When You Are in Crisis

You are in crisis.

Your marriage is over. Or you are losing your house. Or someone close has died.

Whatever the cause, the anxiety is killing you.

Suddenly, you understand why people commit suicide. Your life has devolved down to the gnawing fear in the pit of your stomach. You are unable to concentrate. 

At best, your life has become an unending series of painful tasks.

Joy has deserted you.

This is when you need God – and the Church.

What you need now is a plan.

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“Twelve years ago, I learned that my ex-husband had been systematically raiding our bank account,” says Betty, now remarried and in her fifties. “He spent nearly $100,000 on courses to become ‘enlightened’ in a cult. I didn’t notice because I was too busy working night and day to support the family. He was a free-lancer who consistently lost clients – and as I came to understand, a sociopath.”

Betty was left to raise their two children on her own, as her ex paid no child support. She turned to an 80 year old Monsignor, who gave her hard-headed advice. “He told me three things: ‘Get your finances in order. Keep a close eye on your kids. And stay close to the Church.’”

Betty did all these things. Within months, her finances were under control, and her  children recovered.  Four years later, she met and married a good Catholic man – at the ripe old age of 47! Today, her almost-grown children are happy, healthy and successful.

Betty’s story is exceptional. Not everyone has a wise Monsignor to turn to. This was Elena’s situation. “I knew for many years that my husband would probably die before me,” she says. “But when he did, it was still a shock. I spent two years watching TV, not wanting to leave my house.”

Sarah’s ex did everything to demoralize her before he finally left her for another woman. “He told me I was fat. He said that I disgusted him. That he deserved a super-model.” To her utter shock, he took every dime in their bank account, too.

coping2Michelle’s ex-husband grew increasingly aloof from her, and their lovemaking became less and less frequent. Finally, it stopped altogether. Then, her 14 year old daughter stumbled upon his child pornography websites. The damage to both mother and daughter’s psyches has been incalculable.

“I’ve come to believe that internet porn is really something diabolical,” says this slender woman with tired eyes. “It utterly destroyed our marriage, and today he is a shell of the man I fell in love with.”

coping3There is social decay, and families seem incredibly vulnerable. And women bear the brunt of much if not all of this.

These all-too-common tragedies are the stuff of our daily lives, it seems.  And for many women, trauma like this start a downward spiral which compounds the damage as they attempt to cope using food, alcohol, drugs, or sex. Worse, the damage overwhelms their children, who become easy prey for the dark forces in our society.

“Some of these things are a normal part of life – birth, sickness and death. But the plain fact of the matter is that Catholics – like everyone today – are fearful,” says one American priest. “There is social decay, and families seem incredibly vulnerable. And women bear the brunt of much of this.”

How to cope when you are in crisis? The key is to recognize that you are Catholic, and to understand the Church’s wisdom in teaching that we are complex creatures of body, emotions and spirit.

When you are in crisis, each of these aspects of YOU have been attacked — and traumatized. Trauma requires treatment. Therefore, you must put a recovery plan into effect for yourself. Unfortunately, nobody else can do this for you. It’s your life, your health and your children who are at stake. Ready? Let’s roll.

STEP ONE: REALIZE AND RECOGNIZE

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First, you must realize that it is your solemn responsibility to get your life in order.

Then, recognize that you are only human. Your recovery will take time.

How long? Only God knows. This leads us to Step Two:

STEP TWO: SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE

coping5Your soul has been traumatized. So you need to turn to the Church. Everything you need is there for you: Confession, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion. These are all nourishment that your damaged spirit needs now to start healing.

Spiritual care is crucial to your recovery. You must do one good thing for your SPIRIT every single day. In the beginning, this may be something as simple as sitting in church and silently praying over and over: “Help me. Help me.”

This is fine. In fact, it’s a big step. The best way to do this is to be in front of the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, it’s worth traveling for, if it is not done in your parish. For sure you can find it at a traditional parish here:  

http://web2.iadfw.net/carlsch/MaterDei/churches.html

Later, you may be able to progress to reading the Bible, praying the rosary or reading about the saints.  But remember: ONE GOOD THING FOR YOUR SPIRIT every single day.

STEP THREE: PHYSICAL NURTURING

coping6Your body has been traumatized. Maybe you can’t sleep or eat properly. Or you have mysterious aches and pains – or worse, real stress-induced illness. It’s time to heal by doing one good thing for your BODY every single day. Remember that exercise needn’t be violent. Experts recommend that you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week. As your recovery progresses, don’t slack off:  ALWAYS DO ONE GOOD THING FOR YOUR BODY every single day.

Attend an exercise class

Work out at home

Garden or other outdoor tasks

Swim or hike

Walk or run

Ride a bike

Do breathing and stretching exercises

Take a hot bath

Give yourself a home manicure/pedicure

Get your hair done

Get your nails done

Get a massage or a facial – or both!

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You can’t heal on junk food. Cook – and cook often. Invite friends and neighbors to your table on a regular basis for fresh, healthy food. (Need ideas? See ‘Sunday Dinner with the Romans’ in this issue.)

STEP FOUR: EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Your emotions have been traumatized. Perhaps you feel numb. Maybe you can’t stop worrying. It’s possible that you have sudden crying spells. Or you have thoughts that you cannot control. Maybe you are even thinking about suicide.

