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Fr Paddy: Be Not Afraid…

Fear and anxiety about a possible future event or circumstance is often a greater suffering than the suffering we endure when (and if) the feared event or circumstance actually occurs.

Why? Because when we are anticipating the future, we are not yet being given the grace that God will provide when that event/circumstance actually occurs.

Grace, like the manna in the desert, is given on a daily (or even moment by moment) basis, as we live out and experience our lives – it is not provided for the future.

Here is how St. Francis de Sales expressed it:

“Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life and fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them.

“He has guided and guarded you this far in life. Do you but hold fast to his hand, and he will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you lovingly in his arms.

“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who cares for you today will take good care of you tomorrow and every day of your life.

“Either he will shield you from suffering or he will give you the unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, vain dreads, and anxious imaginations.”

So, when we focus too much on the future and enter into anxiety, we are essentially torturing ourselves, or allowing the promptings of the Adversary to lead us to torture ourselves.

It is at these times that we must exercise mental and spiritual discipline – not “walking” the path of the future on our own. We must pray for God’s protection against such temptations, and trust in his loving-kindness and continual presence – that he will carry us through.

And even if we do respond less than perfectly when difficult situations actually occur, we must remember that God uses such trials to refine and build us up, not to destroy us.

Like St. Peter on the water, if we begin to sink into the tumultuous waves because of fear and weakness, we have but to call on Jesus and he will save us, because he is trustworthy and he loves us.

We see this echoed in Sacred Scripture:

“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span? … If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more clothe you? … So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” [Matthew 6:27-34]

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”
[Matthew 10:29-31]

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” [2 Timothy 1:6]

I love the following very relevant prayer, especially during this difficult lockdown…

Slow Me Down

Slow me down, Lord!                                                      
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my harried pace, with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me, amidst the confusions of my day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves, with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magical power of sleep,
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations, 
Of slowing down;
To look at a flower;
To chat with an old friend;
Or make a new one;
To pet a dog;
To watch a spider build a web;
To smile at a child;
Or to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me each day that the race is not always won by the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak, and know that it grew great and strong, because it grew slowly and well.

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Fr Paddy is a curate in the hugely vibrant Portlaoise Parish. From Carlow town, he was educated in Carlow CBS and studied Business and Politics in Trinity College Dublin before training to be a priest in Carlow College. He is the youngest priest in the Kildare & Leighlin diocese and writes for a number of media outlets. He has almost 14,000 followers on Twitter.