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Fulton Sheen’s surprising cure for the “Anxiety of Life”

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(Here's a hint: It's NOT prayer.)

Do you ever lie in bed awake at night, upset about life’s many dilemmas?  In those moments, do you try to pray but sometimes find it difficult?

I do. All too often.

For this reason, I recently googled: “Fulton Sheen — anxiety.” I wanted advice from one of my spiritual mentors in regard to dealing with stress. I was pleasantly surprised to find the following video and was even more surprised and inspired by its content.

The recording is taken from Archbishop Sheen’s 1950’s Life is Worth Living television hour and the film itself was produced by Thing in a Pot productions during the Church’s Year of Mercy. The video is a montage of moments showing the hustle and bustle of modern life. Sheen’s voice hovers over the scenes: “Nowadays, folks are suffering from an existential neurosis; a dilemma of what is [life] all about?”

And while my stresses are usually in regard to smaller, day-to-day issues regarding raising a family, his advice has been proving effective.

Rather than telling me to go to Mass or to get on my knees to pray, the late Archbishop Sheen suggests performing acts of mercy — clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and the poor.

“If you cannot reason yourself into the meaning and the purpose of life,” he says, “you will act yourself into the meaning and purpose of life.”

In a household bustling with seven small sons, it’s easy to find a work of mercy in need of doing — wait — a naked toddler just zipped across the room as I typed that sentence.

Clothing the naked and feeding the hungry — yeah, I do that all the time, but this video reminded me to see the face of God in the squirming toddler I’m about to re-zip into his footed pajamas. And something about battling bedtime — as well as performing all the duties of my vocation — in this new light helps me sleep a little sounder.

Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us.

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