Depression Desolation And The Catholic Teacher

Depression, Desolation And The Catholic Teacher

What we can learn from St. Ignatius of Loyola

No one starts their journey as a Catholic teacher in a fog of exhaustion and burnout. In today’s episode I want to share some deep spiritual wisdom from a great Catholic saint about how to manage the experience of burnout, depression and desolation. I also look at some very practical physical strategies that can make a big difference in your teaching day. Finally, we explore how the Feast of the Transfiguration can show us all how to become the best educator and person we can become.


Jonathan Doyle

Jonathan Doyle

Jonathan Doyle is an international speaker, author, businessman and executive coach who has spoken around the world to more than 400,000 people on topics related to personal development, peak performance, leadership, Catholic school evangelisation, relationships and much more.

His recent keynote addresses include the NCEA National Convention in St. Louis Missouri to 10,000 delegates and he is a frequent keynote speaker in the US, Asia and Europe.

He is also the founder of an influential education and media business that delivers training content to hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals around the world on a weekly basis.

Jonathan holds an undergraduate degree in education from the University of Canberra, a Masters Degree in Leadership and Management from the University of Newcastle and has also undertaken post-graduate study in philosophical anthropology.

He is the author of numerous books on relationships and peak performance and each day shares these same ideas with a large global audience via The Daily Podcast with Jonathan Doyle.

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Each chapter offers inspiring stories, clear principles and actionable steps for identifying and moving forward in study, life, friendships and each key area of life.

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Depression Desolation And The Catholic Teacher


Well, Hey everybody. Jonathan Doyle with you again today for the Catholic teacher daily podcast, blessings to you all out there across the planet in the journey of Catholic education. I mean, as you listen to this, you never know who might be listening at the same time around the world. It’s a great joy to do this because from the U S to New Zealand to. Canada through Australia, parts of Africa, there’s people always listening in these days. So, remember that you’re part of a great big vocational fraternity, a great big vocational family. I think one of the great tragedies of the burnout that can happen so easily in Catholic education is it become to feel we’re alone.

You know, that’s how the enemy works. I’ve been a as regular listeners know I’ve been listening to a great deal. Of good teaching around Ignation discernment. I’ve come to it relatively late in my own spiritual life. I’ve my much of my spiritual formation was in the common law tradition, but more recently as life has become more complex as a parent and a, and you know, running all the things that I do.

Depression Desolation And The Catholic Teacher

You are never alone when things are tough

I’ve really, I realized just how crucial is the sermon issue is, and I’ve been listening to the wonderful Father Timothy Gallagher. Some of you may be familiar with him. he’s. Probably the best communicator. On a Ignation to sermon. And I was in the gym yesterday, working away in the gym. And, I’m S everyone’s got headphones on these days and I’m sure the people around me are listening to death metal and all sorts of craziness.

But, I’m there listening to these Hyatt, these long interviews and discussions on Ignation discernment. And the last few days in the gym, it’s been talking a great deal about, you know, desolation. Desolation is such a powerful, crucial force in our own spiritual life. You ever been there as a teacher, you have that feeling that, you know, nothing really matters that you’re not making any progress.

That a it’s very hard to get that oppressive, sad, overwhelming, feeling that nothing we’re doing matters. Yeah, I guess the things to think about are that we, we look at all the different components of that. That can often be physical reasons. You know, we’re not sleeping enough, we’re not eating well when it hydrating.

I know some of you will think this is crazy, but I like to mix up the, the spiritual and the practice in the podcast. Yeah. I mean, I’m huge lately on, on health and wellbeing, I really am like, I have a coach. Many of you would know regular listeners. I do a huge amount of training. So I run about. So in about a hundred kilometers a week, I guess I run maybe more.

So usually in an average week I can do two half marathons and sometimes a full marathon. got my first ultra, the marathon is coming up in a few months and then a huge amount of cycling training, then the gym session. So, I have a coach who it looks after me and runs all my programs and, and he’s been teaching me a great deal.

