How St. Josemaria Escriva Saved Me from Being a Workaholic

According to a recent Gallup study, the average American adult employed full-time reported to work an average of 47 hours a week. While I attended college and before I had children, I worked 60 or more hours a week for months on end. The United States is sort of an outlier when it comes to finding a work/life balance. Even though I no longer log the insane amount of hours, I still struggle with finding time to relax and separating work from home life. This battle seemed futile until I stumbled upon the writings and witness of a Spanish priest—St. Josemaria Escriva! I am not entirely sure how I came across this gem of a saint, but his writing provides such practical wisdom that I am going to request for some of his books as gifts this Christmas [my local library did not have any of his works L] Today, I want to share three practical tips I learned from Fr. Escriva’s The Way that saved me from being a workaholic.

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  1. Perspective is Key: Josemaria mentions the need to broaden our perspective in the first chapter. “Get rid of that ‘small-town’ outlook. Enlarge your heart till it becomes universal, ‘catholic’,” he says. Lately, I struggled with having a narrow gaze when it comes to my job. I see things from my perspective alone. I resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings in daily events whereby I am given chances to widen my limited purview. For example, my manager challenges me to think beyond my cubicle walls. I need to daily heed the Spanish saint’s wisdom.

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  1. Pardon my Excuses?!: Along with possessing a narrow outlook I tend to fight constant urges to make up excuses for my failings. “The computer system was slow”; “No one told me the new update”; “Things are too busy”: these are just some of the various excuses I tell myself throughout the week. According to Father Escriva, “Say what you have just said, but in a different tone, without anger, and your argument will gain in strength and, above all, you won’t offend God.”

Perhaps such excuses may be admissible, but I need to be cognizant of my tone and frequency of complaints. “Let those very obstacles give you strength. God’s grace will not fail you,” St. Josemaria states. Stumbling blocks need not be hindrances. Maybe the apparent blocks in my path are actually building blocks for my character. Relying on Jesus as my cornerstone, I will be able to pick up the stumbling blocks [i.e. excuses] and use them to build up the kingdom of God!

  1. Work with Character and Substance: A third major theme within the initial chapter of The Way focuses on developing your character through work. St. Josemaria deliberately states, “Don’t say: ‘That’s the way I’m made… it’s my character’. It’s your lack of character: Be a man [or woman].” In other words, do not allow your past and your genetics define your being.

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I am guilty as anyone when it comes to blaming my woes and defects on my chemistry make-up.  I tell my wife whenever I say something stupid or fail to listen to her needs, “This is who I am at my core! I struggle with focusing because of my ADHD diagnosis” Father Escriva’s states in the next line, “Get used to saying No. Turn your back on the tempter when he whispers in your ear: ‘Why make life difficult for yourself?’”  Character is built on resisting the Tempter. I need to work on refusing to fall into the sins of gluttony and sloth [daily I fight the urge to eat fast food and lack motivation to play with my children after work].

Canonized on October 6, 2002, St. Josemaria Escriva is a perfect role model for people living in the 21st century. The bustle of life is only going to increase, especially in an age of instant communication via social media and the internet! The Spanish saint provides a humble witness as to how to incorporate God into my work through real, tangible, and practical means.

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O God, through the mediation of Mar y our

Mother, you granted your priest St. Josemaría countless

graces, choosing him as a most faithful instrument

to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in

daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian’s

ordinary duties. Grant that I too may learn to turn all

the circumstances and events of my life into occasions

of loving You and serving the Church, the Pope

and all souls with joy and simplicity, lighting up the

pathways of this earth with faith and love.

Deign to grant me, through the intercession of St.

Josemaría, the favor of … (make your request). Amen.

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How My Flight toward Fiction Helped Me Escape the Strangeness of Reality

Mark Twain once wrote, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” While I do not fully understand the meaning of the great American author’s words I find myself drawn to the concept that reality is odd, weird, peculiar, and problematic. Seeming senseless suffering occurs daily throughout the globe: wars, famine, and violation of human rights. I do not want this post to turn into a philosophical treatise on the problem of evil. [please refer to the writings of St. Augustine or The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis for a clearer and more authoritative outline of the issue than myself !] To be clear, although I experienced a push from reality toward despair when things get overwhelmed, it is interesting that fiction pulls me away from this strangeness and helps center myself.

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Over the past year, I have delved into the DC Comics Universe- the realm of Superman, Batman, The Flash, and Green Lantern. I am most recently reading a voluminous story arc from the New 52 series on Superman! I think I finally realized why I am drawn to and experience calming graces in the medium of comics.

1. Larger than Life, Yet Relatable Characters: Stories portray transformation and inner conflicts within characters. Superhero comics contain traditional character developments. They also add layers to the story through its main actors possessing enhanced powers. Instead of alienating the reader, I find I am drawn into a comic book through the device of the dual identity of a superhero—their superhero appellation and their secret identity.

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I will use Barry Allen/The Flash as an example because I loving running and the main power of this character revolve around speed and endurance. Most versions have Barry’s desire to help others stemming from the death of his mother at a young age. Later endowed with super-speed and Speed-Force powers from a lightning in a laboratory, Barry soon dons the mantle of The Flash! Despite his ability to nearly travel at the speed of light, Barry oftentimes has to slow down to solve both personal and professional problems. By reading these comics this superhero appeals to me because I sometimes tend to be impatient and act rashly at times.

