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The Sin of Suicide
CatholicEducation.org ^ | 2003 | Father William Saunders

Posted on 02/26/2011 8:53:21 PM PST by Salvation

The Sin of Suicide

FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

What is the Church's teaching regarding suicide? I always thought that suicide was a mortal sin, so how is it that a person can be buried in the Church?

 
Before addressing the act of suicide, we must first remember that God is the giver of all life. Each of us has been made in God's image and likeness (Genesis 1:27) with both a body and a soul. Therefore, life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death, and no one can justify the intentional taking of an innocent human life.

For Christians, this teaching takes on even greater depth because our Lord entered this world and our own human condition. Our Lord knew the joy and pain, success and failure, pleasure and suffering, happiness and sorrow that come in this life; yet, He also showed us how to live this life in the love of God and trusting in His will. Moreover, Jesus suffered, died, and rose to free us from sin and give us the promise of everlasting life. Through our baptism, we share a new life in the Lord. St. Paul reminds us, "You have been purchased, and at a price. So glorify God in your body" (I Corinthians 6:20).

Therefore, we must be mindful that the preservation of our life — body and soul — is not something discretionary but obligatory. We must preserve and nourish both our physical and spiritual life. The Catechism asserts, "Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of" (#2280).

With this foundation in mind, we can see why suicide has traditionally be considered a gravely wrong moral action, i.e. a mortal sin. Our Holy Father affirmed this position in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (#66). (Please note that suicide is distinguished from the sacrifice of one's life for God or another, as in the cases of martyrdom, or of offering one's life or risking it to save another person.)

The intentional taking of one's own life is wrong for several reasons: First, in the most basic sense, each human being naturally seeks to his preserve life. To take our own life defies our natural instinct to live.

Second, suicide violates a genuine love for oneself and one's neighbor-- family, friends, neighbors, and even acquaintances. Other people need us and depend upon us in ways we may not even know. When I as a priest have had to comfort the family of a suicide victim, I hope that the person somehow realizes how much he really was loved and needed. I also feel sad that this poor troubled person faced something so seemingly unbearable, insurmountable, or agonizing that he chose to withdraw from the love of God and others, and kill himself.

Finally, suicide defies the love we owe God. Sure, we all face the tough times, hardships, and sufferings. However, we are called to place ourselves in the hands of God who will never abandon us, but see us safely through this life. The words of the "Our Father" — "thy will be done" — must be real for us. To commit suicide is to reject His "lordship" in our life.

Therefore, objectively, suicide is a mortal sin. (Moreover, to help someone commit suicide is also a mortal sin.) Here though we must remember that for a sin to be mortal and cost someone salvation, the objective action (in this case the taking of one's own life) must be grave or serious matter; the person must have an informed intellect (know that this is wrong); and the person must give full consent of the will (intend to commit this action). In the case of suicide, a person may not have given full consent of the will. Fear, force, ignorance, habit, passion, and psychological problems can impede the exercise of the will so that a person may not be fully responsible or even responsible at all for an action. Here again the Catechism states, "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide" (#2282). This qualification does not make suicide a right action in any circumstance; however, it does make us realize that the person may not be totally culpable for the action because of various circumstances or personal conditions.

Only God can read the depths of our soul. Only He knows how much we love Him and how responsible we are for our actions. We leave the judgment then to Him alone. The Catechism offers words of great hope: "We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives" (#2283). Therefore, we do offer the Mass for the repose of the soul of a suicide victim, invoking God's tender love and mercy, and His healing grace for the grieving loved ones.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Saunders, Rev. William. "The Sin of Suicide ." Arlington Catholic Herald.

This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; depression; funeral; serotonin; ssris; suicide
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THE AUTHOR

Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.


1 posted on 02/26/2011 8:53:28 PM PST by Salvation
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Someone asked about this tonight. So here goes.....please talk with a minister or a priest. Please


2 posted on 02/26/2011 8:54:49 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Suicide

Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.


