Desolation, Robin Williams and St. Ignatius

Desolation is the feeling that nothing matters, nothing can ever be set right again. God has no redemptive power and the world is meaningless. Desolation is the great abyss and Ignatius knew that we will all face it.

Sometimes desolation is so severe that it takes over our minds to the point that we cannot push it away. We need others during these times to remind us of the light, to remind us of our consolations. Ignatius reminds us that during our consoling moments we should really relish them, to prepare ourselves for desolation.

As one Jesuit, quipped, “He must have been a joy to live in community with!”

But Ignatius wasn’t being a killjoy. He’s on the mark when he claims that consolation is the only thing that helps us avoid desolation. God points and pushes us towards our consolations, those times we were really feeling alive and charged with the power of God’s creative energy in our lives.

Robin Williams somehow lost sight of that consolation–be it because of biological chemical imbalances, addictions or simply hopelessness that springs from any variety of factors, consolation eluded him and led him into the darkness of despair.

We know that when it comes to suicide, that people aren’t in control of their actions. The finality of suicide is not realized by the one in too much pain to see clearly. God now redeems the suffering that they could not face, could not get past. Cradling the hurt one in His arms God entrusts mercy and redemption to those most in need.

I think it’s a bit like this:

I wish that Robin Williams, who often made me laugh, cry and resonate with his characters deeply could have been embraced by another in the same way he did here in this movie.

The older I get, the more I realize that evil does exist in the world and it longs to keep consolation at bay. To make the problems we face irredeemable and everything ultimately “our fault.” Ignatius knew that evil’s power was enough to drive any one of us to suicide, if we but allow that call to embed in our consciousness too deeply.

It’s tough for individuals who suffer from mental illness to sometimes rely solely on self-care. Especially, when medication is something they need and they cannot bring themselves to find chemical therapy palatable. Some enjoy mania so much that they refuse meds. Others wallow in depression so deeply, that they don’t believe meds can help, because in their mind nothing can cure them. This is evil’s big hand and the deck is stacked and it becomes up to communities to care immensely for those most in harm’s way. We, as community, need to take on suicide like a prize fighter behind on the cards with only a round or two left. We need to come out swinging.

And we need to point people towards consolation. As a spiritual director, it is all too easy for people to throw all their consolations away when they head towards desolation. And that’s just “headed” towards desolation. When one is actually in desolation, those consolations are not just thrown away, they become illusions, just a ruse, not even consoling anymore. My job is awaken people to their own truth of being in union with God in the precious times of their life and to remind them that a loving God is not far off and if we but look for God, even in the rough times, desolation is sure to subside and consolation will allow us to lift the sun back up into the air for a final day of summer–or perhaps the truth is that even in the rain, one can find something beautiful.

We need to help others discover consolation and desolation and the circuitous path we find on the way towards these extremes. Most of the time, I don’t lean one way or the other, rather I find myself not in complete consolation, but also not close to desolation even though I hear it’s call. Like when I do something great at work I can feel good about my achievement, but then I can hear the negative “Well, it wasn’t all that good.” Get behind me, Satan! I will not let you talk me out of owning my achievement. I will look self-critically, smoothing rough edges at times, and I know mistakes will be made, but that doesn’t mean that my mistakes and flaws own me and capture me in desolation’s grip. For those with chemical imbalances that work hard to find a good balance of meds along with talk therapy, you will simply need help in finding this balance. A good therapist, group therapy or support groups are essential, not optional. Those fighting addictions need 12 step programs, detox and rehab. One day at a time is still another day sober and we cannot rush into years of sobriety–it takes work. For those of us who drift into milder depressions from time to time, a good therapist or even a spiritual director can help us find our way back to the border line.

The truth is that we probably all need a little help (a lot?). And we need to take it. For some, all the help in the world is not enough. Evil has used desolation to keep them hopeless. Our prayers tonight are for people who have given up trying to find help, that they may find it and be healthy again, embraced by God’s love.

Amen.

If you are someone who a feeling depressed or anxious, please know there is help. If you’re on campus the counseling center, campus ministry and a host of others are there to help or call Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255.

