Pufferfish Devils

As the week draws to a close and I anticipate another Sunday’s homily, I recall the simile we were given in last week’s homily that has accompanied me through the week: we need not fear the Devil or any of his henchmen, for they are more scared of us than we have right to be of them, seeing as Christ has won the battle; indeed, the priest urged us, they are like pufferfish, wishing to appear more frightening than they truly are. The priest also encouraged us to call out in the name of Christ these demons that plague us, and to command that they go away. Relevant to my recent struggles, he mentioned that while anxiety can certainly require medical attention (and he urged us to seek that kind of help if we need it), it can also have a spiritual source. The pufferfish image was memorable, seeing as my three-year-old son has a favourite page in one of his natural history books illustrating a meeting between a porcupine fish and a shark, with the shark approaching until frightened away by the porcupine fish puffed up, who has successfully given the illusion that this small prey is a threat.

Father’s counsel was just what I needed: this week, when negative thoughts crossed my mind, I called on Christ to cast them far from me. With the confidence of a Christian, I myself told them to flee in His Name, reminding them (and myself) I belong to Him, sealed by Baptism and Confirmation. If, like Peter, I quaver a little and start to sink, I cry to Jesus to save me, and He reaches out His hand. We cannot lose if we stand in Christ. It’s been several days now, and I’ve experienced a peace I haven’t had in a very long time, perhaps since before receiving the devastating news about my son Matthew two years ago (shy five days). It’s giving me hope.

Moreover, I’ve applied this teaching of the Lord’s mastery to my physical tension, which is related to my anxiety. My physiotherapist recently prescribed a practice called Mindfulness, and even sent me some audio files. I listened to one on falling asleep, something I struggle with most nights. It was all well and good, if a little odd, until it started to invite me to imagine beings encircling my bed, at which point the relaxation therapy backfired completely as my alarm bells started ringing loudly. As a Catholic, I don’t like to dabble with anything that invites ambiguous spirits, as experience has shown us that this can open the door to evil spirits, so I dropped that like a hot coal. At the same time, I recognized that the bodily tension I live with every minute of the day, even while sleeping, really ought to be addressed, especially as it’s become increasingly painful. Every night, therefore, I’ve been making my prayer one of surrendering the tension in my muscles to the Lord, asking Him to help me relax each one. I’ve never drifted off so easily.

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Be gone, devil fish!

In other news, I sacrificed my home and family to the completion of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth this past week, and it was not in vain. I hope I might have time to write some reflections soon, for it was as rich as the very earth she kept describing.


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