self-imposed. I certainly experienced a hellish existence over the past three weeks. I sought to gain control over both work and home. This caused me to veer off the road of holiness . Max Lucado’s book reminded me that despair may be cured with a visit to my Heavenly Father. I need only to give permission to the Holy Spirit to enter into me.
You are special. I am special. It’s easy to forget God’s merciful love. I will conclude with the Act of Contrition to remind us of God’s mercy and forgiving nature:
O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 4, 2020.
Every day we have a choice. We either give into the pressures of daily living or crumble under the weight of stress. The constant flux of life makes stress inevitable.
This year taught us all about the importance of mental health. Pandemics. Racial inequalities. Economic shutdowns. Adjusted graduation celebrations (or none in some cases). Public Mass suspensions.
Even the best fiction writers couldn’t write a more complicated and despairing storyline than 2020: Reality is Stranger than Fiction.
I understand the need for precaution in slowing down COVID’s spread (in April I contracted the virus and it was a miserable experience). But mental health must be a priority in overall wellness.
Even though stress will always surround you in some way, shape, or form don’t despair. I have learned to shield myself against the pressures of this world and the snares the Devil lays out to try to entrapment. Here are seven ways to arm you against anxiety:
***NOTE: These are only suggestions. Some of the strategies may not be applicable to your situation at this time in your life. Please use these shields against anxiety as it suits your needs/situation.***
1 Peter 5:7 states, “Cast all your worries upon Him because he cares for you.”
Prayer is communication with the Divine Creator of the Entire Universe. It involves a dialogue not a monologue. Much of my spiritual journey has had me focus on my end of communication—asking God for my wants. I did not always listen. Something I have done to open communication is to be more deliberate in my gratitude.
Along with prayer, song safeguards me from anxiety. I used to listen to rock music; however, four years ago I made a shift in the type of music that played in my car. Because the words we hear impact our daily living, my shift to listening to positive and uplifting Christian music protects me from the chaos life throws my way.
Together with prayer and encouraging music, monthly counseling appointments protects me from the foray caused by the foibles of myself and my fellow neighbors. Counselor is a title given to the Holy Spirit as well. Between my professional counseling sessions, I can rely on the aid of the Holy Spirit to console me against daily anxiety.
A fourth shield in my armory against anxiety is frequent reading of good books. According to Frederick Douglas, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” While this quote is not necessarily an absolute truth, I will attest that reading can be a doorway to freedom.
As I journey into the literary universes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, I am afforded respite from the toils of work. Through the written word I am also able to travel—in a sense—back in time to meet holy men and women and learn about how they existed in a world that was not their home.
St. Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 provided a timeless example of the spiritual life, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” I joined cross country in high school and my passion for running continues today. During a stressful week, I defend myself from the snares of anxiety by taking my children out in the jogging stroller for a short run. During my neighborhood circuits, I am able to reflect on how my day went and how I may be able to improve on my shortcomings.
Anxiety medicine does not work for everyone so feel free to disregard this point. However, pharmaceuticals for stress help me to limit the anxieties I impose on myself. Consistent usage of doctor prescribed anxiety medication is beneficial to my unique situation. It took me a long time to acknowledge that outside help was necessary to help relieve intense stress.
God loves humanity so much that he implemented a support system for his adopted children to use to shield against the prowess of the Devil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1436,
Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.35
The Holy Spirit absolves me of my sins when I have an authentic contrition. Along with forgiveness, I receive grace to stave off future temptations. Often the sacrament of Confession is the only thing that bring me back to the life of faith when I face despair and doubt in the Divine Providence!
Whether you are in the shadows of desolation or experiencing consolation, these seven shields form an effective defense against the constant assault of anxiety. Continue to fight the good fight. Aim to be the best version (holiest) of yourself. Trust in the Lord and don’t give impatience, anger, or doubt the final victory. I pray that you take up this challenge daily.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 4, 2019.
Trapped indoors during winter provides ample opportunity for restlessness to set in and I begin to lose focus. Failure to see things with clarity is the difference between a fulfilling day versus a lukewarm attitude.
