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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams, Suicide and Catholic Guilt...

A good friend once shared that he understood well how a person could commit suicide.   

He had been there himself; engulfed in that pit of darkness and despair, where hope is lost, life has become meaningless and desolation permeates every cell and molecule of  a person's being. 

It is the type of feeling that prompted the psalmist to write, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," which Jesus recited while taking his last breaths on the cross.

My friend couldn't sleep.  He couldn't eat.  He couldn't concentrate.  In fact, just reading a full sentence was a challenge.  Therefore, he obviously couldn't work.  He had what doctors call clinical depression, which afflicts millions of Americans every year.

And, it wasn't because he wasn't successful.  My friend was a professional with a plush high rise office, making more money than he ever imagined and the envy of many of his friends and associates because of his youth, rising success, good looks and prowess with the opposite sex.  But, he was miserable.  He was in a bottomless funk and couldn't dig his way out; no matter what he tried.

He says the only thing that kept him from taking his life was Catholic guilt.  It was the thought of spending the rest of eternity in hell (Let's take a quick sidebar here.  Although, the Church teaches that depression is a serious mental illness and suicide is something that only God can judge, many still view it as the taking of a human life, which only God has the right to do).

It's a good thing my friend saw it as the latter because, admittedly, it saved his life.

I was reminded of my friend's words this week, as the story of Hollywood actor Robin Williams' death captured the headlines of every major news outlet, both locally and nationally, across the country.

It's ironic.  For me, Robin Williams was not only an incredible talent as an actor and comedian but he represented a sense of energy, enthusiasm and spirit of happiness that was unrivaled by any standard.  In fact, he appeared to have everything the culture tells us makes people happy; fame, fortune, influence. 

Unfortunately, it seems, there was also lots of sadness, internal conflicts and darkness.  It was severe enough to make him take his life at the age of 63 and still in the prime of his career (having just shot four movies that are yet to be released).

Williams was raised Episcopalian and often referred to his faith, especially in helping him get through drug and alcohol addictions, broken marriages and open-heart surgery.  He once joked, "I'm an Episcopal; that's Catholic Light. Same religion, half the guilt!"

I couldn't help but think of my friend.  Maybe, just maybe, a little more Catholic guilt could have helped Williams' as well...










[photo credit: Reed Saxon/AP file]
     

4 comments:

Ana Cuervo said...

Hello Carlos, I loved your article, and I am so impressed about what you wrote about yourself. I was inspired to just add to it, build on it, not contradict it in any way. i also, grew up Catholic and had some amazing encounters with our Savior in my younger yeas, but as an adult I did not live my faith in the manner we are meant to, seeking an intimate relationship with God every single day. God is amazing! During the most difficult time if my life, he took me to a church where I have gotten to know him and love him better than ever before. I attend Christ Journey, a Christian church n Coral Gables, eternally grateful for my Catholic background, I know that is where I belong now, At church, they tell us quite often that there is no place too dark, no mess too big, no life too messed up, no despair too great, no pain too deep that Jesus cannot save you. I do not pretend to know what the clinical depression that destroyed such a talented man is like. I agree with you that it is a shame that perhaps fear of hell, whatever that might have looked like for him, did not stop him. And maybe if he could have sought God's help, maybe through others in his life, he could have been saved. AT church, we do series of studies and discussions, last week it was about looking for God during the caves in your life, cave meaning those dark places and moments where the walls are "caving" in and you see no way out. In conclusion the pastor said God does his best work in caves.....and he elaborated on that...At the end he said, "Look what He did in the cave that was Jesus' tomb on the third day!" God Bless you and your family always!! I would love for you to visit my church one day This Sunday's new series is about cutting through all the clutter and noise in your life......looking forward to that!

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Ana.

I am very glad you found peace in God. He is truly amazing!

It reminds me of a comment another friend once shared as well.

He is a fiery Irishman and had left the Church and become an evangelical Baptist somewhere in his late 20's or early 30's.

He ran into an old Irish priest from my parish at the gym one day and, being combative, as he still is, wanted to challenge the old priest.

He said, "Father, what would you think of an Irishman who is now a Baptist?"

The old priest looked at him, as he walked on a treadmill, thought for a moment and asked, "Are you being fed there?"

My friend answered, "Yes."

"Then go where your soul is being fed," pausing briefly he added, "But, come home for the Eucharist from time to time."

My friend said any other answer would have been wrong but that answer really hit home (literally and figuratively!).

Eventually, because of that priest, he found his way back into the Church and has been living a sacramental life (with many peaks and valleys like most of us) ever since.

God reaches us where we are, as long as we are humble enough to let Him.

Those lectures and reflection series sound fascinating. I may just have to double dip some Sunday after Mass. I'll check out the web site.

God bless you always and keep your eyes on the eternal prize...

Ana Cuervo said...


Thank you Carlos,

I love that story, thanks so much for sharing it. Yes. my soul is definitely being fed. You would be surprised how much a Catholic movement like Emaus has in common with a church like Christ Journey, the website is Christjourney.org. Please check it out. You can also view past messages there. One recent series was excellent "The Naked Truth" Another was "I love Jesus but cant't stand Christians" As a practicing Catholic I am sure you have felt the misconceptions some people have about us when we begin to openly live our faith. It also touched upon what we can do to invite more people into the faith and not shutting people out. It looks like you are really doing that.

The series that begins this Sunday, I think is going to be great for people like Yanik, you and me that are juggling such hectic careers and raising our children the best way we can. Each series lasts a few weeks. If you want to go just listen to the message, let me know, I would respectfully welcome your visit.

I love that we can share our faith and respect that we are attending different churches.
I think you might be able to just pick up more "tools for your toolbox" as you live your Faith on the High Wire.

One of the differences is that the talks apply very much to every day life,...would love for you to check it out, again as a welcomed guest.... hours are 9:30, 11:00. 12;30 and 6:00 pm


I read this just today.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6

Un abrazo! Ana

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Ana.

I will check it out.

But, also, in the words of the old priest I wrote you about above, you also have an invitation to, "Come home for the Eucharist from time to time."

The doors are always open.

God bless.