Arts & Books Books

A priest’s advice for surviving stressful times


Alexander Jolliffe on a cleric's wise advice for the overworked

Finding God in Times of Stress
By Fr Antonio Ritaccio,
CTS, £2.95 ($3.85)

Do you struggle to hit targets and deadlines? If so, read this book. Fr Ritaccio, a priest of the Diocese of Westminster in central London, says: “We each have only a limited amount of energy with which to deal with stress. Like a tree bending in a storm, we all have a limit as to how much pressure we can take, and eventually we break.” He quotes the Gospel: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28.) He furthers his argument by turning to St John’s Gospel: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you;” (John 14: 27)

Chronic stress can cause headaches, stomach problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and even cancer. The strain on our minds can trigger anxiety and depression. Even if you do not suffer such conditions, be a faithful friend to those who fall prey to mental health problems, says Fr Ritaccio.

Does God care, the priest asks. He responds robustly: “Yes!” He writes: “As he [Jesus] hung upon the Cross, dying in agony, we know that he has found us because our cries of pain became his cry as he said: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ”

This pastor preaches to the homeless, the hungry, to people suffering from noisy neighbours and to those who are burdened by child care or over-work.

In these days of social media sites that encourage self-harm and even suicide, Fr Ritaccio urges young people to resist the Devil. He writes: “Suicide presents itself as a diabolical lie. It cannot provide relief because our existence does not end with death – our souls are immortal.”

Other topics he deals with include the pursuit of money, the need for affection and emotional security, as well as letting go of regrets. Forgiveness, meditation, breathing exercises and prayer for release from strains are all covered in depth.

The author also includes a fine list of Catholic and non-Catholic resources such as websites and charities. This book would make a fine present for godchildren, friends and relatives.