Stress, Admiration and the Big Ben

From the Editor’s Desk (Wednesday, June 29, 2016, Gaudium Press) Often we come to hear that stress is one of the most destructive and harmful elements of contemporary life. Such an assertion is, nevertheless, only a partial aspect of a complex reality. According to experts, it is not stress itself but the way in which we behave and react to stress what determines its destructive or beneficial effects.

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The Big Ben on River Thames ©Gaudiumpress

In this sense, biographers of famous artists, scientists and explorers, commonly reveal that periods of intense stress frequently turn to be significant periods of creativity, reflection, progress and even growth.

When handled properly and within proper boundaries, stress can be a positive and enriching factor. Even a powerful and decisive factor motivating us to negotiate tough challenges with fervor, enthusiasm and success. 

As an example, we could refer to a popular saint, such as St. Teresa of Avila. She lived a profoundly contemplative life and yet her daily life was plenty of worries, risk and stress. The founding of new convents, and the reformation of others, led her to travel extensively from one end to the other of the Iberian Peninsula, facing in the process considerable opposition in her endeavours to reform the Carmelite Order.  So much so that many episodes in her life became a legendary saga worthy of mention amidst the most incredible novels. 

However, precisely in the midst of a life awash with activity and stress, Teresa became one of the most important mystics of the Church, to such an extent that -from her heart flows one of the most beautiful pages that Christian spirituality has ever produced in terms of peace of mind: 

Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All thing pass;
God never changes.
Patience attains
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

In other words, while confronting the inevitable stress of daily life, we face two options: either we grow, progress and heal in many ways, or we fall into depression, bitterness, sickness and death.

It is again the shining example of Saint Teresa’s own life that seems to guide us in the right direction. Reaching both mental and emotional steadiness or not, depends on the existence or on the absence of a rich spiritual life.

When we talk about spiritual life, almost by default, we seem to associate it only with the frequent reception of the Sacraments, attending Mass and/or the recitation of prayers. But hardly ever our attention turns to a relatively unexplored aspect of spiritual life called admiration.

Indeed, admiration means to contemplate that which is beautiful, good and true, (Verum, Bonum, Pulchrum) to the extent of transforming ourselves into that which we admire.

On coping with stress, a contemplative admiration is a must not only for the wellbeing of our soul but also for our physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing. Admiration will boost our soul, renew our strength and restore our hope. Why? Because admiration remodels and lifts us up.  Admiration not only combats stress but rather may turn it from a negative force into a powerful factor for our sanctification, even amidst a life plenty of exhausting meetings, commitments and unforgiving schedules…

* * *

Since demanding schedules seem to be strongly related to stress and, on the other hand, contemplation seems to be a great tool in the art of mastering stress, let us turn our eyes to a famous monument: the famous Clock Tower, also nicknamed Big Ben. This London landmark seems to call to a happy balance both the inevitable passage of time and the spiritual longing for contemplation.

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Saint Teresa of Avila, Carmelite Convent,
Alba de Tormes, Spain ©Gaudiumpress

Completed in 1859, the Big Ben was designed by the renowned architect Augustus Welby Pugin, a convert to Catholicism and a leading figure of the Gothic Revival of the XIX century. The tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and it was Pugin’s last design.

Indeed, the Clock Tower seems to crown the palace of Westminster with a calm and solemn presence recalling the shape of a faithful and attentive sentinel. At its feet, the Thames, almost in a placid and typically British fashion seems to absorb and reflect the golden hues of the Parliament Houses along with the blue tints of the evening sky.

And we seem to discover, here and there, in the flowing waters, the fleeting nuances of a mysterious or perhaps heavenly golden palace built by playful angels in the tinkering of the bumbling stream…

* * *

Contemplation and schedules. Admiration and stress … Certainly complex topics that far from excluding one another, rather complete themselves, helping us to weave, with the help of Grace, a rich and uplifting spiritual life. As St Teresa of Avila puts it so well. ‘He who has God, finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffice…”

See photos at:
http://en.gaudiumpress.org/gallery/galleryView/72157667791936365

Gustavo Kralj (Gaudium Press)

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