The month of May in the Catholic Church is the month to celebrate and honor Mary, and in secular society May is celebrated as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health is important and for those who have genuine disorders that disrupt their brain chemistry and cause mental illness, therapy and medicine can be necessary for them to lead normal, productive lives in society. However, things like generalized anxiety can often be blown out of proportion and labeled as serious disorders that are then treated with medication without getting to or completely ignoring the real problem. Every little thing is not necessarily mental illness, and a simple switch in outlook on life and focusing on one’s spiritual life can often solve a lot of what a person is struggling with. Unfortunately, modern day psychology and treatment facilities ignore a person’s relationship with God when working with patients, and so they miss an important connection that can often help a person greatly. Being prayerful and looking to Mary’s example can help someone’s mental state by teaching them to focus on God and His purpose for their lives.
The biggest example that one can take from Mary is Her Fiat, Her willingness to obey the will of God without hesitation and without getting in the way of the workings of God. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, or Be it done unto me according to thy word, was her response to the angel Gabriel when told She would give birth to the Son of God. Her total surrender to God was a great source of peace and joy for Her. Oftentimes, we can feel greatly unsettled and maybe even get depressed when things don’t go our way or we feel like our life isn’t how we wanted it to be. Most of the time, we can look through these problems and know that we are fighting God’s will for us and that we are sad and depressed because things just aren’t going our way. But things weren’t always meant to go our way, and God acts a loving father when He refuses us the things that aren’t good for us and our spiritual life. We may not understand what happens in our lives and why, but strengthening our trust in God, which begins with strengthening our prayer life, will help us carry on with accepting whatever comes our way and being joyful in knowing that we are following God’s will for us and letting Him work through us. In today’s world, that may even start with accepting God’s plan for humanity and our own gender, or chastity if we have same-sex attraction.
After the Annunciation, when Mary goes to visit Her cousin Elizabeth, we read in the Gospel of Luke Mary’s great Magnificat, which begins, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). Imagine having a spirit that rejoices in God alone! Mary had the confidence and trust to know that whatever was to befall Her, God was going to take care of Her, and She also knew that He was Her only Good, and Her thoughts were on the things of Heaven, causing Her to rejoice in God alone. When we become wrapped up in the material things of the world, we can become obsessed with seeking more and more, never being satisfied because the things of the world do not satisfy. The only thing that will satisfy us will be God Himself and when we drift away from Him and go our own way, we find ourselves drifting away from the One Who makes us who we are and knows us better than we know ourselves. This can make us sad and desolate and feel like we are lost. But when we truly rejoice in God our Savior, we realize that it is Him Whom we love and want to serve and that we are His child and we belong to Him. This realization can make us feel joyful deep inside even when things on the surface come up that are troubling and sad.
These situations in Mary’s life began with a strong prayer life and relationship with God that continued throughout the rest of Her life. Mary was presented at the temple when she was three years old, dedicated to God, and was raised in the temple, praying and assisting the priests in the temple. We know this about Mary’s life from an ancient text called The Protoevangelium of James. This life greatly aided Mary in becoming attuned to the Word of God in Her soul and in learning to trust and love Him with Her whole being. While most of us will not and have not been raised in a church or temple, it is important that we spend time daily alone with God in prayer, talking to Him but also listening to Him to become accustomed to hearing what He wants to say to us and to find what He really wants from us. Not listening to or having a good relationship with the Source of our life can be a root cause of confusion and desolation in our souls.
Many bouts with mental unrest begin when we push God out of our lives and try to do everything ourselves. Looking at Mary’s example of prayerfulness, which lead to love for God and trust in Him, and asking Her for assistance in learning to pray as we ought so as to grow in our relationship with God, can be of great help to us to get out of ourselves and focus on God and others. Once we are rooted in our relationship with God and our identity as His children, we can begin our journey to solving mental problems and discerning whether we really need to take extra steps to solve them.