3 posted on 02/26/2011 8:56:05 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia.

He also does not have a clue about the kind of pain that typically drives a person to suicide.

4 posted on 02/26/2011 8:57:22 PM PST by Jeff Winston
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To: Salvation

I had to identify the body of a relative who had committed suicide. A gruesome task, but it had to be done.


5 posted on 02/26/2011 8:57:32 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Jeff Winston

I hope you are not trying to read his mind.


6 posted on 02/26/2011 8:58:28 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Okay, guilty as charged.

But I’ll put it this way: The article does not sound to me as if it were written by someone who really understands the kind of pain that typically drives a person to commit suicide.


7 posted on 02/26/2011 9:05:53 PM PST by Jeff Winston
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To: Salvation

I am not a catholic, but a born again Christian and I really enjoyed this posting. thank you.


8 posted on 02/26/2011 9:09:07 PM PST by bareford101 ("Aslan's on the move." The Last Battle-CS Lewis)
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To: Jeff Winston

“I also feel sad that this poor troubled person faced something so seemingly unbearable, insurmountable, or agonizing that he chose to withdraw from the love of God and others, and kill himself”

Seems to me that he does!


9 posted on 02/26/2011 9:12:21 PM PST by navyblue (<u>)
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To: Salvation

>>Someone asked about this tonight. So here goes.....please talk with a minister or a priest. Please<<

Indeed! The most precious gift God gave us is life. We are admonished not to discard His gifts.

And it is unfair — to the survivors. Everyone ends up losing, malaise is visited on everyone and God’s judgment will be most terrible.

To date, I know of only one suicide (and even then I might be remembering incorrectly) on FR. Thank God the Conservative philosophy is based on the infinite dignity of the Human Soul. Sadly, the liberal philosophy sees the human soul as an artifact of their banal minds and of little value. These are the people we need to pray for.


10 posted on 02/26/2011 9:13:15 PM PST by freedumb2003 (Being happy is not a matter of destinty. It is a matter of options. /Dali Lama)
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To: Salvation

A very sad thing to have to do...but only God knows what drove the person to it. Mental illness is a real thing and the reader of hearts is the only Judge..


11 posted on 02/26/2011 9:15:09 PM PST by goat granny
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To: Salvation

>>I had to identify the body of a relative who had committed suicide. A gruesome task, but it had to be done.<<

Something new for my prayers — that I never have to do that.

I really hope this doesn’t affect you permanently. I am not sure it would not stay with me for quite some time.


12 posted on 02/26/2011 9:15:54 PM PST by freedumb2003 (Being happy is not a matter of destinty. It is a matter of options. /Dali Lama)
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To: bareford101

Thanks, so much.

It’s tough to have someone ask about suicide.

I found an article about being complicit in assisted suicide too. And I can’t accept that either.

God has a plan for us. If it involves suffering here on earth — won’t that mean more rewards in heaven?


13 posted on 02/26/2011 9:16:25 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: goat granny

I’m not Roman Catholic, but a Reformed Protestant, and I am not so sure that we should easily go the “mental illness/depression” route. Scripture is clear that things like suicide (ie. self murder) are sins that come clearly from the heart.


14 posted on 02/26/2011 9:19:01 PM PST by Amerikan_Samurai
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To: freedumb2003

**And it is unfair — to the survivors. Everyone ends up losing, malaise is visited on everyone and God’s judgment will be most terrible.**

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I know the guilt, terror, puzzlement, and horror that I would inflict on others through suicide would not be a pretty picture at all.

Hopefully people will consider that aspect before they succumb to the temptation to take their own life.

God is always so good. God is waiting to forgive this person or any person....just talk to a priest or minister.


15 posted on 02/26/2011 9:19:36 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: freedumb2003

It was over 20 years ago, but only a couple years after my husband’s death, so at that time it was quite traumatic.

It hasn’t affected me long term. Thanks for your prayers.


16 posted on 02/26/2011 9:21:45 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

With all due respect, Father William Saunders does not know despair.


