At Mass the prayer after the Our Father that the priest says in the translation we had before 2011 went as follows:
“Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
In the translation that we now use instead of protect us from all anxiety the the priest says “by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.” The Latin word is perturbatione. This has many meanings in English, apparently, among them, confusion, disorder and disquiet.
I miss praying “protect us from all anxiety” especially at this time when we are living with Covid-19. We are all living with increased levels of anxiety. It was reported in the press last Tuesday that a study led by Professor Nick Fremantle has found that factors such as economic, recession, climate change and social media and Brexit have contributed to increased reports of anxiety in the UK since 2008. We know that anxiety is a normal part of life that affects different people in different ways at different times. Whereas stress can come and go, anxiety often persists and does not always have an obvious cause. This study looked at the years between 2008 and 2018. I am very much aware talking with people at this time that the pandemic has increased anxiety in the lives of many people.
It is not wrong for a follower of Christ to feel anxiety but it is necessary for us to understand how to deal with these feelings. Perhaps we need to see this time as an opportunity to experience the mercy and loving kindness of God who understanding this world better than we ever can. As one writer says “it is encouraging to note that God doesn’t require us to achieve anxiety-free status as a prerequisite for sainthood.” Saints such as Theresa of Lisieux, Alphonsus Liguori and Ignatius of Loyola battled with various forms of anxiety. To be a saint does not depend on our ability to achieve psychological perfection but your dependence on Gods infinite mercy. When Paul was in distress God reassured him saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Cor 12:9).
Writing about anxiety, Dr Gregory Popcak says that “God simply wants us to learn how nourish the seeds of peace, confidence, courage, strength, security and all the rest that he has already planted in your heart so that those seeds, once germinated, can help you become whole, healed, godly, grace-filled self that is already present in you but not yet fulfilled.”
Here is a prayer for this time.
O God, our refuge and our shield, even when we walk in the shadow of death you are there at our side. Be with your people in this time of danger: bring strength to the afflicted and protection to those untouched by disease. Give us love and courage, that we may trust in your power to save and reach out to all who need our care.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.