Tag Archives: anxiety

September 26: Fortitude III, Fortitude and Things that Threaten.

thursday-9-pansy-pavementSo, fortitude is about things, people, circumstances that threaten us. We speak easily nowadays about finding something “threatening.” We might use the word to describe our feeling about someone’s personality, and confide to a friend, “I don’t know why, but Sam threatens me.” Or, it might be that some actions are scary for us. We might admit to someone we trust, “The very idea of getting up in front of an audience and giving a speech is much too threatening. I couldn’t possibly do it.” We all know what it’s like to feel threatened, and it is very uncomfortable. No one likes it. That churning feeling in the stomach. That inability to behave naturally, to find the right words to converse normally. The trembling hands, the racing pulse. Something elicits these symptoms of anxiety because it is perceived as dangerous. Fortitude is what governs our fear of danger. This fear needs to be kept under control, because if it is allowed to get the upper hand, we will simply run away.

Now, there are times when running away is the wisest thing to do. No one contests that. But what if the person who “threatens” us happens to be our employer in a job we know we can do? If we run away every time we feel threatened by someone, we will not be able to negotiate the pressures of the professional world. It is fortitude that counsels us to stick it out, explore our insecurity, try to determine why these feelings are surfacing and then take steps to overcome them. We do this because earning a living requires it. Financial independence is one of the requirements of adulthood, ordinarily. We need fortitude not only for things that are obviously big and difficult – like perhaps running into a burning building to rescue someone. Even in order to realise the goals entailed in living as an adult we need the strength that fortitude develops within us.

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Père Jacque Hamel’s last earthly audience included his murderers.

Or, take our other example, that of feeling threatened by having to speak before an audience. This is not something that is required of everyone, but, once again, what if your job requires you to lead a seminar from time to time? Your future in the company might depend on it. It is fortitude that counsels us to learn how to address an audience by perhaps taking advice from someone who is accustomed to public speaking, by planning your talk well in advance, by noting that smiling and making eye-contact with the audience is important, and so on. Fortitude is what comes into action when we might prefer to run away, wiggle out of something, or back out of situations that are of importance to our personal, professional or religious lives.

For further study:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church ,Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1994

The Four Cardinal Virtues, Joseph Pieper, University of Notre Dame Press

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/

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22 August: J is for junctions

 

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I’d rather show you this than a motorway junction! We are at Ashford International station in Kent, where I change trains on my way to work most weeks, and where occasionally we change trains en route to France, Belgium or beyond.

A junction on the motorway  does not give chance to stop and stare, as one can at Ashford International. Where is that woman going, I wonder? My son’s friend from school greets me as he goes about his work on the platform.The sparrows chatter over a few crumbs tossed around one of the benches.

The non-stop Eurostar roars through to Paris, a life-changing trip for some. And those alighting from the inbound Eurostar: will they feel welcome on English soil? I once met a former pupil who had completely changed his name – not even using the same initials – to start a new life here with his young lady, forty miles from where he had lived with a neglectful mother and stepfather. Every day is new!

And always there are the anxious ones who do not trust the departure boards or announcements, sometimes with good reason. They ask the platform staff, is this the right train? They get on board, they ask their fellow passengers, is this the right train? If the guard comes by, they ask, is this the right train? On the train they make for the door as soon as their station is announced, unaware it is five minutes or more away.

My friends, there actually is time to stop and stare, so sit back and relax!

Oh, there’s my train coming in: I’d best make sure I ‘join the correct portion of the train’, or who knows where I’ll be! Safe home!

MMB

 

 

 

 

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10 May : From Fear to Love

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In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear [1 John 4.18]

Fear is disabling. It makes us shrink from the risk of trust. It closes us off from relationship. Fear binds us in a narrow life. The work of God’s Spirit is to lead us from fear to love. But how can we co-operate with the Spirit and overcome those fears that hold us back from wideness of heart?

Name your fear

When I was a small child I was afraid of the dark. I couldn’t sleep. I imagined I could make out the shadowy outline of a gorilla in the darkest corner of the bedroom – not the best inducement to sleep! Then one night inspiration came: I named my gorilla ‘Charlie’. Somehow I wasn’t afraid of ‘Charlie’ in the same way as my looming, nameless gorilla- shaped terror. Sleep came more easily, and in time Charlie no longer seemed to be around. It helps to pin down just what it is you fear so that you can see it for what it is. For example, ‘if I try something new I will inevitably fail’. Naming your fear helps in beginning to address it: ‘I own I am afraid of this, but I don’t have to be held by this fear’.

Share your fear: Fear becomes magnified in size when we seek to hide it from others. Share your fear with someone you trust.

Look at where your actions take you

The inner voice of fear bids us be ‘safe’ but this safety is often illusory. Choosing the safe can lead us to be more trapped than ever. The pattern often repeats itself – so be aware of it. There are other responses we can make that will help us in the longer run to be happier, less constrained and more confident in our ability.

