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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Transitions in Life and Prayer

Pope Francis suggests the writings of Anselm Gruen for spiritual readings. Anselm Gruen is a Benedictine Monk familiar with Jungian psychology. Although he appreciates the insights of psychology, he does not subordinate these to the truths of the faith. He does not propose that the trials of this life, like the mid-life crisis or other difficult moments of transition, are problems to be solved through self-realization and personal development. Instead, Gruen presents them as moments in which God is to be glorified. Psychology might help us appreciate new angles of the difficulties we face in our brief existence in this world, but it is not enough to content ourselves with simply mastering new life skills. In fact, for the Christian, it is never enough to manage life circumstances. Instead, we must discern the most appropriate way of serving the Lord in the midst of them. My verdict as I struggle with my own relocation to another state for another job: He is right! The Lord stands in the midst of life's chaos, waiting to be discovered anew. When I make time for prayer and when I renounce myself a little, just around the corner the glory of God begins to shine. I cannot say that this is consoling. But to live with this fullness of life even as waves of all kinds of uncertainties crash around us, this is to finally begin to thrive, to fully become what God made us to be. Faith does not try to surmount life's challenges. Nor does it seek an escape from the inevitable uncertainties and difficulties in which we find ourselves. Faith is all about facing reality with humility and courage, and this especially when life's trials are the most challenging. Every time life is turned upside down, faith propelled by God's love boldly enters into all the disturbing ambiguity and delights in a fuller and unique encounter with the living God manifest only there. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it -- this is not a static principle but a moment by moment mystery that is meant to explode into one's whole existence. Making space in one's own life for this encounter requires prayer, fasting and asceticism, and this exactly at the moment when we want to run away and escape it all. To this end, Father Anselm provides some good counsel in his work, Crisis and Opportunity in Midlife, Ligouri Press, (2006). Thank you Pope Francis for recommending this spiritual writer.

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