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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Sister, can you help me sort out some things regarding the Hereafter? On the one hand, we've got Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, with the assumption that people go to one or the other of these places when they die. On the other hand, we've got the Last Judgement, when Christ will come and sort everybody out to the place they're supposed to go for the rest of eternity. My understanding is that "everybody" means both the living-on-earth and the already-dead-on-earth-but-whose-souls-are-living-someplace-else-now. Am I wrong? Will Christ only sort out the quick and not the dead? Or am I just confused all the way around? Because I don't get how people can now be in heaven or hell AND have Christ later make a last judgement on their souls when the end times come.

It's not rocket science.

Here you go, into the afterlife.

1. You are a saint, or die the death of a martyr.  Straight to Heaven with you.  We'll be asking for you intercession and congratulations on your canonization!

2. You are normal.  You're not a bad person. You're fairly decent. You try hard.  But you've never been able to forgive Aunt Minnie for totaling your car that New Year's Eve in 1982.  You have worn your skirts too short until someone pulled you aside and explained to you that you're 52 and no one is interested in your thighs.  You feel entitled to some paper clips and legal pads from work because heaven knows they don't pay you enough. You're jealous of your sister.  You don't even know why.
Purgatory for you, my dear. We don't know for how long.  We'll pray for your fast release.  Watch for St. Patrick.  Some believe he delivers a few souls every Saturday. You might want to shoot for a Friday passing.

3.  You are Hitler.  Straight to Hell with you.

(Now....we never say that anyone is in Hell for sure. Even Hitler.  In his final moments, he may have realized what he did wrong and been deeply sorry and asked Jesus for forgiveness.  Short of that, straight to Hell.)

So that's that.  But....

4. You're still alive when the Mayan calendar gives out and here comes Jesus.  You've lived until Judgment day.  Scary!  There's no time left for Purgatory, so Jesus is going to have to make a snap assessment.  Heaven or Hell for you?

So, you might want to check your hemline now, because we both know the Mayans have no clue when Judgment day will actually occur.  You will be so chagrined if the ground opens up and swallows you, as you watch Aunt Minnie get shot up to Heaven because she was so very sorry about your car and she never touched another drop.

The Last Judgment is for people who are alive to experience it. Everyone else is already where they are going or about to go.  Heaven and Hell are permanent.  Purgatory is a guarantee of an eventual trip to Heaven.

Does this help?  Because otherwise you can do what I do when I don't understand what God is planning.  Chalk it up to  "It's a Sacred Mystery"  which is "Catholic" for "just let it go."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Going Gentle Into That Good Night

I must apologize to this reader for the delay in responding to this question. I thought we should get a start on the week before we tackle the tough stuff.

Dear Sister,
I need to pray for my mother. She suffers from Alzheimer's to the extent that she is completely unresponsive to any stimuli.

She always told us that she would never want to be a 'vegetable', and put a no heroic measures in her will- but she has been kept alive for 2 years in this state and the Dr s say that she may well live on for another 5 or more...

Can I pray for her release? I fear that she is trapped, alone, in a totally unresponsive husk of a body. Is there a Saint who would help?

And thank you for your wonderful blog.

Of course you can pray for her release, and yours.  But take heart.

Perhaps, because of her suffering here and now, she will zoom straight to Heaven, bypassing Purgatory altogether.  I often thought about that when my own father declined with the glacial slowness that chipped away at his fatherhood, his manhood and his humanity. Surely, this counts for something!

Your job, in the meantime, is to make sure that her human dignity and the honor due her as your mother is maintained to the utmost.  I'm sure that is exactly what you are doing, in every way, with all of your heart.

And also take heart that although she is indeed trapped in that husk of a body, she may also be visiting happy and loving moments from her life, or communing with angels.  And if she isn't, she soon will be, because although it all seems like endless suffering eternity now, in the great scheme of things, even 5 years is a very short time.

In regards to a patron saint....there are quite a few saints who were paralyzed, desperately ill, unable to speak, "trapped" as you put it.  They did not pray for release, but accepted their suffering with joy. That's why they are saints.

