Are the mentally ill unable to have a vocation?


#1

I am just wondering since many people on this site say that if someone wants to get married or in a relationship, they should work on their psychological problems, and I assume the same is needed if you are entering the priesthood or religious life (i know they do have tests to see if you have mental issues if you are entering the priesthood).

Well what if someone has such huge struggles with this that they can't lead a life, or even if they can live a normal life, can't live out one of the two vocations (i'm starting to feel like singlehood isn't a vocation unless you are consecrated, though not completely convinced yet). For example if someone struggles with BiPolar disordered, are they unable to have a vocation? Or people with Aspergers or Manic Depression or similar disorders.

It just seems sad to me to deny a person having a vocation just because of something that they couldn't help like a chemical imbalance or a brain disorder. I understand you want to be mentally stable in marriage or in the religious life or priesthood, but are those who suffer with mental illness just supposed to be left out of god's plan. Are they to just sit in church and feel alone while others are married or serving god's purpose as a priest nun or brother while they are in the "temporary state" of singleness?

I really need some enlightenment in this area. Thanks and God Bless:)


#2

The Christian life involves a universal call to holiness- and this is true of each of the baptized. Some people are called to religious life or other forms of consecrated life. Some are called to marriage. Some are called to the priesthood. And some are not, for various reasons.

I am in the category of those likely to serve God in the single state. The important thing in the life of a Christian is to give and receive love, to serve and to fulfill the Lord’s Will, whatever that might be. I personally struggle with a mental illness. Not everyone with a mental illness should not marry, but I do think in some circumstances this is the case. Also some who struggle with strong homosexual tendencies might be in this position as well.

Has God forgotten me? Am I “left out” of His plans? Absolutely not! These thoughts, however, are real temptations to self-pity and self-focus in my life. I trust God. These are the circumstances of my life and He will work them for good. I need only keep my focus on Him and on serving His People, whether that be in quiet unknown prayer for the Chruch and others, or by serving in a soup kitchen, or by just extending loving kindness to those in my life. These things are valuable to the Lord, whether or not they are valuable to others.

There are a lot of holy men and women who never married and were in the lay state, for instance Bl. Pier Georgio Frassati and St. Gemma Galgani.

St. Paul had some advice to the unmarried in 1 Cor 7
"Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy…I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. "

I feel like if I sat down to have a cup of coffee with St. Paul and asked him about my life today he would say these very words to me!


#3

St. Benedict Joseph LaBre was severely mentally ill Secular Franciscan and lived as a saintly homeless man and ended up canonized.


#4

No offense, but Gemma Galgani and Giorgio Frassatti died young. I don’t know about Gemma, but I know Frassatti was supposed to be married. Unless she took a vow of chastity I’m sure Gemma Galgani would have been married. She would have been amazing to marry.

Anyway, it just seems sad that some people aren’t able to serve God in the way that they want. I understand God will open doors to these people, but at times it seems harsh.


#5

:thumbsup:

I think everything you said is right on. There is a tendency to equate the concept of “vocation” with the concept of a state in life. In other words, one can have a vocation to be a priest, a religious, or married person… or consecrated virgin/hermit etc. … and that’s all. I even once heard a priest say in a sermon that God doesn’t give a person a vocation to be, for example, a doctor. I can’t understand that mentality at all.

The word vocation comes from the Latin “vocare” which means to call. And God calls each one of us. Those who have severe physical handicaps, or mental illness, are part of His plan just as much as anybody else.


#6

[quote="WildCatholic, post:4, topic:313595"]
Unless she took a vow of chastity I'm sure Gemma Galgani would have been married.

[/quote]

How do you know that? :confused:


#7

You give no basis for “starting” to believe that single life is not a vocation. In any event, the single life can be a vocation, as everyone has a work to do in the name of the Lord that is fit for their current station in life. The severely mentally ill may very well be called to the single life.


#8

Sometimes God uses severly mentally ill people to teach others with hardened hearts how to be compassionate, how to be thankful and other lessons that are lacking in the normal persons soul. The vocation for some is to have othersd grow in weak areas.

God wants all people to be loved and respected.


#9

I am one of those people you speak of. I was in religious life and left due to illness. Very hard to accept. Yet His Will is most important to me.

You say “Some people aren’t able to serve God in the way that THEY want.” The point of serving God is that it be the way HE wants. Otherwise we are really just serving ourselves.

