Winston Churchill was plagued by what they use to call “melancholy”. Today we call it depression. He called it the “black dog”. I think he saw it as an enemy not to fight, but to avoid. Some say that is why he took up painting.
I received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick back in early March for my depression. It is the only time I have received this sacrament (as of yet). We coupled it with Reconciliation. During the ritual, Father read Psalm 143 below. It just so happened to be one from that morning’s psalms in the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). I cried through the whole reading.
This psalm is one of only seven or eight penitential psalms. It is different from the others because this psalmist knows that he is guilty. That’s why he appeals to God’s mercy. Mercy is a loaded word. It not only means clemency and compassionate treatment, but also alleviation of distress and relief. Mercy means to heal, to save.
LORD, hear my prayer;
in your faithfulness listen to my pleading;
answer me in your mercy.
Do not enter into judgment with your servant;
before you no living being can be just.
The enemy has pursued me;
they have crushed my life to the ground.
They have left me in darkness like those long dead.
My spirit is faint within me; my heart is dismayed.
I remember the days of old;
I ponder all your deeds;
the works of your hands I recall.
I stretch out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.
Hasten to answer me, LORD;
for my spirit fails me.
Do not hide your face from me,
lest I become like those descending to the pit.
At dawn let me hear of your kindness,
for in you I trust.
Show me the path I should walk,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me, LORD, from my foes,
for in you I hope.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
May your kind spirit guide me
on ground that is level.
For your name’s sake, LORD, give me life;
in your mercy lead me out of distress.
I heard the black dog howling off in the distance Monday. But not today.