Posts Tagged ‘healing’

**Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of blog posts addressing mental health issues by Dr. Frank Moncher, a clinical psychologist with Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington. We hope that this can help educate you on the circumstances behind mental illness and suicide, and begin that dialogue within the context of the Catholic community.

By: Dr. Frank Moncher


As explored last week, one’s choices and attitudes toward hardships in life are important to consider in understanding depression and suicide.  Still, it would be erroneous to deny the reality of the impact of brain chemistry in the development of depression and related suicide risk and prevention. Some studies suggest that there are biochemical differences in the brain among those who commit suicide, though these may be either the cause or the consequence of depression.

Melancholy_2Still, for those suffering from clinical depression, medication along with psychotherapy are the best standards of medical practice. Research demonstrates that some people suffering from depression can benefit from a variety of anti-depressant medications that are available through psychiatrists or, at times, one’s family doctor. Other people benefit from differing forms of counseling and psychotherapy, while some require both. Taking medication alone rarely does the entire job, while the suggestions given by well-meaning friends or family that “pushing through it” or “getting over it” will carry the day are erroneous and, for many, unrealistic options. Yet, there is also truth to the understanding that depression is, in the words of one controversial blogger: “deeper and more profound than a simple matter of disproportioned brain chemicals…” which brings us to prayer.


Popular media largely covers the natural level aspect of depression and suicide, but often neglects the spiritual aspect. Some religious commentators have provided helpful catechesis, but conversely neglects the natural realities of depression. Suicide and depression, I believe, are issues for which neither the natural nor the supernatural aspects are peripheral. These issues are about life and its meaning. Persons of faith go through periods of dryness and feeling detached from God, but clinical depression is different. As a clinician, I am always relieved to hear a depressed client state their adamant opposition to suicide as an option because of their faith beliefs. At times, this is a good enough place to start. Better, of course, when there is recognition that God’s love is at the center. But, for a depressed person, relationships with visible beings can be difficult enough, let alone one with God.

Yet, this is where people of faith do seem to have an upper hand. In responding to a controversial blog on the topic by Matt Walsh, novelist Daniel McInerny sums up nicely the Christian position on suffering: “I’m not saying that taking this supernatural outlook will cure depression, or that the depressed person should not pursue every available human means of healing. I’m saying that only in the Cross does suffering make ultimate sense. Only in the Cross do we find a lasting hope. Our task as Christians is to bring this message of hope to the world, both through advocating appropriate human means of healing, and by spreading the Good News that depression and other evils never have the final word.”

“We do not believe in a Mental Prosperity Gospel, where God rewards His faithful ones with a sense of well-being and good cheer. A good many of the saints were as close to God as they could come — Mother Teresa comes to mind — and yet they struggled constantly against the darkness. Depression and mental illness are not a sign of personal sin, but one of many signs of the weakness we all inherited when Adam sinned.” -popular blogger, Simcha Fisher

Again, prayer is always appropriate, and is always our duty. Prayer provides not only for the mysterious influence that is Grace, but also can serve as a concrete reminder to the person suffering that their friends and family remain connected and are pleading for their healing.


In his next blog post of this Mental Health series, Dr. Moncher will discuss the need for belonging we have, how easily it is to become isolated in the modern world, and what we can do to help those suffering from depression.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

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By: Rev. Robert J. Wagner, Staff Spotlight

When someone sins against us, what is the proper Christian response? Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiveness as both a reflection of God’s mercy and a means for healing and unity among all people. He speaks to us of turning the other cheek, praying for our enemies and showing mercy to our persecutors.

In His darkest hour on Calvary, Jesus offers us an extraordinary example of mercy when He prayed: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34). Jesus offers mercy to those who sentenced Him to death and nailed Him to the cross. When we find it challenging to forgive another person, praying with this Scripture passage is a powerful and fruitful source of healing and motivation.

Jesus also teaches us that our salvation is directly related to our ability to forgive. “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you,” He says. “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions,” (Mt 6:14-15).

Forgiveness requires great virtue, including the exercise of humility, courage and compassion. It is in forgiving others that we grow in holiness and allow God’s grace to heal bonds that are so easily broken through our sinfulness and the sinfulness of others. Over and over again, we will have the opportunity to grow in holiness through the practice of forgiveness as Peter found out when He tried to find a limit to how often a Christian needs to forgive a person who sins against them: “As many as seven times?” Peter asked. “Not seven, but seventy-seven,” Jesus replied (cf. Mt 18:21-22).

