No matter where you go in Gozo, you’re guaranteed to see a church. In fact, if you took all the churches in Malta and Gozo, you could attend a different one every single day for a year! Obviously, religion is an important part of Maltese and Gozitan life.
Manwell showed us around his local church in Xaghra, where he’d been an alter boy. He showed us the different statues and ornaments, explained how the church wasn’t actually looking at its best because it wasn’t the Festa…you could have fooled me! I didn’t take any photographs because it just felt wrong. The entire place was decorated with marble, gold leaf and intricate paintings. It took my breath away.
But to Manwell, it wasn’t anything special; it was his “norm”. Roman Catholicisim at its extravagent best. He was even swearing as he showed us around! He wasn’t being disrespectful, I just don’t think he could find other words strong enough to express the depth of his feelings towards his home church. When he took us to his home for coffee, he pointed out that the radio programme playing in the background was a 24/7 station…broadcasting the rosary!
Religion is everywhere in Gozo; you can’t escape from it. But what I learnt from that afternoon with Manwell is that FAITH is also everywhere. This was highlighted more when we visited Ta’Pinu, a shrine near where we were staying in Gharb. This enormous church was built at the site where a local woman claimed to have heard the voice of the Madonna. Thousands make a pilgrimage there every year and several rooms are absolutely covered with letters and photographs from people whose prayers were answered because of that pilgrimage. Absolute faith.
What’s this got to do with mental health? Well, hopefully you’ve made it this far through the post to let me make my argument.
Faith is important. Not necessarily religious faith and I am NOT one of these people who say “Trust in Jesus and you’ll recover”. It makes my blood boil when anyone says people have mental health problems because they don’t have faith in God/Jesus.
Depression/BPD/Bipolar etc are not caused by a lack of faith, and I feel incredibly sorry for anyone who does believe that…because what happens when the medical condition hits them? Suddenly they’re depressed and Jesus isn’t helping. Not only are they going through a hellish time because of an illness, but their faith is being called into question too.
I don’t normally talk about my faith on this blog and that’s for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t want anyone to think I’ve recovered from BPD because of my religious beliefs. Not true. I recovered, then I was able to start thinking about religion and how it applied to me. Secondly, my faith shouldn’t matter to anyone other than The Big Man Himself. So, don’t worry if you’re religious or not, I’m not going to start spouting Scripture or anything. This post is the most I’ll ever discuss organised religion because it doesn’t matter WHAT you believe in…you just need to believe in something.
Faith is important, no matter what it is you have faith in. For many people, that faith is in the church. For others it’s in family. For some it’s a pet. It doesn’t matter what it is, I just think we all need something that can give us hope. When you’re in the deepest pits of depression, I completely understand that it feels impossible to have faith in anything (I certainly didn’t). But when you’re having a good time, be that a day, a week or a month, I urge you to find something. A reason to keep on going with your life. Something or someone you can talk to, whether you get a physical reply or not. Because when you hit your next bump in the road, there’s someone or something there to give you a helping hand back up again.