According to Hall of Fame baseball manager Tony La Russa, “There are always distractions, if you allow them.” How exactly does one NOT allow distinctions? Daily interference attack us in the forms of fatigue, hunger, negativity, annoyances, work/family obligations, the list goes on and on! While distractions will continue to exist I discovered three simple ways to boost your focus— and overcome major distractions.
Write Down Your Goals
An incredibly simple and easy remedy to listlessness and lukewarmness involves creating a list! Make a list of your daily, weekly, or monthly goals and habits that you want to work towards. Your list need not be lengthy.
This weekend I suffered from an intense lack of energy when it came to my dreams to become a professional freelance writer. Thinking about the countless “to-do” items made me sink into a feeling of being overwhelmed and inadequate. Making a small list of my goals for this week and checking them off greatly boosted my focus.
One Step at a Time
Along with creating a list, it is so, so important to remind yourself to slow down. Distractions cause us to think we need to accomplish our goals ALL AT ONCE. That mentality could not be further from the truth. All of the various advice I received from authors, bloggers, and freelancers on Youtube advise of the need to develop a plan carefully and not to skip any steps in the process.
Reflect on Daily Successes/Failures
Dolly Parton stated, “I thank God for my failures. Maybe not at the time but after some reflection. I never feel like a failure just because something I tried has failed.” Some of my greatest “failures” or at least what I considered “failures” at the time became successes. Only after distancing myself from the activity of the day, that is, reflecting at night do I truly recognize how to be thankful and learn from the successes and especially the failures.
I hope these tips helped to boost your focus. If you have any other ideas for things that helped you fight off distractions throughout the day please list them in the comment section. Please share these tips with others fighting daily distractions.
“I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” — Hilair Belloc
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — George Lucas
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 5, 2018.
Albert Einstein once stated, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Simplicity is an attractive quality. I experienced simplicity in a unique and seemingly ordinary way—through a game of paper football with my 4 year-old daughter!
Too often I strive for the complexities in life—whether that be in solving difficult problems or seeking joy in extraordinary things. Technology is also a double-edged sword, its purpose is to simplify human life, however, because of the explosion of technology in the 21st century we face a digital deluge—I feel the daily pressure [that I impose on myself] to constantly check my social media and blogging sites.
Why do I inflict such frivolous constraints upon myself? What do I need to prove by keeping up with the trending blogger scene and marketing on various social media platforms? Will my family love me any less if I fail to hit my target goals for views and monthly posts? Certainly not! My struggle is that I tend to implement false activity to mask my slothful tendency.
Raising children—especially children who recently suffered continual fevers—takes a toll on a person. The daily grind of parenting wears on a father, mentally, physically, and spiritually. While I strive to live a virtuous life, I fail, and fail often as a father. Love for my children is replaced by a mindset of viewing children being burdensome. When that occurs the seed of sloth blossoms into a tree of acedia!
Paper Football and Prayer
The Holy Spirit conferred graces to help me withstand and eliminate my slothful nature through the simplicity of a paper football game. Triangular paper footballs are becoming common in our home. I recently renewed interest in the classic middle school table-top game. Football is my favorite sport to watch. And I always enjoy football to help keep the stresses of life at bay during the icy winter months.
Having to stay home [YET AGAIN—at this rate I may be burned completely out of my PTO before spring 🙁 ) with my children because of low-grade fevers, unbeknownst to me a fantastic, yet simple encounter with love. After dishing out a bowl of cereal for my daughter, I sat at the kitchen table with her. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the paper football and flicked the triangular toy across the table. This simple gesture turned into several minutes of laughter and great fun!
Find Joy in Play
St. Mother Teresa speaks of joy in this way, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” I’m not sure if my daughter will remember this simple and joyful experience of playing football paper. I’m confident this memory will stay with me forever. Both the Holy Spirit and my daughter taught me that play and prayer do not have to be mutually exclusive, instead God intends to use all types of interactions to draw us closer knowledge and love of Him.
C.S. Lewis wrote, ““There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”There is no better time to put things into perspective than the present–and especially at the beginning of the New Year. Whether you had a good, bad, or simply indifferent 2018 now is time to focus on bettering your life.
