Father John J. Lombardi
Under the gun? Blessed
Miguel Pro was literally under the gun, and he
said, right before being shot by communists in
Mexico, who despised God and his Catholicism:
"Viva Christo Rei: Long live Christ the King."
He shows us modern day Catholics that we can
still be spiritual in extremely stressful
situations-if we call on Christ. Beat the
heat?--St Lawrence was being burned over a fire
by Roman persecutors and, according to sacred
lore, he said: "Turn me over; I'm done on that
side." Saints like him (or, even their friends
who pass on "stories") show us we can transcend
our situations-even with humor. All cooped up? A
youth whom I visited in jail recently asked me
to pray the serenity prayer with him. He hasn't
tasted fresh daylight in two months and was
hungry for some fresh, spiritual air, so we
prayed: "God grant me the courage to change the
things I can change; the acceptance of things I
cannot change, and the wisdom to know the
difference." That wisdom will bring serenity!
And that guy in jail smiled serenely, freely
after the prayer.
Serenity-we all could
use a little of that, especially after such
"exciting" national elections. Everybody is
stressed these days and we as Catholics have the
most amount of spiritual weaponry to bring
healing-but, are we? So, why then go to the
Himalayas for peace when you can make a Mountain
Pilgrimage right here in Emmitsburg, to the
Grotto? Why go to a guru when you can turn to an
accessible spiritual giant like Pope John Paul
II-who counsels meditation and Christ-centered
Adoration: "Let our adoration never cease." Why
take exotic yoga classes when you can learn the
art of Christian contemplation with established
masters such as Fr Dubay, who was just nearby in
Frederick, and gain counsel from his classic
work, Fire Within. "Contemplation is a deepening
self-communication of the Trinity, a
self-communication that we are given to
experience." Why get worry beads from the East
when you can pick up your own Rosary beads
(scented or unscented) and, as Pope John Paul II
has counseled, we can meditate on the Life of
Jesus thru Mary's eyes of Faith? Are Catholics
really responding to the stresses of the world
adequately-really tapping into, and using the
breadth of holy-helps for this hectic
harriedness that seems, now, part of the air we
breathe? Colleen Carroll Campbell, in her
excellent book, The Young Faithful stresses that
more young persons are turning toward
traditional forms of religion-Rosary,
Eucharistic Adoration, confession, instead of
feeding upon fads. Now: Isn't this a turning to
classical religion because it is a--or, rather,
the best--metaphysical response to distressing
times that progressive-liberalists have rejected
or neglected? The answer to being stressed out
is right under our spiritual noses, within our
religion. Religion, by the way, means "to bind
together," and Catholicism binds even stressed
out souls with God-The-Trinity.
My Dad, who grew up in
downtown Baltimore (or, for locals, "Ballmer,
hon."), selling papers, then driving a taxicab,
and later in sales, would wolf down dinner when
we five children were growing up, and then
return to work for a few hours, often says
regarding folks today getting stressed
out-including soccer moms ( a sister) and busied
priests (yours truly): "We used to work and work
and work, but we never even knew what stress
was." Yeah. What gives, Pop?
With Thanksgiving and
Christmas approaching, we would do well to pray
for and meditate upon serenity so we can fully
welcome the Prince of Peace. "Come away by
yourselves to a deserted place and rest a
while." (Mk. 6:31).
Stress, according to the
American Heritage Dictionary, is: "A mentally or
emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition
occurring in response to adverse external
influence and capable of affecting physical
health…From the Latin- strictus, stringere, 'to
draw tight'. "
We all have stress-just
get out of bed and you're fair game for today's
harried, hectic world. Jesus says: "Things that
cause sin will inevitably occur…" (Lk 17:1).
Yes, and that includes stressful situations!
Now, on the other hand, serenity means:
"unaffected by disturbance, calm and unruffled…
Latin, sereus- serene, clear." Serenity is a
"state or quality of being serene; tranquility."
(AHD). Stress tightens; serenity clears. Which
one are you choosing?
A school recently asked
a priest to deliver some talks on Serenity and
Stress management. Did you ever think (as my
father probably does often): priests are some of
the busiest people in the world, what do they
know about serenity?! Well, here goes…
Remote and Proximate
Practice: you will achieve a greater stress-free
life if you recall and practice this. Remote
preparation means intentionally following a
spiritual path of Practice and disciplines
throughout the year, no matter what (marked "R"
below); and Proximate means when you are in the
heat of the battle" you need to respond with
unique practice appropriate to the situation
(R): Pope John Paul has declared this the Year
of the Eucharist. So, what are you waiting for?
