About a month ago, I went to confession and attended Mass for the first time in a few years. I fully intended to begin attending weekly and become active in the parish. However, what stopped me was something which in all the years before had never bothered me.
I went to Mass on Saturday evening. On Sunday night, in bed, I started thinking about the Eucharist, and I began to have a real internal struggle. It is very difficult for me to explain what exactly the struggle was with – but, essentially, it was over my unworthiness to be able to consume such a divine object, and my fear that I should not do so because I was unworthy.
Has anyone else ever had this problem, or heard of it? I have wanted to return to my Catholic roots – when I was a teenager, I wanted to be priest for years and attended a Catholic college, but that’s a story for another thread – but this “fear” has stopped me cold. I have said to a few friends that I feel I need a “Catholic counselor”, and that is primarily what brought me here.
Like you, I am a revert. During my absence from the sacraments, a vivid hunger for the Eucharist continued to arise in me and because of my condition, I never thought I would be able to receive it again. The thought became a source of unrelenting grief.
Since my confession and return (26 years ago) I have never taken the ability to receive the Eucharist for granted because of my experience. But I also understood I would never be worthy to receive communion. It is not because of my worthiness that Our Lord offers Himself to me in that way, it is because of my need and His love for me. He and I are both aware of my utter poverty.
So be not afraid. He has knowingly made Himself vulnerable to us for the sake of each of us so we can be strengthened and become his intimate friends, such as we are.
I have thought about the “I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word, and I shall be healed” line, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to cancel out the feeling that my consuming the Eucharist just seems WRONG. It’s such a weird feeling and concept, but I can’t shake it.
Along the same line, I have been reading/thinking about Eucharistic Adoration in the past few weeks. I don’t think I could engage in that because it, too, seems WRONG – wrong that I would place myself in the company of God. I can’t explain it precisely.
Any other responses would be welcome. I don’t know what to do about this. I enjoy the Mass – the music, the readings, the kneeling/sitting/standing, etc. But receiving the Eucharist is something I’m afraid of…and if I’m going to go to Mass and not receive the Eucharist, then what’s the point?
I really feel for your situation, I’ve felt some of it at times. I am a person who tends to beat myself up for my mistakes, and not forgive myself. I often equate “forgiving” with “excusing” in my mind. I have come to realize that isn’t true.
“I am not worth to receive you, only say the word, and I shall be healed.” Above you refer to it as a line. You may have chosen that casually, but it might help to spend some time truly meditating on that. It’s not a line, it’s truth. Absolute truth.
I may be completely wrong, but I sense a spiritual battle here. In my case, when I’ve felt as you describe, I’ve been able to eventually perceive that the thoughts of unworthiness are coming straight from Satan, the accuser.
I think that because you seem convinced that you aren’t worthy. That’s a lie, and Satan is the father of lies. Christ himself chose you, you are His. If He says you are worthy, then you are. Remember, He’s the one with the gavel on the Last Day.
If it is the accuser, don’t be discouraged by this, but rather be encouraged. You have his attention for a reason. He wants to prevent you from spiritual growth, because he knows that the fruits of spiritual growth are completely contrary to his purpose. He’s messing with you because you are a threat to him. He’s trying to get you to deny yourself of the very graces that you will use to defeat him in your life.
I hope this helps, and I hope I don’t sound condescending. These are some thoughts that really helped me through such times.
Hi, many of the Saints felt really unworthy to receive the Eucharist, and I actually think it’s great that you’ve realized how holy it is but don’t let that stop you from receiving it. If you ever feel like you shouldn’t receive the Eucharist for any reason except mortal sin, that’s not from God but from the devil. The truth is that Jesus is there in the Eucharist FOR US, and He wants to come into our hearts… if His mercy was less than our unworthiness, He wouldn’t have come into the Eucharist in the first place. Trust in His mercy, and go and receive Jesus as often as you can
St. Louis de Montfort also felt he was unworthy to receive the Eucharist. He therefore relied on the Virgin Mary, praying to Jesus that he is unworthy to receive Him. He confesses all his sins to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and prays that the Virgin Mary’s Heart may dwell within him. Then, he prays that even though his own soul is so polluted, Mary within him may receive Jesus with purity, through the Holy Ghost. Then he feels that he can take Holy Communion, because he knows that Jesus is received by Mary in him, rather than by him directly. Then Mary distributes the graces of the Eucharist in his soul as she sees fit- and she is exceedingly bounteous.
That’s a summary of what St. Louis de Montfort teaches on it, though I bet I missed some points. It’s found in completeness in his book, “True Devotion to Mary,” which I just finished reading, thanks be to God.
I expect you’d find this kind of prayer to be exactly what you need right now. The awareness of the state of your soul that you are in is just what St. Louis de Montfort was describing himself as having before launching into this state of prayer, and that realization of interior imperfection does not fade- it intensifies. Yet Mary is the Immaculate Conception, and she, as she did on Earth, can receive Jesus perfectly. In your soul or outside it, He will never shy from her arms.
true, but what I said I got from St Therese of Lisieux not from protestants.
