Depression, joy and the holy life.
#1
I'm not a holy person, I practice some mundane piety and I have a terrible habit. I also tend to have crushing depressions that come and go. This is as true now that I'm a Catholic, as when I was an atheist.

I often struggle with the question of joy and what that means. Joy is the buzzword about Catholicism, its almost as big as 'newness' Its a better word though because its often talked about by the saints. However can the joy be experienced by someone who is undergoing a major depressive episode? Is it merely something emotional, or does it go beyond that?

Can someone who's about as miserable as can be, be said to be joyful, if morning and evening they praise God for his goodness? Even if beyond that they don't find anything joyful, or experience anything that would make them smile.

TL;DR do you have to look like this guy to be Catholic?
[Image: dolan-laughing.jpeg]
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#2
Im sure a great many people throghout history have struggled with this. There is a great difference between happiness and joy. Happyness is an emotional reaction to having things go our way, it is ephemereal, like the sexual pleasure obtained through masturbation. It feels good but it just leaves us wanting more.

Joy is something entirely different. Joy is a deep inner peace and satisfaction which can only come from God. It is the fruit of the theological virtues; faith, hope, and charity. One can have joy even when overcome by great sadness, but like any grace, one must cooperate with it. It is less of a feeling and more like a state of being.

It isn't something we can make ourselves, it can only come when one surrenders to Jesus. Even though you struggle with sin, joy is the feeling you get after having confessed all of your sins and resting in gratitude towards God, knowing that he has forgiven you and will continue to forgive you as long as you are contrite.
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#3
I've found that joy is something that is more an interior sense of serenity than anything else. One is at rest interiorly, and at peace. It's like an anchor at the bottom of a lake where the storm rages. There's still ups,downs, highs and lows and the general roller coaster of emotions and moods but they don't ever rob you of that inner center of peace and contentment.

In the context of the Faith you have this inner calm in knowing that you are an adopted son of God through baptism, and that you know you are to spend eternity in His Kingdom of Light. This fallen corrupted world has been redeemed and will eventually be bathed in the light of the Transfiguration. There is an end to suffering and pain. Christ has won against the powers of death and hell.

If we keep this perspective there should be a bit of peace even if it's not always shown in displays of raucous laughter and buffoonery.
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#4
(12-14-2015, 07:25 PM)Leonhard Wrote: I'm not a holy person, I practice some mundane piety and I have a terrible habit. I also tend to have crushing depressions that come and go. This is as true now that I'm a Catholic, as when I was an atheist.

When you say you are not a holy person what do you mean by that Leonhard. Do you mean you feel as if you have a evil heart? And when you say you have a terrible habit is it something where you intentionally hurt others? I abused alcohol for many years. And like you I have had crippling clinical depression ever since I was a child. 

(12-14-2015, 07:25 PM)Leonhard Wrote: I often struggle with the question of joy and what that means. Joy is the buzzword about Catholicism, its almost as big as 'newness' Its a better word though because its often talked about by the saints. However can the joy be experienced by someone who is undergoing a major depressive episode? Is it merely something emotional, or does it go beyond that?

For me its not so much an emotion. I think years of undertreated depression has damaged my ability to have joy as a feeling. But I do sense an odd inner peace that began to develop after I became a born again Christian. It’s hard for me to explain this inner peace but it gives me what I think is some type of intellectual joy.
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#5
Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit. So its certainly something beyond emotions, but it is something one experience (but then again, we also experience thought). I can't say I know too much about this, but I believe it to be a sort of thing that is deeper than the pains, in the sense that is beneath it, almost as if buried, and yet untouched by it—as our Lord said, ”So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.” And of course, this was a common theme of the Greeks and Stoics: real happiness cannot be taken away if not by the person herself. To quote lady Philosophy addressing Boethius, which I believe to be a good image of mortal sin (and eventually hell),

Quote:When I saw thee sorrowful, in tears, I straightway knew thee wretched and an exile. But how far distant that exile I should not know, had not thine own speech revealed it. Yet how far indeed from thy country hast thou, not been banished, but rather hast strayed; or, if thou wilt have it banishment, hast banished thyself! For no one else could ever lawfully have had this power over thee. Now, if thou wilt call to mind from what country thou art sprung, it is not ruled, as once was the Athenian polity, by the sovereignty of the multitude, but "one is its Ruler, one its King," who takes delight in the number of His citizens, not in their banishment; to submit to whose governance and to obey whose ordinances is perfect freedom. Art thou ignorant of that most ancient law of this thy country, whereby it is decreed that no one whatsoever, who hath chosen to fix there his dwelling, may be sent into exile? For truly there is no fear that one who is encompassed by its ramparts and defences should deserve to be exiled. But he who has ceased to wish to dwell therein, he likewise ceases to deserve to do so. And so it is not so much the aspect of this place which moves me, as thy aspect; not so much the library walls set off with glass and ivory which I miss, as the chamber of thy mind, wherein I once placed, not books, but that which gives books their value, the doctrines which my books contain.

St. Augustine also treats this, exposing the major Stoic themes and perfecting them in the Triune God, in his de beata vita.

