When we see our loved ones struggling or living lives of disorder, it can break our hearts. Having counselled many family members over the last number of years I have seen the anguish that family members experience when they see a loved one going astray. They are desperate to find help for them. Oftentimes, this help will be offered in the form of modern psychological and psychiatric services, who promise to take ‘good care’ of their family member for them. Having been behind closed doors and heard how many of these services speak about family members and how disconnected from reality these services and professionals are, I would be very reluctant to advise family members to encourage their loved ones to comply with these services and their interventions. More often than not, these services cause the loved one more psychological and physiological problems through the imparting of toxic falsehoods and corruptive ideologies. Alternatively, they force the family member to be docile and compliant by giving them toxic drugs or more ‘intensive treatments’ are given, such as electroshock. (This certainly makes the family member very docile and ‘compliant’!). Some family members are conned into believing the falsehoods of psychiatry and modern psychology. Other family members see through these lies and fight for their family members while these barbaric and destructive treatments are forced on them (These family members are the ones that are usually ridiculed by psychiatrists as ignorant of the progressive ‘science’ that is psychiatry or modern psychology). Some family members are happy to see that their family members are less of a nuisance and more docile than they were before and they are glad to follow the psychiatric authorities, rather than help their family member get to the root of their troubles. All in all, modern services can be a minefield for family members looking for help for their loved ones.
The suffering of those we love is a cross we all have to bear at some stage in our lives. There are lots of promises of care, help and support from various services and professionals today. At times, we can feel overburdened by the demands that caring for a family member places on us. We can see this in the various calls for more public services as parents and carers feel under more and more pressure and strain. However, due to the attempts to remove God from these services and the move away from Catholic services to the ‘progressive’, ‘inclusive’ and ‘enlightened’ services outlined above, true charity also gets kicked out of the window. Health care becomes professionalised and coldly clinical rather than a vocation while services develop better marketing campaigns to cover up the cracks. As public workers are not drinking from the replenishing well that is the Heart of Jesus they burn out and/or begin to care less about the people they are meant to serve. ‘Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.’ (Matthew 24:12). If calls for more public services involved asking services to be truly Catholic once again, then this would give evidence that people have realised that services cannot be effective unless they are built on truth and charity, i.e. the love of God and one’s neighbour. Sadly, this is not happening, and things will only continue to get worse as charity grows colder.
Now, people sometimes contact my service asking me if I could help a family member that is struggling with psychological issues. Sometimes I cannot meet the family member they are concerned about, but the family member is often eager for at least some advice or guidance. The answer I give to family members, which I know can only do good if followed, remains the same answer that I give to the people I counsel directly – sanctify yourself. There is nothing extraordinary about this advice. It has been the advice given to many for thousands of years. This advice is based on abundant evidence, which shows that living the Catholic Faith is the best means for increasing one’s happiness and peace of soul in this life and the only means of attaining eternal happiness in the next.
‘The multiple relations which bind a man to his family, to his city, to his country and to his God, make incessant calls on his activities. He must endeavour to respond to all in a spirit of fortitude, kindness, forbearance, devotedness, prudence and justice. He must in all things strive to be ‘good’. But he must aim at this goodness not for the sake of being good but because God would have him so.’ (Fr Edward Leen, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’)
When I cannot work directly with a family member, the approach I take is to encourage other family members to do the most charitable thing they can do for their family member, i.e. live a life of virtue. In this busy world where we are eager to fix those around us, many of us forget that the first responsibility we have is the sanctification of our own soul. If we want to help those around us, we must help ourselves first. Charity does truly start at home. We must develop a spirit of fortitude, kindness, devotedness, etc. We must fill our own hearts with faith, hope and charity and then allow this to overflow into the lives of those around us. As St Gregory the Great says, “To offer sacrifice spiritually to God is to offer Him something that gives Him glory. Now of all goods, the most pleasing that man can offer to God is, undeniably, the salvation of a soul. But every one must first offer his own soul, according to what is said in Scripture: ‘If you wish to please God, have pity on your own soul.’” Dom Chautard explains this quote: ‘When this first sacrifice [of one’s soul] has been consummated, then will it be permitted us to procure the same joy for others.’ (‘The Soul of the Apostolate’) (See footnote)
So, given the state of public services today, particularly those offering psychological help, what can we do for our loved one when we see them descend into madness or disorder? Well, the same thing that we should be doing anyway – sanctifying ourselves and trying to know, honour and love God more each day. Follow the example of St Monica who trusted in God’s mercy and never gave up on her son, St. Augustine. Her saintly life helped her son mend his ways. We can offer up our tears, sacrifices and prayers for our family members. If we love our family members, i.e. if we will them good, and we want our sons/daughters, wives/husbands, brothers/sisters, mothers/fathers, etc., to have peace of soul and be truly happy, then we can do no better thing to show this love for them than by being a shining example of true charity. And how do we do this? Through hard work, personal effort and discipline. Through finding a prudent, wise and charitable priest as a spiritual director who will guide us in the ways of perfection; through good spiritual reading that will enlighten our minds; through sacrifices and penance that will discipline our unruly bodies; through mental prayer that will ground us in the present while reminding us of the link between the present and eternity; through mortification of our pride that will help us in the ways of humility. Ultimately, through making ourselves pleasing to God and responding to the grace He bestows on us. We are all called to be saints, but we must focus efforts towards sanctity on ourselves first. If we do not conquer ourselves then we have no hope of helping others with their demons. As Fr Eugene Boylan points out in his excellent book, ‘This Tremendous Lover’, ‘The greatest service we can render our neighbour is to sanctify ourselves.’
So, whether it is a family member or a friend you are concerned about, may Our Lady guide you in the ways of sanctity so you can then truly help them,
Footnote: The book, ‘The Soul of the Apostolate’ is an excellent book for anyone trying to help and guide others. A free copy of it is available here: http://www.cmri.org/0-olmc-mission/catholic-books/soul_of_the_apostolate.pdf or for purchase here: https://www.tanbooks.com/soul-of-the-apostolate-3562.html