NYS Bishops on Care for the Mentally Ill: “Our Duty Is to Welcome Them with Openness and Affection”

In 1980, New York State decided to take a look at how the mentally ill were being treated in society. They found some horrifying news as they looked at the state psychiatric hospitals. All it took for one to be “committed” to a state run psychiatric institution was the signatures of two psychiatrists. Obviously that system was abused and many people suffered because of it.

They decided to reform the law and they released many people from these institutions without much of a community-based plan to assist and care for them.

34 years later, the mentally ill still need attention. The stigma of mental illness still exists in society and we often deem people with mental illness as dangerous and unstable.

The truth is that “one in four adults, some 61.5 million people suffer from some form of mental illness.” For some, talk therapy with a psychologist is enough treatment needed to bring them back up to the borderline of good mental health. For others, medication is needed to correct a chemical imbalance. In either case, treatment works and is desperately needed. It is a serious community issue that needs community-based health care workers and much commitment to help people care for themselves and to seek whatever treatment might be necessary.

I am proud to say that our New York State Catholic Bishops have taken up this cause with a pastoral letter called “For I am Lonely and Afflicted” that I encourage you to all read in its entirety. They wrote a similar letter in 1980 and I am glad that they have re-affirmed this as a social justice issue for all Catholics to be aware.

Here’s a highlight that I found both touching and challenging for all of us:

“…with regard to developing “attitudes of acceptance and compassion” in our Catholic population. Let us be clear, it is our duty and the duty of every pastor, every chaplain, every religious education director and Catholic school principal, and all others in positions of Church leadership at every level to welcome with openness and affection those men, women and children who are afflicted with any form of mental illness and to integrate them into the life of the Church to the fullest extent possible.

Furthermore, all Catholics are called to be welcoming of this population in their churches, schools and communities. We must ask ourselves, have we always been as charitable as can be when we encounter those with mental illness? Have we sought to include them and make them feel welcome? Have we avoided the temptation to shun those who are different? Have we been open to residential housing or community mental health centers in our neighborhoods? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then we must again look to the example of Jesus given to us in the Gospels, repent for when we have failed, and resolve going forward to mirror His love and mercy for all God’s children.”

This is a call to all of us to ask “What are we doing for those with mental health diagnoses in our parishes, campuses, hospitals and neighborhoods?” How might we lobby as Catholics for greater care for those with mental illness? How might Jesus be calling us to stretch our hearts just a bit farther to care for those who may desperately need help and for those who have sought treatment and find themselves still ostracized by society?

I know quite a few people who have faced these issues either personally, or because they know someone with mental illness. Mental illness is no different chemically, than having a cholesterol imbalance that needs medication to regulate it. Treated properly, most people live rather normal lives with few, if any, issues surfacing. Gone untreated, severe problems occur that often go beyond the individual and can effect whole communities.

We need to be open, more open, to people with mental illnesses. We need to work with our communities in order to help people get treatment that they need. At Canisius, we work closely with our counseling center and have set up several days where they use our conference room for screenings for depression and anxiety. We’ve walked students at risk over to the counseling center and have been met there by caring and wonderful people who do life-changing work for so many people. The pastoral letter points out that “About 20 percent of youth experience severe mental disorders in a given year.” I would suspect that number is higher on any college campus.

As a spiritual director, I often refer people when I notice the signs of mental illness, most often depression. I’m glad that younger people are a bit more open to professional counseling and the need for medication when it warrants it. I hope that trend continues because we need to Stop the Stigma of mental illness in our society.

Today let us be grateful to our Bishops, in this case, those in my home state. Bishop Malone is my own Bishop here in Buffalo and I’m proud to call him a friend and also proud that he is but one of the authors of this document along with his brother bishops and the staff of many at Catholic Charities who know all too well, the need for the stigma to end and for community-based mental health care.

