Faith Against Fear: Priest Offers Advice

At a time when our lives are looking more and more like a Google calendar packed with live streamed Masses, online classes and work from home, stresses — and separation anxiety — are at an all-time high.

We’re worried about our loved ones, our health and how the coming days will continue to change the way we live.

“I’m sure many of us have a billion thoughts racing through our minds,” said Father John Gribowich, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. “We don’t know where this is going. We don’t know when it’s going to end.”

With so much to handle and no way to make it to the pews, Catholics are being faced with a challenge. How do we stay safe, grounded, and connected to our faith in a time of crisis?

Father Gribowich recently returned from a two-and-a-half-month spiritual retreat at a monastery in upstate New York. He described his time in prayer as a different kind of “social distancing.”

Through this experience, he has learned a lot about being alone with God through contemplation, meditation and prayer.

“So many things are taken away from you,” which he cites as a potential source of frustration.

“We have all these ideas in our mind as to the things that are non-negotiable,” but he reminds us that we are “not being abandoned by God,” but rather we will be given what we need.

Focusing on each day is one way to combat feelings of isolation, frustration and solitude, said Father Gribowich.

He believes, as Catholics, we can use this time to channel our faith into a moment of calmness amid the coronavirus crisis.

He described the act of contemplating as simply being present to those overwhelming thoughts. “Just come to a point of asking God, ‘Why am I allowing my mind to go all these different places when the only thing I can do is one thing at a time?’,” Father Gribowich explained.

The more we tune in to our experiences, “the more you’re able to focus on the one thing that’s affecting you the most,” he said. Interjecting a necessary distraction to all of those racing thoughts is where people can turn to Scripture for meditation.

“You need to go to your ‘inner room’ and it’s in your inner room where you’re able to experience the love of God,” said Father Gribowich.

“We’ve been forced right now to go to our rooms, to our homes. And I think that that is where we have to kind of understand … We can meet the love of Christ in a very profound way, right now.”

When overwhelmed, directing contemplation towards one particular thing — like prayer —allows for us to get “the attention off of ourselves, and [bring] it to God or other people,” Father Gribowich said. “It’s about how much we’re letting God work through us.”

Father Gribowich told The Tablet that the prayers don’t have to be big ones. Small prayers, repeated, are good ways to bring Christ into your everyday routine, no matter how it changes.

Here’s an example of one:
“Jesus, I love you. Help me to love you more today. Jesus, show me your love today. Jesus, I trust in you.”

One of the greatest ways we know God is working through us, even in hard times, is through breathing,” explained Father Gribowich. “Whether it’s for five minutes or two minutes, take time to breathe in through your nose for three seconds, and out through your mouth for six,” Father Gribowich advises.

“We don’t control it. We don’t decide to breathe, but the very fact that God is acting in our lives and allowing us to live, it means that we still have purpose.”

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