Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I was hopelessly stranded in a crowded conference room, a prisoner at a meeting that showed no signs of ending after three hours of torment, and I would have gladly given my paycheck to charity just to break away.

It was the kind of meeting you know will haunt you the rest of your career, however long or short that may be. It was the kind of meeting that proves the "law of diminishing returns" is real when you see people talking nonstop just to hear themselves. It got so painful I was prepared to walk out and start a new career as a gyro vendor in midtown Manhattan.

The meeting went on and on and on with a succession of "deep thinkers" expostulating like Cicero, and then, just as I felt the tension percolating to the Code Red level, just as I felt myself losing what little self-control I had left and was about to jump up on the conference room table and start screaming, "I’m mad as heck and I’m not gonna take it anymore!"– I was saved.

I reached into my wallet and took out a small prayer card and placed it on my legal pad. I looked at the picture on the card, and, after a few moments, I felt my inner peace return as my blood pressure returned to safe levels.

The card was a picture of three stained glass windows high above the tabernacle at St. Michael’s Church in Beacon Falls. In the middle was Christ the King, with God the Father on the left and the Holy Spirit on the right.

Seeing this card reminded me of the Saturday afternoons when I go to confession in the quiet church, say my prayers and light a few candles in front of the statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. That half hour is always the most peaceful time of my week.

A member of the parish’s social ministry had passed out the cards on Sunday before Mass, and the prayer on the back said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of power and might. Heaven and Earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

I carry the card with me and look at it when my life starts to fall apart so that I can recall those moments.

Just the thought of that quiet church calms me and restores my inner peace and helps realign my priorities.

One of my friends who was a school superintendent understands the insanity of angry meetings with disgruntled board members, parents and teachers’ unions. He has endured perennial disputes about test scores, teacher salaries and school closings.

Whenever the meetings hit a fever pitch, he reached into his wallet and pulled out a picture of the Tuscan countryside where he planned to buy a villa. In those moments, he escaped into a more peaceful and promising world – while the board prattled on and on and everyone else got high blood pressure.

That simple image helped him make it through the night by daydreaming about his home, his neighbors, a good bottle of wine and a superb dish of pasta.

When we find ourselves immersed in struggles and strife, it’s always good to regain our spiritual grounding and retreat to a quieter place until our inner calm returns. This process of stress reduction is called "imagery."

When you can’t change your environment or your situation, this form of mental stress management is a technique that therapists recommend. In fact, the more intensely you imagine a spiritual and peaceful experience, the more relaxed you will become.

I have another prayer card that I carry with a picture of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance at Holy Rosary Church in Ansonia, where I spent many years going to eucharistic adoration in the early hours of the morning while the rest of the world was asleep and I could be alone in the nocturnal quiet with Christ.

Memories of those serene moments come alive again when I look at that card because it reminds me there’s a peace that surpasses all human understanding and it’s the peace that only Christ can give.

Very often in our daily desperation, we need that peace just so we can remember what’s truly important and take life a day at a time – or a minute at a time. He’s always there for us.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.