So today, let us pray for those with mental illness, that they may be able to receive the treatment that they need. Let us pray for those who care for those who have mental health diagnoses that they might be good advocates and be patient during the tough times. And let’s pray for each one of us, that we might have the courage to stand with those who are most often ostracized in society, to call for greater care and a greater need for quality intervention, when others cannot speak for themselves and need care. Let us greet these people with love and with dignity. As the Bishops point out, this is what Jesus did. And so let me close with the words of the psalmist:

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart;
and free me from my anguish.
(PS 25: 16-17)

Can We Heal Wounds?

When the horror of September 11th came upon the United States my friends with children fought vigorously to keep their children away from the television screen. Others even fought to keep themselves away from the images we know all too well from that day. Many wondered what to tell their kids when they returned home from school and some even hoped that their teachers hadn’t spilled the beans.

I wondered to myself if this were a healthy approach? It makes sense that we don’t want people, never mind children to be exposed to horrible images that could have traumatic effects on their psyche. But what about telling them about what happened? It seems that many of my friends tried to seal the information from their kids for at least some time, usually before one of their friends remarked about the dreadful news.

I started to think about other things that people don’t tell their kids because they don’t want them to worry. Finances are hard. Mom’s got cancer. There was an accident. Your dog went to heaven. It seems anything that is bad is taboo for children at times and people only tell them things that they need to, only when absolutely necessary.

Slate had a great article today that got me thinking about this. They claim three real reasons that college students (and the rest of us, they claim) are more stressed out than ever before. I’ll riff on each here and add a fourth that stems from them and will add some thoughts about what I see amongst my own students and colleagues.

The first is a lack of community. One colleague of mine said: “I knew there was trouble when I found two student residents in their room arguing with one another–but they weren’t yelling at each other, they were TEXTING and IMing while in the same room! I put a stop to that and made them hash it out.”

Human contact and kinship help alleviate anxiety (our evolutionary ancestors, of course, were always safer in numbers), yet as we leave family behind to migrate all over the country, often settling in insular suburbs where our closest pal is our plasma-screen TV, we miss out on this all-important element of in-person connection. As fear researcher Michael Davis of Emory University told me: “If you’ve lost the extended family and lost the sense of community, you’re going to have fewer people you can depend on, and therefore you’ll be more anxious. Other cultures have much more social support and are better off psychologically because of it.” Another factor that adds to this problem—especially among young people—is our growing reliance on texting and social media for community, which many psychologists say is no substitute for real human interaction. When you’re feeling most dreadful, you don’t run to your Facebook profile for consolation; you run to a flesh-and-blood friend.

I think about my own students with this one. One of the most popular clubs on campus is our Christian Life Communities, a weekly prayer group of sorts that invites people to do a short form of the Ignatian examen in community. We discuss the highs and lows of the week and provide a meditation and a time for affirmations and prayer requests. It’s one of the times in my week that I feel I can really connect with our students and I start to hear just what people are carrying around with them. This is safe space and sometimes when I hear what people are dealing with I’m surprised they are walking and talking, never mind getting a degree. I feel the same way about the students I’ve seen in spiritual direction. And I often feel that they are unprepared for all that life is offering them and impressed that somehow they are still able to function at such high levels.

Professionally, I notice the texting more amongst outside younger colleagues than amongst my students at Canisius. I communicate with many people via text. And sometimes it’s inappropriate. There are some who try to conduct business via text when it would be faster and easier to call and have a conversation. Indeed texting is somehow more efficient but then again, it can lead to problems. My staff does this well. We text when necessary. When we need to get a message to someone quickly and think they are in a meeting or can’t talk. Or when the message is a quick one that requires some kind of action “Can you grab cider for the meeting?” would be an example.

The second is information overload which I discuss at length in my book, Googling God. There’s so much information out there that you can’t possibly consume it all. Our students often ask for bullet points and other quick soundbytes of information and I often give it to them because they just don’t need one more thing to read and information is bombarding them at high rates all the time. I don’t ever not recommend reading and I give them plenty to chew on when I think there’s a book or an article that is worth their time, but I also try to encourage that there’s not a rush to consume this information–to savor the reading process and to enjoy reading and gaining information. I often feel that college would be more enjoyable if we just let students finish when they finish. Now that’s an impossible business model to sustain, but from my own perspective I was able to work and do two graduate classes per semester and I enjoyed that immensely. I found it difficult to take 5 undergraduate classes and hold all that information together while working at the radio station and socializing and all of my campus ministry involvement.

