Note: I write this column on Sunday, August 17, since I will be on retreat all week until August 23.
Assumption High Mass. Praised be Jesus Christ! Thanks to all of you who came out to the Extraordinary Form High Mass on the Assumption. I was hoping that we would have 300 to 400 people (a good attendance for any Holy Day evening Mass). But I was stunned to find a standing room only crowd. Thanks to all of you who came out, whether out of devotion to the Old Mass, or out of curiosity or nostalgia, or simply in response to my asking you. I was moved beyond words.
And while I was hoping that those who came would have a positive and prayerful experience, I was completely overwhelmed as everyone I could see coming out of Mass was smiling (though a few were crying), and one after another approaching me to express their gratitude, appreciation and joy. Young people and old; older folks who had fond memories from their youth reawakened, and younger folks who had “never seen anything so beautiful.” The music was amazing, the servers were reverent, and I thank the Good Lord almost no one knew enough to recognize all my mistakes. It was a wonderful evening.
Considering the overwhelmingly positive response, I now plan to schedule three or four more Masses like this throughout the coming year. But my main hope is, as I wrote in the program for the Mass: “that having participated in this beautiful Extraordinary Form of the one Mass of the Roman Rite you may come away with both an increased appreciation for our rich Catholic liturgical heritage, and a deeper understanding of the Mass in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms—both in its ceremonies, and in its profound theological meaning. I pray that, through the Blessed Mother’s intercession, this will be reflected in the reverent and prayerful celebration of all Holy Masses at St. Raymond’s.” After witnessing the overwhelmingly positive reaction of so many of you, I have great confidence that this hope will be fulfilled.
Thanks again, to all who came and all who helped make it possible. And thanks to those donors who generously helped to defray the additional costs. And above all, thanks be to Our Lord and Our Lady, and Saint Raymond.
Robin Williams, Suicide, and Depression. Many Americans were shocked and saddened of the news of the suicide of Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams. To be frank, I was never a big fan of his, but there is no denying his tremendous and varied talents and the wide numbers of people whom he entertained and made laugh.
His death makes us pause to think about many things. First, that all the money and success in the world doesn’t mean much in the end. It clearly doesn’t buy happiness, and it can’t conquer death. I’m sorry to say that it seems that Mr. Williams had no particular faith in God, and particularly no faith in Jesus. So that when he had to face his depression he apparently saw death as his only hope. If only he had had faith in Christ.
Does that mean that all people who commit suicide don’t have faith in Jesus—even self-proclaimed devout Catholics? By no means. It simply means that faith in Jesus Christ leads to real hope for millions of people who would otherwise give in to despair. It means that so many people who might otherwise feel all alone know that Jesus loves them perfectly and completely, and will never abandon them.
Williams’ death also makes us think of the reality of depression. All of us get depressed, in the sense that we get sad or emotionally low. But “clinical depression” is something else. It is a medical illness, often caused by real physical problems, such as chemical imbalances (I speak as a complete amateur here). Often it’s the result of a combination of psychological, environmental and physical factors. But it is never something to be ashamed of, and it is always something we should seek help with. Sometimes this involves just talking to family and friends, but when necessary we should not hesitate to seek professional help, even if it’s just mentioning your symptoms to your family physician. The more severe the depression, obviously, the more imperative that one seeks assistance.
Of course, there is a spiritual component to dealing with depression as well. Hope in Christ and the grace He pours out on us is an amazing thing. It helps put all things in perspective, can carry us through our darkest moments, and can heal every illness. Even so, sometimes the illness overcomes our hope. And sometimes, just as faithful Christians succumb to cancer and heart disease, faithful Christians also succumb to clinical depression, even to the point of suicide.
Although throughout history there have been those who try to portray it as a noble thing, and many today make the same argument, suicide is never, never good or honorable. It is always a sad, and evil thing. That is not at all to say that the people who commit suicide are always sad or evil people. Far from it. Most are simply ill: it’s estimated that around 90% of the people who commit suicide in our country have some sort of psychiatric disorder, e.g., clinical depression.
If you have had a loved one who has committed suicide, my heart goes out to you, and, much more importantly, so does the mercy of Christ. Our hope is in Him, Who knows the hearts of all, and finds no blame in one who dies as the result of a psychological disorder, such as depression, that robs one of the ability to truly freely choose life over death.
And if you are one who has ever considered suicide, or perhaps actually attempted suicide, know that you are not alone. Your family and friends are there for you. And the Church, the parish, your priests and health care professionals are here to help you. Most of all, be confident that Christ is here for you: He loves you, He will never abandon you, and He is bigger and more wonderful than any evil or darkness in your life. Have faith in Him, hope in Him, and trust in His infinite love for you.
Let us pray for the soul of Robin Williams, and all those who have died by their own hand. While it is right to judge their action as absolutely wrong, we do not judge their souls. We leave that to our just God, and His boundless mercy. And let us pray for all who suffer from depression. May they find the help they need in friends, professionals and brothers and sisters in Christ. And may the grace of Christ transform their sadness into joy, their despair into hope.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles