Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Be Not Afraid

Sitting here waiting to leave for a dental appointment (in which there will be lots of drilling), I began reflecting upon fear, and I thought I'd share a few words about it as my last post for a little while. It's not that I'm particularly nervous about the dental appointment, but sometimes multiple things combine to give all of us a little bit of uneasiness concerning our lives.

Some years, or so, ago, I was making what's called a field visit for my state government employer. These are when we contact individuals regarding tax matters. Usually, it's pretty routine stuff, but this time I was in for a surprise. I pulled into a driveway out in the country and was welcomed by a very large and vocal dog. He made it clear that he wanted me to turn my state Prius around and head back up the driveway. I can't recall all the details, but there was some reason why I really needed to contact the residents or leave a note for them to contact me.

After no one appeared at the front door, I nervously cracked open the car door. About the same time, I offered a quick prayer asking that I'd return home without missing any important parts. The dog's barking seemed to ease slightly, then I stepped out of the car completely, kneeling down with my hand outstretched for him to sniff (hopefully not chew). The barking suddenly stopped and the animal bounded over, tail wagging and licked my hand, as I recall. He became my best buddy while I left a notice on the front door and did a few minutes of paperwork in the car before heading back to the office. (I learned later that a family member was also praying for me at about the same time.)

Now, I would never train a new employee that this was the best approach, but in this particular case it seemed the way to go; I was able to manage my personal fear through prayer--and a little determination. This reminds me of my children's book, Tristan's Travels, as one of its central themes is overcoming fear--especially with regards to children. When our faith is in Christ, fear can be managed or overcome. (Please see the article "Overcoming Fear" courtesy Catholicmom.)

I'm not usually a fan of modern Catholic music, as it's usually too "folksy" sounding for me (and too often offering shallow or questionable theology), but I have to admit a soft spot for the hymn "Be Not Afraid." This simple admonition is also repeated, in one way or another, more than sixty times throughout the Old and New Testaments--e.g. "Do not be afraid." (Luke 12:4) and "Don't be afraid." (Mark 5:36)--so it must be advice truly important to all of us.

I'm going to conclude with a prayer from St. John Gabriel Perboyre which was shared at a talk we attended yesterday evening by Fr. Ron Hoye, CM. The following prayer was penned shortly before this man's brutal execution (by strangulation) by the Chinese authorities. The crime? Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It should be further remembered that this man was forced to build the cross on which he was to be strangled to death. This is a powerful example of overcoming the darkest terror, and it was accomplished through the grace of Christ.

O my Divine Saviour,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.

Above all,
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will and affection
May be the memory, will and affections
Of Jesus.

I pray You
To destroy in me
All that is not of You.
Grant that I may live
But in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say,
With St. Paul,
"I live - now not I -
But Christ lives in me.

...St. John Gabriel Perboyre, 1840

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