P. Mĳo Nikić, SJ
Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Studies University of Zagreb, Croatia
PSYCHOLOGICAL-SPIRITUAL COUNSELS IN CRISIS
The whole world has been in a crisis for months. There was the fear on a global scale. No one was spared. The Corona virus, identified as COVID-19, goes unnoticed around us. It is an invisible but terrifying force lurking from everywhere. It does not act selectively, but equally attacks the old and young, healthy and sick, good and evil, believers and unbelievers. In such a situation, it is normal for many to feel scared. Fear is the primary emotion that arises when we face a threat that we cannot easily overcome. Because we are all in a danger of an invisible virus, fear of this phenomenon easily turns into a panic that is contagious and can cause great damage to mental and physical health if we fail to recognize and stop it in time. An interdisciplinary approach to this phenomenon requires us to view a person as a physical, emotional, social and spiritual being, and to assist it by approaching all of the dimensions of its personality. In other words, a person at risk of having a Corona virus should be helped to overcome it by the right medical and health instructions, compelling psychological advice, good incentives to create and maintain good interpersonal relationships, and finally, encouraging spiritual promptings and biblical advice, in which God often tells us, â€œDo not be afraid! I'm with you!" Keeping in mind the necessity of an integral help to a person in need, I offer the following tips that take into the account all the vital truth about an individual - a person in front of me: 1. Follow the medical advice of a specialist in dealing with the Corona virus pandemic! Common sense requires that we should all be responsible for our own health and that of others' beside us. As the virus spreads through contact with infected people, it is essential to avoid unnecessary companionships, but maintain personal hygiene by frequent hand washing and dedicatedly obey all other advice and orders from competent institutions such as the Civil Protection Headquarters and other relevant state institutions. 2. Be active and exercise! It is not good nor healthy to sit in front of the TV, a computer or type on your cell phone all the time, as we all know. That is why you should often get up from your chair or step out of your bed, move more, exercise and preferably go outside to get some air, but without hanging around with other people. Also, Gymnastics exercises can be done in your own room. It is important that they are regular and that you do not overdo them by forcing yourself beyond your personal limits. 3. Ventilate the premises you live in! The Corona virus escapes from rooms that are regularly ventilated. It is good to occasionally make a draft in the room and allow clean air to flow through your living space. Experts recommend that the air we breathe should be humidified as it is also a form of protection against the virus, because it keeps our mucosal barriers healthy and keeps them from drying out and becoming porous and us vulnerable. 4. Strengthen your immune system Good and strong physical immunity helps the body to defend itself against various viruses, bacilli and other possibly unknown enemies who wish to threaten and destroy it. We boost our body's immunity with a vigorous and prudent lifestyle, a healthy diet, ingesting enough vitamins (especially C and D) with minerals, also using ginger, propolis and royal jelly, as well as practicing sufficient daily movement in the nature.
