One thing I learned from being a pilot and a flight instructor is the importance of composure. Keeping a cool head is the best way to prevent bad situations from becoming worse. Panic tends to make one impulsively “do something even if it’s wrong” or “freeze up” and do nothing at all. My father, a retired airline pilot, tells lots of flying stories. He told me of a flight crew caught in some nasty weather. Noticing that the rookie copilot was looking rather frightened and intimidated, the veteran captain said to him, “Relax, we’re either going to make it or we’re not.” They made it.
I had some of my own flying moments to contend with. I had an engine failure in a single engine airplane once (once was enough). My emergency training (and some prayer) helped me nurse the airplane to a safe landing at the airport.
Then there was the time that my twin engine airplane’s door popped open in the middle of winter. It could not be closed while in flight due to the airflow over airplane. I could not simply land immediately because we were in the clouds and had to fly an instrument approach to a nearby airport. One of my passenger’s gloves blew out the door, and I could barely hear the air traffic controllers over the noise of the wind and engines. It also got very cold very quickly. We eventually landed, closed the door and took off again.
On another occasion, I was flying in the clouds with a friend of mine when we noticed we were losing electrical power. The drive belt for the alternator was slipping leaving us only battery power for our radios and electrical instruments. When the battery went dead, we would have no navigation instruments to get us out of the clouds and to the airport. By conserving battery power we made it with little time to spare.
The spiritual application of all this is that there are some things we can control and some things we cannot. We must focus on what we can do without panic. I cannot, for example, convince everyone to be Catholic. What I can do is talk about Catholicism and live the Catholic Faith. I don’t even want to convince anyone to be Catholic, because I don’t want them to do it for my sake. I want people to be Catholic for the sake of Jesus Christ. Although I would love for everyone to have access to all the graces of Christ’s Church, the Holy Spirit must be the One to warm people’s hearts and convince them of the truth. If God can somehow use me in that process as a humble servant, so be it.
It is up to me as a Christian to model the Christian life as best I can and to be ready to give an answer to those that ask me the reason for the hope that is within me (1Peter 3:15). In the Sacrament of Confirmation I also took on the responsibility of defending the Catholic Faith. I became a knight of the Church. However, even God does not force the will of people to accept truth. I cannot expect to do so either. This is actually quite liberating. The Holy Spirit knows where people are on the journey, not me. I need not focus on being successful, only on being faithful and speaking the truth in love.