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Bible Reflections View Comments

Stop Anxiety Before It Starts
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 2, 2014
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“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” Jesus puts this question to his listeners and we can almost picture them scowling a bit as though preparing to argue and then realizing the truth of what he’s saying.

We know that worry is more often than not completely pointless. And yet overcoming anxiety seems to be something that many of us struggle with our entire lives.

Infants grapple with separation anxiety, a sudden sense that the person they rely on for their very survival is suddenly no longer attached, not near enough to see, smell and touch. The seemingly vast emptiness around them is terrifying.

When we start school we have to deal with peer pressure and fitting into a social world that doesn’t revolve around us and our needs. Children adapt to this in different ways. In high school and college we’re anxious about tests and grades and having a social life. As young adults, we face concerns about starting a career, a family and all the responsibilities that go with making our way in the world.

As we move through middle age we begin to worry about health and retirement and younger people passing us up and dismissing us in the workplace. Then we retire and we worry that all our friends are dying and our families are too busy to care about us and we become acutely aware that death is just around the corner.

If all these things (and a hundred others) aren’t enough to worry about, many people struggle with free-floating anxiety and dread that grabs hold of them in the middle of the night and they find themselves worrying about something to which they can’t even put a name or face.

Sometimes anxiety becomes so much a part of us that when we’re not feeling worried and anxious, we worry that we’re not worrying. Anxiety can become a habit, and we all know how difficult it can be to break habits. It’s difficult to know what to tell people when they’re caught up in anxiety.

But one of the most effective things— whether for ourselves or others—is to simply stop the worry before it gets started. Whether we use a few words from Scripture or a quick prayer or just a few deep breaths, it can be enough. It may not always work. It might take some time before it becomes a habit.

We might also return to Jesus’s words in the Gospel. So much of what we worry about is in fact the very things he addresses with his first-century audience: food, clothing, shelter. Granted, these are the basic necessities of life. But it’s rare that most of us are truly without these, at least for any length o f time. We might wish they were more elaborate, fancier or tastier. But this isn’t cause for anxiety.

It’s no accident, I think, that Jesus sets the natural world against our material, production-oriented concerns. Study after study has shown that time spent in nature, even something as simple as looking out the window or stepping out the door, can calm our anxious minds and hearts.

The natural world is one of the clearest signs we have that the same God who set the planets—including our own blue marble—in motion continues to watch over us and provide for us. If we can focus on this, most of the things we dread will never happen. God will see to it.


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Leopold Mandic: Western Christians who are working for greater dialogue with Orthodox Christians may be reaping the fruits of Father Leopold’s prayers.
<p>A native of Croatia, Leopold joined the Capuchin Franciscans and was ordained several years later in spite of several health problems. He could not speak loudly enough to preach publicly. For many years he also suffered from severe arthritis, poor eyesight and a stomach ailment.
</p><p>Leopold taught patrology, the study of the Church Fathers, to the clerics of his province for several years, but he is best known for his work in the confessional, where he sometimes spent 13-15 hours a day. Several bishops sought out his spiritual advice.
</p><p>Leopold’s dream was to go to the Orthodox Christians and work for the reunion of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. His health never permitted it. Leopold often renewed his vow to go to the Eastern Christians; the cause of unity was constantly in his prayers.
</p><p>At a time when Pope Pius XII said that the greatest sin of our time is "to have lost all sense of sin," Leopold had a profound sense of sin and an even firmer sense of God’s grace awaiting human cooperation.
</p><p>Leopold, who lived most of his life in Padua, died on July 30, 1942, and was canonized in 1982.</p> American Catholic Blog Confession is one of the greatest gifts Christ gave to His Church. The sacrament of penance offers you grace that is incomparable in your quest for sanctity.

 
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