Visio Divina for women: Thursday, June 3
June 3, 2021
Friday June 4th: Knowing self
June 4, 2021

The mental health of our Catholic women

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

When I read that Naomi Osaka was leaving the French Opens because of her mental health, I was shocked! Surely everyone would understand what anxiety is and how hard it must be for her? But the following day when I saw that she had indeed left, I was dumbfounded. Today, I started reading about how the world was supporting her through her decision and I felt my eyes brim with tears. We were finally getting it.

Everybody, including other women, want women to be strong. All the time. I remember saying to someone that I died and no-one noticed. I remember losing some of my closest friends, at the depths of my depression, because I wasn’t as fun anymore. I have long since stopped trying to be superwoman but I do think it’s time we start having this conversation as Catholic women.

It is no secret that we keep the Church up! We head ministries; we organise activities; we clean the church’ we plant the flowers; we get our children ready for First Communion and Confirmation and get them in the youth group, then go home and cook a lavish meal and clean the house and check the homework and iron the clothes and get ready for work the next day. We do it all, because someone taught us that we were supposed to. When do we take care of ourselves? Our inability to say ‘no’, particularly to Church activities, is like our second nature. How can we say ‘no’ to Church?

My friend Desiree, a catechist, while lying in hospital after her fourth miscarriage was reported to her parish priest for missing too many Confirmation classes and should be removed as a tutor. In the midst of Mary discovering that her husband had been unfaithful to the point of having a child with another woman, who no longer wanted him or the child, was asked to step down as head of the Family Life Unit in her parish. When Jenifer, the dynamic youth group leader, chose to become an unwed mother, she was kindly asked to step aside from youth ministry. We have one million stories. Not of mistakes made but of lack of compassion shown. It appears that Catholic women neither know how to show self-care for herself or how to give compassion to her sisters

Women like Naomi are shining a light on their own mental illness so that we cannot be too ashamed of ours. They are creating a safe space for us to talk about our anxiety. Yes, we have powerful prayers in the Catholic Church that can see us through the worst situations but we also have the gift of each other. We can be each other’s sisters. The most riveting ah-ha moment of faith came to me on the Feast of the Visitation. Mary, running to her cousin Martha with this strange news. No anxiety, no worry or shame but genuine concern and love for each other. The knowledge that they had someone that they could share this with should be the goal of every Catholic woman.

So, today I pray that we be like Mary in our compassion and our concern for each other. I am reminded of the words of this wonderful hymn that was penned by Fr Clyde Harvey so many years ago, “To be the Body of the Lord in this world, to have his Spirit coursing through my soul, to know the passion of my Jesus in his love for everyone, to show his mercy in the shadows of this land.”