Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

10 Reasons Why Catholicism Is the Best Religion For the Mentally Ill

Sorry in advance if this post offends.

Just though I’d write out why I think Catholicism is, hands down, the best religion for the mentally ill. Here are a few cool devotions and traditions within the Catholic faith that work well with those brains that are, well, creatively designed.

1. There is a saint for every neurosis.
You have a neurosis? We’ve got a saint! St. Joseph takes care of those prone to panic attacks while traveling. For twitching, Bartholomew the Apostle is your dude. Those roaming the house in their sleep can call on Dymphna. The venerable Matt Talbot is patron saint to those struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction. And, of course, St. Jude covers the hopeless causes.


2. We have an abundance of blankies.
It’s okay to be scared, to shake with anxiety, because Catholicism is chock full of security items (much like baby blankets) that mentally challenged people such as myself can carry in their pockets, purses, or on their necklaces: relics, metals, rosaries, holy water, and so on.

3. Time-outs are included.
Priests and sisters call them “retreats,” but, in my humble opinion, a short stay in a psych ward and a few days at a prayer house in the woods are two similar means to an end: peace of mind. The activities for both are the same: small group discussions (“This is what energizes me, and this is what drives me absolutely crazy,”) moments of silence, and several disgusting meals shared in a community room. If you ever want to feel better about being committed to a psych ward, consider it a “pilgrimage,” what Pope John II called, “an exercise of…constant vigilance over one’s own frailty, of interior preparation for a change of heart.”


4. A vision? Cool!
A real perk of being Catholic is that you can be psychotic and people will believe you. I mean, if you see a statue of Mary weeping, or the figure of Jesus standing between your brothers in a family photo, or an angel appearing on the side of a building, you’re not weird. You’re a hero!

5. Go Ahead, talk to yourself.
Likewise, if you are ever caught talking to yourself—like when a car pulls up to you wanting directions to the Fish Fry and then noticing that no one is beside you as you jabber along–simply pull out your prayer beads, and the Catholics will commend you for saying a rosary.

6. Angels are on call.
Some people get reckless when they are manic. They try different kinds dangerous stunts (racking up $4,000 on a master card) that could damage or kill them. If they didn’t have a gaggle of angels looking over them. Phew.
7. You might lose weight.


This one isn’t a guarantee, but any non-Catholic who comes to our liturgy will feel like he has just been to aerobics with all the ups (standing) and downs (sitting), and in-betweens (kneeling). Now throw on top of those cardio workouts the fasts that we like to do, especially during Lent, and chances are that you will shed a few pounds.

8. We party a lot.
Do you know how many holy days of obligation there are? I get confused, too, because days like Ash Wednesdays aren’t obligated, just strongly suggested. But by the time you add all the solemnities and feast days and liturgical seasons, nearly every day is a party. Neurobiologists and psychiatrists and psychologists–all those smart people with initials after their names–say that celebration is good for the brain. Especially laughter. We Catholics like to laugh. And laughter can heal.


9. You can tell our jokes.
And speaking of laughing, if you are Catholic, you get to tell Catholic jokes. Note: they aren’t received well from non-Catholics. Remember that “Seinfeld” episode, when Jerry’s dentist converts to Judaism so that he can tell Jewish jokes? If you are in the club, you can tell us about what St. Peter said to the lawyer who tried to get into heaven.

10. We do a lot of good.
Unlike evangelical Protestants, we Catholics believe that we are saved not only by our faith, but also by our charitable works. So we invest a lot of sweat and energy into social justice, which is good for every form of mood disorder. By getting out of ourselves and attaching ourselves to a bigger cause, we lessen our despair.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Adri

    Great post!

  • Anna

    I love this post, and I’m Protestant. Have found Catholicism fascinating for a long time, though, and several of my favorite writers are either Catholic or Catholic-influenced (G.K. Chesterton, Kathleen Norris, Mary Karr, Walker Percy). Great tongue-in-cheek post. :)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jill

    I love this post!! I have bi-polar and I’m a Catholic. I left the church years ago and have recently returned. I have been given so much comfort and acceptance from my church. I feel very lucky.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Barb Garfield

    Remember “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Alex

    Brilliant! :)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment dragomirova

    Just perfect! Thanks, I needed that! Like some others, have recently returned to the Church and am so grateful.
    Best wishes Therese for your new projects

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment veronica

    Love it…..own it….I have grown up with every saint and prayer and novena possible. The catholic church did let me down almost 40 years ago when I HAD to get divorce. Abuse is not a commandment. I was told no no…so I stayed as close as I could, with hurt feelings, but I never will ever give up my saints or prayers or rosary or Hope. Never. Prayer is prayer and love of God is love of God. Can’t take that away. God Bless.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sandy R.

    Great article Therese! Since I struggle with ocd and major depression,the catholic religion with it’s rituals and properness in thought and deed has been a comfort to me. I am now Lutheran and Martin Luther is said to have struggled with obsession & compulsions.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dr. Joy

    It’s a convert to Catholicism, I have found great comfort in the Eucharist and from the Blessed Mother.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Thomas Collins

    Fabulous and so true!
    Thank you for your courage and insight.
    God Bless!!!

  • Jeff

    This is hilarious! You made my day!
    My favorite is “…in my humble opinion, a short stay in a psych ward and a few days at a prayer house in the woods are two similar means to an end: peace of mind.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Matt

    I like this post a lot, and I want to add a couple things to it

    1. That the saints are not only a great help to the mentally ill, but many of them are role models. Take a saint like Gemma Galgani, who, had she been raised secular, would probably have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The suffering of mental illness is a great martyrdom if you approach it with the right attitude. Some are even called to such suffering– a fact which is frequently lost on, if not completely incomprehensible, to secular psychiatry, which sometimes displays a disturbing zeal to make everyone “normal” and “functional” by their own irreligious standard. There are monks who work for decades to access the deep despair for one’s own existence that allows one to put one’s self entirely, without reservation, in the hands of God. And some of the mentally ill get this despair as a special grace– some are born with it. This is lucky, but only if you understand why.

    2. That a retreat can not only serve the same function as a stay on the ward– it’s likely to be a lot less expensive.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Anastasia Wendlinder

    As a bona-fide Roman Catholic theologian (and a progressive woman) who grew up under a pre-Vatican II regime (although it was after Vatican II) and who now teaches at a great Jesuit Catholic University, I applaud the terrific chuckle I got from this post. I may need to use this in my core undergraduate Catholic theology course…
    Dr. Anastasia Wendlinder

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