Sometimes it is good to simply share words of inspiration without interpretation. I found a little book filled with some of Blessed Pope John 23rd’s reflections. Here are a few. The book is titled, A Joyful Soul. Enjoy. Then maybe buy the little book and add it to your collection.
The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1
According to Fr. James Martin, Thomas Merton was chronically negative, had expectations that were often unrealistic, and was once suicidal. Do you recognize those symptoms and traits? They are classic depressive ones. In spite of this, Thomas Merton positively influenced thousands of people through his writings. Our pains can be the source of our gifts to others, if we choose to use them in such a way.
Here is a prayer by Thomas Merton and a short u-tube biographical video by Fr. James Martin.
“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” - Thomas Merton
A mini-biography by Fr. Martin that he posted last week on his Facebook page. http://vimeo.com/24498355
There is much controversy about whether Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta experienced episodes of depression. Much of this comes from a misunderstanding about the difference between the dark nights in prayer and depression. It also comes from a misunderstanding about the nature of depression.
Suffice to say, if Saints Ignatius Loyola, Frances de Chantal, Therese Lisieux, and Elizabeth Seton struggled with episodes of depression there is no need to assume that because of her blessedness Mother Teresa did not.
Depression comes in episodes. Some are brief. Some are long. Some are mild. Some are severe. Some are mixed with God’s consolations. Some also can be mixed with a dark night in prayer.
Knowing this, reflect on these words of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta from the perspective that God is not in the sometimes seemingly far lands of cure.
“Don’t search for God in far lands – He is not there. He is close to you. He is with you. Just keep the lamp burning and you will always see Him. Watch and pray. Keep kindling the lamp and you will see His love and you will see how sweet is the Lord you love.”
How much of our lives have been spent regretting our past? We engage in countless analyses about what we did wrong, what others did to hurt us, and how life has treated us badly. We can live back there, you know.
Traditional psychology doesn’t help the matter with its emphasis on “going deep” into our pain and into our pasts in order to find— whatever a person is supposed to find there.
Truth be known, there are only three things we find in the past. Good things to enjoy, bad things to be angry or depressed about, and sinful things to feel guilty about or regret. It is our choice what we focus on.
God creates each morning new for us. Each new day has new opportunities to use wisely.
Lo, I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth.The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create.Isaiah 65:17-18
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.” Abraham Lincoln
Most people are familiar with the fact that Abraham Lincoln suffered a very serious depressive illness. Multiple periods during his life he contemplated suicide, going so far as to take walks in the woods with a gun. Today, he would have been hospitalized more than once and put on an interminable amount of medications. He most likely would have even been a candidate for deep brain stimulation.
Yet, through the struggle itself Abraham Lincoln developed virtues that we also can aspire too: a realistic faith, fortitude, perseverance, courage, and a dogged stubbornness that makes it impossible to be influenced away from a just cause.
On a different note, the culture of the time (the 1800’s) serves as an example for those without the illness. Back then depression was not considered a matter of weakness. It was believed to be an inherent state and one that could build character. Those who struggled with it were assisted to live to the best of their potential and many times were considered more than qualified for positions of responsibility because of their struggle with the illness.
Even those with the most serious of depressive illnesses can do great things with the support of a believing community, even if those great things are participating in the life of a parish and raising a family well.
Here is a lengthier recounting of Abraham Lincoln’s life. It will leave no doubt about the severity of his illness and the heroism of his personal life that fueled his heroism in public life.