Father Eugene Hemrick

My mind was going in a hundred different directions as I read the morning paper: Will there be enough votes for the candidates President Barack Obama nominated to his cabinet? Did Lance Armstrong come clean about doping? Who was responsible for the recent bombing in Syria that killed college students?

These questions and others confronted me on the front page of The Washington Post. As I continued to page through it, more questions arose, leaving me on edge at times, happy at others and indifferent about less important issues.

When we reflect on all that bombards us during the day, it is very difficult to maintain composure. What exactly is composure and how does it empower us to calmly meet the day?

Father Romano Guardini, a theologian, explained the difference between composure and silence. “Silence overcomes noise and talk; composure is the victory over distractions and unrest. Silence is the quiet of a person who could be talking; composure is the vital, dynamic unity of an individual who could be divided by his surroundings, tossed to and fro by the myriad happenings of every day.”

In this description of composure, we learn that it is at the heart of our inner unity, being one within our inner self and having it all pulled together. It fends off what threatens our peace of mind and our powers of concentration.

Composure encourages us to reflect on where our day has taken us and on what things we have focused on the most. It raises the question, Were there any moments in which we truly enjoyed peace of mind and were at one with ourself?

More importantly, during a harried day, did we ever try to balance its rush with moments of composure in which we shut out distractions, went inside ourselves and enjoyed an inner sense of unity?

In Italian, we have the expression “faro atto di presenza,” to perform the act of being present, to be “all there” in touch with our thoughts, feelings and actions; in other words, to be composed.

When national catastrophes happen, it is a practice to stop for a minute of silence out of respect for those caught up in them. As we do this for others, composure would encourage us to periodically stop everything we are doing out of respect for our mental, physical and spiritual life.

If practiced on a regular basis, it promises a greater probability of many things: enjoying our meals more fully, sleeping more peacefully and accomplishing work more effectively.

Like all victories, capturing composure requires us to battle against being swept along with a crowd going in all directions at once.