Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

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

What's the diagnosis?

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the September 19, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky Every once in a while a nurse friend and I get together for lunch at a local diner to discuss life and solve the world’s problems. This last time, in the course of the conversation I inevitably learned a few more points about the medical profession. This encounter’s point of information was the meaning of the suffix “-itis.” It means inflammation or irritation – as found in the discomfort of laryngitis, appendicitis, or arthritis. The inflammation or irritation often is an indication of more seriously pending problems.

After engaging in a marathon of meetings since the time of that lunch, I have found myself using my new-found suffix to diagnose a spiritual disease which so subtly creeps into all our lives this time of year: Program-itis.

This disease of the soul usually manifests itself in the unearthly sigh uttered by participants at a meeting who rush in at the last moment, slinking, exhausted, into a waiting chair. It can be seen in the darkened haze of date books and refrigerator calendars as parents and business people alike squeeze meaning into their lives in those always-too-small boxes of time. It can be heard in the tell-tale “got-to” and “should have” heard in anxious conversations.

Like most physical inflammations and irritations, the beginnings of programitis are small and often unnoticed. Unchecked, however, they grow into larger problems – sometimes rather serious ones. In all its manifestations, programitis is a threat to healthy spirituality. It strikes most often this time of year when summer’s relaxed pace is overtaken by the demands of school, business, and family commitments – and yes, even those of church.

Like the common cold, programitis can strike anyone – and most often does. In a dictionary of spiritual diseases, it might be described thus: “pro-gram-I-tis (n): a distraction from a personal relationship with God caused most often by tight schedules, over-commitments, and scattered priorities; disease is often misread as success, achievement, worthwhile endeavors or a sense of being needed; usually cured by rest, quiet, prayer, and the conscious choice to build a healthy life.”

Our over-scheduled and over-committed culture argues benignly that a tinge of programitis is simply part of the contemporary scene. Perhaps it is. Left unchecked, however, the pressured nature of our daily lives and the complexities of the world catch up with us. Somewhere along the way (we seldom know exactly where) we end up being thrown off-center – and even, at times, losing our souls. The binding force of marriage and family life disappear. Personal peace has dissipated. Life has become the proverbial rat race, bereft of zest and meaning.

It is possible to be suffering from programitis without knowing it. That’s the disease in its worst form. We owe it to ourselves and our spiritual health to conduct a self-examination, looking for the signs of programitis. Self-knowledge can lead to a better way of living. The irritations and distractions to a wholesome spiritual life – for ourselves as well as for others – must be accurately diagnosed, and healing sought. The amazing thing about programitis is that its cure is so readily available and is so inexpensive. It begins with our personal choice. Rest, relaxation and, yes, prayer, are easy pills to swallow.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of the parishes in Tekoa, Rosalia, St. John, and Oakesdale, and serves the diocese as Moderator of the Curia.)

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