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  #1  
Old May 12, '07, 8:21 pm
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Holly3278 Holly3278 is offline
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Default Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

Hi everyone. Would mental illness be a sign that I am not called to the sisterhood? I'm talking about being a nun.
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  #2  
Old May 13, '07, 9:47 am
FCEGM FCEGM is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by Holly3278 View Post
Hi everyone. Would mental illness be a sign that I am not called to the sisterhood? I'm talking about being a nun.
Yes, I believe it would be, Holly. A mental illness that is an ongoing concern would be detrimental to one entering into the rigorous life of a nun (both physically and spiritually); such a life calls for great mental stability. Practically, too, if one were on any type of drugs to maintain mental health this would no doubt be seen as a monetary burden on the monastic community.
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  #3  
Old May 13, '07, 10:48 am
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ChristIsTheWay ChristIsTheWay is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Hi everyone. Would mental illness be a sign that I am not called to the sisterhood? I'm talking about being a nun.
It depends on the condition, the treatment and prognosis, etc. Modern medicine has allowed people to enter religious life with conditions that in the past prevented others from doing so. How serious is your condition and how is it treated?
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  #4  
Old May 13, '07, 11:30 am
gmarie21 gmarie21 is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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It depends on the condition, the treatment and prognosis, etc. Modern medicine has allowed people to enter religious life with conditions that in the past prevented others from doing so. How serious is your condition and how is it treated?
I would agree. However a friend teaches at a school where one of his coworkers (a nun from the order that runs the school) is nothing but problems because of her mental illness. She is not being invited back after her first year teaching there. She has been moved (fired) from many jobs within her years of being a nun because of this illness. YOu must carefully discern, and if your mental illness dramatically affects the way you interact with people, take that as a serious red flag b/c as a nun, you will be working with and ministering many people of all attitudes and backrounds. If you can't deal with in a Christian manner those with troubling lives, then maybe look into being a cloistered nun. Otherwise, if your condition can be triggered by others and their problems you may make things worse than better.
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  #5  
Old May 13, '07, 12:11 pm
FCEGM FCEGM is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by gmarie21 View Post
. . . If you can't deal with in a Christian manner those with troubling lives, then maybe look into being a cloistered nun. Otherwise, if your condition can be triggered by others and their problems you may make things worse than better.
gmarie, Holly asked specifically about being a nun which is the term used for those women living a monastic contemplative life. All nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns. That said, if one has a mental illness contemplative life in a cloistered monastery will definitely not be conducive to such a person; the contemplative life is one that reaches down into the core of one's being and must be undertaken with great mental balance.
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  #6  
Old May 13, '07, 7:47 pm
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

Thank you everyone. My mental illness is classified as serious and it is treated through one on one therapy, group therapy, and medication.
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"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself." -- Saint Augustine of Hippo

"The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you'll be amazed at the results."
--St. Josemaria Escriva

“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.”
--Saint Dominic

"Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world."
--Blessed Pope Pius IX


Our Lady's 15 Promises to Those Who Pray the Rosary

Come, pray the Rosary

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  #7  
Old May 17, '07, 8:36 am
Maryam Maryam is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by FCEGM View Post
gmarie, Holly asked specifically about being a nun which is the term used for those women living a monastic contemplative life. All nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns. That said, if one has a mental illness contemplative life in a cloistered monastery will definitely not be conducive to such a person; the contemplative life is one that reaches down into the core of one's being and must be undertaken with great mental balance.

I disagree that a monastic contemplative life would not be conducive to such a person. If anything I have a great attraction to the Carmelite Contemplative form of prayer and crave the quiet that a monastery setting would bring.

Just because someone suffers from mental illness does not mean all mental illness is of the same category or severity. There is a big difference between someone who experiences great personality shifts (ex. Bi-polar....schizophrenia) to what happens to those with depression like I do and the frustration of being looked at as a burden is exasperating.

I often pray to St. Dymphna who is the patroness of the mentally ill and Gheel, Belgium is the site where countless pilgrims would go to venerate her. In modern day Gheel it is considered the "model community" for the whole world due to the fact that the inhabitants of Gheel take in the mentally ill and have them live in their homes. How many can say they have the true Christian charity to do this?

It is very disheartening that even the desire to enter into a religious order where you are suppose to live ones life totally dedicated to God is seen as an obstacle to those who are mentally ill. I know alot of mentally ill who are a heck of alot closer to God than so called normal people.

If only society would not look at mental illness as a burden but act with true Christian Charity we wouldn't have so many Catholic brothers and sisters who feel they have no place in the church and even when they feel called to serve God find that even with this desire it is an obstacle as well.

