Focus Not on Fear

Magnificat‘s nearly daily, one-page introduction to the life of a saint always ends with a short prayer. Today’s featured saint is Macarius of Ghent, whose was told through prayer that the plague epidemic in Ghent would end upon his death. The plague did indeed come to a halt when his earthly life ended, a few days later on Holy Thursday in the year 1012. Further, many miraculous healings occurred at his grave. The prayer at the end of his page is this: Compassionate Father, through the intercession of Saint Macarius of Ghent, loosen my grasp on the things of this world, that I might long for the life that is eternal. It’s a good prayer and a good reminder of where our focus should be. It seems that every message from the world at large is inspired by fear: fear of suffering, of war, of epidemics, of losing jobs and security, of having to change our way of life. How many bad decisions are made because we are afraid? I know that fear plays too large a role in my own life, so I appreciate reminders to change my ways, whether they come from sources like Magnificat, a book like The Obstacle is the Way, or a great story.

A writing from Saint Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church who died in 1380, is also featured today in Magnificat. She, too, focuses on fear:

None of our actions is effective if we act out of slavish fear. No matter what our position, we will fail in small things as well as great, and will never finish what we have begun. Oh how dangerous such fear is! It cuts off the arms of holy desire. It blinds us and keeps us from seeing or knowing the truth, because the source of this fear is the blindness of self-centeredness. For as soon as we love ourselves selfishly and merely on the level of feeling we become fearful. Why? Because we have set our love and trust in something weak, something completely unstable and inconstant. Something as passing as the wind. …

Since selfish and inordinately fearful love is so dangerous, you must run away from it. You must focus your mind’s eye on the spotless Lamb. He is our rule and our instruction, and him we must follow. He is love and truth itself. He sought nothing but his Father’s honor and our salvation. He did not fear … the devil’s malice, nor ignominy nor scorn nor abuse. He did not in the end fear even the shameful death of crucifixion. And we are his students in this dear and agreeable school.

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