My friend was starting to have panic attacks due to worrying about the pandemic crisis.
She had been watching a steady stream of news, and one report after another painted a terribly bleak picture.
It didn't help things that food was getting harder and harder to find in the grocery stores, and going to the grocery store induced even more anxiety in her, since she was afraid she and her young children would get sick.
Her husband, meanwhile, was facing the prospect of losing his job, and while they had saved a little bit of money, it would not be enough to pay the bills for more than a month.
He was worried about going into even more debt, and eventually bankruptcy.
These concerns are not only understandable, but also quite valid.
While there are good practices at a natural level that can help with such anxieties, like not watching the news in a non-stop loop, the fact is that these concerns are realistic and natural practices are not sufficient to quell them.
Food is getting hard to find. Our families may get sick, and we may even lose loved ones or even our own lives in this crisis.
So while I recommend taking natural measures to lower anxiety, things like don't watch the news all the time, go out for a walk, and spend time with your loved ones, the ultimate solution is supernatural, an ingredient in the recipe of the saints called detachment.
Detachment means we are not attached to the material things of this world, including even our own lives.
As Catholics we believe that this life is temporary; only eternal life is forever.
So while we do everything that we can prudentially speaking to have good health and necessities of life, we recognize that forces outside of our control may throw huge curveballs at us and wreck our plans.
Many saints wrote about the need for detachment. They resisted (or broke off) attachments to created things: to comfort, wealth, people, earthly security.
St. John of the Cross wrote: “In order to possess everything, do not desire to possess anything.”
By “possess everything” he meant possess God, who is everything. It was a paradox, a “true contradiction” because only by detaching from the world can we find peace in the world.
The saints all practiced this holy detachment, and when their oppressors or the circumstances of life caused them to lose material things—friendships, wealth, titles, and honors—it did not disturb their peace.
St. Francis de Sales said: “Do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
We get attached to things of this world very easily. But the virtue of justice demands that we only give created things their due attention and concern. It is to God that we must look, who created all these things, and give Him our full heart and mind.
Detachment is one of the ingredients in the secret recipe of the saints.
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