Friday, April 13, 2007
St. Dymphna's Talk Show
Here's the thing. I'm not Dr. Laura and I'm not Dr. Ruth (thank the Lord). I'm happy to answer questions about what we believe and even how we came to believe the things we believe. But an arm chair analysis of people's very real problems based on a few sentences with no history or real knowledge is a dangerous thing. I know that because I've listened to Dr. Laura speak to people she doesn't know at all. Dangerous.
Meanwhile I've been haunted by a reader's question about helping a mentally ill friend. I think the other readers have done an admirable job of helping without entering Dr. Lauraland.
What's been haunting me is the idea of praying to God to cure mental illness. It seems to me that if God actually did cure mental illness you wouldn't be able to tell.
People who have come to God do things that are really out there. Trade their clothes with beggars, become beggars, live on top of poles, stop eating, stop sleeping, develop holes in their hands and feet and heads, give up sex, live in cells, levitate, water sticks because they are told to do that, see the Virgin Mary, have visions, visit hell....some of them even homeschool their children.
St. Francis of Assisi was a wealthy boy with a bright future. He bought himself a soldier suit but it just wasn't working for him. On a whim he traded his soldier suit with a beggar. His horrified father told him to get rid of the beggar clothes immediately. Ever obedient to his father, Francis stripped naked and walked away. He eventually developed holes in his hands and feet. No one had ever done that before. He talked to animals. A cult developed around him. They called themselves "Franciscans." Weird.
St. Simon Stilites didn't feel holy enough around other people so he climbed on top of a pole and lived up there. That wasn't good enough either so he kept getting a taller pole. Eventually he lived on top of a sixty foot pillar. Ironically other people had to pass what little food he ate up to him. Most of the time he stood on one leg.
It didn't end there. A whole group of people followed Simon's lead and climbed up onto poles. One of them had two poles. I suppose he was the first person to be bi-poler.
St. Catherine of Sienna only slept three hours a day and ate only the Sacred Host. She married the Baby Jesus in a private ceremony (presided over by the Virgin Mary) and wore an invisible ring that only she could see. She died young.
St. Rita wanted to be a nun but she was too old and had been married and had children. Angels flew her over the convent wall, but that wasn't enough to win the support of the congregation inside. They stuck a stick in the ground and told her to water it everyday, making fun of her while she did so. What a cheery place that convent must have been. She had the last laugh because the stick grew into a tree. The thing is, she wasn't interested in having the last laugh. She just wanted to be a nun. She ended up with a mysterious hole in her head that smelled terrible and she had to live all by herself in a room away from everyone.
St. Teresa of Avila went into a trance, during which she was taken to hell and shown a room under some stairs that was reserved for her. Not unlike Mr. Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
....and then there are the homeschoolers......
....people who actually spend all day and all night with their children and not only have to listen to them and watch them make mess after mess, but they have to come up with a full curriculum for grades K-12 while the baby eats paste. Their motivation? Not too much different from St. Simon Stiles, as far as I can tell.