Religion and Mental Health

iStock_Mains_BibleXSmall (2)Last week was Mental Health Awareness week in Canada. Stastistics show that one in six Canadians will suffer at one point in their life with mental health issues. We lead very stressful lives and many of our more traditional institutions such as family and church that gave us support are under fire.

The question that many people ask is, “Do religious people have fewer mental health problems?” The jury is not out on this question, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that connection to a religious community creates a stable place for families and individuals when they go through periods of stress in their lives.

A community of believers come together not just to pray together, but become connected to one another and begin to care for one another. This cannot help but be beneficial when one goes through difficult times such as a loss of job, moments of illness and in times of grief. In my own parish community I have seen where people who have been seriously ill or have lost a spouse have been supported either with a compassionate presence or emotional support. For those who may fall into a situational depression, this support can help them to come out of the depression and find new meaning in life.

Religion also helps people to find a sense of the sacred in our world. Discovering God in our life can help to see beyond the immediate difficulties and see the bigger picture. Faith in a God who loves and cares for us brings hope. Hope carries us through difficulties.

But no one is immune to mental illness, even the most faithful believers. Even some saints struggled with mental illness. When it strikes, the consequesnces can be devestating for the individuals and their families. They need our loving care.

Have you witnessed support from others in times of difficulty? Or experienced it yourself? Did your religious experience help you in any way?


Mother’s Day – The Many Faces of Mary

Mary-Untier-of-Knots-1As Mother’s Day approaches, we see the flower shops stocking up on bouquets and greeting card shops reminding us to remember our mothers. Many Christian faith traditions honor Mary as our mother. When I reflect on her role as our mother, I cannot help to think of all the different names that Mary has been given. The many faces of Mary give us an opportunity to discover and relate to her in our own special way. Below are some of the ways that have come down throughout the centuries.

Mary the Mother of God: We remember Mary as the person who brought Jesus into the world, raised him up from a child to adulthood. Her story is one of faithfulness to God.

Theotokos (Christ-bearer): We meet Mary as the scriptures speak of her, the Mother of Jesus who carried him in her womb and gave birth to him. Her courage inspires us to trust that God will be there for us, even in difficult situations.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help: This tradition speaks to us of how Mary listens to our prayers of need and is perpetually present to help and support us.

Our Lady of Guadaloupe: In Latin American countries, Mary emerges as an advocate for the poor when she appears to a native Mexican man and performs miracles in his life.

Our Lady of Fatima: Mary appeared to three young teenagers in Fatima, Portugal and gave them a secret to be revealed to the world.

Mary Help of Christians:This feast of Mary is especially pertinent today for those Christians facing persecution for their faith.

Mary Untier of Knots: Mary is portrayed as a person who helps us to untie the knots of our lives and our relationships.

Mary for Today: Can the face of Mary change the way we act? When difficult situations happen, What would Mary do?

Whatever our need Mary can be of support to us.   This Mother’s Day, why not honor Mary and discover a particular facet of who she is?


Quotes from Pope Francis

papa-francescoPope Francis celebrated his second anniversary as leader of the Catholic Church a few months ago. Since that time, he has shaken the world with his challenging and insightful wisdom. The media have more than once used his quotes and expressions to reveal to us the person of Pope Francis. One blogger has made a list of 75 of his most  important quotes . They range from his concepts of God, to how we as Christians should better express our faith. I have made my own favorite list below, in no special order. There is something in here for everyone.

“Watch out against the terrorism of gossip”

“To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us”

“Being a Christian is not just about following the commandments: it is about letting Christ take possession of our lives and transform them”

“We cannot sleep peacefully while babies are dying of hunger and the elderly are without medical assistance”

“Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven”

“The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness”

“God’s forgiveness is stronger than any sin”

“Our prayer cannot be reduced to an hour on Sundays. It is important to have a daily relationship with the Lord”

“Practicing charity is the best way to evangelize”

“Are you angry with someone? Pray for that person. That is what Christian love is.”

“Jesus is more than a friend. He is a teacher of truth and life who shows us the way that leads to happiness”

“However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew”


Do any of these twelve quotes hold your attention? What do they say to you about God or about your belief in God?