While I certainly could come up with a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions the birth of my fourth child could make that challenging. Late night diaper changes and gazing at my beautiful newborn throughout the day take up a lot of time already. If you are pinched for time like me, then I propose an easy, yet profound resolution for 2021–daily pray and reflect upon the Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila.
The Holy Doctor of the Church has held an important role in my life. Her life and writings provide an excellent standard for me to live my life by and now I have a daughter named after St. Teresa! Below is the short prayer I plan on reciting and pondering daily. Additionally, I have included a few thoughts about this brief and mighty prayer.
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
Fear gets in the way of growth. Being afraid causes one to hesitate and question the blessings in your life. Reading the words of the Spanish saint always provides comfort.
The Power of Patience
St. Teresa’s assertion that “patience obtains all things” prompts me to pause. Patience is a virtue that seems undervalued compared to courage, justice, and faith. However, all problems in my life could either resolve themselves or lessen greatly if exercised patience more. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 736, “By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience (emphasis mine).”
The Carmelite nun reminds us worldly things last only temporarily. Only God is eternal. The stresses of 2018, yesterday, and even an hour ago will appear like a blink amid the gaze of the Beatific Vision.
The wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila will be guaranteed to change your life. Already in the short time of reflecting on her words I have been able to better keep things in perspective. Make 2021 your best year (until the next year) yet!
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 19, 2019.
“Ow, ow. My pants are wet! My pants are wet!” I woke up to this sound of my three year old crying in the basement. Remembering the constant thunder and lightning that boomed and flashed throughout the night, I jumped up and rushed down the stairs. Immediately, my fears were confirmed. Water. Pouring. Through. The. Window.
I wish I was more composed initially. I want to say I remained calm and did not curse. Sadly, that is not true. Frustration seared through my veins. I quickly brought my son upstairs and had my wife attend to him. Next, I zoomed outside to start vacuuming up the raising water with the wet-dry vacuum. A full moon +a teething baby +flash flood= a bad start to the day!
According to author Margaret J. Wheatley, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way.” If I did not reflection on my situation, I would have meandered aimlessly for the rest of the day. I want to share three incredibly simple words to remember when stress slams you down.
Stop. Wait. Halt. Either way you describe it does not matter. Just make sure you pause. Stressful situations keep us moving and moving. Faster and faster until our emotions blow up! Pausing to stop the seething sea of stress coursing through my body and mind definitely helped. I took a short break to compose myself.
The second key word to think about during stressful times is perspective. According to American psychologist William James, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Perspective allows us to pick a different thought over the negative ones that flood your mind during stressful times. The natural result from pausing during a stressful situation is the ability to develop a perspective. Perspective actually derives from the Latin perspectus meaning “of sight, optical” or perspectiva, “science of optics.”
Perspective also relates to being able to view things from a different point of view. Setting a moment or even a couple minutes of time aside to take a break or simply closing your eyes to reset your mind helps in developing perspective. For instance, I started to develop negativity at work today. When I sensed negativity gnawing at me, I left my desk and took a short bathroom and water break. That small break gave me the opportunity to reset my attitude—shifting my perspective.
The third simple word to remember to help overcome stressful situations is plan. Unlike pausing and taking time for changing your perspective, planning does not always occur instantly or at the same time anxiety hits you. Pause and perspective are offensive tactics to fight stress. Planning is more of a long-term and defensive in nature.
Planning takes time a bit on effort on your part. There is no one size fits all shield of a plan to combat anxiety. I am reminded of Captain Cold’s quip in the CW’s The Flash, “Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan!”
Pause. Perspective. Plan. Two weapons and a guard to battle anxiety. While these are incredibly simple tools you need to utilize these daily. Life does not take a day off. Neither can you! I guarantee that if you consistently use these tactics your mentality will change. You will gain more stamina to stave off negativity. You will be more hopeful, confident, and grateful. I hope you found value in this article. If you have any additional thoughts, tips, or tactics to battle stress please share in the comments section!