Hope in the dark night of life

If we suffer depression we’re not alone - so have many saints. And while depression is real it does not have to be accepted as the only path left to us in life

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Catholic psychiatrist Dr Aaron Kheriarty says depression can’t be cured by either the confessional or the couch alone. Healing comes only when we integrate legitimate discoveries of modern psychology and pharmacology with spiritual direction and the sacraments, giving particular attention to the wisdom of the Fathers of the Church. Photo: Shutterstock
Catholic psychiatrist Dr Aaron Kheriarty says depression can’t be cured by either the confessional or the couch alone. Healing comes only when we integrate legitimate discoveries of modern psychology and pharmacology with spiritual direction and the sacraments, giving particular attention to the wisdom of the Fathers of the Church. Photo: Shutterstock

Countless Christians – including scores of saints – have suffered profound, pervasive sorrow that modern psychiatrists call “depression.” Then, as now, great faith and even fervent spiritual practices have generally failed to ease this wearying desolation of soul.

In these pages, experienced Catholic psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty reviews the effective ways that have recently been devised to deal with this grave and sometimes deadly affliction – ways that are not only consistent with the teachings of the Church, but even rooted in many of those teachings.

Extensive clinical experience treating patients with depression has shown Dr Kheriaty that the confessional can’t cure neuroses, nor can the couch forgive sins.

Healing comes only when we integrate the legitimate discoveries of modern psychology and pharmacology with spiritual direction and the sacraments, giving particular attention to the wisdom of the Church Fathers and the saints … which is just what Dr Kheriaty does in this thoughtful, compassionate, spiritually wise book, The Catholic Guide to Depression.

The cover of The Catholic Guide toi Depression.
The cover of The Catholic Guide toi Depression.

With the expert help of Dr Kheriaty, you’ll learn how to distinguish depression from similar-looking but fundamentally different mental states such as guilt, sloth, the darkness of sin, and the sublime desolation called “dark night of the soul” that is, in fact, a privileged spiritual trial sent to good souls as a special gift from God.

You’ll come to know how to identify the various types of depression and come to understand the interplay of their often manifold causes, biological, psychological, behavioural, cultural, and, yes, moral.

The reader will also learn about exciting breakthroughs in pharmacological and other medical treatments, the benefits and limitations of psychotherapy, the critical place that spiritual direction must have in healing, and the vital role that hope – Christian hope – can play in driving out depression.

For those less-frequent cases when the pain of depression can’t be fully banished by the combined efforts of science and spirituality, Dr Kheriaty shows how pain – like the unavoidable sufferings of Jesus on the Cross – can be made redemptive for yourself and for others.

Finally, to this masterful, hope-filled work Dr Kheriaty has appended a list of resources for further reading, a set of prayers for those times when the anguish of depression grows great, and even an address by Pope John Paul II about depression.

Written by a faithful Catholic psychiatrist committed to the teachings of the Church, The Catholic Guide to Depression provides help and consolation to anyone suffering from this grave spiritual affliction.

And it affords friends, loved ones, pastors, and spiritual directors the knowledge they need to give depressed persons the understanding, help, and comfort they so desperately need.

The Catholic Guide to Depression, by Aaron Kheriarty, Sophia Institute Press, 247 pages