I find my present students are great at balancing their time. Many are involved in much and have heavy duty science majors or are working on a big time business degree. I never knew how the medical students kept up at UB and the pre-meds are just as impressive at Canisius. But I do notice their anxiety. I do notice that it is not easy for them. And I do see them when they get overwhelmed by their to-do lists and the pressure of being good students and having a social life and trying to figure out what they would most like to be and do with their lives.

Some are brilliant: They’ve realized that they are never going to know everything that someone else thinks they should know. It took me years to get that idea through my thick skull.

Finally here’s the last major point:

Put simply, Americans have developed habits for dealing with anxiety and stress that actually make them far worse. We vilify our aversive emotions and fight them, rather than letting them run their own course. We avoid situations that make us nervous. We try to bury uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and stress with alcohol or entertainment or shopping sprees. Psychologist Steven Hayes, creator of a highly effective anxiety treatment formula called acceptance and commitment therapy, told me that we’ve fallen victim to “feel-goodism,” the false idea that “bad” feelings ought to be annihilated, controlled, or erased by a pill. This intolerance toward emotional pain puts us at loggerheads with a basic truth about being human: Sometimes we just feel bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that—which is why struggling too hard to control our anxiety and stress only makes things more difficult.

Amen! We protect ourselves way too much. And we protect others from our sadness and what we perceive is their sadness way too much.

Interestingly enough, comedian Louis CK hits the nail on the head with this: (warning: vulgar at times).

Perhaps our call is not to remove our student’s sadness or stress, but to help them more appropriately deal with that. We often do this in community on retreats, prayer groups, spiritual direction and on more than a few occasions by collaborating with our counseling center.

Our students need us and more importantly, they need community, they need time to chill to detox from information and they need to share their fears in a safe space where they can actually feel their emotions and be supported by peers and ministers.

In a world that is marked by terrorism all too often, anxiety is ever present globally and we have fewer resources to turn to because everyone is so busy that we have a hard time paying attention to those who need us. Older Americans might note that they were afraid of the Russians or of the bomb–but their community structure was much more intertwined with one another than our students’ lives are today.

This is our call as higher ed professionals and as Catholic Campus Ministers. As Pope Francis put it in the recent interview in America Magazine:

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

Heal the wounds… the wounds that are felt deeply and all too easily pushed away. Help people to feel their wounds and then to not be afraid to place your hands in the wounds of Jesus, like Thomas and allow the healing that God has to offer to take place through you, even in small and simple ways. This is ministry.

And it is where we always encounter God waiting for us and asking us to heal wounds.

Concealed on Campus

From this morning’s NY Times:

For more than 30 years, the University of Colorado has enforced a sensible policy banning guns from its campuses. The ban worked well until March, when the State Supreme Court agreed with a student’s complaint that it violated a state law allowing citizens with “concealed-
carry” permits to carry guns in public places.

This has left the university resorting to a new twist on its in loco parentis responsibilities — designating segregated housing this fall for students with gun permits. Gun-toting students 21 or older will be assigned to special housing on the Boulder and Colorado Springs campuses, where they must have safes to store their weapons when they are not carrying them. Or they can check them with the local police, Dodge City style. They will not be able to live in dormitories with younger students, but they will be allowed to carry their weapons around to classes or anywhere else, except to certain sports and cultural events.

This is true for students at all other public campuses in the state. No one knows how many might go packing in college halls, though estimates run into the hundreds.

OK, this is insane! How much more dangerous did they just make this campus? Who knows anything about the student with a gun permit? Does the student have a clean bill of mental health? How long and what kind of record does the student have concerning the use of his gun?