5. Do not make unnecessary large supplies of food and medicine There are some big eyes in fear and we often see more danger than really present. In the stressful situation of isolation, we are in danger of creating unnecessary supplies of food and other things for ourselves, spending huge amounts of money and pilling stuff up. It needs to be recognized in time and we need to overcome this temptation. By yielding to our own greed for owning excess things, we put at risk people who will fall prey to our greed and will not be able to get access to the food necessary to live with their families a regular normal life. 6. Eat and drink in moderation! Beware of addiction! In very stressful situations, many people surrender to eating and drinking excessively and thus gain too much weight. Some even lose their appetite and run the risk of weakening too much thus endangering their own health. In every case, such extremes must be recognized and prevented if possible. Virtue is truly in the middle way, between the opposite extremes, as once a great philosopher Aristotle taught. May our dear God preserve us from becoming addicted to various things: food, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, corruption of all kinds, the internet, TV, gambling, pornography as well as using others for our selfish purposes in this live, rather than following His Holly Will and Plan for our lives. 7. Recognize and accept your emotions Emotions are an important part of our personality. Our first reaction to everything we perceive and experience is emotional. In this stressful situation caused by the Corona virus pandemic, our essential fear, anxiety and aggression will all be activated. We needed those emotions when we were attacked and when we have to defend ourselves. However, they also occur when we misjudge a danger, that is, when we see it where it does not exist or is mild and we tend to greatly exaggerate it. If not recognized and adequately expressed, but suppressed in the subconscious, these primary emotions which are good and our life saviors at right times can also become poison to the body and our mindset, causing various mental and psychosomatic diseases. In order not to become victims of repressed painful emotions, these feelings and urges should be received in a timely manner and appropriately expressed. These emotions should be accepted as a normal reaction to the abnormal condition we all find ourselves in. Fear intensifies when we run away from it, and decreases or disappears when we face it and when we share it with people who listen and love us. Therefore, we should talk and connect to our friends and families as much as we can and reasonably use all means of communication to overcome the distance that separates us in these times of crises to boost one anotherâ€™s spirits up to be able to diminish the fear 8. Don't indulge in negative emotions and bad moods It is not always possible to feel good and have a good mood. However, it is always possible to resist the onslaught of negative emotions and not allow them to rule over us. It is important to know that the fear that attacks me is not me, it cannot manipulate me unless I allow it to. I am beyond my fears. My deep self is spiritual in nature and is indestructible, fear can do nothing to me nor to my spirit. 9. Be aware of the gravity of the situation, but don't panic! A panic or panic attack of fear has the power to suddenly scare a person and trigger the feeling that something terrible will happen, suggesting that the person will go crazy or even suddenly die. Panic fear can produce psychosomatic reactions and a blockage of mind including the entire body. That is why it is important to activate as soon as possible the rational capacity of the mind, which convinces us that the evil in the manner of which panic fears presents to us will not happen. It is just a subjective feeling that triggered some forgotten repressed painful past memories and scary experiences that have
nothing to do with our present situation and are entirely different to it. With the inclusion of an objective judgment of reason, it is good to take a deep breath several times to relax your body. 10. Think positive and constructive Positive thoughts provoke positive emotions. Sv. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans tells us to transform ourselves by "renewing our minds" (Rom. 12: 2), so that we may discern what the will of God is: what is good and perfect to God himself! Therefore, the truth is that it all starts in our mind, in our head. The way we think affects what emotions will be triggered in us. He who constantly thinks only negatively and has a black scenario of the future, prepares for himself what will actually happen to him. He fears it, however, by the course of his thoughts, he puts it on his life path. Negative and frightening thoughts can always be replaced by positive thoughts and have a better outcome in any frightening situation. 11. In the hope of being steadfast! Hope last dies. Hope is the virtue of a brave men. Hope tells us that it can always be better, no matter what is happening now and where. Hope assures us we are not delivered to meaninglessness, but that there is someone at the bottom of everything who can change and turn it all around for us to our own good. Even those already infected with the virus can and should rightly hope that their organism can withstand the onset of the virus and that their body will be able to fight back effectively and that an effective cure for the disease will soon be discovered. Scientists all over the world are working on it. Hope keeps us alive! Christian hope is not mere desire, it is a theological virtue, a gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe. 12. Empower your psychic immunity Psychic immunity helps a person to defend itself against various dangers of a psychic nature such as fears, stresses, psych traumas, intrapsychic conflicts, depression, various phobias and other neurotic and psychotic disorders. Psychic immunity is strengthened when we courageously face the challenges that life brings us. Anything that boosts our confidence also strengthens our psychic immunity. Spiritual peace and positive, optimistic thoughts strengthen our psychic immunity. 13. If life gives you lemons – make a lemonade It is not good to moan helplessly and surrender to your powerlessness. History testifies to us that great deeds were made in the greatest pain and distress. And the life of a child is born out of the mother's pain. It is rather possible to make a good lemonade with fresh lemons. But there are some who can only see and understand what really matters when they actually become blind. Gustav Krklec sings beautifully when he says: "I’ve met a Fiddler, that lost his sight. But he told me: “Son, the life is nice.” “Beautiful, really?”, I got confused. “You will see, my son, when you, too, loose!" 14. Be critical of various news outlets and disseminate only verified and accurate information In the meantime, various information is coming to us that can cause great harm if we take it all naively and literally. One should be discerning and rightfully critical of all the sources of information, and convey only proven and positive news that encourages and hopes for a better future. Be careful about sending various messages that mention that no prayer chain or piety should be broken. This is not a Catholic attitude. Our God loves us even if someone breaks that chain. Jesus Himself says that the sun of God shines equally on good and evil. We must not scare people with God, but proclaim his love and mercy.
