Must Depressions Always Be Depressing?

Finding true meaning.
by John Antonio, LC | Source: Good News
Jon Carlton had every right to be depressed.  He is one of millions of victims of the worst financial crash since the Great Depression. Forty percent of all he’s worked for and built up in his insurance firm disappeared overnight. 

But believe it or not, Jon isn’t depressed. Maybe it’s because he’s with 3 other friends and depression isn’t a socially acceptable attitude. They are also men who have lost: a real estate investor and two small businessmen. Like Jon, they’ll have to start over with college savings for their children and their 401k is hardly worth looking at. But they aren’t in good spirits just because they are together. Something about the past week has changed them all.   

At a time when business was good, they planned a trip to the Eternal City, Rome. Despite the economic crash, they’ve decided not to cancel their appointment with the Holy Father at his weekly public encounter with pilgrims. Nor did they want to postpone their rich religious immersion into the world capital of Catholicism in the company of a good friend, Fr. Steven. 

A week of walking and riding buses brought them to the five major basilicas of Rome, the fabled dome of the Pantheon, the priceless collections of the Vatican Museums, and a long itinerary of inspirational wonders. It was all uplifting to think that behind this religious art and architecture is a God whom the patrons, priests, artists, bricklayers and common men all sought to venerate. 

And yet, these colossal artistic achievements were not quite the spiritual highlight of the trip. Jon found his niche of hope elsewhere, in one of the humblest attractions in the city: the Sancta Scala. They are the steps of Pontius Pilate’s presidium, shipped from Jerusalem, and reconstructed in a small sanctuary in Rome. 

“It was when I was climbing those steps on my knees,” he said, “that I realized there’s so much more to life. There’s Someone who accompanies us.” Christ, in his most forsaken moments found the strength to keep climbing those same steps, only to be condemned by Pontius Pilate. In those moments Christ’s future didn’t seem too bright either. 

Money aside, it didn’t look like he’d have much time to live. Every day, nuns, monks, mothers, fathers, children and youth who bend their knees to climb those steps come realize that they are not the only ones in pain. In accompanying him they cease to climb alone no matter how abandoned they may feel. Jon experienced something like that and realized that even in life’s depressing moments a man can still climb, he can still allow himself to be lifted up by Christ’s example of seeing opportunity where others may see despair.  

Jon and his companions discovered that losing doesn’t always leave you at a loss and depressions need not always be depressing. There’s nothing more disheartening than the experience of losing: losing a ball-game, losing a loved one, or in their case losing years of work meant to serve their families.  

A guided spiritual pilgrimage in Rome is a great opportunity, not to ignore our losses, but to see what we gain through them. However, it’s certainly not the only way. The steps of the Scala Santa aren’t just in Rome. Many have a Scala Santa in their own office, workspace, classroom, or home. They feel more behind after a hard day’s work, more abandoned after investing in a relationship, or too confused to make any sense of life. Wouldn’t Christ climb with them, as well?   

Jon is returning home with his hands full of meaning and hope. This Thanksgiving he may have less to give thanks with but he’ll surely have more to be thankful for. He’s discovered a whole new treasure in his Christian faith. Maybe it’s when we lose what we apparently possessed that we can come to see what we had all along. 

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