Don’t listen to discouragement:

In his advice to spiritual guides Ignatius Loyola notes how when we seek to overcome our fears and move to a greater trust in God, what is damaged and closed to the Spirit within us will ‘harass, afflict with anxieties’ and ‘put up false obstacles’. On the other hand the voice of the Spirit within is heard in ‘every interior joy that calls and attracts’ us towards wholeness, freedom and generous self-gift. Fear drives us, whilst the Love that is God invites.

One exercise that may be helpful is to divide a piece of paper into two columns. In the left column write down what the inner ‘voice’ of fear says. In the right column write down in answer what, in better moments, you have sensed God saying to you…’you are worthy, capable…there is a future for you…’

Act your way into a new way of thinking

If we wait until we feel total trust and freedom before we step out of a fearful pattern of behaviour we may wait a long time! But if we dare to step out when Love calls, ignoring the voice of fear, then trust and self-belief will grow.

Stay in the moment, for ‘now’ is where God is.

The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today’

[The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s: Through the Looking Glass]

Fear usually concerns what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future. All our capacity to be gratefully present to the gift of ‘now’ and to work creatively within it is stripped away. Yet ‘now’ is where God is. Even if the worst we can imagine did happen, God would be within that ‘now’. Jesus invites his worrying disciples to ‘consider the ravens…consider the lilies, how they grow’. It’s impossible to ‘consider’ what is before us if we’re somewhere in the past or future. Jesus advises: be present to what is. Spend a minute or two giving all your attention to the sounds you can hear – voices in the street, rain against the window – listen to the texture of these sounds rather than getting tangled up in what they might signify. Or, absorb yourself in what you can see – the lines on the desk in front of you, the movement of clouds in the sky. Slowly you will find your heartbeat slowing. In this breathing space, God ‘is’.

Go with the flow

The movement from fear into love is a movement of the Spirit. It is like a stream we launch our boat into and then the current takes it along. It takes effort and courage and persistence to go with this flow. But the flow is love, and this love is life.

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9 May: Letting go and letting God

open-hands-prayer

Whether we are seeking to grow in prayer, or become free of what we have come to recognise as life-diminishing ways of acting or thinking, or to know what it is God wants us to do, it is in letting go that we make room for God. It is the Spirit that roots and grounds us in God, draws us into wholeness and guides us along the way that leads to life. If we try too hard, believing that it is only through the sheer force of our will and effort that change can happen, we leave little room for God. Everything is gift.

However ‘letting go’ is in itself a work, for our natural inclination tends towards keeping life in our minute control, depending entirely on our own resources rather than being open to another’s help, and bringing about change by the strength of our will and endeavour. To go against this instinct for self-sufficiency and self-definition can feel daunting; yet we let go not into nothingness but to ‘let God’ be active in our lives. In doing so we find that we too are alive in a way we have never been before.

  • Put a stone in your hand to represent what you desire to let go to God.
  • Place a candle or cross nearby to symbolize the place of letting go.
  • Use the reflection below may help you to identify what you want to put in God’s hands:

We let go to God our regrets about the past – the choices we have made however we now feel about them, whatever has happened to us for good and for harm. God is in the place where we are, however we got there.

We let go to God our anxiety about the future. We cannot control what is in essence beyond our control – instead of torturing ourselves with fears that begin ‘what if…’ we let go to God who will always be alongside us in ‘what is’.

We let go to God what hurts. True we cannot switch off our painful feelings; they flow into our lives, but if we do not cling to them they will flow from us again, carried in the stream of God’s presence and care.

We let go to God our resentment. Even though the anger may not die down in our hearts we consent not to hold on to our need to get even; we give to God to heal what we cannot heal by ourselves

We let go to God our need to be good enough. God gives freely what we can never earn. We are valued, loved and believed in as we are.

We let go to God our desire for growth. It is God who continues to create us and who works to make us whole.

We let go to God the choices we face today. Though we do not know what to do, as we choose to listen, God will lead us along the unseen way.

We let go into God’s working: We consent to be drawn this day into the stream of God’s life: to become the activity of Love in that part of the world that is ours.

  • As you sense something you want to let go to let God, put down your stone by the candle or cross.
  • There may be feelings you need to share with God before you feel ready to let go: fears, hopes, doubts, desires or pains. You may sense you are not ready yet to let go and let God in this area of your life. If so, let go at whatever level you are able to today, with your ambivalent feelings and doubts.
  • You will probably find that on another day you will need to let go in this area all over again. Letting go is rarely a ‘done deal’; it is a process where little by little we allow God to become the source of our life.

 

CC.

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7 May: Our Daily Bread

 

bread

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
  Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
  Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial
but rescue us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13

In whatever version we are familiar with, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ or ‘Our Father’ is a simple, yet sustaining way of ordering our life towards God.