Celtic Easter Blessings

Christ ressuscité2


Easter Sunday Blessing

At the breaking of the Easter dawn

may the Risen Saviour bless your home

with grace and peace from above,

with joy and laughter, and with love

And when night is nigh, and day is done

Make He keep you safe from all harm.

Holy Week

iStock_3_CroixXSmallHoly Week begins with Palm Sunday, a day when scripture tells us that crowds of people welcomed Jesus like a hero as he rode into the city of Jerusalem mounted on a donkey.  Pope Francis’s message for Palm Sunday helps us to understand the meaning of this event and prepares us for the rest of Holy Week.

Holy Thursday follows with Jesus celebrating  his last Passover meal with his close friends. We remember this Passover meal as the institution of the Eucharist when Jesus asks his friends to remember him in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine. But there is one more significant gesture that he performs that night, the washing of his disciples feet. The washing of another’s feet was a task done only by slaves. Jesus hopes to show his disciples that it is only in washing the feet of others that we show love, the true gift of service to each other. That message is so hard to understand, that Peter initially refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, only to relent after Jesus insists.

Good Friday recounts the events around the death of Jesus on the cross. The church celebration on this day is sombre and subdued. We enter into the suffering of Jesus as he walks with his cross to the hill of Calvary. Our minds and hearts are focused on his death and the people who accompany him through this difficult journey. Jesus shows us that even in times of suffering, we can be instruments of love. He consoles the women of Jerusalem, he forgives those who have participated in his fate and he experiences thoughts of abandonment from his father.

Holy Saturday, the day after the crucifixion is a day of mourning and reflection. We, like Jesus, enter a sort of tomb to really experience what has happened in the past few days. We are encouraged to stay in this liminal space, stay in the suffering and death of Jesus. But the story is not ended.

The Easter experience completes Holy Week. The sufferings of Jesus can only make sense when we allow our own difficulties and sufferings lead us to the Resurrection. We need to live out all of the events of Holy Week, so that the Easter of our lives can be fully appreciated.


Sowing Seeds of Love

devpeace_sharelent2015_sowmuchlovetogive_poster_events_letterThis coming Sunday, March 22, is Solidarity Sunday, a day in which we join with the rest of the Catholic community around the world to promote the “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign. This year’s theme is “Sow Much Love to Give”. We are all invited to not only share our material goods with our sisters and brothers in the Global South, but also to think about how we can better sow seeds of faith and love within ourselves. Where is our relationship with God and others?

As Canadians, we have so much love to give. Our country is rich in resources, land and water. This is not the case of other members of the human family. Natural disasters, economic inequity, wars and gender inequality have stripped many of access to food. Hunger is not caused by a lack of food in the world, but by unjust systems that distort the distribution of food. We are all in this together. That which impacts our southern neighbors, impacts us. Their needs become our needs. As Catholics, we are called to support and share with those who are the poorest of the poor. We become more human when we work in solidarity with the poor.

Our efforts do carry fruit. Development and Peace, the Canadian arm of Caritas Internationalis, a global campaign introduced by the Holy Father, is working hard to support the fair distribution of food. Their website gives some concrete examples. This Sunday, please give generously. If that is not possible, you may check the website of The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and make an online donation.

Giving of ourselves to others is a call to our greater sense of humanity. Not only do we help others in the process but we grow in love and joy as we share our gifts with other members of our human family. Our example as Christians is a true witness to the Gospel message of love for the poor.

During Lent: Feast, don’t Fast

iStock_soupe popXSmall (2)This week I came across an interesting prayer that I would like to share with you. The author invites us to feast and not to fast during Lent in order to come closer to God. I invite you to feast, not fast this Lenten season.

A Lenten Prayer

Fast from judging others; feast on Christ in them.
Fast from wanting more; feast on being thankful.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on enjoyment.
Fast from negatives; feast on positives.
Fast from stress; feast on prayer.
Fast from anger; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from fear; feast on truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from gossip; feast on silence.
Fast from fighting; feast on peace.
Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with your presence
so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work. 
–Adapted from A Lenten Prayer by William Arthur Ward


Lent: Nurturing a Healthy Soul

Bible and heartsThe other day I read in the newspaper that February is designated as heart month by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. During this month there is a concerted effort to raise awareness on how to look after our hearts by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One of the most important factors in having a healthy heart is to eat well. The foundation proposes several strategies to increase our consumption of fruits and vegetables. Changing our eating habits can lead to a significant improvement in heart health and quality of life.

