A reader – we’ll call him Mark (not his real name) – emailed the following short article for publication. We’re withholding his real name out of consideration for the young suicide, Shaun (also not his real name).
From the Catholic Encyclopaedia:
Positive and direct suicide perpetrated without God’s consent always constitutes a grave injustice towards Him. To destroy a thing is to dispose of it as an absolute master and to act as one having full and independent dominion over it; but man does not possess this full and independent dominion over his life, since to be an owner one must be superior to his property. God has reserved to himself direct dominion over life; He is the owner of its substance and He has given man only the serviceable dominion, the right of use, with the charge of protecting and preserving the substance, that is, life itself. Consequently suicide is an attempt against the dominion and right of ownership of the Creator. Source
I found out today that a young man I know, Shaun, had died. Given that he was only in his early twenties, I was shocked and the first thing I asked was, “What on earth happened?” The facial expression of the person who had broken the news to me said it all. He had committed suicide.
Suicide is something that often occupies my thoughts. Not in the sense that I’ve considered it myself, quite the opposite in fact. I’m at a complete loss as to how someone could get to the point where they don’t want to live. My grandfather committed suicide many years ago. Some of the boys I went to school with did too. Now, a boy l have known for many years has chosen to end his life. We don’t know why. How his family feel right now I can’t even imagine. What a waste of a life!
Quite recently, British soap “Coronation Street” was praised for raising awareness of male suicide when it ran a storyline involving the suicide of a popular male character. We are told that more must be done to encourage young men to talk about their feelings. We must remove the stigma of mental ill-health, the experts declare. When talking with a friend about the awful news I received today, they suggested that we should do more to promote a growth mindset. Although I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these suggestions, I also have a different view which I hope to explore in this short reflection.
We all endure difficulties in life. Family troubles, relationship issues, money worries and health problems, to name but a few. Many of us experience bouts of low mood and even depression. However, to contemplate and attempt suicide is different. What could possibly lead someone to that dark precipice where death is the only answer? I don’t know. This is the key question I’m asking myself tonight through my shock and grief.
I can’t help but wonder if rejection of God plays a part. Shaun was Catholic and as a child had a strong devotion to St Joseph. However, in his teenage years, Shaun drifted from the Faith and even promoted the LGBT agenda. I’ve now idea if he was homosexual himself. What’s clear is that although, as far as I’m aware, Shaun never made any declaration that he had rejected God, his actions suggest that he had. Is there a connection here? I think there is.
I often wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t believe in God and didn’t adhere to the Catholic Faith. The thought terrifies me. Although I’m by no means a model Catholic and often neglect my religious duties, faith in God keeps me sane. There’s something to live for! The promise of Heaven and eternal life with God sheds light even on the darkest of days. Without faith, without the Catholic Church, I would have nothing. Would life be worth living? On a purely human level, perhaps. Lying in bed until midday on a Sunday, eating steak and chips on a Friday and never having to worry about Commandments morning might allow me to sink into a pleasure-filled cesspit. However, lying in bed at night and realising how short life is would surely terrify me.
Did Shaun believe in God? Did he believe that God is his loving Father? Did he believe he had a soul? Did he know that his soul was made in the image and likeness of God? How COULD he believe all this and still do what he did?
Right now, I find myself thinking about where Shaun’s soul is now. I know the Church’s teaching on suicide. It’s a mortal sin. Is there any hope for those who commit suicide? If there’s mental illness involved, can the person have full knowledge and/or consent? How can someone commit suicide and NOT be mentally ill? I don’t know if there are definitive answers.
How, then, should we pray for those who have committed suicide? Gut Catholic instinct suggests entrusting the soul to Our Lady’s motherly love, but please feel free to share your own thoughts, devotions, quotes, videos and prayers to console Shaun’s family and the families of all those who have taken their own lives, unless, that is, you believe it is impossible to console anyone suffering the loss of a friend or family member as a result of suicide – IS suicide “the inconsolable sin”?