One of the simple things is hydration. You know, I drink three to four liters of water a day. I just have a big bottle and I’m just constantly, drinking water. And one of these things is your fatigue levels sort of aren’t as impactful. You don’t get as tired, you know, and I had to teach my wife, Karen, this recent it’s a really teacher.

Depression Desolation And The Catholic TeacherI had to, I went out, it was funny. I went out to this specialist, camping store and got her, this really awesome water bottle. Like the one I use, they’re hard to find, but I got a one and now I’m at her all the time. And she jokes about it. She’s like, you know, she thinks I’m, you know, I’m a bit of a Nazi, cause I’m always chasing around going, how much have you had today?

I’ll text her I’ll message her going, how much water have you had today? So please, before I go further in this desolation question, look at the practical stuff. Now, one of the other huge things is vitamin, you know, I’ve been, yeah, looking at a lot of research on that. And my coach has got me on some pretty heavy vitamin D supplementation.

As I record this in the studio, it’s minus 7.5 degrees Celsius outside. And we’re in winter here in Australia and often, and with the COVID-19. Dan’s too, like tons of people, they’re not getting exercise and sunlight. So many of you of course know, vitamin D is really synthesized through sunlight skin. So the lack of vitamin D can have a lot of impacts on our health and wellbeing.

So maybe get that checked out. I went recently, went and had a whole bunch of blood tests done and, you know, really looked at making sure everything was good. And thank God it was. But I’m supplementing a little bit, so water and, and supplementation and these things matter and sleep. My gosh, I’m the sleep master.

I just have these routines around sleep. And I’ll talk about those in another podcast, but all of this is saying that these experiences of desolation, we need to, I guess, figure out what is coming from. I’m a spiritual, soul, and what’s coming from some bad lifestyle habits that we can change, but. The, the experience of desolation is just so powerful.

And I just want to give you a really two things that I’ve been learning through this Ignation journey. The very basic thing about experiencing desolations of you’re in a classroom or your principal, and you’re feeling nothing matters, and you feel this heaviness and you’re struggling in your vocation.

The first thing is that we don’t make big changes during desolation. So if you’re feeling really flat, be very careful about radical changes of any form. Of quitting or, you know, or demanding a different class or whatever it is that you feel will get you out of the hole. So in desolation is sending basis is always big.

As we hold our ground, we stay in the decisions that we made. When we weren’t in desolation. So often, you know, when you went into teaching, you went into teaching probably in a positive sense. You were interested in the work. You liked young people. You’re excited about what the future might hold. And so nobody willing to teach and going, Oh my gosh.

I’m going to sign up to be a teacher. I hate children. I don’t want to teach. It’s just gonna be the worst thing ever. Nobody joins the profession like that. Always just, you know, with my live seminars, I told her, I have a joke about that. You know, no teacher starts their first day like that. Right? So we, we hold our ground.

If we’re feeling overwhelmed and desolate. And the second thing that’s often harder to do, but I have found incredibly powerful is Ignatius would say that we intensify our spiritual activity. So Ignatius teaches us that, that, that the devil is, is really like a military general and what the devil does.

And I love talking about the devil, not because I want to give him free publicity, but because I know that he exists and he is a personal. Sentience aware, being deliberately trying to do only one thing to deny souls to God. That’s all his, his, you know, the end battle is already sorted out. There’s not like Satan’s going to win some final, big, unexpected battle at the end of all time.

Depression Desolation And The Catholic Teacher

There are ways out of burnout and depression

We know how things are going to end. But when he is going to try and do is deny individual souls, individual people relationship with God and Ignatius tells us that he’s like a military general. He, and what a generals did. They probe the weaknesses down there. They look for the weakness. They look for the gap in the lines.

They look for the area. So what a, what the enemy is doing in desolation is probing weak spots, despair, despondency, you know, really trying to get people to think that nothing they do really matters. So, what Ignatius tells us to do is to intensify our spiritual activity. Why? Cause if you’re a, if you’re a bad general evil general, and you start attacking in one area and the response of your opponent is to double their response to triple their response is to quadruple their defense and attack.