But it's perfectly okay for you to pray for your mother to have a gentle passing as soon as possible. That would be good old St. Joseph, the patron saint of a happy death. We believe that Mary and Jesus were with St. Joseph when he died. What could be happier than that?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Modern Maladies

It looks like this is shaping up to be a patron saint matching week.  It's one of my favorite hobbies! So, let's have at it.

Thank you, Sister for the time you take to entertain and educate us. I hope you can help with a Saint matching for me. I have a friend who has been recently diagnosed with conversion disorder. The case is very severe and she is completely disabled and unable to care for herself. She requires in home nursing care and her family is suffering terribly, along with her. I do what I can to help from time to time, but I know that prayer is the only thing I can do to help her all the time. 

I have to say, it has been quite an interesting situation for me to have so many people educate me about so many things I know nothing about.  Finding patron saints for modern maladies has been an exhilarating challenge.

I really thought "Conversion disorder?"  It called to mind a recent "Dear Abby" letter of a woman who was insulted by her born again friend's constant needling about where the woman would end up after the Last Judgment.  I'm sure any readers who saw this question in the comments section went running to the Google.  I certainly did.

Conversion Disorder is a psychological state that causes a physical reaction.  The person simply shuts down.  No one knows exactly how it works or what exactly causes it, because the person afflicted can't tell you about the the mental torture that's caused them to live it what surely must be a very private Hell.  I was thinking it must be a lot like catatonia, but the word catatonic was not used to describe the symptoms.

But a patron saint sprang to mind as I read about the disorder: St. Rosalia, the patron saint for people who just need to get away from it all.

Little Rosalia was a descendant of Charlemagne!  But in an effort to live a holy life, she took herself off to be a hermit and lived in a cave.  After a few years in that cave, she moved to a new cave and then one day, the cave caved in on her.

She had been long forgotten by then, so no one even noticed she was gone.

So Rosalia took herself away from life, too. And unlike her, your friend has people who care about that and want to protect and help her. No one has forgotten her.

In the end, no one forgot Rosalia either.  When a plague hit Palermo, Italy, Rosalia appeared to a man and told him where to find her bones.  He unearthed her, brought her home, and many people were cured.  There is still a big party in her honor every year in Palermo. 

I have a little side note for her family: St. Gemma!  She was bedridden for so long at home with her family caring for her. The whole Galgani family are surely saints in Heaven.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Buttons and Bows

 It's a rainy Monday here, so let's cheer up and start the week on a happy note, shall we?

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Do you have a suggestion for a saint to help with depression and anxiety - mostly anxiety?



Let's take a look at the issue of depression and anxiety from a slightly different angle today, shall we?

Before we begin, let's admit that depression and anxiety can be due to chemicals in your brain and that you may want to seek medical attention, that it may indeed be very important for you to do so.

That said, I normally shove people in the direction of Mother Teresa of Calcutta because she famously suffered from what is known as  a 'dark night of the soul', which is a fancy, theological way of saying she felt abandoned by God and was very depressed about it.  Being the busy gal that she was, she must have had a good deal of anxiety about that. Her book outlines her depression and anxiety.

But today, let's also admit that many of us feel depression and anxiety because the world around us makes it seem as though everybody else is doing pretty well, living happy lives surrounded by loved ones.  They are all out there posting pictures of their dogs, snuggled in the bedclothes, and the kids, smiling from ear to ear in the snow.  They send emails quoting hopeful messages of love and inspiration.  Their houses are cleaner than ours. They don't have a lot of junk on the floor of their cars and they don't forget appointments or birthdays.
 Or, just when you do feel rather happy and relaxed, you realize that there are people suffering and dying and starving, there are wars, shootings, murders, chopped up people, dogs being kicked and yet another political debate scheduled for this evening.

So let's find a patron saint for that type of depression and anxiety, too.  Lo! and Behold! Her feast day is today!  She hasn't been canonized yet, but only because they haven't set a date for the party!

This little German girl grew up in Utica, New York, worked in a factory and became a nun.  She was a born leader and quickly became a Mother Superior, over and over again.

She ran a hospital.

Meanwhile, over in Hawaii, a leprosy epidemic caused the government to dump all the poor sick people together on one island.  Just dumped there. Good luck to you, lepers!  At least the weather's nice!  There were so many of them, they couldn't check them onto the island fast enough. A call went out to the nuns in the Mainland.  Anyone care to come and help out?

