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Make sure wandering thoughts do not turn into idolatry

Published: October 30, 2021   
Gianni Squillace

I find it fruitful to let my imagination wander as it pleases. Doing this provides me with ideas for my creative writing, school, sports and other aspects of life. While it does no harm to rejuvenate the mind and use the imagination, I began running into problems spiritually. 

During Mass, I often choose not to stop my mind from flooding with unrelated thoughts and ideas. Finding the self-awareness to stop a wandering mind and bring focus back to prayer is not a walk in the park. Once I fall into this trap, I do not realize I am disengaged from God’s higher calling to prayer until I hear the priest declare the closing words of the Mass: “The Mass has ended, go in peace.” 

Allowing the mind to wander during prayer time is putting our own thoughts above thoughts toward the Lord. This trap is specifically a trap of idolatry. If distractions from prayer are not taken care of, idolatry becomes more prevalent. 

What are these distractions specifically? Recently I was journaling and imagined these distractions taking the shape of a large, collective crowd of people in my life. Some people stood clearly visible at the front, and others could barely be seen from the back. The front of the crowd consists of people who are at the forefront of my life, such as family and some friends. The back of the crowd has people who I do not see or communicate with often. Each individual in the crowd requires some portion of attention. Christ is somewhere in the crowd. I struggle to keep him at the front, and sometimes I lose sight of him entirely. I easily allow others to take his place at the front of my life and push him away. 

"The Litany of Humility teaches us that if we invest our faith in false gods, it will always fail to provide us with true and eternal joy."

I do not mean to say all acts of giving others our love, time and attention are within the sin of idolatry. Also, it is not in the nature of people to block our line of sight with Christ. Maintaining a faith life becomes so much easier when other like-minded people of God surround us. Ultimately it is our own decision to allow Jesus to fade out of the highlight of our lives. 

When we begin to put others above Jesus, we willingly make people who will fail us our gods. For example, a friend moves or a family member dies. These emotions of loss are not new to humankind, nor are they meant to tear us down. They are difficult, nonetheless. These ends are more difficult when we do not know how to reach out to Jesus, the friend who will not desert us. When we have pulled away from those we love, we will be more sorrowful if Christ is not at the front of the crowd, waiting to refurbish and strengthen each of us. 

The Litany of Humility teaches us that if we invest our faith in false gods, it will always fail to provide us with true and eternal joy. The prayer is excellent at making one reciting it feel uncomfortable. The litany is a prayer asking God to take from us the desires of honor, praise and love. It asks God to allow others to increase, and for ourselves to decrease, for others to be loved more than ourselves. These thoughts of decreasing are not pleasant. However, the prayer also does an excellent job clearing out our crowds of distractions by bringing Jesus straight to the forefront. Through humility, we are shown what is of importance. We strive to value only the love and attention of God. The crowd becomes regulated and manageable when we allow our Lord to be our aim. The virtue of humility teaches order. Let prayer take order over whining, wandering minds that Christ will pacify.

Gianni Squillace is a senior at Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown. He attends St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers.

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