I understand that some will say that a student carrying can stop another student who tries to shoot up the campus but in the recent case of the movie theatre in that same state, that would have done no good as the perpetrator in question was basically clothed in armor! Someone carrying would probably have done MORE harm than good.

And I believe that’s the case in most scenarios here. What happens when some little kid visits his big brother and finds a gun in someone’s room? What happens when a drunk comes home and starts firing the gun in anger or pointing it at someone else in his stupor. Someone on a bad trip and they hallucinate? College students often do dumb and dangerous things like that, but this time the administration just did something 1000 times stupider.

Prayers for the Vatican Staff

At the Vatican today a man is threatening to jump off of the dome! How he got up there in the first place is a question I’d like to ask.

Vatican security is trying to talk him down. The networks will steer clear of live coverage in case of the worst scenario. So please pray for the person up there that he might know of the care being shown to him and that he might be talked down.

O Lord, hear our prayer.

Taking Sleep for Granted

So now it can be told, I started working out again just before Lent started. I’m down roughly 13 pounds even with being inconsistent with workouts because of Alternative Spring Break (I missed a week and then the trainer was out of town the following week). I’ve added a lot of muscle and dropped a good deal of fat.

I’ve been getting up early to workout at either 6:30AM or 8:00AM. I’ve changed my diet slowly but it’s much better than it was–I still have a long way to go there. My shoulders are pinning back further. People have noticed the weight dropping. One of the UB coaches said the other day, “Dude, you’re looking real good. Keep it up.” Motivation is everything.

But then about two weeks in, I was waking up in the middle of the night (about 3 times a night) with a horrible case of dry mouth. I mean literally, it was like someone took a wet vac and sucked all the moisture out of my mouth. I thought maybe my body wasn’t producing enough saliva. I tried some biotene (a saliva producing agent. It relieved the dry mouth but it would come back again in about half an hour. One day after a workout, I literally couldn’t form words until I got some water.

Then I started falling asleep. At like 2 in the afternoon. One of my colleagues found me sound asleep at my desk one day and was alarmed. I’d be home and would sit on the couch and would fall asleep in the middle of my favorite TV show. Ugh. Horrible. I had to get things done quickly or I’d forget to do them because I’d fall asleep and wake up and not remember that I hadn’t done it. I nearly missed an important appointment one day because I woke up 20 minutes before I had to be there.

I suspected diabetes. My sister and mother have it. I had a good deal of the signs. But a check of my sugar levels were normal. My doctor asked me to call my wife while we were in the office. We asked her if I had been snoring. I knew the answer.

“Oh yeah!” And it was more frequent in the past few weeks.

Sleep apnea. So off to the sleep center for a study. I tried a CPAP mask on for the first time and they have to monitor me so you see all those ledes all over my face (there were some on my shoulders and legs too. Surprisingly, I slept fine. I woke up once to go to the bathroom and I have no idea what time it was. I returned to sleep and slept really soundly and was disappointed when they woke me up around 6AM.

Now I can’t wait to get the machine at home. Dozens of friends and colleagues tell me that they have had to use it as well and report great success. Losing weight actually might cure me of this–so I’m hopeful I won’t need it long term—but after the restful sleep I got last night, I’m actually looking forward to it.

So today let’s pray for those who are deprived of sleep. Whether it’s sleep apnea, mental illness, or just fear of falling asleep in a homeless shelter. We all need to rest and relax and give the body time to recharge. It’s how God designed us after all. We often pray before we go to bed (mostly that we wake up!) so tonight take some time to pray for a restful sleep as well.

Katie Makkai: Will I Be Pretty?

This is amazing. A hat tip to Lydia Moore, my colleague who supports the Catholic volunteers with Marion and I.

I know she’s speaking to women mostly here. But I really resonated with this, especially the “crestfallen, because not enough strangers found you suitable” part. I used to hate going out to the “meet markets” mostly because I need to communicate verbally and intimately for people to get to know me and perhaps find me amusing. Men too, worry if they are attractive enough. And male body image is becoming a bigger problem in our society. I notice this on Campus a lot. Males who feel the need to be shirtless often, so that others might be jealous of the “six pack abs” or the men who hit the spa to remove unwanted body hair. There are those of us who consider hair coloring the gray or getting hair transplants to cover up the baldness (bad move, being bald is awesome and low maintenance).