Do not be afraid. Bad feelings are normal when you have been traumatized. It is imperative that you recognize this and do one good thing for your emotional state every single day.

Get yourself a good, Catholic therapist. How? Ask a good, Catholic priest or nun – or friend or relative. You need someone who is skilled at working with trauma – and who is not trained to be ‘value neutral.’ A practicing Catholic therapist will understand and support your moral values and your need for prayer.

Remember, you are carrying a poison around inside of you. Get it out of your system. Be persistent. Talk it out.

Next, you need some talking buddies. That is, more than one person who will listen to you. Why? Because you need to talk this out. So, be sensible and spread the wealth. Don’t overburden any one friend with your pain – respect their need to live their lives, too. Finally, get yourself a fat notebook or two. You are going to use this to journal everything. Here’s some ideas to help you get started:

  • How Could This Happen?
  • Why I Hate My Life Now
  • My Prayer for Today
  • Help Me, Lord
  • What I Want for My Kids
  • What I Must Fix This Week
  • What I Accomplished Today
  • What I Need To Do Tomorrow
  • How I Want to be Living In a Year

Then, begin.

EVERY SINGLE DAY: Talk about your pain. Write down what you are thinking. Your agony. Your prayers. Your hopes. Your plans. Remember, you are carrying a poison around inside of you. Get it out of your system. Over time, your need to talk and to write about this will wane, as you begin to heal.

Grief experts say it takes about a year, at minimum, to recover from a devastating loss. But everyone is different. Your recovery is a completely individual process.

You, however, are not helpless in all of this. Once you understand that you must work to take care of your whole self – body and soul – you will have taken the first, crucial steps out of the dark place where you are now.

Porn: The Growing Epidemic

There is a growing epidemic rushing through our country unlike anything we have ever seen in history. Even though it has invaded our homes, our marriages, and even reached our children, leaving havoc in its wake, the media will not mention it. Today, pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and it does not seem to be slowing down. Through the internet and our iPhones, pornography is overwhelming huge numbers of, particularly as I see it, Catholic men, and it is hard to underestimate the terrible effect it is having on husbands and their families today.

Porn addiction is like any other addictive drug. It is a form of slavery, leaving one feeling empty and guilty, yet searching for more. In his heart man knows that with pornography he has lost his God-given dignity, his freedom, and become a slave to his passions. Thankfully, many regularly come to the Sacraments to receive healing and strength. Trusting in Divine Mercy is always the answer.

Pornography is destructive for various reasons but perhaps most importantly because it strikes at the heart of our interior life and numbs our spiritual senses to the invisible realities that necessarily guide our life. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is the necessary condition to seeing the invisible world. One has only to think of the purity of innocent children and their amazing capacity to see God’s presence all around them.

Yet the first effect of impurity is blindness of understanding: one can no longer see spiritual realities and the thought of eternity disappears. As St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes, “When a raven finds a dead body, its first act is to pluck out the eyes; and the first injury that incontinence inflicts on the soul is to take away the light of the things of God.”

Man’s fallen nature is so weak that he must recognize the need for God’s grace to live purity. St. Alphonsus writes, “Man cannot of himself acquire the virtue of chastity: God alone can give it.” Prudence therefore dictates that we must avoid the near occasion of sin and beg the Lord in prayer to receive the grace of chastity. Some of the saints have recommended three Hail in the morning and at night in honor of Our Lady’s purity as a proven practice to obtain this grace.

Some suffer from unchastity precisely because they are too self-reliant and proud and the Lord therefore does not immediately bestow the gift. St. Alphonsus states that humility is as necessary as self-control in the fight for chastity: “It happens, not infrequently, that God chastises the proud by permitting them to fall into some sin against purity.”

The great promise given to us by the Lord is that for those who humbly acknowledge their weakness, prudently avoid near occasions of sin, and ask the Lord for help, the grace is always there to overcome the temptation. “God is faithful, and he will not let you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In this technological age we live in, I also see a grave mistake being made by far too many parents and I wish I could warn them before it is too late. Parents who allow their children, particularly their teenage boys, to have unsupervised access to the internet are inviting impurity and destruction into their families. I wish more parents understood that boys are learning from the internet that girls are to be the plaything of men, mere objects of pleasure.

Absolutely no teenager should have a computer with internet access in his or her bedroom. A house computer should be in a public space, have internet filters installed, used only when the parents are supervising, and regularly checked for the history of the web searches. Once again, parents are making a grave error when they give their children unhindered access to the internet, in particular with their sons. It is not that they do not trust their boys, but that parents need to have a clear understanding of the effect of Original Sin, traditionally called concupiscence; parents who are not attentive to this weakness in their sons will learn to regret it later.

Two good websites today to help men with addiction to pornography are www.integrityrestored.com and www.pornharms.com. There are also two very good pamphlets available: Breaking Free by Stephen Wood and The Pornography Pandemic by Patrick Trueman.

I hope this will help create awareness of this epidemic and help for those who have hope of restoring their dignity after having lost their way through impurity. May Our Lady inspire and protect our families from this onslaught in our culture today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Father Greg Markey is the Pastor of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. The parish, located in a suburb of New York City, is a vibrant, growing one, with a strong tradition of celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.