15. Take advantage of your free time and learn something you did not have time enough before this! In a sort of isolation, we have a lot of free time that can be used for things we didn't have time for before. Why not profit in this crisis by learning a good foreign language, reading a good book or two, learning to draw or paint and the like? That is possible. What a human spirit commands to the body, the body obeys. All we need is a strong motivation and the will to persevere. 16. Bring as many laughs into your life! More laughter - more health Humor cures fatigue. Laughter is a healthy defense mechanism of each personality and an excellent and effective remedy for many fears and frustrations. Allow others to laugh at your account. It is a trait of strong personalities. Cowards are immediately offended when they are touched in this way. Laugh and pass on to your friends all those witty animations and messages that will alleviate your anxiety. 17. Live in truth The truth is the best medicine and protection against various fears and illusions. Jesus Himself said that truth would set us free. We need to accept the new situation that greatly limits our way of life this far. We ought to live the truth, not suppress unresolved issues and painful emotions and conflicts, but face them with all our courage. It should also be noted that in such stressful situations like this virus and in a relatively closed family space, unresolved and repressed conflicts as well as repressed aggression, greed, selfish interests and other unclear issues can be a quick trigger of various conflicts, which can then disrupt interpersonal relationships of the family and any other community. We will have to ask God for the grace of humility so that we can face ourselves in this situation and not blame others, like husbands blame wives or wives blame husbands both facing some long-repressed problems. We should rather recognize and accept our share of responsibility and not let aggression prevail in the family, whether in an active or a passive way. Let us change what we can change, but boldly accept what we cannot change and hand it over to our God. He knows best what to do with it. Whatever we give Him in faith and love, He turns it to our good. Let us remember the Chinese wisdom that if my world is to change, then my people must change first, and if my people need to change, then my place must change first, and in my place, my family first, and in my family, first I have to change myself. And then the world will be better and more beautiful. 18. Don't worry anxiously! God cares for you as your children! We have to accept a new situation where we cannot control everything. Jesus' encouragement can help us in this: "Don't worry anxiously!" He cares for the birds of the sky and the lily in the field, so why do you believe He will not go far for us who are his beloved children? If He does not immediately come to our aid, it is a sign that we must grow in faith, hope and love with our patience. Let us recall the wonderful statement of the poet Manzoni, who in his famous work "The Bridegroom" said this truth: "Dear God never takes away the joy of his children unless he saves them even more." Therefore, let us trust in our Father who holds our destiny in our hands. The Psalmist was convinced of this truth, and therefore could say: "Even if I am to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I am not afraid of the evil, for you are with me!" (Ps 23: 4). Just as God followed the people of Israel as He went through the wilderness and the Red Sea, so He follows us today in all our troubles. Let's look forward to his pleasant surprise. 19. Have a lot of selfless love for your loved ones! Love is the best and safest sign of the good mental health. Man is created out of love by Him who is Love itself. That is what one realizes the most when selflessly in love. We should start practicing it from those closest to us. They are members of our own family. It is advised to read every day the 13th chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians in which St. Paul brings out in the open all the significant
