Healing for Mind, Body, and Soul

I recently came across and article in Scientific American that really intrigued me. As we (fingers crossed and prayers said) go into the diminishing phase of Covid with its strange ailments, long-term effects–and trust me, I know about these–its indiscriminate taking of life, closing of churches, separating of loved ones, and alienation of those who most need socialization, I have become keenly aware of the rise in mental health issues and disorders, including in my own inner circle. It seems that the world has fallen into a deep pit of despair, and our lives have become meaningless and out of focus. We have lost the spiritual connection that is necessary to thrive.

Enter, David Rosmarin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality & Mental Health Program. In his study of psychiatric patients throughout the pandemic, he found that prayer increased significantly in March of 2020 and continued to rise throughout the year despite the closing of houses of worship. He found this to be an extremely important find since “Spirituality has historically been dismissed by psychiatrists.” He noted that, in 2020, American mental health sank to the lowest point in recorded history with diagnoses of mental disorders increasing by 50%. The use of alcohol and drugs rose as did contemplation of suicide. YET the mental health of those patients who attended religious services, in-person or online, actually improved significantly!

Rosmarin goes on to say that studies show that nearly 60% of psychiatric patients have a desire to discuss spirituality with their psychiatrist yet are rarely, if ever, given the opportunity to do so. He says we can blame it on Freud and his characterization of religion as a mass-delusion. We see this trend in suggestions by both the American Psychological Association’s and Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for coping with the pandemic. The only near-mention of religion is the CDC’s recommendation to “connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.” The author goes on to say, “we ignore potential spiritual solutions to our mental health crisis, even when our well-being is worse than ever before.”

According to this study and another, “a belief in God is associated with significantly better treatment outcomes for acute psychiatric patients. And other laboratories have shown a connection between religious belief and the thickness of the brain’s cortex, which may help protect against depression.” He also concluded that “many nonreligious people still seek spirituality, especially in times of distress.”

Now, sit back and take all that in for a moment.

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A Time for Rejoicing

For the past few months, I’ve been leading a study of the Wisdom Literature–the books of Wisdom, Sirach, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and the letter of James along with passages from other books sprinkled in. It’s funny how often the themes of these studies, while I’m in the midst of them, appear throughout all parts of my life. It’s a constant barrage of messages reminding me what I’m supposed to be taking from these lessons and discussions.

A couple weeks ago, I read to the women this beautiful passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. 

Philippians 4:4-9

The following week, I stepped in to lector at Mass when the lector was unable to be there. Guess what the reading was…

Philippians 4:4-9.

A few days later, Father Mike‘s reading in his Bible in a Year Podcast was…

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Seeking Peace

Peace of mind.

What exactly is that? How can we achieve it? How can we maintain it? Is is even possible to feel peace during this hectic season?

How can we have peace of mind when there are gifts to buy, groceries to pick up, houses to clean, decorations to be put up, parties to be thrown, presents to wrap, families to visit, and so many church services to attend?

Hallmark paints the picture of the perfect Christmas, complete with sugar cookies that are made, rolled, baked, and decorated in an hour’s time; the fullest and tallest Christmas tree in the lot which fits perfectly in the house and is decorated in minutes (with no fumbling with blown-out strands of lights); and people singing “Oh, Christmas Tree” on every corner (seriously, someone please tell them that this is nobody’s favorite song). In reality, sugar cookies take hours (sometimes days) to complete from beginning to end; trees often look more like one chosen by Charlie Brown (don’t get me started on the lights); and we often overlook the songs that truly tell of the meaning of Christmas.

“Sleep in Heavenly peace” may be sung, but is it taken to heart? While the Babe in the manger sleeps in peace, what about us? Are our days “calm and bright”or chaotic and dark?

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Are You Simply a Human Doing?

Lately, I see so many people, particularly young people, desperately trying to figure out who they are.

Most people can’t answer the simple question, who are you?

Morgan the Good Sister

When asked, the majority of people would probably respond, I am so-and-so’s mother, daughter, son, cousin, husband, etc. OR they would respond, I’m a doctor or a teacher or an accountant… The list goes on. But do those answers truly answer the question? At the core of your being, are you someone’s wife, mother, teacher, or nurse?

WHO ARE YOU REALLY?

It seems that people of all ages are still trying to find the answer…

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Sisters in Faith, Love, and Grace

It’s been almost six years now since I first walked on the holy ground of Israel where I met the people who would come to be major players in my game of life. I still can’t believe the many gifts and blessings I received on that pilgrimage and the countless ones I’ve received since then.

2016 Pilgrims
Jan and Amy on the Sea of Galilee

In 2018, one of my pilgrim family members, Jan, invited me to go on a second pilgrimage to the Holy Land planned for February of 2019.