You should at least read about St. Gemma before you assume she would have been married. You obviously don’t know much about her. Also, I noticed that you did not comment on what St. Paul had to say.

I will be away from my computer for the next several weeks. Just an FYI that I will not be able to respond to any posts.

God bless you and everyone who is actually in the position of living a single life. God grant each of us the grace to receive all things gratefully from His Hands!


#10

[quote="WildCatholic, post:4, topic:313595"]
No offense, but Gemma Galgani and Giorgio Frassatti died young. I don't know about Gemma, but I know Frassatti was supposed to be married. Unless she took a vow of chastity I'm sure Gemma Galgani would have been married. She would have been amazing to marry.

Anyway, it just seems sad that some people aren't able to serve God in the way that they want. I understand God will open doors to these people, but at times it seems harsh.

[/quote]

St. Gemma would have died before she would have married a mortal...Oh wait...
Meanwhile, i think it depends on the level of incapacity of mental state.


#11

I have Aspergers and believe that God has a vocation for me. I do not consider myself "mentally ill". :rolleyes:

[quote="dee_burk, post:10, topic:313595"]
St. Gemma would have died before she would have married a mortal...Oh wait...
Meanwhile, i think it depends on the level of incapacity of mental state.

[/quote]

Yes, she didn't even like her father touching her. She never considered marriage an option. If it were not for her illness and early death, she would have joined a religious order (the Passionists). May her intersessions be with us all. :gopray2:


#12

[quote="WildCatholic, post:1, topic:313595"]
I am just wondering since many people on this site say that if someone wants to get married or in a relationship, they should work on their psychological problems, and I assume the same is needed if you are entering the priesthood or religious life (i know they do have tests to see if you have mental issues if you are entering the priesthood).

Well what if someone has such huge struggles with this that they can't lead a life, or even if they can live a normal life, can't live out one of the two vocations (i'm starting to feel like singlehood isn't a vocation unless you are consecrated, though not completely convinced yet). For example if someone struggles with BiPolar disordered, are they unable to have a vocation? Or people with Aspergers or Manic Depression or similar disorders.

It just seems sad to me to deny a person having a vocation just because of something that they couldn't help like a chemical imbalance or a brain disorder.

[/quote]

Just FYI, bipolar and manic depressive illness are the same thing. I am answering this is a someone who is 63 years old and has suffered from major mental illness for over 60 years: while some may have an illness and a vocation and make that work, their conditions would necessarily be very mild.

The fact is, most of us simply cannot fulfill a religious vocation, or do a lot of other jobs. Being mentally ill is a huge burden on those around you. It doesn't mean we don't have value, it means sooner or later most of us know that the best we can pray for is to do as little harm as possible and hope to do a bit of good if God will help.

You just cannot be an epileptic airline pilot. It doesn't matter that it's all you want to do and that having epilepsy isn't your fault. You cannot risk other's lives.

You can't be a Pastor of a Parish and be bipolar. It would be disastrous unless you had as I say a very mild form, well-controlled and even then, the risk to the faithful in the case of your disease escalating would be so serious.

There could be some kinds and levels of illness where someone could have a vocation. But it would be something like simple recurring depression well-managed by medication.

But you see, it's okay. We get to be valued and loved by God and our lives are just an opportunity for Grace for those around us. We still get to pray and work through our salvation and just operate on Faith. We even get to have glimpses of how grateful we should be for the way we are, because God's power is made perfect in weakness. So we are still some bit of a part in God's perfect plan for humanity.

All humans have the same vocation, anyway: to show forth the face of God and be transformed into the image of His only Son.


#13

Secular life in the laity is a distinct vocational state of its own. Vatian II underscored this. It was probably due to the fact that this state in life was not valued as a vocation that secularism has taken hold, including in The Church in some areas. There is a real effort underway by Rome to stress the great importance and value of secular life in the laity and as a clear and quite distinct vocation of its own with very clear duties of its own. Laity are called to be in the world as leaven for Jesus and His Gospel and at all times and in all places. No easy task! But Grace is with us.
See Decree on The Apostolate of The Laity vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651118_apostolicam-actuositatem_en.html

I will post later re mental illness.


