I recently came across an 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.”
For weeks now, I’ve listened to all sides of the debate about which lives matter. For months, I’ve tried to have an open mind about COVID-19 and all of the conflicting information. For years, I’ve tried to be empathetic to various groups of people, listen to them, and learn about them. I’ve attempted to engage others in discussion so that we can benefit from what the other has to say. I do belong to a political party, but I listen to all sides, watch various news agencies, and research voraciously to find the truth and assemble the facts. I’m not afraid to call out things that are incorrect, but I’m not too proud to listen, learn, and be told that I’m wrong.
I say all of this not to toot my own horn but to point out something that is missing in our world today, something so vital that I firmly believe it holds the key to everything, to solving all problems, to helping all people, and to enabling all groups to get along and work together.
For several generations, we’ve all been told something that is wrong, just wrong. Blatantly wrong, egregiously wrong, simply, basically, and morally wrong. We’ve all heard the advice, that has now become a rule, over and over over again, and that advice is the one thing that is at the crux of all the problems we have now. We have created generations of people who have been given the very worst piece of advice to follow in an intelligent, literate, and innovative society.
We have all been told from the earliest age… Read more →
This entire period in our world’s history continues to bring upon us new challenges and stark realities. For some, priorities have become clearer. For others, life is more confusing and harder to face than ever. I’ve learned that we should never take anything for granted and that the power of prayer is even more present, more real, more attainable than I ever imagined.
Many of you know that I have really struggled with not being able to see my parents over the past two months. I spent all of Mother’s Day in tears, hardly able to even call my mother because I was so emotional. I went through all the stages of grief, from sadness to despair to extreme anger. All I wanted was to see my mother.
Unfortunately, the old adage slapped me right across my face–be careful what you wish for… Read more →
“Faith, like film, is developed in the darkness.” This was said by our associate pastor, Father Michael Angeloni, at daily Mass this past Monday, April 20. When I heard those words, I did what I so often want to do when I attend a live Mass–I stopped the video and backed it up to listen again. “Faith, like film, is developed in the darkness.” Father said that even those who walk closely with God experience times of darkness, times when nothing seems to make sense, times when we ask questions and seek answers.
Several times each day, I look at this situation we are in and wonder, what is happening? Why is this happening? How can we get past this? I question everything that is being done. Is it the right thing to stay home and not risk being exposed? Is it right to protest staying in? Is it right to close so many businesses? Is it right to keep businesses open? Is it right to visit with people whom we know have had no exposure? Is it best to shut ourselves off from physical contact with anyone and everyone? How do we know when it’s safe to go into the world again? What are the answers, and how do we know what the right answers are?
I am stumbling in the dark, grappling for the light switch. I can’t see where I’m going. I don’t know if danger lies ahead. The darkness seems to swallow me, distorting my vision, and I can’t tell if I’m alone.
I recently heard someone say that the greatest gift her parents gave her was her faith. It kind of stopped me in my tracks. Here we are, in the midst of the Christmas shopping season, and I hear that the greatest gift someone received from her parents was the gift of faith. Not an Apple Watch, not a laptop, not a designer bag or piece of jewelry, but the simplest of gifts–the ability to believe what is not seen and embrace it, the courage to trust in God, and the knowledge that there is a glorious new life awaiting us.
I thought to myself, how true it is that the greatest gift we can pass down is easy and free to give, but then I realized, faith is not easy and it’s not free… Read more →
The other day, I was in my bedroom, working out to an exercise video. Normally, Rosie goes into Ken’s office with him while I workout. However, this particular morning, Ken was working remotely, and knowing how much Rosie hates being left alone, I let her come in the room with me. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had made a big mistake… Read more →
“Joy must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”
Just a couple weeks back, I wrote of the joy of those who work at Castel Gandolfo. I was amazed not by their happiness, not by their pleasure at being able to guide and assist, but by their sheer joy, a palpable exuding of something we simply cannot sustain here on earth.
How ironic that I now find myself immersed in the sentiment of joy once again as I read the delightful novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis. While the story is meant to tell the love story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, what I find the most intriguing are the many ways Lewis finds and relishes those moments of joy.
This past Sunday, the Gospel reading told the story of Martha and Mary, a story that I assume everyone familiar with the Gospels knows by heart. No matter your religion or creed or background, I’m sure you agree that within each of us lies a Martha or a Mary. Those who possess the characteristics of both women are truly the smart ones, the ones who understand that life is a balance. In the story of Martha cooking and cleaning and Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, Martha always seems to get the bad rap, but I would argue that the world needs both Marthas and Marys, and that we should all strive to be both. Here’s why… Read more →
We all know that Father’s Day in the United States is in June, but today I was inspired to move the date up a few months. While listening to the radio this morning, friend and talk show host, Gus Lloyd, told listeners that we were going to celebrate Father’s Day in honor of St. Jospeh, whose feast day is March 19. He asked listeners to call in and tell him how their fathers played a critical role in their faith lives. I couldn’t resist calling in, and I shared just a couple brief stories about my faith-filled father. After hanging up, thoughts of my father continued to swirl in my brain, and I realized that my father, more than anyone I know, truly embodies the spirit of St. Joseph, the father of Christ.
My father and my mother met in the early 1960s when my mother was living in an apartment in DC with two other women. One of the women was my father’s cousin, Claudia, and she invited my father, Richard, fresh from the Air Force, to stop by and visit one night. After Dad left that night, he decided to ask one of his cousin’s roommates out on a date, but he couldn’t remember which girl was which! He called and took a chance, asking Judy out on a date. When Judy came the door, my dad was a bit taken aback as the woman staring back at him was the other roommate! Much like Jospeh, my father followed that little voice, perhaps even an angel, telling him to honor their date. Rather than backing out and leaving Judy standing in the doorway, Richard, “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19) smiled and took her hand. The rest, as they say, is history. Richard and Judy have been married for over 55 years! Dad says he waited until they’d been married for some time before telling mom about the “mistaken identity.” I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that my dad, like Joseph, “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).