"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love… "
if you feel unworthy to receive the Eucharist, that is how it should be… but if this is preventing you from receiving, then you should really try to trust in God’s mercy more. Do you think that His mercy is not greater than our sins? if we let our sins prevent us from coming to God…we are just like Judas…rather than Peter. They both denied Christ but it was Peter who came back because he did not despair and was willing to trust in God.
If God did not want sinners to receive the Eucharist, He would not have instituted it at the Last Supper. We’re all sinners and none of us is worthy of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Recently, my unworthiness translated into God can’t possibly love me. This can happen at any age. Satin never gives up. Why would God love me? was my big question. God in love with me? Impossible. Even receiving God in the Eucharist didn’t help. Fortunately, a stubborn friend kept reminding me that God loves me unconditionally as a unique individual.
My suggestion is that at the start of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, keep reminding yourself that God is loving you totally. He knows all your unworthiness. Yet, He stands before you saying, DrFloyd, it is My decision to love you and it is My decision to come to you personally in Holy Communion. This is an offer you can’t refuse.
You mentioned Eucharistic Adoration. By all means go make a 15 minute visit as often as you can. Come in, sit down, and close your mouth. Let God love you. God can’t be wrong to love you.
It took some work to get over this glitch in my spiritual life. I would write out why God loves me no matter how unworthy I feel. Having lived a long time, it is easy to figure out lots of reasons I am unworthy. My stubborn friend would not give up nagging me. Eventually, I could write my feelings. I could write about God’s unconditional love. May I share them with you.
God Is In Love With Me, March 16, 2009
God loves me because I am valuable to Him personally. His day would be incomplete without my presence.
When He misses me, He searches for me, never stopping until He scoops me up in His loving arms.
He doesn’t mind if I am dirty and beat up. He kisses every wound. He washes away the dirty smudges in the same way He washed the feet of the apostles. He kisses my toes and my forehead so that I know He loves me from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head.
He understands my tears, telling me that He will always be with me. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there, He will be true to His promise of loving me.
He probes my soul, my heart, my mind, my being so that He knows and understands all of me because He is in love with me.
Now be on your guard, daughters, against some types of humility given by the devil in which great disquiet is felt about the gravity of our sins. This disturbance can afflict in many ways even to the point of making one give up receiving Communion and practicing private prayer. These things are given up because the devil makes one feel unworthy. . . . The situation gets so bad that the soul thinks God has abandoned it because of what it is; it almost doubts His mercy. . . .
Humility does not disturb or disquiet or agitate, however great it may be; it comes with peace, delight, and calm. . . . The pain of genuine humility doesn’t agitate or afflict the soul; rather, this humility expands it and enables it to serve God more.
—Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection, 39:1-2
If I were having the feeling that you’re having, I would:
Go to Confession - make an appointment with a priest and let him walk me through it (that may not usually be necessary but in this instance my conscience might be trying to tell me that I’ve got a mortal sin on my soul (or something it believes is a mortal sin, that I’m blocking knowledge about). When he absolves me, I am absolved! I would then make sure that I used my brain rather than my feelings and received the Eucharist as soon as possible. (By telling the priest what the difficulty is, he can very likely arrange for reception right away.) Until I could get to Confession, I’d spend as much time as possible at Adoration.
This reminds me of a really good song by Tenth Avenue North called By Your Side. I’ll post all the lyrics here. I enboldened the parts that really strike me as applying to you.
Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face
**Just don’t turn away
Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching?
As if I’m not enough?
**To where will you go child,
Tell me where will you run?
To where will you run?
Cause I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call Please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you
Look at these hands, at my side
They swallowed the grave, on that night
When I drank the world’s sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
Here at my side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
Please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you
And I, I love you
And I want you to know
That I, I’ll love you
I’ll never let you go
I don’t know if you have any serious sins on your conscience or not, so I can’t say whether you should receive or not.
One must strive for cleanliness of heart before receiving. This is my concern, and it is appropriate to be afraid of sin – that is the one thing that it is appropriate to be afraid of for the sake of God, and in certain sense to so be afraid of Him, the beginning of wisdom.
If one has concerns about proper reception, get out some Examinations of Conscience, go through them. Consider your sins properly, and whether you do enough to avoid sin not only directly but also near occasions of sin.
Today we receive such poor catechesis I am certain many people have problems with grave sins that the do not consider problems.
But, when one is properly disposed, one should go… one is called to go… one should run to become properly clean of heart… and run to the Lord to receive Him… this is the call of our lives…
It is our life.
Perhaps some of the sermons in the links below will help you to form your conscience properly and ease it.
Thank you again for your responses. I am traveling and am unable to respond in-depth quite yet. I will when I get an opportunity…but that may not be until well into next week.
I am having issues with Catholic doctrine beyond just this one. I will elaborate in a future post. I was raised Catholic and wanted to be a priest for years…but about 10 years ago I began to have problems. Since then, I have had a back-and-forth struggle, and I think my Eucharist fear is just the latest manifestation of that. A number of people I talk to feel I should investigate other branches of Christianity…but I am unsure.
Again, thank you all, and I will be reading these posts if not yet responding in detail.