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.

Rangers Reporter and Fordham’s Own John Giannone Takes Puck to the Face

Ouch watch this:

The guy’s a gamer, breaks open the bridge to his nose and does a live shot with blood dripping down his face. Now THAT’S HOCKEY.

John’s a good guy and a former colleague. I used to have him on every Saturday with Richard Neer to talk all kinds of things, but mostly hockey. He’s also a Fordham guy, so that automatically makes him cool.

And speaking of which the Sabres gave me an early present last night with a win:

I got a little excited at the end. I’m a big Miller fan so I was glad to see him make the save and for the Sabres to end their early season slump.

Here was my favorite moment of the game though:

The cutie with the hockey jersey on is my wife, who puts up with my sports watching. She took me to the hockey game last night and we had a good time. She even was a sport and put on a jersey.

Movin On Up! Sherman Hemsley Dead at 74

Two of my favorite satirical sitcoms growing up were All in the Family and the Spin-off of that show The Jeffersons. Both in a sense were social experiments on the problems of race in our country. Norman Lear, the show’s creator was brilliant and he chose to create two bigoted characters, Archie Bunker, a ultra-bigoted white guy who worked the loading docks and lived in Astoria, Queens (704 Hauser Street to be exact) and George Jefferson, Archie’s neighbor, a black man who is as bigoted towards whites as Archie is towards blacks.

It was brilliant satire and both shows were hits. We had a long discussion one day with friends about the two shows and the issue that one friend brought up and made me consider was whether the show actually succeeded in bringing to light racist viewpoints or if it simply turned Bunker and Jefferson into “lovable bigots?” A good question to say the least. And we should discuss it at length.

Hemsley was like a gnat on the Jefferson. He was short and wiry and he never seemed to say quit. It was revealed on All in the Family that he was a custodial worker and then he saved up enough money to buy a small business, a laundry/dry cleaning business: Jefferson Cleaners. They left the neighborhood and spun off into their own show whose theme song became as memorable as the characters: Movin on Up.

Here’s a great scene from All in the Family with both stars:

And here’s to Sherman Hemsley..may he rest in peace.

Got Media Problems…Turn to Fox News to Fix ’em

Yeah…that’s the ticket!

From Deacon Greg’s Blog

The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, The Associated Press learned Saturday.Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told the AP.

I shudder to think what press releases this guy will come up with.

A bit more on his Catholic background:

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II’s longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei.

Good luck, Burke. You’re gonna need it. Here’s hoping that the Vatican will be a bit more “fair and balanced” than his last employer claims that they are.

Coming Your Way Soon to the Small Screen

This is an amazing effort by Joe Patane, of MTV’s Real World: Miami fame. Now a social worker and a licensed therapist, Joe has built a foundation and started Dream Camps for teens who have been through many traumatic experiences in their lives. He’s worked hard at finding a production company that won’t exploit the teens for ratings and I think he’s finally zoning in on a completed project that is sure to be inspiring. Check out a clip:

Full disclosure: Joe is my college roommate and has been a friend for nearly a quarter century. He’s amazingly creative and has a real heart for the youth he serves. He’s gained tremendous support from some big names like Steve Wozniak, Drew Carey and Charles Schultz’s family (creator of the Peanuts comic strip, better known as Charlie Brown and Snoopy).

So keep you eyes pealed, while I’m not a fan of reality TV, this show will not be like watching a train wreck, as way reality TV often is. It’s sure to inspire.

How do I know? Because Joe has inspired me for nearly 25 years now.

Well done, my friend.

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Landingham

72 year old actress Kathryn Joosten, who played the role of Presidential secretary, Mrs. Landingham, died this week. On the West Wing, her character was killed by a drunk driver after being persuaded by the President to go get a new car. It led to one of the greatest monologues in the history of television

For those wondering what the Latin means, a you tube user shared a translation:

Gratias tibi ago, domine
Thank you, Lord.

Haec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito?
Am I to believe these things from a righteous God, a just God, a wise God?

Cruciatus in crucem
To Hell with your punishments

uus in terra servus, nuntius fui; officium perfeci
I was your servant, your messenger on the earth, I did my duty.

Cruciatus in crucem (with a dismissive wave of the hand) eas in crucem
The Hell with your punishments! And to Hell with you! (literally, “may you go to a cross”

Joosten began her acting career later in life in her 40s after a career in nursing. The Telegraph also has this interesting note about her dedication to lung cancer:

In 2001, however, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. After treatment she was declared free of the disease, only for it to recur, in her other lung, in 2009. Again she prevailed, but she recognised that “cancer will be with me for the rest of my life, be it as a nodule, tumor or cell someplace, or in my fears and anxieties”.

She became a fierce advocate for lung cancer awareness, speaking at events and raising funds. A long-time smoker herself, she said that lung cancer had “a stigma because of the relationship to smoking – ‘you did it to yourself’ – and therefore the belief that somehow it is something to be ashamed of”. But she argued that the cancer “is far more lethal, and a bigger killer of women than all the other cancers combined” and that she was “irritated and disappointed” by the “oceans of pink” that successfully raised awareness and money for “sexier” breast cancer.

To bid adieu to Ms. Joosten here is her final shining moment on the West Wing. As means of background, she was a mentor figure for the President when he was growing up in prep school and that led her to become his personal assistant at the White House. Ergo, she’s possibly his most trusted advisor and this scene is presumably a hallucination…or is it?