Posted by Sofia Guerra
August 3, 2012 A.D.
I think I’m really weird… instead of reading about the holy things the Saints have said and done, I am always drawn to the fact that almost all of them had suffering in more than just the physical.
I found it comforting and helpful when I read how Saint Therese suffered emotionally as a young girl, even to the point of being bedridden. When I read “Dark Night of the Soul” by Saint John of the Cross I knew my brother in Christ had deep, deep emotional issues with his spiritual afflictions. The list goes on and on…
Show me a Saint and I’ll show you a human being with frailties, doubts, and yes, even mental health issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they all suffered with mental illness, but looking at their writings it is obvious there were some. In my humble opinion, I am saying that their suffering, particular in the spiritual realm almost always had an emotional issue to go with it.
I have always criticized those professionals in the mental health industry (yes, it is that) that ignored the treatment of the soul along with the treatment of the mind. In that light, if we look at most Saints as being born perfect and holy, we are kidding ourselves. The job of the Church is to get us to Heaven, to help us all become Saints.
Two of my secret favorite Saints are Dismas and Mary Magdalen. Why? They were truly flawed human beings. Like myself, they chose a path for self-fulfillment in spite of the soul’s yearning to bond with God.It wasn’t until the last minutes of Dismas’ life did he trust his soul’s whispers and allowed God to bring it together with his mind and his body (suffering) to recognize and be humble before Him.
Likewise, Mary Magdalen was considered a social outcast and was even an object of the mob deciding she deserved death from stoning. When Our Lord defended her with His simple “those without sin” instruction, she looked at Him and He was revealed in her eyes as Lord. I always thought that was a precursor to the “Road to Emmaus” and that they recognized Him “in the breaking of the Bread”. Although Mary Magdalen’s sins were the object of her being ridiculed and judged, Our Lord still revealed Himself after He rose from the dead first to HER… not to Peter nor John or even his Mother first…but to a woman considered to be a terrible sinner. She is called the greatest penitent of the Church and Christ chose her to be the first to witness the miracle of all miracles, His Resurrection.
With that in mind, I always felt hope after reflecting on the weaknesses of the Saints in their journey towards Sainthood. I know myself that my weaknesses and sins have always had a trigger… a button that would be pushed, to which I would respond angrily and usually without charity. I used to think, did the Saints have this problem? I guess we could look to Saint Peter before Pentecost for that answer… Hmmm, Christ picked him to be His first Pope and truthfully, it doesn’t seem to make sense, given Peter’s shortcomings and self-indulgence until we learn the story of Peter after Pentecost.
Similarly, we see Saint Therese in her youth having many “triggers” which brought on crying spells and eventually almost a catatonic state which the doctor felt could end her life. Then, as her soul yearned for God, in spite of her emotional sickness, the mind and body responded to the miracle of “Our Lady of the Smile”. (please read “A Story of a Soul” Saint Therese’s autobiography) The soul reached out to the Lord who created it in His image and likeness and the mind and body were healed…
I have triggers also. Usually, it has been family or fprmer friends who spoke to me like I’m stupid or assume that I like being a human doormat. The problem is that I always felt as if I am doing something to invite that kind of behavior. I realize now that I was not inviting their bad behavior but I allowed it. I was always concerned with whether or not “they” will be angry with me. Why would they be angry when I was usually doing something FOR them. Silly, isn’t it?
Years of accepting this behavior from both family and friends did nothing more than make me angry and resentful. As a result, everytime there was a trigger I (even something innocent from those family and friends who did not do this to me) I struck back with anger and a sin against charity. Stupid? Maybe so… A little nutty? Definitely.
The response would have been to pray, think and then respond. Allowing those who said they loved me to trigger this behavior was the problem. I WAS RESPONSIBLE. That is hard to accept and to understand but necessary to live a holy life and a healthy emotional life. Easier said than done. After much prayer and a gentle intervention from someone who has become very close to me, I realized the root of my response to the triggers was not being able to say no with the same understanding as saying yes.
Sometimes, saying NO can be the best thing you can do for other people as well as yourself. We must always say YES to God, but only Him. If we say yes to a friend who wants to do something unethical, would that be acceptable? Of course not and it would also be a sin of commission at the very least. The way to learn how to say no and have the person feel good about it is the ultimate goal, don’t you think? This is tricky business. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the Wisdom how to do that.
Lisa Graas and I started out our friendship when she responded to me concerning my lack of charity in a blogpost which I had written. She didn’t judge, she didn’t scold, and she didn’t criticize. She reached out in charity and used her God-given maternal gifts to gently correct me with an alternative. She taught me how to use charity and humility to fraternally correct someone. I am so grateful to her and from that day she has been a source of inspiration to me. She has loved me unconditionally and when I slip and rant like crazy, she uses humor and charity to help me.
I have not being diagnosed with mental illness but my own emotional battles help me to empathize with those who have been diagnosed. Physical illness is easy to understand, because it is corporal. It’s tangible. Most of the time we can see it, or sometimes touch it but with mental illness it is at the very best elusive and hard to put your finger on it. I didn’t know in the beginning of her battle with bipolar disorder. I know now and nothing changes, it makes me love her more. I study as much as I can about it so I can be of some help. Most of all, I just love her and pray for her. I am there for her when she needs it. Usually though, I am the one that needs her help as we all have our issues.
