Two years ago I was on a non-stop flight from Manhattan to the west coast. About forty minutes into the flight the plane began to experience extreme turbulence. For almost an hour the plane was in a severe state of twisting, vibrating and dropping. Already a nervous flyer (and wound a bit tighter than the average person under the best of circumstances) I found myself in a state of near panic. Nothing could distract me: not a book, not the iPad, not the chant track on my iPod. I finally sat up straight in the seat, planted both feel on the floor and began to pray and breathe deeply. My prayer was not elaborate or complex, just the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be To God calmly between breathes. I cannot write that I returned to normal (whatever THAT is) but I did feel less unglued. The praying made me feel accompanied. And it occurs to me the most frightening thing of all is believing we are alone.
I have spent a seemingly extraordinary amount of my life in fear. I was afraid of that baseball hurtling toward my face in Little League. I have been paralyzed by the possibility of failure, rejection, criticism, loneliness and the future. I was afraid to get on an airplane after September 11 and frightened of the flu shot in 2012. I get worried when I cannot remember someone’s name or the details of a novel I read last month. Currently I worry about the safety of children in schools and now apparently standing on the sidelines at a marathon in Boston, Massachusetts is akin to being in a combat zone.
Thomas L. Friedman in his New York Times editorial on April 16 decodes the terrorist’s intention of creating fear in the everyday. “That is the signature of modern terrorism: to turn routine items from our lives into bombs: the shoe, the backpack, the car, the airplane, the cellphone, the laptop, the garage door opener, fertilizer, the printer, the pressure cooker – so that everything and everyone becomes a source of suspicion,” writes Friedman. He goes on to observe that we cannot allow ourselves to be hoodwinked into believing that we are alone and without resources – for we have one another and we have great faith. He writes, “Watch the video of the bombing aftermath, notice how many people you see running toward the blast within seconds to help, even though more bombs easily could have been set to explode there.”
I am so very weary of being afraid and aware that Christ is always encouraging the human person to be fearless. Observing the courage of the people in Boston and the fortitude and generosity of the parishioners in every parish I have ever been assigned helps to alleviate the fear and paralysis. Because after all, planes crash, cancer cells multiply, bombs will detonate but somehow it makes me feel a little bit calmer to know that when that moment comes and I am no longer who I was, someone will come running toward me so I will not be alone.Let nothing disturb you let nothing frighten you. All things are passing God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things God possesses. In nothing is wanting alone God suffices. Saint Teresa of Avila~