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Austin, United States

I have spent most of my career as a French professor and a research librarian, and have been reinventing myself as a writer. I’m...

How to Begin in Trying Times

Whenever I’m befuddled, whenever I’m in pain, whenever I’m depressed, whenever I’m dejected, whenever I don’t know what to do, I turn to prayer. I place all my trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and place all my cares in him. I am often igonrant of what is going on, and in those moments, I can sometimes be filled with anxiety. So I pray or I go to Mass, or I read Scripture. Sometimes just a few words give me the courage to do what I need to do or to be patient or to pray more. Eventually, a solution generally presents itself, or I receive some guidance from God. I believe we all have access to this great treasure we all possess.

Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls”, and we can often feel that way now, in our present age. We look at the world around us and the aomunt of division and war can seem overwhelming. There is conflict in so many places. Wars are followed by more wars. Where is the end of it? I’ve often thought that if aliens were monitoring our planet, what do they think?

Yet, in the course of events, if a nation does not defend its liberties, it will lose them. What is the solution? It can be the same thing for a householder. If criminals come to invade your home, do you yield it up to them and say, “Come take it?” I think the issue becomes more clear. At some level there is struggle. Padre Pio used to say that in this mortal life we are never free of struggle, that it is only when we die that we experience eternal peace. As such, he regarded as and called his Roasry “My Weapon”.

We look around us and we see dramatic chanes in our land, in our government. We see issues we’ve never had to deal with before. The land of birth of our president is in question, and those who prepared his birth certificate have died under mysterious circumstances. This in itself is worrisome. Policies are being enacted with which most of America is in disagreement.

Reading a recent book, “Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe…”, is a real eye-opener. Soviets estalished control, the book writes, “by controlling the media and manipulating elections”. Gee, we already see this kind of action. I was thinking yesterday as I tried to read a book which came close to winning the “national book award”, what on earth anyone saw of merit in it. It just seemed like a “politically correct” rant built around a brief bit of story here and there. No offense to the author, but I found it very hard to read and finally gave up. And it dawned on me that there was a time when book awards in this land were actually about the merit of the book, and not because someone was a minroity or someone was spouting political propaganda. (And I have to say that I don’t believe this was actually the author’s intention. I think that author is just passionately for abortion and such.) In fact, I can remember when this began to change. I saw it in the 70’s. I learned not to recommend certain books from book awards any more, only to use previous winners, which were truly excellent works of fiction. We must decide if we are still free to be entertained and informed by the reading we desire, or if we must only be politically indoctrinated with propaganda and misinformation and smears. I have always treasured our freedom of speech and brilliant works of historical research, great mystery novels that had nothing to do with propaganda, well-written children’s books that all children enjoy rather than poorly written ones with “correct” stories. These kinds of things have slipped into our libraries and publishing. Of course there is freedom to write such things, though it’s kind of bizarre that they are winning the awards.

If you ask me, it’s a sign of the times. We still have good books winning awards. I’m not saying we don’t. And I realize there’s an effort to encourage certain blocks of readers and writers. But with this seens to come some deterioration of the foundation upon which we have built a civilization that has achieved so much, which became a beacon of freedom to the whole world. With some of these things, which veer from so firm a foundation, we should fear the erosion of our freedoms as well as our democracy. The thing about freedom and democracy is that if we veer from truths and if we veer from inalienable human rights, if we ourselves do not live good lives, we will erode our own human rights and our own freedoms. We will slide towards tyranny. That’s because the moment we dislogde God from the dialog and foundation , the void will be filled by men who will rule according to their own material gain, their own whim. Then the value of human life will rest upon the opinion of whoever is in power. We have all seen these errors in other governmental systems.

Our culture is at a crossroads it has never had to face before. We are unceratin how to deal with these issues. The first step, the main step, and the most insistent step is prayer. If we want to know how to proceed, we must pray. We must pray every day. When George Washington was with his men during that terrible winter in Valley Forge, he would retire every afternoon to his office to pray. He gave his guard an order not to let anyone in. Yet one afternoon, while he was in prayer, he realized someone was in the room. He looked up and saw a beautiful woman. He wondered how she had gotten in. She addressed him as “Son of the Republic”, and she told him that “the union will last as long as there are stars in the heavens.” She also told him that there would be 3 threats to the union. I don’t recall all of it, but I do recall that one of the threats was the Cvil War. An angel appeared and spread a wing. There before him, Washington saw the first threat. And the angel did so for the other two threats as well. This is all I recall of what I read, except that the story was told by one of Washington’s friends, whom he had sworn to secrecy as long as he was alive. Further, the story was told after his death to a journalist, and it was printed in a newspaper of the time. That’s how we have the account.

So for anyone in distress in these times, I would urge the first recourse as prayer. Pray, pray, pray, as we have been asked to do by Our Lady in Medjugorje. She calls herself, “The Queen of Peace”. That peace is to be found in prayer. I pray for the living and the dead, a good idea for all of us. This is the place to start with any concern or worry or query. It is what I do, and it has served me well.

God bless all of us.

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