Patience and Perseverance

From the Director

By Fr. John Burger

People around the globe report increasing levels of stress. Our lives are so busy that day-to-day we feel hurried and harried. I think many of us yearn for a quiet respite. But if we do take the time to turn off the TV and the computer and press the "pause" button in our lives, we often do not know what to do next. What can we do that will allow us to go deeper and tap into the wellsprings of inspiration and sources of courage for living? Years ago a spiritual director introduced me to four questions:

The first of these questions is, "What do you treasure in your heart?" As St. Matthew's Gospel tells us, "For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also." I think for most of us, the answer is really not the things we own, but the relationships we have. Nothing can replace or outweigh in significance our family and friends, the people we love, our companions on this wonderful journey.

I think being thankful is a way forward.

The second question is this, "What are you willing to die for?" I think this question and another just like it, "What are you willing to live for?" are really two sides of the same coin. Motivation is so important. Getting up at 5 a.m. need not be just drudgery, it can be an act of love. When your feet hit the cold floor, do you call to mind with affection the faces of those whom you are going off to work to support?

The third of this series of little big questions is, "What is preventing your life from moving forward?" Do you feel depressed because you feel stuck, as though you are sinking down in the mud? In your life do you relate to Sysyphus, a figure of Greek mythology, who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again? As a priest I have the privilege of hearing people's confessions. For many I have encountered, making the same mistakes over and over is a real spiritual problem. Certainly gaining self-knowledge and having the insight to see what leads me into the same situation over and over would be a blessed relief. But it takes reflection to lead to insight.

The fourth question is, thankfully, an uplifting one: "What do you want to celebrate and give thanks to God for at this point on your life's journey?" I think being thankful is a way forward. Research shows that being grateful feels good and promotes pro-social behavior. I think a grateful person notices things that a busy, unreflective person takes no note of. Finding reason for gratitude is also good for our hearts, our relationships, our sleep and it reduces stress. Can it be as simple as this, gratefulness is an antidote or many of the woes of the world?

Something to reflect on.

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