On a Friday evening in June 1977, while I was in the family room of my parents’ home, the evening news came on the television. The news opened with a teaser announcement about a movie that had recently been released that was surprising all of the critics and was wildly popular among viewers. Of course, if we wanted to know what that movie was, we had to sit through 20 minutes of the news before the newscaster would tell us about the movie.
At that time, I was 20 years old and had recently finished my second year in college. After the announcement about the new movie, one of my younger brothers asked me if I knew what movie the announcer was talking about. I told him that I had no idea. My brother asked, “Do you think it’s Rocky?” I replied that I did not think that it could be Rocky because although the movie about the rise of a small-time boxer was extremely popular, it had been released in late 1976 and had already run its course.
We hung around the family room and waited for the story about the movie. At that time there was no Internet so the only way to learn about newly released movies was from network television, the print media, or by word of mouth. It turned out that the movie was Star Wars, a science fiction film that had been released by 20th Century Fox on May 25, 1977. In addition to discussing the main characters, the news story also showed clips from the movie and talked about the popularity of the “droids,” C-3PO and R2-D2.
Within a week of seeing the story about Star Wars, I went to the theater to see the movie with a couple of my friends. At one point in the movie, to escape from enemy fire, the main characters, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, and Chewbacca, duck into a room-sized trash compactor. After discovering that they are trapped, the enemy activates the mechanical system that causes the walls of the compactor to close in on and crush all the trash that is in the compactor.
As the walls are closing in, Luke makes a desperate attempt to use a communication device to contact C-3PO. After several attempts, Luke is finally able to get a message to C-3PO to direct R2-D2 to tap into the computer system and shut down the trash compactor. The compactor is subsequently shut down by R2-D2, seconds before Luke and his friends are to be crushed.
There are various times throughout our lives when a situation or a chain of events causes us to feel as though the walls are closing in on us. When this happens, we experience a feeling of total helplessness, and a sense that we are being crushed. This feeling can be triggered by the sudden death of a loved one, a conflict that has arisen with a close friend or family member, a financial crisis, a medical emergency, or an accumulation of general everyday problems that, as a whole, become overwhelming.
What can be done when the trash compactor of life begins closing in on you? One thing to consider is that God is calling you to reach out to Him and others for assistance. In the physical realm, you need to reach out to family, friends, and if necessary, professionals such as counselors and doctors. In the spiritual realm, you need to reach out to your Creator and His saints for assistance.
One of the 10 principle virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary is “continual mental prayer.” During their lives, the Mother of God and her husband continually reached out to God for assistance. Here are some specific instances when they most likely felt as though the walls were closing in on them: (1) when they were unable to find a place in Bethlehem where their child could be born, (2) when holy Simeon declared that a sword would pierce the heart of the Mother of God, (3) when an angel appeared to Saint Joseph in a dream and told him that the life of Jesus was in grave danger, (4) when they made the long and dangerous journey to Egypt with their newborn infant, (5) when the 12-year-old Jesus was lost for three days, and (6) when Jesus was scourged, crowned with thorns, forced to carry his cross, and nailed to the cross.
How often did Mary and Joseph reach out to God in prayer? The answer is, continually. How often do you reach out to God in prayer? Once a day? Two or three times a day? What would have to happen for you to think about or feel the need to reach out to Him every five or ten minutes?
It is a merciful and loving God who allows us to feel as though the walls are closing in on us. He allows the events that cause these feelings so we’ll reach out to Him in prayer. I hate the feeling of walls closing in on me. Although there is no way to avoid the feeling completely (since it is part of God’s divine plan to help us get to Heaven), there is a way to minimize the feeling, and that is to develop multiple rituals and reminders to pray to God and His saints several times throughout the day.
The mother of God and Saint Joseph did not have the option of reaching out to saints for assistance, but you and I do have that option.
In my office, hanging on the wall next to my light switch is a Divine Mercy picture. Behind the clock that I look at to check the time throughout the day is a crucifix. On the wall above the clock is a picture of our Lord with a staff, acting as a shepherd who is protecting His sheep. On my computer stand, next to my keyboard, is a small holy card with a picture of the Divine Mercy. Next to my telephone is a 12-inch statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On my windowsill is a statue of St. Sharbel. Taped to my printer is a picture of Saint Joseph working with a young Jesus in his workshop. These sacramentals are all strategically placed so that I see them several times throughout the day.
Each time I see one of the sacramentals, I am reminded to recite a quick prayer or aspiration, such as “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, save souls” or “Oh Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine” or “Jesus, I trust in Thee” or “Seat of wisdom, pray for us” or “Saint Joseph please help me in my work” or “Saint Sharbel, please help me to practice humility.”
Frequently reaching out to God and His saints gives us the power to stop the walls from closing in on us. While Luke Skywalker had a couple of droids who could assist him, we have our Creator and His saints who are always standing by, ready to help us out.