Then you stop probing because your strategy has caused your opponent to, attack you even more to push back harder. So what this means is that really, when we’re feeling these times of desolation, we need to press into deeper prayer. We really do. We will, we need to do the opposite of what we feel or what do we feel like doing, giving up quitting, getting angry at the kids, getting angry at our students, gossiping about our colleagues, you know, running down the school, talking about how pointless it all is in the staff room and, and, you know, just gossiping or bringing things to a lower level.

But what we need to do is in fact is double our spiritual activity. And I found that recently, I went through a time quite recently of, you know, just the challenges that we’ve faced in our work. I mean, not being able to travel, we had some wonderful speaking lined up in the States and here in Australia and all of it’s just falling apart.

And I found myself like many of us falling into that pit of despair and despondency at times. And so through this learning recently, I’ve really pressed into a very deliberate intensification of daily prayer, divine office rosary. Massive. I can get there really pressing in, and I can promise you from personal experience that as you press in, as you press into the Promises of Christ. As you press into the promises of your heavenly father, as you press into real spiritual, prayer and spiritual warfare and protecting your students and your family and yourself and surrounding yourself in prayer, things begin to shift. All right, I’ve got to wrap up because I’m. Today is I like to keep these short of course.

And today’s the feast of the transfiguration. One of the great saints. We had a beautiful family conversation last night, around the dinner table. We talked, all about, the transfiguration, but, I’m just wanting to give you a beautiful quote from today’s divine office, from the office of readings.

This is from a sermon of Anastasia’s of Sinai and a stages of Sinai. She didn’t know you were going to hear that today. Did you? You didn’t wake up this morning thinking, you know what I need, I need some amount of stages of sign. Well, I got you covered. All right. I got you. Just relax. I got Anastasia’s right here for you.

So it’s a beautiful little sermon about, the transfiguration, but these lines really jumped out at me. It says, it’s talking about how anastacious thinks we all need to go up the mountain and encountered Jesus and the transfiguration. He says these words there with him. My, the eyes of our minds shine with his light and the features of our soul be made new.

May we be transfigured with him and molded to his image ever becoming divine, being transformed in an ever greater degree of glory. Alright, we can talk about that for hours. But simply it means what isn’t a beautiful that we are called into relationship with Christ to become like him to be become like him.

You know, Irenaeus famously said that God became, God became man. So that man could become God. And people sometimes think that’s heretical, but it really is. Incarnation is about God coming down into our reality so that we could enter into his, so this transfiguration and this beautiful, lines he had from sight Anastasia’s of Sinai, calling us into deeper relationship with Christ to become like him.

Why is it relevant for Catholic teacher? Because come on seriously. If you become more like Christ, you’re going to be a greater blessing in the classroom. You’re going to be a greatest support and friend to your colleagues in the faculty and staff rooms. You’re going to become a greater blessing to your school community.

You’ll be happier. You’ll be more pace. So today on this feast of the transfiguration, my prayer for you is that you will enter spiritually at some point today in the chapel or driving in your car, into spiritually on the path up that mountain. To be in the presence of Christ and to be transfigured with him to enter more into his reality and let his Laurie and his grace and his light flood over you and transform you into the reality of who he is.

Heavy. Beautiful. Huh? All right, friends. That’s it. It’s a longer one than usual. Do me a favour. Go to oneCatholic Go to the resources page. My new books there. The two books there that I want you to get copies of finishing strong is awesome for students and tools and fuels my bestseller for Catholic teachers.

Also check out the going deeper program. There. All the resources for Catholic teachers are there a one Catholic that’s O N E one Catholic Please make sure you’re subscribed with yam. Wherever you’re hearing this Google play podcast, Spotify SoundCloud, Apple podcast. Just hit that subscribe button.

It’s a great chance to bring me the content every day. And of course, would you please share this audio with good Catholic teachers in your world? God bless your friends. Praying for you. Please say a prayer for me. My name is Jonathan Doyle. This has been the Catholic teacher daily podcast. And I’ll have another message for you tomorrow.

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One Catholic Teacher exists to inspire, encourage and support Catholic teachers around the world. Each day Jonathan Doyle offers a short dose of formation and encouragement via The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast. Jonathan is also a global speaker and author on all issues related to Catholic Education.