Anyway, the Catholic pews are full of pain. In some parishes in some neighborhoods if you go on certain hours you'll clearly see it. Say, if you go really early in the weekday Mass, there'll be only workmen and women, poor servants who, after partaking of the living God, go on to hours of onerous, base work. Other less popular hours when there's no tourists, no lukewarm Catholics, you'll see those old folks, some completely abandoned by their own families, some who never had families, who can barely rise from their knees. Even in Sunday Mass.
One thing common among the best of all the suffering people of God is a faith and utter dependence on God that completely defies one's natural expectations. They seem to be able to truly say together with St. Paul We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. They are really blessed (happy), even as they mourn, as Our Lord Himself promised, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."

Of course people are not always smiling. I thought you guys from the North didn't have this modern pressure to always be happy. I thought this was one thing (and probably the only thing) you have in common with us coming from the Mediterranean, who have no problems with sadness. It is here, we must suffer in this world. Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.

Anyway, its an interesting dynamics that goes on in a Catholic soul. I remember reading somewhere St. Thérèse saying that in heaven she hopes her very physical constitution to be changed, because she wouldn't know how to be happy without mixing some tears. Really, the Catholic saints are something else beyond this modern artificial happiness.

Don't know if this addresses your post. But then again, I find it a bit vague, so why not a vague response.
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#6
(12-14-2015, 08:00 PM)formerbuddhist Wrote: In the context of the Faith you have this inner calm in knowing that you are an adopted son of God through baptism, and that you know you are to spend eternity in His Kingdom of Light.

I thought Catholics were always to hit themselves over the head with a hammer after letting this thought creep into their mind, since it takes only one mortal sin without sufficient contrition, or confession, or the last rites, etc... That this assurance was as deadly to the soul as stryknine.

Quote:If we keep this perspective there should be a bit of peace even if it's not always shown in displays of raucous laughter and buffoonery.

I admit to using the picture of Cardinal Dolan as a bit of a jest, since I doubt many Catholics here see him as the high point of Catholic spirituality. Besides I doubt the easterns have many icons of saints bursting into laughter like that. The Desert Fathers (over the top as they usually were), said that laughter was one of the worst things I seem to recall.
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#7
These days I don't have peace, but I think that has more to do with anxiety, panic attacks, an overwhelming and a neigh on incurable sexual addiction. I feel like my soul has given up more or less, and I can just lie down in the mud and wait for God to pick me up.

I have struggled in the past, and I wouldn't say I felt peaceful. Its more true to say that I felt that what I was doing was right, and worth the pain. And I'd rather be back there again, struggling, than lying down here in this dark and useless pit. Unfortunately I seem to be punished mentally every time I try to pick myself up again.

So I wait for God to do that.
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#8
(12-14-2015, 08:24 PM)Leonhard Wrote: These days I don't have peace, but I think that has more to do with anxiety, panic attacks, an overwhelming and a neigh on incurable sexual addiction. I feel like my soul has given up more or less, and I can just lie down in the mud and wait for God to pick me up.

I have struggled in the past, and I wouldn't say I felt peaceful. Its more true to say that I felt that what I was doing was right, and worth the pain. And I'd rather be back there again, struggling, than lying down here in this dark and useless pit. Unfortunately I seem to be punished mentally every time I try to pick myself up again.

So I wait for God to do that.

Surrender to God is the first step to joy.
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#9
Here are the two shortest verses in the Bible:

1 Thess. 5:16 Always rejoice.
John 11:35 Jesus wept.

Contemplate those for a while  :)
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#10
(12-14-2015, 08:22 PM)Leonhard Wrote:
(12-14-2015, 08:00 PM)formerbuddhist Wrote: In the context of the Faith you have this inner calm in knowing that you are an adopted son of God through baptism, and that you know you are to spend eternity in His Kingdom of Light.

I thought Catholics were always to hit themselves over the head with a hammer after letting this thought creep into their mind, since it takes only one mortal sin without sufficient contrition, or confession, or the last rites, etc... That this assurance was as deadly to the soul as stryknine.

Quote:If we keep this perspective there should be a bit of peace even if it's not always shown in displays of raucous laughter and buffoonery.

I admit to using the picture of Cardinal Dolan as a bit of a jest, since I doubt many Catholics here see him as the high point of Catholic spirituality. Besides I doubt the easterns have many icons of saints bursting into laughter like that. The Desert Fathers (over the top as they usually were), said that laughter was one of the worst things I seem to recall.

I'm more Eastern in my approach to things, so i do not look at the spiritual life through the lens that you describe in the part i bolded. For those with a bit of the scrupulous in them these concepts are themselves like strychnine.

I like to look at our Lord through the lens of a merciful redeemer and not as a legalist judge looking for ways to cast souls into Hell. It's helped me to pray the Jesus Prayer, and to contemplate that I am laboring under corruption and in no way capable of perfection this side of Heaven.

Pray the passages SaintSebastian mentioned, or try to find the Canon to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Litany of the Sacred Heart or some other consoling prayers or devotions and take them to heart. Maybe even look at Christ as a child the way Dom Vital Lehodey did in order to cure you of being overly scrupulous.

Check out the devotion Jesus, King of Love from the Silverstream Priory website too. It's beautiful.

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