If it were up to me I would create a lay order just for the mentally ill with a lay monastic foundation.

God bless

Last edited by Maryam; May 17, '07 at 8:49 am. Reason: additions to reply
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  #8  
Old May 17, '07, 8:43 am
anna1978 anna1978 is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

I spent a year in a Benedictine monastery, we were cloistered. When I had my first talk with Mother Abbess, it was made clear that serious mental illness would be too great a burden on the community, and that if that was the case they would not accept you. I entered together with another woman, who after 4 months was asked to leave, main reason her manic depressive behaviour which she had 'played down' when she entered. It really was impossible to live with, although she was actually a very nice person at heart.

Anna x
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  #9  
Old May 17, '07, 4:46 pm
FCEGM FCEGM is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by Maryam View Post
. . .
It is very disheartening that even the desire to enter into a religious order where you are suppose to live ones life totally dedicated to God is seen as an obstacle to those who are mentally ill. I know alot of mentally ill who are a heck of alot closer to God than so called normal people.. . .
I have no doubt of that. My dearest friend suffers from manic-depression and her faith is a wonderful example to me and all who know her; such can be great Saints - witness St. Benedict Joseph Labre. But that does not mean that a monastic enclosure with its rigors that are part and parcel of this life - especially the dying to onesself so necessary to grow in prayer and the spiritual struggles one undergoes - would be a conducive setting for maintaining one's mental stability in one prone to such difficulties.

God bless you - St. Dymphna is a great favorite of mine.
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  #10  
Old May 17, '07, 8:55 pm
ChemicalBean ChemicalBean is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by anna1978 View Post
I spent a year in a Benedictine monastery, we were cloistered. When I had my first talk with Mother Abbess, it was made clear that serious mental illness would be too great a burden on the community, and that if that was the case they would not accept you. I entered together with another woman, who after 4 months was asked to leave, main reason her manic depressive behaviour which she had 'played down' when she entered. It really was impossible to live with, although she was actually a very nice person at heart.

Anna x
Anna, I can't e-mail or PM you so I'll have to ask publicly.

Could you describe some of the behaviors she displayed and the burden that it placed on the community, or the community reaction? I guess I'm just curious about real examples of this for my own discernment - I'm considering living in community someday.
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  #11  
Old May 18, '07, 3:44 am
Cloisters Cloisters is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by Maryam View Post
I disagree that a monastic contemplative life would not be conducive to such a person. If anything I have a great attraction to the Carmelite Contemplative form of prayer and crave the quiet that a monastery setting would bring.

Just because someone suffers from mental illness does not mean all mental illness is of the same category or severity. There is a big difference between someone who experiences great personality shifts (ex. Bi-polar....schizophrenia) to what happens to those with depression like I do and the frustration of being looked at as a burden is exasperating.

I often pray to St. Dymphna who is the patroness of the mentally ill and Gheel, Belgium is the site where countless pilgrims would go to venerate her. In modern day Gheel it is considered the "model community" for the whole world due to the fact that the inhabitants of Gheel take in the mentally ill and have them live in their homes. How many can say they have the true Christian charity to do this?

It is very disheartening that even the desire to enter into a religious order where you are suppose to live ones life totally dedicated to God is seen as an obstacle to those who are mentally ill. I know alot of mentally ill who are a heck of alot closer to God than so called normal people.

If only society would not look at mental illness as a burden but act with true Christian Charity we wouldn't have so many Catholic brothers and sisters who feel they have no place in the church and even when they feel called to serve God find that even with this desire it is an obstacle as well.

If it were up to me I would create a lay order just for the mentally ill with a lay monastic foundation.

God bless
You might be interested in knowing about our proposed Handmaids and Manservants of St. Dymphna:

http://cloisters.tripod.com/stdymphna/

Blessings,
Cloisters
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  #12  
Old May 18, '07, 4:11 am
anna1978 anna1978 is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Anna, I can't e-mail or PM you so I'll have to ask publicly.

Could you describe some of the behaviors she displayed and the burden that it placed on the community, or the community reaction? I guess I'm just curious about real examples of this for my own discernment - I'm considering living in community someday.
Obviously, I can't go into detail, but she was impossible to live with. Not getting to the chapel because she was 'tired', sometimes in a state of confussion, the cost of medication, the long-term burden of having a postulant who could not do the jobs she was assigned to and would retreat to her cell at will...Just to give you a few examples. Basically, it was decided that her behaviour had a negative impact on us all.

Contemplative life is not 'easy', you really are alone with God, and your thoughts. For certain people this can worsen a condition that would be considered mild in the world outside. It is the one place where you can't 'escape' from yourself, and that is hard...at the best of times!