I eagerly accepted her invitation and extended the offer to my sister-in-law, Lisa. That trip forever changed our relationship, making us true sisters in marriage, love, and faith. Since our return, rarely a day goes by that Lisa doesn’t check in on me to send her love and tell me she’s praying for me (she’s a much better sister than I am as I’m terrible at reaching out to people). Those texts mean more to me than she will ever know.

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A Past and A Future

A couple days ago, something I was working on with a friend reminded me of this story.

Michelangelo's David

When my girls were younger (our oldest, Rebecca, was between her junior and senior years of high school), we visited Italy. Rebecca asked her friends what she could bring back to them, and one of them said, “Find me the perfect Italian man, and convince him to come back to me.” We kidded the whole time about guys that we passed and how we would fit them into our suitcases; but when we went to the Academia and Rebecca saw Michelangelo’s David and heard of how the artist painstakingly worked on the marble wonder, making every muscle, tendon, and appendage absolutely perfect, she was entranced. She went right outside and bought two little statues from a street vendor, one for her friend and one for herself. When we got home, all her girlfriends went crazy over it and thought it was the funniest thing ever–that Rebecca had found the perfect man in Italy. Since then, I have never been able to gaze at that statue without thinking of David as the perfect male specimen!

Alas, David was far from perfect.

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How To Stop Living in Fear

Halloween week is upon us, the week when everyone wants to experience a healthy dose of fear. We dress up in scary costumes and parade our kids around after dark, visiting haunted houses and homes decorated like graveyards with spooky sounds drifting from open windows.

There’s something about being afraid, whether it’s while watching a scary movie (I’m a sucker for another viewing of Halloween) or participating in a ghost tour, that gives us an exhilarating thrill. But being in a constant state of fear is not the way we are meant to live our lives.

I’ve written before about the passages in the Bible which implore and even demand that we have no fear and about not letting fear to stop you from living, but I think it warrants repeating. There is something wrong, even dangerous, in allowing fear to have power over us and the way we live.

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Brownies – Good for the Body and the Soul

I am a brownie person, and I’ve raised brownie-loving girls! It’s not unusual for me to come down in the morning (when the girls are home) to find a batch of brownies on the kitchen counter–half-eaten of course! On the other hand, I’ve come down to peanut butter cookies, oatmeal no-bake cookies, and cakes in assorted colors (the green cake with blue icing looked so awful that even the baker–whose reputation I will protect–didn’t even eat it!

My sister-in-law, Lisa, makes wonderful brownies, and I never turn her down when she offers to bake them for any family occasion. And who doesn’t love brownies topped with ice cream like the delicious ones my mother made the last Christmas we were all together?


Alas, I’m on this anti-inflammatory diet, so brownies are off the menu, or they were…

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Be Cured of Your Affliction

For the past few weeks, at the urging of my nursing student daughter, I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for the persistent pain in my lower back. After a three-hour consultation but before treatments began, the doctor sent me for a series of x-rays. I think I had more x-rays done that morning than all of the other trips to the radiologist over 51 years combined. I commented on this, and the tech laughed and said, “Yes, Dr. Roberts like to be very thorough.” So thorough, in fact, that on my return visit, Dr. Roberts went over every single inch of every x-ray, pointing out the arthritis here, the degenerative discs there, the minor scoliosis at the top and bottom of my spine, and many other irregularities that resulted from a lifetime of untreated injuries.

Many of the things that were pointed out to me came of no surprise. I’ve had lower back spasms and pain (sometimes excruciating) for about thirty years, and I’ve suffered from upper back pain for about five years. What did surprise me was all of the trauma he identified at the base of my skull and in my neck. I have pain and stiffness there that I didn’t even know I had…

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Acts of Kindness

This past weekend, I attended the Abbey Faith and Music Fest in Malvern, Pennsylvania, with my daughter, Katie, as a vendor. I’m pretty sure Katie would like to have been somewhere else, but we’d been planning on going for a while, and I knew I’d need help with sales, so she went with me without complaint. It was long day, beginning with a two-and-a-half hour drive from home that put us at the event shortly before 9am. It was a fun ride with Katie playing music and talking non-stop about which songs on Taylor’s latest album are her favorites. It was much better than the unplanned ride home after a dreadful hotel experience, but that’s a different story!

After we arrived at the abbey and got set up, Katie recognized her former RA from her sophomore year of college sitting in a tent across from us. They hugged and reminisced and talked about how much they loved sharing the same floor that semester. It was a great surprise for Katie, and I’m so happy the two reconnected. Just as nice as that meeting was the chance to meet and talk to young author, Sara Francis, with whom Katie hit it off immediately and promptly bought all three of her dystopian novels!

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