It’s May, the Month of Mary and also Mental Health Awareness month.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
What may be the connection here? Well, what human being has ever been more emotionally healthy than Mary? Free of original sin and with her will perfectly oriented toward God, Mary would naturally be the perfect model for mental health.
So, what can we learn from Mary and apply in our own lives to be more emotionally healthy?
1. There’s a clear connection between spiritual and emotional health.
We exist as integrated beings—or we certainly should be. Just as poor physical health can affect our emotional state, a disordered spirit can as well. Remember, Jesus came to deliver us from sin. Baptism takes away original sin but we are still wounded in our nature because of it. When we try to do it on our own or dabble in New Age or occult practices, we open ourselves to spiritual influences that are not of God. If we are not connected to God and in right relationship with Him, we just won’t be very healthy emotionally. Jesus left us the Sacraments to keep us close and in connection with Him. Receive them frequently.
2. Being emotionally healthy doesn’t exempt us from suffering.
One of Mary’s titles is Our Lady of Sorrows. Being such a pure creature, the evil of suffering would be felt more keenly. How Mary handled her suffering holds the key for how we should handle our own.
Patiently. In union with Jesus. With the intention of saving souls.
When suffering is united to the cross of Christ, we are empowered. Suffering becomes a tool and a weapon against the evil one himself who is the author of the evil that causes it. Trying to avoid suffering is pointless. Usually, we only trade one suffering for a different kind.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t look for suffering either. We should do our best to avoid unnecessary suffering in our lives and in the lives of others. That’s what the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are all about. But some suffering is unavoidable and hence we must embrace it as Jesus did His cross.
Remember, Jesus came so that we may have life and have it to the full. It was for the joy that lay before Him that He endured the cross. Mary, united so intimately with His mission accepted her sufferings for the same purpose. We should too.
3. Mary wasn’t reactive.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was “troubled and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” She inquired how it would come about, since she was a virgin and had apparently taken a vow of virginity. If not, the logical assumption would have been she would have conceived with Joseph.
Later when the shepherds revealed what they had heard and seen, Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.
We can learn a couple of lessons from this. First, to ponder things…not to react but to reflect first.
Second, she didn’t just think with her intellect. Her “pondering in her heart” was more than just intellectual thought but took into account her feelings and the movements of her heart. As the most integrated human being ever to live, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, Mary’s intellect and will served her heart.
4. Mary took constructive action.
Mary had to have been worried about Joseph’s reaction. Clearly, he didn’t take it well as he had decided to divorce her quietly before receiving reassurance in a dream. But instead of fretting or hanging around to try to convince him, Mary made haste to visit and help her cousin, Elizabeth, who the angel revealed was in her sixth month of pregnancy.
We can learn a lesson here. When certain crosses are given us that we can’t control, we can leave them with God to solve and use our energy to help someone else. While you’re waiting for your prayers to be answered, be the answer to someone else’s.
5. The need for silence and simplicity.
Clearly Mary led a quiet life of silence, prayer and contemplation. She says very little in the Scriptures and yet what little she did say spoke volumes.
Take time daily to be silent. Turn off the noise, take a walk, contemplate God’s goodness, and reconnect with the Lord.
6. Total trust.
The visit of the angel Gabriel would mean some huge changes in Mary’s life and her plans for her future. I’m sure she knew the scripture that the Messiah would come and be born of a virgin. But in her humility, it’s unlikely she ever thought she would be that virgin. And yet, she submitted in total trust to God. She gave her full consent without reserve.
Of course, for us, it’s not as easy to do, so hampered as we are by original sin and its effects on us. But with God all things are possible and if we want to experience emotional health and true freedom, we need to make an active decision to trust in God and His word and to commit ourselves without reserve to fulfill our role, however small it may seem, in building His kingdom.
And Mary’s advice to all of us is simple “Do whatever He tells you.”