signs of the authentic love. True love, he says, is â€œpatient, kind, not envious, not boasting, not proud, not rude, does not seek his own, is not easily irritated, forgets and forgives evil, does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices in the truth, apologizes for all, believes all, hopes and endures all; Love never ceases!â€? (1 Cor 13: 4-8). Now is the time for parents to become more devoted to their children, to play with them and to pray to their Father in Heaven together with them. Now is also the brightest time to become involved as volunteers in helping those who are alone and powerless. For us, anyone in need should be the living image of our Jesus waiting for us to land him a hand in help! 20. The Faith is a power in powerlessness. In the face of this corona virus, we are powerless for now. However, there is someone who is stronger than all the trouble, even this virus. This is our God. He is great and all-powerful. How nice to know that there is Someone to whom nothing is impossible. And that someone is not anyone. That's our good Father in Heaven. By our faith we enter into the world of God in which everything is possible for us because of Him. Jesus himself repeatedly said, "Your faith has healed you" and "May it be according to your faith." However, objectively speaking, the world does not live by the will of God. Most people do not obey God's commandments, and even more does not even know which those are. The World is full of arrogance and selfishness, injustice and abuse of the innocent. We are all participating in this sin of a constantly growing world. The sin of believers, especially church officials, is even greater because more is given to us. We deserve the intervention of God's justice. With the psalmist, we should say: "Should you recall our sins, Lord, who would endure?" (Ps 130: 3). Although we all have deserved punishment, this affliction that affects the entire world is not a God's punishment, but an invitation to conversion and an opportunity to mature even more in our faith, in our trust in God, and to love God even more as our good Heavenly Father. 21. Strengthen your spiritual immunity! Spiritual immunity is the power of our spirit to resist evil and protect the freedom of the children of God. The grace of God is our spiritual immunity. The enemies of spiritual immunity are: sin (all 7 major sins), the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, the evil will, Satan and his servants/demons, the spirit of this world who opposes God and wants the destruction of man. We strengthen our spiritual immunity when we authentically live in faith, hope and love. We have strong and effective spiritual immunity when we are in the grace of God; when we love God above all things and our neighbors and our enemies as ourselves, we pray for them and forgive them abundantly; spiritual immunity is strengthened when we serve God and men out of pure love. Furthermore, through honest humility, daily prayer, living in truth, accepting the will of God, reading and reflecting on scripture texts we strengthen our spiritual immunity. By sacramental life they flow into our soul as a river of spiritual immunity keeping us from all harm and the Evil one. Prior to every Holy Communion a catholic priest prays that the feasting of the flesh and blood of Christ should not be judged and condemned, but that, in the goodness of Jesus, his protection and remedy should be to his soul and body. The Eucharist is the best prevention, protection, the best factor of spiritual immunity. It is also the best cure for all illnesses, especially spiritual ones that would like to distance us forever from God and lead us into perpetual ruin. The Eucharist is a force of faith, hope and love, it is the food for eternal life. 22. Pray daily, read the Bible, and meditate! This is how you strengthen your spiritual dimension Prayer is the fellowship with God. And our soul enjoys the most when it hangs out with its God. By reading Scripture, we feed our minds with the truth of God and put on armor that stops all the fiery arrows of Satan and all the devilish and human evil powers. Now is the time to think more about God, to pray to Him more personally and collectively. Now we have the opportunity to read a little chapter
from the Bible every day together in our families or by ourselves and think about it a little. It is now also an opportunity for the whole family to pray the rosary together and to learn to pray spontaneously by sending their cries to God, especially those that come from the heart! 23. Open yourself to the wonderful power of the Holy Spirit! We can do everything in Him that strengthens us! The Holy Spirit is our Defender, Comforter and Healer. In this affliction that has affected the entire world, we urgently need the Divine Defender, Comforter, and Healer. Human assistance alone is not enough for us here. How well those words of Jesus sound to us now, which he proclaimed by saying goodbye to his disciples: "I will not leave you the orphans." 14, 16). Let’s remember this word: forever. These are the words of Jesus. With us is the almighty Holy Spirit, our most powerful Defender, Comforter and Healer, forever. Let us also remember the words of St. Paul who says the Holy Spirit is pouring out the love of God into our hearts. Whenever a sense of fear catches us, let us overcome it by faith in the love of God that works in us all through the power of the Holy Spirit. 