Spirituality

An Evening of Song and Word

On Wednesday 20 November we are having something which promises to be absolutely beautiful –  An Evening of Song and Word  with our gorgeous Loreto Normanhurst  Student Choir.    We have a wonderful programme of music and readings  …  a journey through the wonder and mystery of creation, the coming of Christ and our own journey into watching, waiting and blessing. Just perfect as we draw closer to the end of the year and Advent.   

This will be held in our school chapel from 7:00pm – 8:00pm and will be followed by supper in the cloisters.

Of course, we would love to have our beautiful chapel filled …  please extend this invitation to anyone you know who might like to come along and indulge in the beauty and peace of it all. View the invitation here.

Religious Faith and Mental Health

This month is Mental Health Month.  As I think about mental health issues and what mental wellness might be, I find myself pondering the link between mental health and religious faith.  This raises many questions.  Is good mental health necessary for spiritual health, or vice versa?  How does religious faith affect mental health –  in fact, does it?  Is good mental health dependent on our particular image and understanding of the deity?  Do certain religious beliefs lead to mental health issues?  And conversely, does poor mental health necessarily lead to strange or delusional religious beliefs?  And there are many more questions that arise.  It is a complex issue.  Studies show that when dealing with major life stresses such as illness, divorce, bereavement and natural disasters, religion and spirituality are generally helpful in helping people cope.  Some of these aspects of religious faith which help people face what life throws up at them are the support found through turning to God or a higher power, rituals which enable people to face and deal with life transitions, support from a religious community, and reframing the situation in the context of a larger reality, a system of meaning.   However, conversely, it has also been found that certain religious beliefs can also cause emotional stress.

An article in The Huffington Post on a recent study raises some of these issues and shows the complexity of the link: “Many people find comfort in religious faith, but a provocative new study links certain beliefs with emotional problems.  The study, published April 10 last year in the Journal of Religion and Health, showed that people who believe in an angry, vengeful god are more likely to suffer from social anxiety, paranoia, obsessional thinking, and compulsions.  Researchers reached this conclusion after analyzing responses of 1,426 Americans to a 2010 poll on religion.  Poll respondents who indicated belief in a deity were placed in three categories –  those who believed in a punitive god, those who believed in a benevolent god, and those who believed in a deistic (uninvolved) god.  Then the researchers looked at the prevalence of emotional problems in each group.  What exactly did the researchers find?  Symptoms of mental illness were more common among those in the punitive god group than in the deistic god or benevolent god groups.  Does that mean that believing in an angry god can make you crazy?  Not necessarily.  The study looked only at the correlation between beliefs and mental health and not at causality, so the study’s take–away message is subject to interpretation”.  However, the study’s authors are convinced that the type of god one believes in can indeed affect one’s emotional state.  And as they point out this happens not so much at the conscious or thought level, but as Dr Neva Silton, professor of psychology at Marymount Manhattan College says, “Quite simply, the notion is that belief in a benevolent God will reduce the sense that the world is threatening at the neural level, because God will protect you from harm.  The angry God not only fails to provide protection, he/she may actually pose a threat of harm”.   Not everyone, however, agrees with this:  “We don’t know whether it was the poorer mental health (anxiety, paranoia) that caused subjects to perceive God as punitive, or whether it was the view of God as punitive that caused the poor mental health”, said Dr Harold Koenig, a Duke University professor of psychiatry.  “My suspicion is that people with emotional problems see their entire world in a negative light and often feel a need to blame someone – and God is often the target”.     

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Ms Kerry McCullough

Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator