January 12, 2016

"And when you are totally consumed by this eucharistic fire, then you will be able more consciously to thank God who has called you to become part of that multitude… because true happiness does not consist in the pleasures of this world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure in heart and mind."

(Man of the Beatitudes, 97-98)

In the quote above, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati describes a sort of spiritual chain reaction. Roughly, it looks like this:

purity of heart and mind-->peace of conscience--> happiness in the spiritual realm --->an increased desire for the Eucharist (and other spiritual goods)--> a desire to thank God

My diagram is less about capturing Pier Giorgio's thought perfectly and more about pointing out that the spiritual life involves a whole lot of chain reactions (as do our psychologies and bodies generally). I think often times we look at the goals and hopes we have to become saints and we're not quite sure where to even begin. Or we get to the end of a day feeling terrible and we wonder--what went wrong? I think we often do ourselves a disservice by forgetting (or ignoring) that we are all emotional beings and that events, even seemingly trivial ones, leave an impact on us that can cause us to feel disheartened spiritually. 

So what can we do to break the chain reactions of negativity and push ourselves back into the chain reactions of piety, love, and eucharistic fire? The first step for me is always to calm the storm in my heart, and this takes a number of forms. Often it's just simple, direct honesty ("Lord, I don't want to be thinking this about this person, but I am, so please help!" or "Lord, I feel very overwhelmed!"). We stop and acknowledge that we're in a rocky place, and often just that simple self-assessment can do a lot to bring us back to a place of peace. Or, I can re-assess the goals or actions that brought me to the "crisis" point ("Is there anyone I can ask to help me with this? Do I need to accomplish this task right now? Do I need to put this much stock into what x person said/did to me?"). Often I'll find I'm so much in my own head that taking the step back is what I needed. Turning your attention to someone else, even if only mentally, can help us calm the seas of worry or anger.

In these ways we can stop the negativity building up before it happens... "save the day" so to speak. I think PGF's quote could do with more unpacking, but I'll leave it at this for now--that we ask the Lord for an increased attentiveness to our own thoughts and reactions in order to cultivate the calm, peace, and strength we need to work to build up His Kingdom.

Yours in Pier Giorgio

Frassati NY