Anna x
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  #13  
Old May 18, '07, 6:49 am
Maryam Maryam is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by Cloisters View Post
You might be interested in knowing about our proposed Handmaids and Manservants of St. Dymphna:

http://cloisters.tripod.com/stdymphna/

Blessings,
Cloisters
I appreciate the link but in browsing through the website it seems to be about the "Handmaids and Manservants of St. Dymphna" as collaborators to the Monks and nuns that serve the mentally ill and not really about an order that accepts those with mental illness. God bless them all... I would never complain about anyone helping the mentally ill...I was hoping in following the link that it was an order that accepted us. lol

It is good that they are trying to imitate the methods used in Gheel, Belgium where the inhabitants of this town take in the mentally ill into their homes. I feel there is alot of talk of "Christian Charity" but little action towards the mentally ill to match it. At least here we have an order putting into action the teachings of Christ to have mercy towards your fellow mentally ill brothers and sisters. So I thank you for showing me this...it warms the heart.

Are the Handmaids and Manservants of St. Dymphna a lay counterpart to the monks and nuns? I see the term "sub-culture" used in describing them and don't know exactly what that means... I am not very well-versed on alot of the terminology used for the different aspects of religious life.

---------

In reading some of the other comments posted I fail to see how an atmosphere of quiet contemplation can make a mental condition worse. If you suffer from a mental condition that causes you to hallucinate or have a Jekyll & Hyde personality shift then it has nothing to do with the atmosphere and more to do with the condition the person is suffering from. I would think with the proper medical supervision and medication it would control the mood shifts and hallucinations.

Being in a quiet contemplative atmosphere does nothing to make my depression worse as I don't have the severe personality shifts or hallucinations often it is more the attitudes of those around me that makes it worse to deal with and makes my Latin temper come out in spades.

God bless all

Last edited by Maryam; May 18, '07 at 7:01 am.
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  #14  
Old May 18, '07, 9:42 am
FCEGM FCEGM is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Originally Posted by Maryam View Post
. . .

In reading some of the other comments posted I fail to see how an atmosphere of quiet contemplation can make a mental condition worse. If you suffer from a mental condition that causes you to hallucinate or have a Jekyll & Hyde personality shift then it has nothing to do with the atmosphere and more to do with the condition the person is suffering from. I would think with the proper medical supervision and medication it would control the mood shifts and hallucinations.

Being in a quiet contemplative atmosphere does nothing to make my depression worse as I don't have the severe personality shifts or hallucinations often it is more the attitudes of those around me that makes it worse to deal with and makes my Latin temper come out in spades.
Well, precisely! It is one thing to enjoy being in a contemplative atmosphere and gaining spiritual strength from it; but it is another thing to live constantly in that atmosphere with others in the trials of daily life and human interractions, to say nothing of the intense encounters with the reality of onesself in the face of God. Those in monastic life don't just go around in a pleasant state of peace and prayer; there is a constant battle with self that must be engaged in with basic good commensense, something of which St. Teresa of Jesus was insistent on in her nuns.
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  #15  
Old May 18, '07, 4:20 pm
Maryam Maryam is offline
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Default Re: Mental Illness and a Call to Sisterhood

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Well, precisely! It is one thing to enjoy being in a contemplative atmosphere and gaining spiritual strength from it; but it is another thing to live constantly in that atmosphere with others in the trials of daily life and human interractions, to say nothing of the intense encounters with the reality of onesself in the face of God. Those in monastic life don't just go around in a pleasant state of peace and prayer; there is a constant battle with self that must be engaged in with basic good commensense, something of which St. Teresa of Jesus was insistent on in her nuns.

Of course it is logical that the nuns in a monastery don't walk around all day with a halo hanging over their heads just smiling away perpetually. I am talking of the kinds of attitude where there is no compassion or mercy for someone suffering from any form of medical condition...it doesn't have to necessarily be depression or any other mental illness.

Life is a trial but does that mean that those who have extra crosses to carry from a variety of illnesses are of no value spiritually to any religious community? I fail to see how those suffering from a mental illness are any different than someone with any other kind of illness. I don't think anyone that suffers from Cancer would like to be called a "burden". And there will come a time when a member of a religious community will fall terminally ill...that is life.

And what will be said...that since one cannot predict who or when someone will fall ill that this is different than someone who is already ill and so better not to have to handle the burden at all?

Obviously it will have to be those with mental illness themselves that will have to reach out to others with the same affliction to find a place where they can "die to God" and I don't buy into any of the reasons of why those with mental illness can't be called to be a part of Jesus' table in "dying to God" as well.

You have your opinion and I have mine...and I will not budge on it. I thank you for your input.

God bless
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