Over the past 55 years, my father has worked to provide for his family. He always puts us first, often taking a backseat to whatever mom or we children had going on. Like Jospeh, Dad was content to stay in the background, usually letting my mother take the spotlight. More times than not, he even shined the light on her himself, like the time he sent a letter about Mom to Paul Harvey who then did a tribute to her on his daily, nationally syndicated radio show. Joseph knew that it was his place to protect and provide for Mary and Jesus, and he may have known that Mary would be the one to receive all the credit for Jesus’s birth and upbringing. There’s much we can learn from Joseph, just as I’ve learned much from my dad.
When my father was about 50, he was diagnosed with cancer. He made a vow to Mary that, if she implored her Son to grant him just a few more years–enough time to see his children grow up–he would say a Rosary every day. My father is now almost 82 years old, and he says several Rosaries each day. He is a man of his word. He made a promise to Mary, and to God, and kept it. How hard was it for Joseph to be a man of his word? To take Mary as his wife though she was pregnant? To sneak away in the night, with his wife and baby, leaving his family, friends, and job, in order to protect them? To teach his son all that he knew about God and scripture, all while knowing that his son was the son of God, the Messiah Himself?
When Jesus was about twelve, He was lost for three days and found in the temple, teaching the scribes and the pharisees. Mary admonished her son, telling him that they had been searching for him, but Jospeh said not a word. Here’s what I think happened. While Mary was scolding Jesus, Jospeh was running around the temple asking everyone, “Did you hear my son? Did you hear how wise he is?” and saying, “That’s my boy!” I believe this because I know my own dad. I receive emails all the time from people telling me they read my book or followed my blog because my dad told them to. While at a book signing last summer (with my father at my side), a woman told me that she was only there, buying my book, because my father had joined their community Facebook page and had spent the previous few weeks encouraging everyone to attend my signing and buy my books! She couldn’t resist his urgings and had to read the book that my father was bragging about.
Joseph was a carpenter, or more technically, a tradesman who worked with his hands. I love the scene in The Passion where Jesus is making a higher-than-normal table and shows his mother how one would sit at it using a chair. It’s such a playful scene, and I love seeing Jesus making a table the way his father would have taught him to. My father is also a tradesman who works with his hands. Throughout my life, my father, like my mother’s father, made things out of wood. It was not much more than a hobby, sometimes a way to save money or make something just the way they wanted it. Now that Mom and Dad are retired, Dad makes outdoor furniture for pleasure and to subsidize their retirement. His rocking chairs are a hot commodity as are his Adirondacks, porch swings, benches, and even birdhouses. His work is popular for two reasons–one, his craftsmanship is beyond compare; and two, my father constructs everything he makes with a healthy dose of love nailed into each board. Not love for what he’s doing, but love for those who placed the order and a genuine love for life and appreciation that he’s still here and still making furniture at eighty-one. I have no doubt the same could be said of Jospeh.
When I got married, just before he walked me down the aisle, my father took me aside and held my hand. He said to me, “Amy, as a wife, and eventually a mother, it will be your responsibility to raise your family in the faith. You will need to make sure your husband goes to church and that your children are baptized and raised in our faith. It will be your most important job in life.” Of all the things my father could have said me at that moment, that’s what he chose to say. It made such a profound impact on me that I still remember it and adhere to it twenty-five years later. If my mother was the one who did that in our house, I don’t remember it. I’ve often wondered, when they first married, did she have to push my dad to go to Mass each week? Did she have to take the lead in teaching us about our faith? I honestly don’t recall. What I do recall is that all five of us attended Mass every single weekend whether we were at home or away. There was never, ever an excuse to skip Mass. It may have been Mom who chaired the church bazaar, presided over the PTA, served on the parish council, raised money to help those with cancer, and volunteered at all of our Catholic school events, but Dad was behind her every step of the way. Like Joseph with Mary, he was the presence that always allowed and encouraged Mom to be the blessed woman she is. He sings her praises every chance he gets, as I’m sure did Jospeh did of Mary.
Joseph never said a recorded word in the Bible, but his actions spoke volumes. He was a husband beyond reproach, a loving father who cared for and protected his son, a hard worker, a witness to his faith, and a “righteous man” who lived for others and for God. I am so blessed to have a father who emulates St. Joseph in all that he says and, more importantly, in all that he does.
Go, then to Joseph, and do all that he shall say to you; Go to Joseph, and obey him as Jesus and Mary obeyed him; Go to Joseph, and speak to him as they spoke to him; Go to Joseph, and consult him as they consulted him; Go to Joseph, and honour him as they honoured him; Go to Joseph, and be grateful to him as they were grateful to him; Go to Joseph, and love him, as they love him still. – St. Alphonsus Liguori
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.
Hello faithful readers! My name is Megan, and I am Amy’s publishing assistant until May. Since she is on a trip this week, I’m here to share my experiences with you from my spring break trip over the last 10 days: Peru!
Before we get into specifics, I’ll give you a little bit of background information about me. This year I am a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University and will be graduating with a degree in Communication and with a minor in Spanish. I grew up as a military brat (Ooh-Rah!), and when my family was stationed overseas from 2006-2009, we traveled as much of Europe as we could manage. Though I don’t really have a place that I’m “from,” I currently live in Carroll County, Maryland, where I graduated high school. I love romance novels, which is what drew me to Amy’s open position, and my favorite novel of hers is Whispering Vines because, in my mind, it’s closely linked to my favorite movie, The Longest Ride, but features a fun Italian twist, and with recipes! Read more →