Beliefnet
The Smoking Priest

“Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune: He felt anxiety about the possible loss of his job.”  This is how the dictionary defines the word anxiety.  

Worry, fretfulness, apprehension and disquiet are all synonyms of this word that has become so common in our daily vocabulary.  

Without a serious spiritual life, anxiety will overwhelm us. If we are a people who live truly spiritual lives, we will be filled with peace and joy no matter what may be going on around us. And this is so, because we will always be able to trust God.

Saint Teresa of Avila, the famous Spanish mystic, once wrote: “Let nothing trouble you.  Let nothing frighten you.  Everything passes.  God never changes.  Patience obtains all.  Whoever has God, wants for nothing.  God alone is enough.”

St. Teresa provides us profound words of wisdom for our present times.  The staggering number of prescription drugs available for the many forms of uneasiness and tension illustrates that many of our contemporaries suffer deep inner turmoil.  

It is true that we are experiencing profound challenges: wars, continual threats of terrorism, problems within our Catholic Church, the rapidly accelerating unraveling of moral decency in our society, an uncertain economy and the terrible wounds caused by the dismantling of family life.  Nevertheless, challenges such as these should remind us that we must always trust in God who is always with us.

I have reached the conclusion that the only way that we will be able to handle the challenges of our times and the difficulties that are to unfold is through the exercise of daily contemplative prayer.   This is true because contemplative prayer allows us to experience the peace that only God can give us.  My new book, Get Serious! – A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics provides easy to follow steps on how you can develop the kind of prayer life that we all need.

The traditional structures of support that have made our lives comfortable and easy are gone.  A serious life of contemplative prayer is very important for the times in which we live.

God is moving us away from clinging to things, people and institutions.  He is calling us to detachment, to the desert, to the journey into the night of naked faith.  He is calling us to cling to him and only him.  This journey is difficult, frightening at times and even risky.  Those who embark upon the journey will be transformed into living witnesses of the God of love.

A number of years ago, a young woman worked as an executive for a growing company.  Her work required that she travel frequently in the small private jet owned by her employer.  Everyone in the office knew that she dreaded traveling by air.  

One day as she was flying back to Minneapolis, a very serious thunderstorm began to develop directly in the path of the jet.   The pilot told everyone to be seated and warned them the approaching turbulence would be severe.  

The woman tightened her seatbelt, closed her eyes, breathed deeply and began to recall a verse from the Bible that she had memorized long ago, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1: 7).

Suddenly the plane began to shake violently.   Some of the passengers began to scream as luggage fell from the overhead compartments.  As the commotion continued, the plane began losing altitude and continued to drop as if there were no end in sight.  At this point, the passengers completely panicked fearing that the death of all would be the outcome.  Throughout the ordeal, the woman, her eyes closed, continued reflecting on the Bible verse.   She even began to recite it aloud numerous times: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”  

As the pilot struggled to bring the small jet under control, the company president got word about the situation.  He immediately left his office and went to the airport.  As the plane landed   he went out on the flight apron to greet his employee.  He had expected to find her in very bad shape. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised to find her calm and confident as she left the plane and walked onto the tarmac.

“What happened?  How did you manage to remain so calm?” he asked.  “We all know that you’re terrified of flying in our small jet.”  The woman simply looked at him peacefully, smiled, and then said, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”

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