Lisa has been bullied for defending Holy Mother church and Her Teachings. Ironically, she has been accused of being a bully and a liar(laughable)in the Catholic blogosphere by other Catholics in particular. The anti-God/anti-Catholic & Christian trolls who support the Catholic bloggers do it just to push their twisted agenda by piling on whomever is being attacked. Nice, isn’t it? Are the Catholic bloggers who do this realize the can of worms they are opening inviting these people to pile on?
Why would someone who purports to be a Catholic blogger do this? The answer is simple. The drive to be on the “A-list” of Catholic Bloggers distorts what being a Catholic blogger means. I saw this behavior on the speaking circuit when years ago I was close friends with the “A-list”. I was always invited to the speaking engagements by the “A-list” because I was funny. I would entertain the speakers at the after parties. Yup, the after parties…
The “A-list” were usually good people who loved being Catholic and loved making a living talking about being Catholic. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is when they considered themselves the “A-list”. Then, it’s over. In fact, I stopped going when invited to the conferences and Rosary Congress events when I was told how lucky I was by one speaker that I was there with the “A” list. I looked at her and told her that I wasn’t lucky I was blessed. That was the last time I accepted an invitation.
Today’s “A list” * comes from the Catholic blogosphere. There is definitely an “A-list”. No matter what they write (even if it’s an area where they have no training or expertise) they are adored by the lay Catholic in the pews. This Catholic will be rude to anyone who dares to disagree with this “A-lister” in their combox or dares to write about it on their own blog. Is this the behavior as Catholics we should be exhibiting? Look, I am guilty of committing the sin against charity in particular with my criticism of the Cardinals and Bishops. Moreover, I am downright nasty to Progressive (such a phony term) Catholics, particulary priests and nuns who think they are the Pope or the Magisterium. It is with this spirit that I point out OUR behavior is not okay. Truth is still Truth, not what we perceive as truth. There is no such thing as a personal truth.
Holy Mother Church has been given the gift of Truth by her spouse, Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit. That’s it… that’s Truth. We can fudge it, twist it to our liking, sell our souls for 30 pieces of silver, it doesn’t change the fact that Truth is Truth. It is NOT subjective. To be a Catholic is not hard, to be human is hard. Being Catholic is a blessing. It is the gift that Christ and His Church have given to us on a silver platter. Now, do you think we can get it?
Look, A-listers, this is not an attack on you, not jealousy because I’m on the bottom rung. It is a warning as I was privileged to see how being the first makes you the last. Don’t make the mistakes of the 90’s conference circuit. Some of you were there and you know what I am talking about. For those of you who weren’t, just keep it simple: Treat others as if they were all Jesus Himself. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta got this. We should too.
Now in the spirit of the charity which Lisa Graas has taught me, I am publishing her blogpost on “Triggers”…I hope we can all see something of ourselves in it. I do. I ask those involved to reserve judgement if possible. I was there supporting Lisa and Stacy Transanco when the pro-homosexual movement viciously attacked both of them. I cross-posted articles in support of Stacy and Lisa and oh, their support of CHURCH TEACHING and tweeted out everything. I had emails with death threats (yeah right…bring it on) and hate mail extraordinaire. Filthy words, horrible attacks because I supported Church Teaching and two women who had the courage to write about it. I do not care. Keep it coming. All it shows me is that I was doing the right thing. Our Lord warned we would be persecuted in His Name.
In our weakness, we are strong…Thank you, Lisa for your unconditional love as my sister in Christ. I will be forever grateful. The best spiritual advice I was ever given was from my Novice-Mistress in Religious Life. She told me that whatever the problem was, no matter what, to go to the Crucifix and just look at Him.The answer would be there, hanging in front of me. The answer? Love, itself…
Lisa, I know one day as you stand before Him at the gates of Heaven, He will say to you, “Come right in my daughter Lisa, my mother speaks highly of you…”
* Please note there are many “A-List” Catholic Bloggers who do not fit the description I put forward. My apologies to some whom are quite kind and helpful to me. Mea culpa…
posted by Lisa Graas at her blog,
A reader writes:
This entire Leila business is bad for you. No good ever comes of it and it always triggers you.
Yes, “arguing with a friend or loved one” is definitely a trigger that can cause an episode…and suicide.
Leila once told me that she thought we were a team like SS. Perpetua and Felicity. That passion story always confused me somewhat because St. Perpetua killed herself with the gladiator’s sword.
She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat. It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.
This is not mere “arguing” between “friends.” This is someone who was both a spiritual director and a close friend (which is a very bad idea), doing something publicly that flies in the face of everything I she told me about Jesus Christ and the Cross.
It is a public statement by the person who was my close friend and spiritual director that everything she told me about my dignity and Jesus was a lie.
Of course it triggered me and continues to trigger me.
For the rest of this compelling story please click HERE</strong>