Go in to a Church before the Lord Jesus in the
Tabernacle and pray. Just sit there! Practice
AtOneMent with God-this is one meaning of the
word Atonement-Unity with the Lord thru deeper
healing, slowing ourselves enough to allow Him
to suffuse His Divinity with our bodies and
souls. (P)Also go before Him and give all your
trouble to His Divine Heart: He is an Infinite
Receptor of suffering souls: "Come to me all you
who are weary and I will refresh you"
KISS-Keep It Simple
Stupid (P): Pope John Paul: he's been the
busiest man in the world and yet he knows about
what is most important-- God. "Seek ye first the
Kingdom and all else will be added unto you"
(Mt. 6:33). God has helped him thru
super-stressful situations-becoming a priest
during communism; surviving his mother's early
death; laboring hard as a stone quarryman thru
Nazism; becoming Pope; getting shot at by an
assassin; getting spit at by dissenters and
protestors; putting up with lots of nonsense…The
Pope's stress management, as with many saints?
Daily the Pope says Mass and prays before the Bl
Sacrament, and prays a Rosary. How can you make
Jesus and Mary part of your stress management?
One time a preacher was late to the Pope's
chapel to give a talk. All the officials were
stressed out, worrying for the preacher to
arrive. The Pope? He was praying his Rosary.
Marian Mystogogy : The
Virgin grew troubled when the Angel visited her
to announce she would bear the Christ-Child. But
then the angelic messenger gave the mystical
message and help-which is what we should pray in
stressful situations (and image within): "The
power of the Most High will overcome you…"(Lk.
1: 25). (R)Within your soul mediate upon this; (P)in
the heat of battle image within, think about,
and actually say this holy verse and Divine
Reality to overcome your false self with the
soul's newfound Higher Power of Spirit .
Difficult People-and situations (R and P): this
is inevitable. People will "push your buttons"
and you may be tempted to "fly off the handle."
Remember: haste makes waste (the unchecked
passions skewer us and others) but serenity
provides liberating clarity: calm-awareness
helps you see what to do and what not to do.
Project love, not fear. The tendency of our
harried souls is to react, not respond, to
angrily, grittily chainsaw someone with words or
glaring invectives, rather than dispassionately
transcending the situation and giving a gentle
response. Sometimes the answer will be the same
(essence-wise) but your delivery and heart's
intention will be dramatically different. Don't
get stuck, enchained into the disharmonious
dance of anger and vitriol with others-don't
pass on evil for evil. So: bite your tongue
(literally) and count to ten and call on the
Holy Spirit for help instead of yelling first,
or volcanically erupting and being sorry later.
Transcendence-Extension (R). Huh? To transcend
means, from the Latin, "trans- across, and
scendere-to climb, to pass beyond the limits
of." (AHD). Okay, so this practically means:
rise above the situation. You're not an animal;
you're not a rat on a treadmill or a stooge in a
play who has to get angry, upset and carry on
stress, rage or resentments. But you must learn
to ex-tend the momentary victories you win more
and more thru the "daily grind" so they become
habits, dispositions within. Ergo: analyze at
the end of a day where you "rose above a
situation" of stress and how you did it. Vow to
extend this to other situations-with God's
grace! (P) Think of Christ before Pilate and
extend His self-control and Peace from that time
and sacred event into your own.
New Creation (R):
"Behold, if anyone is in Christ, the old has
passed away and the new has come" (II Cor 5:17).
Just who is it that is showing up for another
conversation, argument or difficulty? ---the
"same old you" or a "new you," a different,
transformed person? We must be "begotten from
above" (Jn. 3:3) and "renewed in the spirit of
our minds" (Rm 12:2). So (P): before entering a
conversation, STOP and ask: Is it the "same-old
me" or a "new me" that is going to deal with a
difficult person or who is going to try to
reconcile or offer love?
(R): Say inwardly and practice regularly, esp.
in the heat of the battle: "I release all
negative thoughts, pacify my passions and allay
any attachments: these have no power over me."
Say, now, with St Paul: "I have the strength for
everything thru Him who empowers me" (Phil4:13).