I was reminded of how we also need to remember to keep our souls healthy. The liturgical season of Lent, which begins this February 18 could be considered a special time when we become aware of the need to look after our relationship with God by looking after our souls. If our heart health depends on what we eat, by the same token we need to pay attention to what we feed our souls. Are we mindful of what we read, sites that we frequent online,  television shows we watch or the types of relationships that we keep? These are the nutrients we feed our souls with. If we were to say, we are what we eat, then what we feed our souls with is what we become.

There are many resources on the net that are “health food” for the soul. I am suggesting a few that I have found helpful. Also, you may find some spiritual reading that will help you to nurture your relationship with God and help to feed your soul in a positive way. Pope Francis in his Message on Holiness for Lent 2015  invites us to look after our neighbor this Lent. For those of us who prefer to respond to God through actions, Busted Halo has a suggestion for a Lenten Calendar , called Fast, Pray, Give .

God is reaching out to us in so many ways, let us open the door to him and become soul healthy people.


Synod on the Family Consultation

Picture family1A very important process is happening right now in our Archdiocese. A consultation is underway in preparation for the Synod on the Family scheduled for October 2015 in Rome.

What is the Synod on the Family? A Synod is a gathering of various members of the church to discuss important issues of faith. In this case, those gathered together will be selected cardinals of the church and some lay people who will come to reflect and dialogue on central issues concerning families today.

What is extraordinary this time, is that Pope Francis has requested that each Bishop conduct a consultation on the family from the faithful in their diocese. The bishops of Canada have prepared various questions important to Canadians to be reflected upon. In Montreal, it was decided to focus on those questions that seemed most important to the people living in Montreal.

The questions as prepared by the Canadian bishops and the diocese of Montreal are all accessible on the Montreal Archdiocesan website. To make it easy to respond, you can answer online. If youwish you can also send your responses to If you only wish to answer some of the questions as they pertain to you, that is sufficient. The answers to the questionnaire will be summarized and sent to the Canadian bishops and then forwarded onto the Vatican committee concerned. The Montreal deadline is February 28, 2015. The data will be used to prepare the agenda of the Synod on the Family.

This is truly a unique opportunity for the Catholic faithful of Montreal and of the world. Pope Francis is convinced that the voice of the faithful as concerns issues of family are important and should be listened to. Let us take this golden opportunity to reflect and discuss with others how, as family, we live our faith and offer our suggestions on the issues that we face in this time.

Our bishops are listening, let us participate in faith and hope for a future that is rooted in our Catholic values and lived experience.

Year for Consecrated Life

vis-consacree-accueil-en-ab059d9cFebruary 2 has been named the World Day for Consecrated Life and this year in particular is a year dedicated all the Catholic religious communities in the world. By tradition,  consecrated people were those who belong to various religious communities such as sisters, brothers and priests. They live in communities such as monasteries, convents and religious houses. More recently, other forms of consecrated life have emerged such as lay apostolates or consecrated persons who live in the world in smaller groups or alone but adhere to various ways of life in prayer and work. There are many forms of lay apostalate, but all are marked by a dedication to God in their personal lives.

The history of religious communities in Quebec goes back to the colonial days when brothers and sisters came from France and dedicated their lives to the betterment of the community that was growing in leaps and bounds. We owe much of the beginnings of our schools, hospitals, universities and social services to sisters and brothers who dared to educate, nurse and accompany the destitute in conditions that were less than ideal. We hear the names of some of the foundresses and founders of religious communities in our street signs, names of schools and buildings. I personally know of many religious who are still working today quietly behind the scenes with dedication to teach new immigrants, accompany persons who are mentally or physically handicapped or leave for foreign countries to help bring needed skills to countries in distress.

Have you ever crossed paths with a religious brother or sister who has been a sign of hope for you? Or maybe you have been helped by an institution such as a school or hospital that was founded and may still even be financed by a religious community? It may be time now to remember them and give thanks for all that they have given to society and continue to do.


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