Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Stress or Serenity?-Part II

Father John J. Lombardi

"For the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world"

(I Jn. 4:4). We've all experienced the "heat in the kitchen" but has anyone done anything about it? (Read below about a "holy cook" who did). Perhaps you've heard about "road rage" but do you know where it comes from? (Pilgrim traveler-read on.). We've all been in stressful situations but have you simply repeated past reactions or implemented a Christ-Centered response? Stress comes form the Latin word stringere meaning "tight," as in wrapped up too tight. We've all been like that at some time. But our spirituality and Religion can help us if we truly respond to the Lord's call: "Come to Me all you who are weary…and I will refresh you" (Mt. 11:28). Question is: Are you allowing Jesus to refresh you?

Our Lord and Divine Master counsels, in reference to being mistreated and even "manhandled": "For I myself will give you a wisdom in speaking…Not a hair of your head will be destroyed" (Lk. 21: 15, 18). So we must realize or know more deeply, intuitively-in our souls-that He-the-Lord will protect us and provide for us. Another way to respond to stress and pressures of life is to consider this Sunday's Celebration of Christ the King which should remind us to practice Christ-Kingdom-Consciousness. Huh? He is King of our hearts; He is King of Heaven, and He is King of Holy Mother Church. Thus the Kingdom is tripartite, multi-mystically dimensional. Are you tapping into It, accessing It's Light and Love? Are you allowing Him within? "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Lk. 17: 21). We must first accept the Kingdom of Christ and then project It to others. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection would often counsel: Go within the Shrine, in the tranquility of your own soul and there greet the Lord. Visit with Him. Love and be loved by Him. This cook's prayerful life affected others around him. He linked to the Divine Vine as a little branch. The Christ says: "Remain in Me as I remain in you…Whoever remains in Me bears much fruit" (Jn. 15:4-5). Your life will change because your soul has been changed in Jesus the King and in His Kingdom. This Br Lawrence was a cook for a Parisian Carmelite-so he knew about stress and "heat in the kitchen"-and the proper responses!

According to scholar Joachim Jeremias, the most unique thing about Jesus Christ's preaching is that He proclaimed a Kingdom of God. No one else had done that! What is a Kingdom? It means there is a beneficent King (Christ), subjects (us), and a Reign (His Presence-Essence within and around us). If we submit and surrender to Him we will have access to a peaceable order! The King counsels: "I have said these things that your joy may be complete…and no one will take your joy from you" (Jn. 15; 11; 16:22). Are you accessing that joy of the Kingdom? Are you preserving it? Are you allowing others to steal it? Are you giving it away?

Christ offers us a participation in His Kingdom, but are you entering His Mystical Realm thru serenity, or are you too "tight" and wrapped up in your own business, agenda, and anxiety? Christ-Kingdom-Consciousness, then, consists of this: Christ is Divinity; Kingdom is His Reign; consciousness means humanity-our knowing-loving-linkage potential. Ergo: Divinity Reigns in our humanity. Think about this double, Divine entendre. God's Divinity refreshes our humanity.

Serenity, from the Latin, means "clear." Clarity is unmixed luminosity; radiance is shining-light without impurities. Is your mind like that or is it enwrapped with anxiousness choking off Grace and tranquility? We may only have serenity of mind when we dispel sediments of stress (an active process such as repelling negative or evil thoughts), or when we allow the elements to fade away (a passive process, such as thru deeper states of meditation). We need to practice the Gifts God graces us with, not just hope for them or admire them in others. When we seek God as our Refuge, He will help us in any situation. But we must first seek, embrace and even hide away in Him. Blessed Henry Suso, Dominican author counsels Union with God: "He (a prayerful soul) is in the bosom of the Father. There is life, essence, a brilliant mirror of light and the image of the Face of the Father-he is one with the Father in an essential manner and perfect equality…Then we should live and dwell in the three Persons and should be able to say with St Paul: Our conversations are in Heaven (Phil 3:20) that is to say, in the Three Persons, in the Divinity." Are you hidden away in the Divine Love of the Trinity? So, what are…

Some Stressful Syndromes and Serene Solutions?...

Cultivate Consciousness: Consciousness is that mental-metaphysical stream of knowledge and Union with the Blessed Trinity-our awakenment to Him and to the world; that which transmits (actively) and permits (passively) a union of man and God. Gnosis, a Greek word for knowledge, for biblical authors means experiential, not just intellectual knowing. Point: we will be in stressful, fretful situations, sometimes, and our fallen nature rejects or neglects our Union with the Trinity. Consciousness connects. Our immediate response, instead of fear, adrenalin rushes and a divorce from Divinity, should be enabled by our consciousness -kinda like a mental umbilical cord between the individual, the world and God: "For whenever someone bears pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace" (I Pt. 2:19) So, we must cultivate this consciousness-knowledge of God, His Presence, His Power and Grace. We must also heighten our consciousness: this means we must make it more transparent toward God and spiritual things. St Stephen experienced stress and yet, before the Sanhedrin grilling, "His face appeared like that of an angel (Acts 6:15). Be connected

Meditation: Hide away in the wounds of Jesus. Image His Five Sacred Wounds and pray with St Ignatius: "Within Thy wounds, hide me." Go into them and be transformed, divinized, medicinalized.

Tension Retention or Abstention Do you tend to be like a sponge, retaining stress and anxiousness? Or, are you giving up stress-filling habits and activities, both the number of them and quality?

Stop Cellular Cacophony syndrome. With all the cell phones, sky pagers, On-star navigational devices, not to mention TV's, radios, and the Weather channel, always exposing oneself to communications, can kinda become like, as my brother called it one time, an electronic leash. Do you always need to be available and accessible? Or just at appropriate times? Realize: Jesus was not always physically available to people. He retired often to the mountains, desert or sea to escape the crowds. Do you? What do you really need communications-wise? How can you disconnect more with the human realm and connect more to Divine Ultimate Reality-God thru prayer and mediation and re-creation?

