Timothy Duff, STM, NACC board certified chaplain
Guardian and Founder of the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre
One of the most difficult experiences a family can go through is to see one of its members suffer from mental illness. A disease that medical journals frequently call “one the worst diseases to afflict mankind.” This is a physical disease that causes mental symptoms; it is no respecter of persons and it enters in to all walks of life and all types of vocations.
Mental illness is not just about one person. Everyone in the family is affected. Many of them become emotionally wounded. In a lot of cases, the family member who is afflicted gradually changes right before your eyes. After a while, you feel like you hardly know the person anymore. You cannot understand how this all happens. You begin to look for answers and find none. We know, because this disease affects our family, like so many others. Even in today’s culture, there is a stigma about admitting this fact.
This requires honesty! Families will know that that troublesome brother or sister, that irresponsible cousin or that troubled parent was probably mentally ill.
As a chaplain, I offer support to more and more families. The longer I offer ministry, the more I realize that almost every family has someone who is either emotionally troubled or has someone who has some form of mental illness. The statistics are astounding. Resources state that: Approximately million Americans are diagnosed as mentally ill. One family in four has a member with a serious mental disorder. National statistics indicate that in any given six months at least ten million Americans experience some form of depressive illness. At least one third of the homeless are mentally ill. That is without adding alcohol and drug abuse which often is a mask for someone suffering from mental illness. That means the statistics are much higher. What is out there to offer help? There is Hope in Our Lord Jesus Christ! Saint Padre Pio used to say: “The worst question in the world was Why?” Our questions as Christians is What? What does God ask of me in this situation? What can I do to overcome this difficulty? What can I do to help others with this similar sorrow?
Our family had difficulty finding support on a spiritual level. We wanted and needed the love and support from our Catholic Christian community. Of course, there are good support groups and therapists and doctors. But the spiritual resources are rare and limited. That is why we decided to found the much-needed Apostolate called the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. The saint we chose suffered from a severe mental illness.
We are Spiritual, Marian, Eucharistic, Family, Advocacy and Eccumencial.
About ten years ago, I began writing to many cloistered and contemplative communities asking them to join me in spirit and prayer. I wanted to have a spiritual resource available for those many families that many times feel isolated and alone. I wanted them to know that they are loved and are being prayed for. That was the beginning of what is now an International Apostolate. Our members number close to four thousand families from some 34 countries. Some of our distinguished spiritual support members who are our friends include: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and all of her sisters and many many others. The stories and the letters we receive on a daily basis are truly heart wrenching. No family member will ever cry alone again. We are in solidarity with them offering love and compassion with Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother. Our new little spiritual support groups are being started throughout the country.