The Special Relationship That Exists Between a Person with Mental Illness and God - A Cause for Meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ.
Timothy Duff, STM, NACC board certified chaplain
Since the beginning of the Guild's founding, I have pondered the question: Can someone who is mentally ill become a saint? The answer is Yes! In fact, they are living out their vocation of mental and emotional suffering. Although, Christ did not suffer mental illness, he took on all human suffering to redeem it. He identified himself with those with mental suffering as to be an example of love. He experienced a mental agony in the Garden of Gethsemane which caused him to sweat blood. I often advise people to meditate on this fact when I am offering support as a chaplain. The aloneness that Christ experienced can be a great sign of hope. This holds true especially for those with depression and other emotional difficulties. Notice in the image of Christ; he is surrounded by the crown of thorns. Mental illness and brain disorders affect the whole person. To assist with this meditation we have developed a new Stations of the Cross for the Mentally Ill. The image on the left will be used for the front page of our new devotion.
Through our love of compassion, (our hearts of flesh) we bring “the one comfort” to Jesus suffering today in the mentally ill. This is the “Treatment of Love” that Pope Saint John Paul II spoke about. We can stand in for them by our prayers and presence. We are their spiritual support. Many people with mental illness have great moral courage in dealing with the challenges that come with the illness. The side effects of medication make it difficult. But one can take medication in a spirit of love with Christ and know that He is with them. This gives them the opportunity to share in the redemptive suffering of Christ and to grow in holiness.
If you have a mental illness, be assured! There is hope and it's just for YOU!!! It is Our Lord in His Passion! The Crown of Thorns was forced upon Our Lord; just one more atrocity and one more visible suffering.
Remember the words of Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta to Fr. Benedict Groeschel (CFR):
"Jesus' Crown of thorns represents the struggles of those persons with mental illness".
This week, take comfort: reflect on His agony in the garden. Only an angel could comfort Our Lord because of the depth of His anguish. Listen to Jesus saying to you:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
The Treatment of Love and the Family
We are in solidarity with those families who share the pain and chaos of brain disorders and mental illness. We offer our presence and support. This is the reason my mother and I founded MMOMI prayer groups. The focus of these groups is to provide support for a family with a loved one suffering with brain disorders and mental illness. The groups have been very successful. Over the years, we had more than the few groups in different cities across the country. In fact, once the groups began, attendees would travel great distances. In some locations, the groups ran for over ten years.
These unique groups offer spiritual support in a way that offers hope, healing and comfort. The groups are organized as a sacred space to allow for prayer, sharing, education and spiritual advocacy. Tim reflects on the teachings of St. Pope John Paul II’s - Dolentum Hominum which is written as concern for pastoral care to the sick. We support our reflections through a bulletin called Under Her Mantle.
Unfortunately, today our groups have diminished. This is especially true becuase of the COVID crisis. However, there is no reason why we can not inspire a new model of them to start up. Perhaps the Zoom platform or others can be a new means for us to come together. Would one of you like to be Zoom prayer leader?Keep looking at our home page for updates so that we all can reach out. You may email me if you would like to get a head start.
We realize the spiritual needs of these holy people and the gap that exists in our Church to address the needs of families who suffer with mental illness. Our great wish is to see a new spiritual movement of prayer and support for those with brain disorders and all types of mental and emotional illness.
I’d be happy to answer any questions for you as well as speak to you about our devotion to the Merciful Mother of the Mentally Ill. I look forward to hearing from you at any time.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org cell 617-412-0691
Here are some other suggestions for the Treatment of Love:
Offer a regular Mass and Healing Prayer Service – In our experience, these liturgical practices have been sacred moments of healing for those we serve. At these events, actual miracles of healing and comfort have been experienced by the families in profound ways.
We suggest having a MMOMI group in your parish. More can be found about these groups on our website.
Place our brochures in your parishes to help us share our ministry.
Again, I’d be happy to answer any questions for your parish. I look forward to hearing from you at any time.
Timothy Duff (Tim) CO-FOUNDER AND GUARDIAN has been a lay Catholic board ceritifed hospital chaplain for over 20 years. He has worked with psychiatric patients throughout the times of his ministry, He founded the Guild with his mother Mildred in 1996 under the guidance of the late Father Benedict J Groechel C.F.R.. The apostolate came about when Tim's brother Scott who has suffered from Schizophrenia was unjustly placed in prison, They prayed tirelessly and worked hard to not just release Scott but to change the laws in Massachusetts. Our Lady of Fatima intervened to help them accomplish the task. Their story can be read here