2. Alleviation through Art: I am a visual learner. Illustrations bring me closer to the events of the comic book story. When I am reviewing books to check out from the library, one of the things I look for in a good comic is appealing artwork. The Blackest Night Green Lantern story-line contained popping colors and heroes decked in hues highlighting their unique power rings. I felt like I dove into a verbal kaleidoscope in that crossover event. I cannot quite put my finger on it but something about the artwork of the New 52 DC Series soothes my anxiety. Without alleviation through art, I would return  an unread story back to the library as opposed to diving further into the comic book universe.

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3. In a galaxy far, far away…there is no place like home: Along with the character development of DC’s superheroes [and even non-powered support characters] and the beautiful art, I have come to greatly enjoy the move to solar system based settings. Although strangeness abounds in the various planetary systems and alternative timelines, I get a sense of excitement and wonder instead of fear from my mind travels to exotic scenes!

The freshness is anchored by the stability of the characters in the DC universe. Despite reading a revisionist version of Superman, Batman, or other heroes, a certain familiarity and tradition still remains front and center. Traveling on these journeys provide small interludes of rest from the weariness of reality. For instance, the phones were going of the hook at my job today. I encountered strange and perplexing questions I never dealt with before. During my break time, I become an observer of Superman’s battle against his archenemy– Brainiac. I returned to the real world energized to complete my day’s remaining work.

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Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ a question that in an old as time but still fresh and relevant today, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Truth, reality, actuality is a perplexing thing to grasp. Humanity is not called to fully understand the mysteries of the universe yet creation is laden with hints at what the purpose of the real world is all about. What I have learned it that created truth—i.e. fiction– helps orient myself toward realizing my purpose of this life. Through the gift of fiction, I acquire a renewed and broader perspective when I return to the “real world”. I will leave you to ponder the wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien legendary creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Referring to fantasy as a natural human activity he states,

I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?

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3 Ways I Experienced Peace on this Therapeutic Thursday!

Anxiety is something I have struggled with for the majority of my life. In elementary school, I battled anxiety during standardized testing sessions, constant changes to my schedule, and my shyness in the classroom. As an adult, I was able to mitigate some of my anxiety—still worry continues to haunt me. I suffered from mild depression the last couple of years. Fortunately, I am blessed my faith and family continue to provide opportunities to help me out. Recently, I started going to a counselor to help me with my anxiety. I am come a long way because the old me was ashamed and embarrassed to admit I went to counseling. I felt like a failure for needing outside professional help.

What I have come to realize during my writing journey these past few months is that the Holy Spirit provides assistance in unusual times and places. Today I wish to share how I experienced peace on this Therapeutic Thursday.

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1. I’m Alive Because He Lives: Matt Maher’s song Because He Lives played over the radio this morning on my drive to work. Here is the song’s refrain:

Amen, Amen

I’m alive, I’m alive

Because He lives

Amen, Amen

Let my song join the one that never ends

Because He lives

Focusing on these words over and over during my work commute, I realized that my anxiety is nothing compared to the fact that Christ conquered death. When I unite my song to the eternal song of the Gospel life will flourish within me. Why do I suffer from anxiety weekly—some weeks almost daily? The answer is my failure to trust in the Providence of my Father. I’m alive because He lives!

2. Signs at Work: Our Father is so provident that in addition to Matt Maher’s words of truth, I realized signs of God’s goodness at my workplace. How do I truly know God’s signs were at work? Peace. One of the more simple and constant pieces of evidence for God’s work in our life is a sense of true peace. We had our monthly recognition meeting this morning. It seems silly but I always get nervous right before this meeting. It is in large part to my struggle with pride. I prideful hope I get recognized for my great work by my manager in front of the entire department. When it does not happen I get a sense of defeat. Well, I actually did not feel that way during today’s meeting. I did not get the monthly manager team shout out. I was oddly at peace. Later in the meeting our department played a team-building game. Little signs from God like the game gave me peace of mind.

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3. Consoling Counselor: The advice I received from my counselor to utilize in stressful situations abetted my anxiety and worrisome mindset this morning. He told me to pause and do some slow breathing exercises when an anxious situation arises. I did that today before our departmental meeting. It helped. Our Heavenly Father knew that humanity struggles with worry. So before Jesus ascended into heaven a promise of a Consoler was given. Jesus’ Apostles questioned him about the next steps of their faith journey after he would ascend. He replied with the following words, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you,g and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NAB). Growing up, I commonly overlooked the role of the Holy Spirit. In the past few months, my relationship was the Divine Consoling Counselor has grown and deepened. I am continuing to learn to relay on the power of the Holy Spirit through the actions of others to help heal and comfort me.

Social media has promoted a lot of aficionados for alcoholic alliteration by referring to Thursday as Thirsty Thursday. While moderate drinking of beer, wine, or ale is not inherently bad, reliance on things to drown out our worry will not solve the problem on a long-term basis. Therapeutic relief from stress by our Consoling Counselor is lasting because God last forever. I hope I may continue to drink from the spiritual wellspring to acquire peace, joy, and thanksgiving before the Holy Trinity. You are never too far gone to ask others and God for help!

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