Once when I visited the Everglades, I walked a boardwalk into a swampy part of the park. The walk was about a 1/4 mile long and I walked it three times in succession. Each time I walked around the boardwalk, I saw a little more. Each time I looked into the dense grass and trees, I saw nests and wildlife that I hadn’t seen before! If I had just gone through the boardwalk once I would have missed a great deal. Lent is a time to look closely at our lives - not to do so risks getting caught up in the worldly culture of power, greed, and ego without even realizing it. A culture that guarantees ultimate disappointment and disillusionment. God invites us to a life well worth living but His invitation, like any invitation, demands a response. Lent is an invitation for us to once again look within and see how we have changed over the past year. God is the constant in our lives and we are the ones constantly changing. And it is by looking at our lives that we understand how that change is affecting us. We see how much God loves us and we see how much we can love God. In one of the Lenten Gospels we hear Jesus was called into the desert to pray. What calls us to pray?? What keeps us from praying?? Recently, I visited a young man who is homebound due to depression and anxiety. In the course of our discussion he told me he was brought up as an atheist and that he didn’t know much about God… so we talked some about scripture. As I was leaving, I told him I would pray for him AND I asked him if he would pray for me. He looked at me in surprise and said “oh I don’t think God would listen to me.” I said you’re just the person God would love to hear from!!! I wish you could have seen the smile on his face!!! God wants to hear us and be in relationship with ALL OF US - that is the covenant God has with us. May the blessings of Lent be upon you. Deacon Tom___________________________________________________________________________
BY PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS OR FAMILY MEMBERS
A Eulogy Given by Mary Kate Arend for Her Brother.
As Mary Kate says in her eulogy: ". As I have struggled to make sense out of all the suffering Mark endured in his lifetime, I have been stunned by the realization of what goodness and holiness grew out of that suffering. " and " Mark’s unshakable faith allowed him to understand and accept that his 41 years of suffering were not meaningless, but in fact held great value. His suffering had brought him face to face with our Suffering Savior. May we, like Mark, allow God to work through our struggles and suffering to draw us to Himself."
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 9:57-62 by Dash, a person living in recovery with a mental illness. Written of the Feast of St Francis
Dash writes the following in his reflection that Jesus is on the side of the poor. If we look further to the oppressed and persecuted and those who are routinely stigmatized and misunderstood-Jesus is on our side......As a general rule of thumb,follow me, means do the next right thing. This could mean taking your next dosage of medication. And that seriously counts and is righteous. When we begin the day or the moment with quiet and prayer and ask the God the Father to send us the Holly Spirit, the Holy Spirit will prompt our actions toward following Christ. If ethics are at issue, pray to God or the Blessed Mother or your favorite saint for the grace to understand the ethical point of view.....All we can do my brothers and sisters living in recovery with a mental illness, is cooperate with the grace we are given. If we do this, we will have eternal life and live as Saint among the Saints in Heaven.
A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 by Dash, a person living in recovery with a mental illness.
Dash writes about always being connected to God even when our illness gets us down "Apart from God we are but a branch broken apart from a Vine. The Vine is God and God is the creator. The Vine can live apart from the branch. But, the branch cannot live apart from the Vine (John 15:1)."
A Reflection on The Way Of The Cross by Dash, a person living in recovery with a mental illness.
Dash writes about "life being life and a mental illness being a mental illness, you may often be tempted, to “go it alone.” Just cut yourself off and walk away from humanity. And, further, a mental illness being a mental illness, you may be tempted to turn your back on the Lord. Now, I used to fall for that but I found the hard way: if I worship a false God, let us say my anger infused ego, I will break the first of The Ten Commandments found in the Hebrew Scripture and I will suffer an amount depending upon how much I worship the false idol." .... for the full reflection -
New Website for Catholic Parish Resources
National Catholic Reporter Interview on Recovery Model and the Catholic Church
The National Catholic Reporter did an interview with Deacon Tom Lambert, from the Archdiocese of Chicago's Commission on Mental Illness, Jan Benton from the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, Archbishop Wenski from Miami and several mental health professionals about how the Church can be a key component in the recovery model for helping people with mental illnesses. To view the article click on: National Catholic Reporter article "Catholic church can aid treatment of mental illness"___________________________________________________________________________
OUTREACH TO FAMILIES OF THOSE WHO DIED BY SUICIDE
Catholic Social Teaching and Mental Illness
The following is written by Mair Moran who recently completed her training in pastoral ministry for the Diocese of Oakland, California. She tells a compelling story on why we as church are called to reach out to people with mental illness and their families from both a real life situation and our Catholic social teaching. Thank you Mair for sharing this with us.Catholic Social Teaching and Mental Illness by Mair Moran ____________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________
THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK ON MENTAL ILLNESS
The National Catholic Partnership on Disability sets forth the following framework as a guide to the Church's ministry for and with people with mental illness:
HUMAN LIFE IS SACRED. EVERY PERSON IS CREATED IN GOD'S IMAGE.
"One of the fundamental truths of Christian belief is that each human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). The Catholic Church unconditionally embraces and faithfully proclaims this truth. It is the foundation for human dignity. Our commitment to this truth is measured through actions on behalf of the vulnerable and alienated in society, especially the poor and suffering."Ā¯ Affirming the Dignity of the Mentally Ill, Nebraska Bishop' s Conference, January 2005
SINCE ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, THEIR DIGNITY AND WORTH CANNOT BE DIMINISHED BY ANY CONDITION INCLUDING MENTAL ILLNESS.
"Whoever suffers from mental illness 'always'Ā bears God's image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they 'always' have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such." Pope John Paul II, International Conference for Health Care Workers, on Illnesses of the Human Mind, November 30, 1996
SUFFERING IS REDEMPTIVE WHEN UNITED TO CHRIST.
"Those who share in the sufferings of Christ are also called, through their own sufferings, to share in (eschatological) glory." ¯ Salvifices Doloris, p22, Apostolic Letter from JohnPaul II, July 15, 1999
WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.
"The great strength of community is the uniqueness and giftedness of each member. The more each person uses their gifts, the stronger the community and the richer the relationships in that community. People are liberated if and when they use their gifts. People are imprisoned when they are prohibited or not enabled to use their gifts. Parishes are communities with great potential to receive and nurture the giftedness of people with disability. The Christian community is one in which all people can claim an equal place and contribute through presence and action."¯ A pastoral document for parishes, Bishop's Committee For The Family And For Life, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 2004
"It is everyone's duty to make an active response; our actions must show that mental illness does not create insurmountable distances, nor prevent relations of true Christian charity with those who are its victims. Indeed it should inspire a particularly attentive attitude..." Pope John Paul II, International Conference for Health Care Workers, on Illnesses of the Human Mind, February 11, 1984
THE WORD OF GOD AFFIRMS THE DIGNITY OF ALL PEOPLE. INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE SHOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH THE CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF MENTAL ILLNESS.
"..To interpret sacred scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. In order to discover the sacred author's intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current"Ā¯ Catechism of the Catholic Church #109, 110