24. Believe in Jesus' words: "Fear not! I'm with you! " 365 times in the Bible God speaks to us those words of encouragement: “Fear not! I am with you!” To his terrified disciples, Jesus says the same: “Be bold! I am, fear not!” (Mt 14:27). We have to admit that we are all scared because an invisible enemy named COVID-19 that is spreading around hurting folks and nations all over the world and is killing lots of young and old people. Many die in isolated hospitals, far from their sweethearts and their beloved ones, without that close human comfort of friends and without the spiritual help of the sacred sacraments. In such a difficult situation, we greatly need God's words of comfort and encouragement. And God is pointing at them right now: “Fear not! I am with you!” All is up to us who believe in Jesus, our Emanuel, which literally means "God be with us." How nice to live with that truth that God is always with us. Let the truth which the psalmist in the 94th Psalm testifies to us also be fulfilled: "When the sorrows of my heart are gathered, your comforts rejoice my soul" (Ps 94:19). We often remember the words of Jesus He spoke at that time, but they can also apply to us in this time of uncertainty: “Do not be afraid! I'm with you always" 25. Take up your cross and follow Jesus! We are saved by the sacrifice of our Christ on the cross. Therefore, St. Paul says that we should brag about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we are saved and freed. This Corona virus is a cross that burdens the entire world. The best way to get rid of it is to first accept and obey the call of Jesus when he proclaims: "If, therefore, whoever wants to follow me, let him renounce himself, let him take up his cross, and follow me!" (Mt 16, 24). This cross, which currently suppresses the entire world, also carries a hidden grace that this world desperately needs. And that is the grace of conversion to God. Sv. Francis Saleški says that God, the cross that gets us, soaks it with His love and takes it well in His hands so that it is not a crumb too heavy for us. Accordingly, in this cross that has come upon us, we seek to discover the hidden grace that will enrich us and with us the entire world. It is important that we accept and bear our cross with Christ. All suffering, united with Christ in faith and love, becomes a salving suffering that brings great graces to us personally as well as to the whole world. If God Himself chose the cross for the salvation of the world and Jesus agreed to be crucified on it, then we too should accept the cross as the wisdom of God, no matter what this world does not understand nor accept. This world passes away and its lust, and whoever does the will of God lives forever. Now is the time to refine our faith and grow in it. To begin with everything that happens to us is to look with the eyes of faith, which means, with the eyes of the Lord Himself! When we look at our lives from God’s perspective, then we understand everything and then only see everything properly.
26. Crave Jesus wholeheartedly and ask Him to visit you in spiritual communion! Now that we cannot attend holy masses in our churches and receive the holy sacraments, we can still follow the Holly services on TV and the social networks or the Internet. Mass and other devotions are offered daily. Let us make time for these transmissions and console our soul who longs for the closeness of God. Although we cannot confess as we have done before, we can still repent perfectly for our sins and decide that we will confess our sins in the first place when our churches reopen to the public. In that case, even if one was in a grave sin, he can be sure that all was forgiven on the terms I mentioned. In our Christian piety the possibility of spiritual communion is known. It means to wholeheartedly desire to receive Jesus into your being and to be fully united with Him in spirit. It is good for us to create in our imagination the image of the Merciful Jesus as he comes into our room and brings us his peace and comfort. 27. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven! We need these words now. Especially those in mortal agony, whom even the doctors can no longer help. If the time has come for us to die and leave this world, let us remember the words of Jesus promising us that those who believe in Him will live even if they die. Our names are written in Heaven where our beloved Jesus went to prepare us a place. Those who believe in God, who love God and their neighbor, do not end up in a cold grave or crematorium, but in the Father's house where it is so beautiful that one cannot even imagine. "What the eye did not see, what the ear did not hear, what the human heart did not conceive, it had been prepared by God for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2: 9). Paul. 28. Let us take pleasure in the Blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Himself