In light of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness, the lesson we hear in the Gospel seems odd. Jesus tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Our first instinct is to think this is the opposite of forgiving. Why would we confront the sinner if we are called to turn the other cheek? We assume they already know what we are going to tell them, that their sins have damaged us and others. What do we gain from this interaction?

Guercino_Return_of_the_prodigal_sonWe must realize, however, that Jesus is not telling us to confront the sinful party out of vengeance or righteousness. It is not an action to help us cope with and heal from the wounds the other has inflicted on us (although that may be a result). No, the reason for the interaction is not for us at all. We are called to forgive. We are called to love. We are called to compassion.

Jesus asks us to tell the sinner his fault for his sake — for his conversion, for his self-awareness. Perhaps he does not know the damage he has done. Perhaps he will be moved by seeing the pain he has caused us or react to the forgiveness we offer in our explanation. Perhaps we are giving him the opportunity to apologize and find healing. By approaching him, we allow God an opportunity to touch the soul of a sinner. We perform an act of charity for someone who has sinned against us.

Too often, when we are hurt by another, the last person we tell about the sin is the person who committed it against us. Rather, our first reaction is to find sympathy by complaining to others or to spread the news of a sinful act that will damage the other’s reputation. Unlike confronting someone out of care for their soul, this kind of response is selfish and sinful. It does not bring healing but instead brings more division and pain.

It is difficult to confront people who have hurt us. They have injured us, diminished the trust we have for them, and left a wound that requires forgiveness to be healed. May God give us the grace to recognize the people we have yet to forgive, the people we have forgiven but still need to offer the opportunity to apologize to us and the people to whom we need to apologize. Christ calls us to be one body in Him (Jn 17:21-23). Let us be instruments of that Christian unity in our lives and the lives of others.

This Gospel commentary first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

Fr. Robert Wagner is Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s secretary.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

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By: Rebecca Ruiz, Staff Spotlight

Have you ever had the experience of saying something you’ve said countless times before when you suddenly have a new awareness of what you are saying? Or, perhaps you’ve been reading a passage you’ve read before and upon re-reading it, it suddenly takes on a new meaning?

This happened to me the other day. I was at nine o’clock Mass in a semi-conscious, pre-caffeinated state. It was right before communion and the congregation responded, “Lord, only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

I’ve prayed this response countless times before but never really heard what I was saying, “Lord, only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

Curacin_del_paraltico_Murillo_1670This is quite a request!  We are all in need of healing. Most people go through life seeking countless ways of healing the battle-scars of life…pop psychology, self-help books, counselors, doctors, vitamins, and medicine. All of these may offer effective means of healing and growth. Sometimes though, we leave God out of the equation. Sometimes, we forget that along with the body and mind, the soul needs healing too.

So, when we pray – humbly asking, confident in His goodness – “Lord, only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” we are requesting profound action because when God speaks, His Word makes things happen.

For the word of God is alive and active.” (Heb 4:12)

And while we may struggle to follow through on our words and promises, God’s word actually accomplishes that action which it describes. Permanently.

“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

So, if God “says the word” we can be assured that it will heal the soul.

When we seek out healing ourselves, it is usually a process, and often a lengthy one. However, God operates in ways that are completely different from our ways. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” (Isaiah 55:8). If God “says the word” we can be assured that it will heal the soul, it will be a profound healing, and it can happen over time or it can happen in an instant.

And, all we have to do is ask and trust. There are no complicated formulas. God doesn’t demand perfect faith.

His Word, and all that it will accomplish, is free and available to us – if we simply ask and trust.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She serves as Development and Communications Manager at Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services.

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From the Office of Communications


This article first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Asking for forgiveness, Pope Francis told abuse survivors that “despicable actions” caused by clergy have been hidden for too long and had been “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

“There is no place in the church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” and to hold all bishops accountable for protecting young people, the pope said during a special early morning Mass for six survivors of abuse by clergy. The Mass and private meetings held later with each individual took place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae — the pope’s residence and a Vatican guesthouse where the survivors also stayed.

Pope FrancisIn a lengthy, off-the-cuff homily in Spanish July 7, the pope thanked the men and women — two each from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany, for coming to the Vatican to meet with him. The Vatican provided its own translations of the unscripted homily.

The pope praised their courage for speaking out about their abuse, saying that telling the truth “was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the church.”

