There will be a bazillion blog posts this week about Holy Week, the Triduum, and the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus in our lives. Unlike other years, this year I feel a strong desire to take the week off. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. Lord knows I always have something to say. But, a little voice inside me has been nagging my conscience for the last two weeks about the fact that I haven’t been listening, really listening, to God. I’ve been too caught up in life’s whirlwind of activity and stresses.
So this year I won’t be joining the cacophony of Holy Week commenting. I’m going to fulfill my obligations here, bake Easter breads, and spend the rest of my time in quiet reflection, a retreat at home.
It’s Holy Week. Aren’t we all supposed to do that in one form or another?
Have a blessed Triduum and Easter!
We live in a world of copyrights and trademarks, ownership and those who wish to own. Try talking to someone about adding, supplementing, or modifying a pet project or worse, established program and you will see how quickly the little neck hairs raise. Near and dear to us are our things, ideas, and routines.
“May I borrow that shirt?” “OK, but be really, really careful with it. It’s my favorite shirt. If anything happened to it I don’t know what I’d do.” — Would you actually borrow it after that speech?
“What do you mean your idea? That was my idea.”
And then there was my mother’s favorite saying. “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own!”
I of course am also not immune to possessiveness. These blog posts aside I haven’t even picked up a pen in 16 months for fear another soul-poured work would be taken from me. Hear the ‘me’ in that sentence?
The truth is that nothing is truly ours be it our ideas, creations, possessions; even our children and our very lives are not our own. Once you really get that deep down very little bothers you. Very little hurts the ego. You cling less, fear less, let go more, and as a general rule you become more flexible as you bop through life.
Now I don’t know about you but I certainly will not become ‘perfect’ by selling all my possessions, giving the proceeds to the poor, and then wandering around like St. Francis of Assisi. However, I do intend to pick up my pen again.
How about you? Can you let go and start fresh, un-possessed?
Watching other people seem so on fire with the Holy Spirit can be disheartening if you are depressed or otherwise emotionally struggling. What is worse is when you are told that if you had Jesus in your heart you would feel this fire. In other words, if you feel miserable you must not really know Jesus. Your faith is tepid.
But feeling isn’t believing. St. Jane Frances de Chantal understood this. Cry out to God. Your faith is strong.
“God has shown me that He does not make much account of faith that comes with sentiment and emotions. This is why, though against my inclination, I never wish for sensible devotion. I do not desire it. God is enough for me. Notwithstanding my absolute misery I hope in Him, and I trust He will continue to support me so that His will may be accomplished in me. Take my feeble heart into Your hands, my true Father and Lord, and do what You see to be wisest with it.”
Selected Letters of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, www.oblates.org.
When we don’t accept our mental and emotional afflictions as part of our selves we reject our humanity and the fullness of God’s love. How can God act in His healing love if we pretend to be who we are not or say we don’t need Him? Here are some of the ways our lack of self-acceptance is manifested when we have a mental health condition.
- We hate our selves as we think God hates us.
- We resent the health of others and in doing so resent God.
- We give up on our selves as we think God has given up on us.
- We resist getting professional help because we think we must allow ourselves to suffer in order to please God. It is quite presumptuous to think that we know our particular path to sainthood. The purifying suffering we often speak of could very well be suffering the relinquishing of our pride by seeking help. Suffering has to do with becoming more virtuous not showing ourselves, and God how strong we are.
Consider that the sins we often confess— lying, becoming angry, impatience, etc.— are often the superficial signs of these deeper things. Let’s examine our consciences carefully and participate in Lent’s call to repent. Most parishes have added opportunities for Confession. Take advantage of this added opportunity for forgiveness and spiritual healing.
By the way, here is a book designed to help us become reconciled with our selves. Making Peace with Yourself: 15 Steps to Spiritual Healing by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes.
Picture of communal confession on Commons.
Failure hurts. Be it a failed business, child gone astray, or fall from grace failure can suck the joy out of most people. After all, usually we put our heart and soul into the endeavor fully anticipating that our hard work will yield good results.
All the Saints experienced failure. Charles de Foucauld died before his dream of a religious brotherhood was realized. Francis of Assisi watched his order stray from his original intent. Elizabeth Seton’s two sons strayed from the faith. The list goes on and on.
As the Saints teach us, failure doesn’t need to throw us into the pit of self-pity, brow beating, self-recrimination, anger, or resentment. There is great opportunity in failure. It comes through discovering that self-worth doesn’t come from success. It comes from God. Once we realize that deep down devastation turns into mere temporary disappointment, fear gives way to trust, and plans turn into doing ones best then letting it go in order to savor the moment at hand.