gave to be our holly Mother! Hanging on the cross, shortly before his death, Jesus said to his disciple John: "Behold your mother," and to Mary under the cross he said: "Woman, behold your son!" John represented all of us there - the future disciples of Christ. Mary is our Mother. She is the Mother of the Church. She is our most powerful advocate before God. Jesus did the first miracle in Cana of Galilee at her urge, at a time when his hour was yet to come and the miracles to begin as He starts to act publicly. Mary accelerated that hour. She still has the greatest power of mediation with God to this day. We pray the rosary and other prayers and we rightfully cry to her, our Heavenly Mother, to hasten the hour of God's intervention today, for God to grant us the grace of true conversion, to believe in His love shown and proved in Christ Jesus, to pour out on us the abundance of the Holy Spirit, open the "doors of heaven" and free us from the evil of the infectious virus that ravages the world. However, we plea with her to grant us from God the grace to be better people, to have more love for God and our neighbors. Mary, our Mother the helper of Christians, pray for us and the entire world! 29. In the end, I bring a mystical answer to the cry of the scared world that longs for deliverance. The mystical answer is difficult to accept; at the first glance it looks like a spiritual masochism. But not so! This is the wisdom of God revealed by St. Paul on his own body. Here is what he wrought: â€œAnd lest I should be exhilarated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was put in me, the messenger of Satan, to torment me continually, that I should not be exhilarated. For this I prayed three times to the Lord to cease. And he answered: 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is perfectly manifested in weakness.' Therefore, I will be more than happy - rather than seeking deliverance - to boast with my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me. That is why I enjoy the weaknesses, the insults, the tribulations, the persecutions, the anxieties I endure them all for Christ. For whenever I am weak, then I am strongâ€? (2 Cor 12: 7-11). The genius Paul had a great understanding of the danger of arrogance and the power of humility, and therefore chose the weakness and suffering to remain Christ in humility, rather than fall into the temptation of arrogance and thus
fall right into the web of Satan, who, due to arrogance from the lightheaded, became a dark-skinned man. The angel became the devil. A modern world we live in today has slipped well into the arrogance that manifests itself at this severe distance from God and being in an opposition to God and His laws. Isnâ€™t this virus also a thorn in the crown of Jesus that God has allowed for the world not to go into a complete ruin? Paul learned the lesson of the thorn, chose humility, and thus became fit to have the power of Christ in him. What will this world choose - only God knows! It is not a time to judge and criticize, but to turn to God and with a strong faith from a pure heart cry out for mercy and to give our world the grace of conversion: to come to ourselves and to return to our God. From the experience of our faithful father, Greater Abraham, we know that God was willing to save the city of Sodom if even only ten righteous were found in it. We now feel very weak and powerless in the face of a force that seems stronger than we are. However, Paul tells us that right now we can be strongest if we turn to God and cry out to Him to help us. But let it not be in the first place the need and desire to get rid of the virus alone, but to turn the world to God, to make this world the Kingdom of God and to do His will. Jesus Himself calls us to this when He says: "Seek firstly the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the rest will be added to you" (Mt 6:33). 30. Repeat the words of St. Paul: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me!" (Phil 4:13) We are not alone in the world fighting against the Corona virus. We include in our prayers all the doctors and the medical staff, all the officers concerned with the law and order, all the scientists who seek an effective cure for this virus. Let us be grateful to those who care so much for us and let us all appreciate their tremendous sacrifice. Let us renew in our faith that in the end we will surely win by the power of Him who strengthens us. It is the Holy Spirit, our Defender, Comforter and Healer. May all of us through life, and especially in these difficult times, be borne by the truth of God, which reads: "To them that love God, all things turn for good." (Rom. 8:28). P. MÄło NikiÄ‡, SJ Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Studies University of Zagreb, Croatia
Pater Mijo Nikić, SJ