Many of us might recall a popular hit song of the late 1980’s by musician Bobby McFerrin, entitled “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” I’d like to suggest that our saints are able to give us much better advice when dealing with life’s worries and troubles.
Padre Pio of Pietralcino was a Franciscan priest who received the wounds of Christ in the form of stigmata to his hands and feet. He was an extraordinary Confessor, often knowing what a penitent was about to confess, or even forgotten to mention. Padre Pio was well known for his astute assessment of people’s characters and situations. One of his expressions was, “Pray, Hope, Don’t Worry”, a considerably more thoughtful approach to dealing with anxiety and problems than the simplistic advice of that song. We can try to be joyful, but it is not possible to always be happy.
It is far better to pray than to worry. Prayer lifts our thoughts up to God and God has a better handle on our problems. Worry on the other hand only causes us anxiety. Note too that in his advice, Padre Pio included the word “Hope” as the next step after Prayer. Perhaps Padre Pio was thinking of the following Scripture when he provided his encouragement: Rom 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” St. Paul also has this too to say about hope in Rom 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” Who better than those of us who have lived a half-dozen or so decades to know a little bit about ‘waiting with endurance’?! We who believe in the Incarnate God know Jesus to be our Hope; and as St Paul reassures us in Rom 5:5, “… Hope does not disappoint.”
As we are more removed from the responsibilities of child-rearing and full-time employment, we move into a different set of challenges. Still, as before we need to pray and ponder what is our next move, our next God-filled action. We might likely have more time to reflect and pray on the matters and concerns that affect our lives in the so-called ‘golden years’. We, our children and our grandchildren rely heavily on us spending more time in prayer. An excellent method to expand our prayer time is by combining prayer with activity or exercise. For instance, in the time taken to walk a flight of stairs, one can say a Hail Mary. Drawing an amount of water from the tap can be combined with a rote prayer, or brushing one’s teeth; washing one’s hands can be performed while completing a favorite memorized prayer. Many people like to pray part or all of a Rosary while walking. Pietra Fitness, a stretching, strengthening and balancing program combines Scripture, Bodily Prayer and Meditation in the Catholic tradition. These are just a few examples of how to enlarge our prayer life while still accomplishing the necessary and desired tasks needed to be performed in a day.
The holidays are quickly coming upon us. While they can be times of thanksgiving, reflection and family, for some it may be a time of stress or loneliness. Whatever your holidays look like, pray! It is important to find inner peace, and this is only found in Jesus Christ.
So “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry.” And one last word of advice from St. Paul to the Thessalonians, “Pray always”!