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How do Catholics Cope with Anxiety?

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie or TV program in which the hero or heroine was in mortal danger, in great peril, or enduring profound suffering? And then wondered why their reaction was so different from what yours might be?

Sure, in the moment, there might be something critical they need to do to save their life. There may not be time for a novena. But surely there’s a moment for a simple, “God, help me!”

And that’s one of the things I like best about books written from a Christian worldview. I can relate. When things are tough, the characters often do the things I do. They pray. And sometimes their action is a good reminder for me, should I forget: Go to God in times of trouble.

If the past year, with the pandemic and all of its fallout, taught us anything, it’s how little is within our control and how dependent we are, whether we like it or not, on God. How do Catholics—how should Catholics—cope with these kinds of anxiety? Here are three ways:

1. Go to God. Seek Him in Scripture, in prayer, and in Adoration.

2. Go to His Mother. Pray the Rosary, meditating on the proscribed mysteries and seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother.

3. Go to our brothers and sisters in heaven. In other words, seek the intercession of the saints.

In my coming-of-age novel Rightfully Ours, when Paul is beset by grief, fear, and loneliness, he turns to the Rosary, almost as a last-ditch effort (but an effort nonetheless). Here’s how Paul ultimately falls back on his faith when times are tough:

Everything outside the window remained still. The crescent moon did nothing to dispel the darkness in the yard. No lights lit Rachel’s house. The only light in his room came from the blue glow of the digital alarm clock and its reflection in the mirror above the dresser. A set of rosary beads hung from the upper corner of the mirror.
The brown, well-used beads dangled lazily in the darkness. Dad’s rosary beads. Paul hadn’t touched them in the year and a half they’d hung there. Besides a few pictures of his mom, him, and Sean, they were the only items found on Dad.
What do I have to lose?

Characters in Catholic Teen Books novels face trials, maybe the some of the same you’ve faced. Fear of death, persecution, or surrendering completely to God’s will. Wrestling with a difficult decision or struggling to do the right thing. Seeking protection for those whom we love.

  • In Cynthia T. Toney’s The Other Side of Freedom, Salvatore and his family turn to prayer for protection and to guide their actions when faced with mortal danger.

  • In The Perfect Blindside, by Leslea Wahl, Jake finally turns to faith and seeks God’s help when his plan to protect innocent people from the illegal activities at the town’s abandoned goldmine fails.

  • In T.M. Gaouette’s The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, Eva struggles with a decision and prays the Rosary for strength and guidance.

  • In Saving Faith, also by T.M. Gaouette, the character Faith prays the Hail Mary over and over in a moment of fear.

  • In Corinna Turner’s I Am Margaret, Margo considers whether to take steps to fight her oppressors, which could lead to a terrible martyrdom. She trusts God and gets the strength to choose to go through with it.

  • In The Siege of Reginald Hill, also by Corinna Turner, Kyle is kidnapped and tortured. It’s then that he surrenders himself completely to God and is filled with peace, joy, and God’s love.

  • Daniel, the main character in Corinna Turner’s The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis), deals with the news that he has leukemia by trusting in God and thereby gaining courage and hope for the future.

  • In Theresa Linden's Standing Strong Jarret struggles to stay strong when faced with old temptations. Not convinced by his twin brother’s recommendation to wear the Brown Scapular, Jarret sets out to discover just what this traditional practice is all about.

Maybe you haven’t faced the extreme circumstances we authors put our characters in. (I hope you haven’t!) But I bet you’ve faced the same feelings, fears, and anxieties. The choices are the same—to trust God or not, to lean on Him or not. Learn from characters who either suffer the perils of ignoring God or reap the graces of running into His open arms.

Take a moment for that simple yet heartfelt, “God, help me.”

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Betty Notzon
Betty Notzon
02 jul 2021

In my book, The Orange Dragon Bowl, 15-year-old Julie Tyler, who is unapologetically Catholic, virtuous, and square, is left to sit at her mother's bedside iin the ICU as desperate measures are taken to treat the sepsis that means to kill her mother. It's a consequence of the chemo she's getting for a very aggressive form of breast cancer. Then her father arrives and with him Fr. Desseau with his "kit" for performing last rites. Julie is frightened by what that means, but she understands, as she sits in the waiting room for both of her fathers to reappear, that it is now up to Christ to decide her mother's fate.

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