What Ails Modern Man
Ignacio Larranaga, Founder of Prayer and Life Workshops
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MADRID, Spain, OCT. 4, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Father Ignacio Larranaga is the author of some of the most loved religious books of the last decade, including "Show Me Your Face," "From Suffering to Peace" and "Mary´s Silence."
This Basque Capuchin has been dedicated to teaching prayer for 40 years. He is the founder of the Prayer and Life Workshops, a Vatican-approved movement, whose thousands of members have learned to communicate with God and experience his love.
In an interview with ZENIT, he offers his advice.
Q: What would you suggest to someone who is stressed, sad and dejected?
Father Larranaga: People might find momentary relief by watching a film, a soccer match, or going out for a while; however, this would not be a solution, but only an evasion.
I don´t think there is anything other than the balancing force of God in a person´s interior, because the encounter with God presupposes concentration. There is no real and permanent solution other than a profound living of the faith with the living Lord God.
Q: Do you think it is possible to stop suffering and find total peace?
Father Larranaga: I am already 70 years old, and all along the way I have come across the singular food that is never missing from the great banquet of life: pain and suffering in its thousand forms and manifestations.
More than once I have felt impotent at the moment of bringing a cup of relief, of hope, of joy, even to people who suffer so much in so many different ways. Because of this, for a long period of time I took notes on my own experience with these people.
I approached it from a radiographic and then therapeutic point of view. Therefore, it is a book that attempts to remove, insofar as possible, the thorns and pricks of human suffering from hearts. Many psychiatrists suggest that their patients buy the book and try to apply what they find in it in their lives.
Hundreds of people have told me that it has saved them from depression, anxieties and obsessions. So, it could be said that this book is a gospel for the good of humanity.
Q: What do you think is one of the greatest problems of 21st century man?
Father Larranaga: One of the most serious illnesses of modern man is mental dispersion; that is, when we feel conquered because we are divided and defeated as we are disintegrated.
The greatest calamity that can occur is not to be in command of ourselves and, instead of feeling unity, coherence, emotional stability, we feel like a heap of pieces -- enthusiasms, worries and anxieties. Then interior unity is disintegrated.
The phenomenon modern man experiences as a consequence of all this is called "unrest," and, despite the fact he wants to fill his voids with all kinds of goods of the earth, he cannot be at peace with the realities. It is a very strong mental dispersion; there is no concentration.
The interior void must then be filled with images, emotions, ideas, so that in the end, [man] has the impression that there is nothing within him and nothing outside of him; what remains is what is most important: the presence of oneself in oneself; only at this point will [man] be able to say: "I am myself"; and only at this point will he be able to say in prayer: "You are my God."
That relation will no longer be dispersed by the clamor of noises, images; man will have come close to the essence of the I, of the interior unity.
Q: How would you define a mystic, a man freed from self?
Father Larranaga: All those who have taken God seriously are not interested in power, possession, enjoyment ... they gradually detach from all this; they create an interior space to be filled by the Lord. And the poorer, the more empty of ourselves we are, the freer, the stronger, the more we belong to God. Because, otherwise, we always run the risk of identifying our interests with God´s interests; instead, we are seeking ourselves.
In order to be a man of God, there must be a profound purification of the interior, and we must let God be God in us; I must not be myself. When a man is humble and empty of self, God takes over, and achieves that transformation that we see in the great men and women of history.
A man of God is not interested in happiness, peace or any good; he is only interested in God and, to that extent, he is the one who enters man, and becomes the source of balance, stability, in a word, what is generally called "happiness" or "peace." In fact, it isn´t what they seek; it comes as a result of giving themselves to God.
Q: What must be done to find interior peace?
Father Larranaga: Abandon oneself. There is a "no" and a "yes" in life. "No" to what I wanted -- I was calumniated and the impulse to vengeance sprang spontaneously. "No" to that vengeance; I am resentful because everything has turned out badly in my life. "No" to that resentment.
We start suppressing, in God, all the negative, self-destructive and regressive impulses from the human heart, and we say "yes" to what God has willed: "´Yes,´ Father, thy will be done."
Good and evil are within us: If there are enemies in our interior, there are also friends. It is about a reconciliation through acceptance of all that, humanly speaking, is disagreeable. That which makes us suffer and can be changed, must be changed, but what is impossible to change -- accomplished deeds -- must be accepted.
What do we gain by resisting facts that cannot be changed? Problems that have solutions are solved by struggling, but those that have no solution must be placed in God´s hands; in other words, they are not resolved, but they cease to be a source of bitterness and resentment.
We must become friendly with all that we have resisted to date, with all that of which we are ashamed, with all that which saddens us or gives us a complex. Nothing of what has happened to us up to now will ever be changed. People go on suffering, being ashamed, and saddened because something didn´t turn out, because they were unlucky, because of an accident, because they made a mistake -- facts that will not change by a millimeters for ever and ever.
What do we achieve by resisting? Our destruction. This is how society is suffering. To all that hurts, causes shame, or saddens, we must say: "I leave it in your hands, O my God, do with me what you will. I accept everything you have done. Your will be done."