Sister Marianne Cope took 6 nuns, all with their hands eagerly in the air to go along, and spent the next 30 years caring for the lepers.

And what does all of this have to do with depression and anxiety?  Sister Marianne couldn't stand the depressing atmosphere. Why should these poor sick people, doomed by their disease and corralled onto an island, have to live out their days slumping around in despair? Why shouldn't they find some joy in life?

She established a school for girls and made sure they had pretty dresses!  She drummed up parties and generated entertainment.  She found joy where there had only been sorrow.  And she put a brightly colored bow on it.

She probably invented clipping plastic flowers to flip flops.  I made that up.  But she would have done that if she had some flip flops and some plastic flowers.

In any case, she was beatified back in 2005.  But just last month her second miracle was confirmed! She's in!  Be sure and wear a pretty dress on the day she is canonized.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Patron Saint of ADD

Hi Sister! I need your help with helping to choose a confirmation saint for my husband. Well, he needs your help. He's an artist, but also really into comic books. He's got really bad ADD, and has a hard time finishing things. He also is a revert and came to the Church a bit later in life though he was baptized Catholic. I thought Augustine would be great, but he's read about him and doesn't feel like they have a lot "in common." Any thoughts? A couple he could read up on would be great!

Yes! I would recommend St. John of God.  He is one of my favorite saints, bouncing rootlessly from one thing to the next until he had a complete nervous breakdown.  Then he became a hero. How's that for really bad ADD?  He also came to the church later in life.

And!  He sold holy cards.  I know it isn't comic books, but they didn't have comic books back then.  People don't seem as fascinated with holy cards these days, but when I was a child there was always a stock pile of them at the back of church and a pack of different ones from which to choose at every funeral.  I still have a large collection left from everyone in our family who has gone to where the woodbine twineth.

The boys always liked the ones that were rather gruesome, like St. Lawrence being roasted, or St. Sebastian shot full of arrows.   St. Bartholomew having his skin peeled off was a big hit.

Personally, I liked variety and gravitated toward action pictures, rather than a picture of some old saint with his head bowed, staff in hand, book in the other.  I liked St. Mary Magdelene, draped over a big rock, praying for forgiveness.  St. Rita with a heavenly light drilling a permanent hole in her forehead.  Or if they were just going to stand there, at least be standing with something interesting. St. Lucy with her eyes on the plate.  St. Catherine of Alexandria with her giant spiked wheel.

I'm sure I came by this interest because of the statues lining the aisle of my parish. There were pillars all the way up both sides of the church and each pillar had an almost life size statue of a saint.  I'm sure some of them were life size, because people used to be much smaller.  I used to stare at them until their eyes blinked.  Ever do that?  If you stare long enough their eyes will blink.

But I digress.  If your husband likes comic books, he also likes heroes.  St. John of God became a hero. He ran a makeshift hospital, begging to get the beds, blankets and equipment he needed.  When it caught on fire, he carried out the patients and then went back in for the precious mattresses. As a result, he is also the patron saint of firefighters.

Quite a character, John of God.  A great saint.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's a Jungle Out There

Hello Sr..You have mentioned bible study on ur own is a recipe for potential danger..could you explain.

Ur?  This is not a text!  For the next twenty minutes, please write the word "your" on the blackboard.

It's not just me.  Because the Catholic Church realizes that a lot of the language and imagery in the Bible is loaded with symbolism and layers of meaning, the Church in Her wisdom would rather you didn't dig around in there on your own.

On top of which, which Bible are your reading? Which translation?

Digging around in the Bible on your own is rather what caused the giant mess of denominations that now crowd the planet.  Martin Luther was mad at the Church, thought the authority was corrupt and advised everyone to skip the 'middle man' and just interpret the Bible for yourself. As soon as that happened, everyone had their hands up, yelling, "I think it means this!  I think it means that!"  And the next thing you know you have Calvinism and Puritans, Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists.

Hence my admonishment "a recipe" for disaster.  You can follow the recipe by reading any history of the origins of the various Christian denominations. One group of people sitting in pews doesn't agree with one little thing that some of the other people sitting in those same pews think that one little passage in the Bible means and the next thing you know they've built their own pews and before you know it, you have Jim Jones preaching in a remote jungle to get away from everyone else's interpretation.

