Recently I went to a seminar on integrating spirituality with psychological treatment. Most of the six hours was spent on Buddhism and other eastern religions. At one point, the focus of discussion resulted in participants offering books to read. The presenter, delighted at the titles, asked that the suggested books be written down for her use, except one. Mine. In fact, she looked down and away as the room went dead silent, quite uncomfortable for me. Incidentally, I ate lunch alone.
This isn’t the first time this is happened. In fact, I have had this problem in our own Church on numerous occasions, only the response is usually a form of a “correction” rather than silent treatment. This brings me to a saint to whom I think we all can relate. St. Bishop John Chrysostom whose feast is today.
He was Bishop of Constantinople in the late 300s. His sermons were brilliant and he was well-liked by the higher ups. Things turned sour when he became disgusted with Church politics and preached rebelliously. Justice was his main concern. Sermons included confronting bishops who bribed their way into high positions and the need to distribute the Church’s wealth to the poor. He also called for faithfulness in marriage not only for women but also for men thereby challenging the conventions of the time. He even used the gospel message to attack the Royal courts. All this didn’t go over too well and in retaliation they attempted to discredit St. John with accusations of gluttony, infidelity to his vows, and heresy. Eventually he was driven out of Constantinople and ended up dying on the road. By the way, does this remind you of somebody alive today?
The reason St. John Chrysostom’s story is important is that all of us are called to be prophets in one way or another. We do it in our homes, in a secular world, and even within our own parishes. Most of the time we take flak and if the flak is serious enough we are discredited, shamed, or ostracized. Certainly, we are not allowed in leadership positions. Most of the time we fail just as Saint John. No one likes to be challenged to change.
When a prophet is plagued with mental and emotional ills being responded to in negative ways can exacerbate those ills. Some can become more anxious. Others so rigid they become combative rather than open to criticism, that sometimes is good. Still others double question themselves and become easily discouraged or depressed. By the way, St. John had stomach problems.
To be a good prophet one must have one’s mental and emotional conditions managed (not cured). We cannot practice courage, perseverance, charity, and trust in our Lord without it. Offering a Catholic suggestion to a group of professional peers that belong to a typically anti-Catholic profession is uncomfortable for me. I stuttered and was likely flushed but unlike in the past I didn’t double question myself or worry about repercussions. I pray you all learn how to manage your mental and emotional ills so you can do the same.
St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.
Stained glass picture by Zvonimir Atletic