The pope said the scandal of abuse caused him “deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

He called sex abuse a “crime and grave sin,” that was made even worse when carried out by clergy.

“This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors” violated the innocence of children and their own vocation to God, he said.

“It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of concupiscence,” the pope said.

The pope asked God “for the grace to weep, the grace for the church to weep and make reparations for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons” and left life-long scars.

He told the men and women sitting in the pews that God loved them and he prayed that “the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed.”

In an effort to help the abuse survivors heal, the pope met individually with each one, accompanied by a loved one or family member and a translator, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told journalists.

The pope spent a total of three hours and twenty minutes in closed-door talks with each person, showing the rest of the church that the path of healing is through dialogue and truly listening to victims, Father Lombardi said.

The Jesuit priest said the men and women were visibly moved by the Mass and meetings and had “felt listened to,” and that the encounter was “something positive on their journey” of healing.

The length and nature of the pope’s very first meeting with abuse survivors represent “a sign, a model, an example” for the rest of the church, that “listening is needed” along with tangible efforts for understanding and reconciliation, he said.

Responding to critics that the July 7 meeting and Mass were ineffectual and part of a publicity stunt, Father Lombardi said that if people had been able to see, as he had, the reactions of the men and women who took part in the private gathering, “it was clear that it was absolutely not a public relations event.”

The raw emotion on people’s faces, including the pope’s, as well as his strongly worded homily, all showed the effort had been about “a dialogue with a pastor and father who tries to understand deeply” the wrongs that have been committed and the need “to be honest about reality,” the Vatican spokesman said.

It was the first time Pope Francis met directly with a group of victims of clerical abuse, following a tradition begun by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who met with victims for the first time as pope in 2008 during a visit to Washington, D.C. The retired pope subsequently met with other victims during his pastoral visits to Sydney, Malta, Great Britain and Germany.

Pope Francis had told reporters in May that he would be meeting with a group of survivors of abuse from various countries and would celebrate a private Mass with them. The pope had asked Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston — the head of a new Vatican commission on protecting minors — to help organize the encounter.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which the pope established in December, met July 6 at the Vatican, and its members, including Cardinal O’Malley, were also present at the July 7 Mass.

The commission, which currently has eight members, including a survivor of clerical sex abuse, mental health professionals and experts in civil and church law, is tasked with laying out a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse.


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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

Yesterday’s post for Encourage & Teach by Bishop Loverde, “Stand for Marriage, Stand for Faith,” originally printed in the Arlington Catholic Herald, is a timely reminder of the importance of “standing” for marriage, and not losing hope in the battle to protect the truths of marriage as one man and one woman. On one hand, it still hurts my brain that such a blog must be written and that we have to define and discuss what marriage is; yet such things shouldn’t surprise me when glib articles are being written about throwing the best “divorce party” and where to get the best “divorce cake.” It makes sense that a culture that celebrates divorce would be confused about the meaning and purpose of marriage. I agree that it seems rather ridiculous to claim that marriage is defined as permanent, monogamous and life-bearing, if that is not witnessed. Once we take away that definition, anything can take its place. And it has.

Divorce CakeAlthough sometimes necessary to protect one spouse or the other financially or even physically, divorce is always a bad thing. It is a painful and very sensitive experience for men and women, especially for their children. It has touched each of our lives, and our families and friends. Divorce is a death, and time is needed to heal and process through the shattering of lives and emotional heartbreak. This is painful and entails the acceptance of suffering. It entails heroic acts of forgiveness, mercy and the dependence on others for support, most especially from the grace of God. All of this can seem rather repulsive in a culture that rejects the idea of dependence – on God or others, and certainly does all it can to avoid suffering.

We all know experientially, and science has proven, that laughter is the best medicine and humor heals. But are we doing greater harm to those suffering from a divorce by encouraging or turning to sardonic humor to deal with the emotions from a painful situation? As the media and social networks report and highlight this trend, will we continue to become numb to the suffering of those we love who experience divorce? Will divorce parties and cakes become part of a life event? It seems to me, this will only add to the confusion of marriage as it loses the sacredness and reverence for which it was created. Might I suggest, rather than a party and cake, offering instead prayers, Masses and sacrifices for the couple and their children, whose lives have been changed forever, and who will need true love and support for the rest of their lives.

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By: Natalie Plumb

If she hadn’t agreed to write her column in advance on “Bought with a Price,” Arlington Catholic Herald columnist Elizabeth Foss likely would not have read its contents. But what she discovered when she took on the task was that Bishop Loverde has much more to offer than a pointing finger.