17 posted on 02/26/2011 9:23:18 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: Amerikan_Samurai

How can this come from the heart when a person can be so totured by some inner demons that they cannot think rationally? I had this happen in my own family just 28 dags ago. Nobody but God knows why!


18 posted on 02/26/2011 9:25:30 PM PST by navyblue (<u>)
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To: navyblue

totured = tortured


19 posted on 02/26/2011 9:26:51 PM PST by navyblue (<u>)
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To: Salvation

P.S. Your prayers, others’ prayers, as much as I sincerely appreciate them, and my prayers as well, have done nothing, sorry to say.


20 posted on 02/26/2011 9:26:55 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: Revolting cat!

And now it would seem you are trying to read his mind and heart.


21 posted on 02/26/2011 9:29:49 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: navyblue

Yes, I agree, God does know why. And Scripture is clear that every person that was ever born is a sinner, with selfish and evil thoughts. I don’t claim to know where those people are that commit suicide, but for the people for whom this is an option, one can only wonder if they really trusted in our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.


22 posted on 02/26/2011 9:30:51 PM PST by Amerikan_Samurai
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To: navyblue

Demons have no power over a true, Holy Spirit filled, Born again Believer in Jesus Christ.


23 posted on 02/26/2011 9:34:37 PM PST by Amerikan_Samurai
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To: goat granny

Its not always mental illness. Environmental and socio economic conditions can cause someone to take their life. I don’t judge people who take this route because their pain and suffering is over and its between them and god.


24 posted on 02/26/2011 9:41:29 PM PST by Stayfrosty
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To: Amerikan_Samurai
I am not roman catholic either but decades ago had clinical depression and if you have never been in that hole so deep even prayer doesn't get out, don't be so judgmental. Its as great an illness as any other. Unless you have the privilege of seeing cat scan’s of brains during and after such illness's, you best not bring religion into it. It cannot be cured by religion any more than cancer can. It takes medical intervention and the proper medications to get the brain back within balance.

I find it amazing that other illness's no one doubts, but anything that has to do with the brain is somehow not really an illness...Too many people fear such things and therefore poo poo it...Be careful my friend...

25 posted on 02/26/2011 9:42:49 PM PST by goat granny
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To: Amerikan_Samurai

Scripture is clear that every person that was ever born is a sinner”

You may not agree, but Catholics beleive there were two people born without sin. Jesus Christ himself and also his Blesed mother. The immaculate Conception refers to Mary being born without the stain of original sin.


26 posted on 02/26/2011 9:46:55 PM PST by navyblue (<u>)
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To: Salvation

Some people just aren’t meant to be here.


27 posted on 02/26/2011 9:49:13 PM PST by Psycho_Bunny (Hail To The Fail-In-Chief)
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To: Salvation
" This qualification does not make suicide a right action in any circumstance; however, it does make us realize that the person may not be totally culpable for the action because of various circumstances or personal conditions. "

The Church also cannot say what might have gone through that person's mind in the last second before death. Did that person realize what they were doing, and ask for forgiveness? If so, they reconciled themselves with God.

The Church has no way of knowing the state of someone's soul, at the time of death, so many in the Church now think people shouldn't be denied a Catholic funeral. Since funerals are really for the folks left behind, it might be comforting for the families of those who have committed suicide to be able to have a Mass offered for their loved one.

28 posted on 02/26/2011 9:52:42 PM PST by SuziQ
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To: Salvation
.....please talk with a minister or a priest. .....

......or a friend, a stranger, a hotline, anyone. Talking to someone will help reduce isolation. People care.
29 posted on 02/26/2011 9:56:17 PM PST by Girlene
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To: Girlene

Amen — I’m with you.


