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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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