How do the Saints Deal with Stress?

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I have become convinced that one of the most important indicators of someone’s spiritual maturity is how they deal with stress. Even good people with great intentions fail to maximize their spiritual life precisely because they deal with their stress in ways that actively work against their sanctification.

With that in mind, I propose a three-part structure that will help you to identify how you deal with stress and how to develop better habits:


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1. The Junk Food of Stress Management

These habits are pretty straightforward, and you can probably guess them. Things like movies, television, and other forms of mindless entertainment may stir the emotions and provide us with pleasure, but in the long run they are simply empty calories. A little television is not necessarily a bad thing, but we should compare it to other forms of pleasure and enjoyment such as candy, dessert, and alcohol. In small amounts, they can be soothing and enjoyable. When used as our go-to way of dealing with our problems, they become highly problematic.

2. Virtuous Forms of Stress Management

These involve activities which can be described as meditative but are not necessarily spiritual. Things such as long walks, exercise, golf, just about anything that engages the mind and body in a meaningful way can be an incredible way of cultivating interior stillness and working out our stress.


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Everyone needs such activities, and virtuous people of all faith traditions have this wisdom worked into their spirituality. However, in Catholic thought, natural goods can be abused. Like junk food, they can become a subtle way that we avoid dealing with our problems and try to bury them under things that gratify our egos. The key is moderation, but also realizing that relaxation is meant to rejuvenate us for the sake of service (i.e. communion with God and neighbor).


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People who maximize these forms of stress management may possess a high level of natural virtue, but we have to be careful labeling them as holy. Holiness is about a relationship with the Father, in the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. While virtue is an integral preparation for such a relationship, it is not the same thing.


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3. Spiritual Forms of Stress Management

These are the sweet spots of stress management. Simply put, the person who learns how to surrender and process their stress with Jesus has found the pearl of great price. While this does not necessarily mean that one completely abandon other forms of stress management, what takes place is that Christ becomes the center which secretly nourishes everything else. If the saint watches a movie, this leads them to conversation with Jesus.

If a saint takes a walk, the beauty of nature inspires the believer to consider the God who created all things. The saint doesn’t just take refuge in prayer; rather, prayer starts to overflow into everything else. However, before this transformation takes place, the saint was first a sinner who made time for Jesus. It really is that simple. You have to make time for Jesus.

As additional resources, here is a list of scripture quotes that we suggest for moments of anxiety together with a series of quotes from the Saints.



The Saints on Stress

A series of quotes from Catholic Saints that encourage us in moments of anxiety and stress to turn to the Lord and trust in Him. This list of quotes was found here at Catholicstand.com.

St. Augustine of Hippo

“Watch, O Lord, with those who wake or watch or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ. Rest your weary ones. Bless your dying ones. Soothe your suffering ones. Pity your afflicted ones, shield your joyous ones. And all for love’s sake.”

St. Catherine of Sienna

“And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we so choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross.”

St. Alphonsus Liquori

”If we have any natural defect, either in mind or body, let us not grieve and feel sorry for ourselves. Who can tell whether, if we had been given a larger share of ability or stronger health, or greater wealth, we would have possessed them to the destruction of our soul!”

St. Clare of Assisi

“Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.”

St. Gerard Majella

“Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?”

St. John the Baptist de La Salle

“Do not have any anxiety about the future. Leave everything in God’s hands for he will take care of you.”

St. Padre Pio

“If certain thoughts bother you, it is devil who causes you to worry, and not God, Who, being the spirit of peace, grants you tranquility.”

Both the series of quotes from Scripture as well as from the Saints were originally found here at Catholicstand.com

About Fr. Ian Van Heusen

Fr. Ian Van Heusen has written 8 post in this blog.

Fr. Ian is a Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC. He is assigned to St. Bernadette Catholic Church as a Parochial Vicar, and he writes on prayer and meditation at www.contemplatio.us.

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