But in our visual society, I fear women have it far worse. And I know I’ve been part of the problem. We men all look for “the pretty girl” to date and we are conditioned to do that by a society that tells us we aren’t thin enough, attractive enough, smart enough, whatever enough. Many times thinking that we are not enough makes things even worse. We gain weight from feeling depressed. We feel the malaise and don’t continue healthy practices of exercise, not to look good but to feel good.

We forget that God has made us all amazingly enough just as we are. Accepting that is a confident statement of faith. God can love me just as I am. And it is more than enough. And it never settles for simply being pretty.

The Chasm


Barenaked Ladies has a great song called “War on Drugs” in which they discuss the Bloor Street Bridge in Toronto. It was the 2nd highest suicide site after the Golden Gate Bridge in North America. And so the city decided to build a net to catch people if they decided to jump. It took a lot of money and time to build it, and it worked, people stopped jumping at that location.

They just found another bridge up the road to jump from instead.

In hindsight, the project seemed foolhardy. People were going to jump no matter what kind of effort was made to try to prevent them. There are always going to be people that we can’t save, no matter how hard we try to do so.

So why should we try?

That question seems to be at the heart of today’s gospel. And most times, I’m seemingly like the rich man. If I reach out to someone else, doesn’t the word of my generosity get around and before I know it, I have 12 more people to care for. Priests tell me, that when they give 2 or 3 good homilies, they end up doing 20 or 30 more weddings. Our “riches”, so to speak, have the ability to make us all the more attractive to others. People resort to us for their needs when they are unable to care for their own.

And it never stops. They just keep coming and coming. I don’t get a moment’s peace. Why did I ever help anyone in the first place?

We are our own worst enemy–aren’t we?

Aren’t we supposed to care for one another? Aren’t we supposed to use our riches, our abilities, what makes us attractive and wealthy, for the betterment of not just ourselves, but for others?

It’s not that the rich man, who I really understand well, purposely ignores Lazarus, it’s that he’s indifferent.

And that indifference causes the Chasm. That eliminates that net that catches all of those who fall through the cracks.

It is that indifference that allows us to widen the spaces between you and me. Between us and the poor. Between the healthy and the unhealthy. Between the feeble old and the efficient young.

And we can’t allow that to happen.

We are all the rich man from time to time. It’s all about us and our own little world, isn’t it? And we siphon ourselves off to our own island where we need not worry about anyone else.

We call that island by a unique and unmistakable name: Hell.

And old habits are all to hard to break. That chasm grows bigger and bigger with our growing indifference. And soon there is no net big enough for us to cover our indifference with.

Until we turn to God, who opens our heart a bit more when we are able to see God in the eyes of those who turn to us. We we do unto others, as we would have them do unto us–we don’t treat people as commodity. We treat others in the way that we’d like them to treat us.

So this week, how might we close the chasm a bit more? How might we reach out to catch another when they fall? Is there someone who needs a bit of cheering up or picking up? Did a friend fail a test or get fired from work or break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend?

We are called to reflect and react. May this week bring you to reach out to another and may others be inspired to catch you each time you fall as well.

Her Homeless Brother

Ashley Womble is writing a memoir on Salon and this piece about her homeless brother will resonate with anyone who has experience working with homeless people with mental illness.

“Do you consider yourself homeless?” I asked.

“Oh, yes!” he answered proudly. I wondered if the constant motion of wandering from town to town, never knowing where he would sleep or eat next, helped quiet the voices he heard. If it was his own kind of medication, and if so, could I really tell him that was the wrong way to live?

When the food arrived, Jay dug into the chips with his grubby hands. As he lectured me about the New World Order, I thought about little specks of dirt flying off of his fingers and onto the salted chips. “You can have some of this,” he motioned to the chile con queso. I had a choice at that moment: I could ignore the gross factor and eat with my brother — insanity, filth and all— or I could keep my hands clean and preserve the distance that had grown between us. I went for the chips.