Mystical Medicine: Evil, St Augustine says, is not actually an "objective presence," but, rather an absence of being. Think about it. When stressful situations, and even hurtful and hothouse-ones occur, bring to that "stressful absence" the Presence of Christ, Love, Light. St John of the Cross, Mystical Doctor counsels: "Where there is no love place love and thereby draw out love." Love can change a person's heart, and also the negative course of past, repeated actions and choices.

Stop the Momentum of Adrenalin: When people "push your buttons" you are likely to discharge within, a passion, adrenalin, a negative energy. Don't cave in or blow up. Immediately and repeatedly-against this nervous energy-call on Christ, His angels and Holy Mother. Allow the negativity to disappear instead of knee-jerkily giving into it and reacting in anger or passion. Choose Jesus, holiness: consciously use your will. Practice and re-practice. Remember: you are not a robot. "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rm. 21:21).

"Become like children" (Mt 18:3) - why does Jesus counsel this? Children are spontaneous, abandoning and filled with wonderment. All these attributes can help us un-tighten and clarify. Review these child-like attributes frequently and see how you can manage stress and increase serenity.

"Music of the spheres"- Chant calmly and enchantingly pacifies stressed out souls. Listen to music by St Hildegarde of Bingen (her "Ordo Virtutem," Play About the Virtues against the attacks of the devil and world is exquisite), or listen to some Gregorian chant. Then learn a simple, singable melody ("Veni Creator Spritius" or "Humbly We Adore Thee") and sing or hum within the sacred song. The holy, loving intention and vibrations of the song will alter your physicality and metaphysicality and calm your inner cacophony.

Subtract Self: "He must increase; I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). Decrease the "stickiness" of your soul-get unattached to other people's business and repeated, past anxious syndromes. Get unstuck from your conditioned self which may walk about "zombie-like" thru life accepting lies and enchantments by the world or devil or others. Decrease your selfish self which always seeks its own, "supposed good" and then wars against the Christ-centered soul. Increase God's Life within you. Think of Him often and "think of what is above" (Col. 3: 2).

Purify the Heart: The heart is the symbolic center of passions and the will; it is often turbulent and quixotic. It collects good as well as bad things; therefore, like an absorbent sponge, wring it out of toxins .Another way to describe this: Empty Out : Kenosis is the Greek word which means emptying. "Though He (Christ) was God He emptied Himself…" (Phil 2:5). What do you need to empty out, especially the gluey residue which attracts and keeps all negativities, resentments and bitterness? Empty them thru prayer, fasting and releasement to the Savior Who has come to liberate captives. Another way to say and do it is "Void where Prohibited." This means there is no false, upset-able self (ego) to upset. We are no longer a target because of God's grace and our conversion; the previously-existing self is void, empty, non-existent: "Behold your old self was crucified with Christ…you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you" (Rm. 6:6; 8:9)

Repel Road Rage: Reasons for road rage: misplaced anger; pent up frustrations; stress-filled drivers; etc. Serene Solutions: begin sooner with less rush; pray before leaving and during the drive, pray the rosary. Yield to others. When starting your car, recall and pray: Driving is an act of peace and charity.

Sleep on it: Often you need some distance and separating from trouble or a choice to make. Rest. Be still. Forget about it. Then re-visit in a day or two. Approach any stressful station with freshness. "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (Mk. 6:31). Rest in Him and He will refresh you with insight and enlightenment (cf. Eph. 1:18).

Peace Prayer: Mother Teresa prayed it daily after Holy Communion; she became a saint. By repeating it and imprinting it within and actually carrying out the virtues and sentiments it fosters, we can bring peace out of dis-order and break chains of negativity: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life: Amen."

Encourage epiphanies: Recently, I was walking outside my parents' home enjoying an autumn afternoon. Big deal? Well, I looked up into the vast blue sky, and watched a big turkey vulture soaring upon a shifting ethereal wind-breeze, near a yellow tulip poplar and green conifer. The arified bird simply glided along. The trees and sky were a perfect, natural backdrop and pathway for the bird easing thru space and time. All these elements harmonized and synthesized together forming a beautiful "Fall freedom flow" - it brought me peace. You don't need an amusement park or expensive toys or lots of money to experience God's Grace, blissful moments, freedom, and beauty. Epiphany is a Greek word which means "God-appearance." All you need, sometimes, is just simplicity to "consider the birds of the air… and the way flowers grow" (Mt. 6:26, 28). Be open.

Always remember: "The One who is within you is greater than the one who is in the world" (I Jn. 4:4), and: "He has great tranquility of heart …whose conscience is pure." Christ-Kingdom-Consciousness: Divinity refreshes our humanity.


We can easily slide into focusing on the negatives and worst in life. Well, we definitely need to battle evil, fix our faults, and help others-no question. But, look, don't fixate on fault (inordinately). To help yourself, thank God daily for at least three blessings or graces you received. Thanksgiving comes from a Greek word-get this!-Eucharistia, and that is what we do at Mass! Thanksgiving to the Heavenly Father for the Son Who sacrificed His Life for us sinners. The Mass is a re-presentation of this Sacred Event.

Thank God for your Mom and Dad (no matter how good or bad they may be, may have been)-pray for their eternal salvation…Thank God for our beautiful Country…Thank God for our Holy Mother church-Christ's' Bride….Thank God for the Blessed Virgin Mary-the Luminous Lady enthroned above …Thank God for …well, you can finish the list.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi