Anxiety is real, but so, too, is hope. So, too, is peace. Sometimes it is in the most stress-filled moments that grace-filled moments of comfort and peace emerge.
At Mass, after praying the Lord's Prayer, we hear, "Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." These words have filled my ears hundreds of times since the Missal was revised, but only recently did they fill my heart.
We are sinners making our way through this world dealing with stress and anxiety, relationships, sickness, questions about the future, questions about our faith. All of these issues are amplified by the stress of the holidays and the past almost two years in a pandemic. These words are a reminder to pray for "peace in our days" and that there is something greater. There is "the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
It can be so hard to focus on the peace of this season as COVID numbers rise, family stress increases along with fear about the future. Will it be another season of postponed weddings, delayed funerals, families kept apart out of fear? The short answer is that no one knows. Not knowing can be scary, but we must have faith. We must ask for the peace of Christ to fill our hearts and keep us "safe from all distress."
A few years back, my wife had a scary diagnosis. With four kids at home aged five months to six years old, her initial diagnosis had a 5 percent chance of survival after five years. This intensely distressing time was a true moment of grace in our marriage and in our lives. Stress is real. Anxiety is real, but so, too, is hope. So, too, is peace. Sometimes it is in the most stress-filled moments that grace-filled moments of comfort and peace emerge.
Life can be stressful as we are reminded with these words after the Lord's Prayer. It is also a reminder that there is hope in the birth of Christ. There is hope in the people around us, all of whom are made in the image and likeness of God. Each person is a special gift from God, united in the struggle to find peace and happiness in this world.
Recently, requests for emergency support from families struggling to afford Catholic education for their children were reviewed at the Catholic Schools Foundation. One application spoke of a single-mom, worried that her daughter may not be able to continue in Catholic school because of sudden and significant financial pressure. Her daughter is thriving since coming to her Catholic school after facing humiliation and bullying at her previous school because her dad was in prison. A sad story, their Christmas full of stress and anxiety. They had hoped that someone would be there for them and thanks to the generosity of donors to the Catholic Schools Foundation, this family has some peace this Christmas.
As we face challenges this season or see others struggling, remember that there is hope. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). Jesus is our hope, but we can also be hope for each other. We can look kindly on others, we can grant that peace that we seek in our lives. We can find those moments of grace and be those moments for others.
There will be stress this Advent and Christmas Season but let us pray that God will "graciously grant peace in our days."
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.
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