GUEST COLUMN
The Stress of Faith

December 2009By Richard & Elizabeth Gerbracht

Richard & Elizabeth Gerbracht, who have retired after operating their own research and consulting firm, write from Hudson, Ohio.

Living up to God's law can be harmful to our health, some experts contend. When God's law stresses us and makes us unhappy, simply drop it. That's the advice doled out by those in psychologists' offices, at Catholic colleges and universities, and even in the pulpit. Stress induced by trying to put religious belief into practice affects us depending on what we have been taught, advised, or led to believe.

Faithful Catholic parents and seniors, now many years removed from the university classroom and, one hopes, the psychologist's couch, must still contend with the pulpit each Sunday as liberal priests present us with an unconditionally loving God who welcomes everyone to Heaven from a happy world without sin. Such priests avoid God's law either by never mentioning it or by interpreting it in their own idiosyncratic way. No wonder their teachings stress out the well-formed mind.

Each of us, from time to time, might experience varying degrees of stress in our personal relationship with God. We deal with this stress through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But stress lurks in many areas: We might become stressed over our children's or other family members' relationships with God, or maybe by some members of the parish community, and certainly by that liberal priest in the pulpit. Although we can't control these additional relationships, we often feel responsible for them or let down by them or restricted by them in a way that becomes stressful for us. These particular relationship stresses are a feature of the stress of faith.

Medical experts tell us that religious stress — more accurately "distress" — affects us the same way the death of a loved one, a legal challenge, a job loss, or financial problems affect us. Stress descends on our internal organs, possibly impairing the immune system, and can result in many different individual problems; in some instances, disease. Stress is often much more than a minor inconvenience relieved by an aspirin.


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