Yes, we'd like you to actually read the Bible, by yourself even.  But before you find yourself in a jungle drinking Kool-Aid, please then go back and read about how the Church interprets what you've read.  And if you're going to sit around in a group and discuss it all, make sure to do some research about tonight's passages before you have a bunch of hands in the air, yelling, "I think it means...."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Soft Place to Land

Sister, Would you please guide me to a patron saint. These are my issues: I work full time as a school guidance counselor, I am married and have three children. My son is a nice young adult who has graduated from college and lives successfully on his own. My daughters are a mess. Both still live at home. The oldest thinks partying is her main purpose in life and she has a daughter out of wedlock. The youngest suffers from mental illness and struggles from day to day. Needless to say I feel stressed and am often vacillating between being angry, frustrated, and worried sick. I would really appreciate your guidance. Thank you your blog really is a bright spot for me.

You need to head straight to St. Monica.  Her child was a mess, too.  He ended up being a Doctor of the Church. Her husband was no picnic, either, but her prayers straightened him out as well.

When we ask a saint to pray for us, just the same as when we ask our friends to pray for us, we pick a saint who we feel understands our travails.  But I think St. Monica is a good choice for another reason.

Keeping in mind that St. Monica has no power to help out except through intercessory prayer, like anyone else who might pray for you, clearly, prayer is something at which Monica really, really excelled.

Keep in mind one other thing: Monica led by example.

One of our wonderful readers who left a comment suggested Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  I couldn't agree more.  For me, she is the soft place to land when life pushes your to your wits end.  You know that saying that God doesn't give you anything you can't handle?  I don't believe that.  Whoever said that just made up something that sounded good.  Life kills people all the time.  PTSD, anyone?

But God has provided us with grace and sanctuary, and one of the many ways he has done that is through Mary.  God provided us with a mother, Mary the Mother of God.

Go home to mother!  Here is the prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, oh virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

Oh Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in they mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

If we back away from the fancy language what does the prayer say?
Mary, everyone knows that you have never turned a deaf ear to anyone who has asked for your intercession.  This makes me feel safe in asking for your help, even though I don't feel much like I deserve any help from anyone, let alone, you.  Thank you for your compassion for me.

And hey, everybody! Can we please note the word INTERCESSION, right in the prayer, there? Thanks.

I think teaming up with Mary will help your stress level enormously, knowing you have two very powerful pray-ers, on your team.

One word of advice.  Stop being a doormat for that girl.  If she's out too late, lock the door. Make yourself available to babysit, only if the child's mother is at work or at school and at no other time. She'll need to find a job to pay a sitter. Set some boundaries, as they say.  She can treat you with respect and pitch into the household (far be it from me to dismiss the idea of communal living!) or she can leave.

I have compassion for her, as she may be behaving badly due to the stress you are all under. But she's going to have to try out some new coping mechanisms.

Also, drop the anger. It's okay to feel anger. It's not okay to harbor anger.  Recognize it for what it is: pain that is not resolved.

Okay, that was more than one word.  Now, you'll have Monica to help you out!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Good King Wenceslas Looks In

We have some lingering holiday questions to address that went wanting while we drank eggnog.  Although I'm sure most have you have now chucked your crispy old Christmas trees to the curb, we still have work to do.  About that Good King Wenceslas number:

I was told that this song was a protestant version of the actual miracle. Supposedly, the truth was that the Duke (he wasn't actually a king)was going to Adoration on a very cold night and the page was his torch bearer. The page was freezing, he walked in the saint's steps, he miraculously warmed up.

The author of the song was a protestant minister and wanted to high light acts of charity rather than, say, Eucharistic Adoration, so he changed the story around.

That's what I was told, and I'd love to know if it's the truth! I care very much because St. Wenceslaus is my name saint. Have you heard this before?

I have not heard that before and it doesn't really ring true to me. While I could see how some separated brethren writing a Christmas carol would change a story from a King going out for Eucharist Adoration to something else, the separated brethren are not high on emphasizing charitable acts as a path to Heaven, either.

