Life as a Bipolar Byzantine Catholic

I am a Ruthenian Rite Byzantine Catholic. And I have also been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. That may not sound very profound but there are many people out their who view their mental illness as proof that God does not exist or that it is a “curse from Satan” or that their mental illness doesn’t exist and that it is something that gets in the way of their worship of God. Let me tell you. Mental illness is real, and if you have mental illness, you can live a fulfilling life within the Catholic Church.

My first indication that I might have a disorder was when I was 18 in my Freshman psychology class. The professor was going through slides on mental illnesses and when the bipolar slide came up, my friend whom I sat next to every class, looked at me and said “Dude, that’s you.” He wasn’t trying to be insulting or funny. He said it with a very concerned look. Now mind you, at the time (conversion to Eastern Catholic in later post) I was a Roman Catholic bent on going to the seminary, and I thought this would be the death of my chances. I refused to acknowledge it. However, even though I remained close to the sacraments and continued to push myself in my prayer life, my symptoms got worse until I forced myself to see a counselor. It was then that I received my formal diagnosis.

Bipolar is a mental illness that will never go away. It is with you for life, and you have to manage it. This mental disorder is indeed a cross. But I discovered Eastern Catholicism shortly before my mental breakdown, and throughout the following months, I became involved with Holy Synergy and started to learn more about our traditions as Eastern Catholics. We have many different prayers, and yet there are two distinct prayer styles. There is a calm, meditative prayer style known as Hesychasm. Hesycham literally means “stillness” and it calls us to calm our minds and bodies as we pray “Lord Jesus Christ, Have mercy on me a sinner.” It is known as the prayer of the heart, because it diverts our consciousness away from our minds and to our hearts, where it belongs. Our hearts are the ones that follow God. Our hearts know the truth. Our minds are the ones that rationalize why sins are okay.

But, the takeaway is that hesychasm calls us to interior stillness, and with a little practice, it can be achieved. We may not be experts on it like the monks, but we can certainly grow into it. The other prayer style is our active liturgy. We have the offices of the day (matins, vespers, etc.) as well as our divine liturgy. These prayers require a lot of focus and keeps our whole bodies active and engaged. Now the ideal state of prayer is to maintain that stillness that is achieved through Hesychasm while being active in the body, but again, that takes practice.

So how does this relate to bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of mania and periods of depression. Mania is when you feel like you can do anything and everything. Depression (as an energy state) makes you not even want to get out of bed. This is a very simplistic explanation and in reality depression will make you lie down in bed not wanting to do anything because “what is the point anyways, I just wanna die” and mania is like “I’m going to do all the prayers and fast perfectly the whole week and go to 7 liturgies a day and etc.”

These prayers can help us. Hesychasm is good for the manic episodes. Hesychasm forces us to be still, and even the most energetic person can sit down for 5 minutes, pray the chotki, and feel calmer. The active prayer is good for the depressed person because it gets us moving and praising God. And plus, there is no better antidepressant out there than the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is EVERY Catholic’s prize, devotion, and need. It is only through the Eucharist that any one of us can be saved. We receive the Eucharist for the remission of our sins, and for the healing of soul and body.

So yes, mental illness, and Byzantine Catholicism are very compatible. We all need healing from God. Why would bipolar disorder be any different.

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Apologetics 2:2 – Apostolic Succession

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Minor Mysteries (or sacramentals to Latin Catholics) are known to be outward signs of inward graces. Being that vestments express these graces in different degrees depending on the rank of the individual cleric, it’s quite evident why these Apostolic Crowns are worn by Popes, Patriarchs, & Bishops; in addition to also being decorated the way that they are – to show the importance of the role that Bishop has; that being the authority to guide the church and to teach the flock.

 

Catholic Teaching on Apostolic succession:

 

CCC 77: “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”

 

Biblical proof for Apostolic Succession:

 

• 2 Timothy 2:2: “And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.”

 

• Acts 14:23: “They [the Apostles] appointed presbyters for them in each church.”

 

• Acts 1:16- 20: “My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry.  He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language ‘Akeldama,’ that is, Field of Blood. For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’ And: ‘May another take his office.'(Emphasis)

 

Acts 1:25-26 Concerning the replacement of Judas:

 

To take the place of this ministry and apostleship , from which Judas hath by transgression fallen, that he might go to his own place. And they gave them lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

 

Paul is succeeded by Timothy, who will be succeeded by “faithful people”, who will be succeeded by “others as well’.

 

Titus 1:5: “For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.”

Note: Titus is instructed to guide the flock, to teach, and to silence heresies from those outside of the true church that lack Apostolic Succession. (See Titus 1:10-11)

 

• Titus 1-10-11 “For there are also many rebels, idle talkers and deceivers, especially the Jewish Christians. It is imperative to silence them, as they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what they should not.”

 

Note: the silencing of heretics is what you find within the Catholic Church by the magisterium, that being the Apostolic Tradition to anathematize heresies and individual heretics that do not recant their heterodoxy.

 

•2 Peter 1:3-4 bares witness to the teaching that Jesus Christ has promised the apostles and their successors guidance to teach truth by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.”

Early Church Fathers on Apostolic Succession:

 

Pope Clement I

“Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).

Hegesippus

“When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets, and the Lord” (Memoirs, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:22 [A.D. 180]).

Irenaeus

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

“[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with [the heretic] Novatian, she was not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop [of Rome], Fabian, by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way” (Letters 69[75]:3 [A.D. 253]).

St. Jerome

“Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians” (Letters 14:8 [A.D. 396]).

A common question by non Catholics: “Who and how does one gain Apostolic Succession?”

Answer: Apostolic Succession is given to men alone. These are men that were given formation in the faith and have been ordained via the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Orders. These apply to deacons, priests, and Bishops.

In laymen terms, these are clerics that were ordained by a Bishop in whom passes on this Apostolic Succession through the laying on of hands (Ordination) . Ordination must come from Bishops in whom were ordained validly and can trace their succession back to the apostles. This can be found only in the Catholic Church – with the exception of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Assyrian Church of the East.

CCC 1536 – Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.

Biblical Support for Holy Orders:

•Acts 13:2-3 – “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.”

•Acts 14:23 – They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.

Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters (priests).

• 2 Tim 1:6,9 – For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. … He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.