“Good works are the most perfect when they are wrought in the most pure and sincere love of God, and with the least regard to our own present and future interests, or to joy and sweetness, consolation or praise.” —John of the Cross
Picture by LaurMG, Wikimedia Commons
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
During every mass we say these words just before we receive communion. More than once I have been asked how this can be healthy for those who struggle with depression.
After all, feelings of unworthiness have kept people in abusive relationships and caused people to succumb to the manipulations of others. It is also considered a symptom of depression.
But feeling unworthy in a psychological sense is very different from believing ourselves unworthy in a spiritual sense.
Psychology is about me. It is about my mental health and how my mental health or illness affects my relationships. Spirituality is about our relationship together—we. Thought of this way, it is not about me affecting God or God affecting me. It is about His nature and my nature together.
When we say, “I am not worthy” at mass we say it in faith that we are truly in relationship with—wow, God Himself, the One who is whole unto Himself, God alone! “The Lord our God is One, the Lord alone.” God needs no person but chooses to be in relationship with us anyway, and not just any old relationship. He who is perfectly One chooses to come under our roofs as family!
Of course we are not worthy of Him. He is God. We are human, incomplete by nature and consequently sinful (not perfect). If we believed we were worthy of Jesus in the Eucharist we would actually be saying the Eucharist is a reward rather than the perfect gift of love.
One more thing, Jesus heals our incomplete nature in our relationship with Him and not necessarily our personal minds and bodies. That’s OK. When we are in full relationship, when we “see Him face to face” we will be totally healed in soul, mind, and body.
So the next time you say, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. Only say the word and my soul shall be healed” rejoice at the goodness, generosity, and unbelievable love of God. Forget all about yourself!
This post is a modification of one that was posted two years ago. Picture taken by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedica Commons.
“Tomorrow, do I go among strangers? No. Has an anxious thought or fear passed my mind? No. Can I be disappointed? No. One sweet Sacrifice [Eucharistic] will unite my soul with all who offer it. Doubt and fear fly from the breast inhabited by Him. There can be no disappointment where the soul’s only desire and expectation is to meet His Adored Will and fulfill it.”
These are the words of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. It was June of 1808. She was about to arrive in Baltimore, Maryland after leaving her life-long home in New York. Have you ever had to give up something or someone you love, or someone for whom you are concerned all because of necessity and circumstance? A failed boarding house business and persecution from her family and community is what drove Elizabeth out of New York, not desire. We all know how this move eventually turned out— the start of the Srs. of Charity. She however could not know the future.
Moving from all that she knew including her experience of herself formed by her life in New York was done with resigned acceptance. Yes she experienced all the emotions we all experience when having to make life transitions. These are evident in her private writings. But regardless, she was resigned.
Most of us would fight such changes that are out of our control. This in turn can help set us up for a depressive episode. You can’t change reality. So read again her words and meditate on them. They may help bring you peace of heart if you are experiencing such a change or are about to, or pray these words instead. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Do with me as you have said.”
Quote from Mrs. Seton by Joseph A Dirvin, CM, Farrr, Straus, & Giroux, 1962.
Those who follow this blog may have noticed I didn’t post Tuesday as usual. I have no excuse. It was sheer lack of faith, the kind of faith that would have made me serene instead of distraught. My mother told me the event was a minor thing in life. She should know. She’s 79.
Simply put, our college junior, business finance major son found out last Friday that he didn’t get his dream summer internship in New York City. He made the final cut, a feat in itself, but no cigar. It’s hard to compete with groomed ivy leaguers when you come from New Mexico, USA.
I reacted like every good forever-at-risk for depression person would. I transformed the event into a major catastrophe and then ruminated on that catastrophe for four days. “It was his last chance. Summer is almost here and he has nothing. If he doesn’t get intern experience now he’ll never get a job after graduation. I was too lax when he was high school. Had his grades been better he would have had scholarships to one of the top ranked universities.”
What I should have done was thank the Lord for his interview experience and safe return home.
Meanwhile our ever-optimistic resilient son simply said, “Relax mom. You worry too much.” Sure enough Tuesday afternoon he e-mailed a revised resume to a terrific local opportunity. Wednesday morning he got the call for an interview. Yesterday he had his interview. Today? Well we don’t know yet.
Whether he gets the internship or not is not important. What is important is his willingness to learn from his failures and keep trying. Faith keeps trying knowing that our imperfections and the world’s imperfections don’t have to rob us of our serenity.
Whether trying to find a job or continuously battling depressive tendencies God will forever be at our side teaching us His ways. We only have to be open to the lessons.