You can order your own copy of “Bought with a Price” through the diocesan website or Amazon Kindle.

This column originally appeared in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

By: Elizabeth Foss, Catholic Herald Columnist

Shortly before this column was due, I received a note from the Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s office explaining that he was planning to reissue his 2006 pastoral letter, “Bought with a Price.” The note went on to say that I might recall that letter and that this reissued letter was updated and full of practical suggestions, a study guide and a plan of life. It was destined to be a great resource for families. Attached for my convenience was an early copy in case I was able to write a column for the first week it was released.

BWAPcollage2Sure! A great resource for families, something new for me to read, a good reason to get a little extension on the column deadline so I could work over the weekend, all lined up to agree that I’d be happy to write on the bishop’s topic of choice. I didn’t recall the 2006 letter at all, but that didn’t deter me. I’d planned to write about a Lenten plan for families. This should work with that, right? The note said it’s a great resource for families.

I never looked to see what the pastoral letter addressed. I agreed to write about it without ever opening the 80-page PDF to see the subject. As I committed my weekend to it, I didn’t even know it was 80 pages.

It’s about pornography. I’ll admit right here that I would not have read this letter if I hadn’t promised to do so, sight unseen. Who wants to sit in her car during the only bright sunshine of the week, in the parking lot of the soccer field during warm-ups, and read what a celibate man has to say about porn?

You do. I did. This letter is so well-written, so worth reading. I started by cutting and pasting quote-worthy passages onto a blank document. Before I’d finished, I had more than a thousand words of quotes. I thought about just mailing those in and calling it a weekend. It didn’t take me long to recognize that instead, I need to persuade you, dear reader, to just read the whole thing.

Click here to continue reading this Arlington Catholic Herald column.

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I had an abortion in 1995. The next several years of my life seemed to be a series of one awful thing after the other, it became overwhelming. So many terrible things happened, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

At first I wondered if God was punishing me. Then I realized I could blame God, or I could take responsibility for what I did. It was MY DECISION. God had nothing to do with it, nor did He “punish” me for what I had done. I was punishing myself!!

I had no idea I could be forgiven for such a grave sin. Even though I went to church, it seemed like the priest only talked about “respect for life”, and never spoke about being able to be forgiven after having an abortion. The guilt I felt on Mother’s Day and March for Life weekend at church was incredibly painful.

For many years I wanted to confess my sin, but was afraid … I would not even tell my cousin who is a priest.

Then one day (17 years later), I was in a restroom at a church I was visiting when I saw a paper that read “help after abortion.” As I went on reading the piece of paper that was taped to the wall, it said there is healing and forgiveness after abortion. Even after reading it I thought “Forgiveness??? Really???” At the bottom of the page were tabs to pull off and a phone number to call. I pulled one off, and even then, I was hesitant to call.

After a week or so, I called and spoke with Jo at the Diocese of Arlington. She was so supportive and positive. She told me about Rachel’s Vineyard [our diocesan retreat]. It sounded too good to be true. I signed up to attend the upcoming retreat.

That retreat turned my life around!!

I feel so blessed to have experienced the forgiveness of God, and my retreat was on Divine Mercy weekend. It was amazing. The priest we had at our retreat was a Father of Mercy, and he was such an empathetic, kind man. He was not the priest that was scheduled to be at our retreat, but God sent him to us, and he will stay in my heart forever. What a wonderful man.

The women I met there know more about me than friends I’ve known for years. We stay in touch and we all went to Mass together last month and had a luncheon. We are planning a get together around the Christmas holidays and there is a true bond between us. It’s absolutely wonderful.

I pray that more people who need healing and forgiveness learn about Project Rachel and attend a retreat. It will be the beginning of the rest of your life. You can be forgiven and you can heal. Just let God in. I realized God never meant for me to hurt for all those years, He never did anything to punish me. He loves us. We are His children. Remember, He said: “Come to me, all who are weary.”

Please go to Him if you are weary and He will give you peace. God Bless You.

Note: There is a Project Rachel retreat occurring in Northern Virginia, November 2-4. There are still open spaces if you or someone you know is in search of healing after an abortion.

Diocesan Post-Abortion Ministry provides referral to specially trained priests and/or professional counselors, healing retreats and written materials. For confidential assistance please call 1-888-456-HOPE (4673) or email info@helpafterabortion.org.


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