#14

A priest in my area recently committed suicide at the age of only 45 years old. He had been battling bi-polar disorder his entire adult life. He tried to kill himself about ten years ago but he survived and was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a few months. He resumed his parish duties and everything seemed OK for the next few years. Things got bad again and then he recovered once more. This last time, he didn't get better and he shot himself in the head at his brothers home. His brother kept the gun in his shed and Father found it and killed himself.

This priest just couldn't take the pressure anymore and he killed himself. I really wish that he would have stepped down from his parish responsibilities when his doctors asked him to. Perhaps he would be alive today if he had.


#15

I know a man with Down's Syndrome and he knows the Bible better than most "normal" people do. He leads Bible studies.


#16

The mentally ill are not left out of God’s plan. He has a plan for them, which includes their personal trials.

Some religious orders make allowances for some mental illnesses. Sometimes, they cannot. It comes down to what they feel they can handle, but usually, I would not impose on them with a serious handicap. Their mission and ministry is usually praying God themselves, observing the office, and preaching - while some might, not all minister to the ill.

Being single is a legitimate vocation - not everyone necessarily has to marry, become a priest, or joing a religious order.


#17

President - Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care, Vatican City, Cardinal Lozano Barragan.
catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6824

*1. Mental Disorder in Christian Thought *
In Christian thought it is said that these severe mental illnesses reduce man to sad conditions, like a deformed image of God, which is compared to the suffering servant of Isaiah (Is 53,1-7). Yet, apart from that deformation, or rather due to it,* the mentally ill person resembles our Lord on the cross; and since the cross is the only way to the resurrection, the mentally ill person, has so to say a superior level, is worthier and reaches such a level of excellence because of the magnitude of his love and the suffering he endures*.[9]
*2. Is He a Deformed Image of God? **If the above holds true, I would like to move a step further and venture a statement that might shed light on the issue, from the point of view of Moral Theology. *The statement is that: the mentally ill person is not a deformed image of God but, rather, a faithful image of God, our Lord.

We used to have prior to VII certainly, and not often heard about in The Church today, "The Apostolate of The Sick" which was a very real apostolate and call to endure suffering (including mental illness) as best one is able and offer up what one does endure for the needs of The Church. To suffer in a spirit of kindness and concern, as best one is able, for carers, family and friends - all around the person unwell/suffering.
Today, to my mind very sadly and to our loss, those ill are regarded as objects for charity rather than having a much needed apostolate uniquely their own by virtue of the fact that they are ill and/or suffering.


#18

Just wanted to add, that because we don't hear about The Apostolate of The Sick nowadays is not an indication that the vocation no longer exists. Our theology tells us that it is a very real potential vocation and call to those who do suffer some form of illness of temporary or long standing indisposition be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual - and under the terms already mentioned in my posts. It is a unique call to those who suffer to unite themselves in a unique manner to the Sufferings of Jesus, to His Cross.


#19

I follow this thread with interest, given that I suffer from schizoaffective disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I disagree with the idea that mentally ill people cannot have vocations. I understand why it is often difficult for them to pursue life as a religious or the priesthood, but we ALL have one common vocation in life, which all are called to participate in/contribute to. I will leave it to St Therese of Lisieux to explain:

"I saw that love alone imparts life to all the members, so that should love ever fail, apostles would no longer preach the gospel and martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. Finally, I realised that love includes every vocation, that love is all things, that love is eternal, reaching down through the ages and stretching to the utmost limits of the earth.

Beside myself with joy, I cried out: 'Jesus, my love, my vocation is found at last - my vocation is love!' I have found my place in the Church, and this place, Jesus, you have given me yourself; in the heart of the Church, I will be love..."

:thumbsup:

[quote="TiggerS, post:17, topic:313595"]
President - Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care, Vatican City, Cardinal Lozano Barragan.
catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6824

We used to have prior to VII certainly, and not often heard about in The Church today, "The Apostolate of The Sick" which was a very real apostolate and call to endure suffering (including mental illness) as best one is able and offer up what one does endure for the needs of The Church. To suffer in a spirit of kindness and concern, as best one is able, for carers, family and friends - all around the person unwell/suffering.
Today, to my mind very sadly and to our loss, those ill are regarded as objects for charity rather than having a much needed apostolate uniquely their own by virtue of the fact that they are ill and/or suffering.

[/quote]

God bless you for this post. I knew we were meant to give our suffering to God but had no idea about the Apostolate of The Sick. Thank you for bringing this to my attention :)


#20

.......................:)


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