At the start of the day the prayer sets us on the path of life.

In a pause within the busyness of life it helps us unravel our complexity and return to the simplicity of abiding in Christ.

At the end of the day its phrases return us to a place of rest.

What follows is not a detailed scriptural analysis but a simple prompt towards aligning ourselves towards God in the midst of different feelings and experiences.

Say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, pausing between them to allow them to draw you into a place of trust and openness before God.

Our Father in heaven,

We are held in relationship with one who loves us.

Here we can rest even as we move through the day

Hallowed be your name.

We look at, ponder, and wonder at this God so intimately close to us yet far beyond our imagining.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In all we do on this day we seek to co-operate with God and to be open to the Spirit.

Today and in this place God is renewing all things.


Give us this day our daily bread.

God gives for the day. There is no need to be anxious for tomorrow.

We seek to live this day simply, by trust, rather than by fearful accumulation of possessions.


And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

As God lets go of any desire to blame or desire to punish so we seek that same freedom of Spirit

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.

We acknowledge our frailty, and our continual need of God’s provision and protection.

CC.

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10 April: The Big Mile, or Patient Trust.

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Jesus, arms outstretched, at the start of his earthly life. Statue at Hales Place.  The Sacred Heart emblem has been lost from his breast, but the Cross is on his shoulder.

 

One Sunday after Mass Friends of the Franciscan Study Centre walked  to Hales Place Jesuit Chapel in aid of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society’s Big Mile appeal. There we read the following prayer by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, once a student at the Jesuit College, since demolished.

 

 

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

Ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/8078/prayer-of-theilhard-de-chardin

 

Holy Week must have seemed a long and anxious time for Jesus.

Let us bring before him all the impatience, instability, anxiety and incompleteness felt by ourselves and those we love. I ask you to remember especially all of us connected with the Franciscan Study Centre as its mission here in Canterbury comes to an end.

MMB.


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November 27: Jacopone da Todi 1. A Poetic Challenge.

 

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This Wakefield scene shows us a provocative contrast between two ways of imagining the inner life of any person’s soul. Sometimes we feel churned up, or even seething. At other times, a lovely calm clarity runs through our inner world, and reveals our potential for containing tranquillity. On this footing we can show others how the world might appear in that condition.

Perhaps we more often have an opportunity to move from the turbulent to the calm than we realise. Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi regarded our awareness of these formative moments as the key to a faith-based personality.

“We were a mighty host, encamped on the heights,

But the waters of the flood have risen and covered us,

And taken from us the power to pray,

Which alone could keep us afloat and heal our wounds.”  (Laud 30).

 

The power to pray consists to a remarkable degree in the ability to welcome calm into our lives, to become attuned to the Spirit who provides calm, and to begin to acknowledge those areas of wounded memory within us where healing is needed.

Jacopone had a troubled life, beginning with the sudden death of his young wife in an accident. But God was speaking to others very often through his poetry, bringing hope and sincerity where before there had often been only pomposity, cravings for luxury, and abuses of power. We could try to nurture the moments of poetic calm in the course of a week, to let healing begin.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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19 September: Intergalactic Discoveries: VII – Go West Young Dog!

The first thing that happened was that Mrs Fox, another of T’s human friends, arrived in her car to take the boys to Cornwall. T thanked Mrs Fox, and silently arranged a telepathic conference with the dogs on August 10, when astronomers would be looking for meteorites and willing to attribute any unusual signals to the asteroid belt.

Ajax and Alfie were anxious at leaving their familiar town, and even more so when Mrs Fox stopped at a motorway service station. Was this their destination? A monument to human craziness: cars, cars, cars, a smell of exhaust, warm metal and hamburger, a far cry from the scientific food in the safe, encapsulated world of Ossyria.

T had sent a big bag of earth’s version of scientific food – ‘A Complete Diet for Your Small Dog – Who could ask for anything more?’ After all those fish and chip suppers on the beach, the boys could! Their new carer put down a bowlful each and plenty of water, while she sat on the grass and passed them morsels of her Cornish Pastie. ‘If her name is Fox, does she understand dogs, do you think?’ asked Alfie.

There was great relief when they were led back to the car, and off to the West. That evening they drew up at a cottage on top of a hill, with the sea at the bottom of it. There was no need to expend energy on telepathy to persuade Mrs Fox to go down there. ‘Maybe we can just sit back and enjoy the next few weeks and forget about observation duties.’ said Ajax. But it was not quite so simple. ‘You can’t be a part-time Ossyrian,’ said Alfie. ‘Just watch Mrs Fox for a start.’

Ajax shuddered. Mrs Fox was very organised, a character trait much in evidence in Ossyria, and not always endearing. ‘Look at you! Your nails need clipping, and I do believe you’ve picked up some little visitors. It’s the vet’s for you tomorrow morning.’

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