A recent Gallup poll revealed that most Americans, ages 18 to 65+, say that the U.S. economy is their greatest worry followed by the national debt crisis and sluggish job market. While it is not surprising that economic issues are top of mind when it comes to what American’s are most worried about, I think we can also agree that, to one extent or another, we worry about many things during these challenging times. We may worry about our relationships, retirement, our children, or our individual workplaces. Perhaps we cling to worries of the past, or are anxious about the future? We may worry about paying the bills on time, making rent, our endless “to-do” list, health issues, and so many other things!
We can literally wear ourselves out with worry! It is now widely known that chronic and excessive worry can negatively impact the body leading to high anxiety, high blood pressure and higher risk of serious disease. While it is unrealistic to eliminate stress and worry entirely from our lives, wouldn’t it be far more beneficial to dramatically reduce our worries and instead, like the Saints, increase our prayer and trust in God to the point of resting in his love and care for us?
Here we can confidently look to the saints and their wisdom in helping us to overcome our many worries. While there is no Church declared “patron saint of worriers”, one can certainly look to St. Padre Pio for some great advice. In fact, the motto most often associated with Padre Pio is, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry!” Padre Pio noted that, “Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer!” With unwavering faith in God’s providence, St. Pio never hesitated to abandon his past, present and future into God’s hands saying, “My past, O Lord, to Your mercy; my present, to Your love; my future to Your providence.” We would be wise to imitate Padre Pio’s great faith, especially when we feel overwhelmed amid our worries and concerns.
St. Louis-Marie De Montfort also emphasizes that we focus on living in the present, placing our trust explicitly in God and Our Lady, “What God wants of you…is that you should live each day as it comes, like a bird in the trees, without worrying about tomorrow. Be at peace and trust in divine providence and the Blessed Virgin, and do not seek anything else but to please God and love Him.”
Soon to be canonized Blessed John Paul II also encourages us to find answers to our worries by spending time with Jesus in the Eucharist, “Confidently open your most intimate aspirations to the love of Christ who waits for you in the Eucharist. There you will receive the answer to all your worries and you will see with joy that the consistency of your life which he asks of you is the door to fulfill the noblest dreams of your youth.”
Passionist Founder Saint Paul of the Cross advises us, “When you notice that your heart is moving away even the tiniest bit from that inner peace that comes from the living faith-experience of the divine presence in the soul, stop and examine what the cause of this anxiety might be. Maybe it is some worry concerning your house or children, or some situation you cannot change at present. Bury it in God’s loving will.”
You may find that you are more of a “Martha” than a “Mary” when it comes to having many cares. Like Martha, are you also “worried and upset about many things?” (Luke 10:41-42). American humorist Erma Bombeck once wrote that “worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere!” The saints recognized this and with prayerful perseverance, abandoned their cares and entire selves to Christ, knowing that nothing happens without the Lord’s knowledge and permission. St. Paul of the Cross knew such worrying was counterproductive saying, “Stop listening to your fears! God is your guide and your Father, Teacher, and Spouse. Abandon yourself into the divine bosom of His most holy good pleasure. Keep up your spiritual exercises and be faithful in prayer.”
So this Lent, why not pay special attention to spending less time worrying and instead make a conscience effort to prayerfully bring all of your worries to Jesus. Such relinquishing prayer along with positive thinking and positive self-talk has the ability to transform your life. According to physicians at Mayo Clinic, more positive thinking and less worrying can increase your life span, promote better psychological and physical well-being and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. On a spiritual level, like the saints, let us refocus our hearts, minds and souls on our Divine Savior amid the worries and anxieties of our day, trusting that his providence and grace is sufficient for all our needs. Once we begin the practice of bringing our cares to our Lord in prayer, the sooner we can begin to experience His peace in our lives and leave the energy zapping worry habit behind us. It is also important to reflect back on our lives and remember how often the things we worried about never came to pass!
Let us also call to mind the actions, dispositions and words of the Saints who refused to let worry overcome them. After all, there isn’t enough room in your mind and soul for both worry and faith – therefore you must decide which one will live there! I close this article with a prayer for worriers like me to Saint Anthony and hope this Lent we can all worry less and pray more with the help of our friends, the Saints.
O Holy St. Anthony, your deep faith in Jesus Christ comforted your heart, especially during times of trial and distress. Help me to grow in faith, so I may experience peace of mind and heart in my present needs (here mention). Free me from undue anxiety, needless worry, and burdensome fears. Grant me sure confidence; unfailing trust in God’s loving mercy and daily serenity. Amen.