30 posted on 02/26/2011 9:58:00 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: goat granny
Mental illness is a real thing and the reader of hearts is the only Judge..Our forty year old son comitted suicide. I am a Jew and suicide is the worst sin of all. He did not have any awareness of G-d. We let him down, we did not give him faith, although we thought we were when he was little. If a person knows is aware that G-d is here with him he will not kill himself, he will ask G-d for guidance. "Thou art the true judge" Dayan ha emmet.
31 posted on 02/26/2011 9:58:49 PM PST by tommix2
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To: Salvation

I’ve got one relation who took his own life. He’s buried in our family graveyard. He coached sports and was principal of a brand new high school.

It was something of a cause for gossip and scandal that he was given a Christian burial among some, but he was family. This happened before I was born, and I didn’t learn of this until I was a senior at the high school of which he was the first principal. There was a family scholarship bearing his name for which I was eligible, and that was when I put two and two together and had it all explained by family members.

To me, there’s nothing to be gained from spiting the remains of a dead person. There’s also nothing to be gained from assuming they’re burning in hell, even though the Bible is reasonably clear that it’s forbidden to us and not our decision to make.

I look at his tombstone every time I’m there and wonder what went through his mind. He seemingly had everything going for him, apparently.


32 posted on 02/26/2011 10:03:51 PM PST by RegulatorCountry
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To: goat granny

I totally disagree with everything you said. I believe I did suffer from depression in the past, and once I took my eyes off myself and placed my trust in Jesus Christ, my life changed. I do not claim to know where those souls are that committed self murder, I am not the Judger of souls, but I can refute what the culture and what society and the status quo has to say about matters pertaining to the Truth. And while I do believe in true medical conditions; I continue to question whether suicide is driven by such medical conditions. I am not bringing “religion” into this, I trust in Jesus Christ.


33 posted on 02/26/2011 10:08:29 PM PST by Amerikan_Samurai
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To: tommix2

So sorry for your loss, tommix2.


34 posted on 02/26/2011 10:10:20 PM PST by Girlene
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To: Amerikan_Samurai

I hated my life back then and once considered suicide. But that has all changed now. Thank you Lord.


35 posted on 02/26/2011 10:11:52 PM PST by Amerikan_Samurai
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To: Salvation

I wouldn’t call it a sin. My cousin killed himself, he was severely bipolar, he was a sick man. He was a successful man, had a family and a wife, but he was sick. He went off his meds, he spiraled, he had constant physical pain from an injury that added to his depression. It was a very tragic event, but he wasn’t in a clear state of thought, he was sick. Horrible thing, but not a sin, he was not competent enough to make rational decisions.


36 posted on 02/26/2011 10:13:53 PM PST by Sto Zvirat
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To: Girlene

Thank you


37 posted on 02/26/2011 10:19:56 PM PST by tommix2
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To: goat granny
am not roman catholic either but decades ago had clinical depression and if you have never been in that hole so deep even prayer doesn't get out, don't be so judgmental. Its as great an illness as any other. Unless you have the privilege of seeing cat scan’s of brains during and after such illness's, you best not bring religion into it. It cannot be cured by religion any more than cancer can. It takes medical intervention and the proper medications to get the brain back within balance.

Exactly, I was raised RC, but I am Agnostic now, I know about mental illness, I worked in the field. Its not a choice, its physiological, prayer won't do anything. Treatment, medication and counseling is what is needed. There are lots of great success stories in the world of mental illness. Its fine to have faith, but, a good Psychologist and the right medications and counseling works.

38 posted on 02/26/2011 10:19:57 PM PST by Sto Zvirat
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To: Revolting cat!

No one can fully understand another’s despair. We can listen, acknowledge the impact, and seek additional help from others if suicide is an issue. The Father was merely trying to explain why the Church offers Christian burials for people who have taken their life. “Only God can read the depths of our souls.”


39 posted on 02/26/2011 10:25:09 PM PST by Girlene
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To: goat granny

I’m with you. Clinical depression needs a doctor and medication, to help the mind; a cast and crutches help while a broken leg heals, the antidepressants help while the mind heals. Both legitimately need a doctor.


