Saturday, October 11, 2008

St. Benedict Joseph Labre patron for mental troubles

"There are a great many people who believe that the canonized saints were never neurotic, never depressed, never suffered from scrupulosity, never mentally or emotionally ill. These people hold on to their belief that the saints experienced spiritual sufferings ("dark night of the soul"), had cancer, TB, heart trouble and broken' bones; but never nervous breakdowns, never shattered minds. Are these good people correct in their thinking; belief?
No; they are, in fact, very far from the actual truth as we shall presently see.

The saints were wholly and truly human, and many of them, just because they were human, had serious mental problems, psychological sufferings, such as one today might expect to find in psychiatric case histories."

(Joseph P. Laruffa, Neurosis and Sanctity.)As a matter fact, many saints suffered from Scrupulosity, Depression, Psychosis and Neurosis. We must remember that God calls us to heroic virtue and works with our broken humanness with His love and grace. As we learn from the Second Vatican Council, we are all meant to grow in holiness.

One great example is our patron St. Benedict Joseph Labre:

It was 1783, all of the bells were ringing out in the city of Rome. The children were running through the streets of Rome shouting, “The saint is dead! The saint is dead! Among these children was one later to be known for her holiness. Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, the famous wife, mother and mystic told others that she learned her Trinitarian spirituality from that great homeless pilgrim and holy man St. Benedict Joseph Labre. Our saint who was sick in body and mind most of his life, totally gave his life to God in the best way he was able. He in turn was given so much grace, internal inspirations and wisdom that people would meet St. Benedict Joseph once in their life time and never forget him. He sought after what he thought was a religious vocation but in turn God called him to a unique way of life. He embodied the suffering, betrayal and poverty of the crucified Lord himself. In short, our saint became the personification of the rejected suffering Christ.

Spiritual struggles some people have

Once we embrace our Faith and come to know Christ, we feel a desire and love to serve him. Some people feel they are called to a more religious type of a life and think that they have to run off and join a religious order. But, when a person has a diagnosed mental disorder or psychological issue embracing this type of vocation can be more harmful for them. The religious life can be very stressful because of the discipline of keeping schedules, studies, various ministry demands from this way of life. A person with a psychiatric and/or psychological issues is better living more simply. This does not mean that they can not embrace the Catholic Spirituality of their choice which their own situation allows.

Some of the difficulties they encounter: illness can disrupt their spiritual practices and prayers. They may not be able to go to Church very often. Praying for longer periods of time can be difficult too because of distractions. For some, attending large groups of people can be troublesome . Also, having a sense of peace and the experience of the God's love can be difficult. This is especially true of depression because it can rob them of a sense of hope; they can have terrible fatigue due to side effects of medication. Finally, finding a priest or spiritual director for guidance and who understands them can be almost impossible for some.

What does the Gospel teach us to do?

"Take Courage, It is I. Do Not Be Afraid"
(Mark: 6:50)
"The person is a suffering human being and although the mind and emotions are affected, "The Heart", the center of the being, is still owned by God. "
(Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel CFR)
To anyone struggling with this illness, either they have it themselves or someone they love suffers with it... we have the words of Our Lord: " Come to Me all you who are burdened and I will refresh your soul."

(Matthew 11:28)

" The message of St. Benedict Joseph Labre is:
Whoever you are, Whatever you have, give it to God with all of your heart."

(Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel CFR with the Duff's:
EWTN Arise From Darkness 1995)

A Way of Life for those with mental troubles:

(To Be Completed soon)
It is my hope that people will begin to discuss this much needed topic. I will update this blog soon. Please tell me your thoughts.
Timothy Duff, STM