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Coping with Chaos: Philip Neri and the whirling dervishes

Whirling_Dervishes_2_Vladimer Shioshvili_cc

Vladimer Shioshvili - cc

Elizabeth Scalia - published on 05/26/17

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We must always remember that God does everything well, although we may not see the reason of what He does.
–Saint Philip Neri

A friend reminded me that today — feastday of St. Philip Neri — features something I’d contributed to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, specifically for today. An little essay on coping amid chaos.

“Coping with chaos” sounds like something we could all use today, not just Catholic Moms, so I am sharing it here, both in honor of my dear Neri, and to give you a peek at a book that is well-worth owning:

There is a story about an old Bedouin, sitting in the desert, surrounded by whirling dervishes, who howled and carried on in religious ecstasy. “Don’t they distract you? He was asked. “Sometimes,” the Bedouin said. “Well, what do you do about them?” asked his perplexed interviewer. “I let ‘em whirl.” Saint Philip Neri had a philosophy similar to the Bedouin’s. As founder of the Oratory – a community of lay and clerical Catholics that would first worship together and then engage in debate, or musical performance or the reading of plays, or even in a picnic-procession to another church – Neri was comfortable with the idea of letting the sometimes chaotic creative and religious energies about him spin out and wind down. Like a parent who understands that sometimes a toddler (or a teen) simply has to burn off excessive energy before it can settle down and read, or talk (or listen), Neri knew that upon the winds of seeming chaos, the Holy Spirit often flies. And so, while by no means passive, he dared to trust the not-always-easy-to-understand processes of God, and be peaceful as the world before him whirled. Dear Philip Neri, God’s ways are not ours; help me dare to trust his purposes. Ponder: When your world seems to be going awry before your eyes, why is it so much easier to freak out and join the chaos, than to sit back and see what emerges? Take a breath. Realize that no difficulty lasts forever. Can you live through five more minutes of it? Take a another breath. And another five minutes.
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