Mental Health

Go to Jerusalem

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          I didn’t go to my day as I should have, singing songs of thanksgiving for nearly 50 years of relatively good health. Going in to work, despite my morning resolve to live my day well, I was soon affected by tiredness and some physical discomfort which made me a little crabby.

          It was not going to be an easy day for prayers much needed.

          Earlier at home, during a quick stop at a religious online forum, I learned of 3 people’s intense suffering. One was a mother whose son had been suffering from mental health issues for some time. Things had gotten progressively worse and last night, he attempted suicide. Miraculously, the rope had snapped. And a mother got another chance with her beloved boy.

          The third person was a young man I had been journeying with, trying to save him from himself. Many times before, this guy has told me how much he felt helped by my prayers – and I prayed and hoped it were so because as God never granted me the grace of knowing, I always felt unsure. Often I felt overwhelmed, as one often does in dealing with mental health tribulations. Yet, turning away from him was not an option – not when I have struggled with depression and God knows what else for so many years.

          This morning, after trying to be brave and positive for so long, the young guy collapsed and had to be admitted into a hospital. I don’t know how many on the forum guessed or knew that it was actually a mental health facility, a place he had been in many times before.

          So, the call to intense prayer was loud and clear. Trouble was, the day had gotten off to a prickly start, with one irritating thing after another happening. Certainly not a day when prayer would come easily.

          Just then, a dear friend from another organization, who shared the same birthdate, texted me at work.

          “Are you happy?” she asked me. “Because I am so very happy today.”

          I’ve had worse days but I certainly wasn’t happy, there was no faking it. I wondered how to be honest without denting my friend’s happy day. In the end, I did what I do best. I made a joke out of my discomfort and got a laugh out of her. But I refrained from sharing about the suffering souls and their crosses today, because however much I loved my friend and I knew she loved me too, sometimes the body of water that separates our faiths is more than a mere puddle. This morning, troubled by other people’s grief, the gulf between Christianity and Islam was too huge to be crossed and I didn’t even attempt it.

          Just as I was wondering how on earth was I to pray from my heart in the midst of much distractions, I recalled something someone had mentioned before:

The prayer of gazing

          When words are too difficult. When the pain is too deep. When all we can do is gaze upon the Crucifix, or at a statue of Jesus or Mother Mary or of one of our favourite saints, our gazing is prayer.

          But it was one I hadn’t tried before in the thorny thicket of work.

          Earlier, hearing of those people’s pain, I had invoked the aid of St. Pio, my spiritual father. Now, wanting to deepen that invocation, I sought a photo of the St. Pio’s tomb in Pietrelcina, Italy. For some reason, I wanted to kneel at a sacred place and offer up that mother, her son and the young man who once dreamed of being a lawyer to fight for the oppressed.

          For some undefined reason, I wanted to kneel at a tomb.

          Searching for that picture, I instead found myself at Christ’s Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

          It was not an earth shifting moment with powerful signs. It was just as if someone unseen to me had lifted the veil on my search, directing me here.

          It was the lightest of touches on my spirit.

          With a photo of the sacred aedifice deep within the heart of that church displayed clearly on my phone now, I kept the phone on my desk. As I worked, I kept going back to Jesus’ Tomb, taking to Him pain and sorrows.

          Over the course of the next hours, there was a slight shift. I began to take others to Jesus, specifically 2 people who have made life difficult for me and for my colleagues for too long.

          For the first time in a long, long while, absolutely nothing interfered with my praying. Not my tiredness nor discomfort. Not the buzz of life from a few feet away. Not my work even. In fact, work progressed smoothly. Prayer and work ran on two lines, together, yet never disrupting the other.

          Much later, packing up for the day, I suddenly realised that my heart felt incredibly light. I was still tired and there was so much work to be chipped away at in coming days and weeks.

          But the air had sweetened and gentled. Even as the sun burned hot, still voices hidden in spaces sang hymns of joy and peace, their silver notes falling in feather-light grace upon my heart.

          What weight of meaning this bears for those I carried to the sacred Tomb of Christ, I do not know. Will minds and spirits heal? Will life return? Will we escape our prisons?

          Heaven withholds this knowing from me. But for now, it matters not. What I’ve carried to the holiest of sepulchres today rests deep within it now. As does my own heart, in trusting peace.

          Late into the night, pondering this, an old memory rises. And with it,

Go to Jerusalem.