Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Mindful Monday: God Places

posted by Beyond Blue

blue-church2.jpgI’m a pilgrimage kind of gal. Throughout my life, I’ve flocked to places marked with divine fingerprints: Lourdes, France, where the muddy hole Bernadette Soubirous dug 150 years ago became a river of healing waters; Mexico City, home to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to Juan Diego atop Tepeyac Hill in December of 1531; Lisieux, France, the birthplace of my patron saint, Theresa of the Child Jesus; and Calcutta, India, where I prayed with Mother Teresa and her Sisters of Charity for a week during Christmas break in grad school.

 

Pope John Paul II once wrote that a pilgrimage is “an exercise of…constant vigilance over one’s own frailty, of interior preparation for a change of heart.”

That’s essentially why, in a bad depression two winters ago, I traveled back to my alma mater, Saint Mary’s College (in South Bend, Indiana): by looking over the St. Joe River behind Our Lady of Loretto Church and climbing the staircase of my dorm, I could literally touch the lessons I learned almost 14 years ago and see the faces who helped transform my heart.

Although South Bend has not graced the cover of “National Geographic” as one of the top five beautiful places to live, it is home to all the key players–the guiding lights or sages–who accompanied me in my first mega spiritual awakening: the four years I obsessed over the question, “Who do I want to be…for real?”

From my religious studies advisor I learned the importance of words and poetry and mystics. He repeated verses over and over again, until they seeped into my unconscious mind, and imprinted messages on my soul like the one from T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” that begins “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope….”

From another professor I learned the importance of gray matter: that nothing is ever black and white; that a nuanced approach to life will inevitably save you from the very frustration and inconvenience you were running away from with zebra-stripe thinking; and that acknowledging life’s contradictions diminishes its disappointments.

A third teacher transformed me into a philosopher who contemplated questions like “Why would a benevolent and loving God allow this kind of suffering to happen?” And to sit with the questions … trying to comfy with them … before I sought out an answer that made sense of the madness.

But the person who I desperately needed to see was my first therapist–a woman who, suspecting there was more to my struggle than staying sober, introduced me to the different faces of mental illness, educated me on the physiological nature of depression, and guided me to places of healing.

I needed to hug her.

I craved a session with her in the worst way, like a ten-year-old homesick at summer camp. A letter wasn’t going to suffice. I wanted to be back in that green leather chair across from her, where I first confronted my dark side, my fear of being anything less than perfect.

As I began to explain to her what had happened to me over the last year, I sensed my fear disengage from my body–so that I could look at it and call it a jerk. She’s brilliant that way. With one seemingly innocent question, she’ll move you from a place of confusion to clarity. And by articulating ugly thoughts, you can grasp a hint of beauty on the horizon that awaits you.

That’s what good therapy does, and effective pilgrimages do. In the words of Pope John Paul II, they are “an exercise of…constant vigilance over one’s own frailty, of interior preparation for a change of heart.” By reminding you of where you’ve been, these “God places” point you to a better place. To healing waters, to an apparition’s wisdom, or to a miracle that can happen in a hug and a question.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.



  • Meg

    Isn’t it amazing how returning to a place where transformation took place can bring you so much peace, so much comfort? Because I know that it’s not possible for me to physically return to such places, at least not right now, I try to return there in my mind. I try to stop and remember every detail about the place–what it looked like, how it smelled, the sounds, the mood, what people were wearing, etc. Sometimes such imagery suffices, and other times it doesn’t. (I so long to be able to return to see my first therapist, to hear her voice again, to get a hug from her…but, all the while knowing it won’t happen for one reason or another.)
    Thanks for the post! It really reminded me that I need to take more time to stop and take pilgrimages…even if just for a few moments inside my own mind. I now feel led to take the time to sit down and write a list of these “God places” to either visit or just use as reminders of where I’ve been.

  • Richard

    Beautifully touching & heartfelt, Therese. Thank you for your compassionate & deep understanding of our humanity. Your blog is testimony to the power of Spirit in our lives and the many people that express Spirit in our lives over the years. It really is about the journey, not the destination, isn’t it?
    Your truthfilled, inspiring work inspires us to continue our journey.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Richard

  • Andyytaylor

    South Bend is an award-winning cover of National Geographic as one of the first five nice places to live, is home to all relevant actors guided by the lights, or wise men,who brought me my first mega spiritual awakening.
    Ratgeber

  • Mandy

    Each morning, I hope that I will find a new post by Therese. Having stumbled upon Beyond Blue a few months ago, it is a comfort to read. The big question that I am facing is how to find a good therapist. Over the past 15 months, I have become very depressed, largely situational, but none the less it is so difficult for me to see a future, let alone a bright one.

  • Joe Gonzalez

    Therese,
    Our Lady of Loretto Shrine is the oldest & most famous of the Marian Places of Worship. It is said to contain, or have been the original spot where Our Lady’s simple home – where she lived with her parents -and received the Annunciation at ocurred in the Holy Land. It is under the direct authority of the pope. I’ve known a few girls in my life named Loretta ( wonderful girls ! ) So i think u were blessed even before seeing ur first therapist. And she sounds like a Godsend !
    Godspeed and Happy Day to you, Therese !
    PS: Keep up the excellent Apostolate ! ” Let nothing disturb you…”
    Like St. Therese of Avila’s poem says…
    Joe

  • Belleo

    Thank you Therese for a great entry . I was reminded of the year I spent doing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola .Not really knowing what it was all about I followed the Sciptures given to me daily . A pilgrimage to the soul sitting in a corner of my dining room . Meeting with my director once a week . Trusting not really knowing what to say . Friendship is a wonderful thing . The director would ask me what kind of tea i would like to sip . A closeness develop between us two. She knew about my stuggles before I spoke of them . I knew this is what God wanted for me . She had a painting with a person behind bars . A jail , I had had a dream of that and I told her this is where God wants me . I experienced Metanoia and I know that is not the end ….

  • Rick

    Dear Therese:
    I’m a first timer, both to read your column and to submit a comment.
    It’s wonderfully comforting to read the personal and professional nature of your authorship, and the inclusion of your Catholic background in your contributions. I think it is safe to say for many of us who struggle with emotional disorders yet who don’t hear much about the importance of faith in our walk-to-wellness from “traditional” mental health professionals–it’s a welcomed surprise to hear about our “Lady Dressed in Blue”–to whom we’ve learned to pray. After all, “No Son Denies His Mother a Favor.”
    Thank you for your beautiful, insightful thoughts. Continue to accept God’s grace and blessings. Happy Holy-Days

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