The man who penned the Wenceslas ditty,  John Mason Neale, did change around a song to tell his story.  He actually took an old spring song and dumped those lyrics, replacing them with the good king.  Here's the timeline on the whole shebang: Duke Wenceslas the actual person, early 10th century,  Old Spring song ("Now is the time for flowering"), early 16th century, Good King Wenceslas, the Christmas Carol, 1853. 

Was Duke Wenceslas headed out for Eucharist Adoration when the poor man came in sight?  There is nothing to suggest that that is the true story.  Writing about Wenceslas in 1119, a chronicler stated:

But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.
 This activity, whether true or not, prompted a Pope to get out and walk around in the snow in his bare feet as well.  The Pope and his feet survived the ordeal.

Also, Rev. Neale wrote the song for Boxing Day, another indication that the song didn't change the story.  It's a good Boxing Day story, isn't it?

And yes, Wenceslas was not a king, but a duke.  But he was given the honorarium "King" because of his devotion in spite of his high status.

It is a Protestant song, I'll give you that.  Neale was a big deal in the Anglican church, a big enough deal that his attitudes were suppressed by his bishop for 14 years.

The truly interesting thing in all of this is the story of Neale. He founded  the Society of St. Margaret, which was a group of women dedicated to nursing the sick.  What does that sound like to you?  He founded an order of Sisters.  So right away that was suspect by the separated brethren, separated at this point in time by only 300 years.  They had just lost John Newman to the Catholics and they did not like anything that smacked on Catholicism. St. Margaret, indeed. The powers that be thought that perhaps Rev. Neale was a Vatican plant, sent to subvert their church (that was based on subversion from the Catholic Church).

What goes around comes around, eh?

We don't believe that.  We believe that the Truth has a way of setting itself free.

Rev. Neale was mauled at the funeral of one of his Sisters and he was threatened on other occasions with stoning and people who wanted to burn down his house.  In the end, he and his Sisters survived and thrived, living on to do good deeds.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

No, you won't have to watch you little sister tear apart the snow man family in the middle of the night because she doesn't want to move.  It's Little Christmas!  The Feast of the Epiphany!

I've talked about the "Wise Men" before.  But what is the significance of these fellows of unknown origin and numbers?  (I, for one, am happy that we've settled on the manageable number of three, because they are the heaviest statues to lug up out of the church basement. Two on still on their camels and on is off his camel, so we have to lug up his camel, too.)  They are here to continue the narrative of Jesus, that He is here for everyone, the poor and the mighty both.

I also particularly enjoy this feast day because we get to visit with St. Joseph again.  We don't hear much about him in the New Testament, although we now keep him busy with patronages from workers to real estate, from a happy death, to the entire country of Italy.

You know, Italy has more exorcisms than any other country?  What's that about?

I digress.

This is the point where St. Joseph is at his best, getting the information that his family is in grave danger and taking swift and decisive, and very loving, action.  He made his way with them to Egypt on foot with no GPS  or Triple A.  It seems that everything went fine for them from then on, except for one small glitch when the Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus for a bit, which turned out to be no big deal in the lost child department.

St. Joseph gives us such a sense of peace, doesn't he?  He did everything that was asked of him and he made it look easy.  My dad was kind of like that.

I was tickled to find out that today is the feast day of the newly minted St. Andre, formerly known as Blessed Brother Andre of Montreal.  What a good match to put his feast day on this day! He was devoted to St. Joseph.

St. Andre is famous for having built the Oratory of St. Joseph with his simple devotion and persistence.  “It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures,” he once said.  But in his lifetime, the reason he was able to accomplish so much is because he had become a rather famous healer, rubbing the sick with oil from the lamps in the chapel at the rectory.  St. Joseph's oil is on sale at the Oratory gift shop. I have some!  Because so many people knew him, people also came to know his cause.

Of course people thought the oil was miraculous, but St. Andre was careful to remind them that it was not the oil the healed, but St. Joseph.

And now, we have to be careful to remind people that when he said that, we, as Catholics, know that is short hand for  'it is not the oil that healed, but the intercessory prayer of St. Joseph'.  The separated brethren are confused enough.  I know it's cumbersome to go around saying, "Pray for the intercessory prayer of St. Anthony" but I think we should consider it.  At least boil it down to "Ask St. Anthony to pray for you"  instead of "Pray to St. Anthony."

Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Lean Your Ear This Way

St. Gemma was so pretty.

