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8 Saints who were depressed, but never gave up


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Aleteia - published on 05/02/18

3. St. Ignatius of Loyola

16th century

Public Domain

The powerful personality of the great and saintly founder of the Jesuits was also given to deep feelings of unrest and suffering. The certainty and conviction that he reveals in his autobiography (written in third person) didn’t come easily. After his conversion, Ignatius had to fight against a period of intense scrupulosity, a term which, in Christian ascetics, refers to the temptation to feel oneself always in a state of grave sin for every tiny personal failing in fulfilling one’s duties in living the virtues. That trial was followed by a depression that was so serious, he even thought of suicide. God saved him from the abyss of darkness and interior suffering, inspiring him to do great things with his life in the name of Christ and His Church.

Ignatius himself, in his Spiritual Exercises, calls the experience “desolation”: a state of great unrest, irritability, discomfort, insecurity regarding oneself and one’s own decisions, frightening doubts, great difficulty persevering in good intentions … According to Ignatius, God doesn’t cause desolation, but He allows it to shake us awake to our condition as sinners and to call us to conversion.

Based on his experience, St. Ignatius gives three pieces of advice for reacting to desolation: do not desist, nor alter a previous good resolution; intensify your conversation with God, your meditation, and good works; and persevere with patience, because the trial is strictly limited by God, who will give you relief at the opportune time. He discovered, in short, that depression can be a great spiritual challenge and a great opportunity for growth.

This advice continues to be perfectly valid, but today, it’s of crucial importance to add a fourth counsel: obtain proper medical help. Medical progress has made it clear that, in most cases of true depression, psychiatric medicine is indispensable for restoring the balance of neurotransmitters, because depression is an illness properly speaking, and not just a “sad phase.” The treatment of clinical depression involves two interdependent approaches: a personal interior approach, which can be accompanied by a good psychologist or a qualified counselor; and medical treatment, under the guidance of a serious psychiatrist who is up to date in the field.

St. Ignatius

Read more:
4 Ways St. Ignatius can help you grow in emotional intelligence

4. St. Jane Frances de Chantal

16th century


For eight years, Jane lived happily in her marriage with the Baron of Chantal. However, when her husband died, her father-in-law, who was vain and stubborn, forced Jane and her three children to live with him, creating a situation of constant conflicts, difficult trials on her patience, and … depression. Instead of taking refuge in playing the victim, St. Jane chose to keep smiling and to respond to her father-in-law’s cruelty with charity and comprehension.

Even after establishing a cordial and holy friendship with the great bishop St. Francis de Sales, and working with him to create a religious order for older women, Jane continued experiencing moments of great suffering and of being judged unjustly — and she also continued to respond with a smile, with hard work, and with a spirit turned towards God.

In this regard, St. Francis de Sales has some relevant advice for those who suffer from that kind of trial:

“Refresh yourself with spiritual music, which often makes the devil stop his tricks, as in the case of Saul, whose spiritual evil left him when David played his harp before the king. It is also useful to work actively, and with as much variety as possible, so as to distract your mind from the cause of your sadness.”

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