Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Confessions of a Pauline Worrier

What, me worry?
One of my greatest worries is that people will be able to tell how much I worry.
Part of the reason I worry so much may be my overactive imagination.  I cannot tell you how many catastrophic scenarios my mind produces when a son or daughter has not returned by midnight and is not answering my repeated texts and phone calls.
Part of it may be the reality that I have seen a lot of bad things.  On innumerable occasions (more than I wish to remember) I have had to give life-altering news of a dismal diagnosis or incurable illness.  I realize a single diagnosis will shatter the peace that had been their lives, and a family’s future is forever changed.  I have also been the recipient of terrible, devastating news.  The worst part is I know there will be countless more episodes where I will give and receive awful news.
Fatal diagnoses: source of worry
However, the greatest reason I worry is because I worry that my worry is a sign of a lack of faith.  The Bible is filled with verses about trust. The Old Testament tells us to “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). So why am I so frequently afraid and sometimes discouraged?
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You believe in God; believe also in me."
Jesus tells us very directly, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). When life is good and all seems right with the world, this quote is a comfort. On the days my heart is troubled and my faith is weak, I feel like a phony who would not lack trust if I were truly a good enough Christian. I sometimes wonder when I ponder Jesus telling us: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mark 11:24). I cannot help but feel like my lack of confidence in God is preventing all my prayers from being answered.
My mom taught me one of the earliest lessons on faith and prayer. She instructed me to pray not for specifics that I thought I wanted or needed. She told me, rather, to “pray for what God knows you need and what God knows is best for you.” I am still not great at this one, because my prayer always winds up sounding like, “Dear Lord, please let me pass my next Gastroenterology Boards Recertification Exam… of course, as Mom taught me, whatever you think best, but I am sure that you must agree that what I am asking is what you know I need and what you would think is best for me. I really can’t think of any reason it would be good to fail this exam.” After all these years, I am still working on avoiding giving God advice when praying.
Eucharist: source of all good
Photo credit: Pavel Chichikov
Over my many years of worrying, I have learned that, no matter what stresses and worries come up, cling tightly and focus on Jesus. Strengthening that relationship helps to decrease stress and worries better than any antidepressant I could prescribe. The heart of Pauline Spirituality is Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life. Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Pauline Family, gave this advice to begin the day in Christ: “In the morning, let us place ourselves at His feet and say to Him: You are the Way: I want to walk in your footsteps… You are the Truth: enlighten me! You are the Life: give me grace!” Father Alberione also emphasized the Eucharist as “a source of strength, light, joy, courage, grace, holiness, and… comfort” (Alberione, Power Ideas on the Eucharist). The Pauline Charism is all about living such a Christ-centered life and communicating Jesus to others through our lives and by making good use of all instruments of social communication. As a Pauline Cooperator, I still do not understand all the nuances of every Bible verses above (obviously), and I certainly have not mastered the Seven Heavenly Virtues (as my friends and family will readily confirm). But the more I fall in love with my faith, the more I want to learn about, love, and share Christ and His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
“The mind is always at work.
If it is kept busy in good things,
it won’t have time for bad...”
Being a Pauline means being human, but striving as best we can to live Jesus and share Jesus with others. He is the answer to the worries and anxieties and even the devastating losses of our lives. If we strengthen our relationship with the Divine Master, we will have greater peace today and the greatest joy for eternity. None of us are expected to be perfect in that relationship now, but we can work on it. Every day, we have a chance to know the Blessed Trinity even better, and share the good news with others.
Blessed Father Alberione possessed a very practical mind. One of his greatest quotes teaches us how activities such as reading Sacred Scripture, learning about the lives of the Saints, praying the Rosary, adoring our Eucharistic Lord, attending Mass, and taking advantage of the Sacraments can help reduce stress and anxiety in our lives and even help us avoid sin: “The mind is always at work. If it is kept busy in good things, it won’t have time for bad things.”
Even I can understand that.

Blessed Father James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family, pray for us, especially in our times of worry.
Photo credit for photos 1-3: Rae Stabosz

Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and are blessed with three sons and two daughters (two out of college, two in college, and one in high school). Dr. Mathews, a gastroenterologist, is trying really hard to improve his Spanish for his annual medical mission trip to Honduras.

1 comment:

Maryann Toth said...

Wonderful article, Jeff! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I, too, am a worrier. Your prescription is the best!