Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
On this day, we hear a vividly clear portrayal of depression in the writing of Job, a holy man of the Old Testament.
In the Book of Job, we hear how Job was a man who loved God and lived an upright life. Further, he was a very wealthy man. Not only did he have a fine wife and children, he had thousands of cattle, sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and many work animals. He was used to hosting lavish parties for his family and friends.
Then, one day, his fortunes changed. In the Book of Job, we hear how Satan told God that the only reason Job loved him was because he was so blessed. Satan insisted that if Job suffered losses, he would stop loving God.
God challenged Satan by inflicting incredible sorrows on Job. Among the calamities that befell on Job was the death of his sons and daughters, destruction or theft of his animals, loss of his wealth, and unrelieved misery of being covered with open sores. The sores repulsed even his wife, brothers, and little children.
Though he first tried to be cheerful, he eventually became depressed as we see in today’s Scripture selection. We read, for example, how he had restless nights and days that ended without hope. He ends today’s Scripture passage by saying, “Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again” (Job 7: 7).
Fortunately, Job’s story ends with joy.
When we hear such stories, many people ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “Why does God let evil happen in the world?” Other people falsely believe that if people were truly holy, they would not become depressed as Job had become. These people would be wrong, for even saints experience depression from time to time. That is what we see in the life of Blessed Enrico Rebuchini.
Enrico Rebuchini was born on April 25, 1860 near Lake Como in the town of Gravedona, Italy. His family was wealthy. Though his mother was a devout Catholic Christian, his father was not at all in favor of religion. Though Enrico’s father would accompany his wife to church, he would remain outside during the services.
From an early age, Enrico felt a strong call to the priesthood, the Religious life, or both. Unfortunately, because of his father’s opposition, he sought to find an occupation as a layperson. First, he enrolled at the University of Pavia to study mathematics, but he left after a year because did not like the anticlericalism he found there.
When he returned to Como, he studied at the Military School at Milan, and he came out a reserve second lieutenant. His superiors, greatly impressed with him, wanted him to make a career in the army. He declined their wishes, however, and returned home to study accounting. In 1882, he received his diploma.
After graduation, Enrico entered his brother-in-law’s silk business. Though he was competent in his work, he became very depressed at not being to pursue a vocation in religion. Depression would dog him for the rest of his life on and off.
In the summer of 1884, however, Saint Luigi Guanella had the monks of all the monasteries of Como pray for Enrico’s vocation. At last, his father gave Enrico his blessing, and Enrico entered the Gregorian University in Rome to study for priesthood.
Unfortunately, Enrico was not prudent in his spiritual life, and this led him to excessive penances. Soon, he entered a period of “profound nervous depression” that lasted from March 1886 to May 1887. He had to return home to recover.
In May of 1887, Enrico recovered, and in the summer of 1887, Enrico found a job at a hospital in Como. It was there that Enrico developed a profound love for the sick. In fact, he spent every spare minute nursing the sick, especially the poor, the neediest, and the most isolated. He spent every cent he had on them, and he even visited the sick in their homes. Unfortunately, however, this was not the job for which he was hired, so he was soon graciously fired.
At last, Enrico had found his passion. Having heard about an Order called the Servants of the Sick that had been founded by the great nurse-priest St. Camillus de Lellis, he joined the Camillians on September 27, 1887 at the age of 27.
Soon, Enrico developed a reputation for his good-naturedness. Because of his personality, and because of his previous extensive studies, Bishop Sarto of Mantua – later to be known as Pope St. Pius X – ordained him on April 14, 1889 during his novitiate. Fr. Enrico took his final profession on December 8, 1891.
From his ordination until 1899, Fr. Enrico worked at Verona’s civil and military hospital and then, from 1903 to 1937, he was the administrator of the St. Camillus clinic in Cremona. Though much of his life as a Camillian Father was spent working with plumbing, electrical failures, roof repairs, and other handyman activities, his true passion was nursing the sick.
During his lifetime, even in the streets people came to see Fr. Enrico as a very special person. In fact, the people called him the “mystic of the streets.”
Even to the end of his life, Fr. Enrico served the sick. For example, just a few days before his death, he celebrated Mass for a sick person. Afterwards, he became sick and died on May 10, 1938 from pneumonia.
Pope St. John Paul II beatified Enrico on May 4, 1997. Blessed Enrico Rebuschini’s feast day is May 10th.
So, as we continue our life journeys this week, it would be good to remember that depression is not something of which people should be ashamed, for even saintly people can suffer from this mental health difficulty.
And that is the good news I have for you on this Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2018.
Story source: Fr. Robert J. Kus. “Bl. Enrico Rebuchini, M.I.” Saintly Men of Nursing:
100 Amazing Stories, Wilmington, N.C.: Red Lantern Press, 2017, pp. 63-64.