Sister Nancy Usselmann" />

How to seek and maintain inner peace

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From COVID-19 to political polarizations to divisions in the Church, each can have an effect on our inner peace. On top of that, scrolling through social media feeds and reading daily news posts can increase our stress levels beyond the daily to-do lists and relationship challenges. Constant and instant access to the often-troubling societal issues can lead to feelings of sadness, fear and anxiety. We may even increase stress in our hearts by trying to do everything ourselves to fix the world (and everyone in) it instead of allowing God’s grace to work in and through us. Believing that God’s wisdom and power are infinitely beyond our abilities, and believing that he desires the best for us, is the first step in seeking and maintaining inner peace.

For years, I worried about a particular family member whose personal struggles were so difficult to watch that I just wanted to fix things. I wanted my loved one to find life and joy once again. But the more I tried to do something, the more the person pulled away. My soul was not at peace because I wanted to change the situation instead of accepting it as part of life that simply happens. In my distress, I sought counsel from a friend who told me that “God is bigger than any problem! He can handle it! Entrust your loved one to God, and he will work miracles in his time!”

I remember praying before the Blessed Sacrament surrendering my loved one to the Lord and asking the Lord to increase my faith. I heard his voice deep in my heart say: “Believe in me! Believe for those who cannot believe! Your faith will save that person.” It was as if the Gospel story of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching took on personal meaning. Luke, the evangelist, writes, “When he saw their faith, he said, ‘As for you, your sins are forgiven'” (Lk 5:20). Not only did Jesus heal the soul of the paralytic because of the faith of his friends, but Jesus said to the paralytic, “‘I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.’ He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God” (Lk 5:24-25). From that point on, I prayed for faith to believe for my loved one, and God answered. My inner peace would help my loved one to find and maintain peace as well. It took almost 10 years, but God has worked such miracles in that person’s life that I couldn’t possibly imagine it at the time.

From that moment, I began to ascertain a glimmer of peace within my soul. I realized that I don’t have to fix the problems of others but only open my heart more and more to the Lord and believe for them. My faith, my belief in God’s wisdom and power is what allows his grace to work. Inner peace is the sign of faith in God. In the words of St. Padre Pio, we entrust ourselves and the world to the Lord: “Don’t worry to the point of losing your inner peace. Pray with perseverance, with faith, with calmness and serenity.” And St. John of the Cross adds, “Strive to preserve your heart in peace; let no event of this world disturb it.”

So, the next time you put on the news, scroll through social media or feel worried about the situation of the world or a loved one, remember that nothing can disturb our inner peace unless we allow it. It’s a daily challenge to seek and maintain peace in our hearts, but it comes when we surrender and trust that the Lord, in his boundless wisdom, desires our good and the good of the whole world.

Sister Nancy Usselmann, FSP, is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles. She is a media literacy educator, writer, film reviewer, speaker and author of a theology of popular culture, “A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics.”

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