SMM, I have been a volunteer child advocate through the national CASA (court appointed special advocate) program on and off for ten years. Is there a saint for advocates of children?

Of course! Jolly old St. Nicholas!  Santa Claus is the patron saint for children.  The story has a "Sweeney Todd" flair to it.  It seems during a time of famine and evil innkeeper murdered three children, chopped them to pieces and put the pieces in the pickle barrel to cure.

He was planning on passing them off as ham.  Perhaps they were chubby children.

But St. Nicholas came along and solved the crime.  We don't know how he did that.  Perhaps he fancied a pickle and lifted the lid to help himself.  This is why, by the way, we have the "Christmas Pickle",  a German tradition of hiding a pickle ornament somewhere on the Christmas tree. The child who finds it gets a prize. We have two Christmas pickles on our tree.  I can never find them when it's time to take the tree down. No prize for me! And I'm the one who puts them on there in the first place.

I digress.

St. Nicholas rescued the children and miraculously brought them back to life.

Now, while I'm dubious that any of this took place,  I can imagine that you sometimes feel as though you are rescuing chopped up children hidden in pickle barrels.  But that's not really happening to you, either.

It does seem to me that St. Nicholas had a sweet heart, or these legends would not have arisen around him.  We don't have legends of sweet things done by nasty people or even crabby people.  Legends arise from the heart, because of bravery, compassion, strength.

Here's to your bravery, compassion and strength.  I hope Santa was good to you this year.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Hi Sister, do you have any advice, Catholic advice, for how to get through the holidays when you feel sad, depressed, lonely. I have no energy. I wish there were no holidays. All the advice I read is about how to accomplish your shopping or entertaining. I want to know how to deal with God's birthday when you feel too sad to wish Him a happy birthday. Do you know what I mean?

Happy New Year!  Here I am with an answer to your question, a day late and a dollar short.  I'm sorry I'm so late to answer your question.  Perhaps I am just impossibly early, for next Christmas.

Although, you did say you wish there were no holidays, and there are plenty between now and what we have come to call the "holiday season" because there are three in a row.

Here's the problem, I can't really answer your question.  It would be rude for me to tell you to lighten up, smack a smile on your face and get over yourself if you are suffering from clinical depression.  If that's the issue, you can't do these things.  I understand that.

I might be able to help a little with some perspective.  We live in a time of abundance in everything. Even if we are poor and struggling and eating beans and rice for dinner every night, we are better off than the pioneers coming across the plains in Conestoga wagons eating lard and sugar and losing the little ones under the wagon wheels.  Or the indigenous peoples who were slaughtered to make way for those wagons.

We can eat our beans and rice in front of the tube, travel without too much work involved by sitting on some sort of gas powered chair or couch on wheels. We have an abundance of all kinds of choices of food, types of clothing, freedom of choice in how we behave.

We should already be clicking up our heels in joy and then...(dramatic musical sting) THE HOLIDAYS.  Somehow, we are supposed to ramp up our heel clicking and add even more of everything to everything for about a month.  That's exhausting, and sometimes utterly overwhelming. No wonder we feel sad and let down.

On top of that, we also have a lot of social media where we get to see what everyone had for breakfast and how lovely their lives are and how pretty their children look and how cute the dog is in his Santa hat. No one wants to post depressing things because no one wants to read them or think about them. So we have a very VAST false front. A permeating facade of perpetual happiness and success.

That could make anyone feel sad, depressed and lonely.

The simple answer, if there is one, is to let it go.  Focus your attention on love and gratitude and compassion. Try to ramp those things up.  And yes, smile.  Even if you don't feel like it. I will remind you that it takes less muscles to do that.

I emphasize the word "try".  Because maybe you can and maybe you can't.  But you certainly can't if you don't try a little.  One thing.  The smile.

Or the thank you.

Or the "Happy Birthday, Jesus".  After all, why do we wish people a happy birthday in the first place.  Why do we feel bad when we don't get a happy birthday wish?  Isn't it because saying "happy birthday" is a way of saying "I'm glad you were born"?

If you are not clinically depressed, you really need to examine why you are sad, depressed and lonely.  If your problem is not a chemical imbalance, then yes, I do have some advice for you.

But if you are, here is some advice from someone who bears the same burden.