40 posted on 02/26/2011 10:27:42 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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To: Sto Zvirat

God is the judge. He knows all the details. Sometimes we think we do, but we really don’t.


41 posted on 02/26/2011 10:28:47 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

I’ve heard it associated that whenever a temptation of suicide arises, there frequently is also a temptation of 1 to 3 other forms of arrogance: self-justification, self-deception, and/or self-absorption.

In each of these forms of arrogance, the person being tempted fails to exercise faith in what God has exercised at the Cross.


42 posted on 02/26/2011 10:29:19 PM PST by Cvengr (Adversity in life and death is inevitable. Thru faith in Christ, stress is optional.)
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To: Salvation

You believe what you want, I have no problem with that. I’ll believe (or not believe) what I want. Thanks.


43 posted on 02/26/2011 10:29:53 PM PST by Sto Zvirat
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To: navyblue

So sorry for your loss as well, navyblue. I cannot imagine the pain that family members feel when a loved one chooses that path.


44 posted on 02/26/2011 10:31:54 PM PST by Girlene
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To: goat granny; All
My error in my post was in regard to a cat scan, it was a pet scan that records not the physical brain as a cat scan does but how well the brain uptakes the necessary things from the blood stream to function properly..In some patients large parts of the brain are not even functioning while some parts are....they show up as different colors on the pet scan according to how much is functioning normally...
45 posted on 02/26/2011 10:37:34 PM PST by goat granny
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To: Judith Anne
I’m with you.

Me too.

46 posted on 02/26/2011 10:37:51 PM PST by steve86 (Acerbic by nature, not nurture (Could be worst in 40 years))
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To: goat granny
Yes, PET is a function-oriented brain scan. But results are not consistent across patients — depression has many causes, differing manifest symptoms and various treatments. I also concur that religion doesn't necessarily make one feel better — but can allow one to bear the cross a little longer. That serves God's will. No matter how bad and dysfunctional I might feel, I still manage to get out a few choppy fragments of a Rosary during those blackest of times. I believe that's why I'm still here, more so than the antidepressive drugs.
47 posted on 02/26/2011 10:46:28 PM PST by steve86 (Acerbic by nature, not nurture (Could be worst in 40 years))
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To: navyblue

My son of 28 years committed suicide 05/16/2010. My wife and I did not get to see his body and had to have a closed casket because he had stuck a 12 gauge shot gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. The police and funeral director said we did not want to remember him that way.

My son had been depressed for several years and his doctor changed his medication about two or three months before he died. Was it the change in medication? I don’t know.

He had accepted Christ as his savior when he was younger and you could see the fruits of his salvation. We are baptist and believe once saved always saved. I talked to my pastor about this and he said that God would not go back on his promise when my son was saved and that he was with God.

No parent should have to go through this but God has given my wife and I to live from one day to the next, with the hope and promise that we will see our son again.


48 posted on 02/26/2011 10:47:56 PM PST by longhorn too
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To: Cvengr
I’ve heard it associated that whenever a temptation of suicide arises, there frequently is also a temptation of 1 to 3 other forms of arrogance: self-justification, self-deception, and/or self-absorption. In each of these forms of arrogance, the person being tempted fails to exercise faith in what God has exercised at the Cross.

That may be, but when someone talks about their temptation of suicide it is up to the rest of us to get them help. By expressing their feelings, they are showing their desire to live. They are asking for help.
49 posted on 02/26/2011 10:48:52 PM PST by Girlene
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To: tommix2

Standing beside you in sorrow, as a friend, to share your pain. None of us are perfect parents. I think that if I could have one “wish” come true, it would be to be a perfect parent to my children whom I love beyond words.

But none of us can, and we can’t protect them, either, no matter how we want to; any parents would rather suffer anything than have their children suffer, but that is not given to us. The Almighty knows our deepest heart, and weeps with us in His Love.


50 posted on 02/26/2011 10:51:53 PM PST by Judith Anne (Holy Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.)
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