We’re taught as Catholics to go beyond all those usual boundaries to care for the poor and homeless. However, sometimes people just don’t can’t receive the help that they need because they refuse the medication that will remove their psychosis. It’s a tough thing to let go. But there aren’t many other choices. It’s a waiting game, waiting for the day that they sink into a depression so low that they would rather reach out than be in that painful state. Coming down from mania takes a long time when one goes unmedicated and it’s tough to sit and do nothing.

A homeless man who I’ll call “Tom” that I met doing work at a shelter in New York spoke of a brother. I looked at him strangely and said, “Um, hold on, you have a FAMILY? Why don’t you just go live with them?”

He replied tersely, “Well, I tried. But I can’t deal with being indoors anymore. I’d rather be on the streets.” Another would refuse meds staying in a jumble of confused thoughts and paranoia.

I was no help to either.

I pray for these all the time and hope that they find safe shelter, food and can one day “deal with” simply being indoors.

Dorothy Day once said “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

Each one of us, whether homeless, or those who wish to serve them, need that inner revolution–a heart that is committed to change and often one might be able to cause a revolution in another by helping them see that their choices are not healthy–but when it comes to mental illness, one committed to helping another may need to wait for a different kind of conversion, indeed, a conversion that may never come. This conversion deals with unbalanced chemicals in the brain the we cannot make aright by the sheer force of the will.

So today, lads, let us pray for all those who are homeless not by choice, but by the inability to control their own brain chemistry. We pray for those whose mental instabilities cause them to choose homelessness and distorted thoughts. Let us pray for our own helplessness and for our own stresses when we are not received as helpers. We pray that someone, somewhere may help them and that their help may be accepted when ours is not. We pray that evil does not take advantage of their vulnerability and that justice can be done when it is called for.

And most of all, let us pray that all may be united with those who are alienated from their friends, families and all those who love them.

In Gratitude for Recovery from Illness…

Fran, over at <a href=”http://stedwardsblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/where-ive-been.html”>St Edward’s Blog writes today after a serious illness landed her in the hospital in need of relinquishing one gallbladder. Her thoughts on the gratitude of not merely recovering but of the gift of awareness throughout her procedure (which included several complications) simply amazes me.

In any event, I did not eat for 11 days and I lost a whopping 5 lbs, most of it muscle mass from laying in that hospital bed. Great. Despite daily walks around the floor and my use of the Voldyne 5000 (sounds scary!), I still had some minor fluid and lung collapse to deal with. That is almost all better now and I remain as full of hot air as ever. (As is evidenced here!)

Frankly the whole thing is really a gift. Aside from the part that I could have become more seriously impaired or died, I have had some good lessons. Not lessons in that “nyah-nyah be a good girl and do it right next time” way, although a little of that, but mostly in the gifts of surrender, humility and interdependence.

As many of you know, my mother has dealt with illness most of her life. Recovery is not always easy and I had the opportunity to write about one of her more serious issues back when the Clint Eastwood epic Million Dollar Baby came out and how my father really went the extra mile for her on BustedHalo.com. Bill McGarvey, our respected editor always said he thought it was the best thing I have ever written.

A snip from the start of the article:

“Please kill me. I don’t want this anymore. Please kill me.”

Three years ago, just a few weeks after my wedding, my 74-year-old mother spoke those haunting words to my father while she struggled to recover from a risky surgical procedure to repair her colon. Doctors had only given her a 25% chance of surviving and after the surgery, her recovery was slow and depression loomed large. She spent her days in anxiety and tears while my father watched her lose her will to live. Still, he traveled every day to be by her side. He slept little and worried much.

You can read the rest here:

Recovery is never easy. We need teams of people to help others get back to fighting condition and many times people don’t have that kind of support.

In gratitude for those that have been support for others, today we pray.

And for those who have nobody to support them, may they know that God is able to be all that they need.

And for Fran, who blogs away despite gallbladders and complications. We are glad you are well again.