Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Calming the wild beasts

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 14, 2015

When I was in the Atlanta airport recently, I was overwhelmed by the dizzying blend of the crowd’s mannerisms, clothing styles and perfumes. The air seemed saturated with stress as people raced to their gates, staring at their cell phones and dragging overstuffed suitcases behind them.

As I boarded what is called the “plane train,” I merged with a crush of folks holding on for dear life as the train sped underground and then lurched to a halt long enough for us to scurry out. The herd then vamoosed up the escalator, dashed through the terminal and headed to the appropriate gates.2015 05 14 GB MURRAY Calming the wild beasts

The cacophony of travelers reminded me of a day years ago when I had accompanied a sister from Mother Teresa’s order to the DeKalb Farmers Market—which was jammed to the rafters with shoppers prodding fruits, scrutinizing vegetables, admiring the flowers and munching on samples of freshly baked bread.

Toddlers screamed in shopping carts, waiting to be placated with treats, while harried mothers yelled at straggling teens, and workers steered loading carts through the throng.

In the midst of this teeming swirl of humanity, the simple sister in her crisp white sari and well-worn sandals stood looking around without saying a word. I figured she might be praying but certainly didn’t want to intrude by asking her.

A passage from C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” helped me understand how she created an island of serenity in the midst of madness.

Lewis wrote that the real problem of the Christian life “comes … the very moment you wake up each morning.” It is then, he said, that our plans for the day suddenly attack us like wild animals—and may block our chance to connect with God.

I thought about my first waking moments and how often a determined herd of persistent beasts crowds my consciousness and reminds me of my chores: “Finish column, water orchids, practice piano, get groceries, vacuum house, pay bills.”

We should shove these unruly animals away from us, Lewis advised, and reach out for God first thing each morning by letting that “other voice”—the deeper and gentler one—come flowing in.

He also suggested connecting with God during the day by distancing ourselves from our “natural fussings and frettings.” This sounds like a wonderful idea, although sometimes I’m baffled about how to pray at these moments.

Then I re-read “Beginning to Pray” by Russian Orthodox Archbishop Anthony Bloom, who suggested that we recite passages from the Bible that we have memorized.

“Mark those passages that go deep into your heart, that move you deeply …” he advised. At some point, “You will discover that these words offer themselves to you as a gift of God … helping our simple lack of strength.”

I now have an inkling of what that sweet, serene sister was doing as she faced the frenzy of the market. In the midst of chaos, I believe she was taming the wild thoughts that rush into our minds and devour our peace.

For her, the bustling and noisy world momentarily halted as she turned her attention — and her heart—to the Lord in prayer.

And this is just a supposition, but I can imagine her repeating the words Jesus said on that tumultuous night when he silenced the wild storm at sea and brought serenity to the world around him with the simple words, “Quiet! Be still.”

Artwork is by Jef Murray ( Lorraine Murray’s latest book is a comical mystery, “Death Dons a Mask,” the third in a series. Readers may contact the Murrays at