Mindfully pray and practice this during prayer
Stressing Stress? Are
you consciously or unconsciously creating stress
in your life-by a conditioned process of turning
on the treadmill of tensions in life (always
needing stimuli, anxiety, and tension- to feed
off of)? Are you throwing wood on the fire of
your passions-for instance constantly exposing
yourself to distressing news? Review and examine
these various situations and then plan a course
of action of liberation, healing and response.
Persevere, as it will be difficult to change.
Yes, you can teach an old dog (yourself) new
tricks (virtues) if you seek, desire change, and
then persevere in changing.
recently asked what I did on my day off. I said,
a little embarrassedly, "Well, I just did
nothing yesterday." She immediately responded:
"You need to do that sometimes". Do that by not
doing! Read Mk 6:31. Hurry up and slow down!
Offer it up (R and P):
Make a current suffering, irritation or
stressful situation one with Jesus-unite it to
His distress on the Cross and save souls-esp.
lost ones in purgatory.
Multi-Tasking: Are you doing too much,
"balancing too many balls"? What do you need to
give up, cut out…even good things.
Practice the Presence of
God: Know you are always in His Divine
Presence-wherever you are. Wake up! Are you not
aware you are a temple of the Holy Spirit? (I
Cor 6:19) He is within you. Mindfulness of this
Divine fact should help you toward serene
calmness if you practice the Presence of God.
Invoke Him, go within the still wilderness of
your Soul and remember: serenity means clarity.
Read Jn 17:21 about unity with the Trinity.
SISTER=Sit In Stillness
Till Everything Recedes (R): Unless you gain
self mastery thru meditation-in-stillness, you
will never see the depths of Truth or
self-illusions, or soul. Like a soul that is
constantly agitated, so is your soul unless you
stop. Be still and allow Him to enlighten you.
Stop multi-tasking and begin calmly basking-thru
Him, with Him and in Him.
Misplaced anger (P): I
learned this one in the seminary. Say within
while undergoing unjustified wrongs towards you:
"I am not the target." This will help with
Confession (R): Overcome
your sins, faults and even part of your
tempestuous temperament by de-railing these
distressing behaviors in this "Sacrament of
Love" (Mother Teresa). You are binding yourself
to negative actions and thoughts if you do not
discharge them. Thus, Christ uses this image of
"un-binding" regarding Reconciliation, twice in
the Gospels (Mt. 16: 19 / Jn. 20: 23). Don't let
a month go by without de-enslaving yourself!
Ejaculations (P and R):
these are short, heart-felt sayings, said in
stressful situations, which may include: Jesus,
I trust in you. Mary, I love you. O God, come to
my assistance, make haste to help me. Jesus: I
need you, I love You, I trust You. Repeat and
imprint within to transcend imprisoning passions
and external challenges. Remember Miguel Pro!
Know Your Nature (R):
you have a temperament, a
gene-pooled-blood-affected personality-hot or
cold, Type-A fastidious and frantic, or cooler,
passive and introspective. Know your strengths
and weaknesses. St Peter , the first Pope, was
probably more Type-A and external; Our Lady
seems to be more internalized and
Type-B-contemplative. We need both in the
Church-active and passive. Some will react to
stressful situations right away while others let
things fester and boil-and then erupt. By
knowing yourself you can free your soul.
Driving and Traffic: the
more traffic and red lights, the more stress.
Start out earlier on your trip with less
forcefulness and aggression. Yield: not only
because road signs suggest it, but because it is
spiritual to do so. Fiat, surrender, "let it be
done…" (Lk. 1: ).
most challenging places of holiness are usually
the most common-work and home. Remember three
essential points: you're there to 1) sacrifice
for and with them; 2) get them to Heaven; 3) and
always, as St Paul said: "Put on the bond of
love" (Eph. ). warrant a continual reading The
Love Chapter, I Cor. 13.
foster this attitude and disposition by slowly
and consistently freeing yourself of unnecessary
people, places and things. And, finally, don't
forget to free yourself from your soul. Make
yourself "less sticky" to attach to, less of a
target for button pushers and difficult people
to attack or war with.
Remember-one of the best
definitions of Peace is: Tranquilitas ordinis-the
tranquility of order-things which are disparate
are not tranquil, ordered, in their right
places. Is this true of your heart and soul?
TBC- Next week:
Practices from Stress into Serenity.
other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi