Articles Teaching

Trust in Times of Trial

Source: Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem. from Catholic Answers via
Reprinted with permission. Originally published 7th June 2020

Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem., is a Norbertine of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. He grew up in South Pasadena and is a convert from the Episcopal Church. After earning a bachelor’s degree in classics from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Fr. Hugh entered St. Michael’s in 1982 and was ordained a priest in 1990. He earned a license in patristic theology at the Augustinianum and a doctorate in philosophy at the Angelicum in Rome. He has taught philosophy at St. Michael’s to the Abbey’s junior professed seminarians studying for the priesthood since 1992 and was prior of the abbey from 1995 until 2017. Fr. Hugh has been active over the years in weekend parish ministry and in giving talks and retreats; he has served as chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society of Orange County and as censor deputatus of the Diocese of Orange, and he is a knight commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. He began his chaplaincy at Catholic Answers in September 2017.

Today I have some good news for you in the midst of trials. Pay close attention to these words of St. John:

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things”.

1 John 3:20

When times are bad, there is a great tendency to absorb into our own hearts and minds the negativity and anger and sadness that surround us. This is especially true when persons with these traits project their mean-spiritedness and fear on those near them. It can be very hard for a morally sensitive person not to feel in some strange way responsible for the state of things.

There can be a kind of floating anxiety, as though we had been doing something wrong and the sword of punishment were liable to fall at any second. If we watch and listen to the media without detachment, we can indeed feel as though the weight of the world is ours to bear.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that these are exceedingly trying times. On the material level, there is an economy facing devastation, even as it had begun to revive, loss of work, businesses closed perhaps never to open again, small family enterprises crushed, education disrupted, and the threat of an ever-expanding government to take the place of local initiatives and preferences. And all of this on account of a crippling fear of a viral infection the full nature and origin and treatment of which is anything but clear.

This is all bad enough on the material level, but it is compounded by the isolation and lack of human warmth experienced by so many. There are now millions of people at home and abroad who go for days without any live human contact or conversation, and those who do seek this out are taught to fear that the very human affection they crave may make them susceptible to a mortal plague! The psychological burden of these times is heavy indeed. We may pass over for today the political and international specters that we might add to the mental burden we all share in these dark days

But on the deepest level, where the human being is at its most profound and most lasting, there is a great and sure hope in the midst of such painful uncertainty about our welfare and our future.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in commenting on the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, tells us that the reason Our Lord tells us to learn from him meekness and humility of heart (Matt. 11:29) is because “humility makes us capable of God.”

Capable of God?

This does not make God an activity ours, but rather indicates that we possess in humility a full capacity for God; that is, for the life of grace and a share in his divine nature.

Returning to the words from John’s first epistle: St. Thomas says in another place, “God is greater than our hearts, and so nothing other than God is greater than the human heart…and so the soul which is capable of God can be filled with nothing less than God.”

What good news for you and me! With humility of heart—having hearts open and ready to be filled with God, hearts not filled with themselves, and others’ fears and expectations, hearts filled with trust in the goodness of God, hearts not fixed on material, political, technological and emotional obsessions—we can take in the grace of Christ and become like him and find true rest for their souls in the midst of dire turmoil.

Yes, we may feel weak or guilty or in danger, but God is greater than our hearts, and he can and will take care of them if we put our trust in him.

Let us say often, even continually, “Jesus I Trust In You!”

Header image: Sacred Heart stained glass window, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church, Southampton, N.Y. via