Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Liturgy Reflections
Protect us from all anxiety

by Father Jan Larson

(From the Sept. 14, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Jan Larson At our celebration of the Eucharist, immediately after reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the priest continues a theme of that prayer by asking the Father to “Deliver us from every evil ... and protect us from all anxiety.”

A priest psychologist once asked me why we pray to be free from all anxiety, since anxiety is a natural part of our human experience, and that dealing with normal anxiety is an important step in our human growth and development. The answer, of course, is that the church’s prayer does not ask that we have no anxiety, but that we be protected from it. There is, after all, normal anxiety, and then a list of anxiety disorders that, if not properly addressed, can seriously harm one’s mental health.

Anxiety can be a general feeling of worry, a sudden attack of panicky feelings, a fear of a certain situation or a response to a traumatic experience. Experts tell us that anxiety can be a normal “alarm system” alerting us to danger. We might imagine, for example, coming home and finding a burglar in the house. Our heart beats fast, palms get sweaty, our mind races. In this situation, anxiety can provide an extra spark to help get us out of danger. In more normal but busy times of our lives, anxiety can supply us with the energy to get things done. But sometimes anxiety can be way out of control, giving us instead a sense of dread and fear for no apparent reason. This kind of anxiety can seriously disrupt our lives.

The Church’s liturgical prayer never intends to ask God to remove feelings that are normal to the human condition, but that we be “protected” from whatever negative effects may be associated with such feelings. Thus for the person who cares about life, an important question is “How do I know what feelings are healthy?” Sometimes this has been called the “discernment of spirits.” Every person must struggle to understand whether she or he is being moved by the Spirit or by some other inner whirlwind – whether our feelings are the result of genuine inspiration or sheer impulse.

Perhaps this familiar prayer, uttered by the priest after the Lord’s prayer, is a place where we can see the implications of the Incarnation first hand. The lesson of the Christmas mystery, after all, is that the Word of God came to us as a gift, not in some disembodied spirit, but as a real and fully human person, who, except for sin, was like us in all things, including anxieties. So the road to holiness is our struggle, not to escape our human condition, but to embrace fully everything of what it means to be authentically human, as did Jesus. We do not want to hide from normal anxieties, but to acknowledge them. To be authentically human is to really know ourselves, to face ourselves, for facing ourselves is to make the real experience of our lives readily available to us. Our feelings, better than anything else, are the fundamental source that tells us what kind of persons we are.

(Father Larson is a priest of and liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle.)


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