In need of a spiritual family


#1

Hello,

I used to be a fairly active poster in these forums, but real life has kept me far to busy to post lately. I’m writing here now because I have finally realized that I need some help.

This is going to seem very jumbled, and I’m sorry. I’m going to try my best to organize my thoughts for you so that reading this isn’t too confusing.

I was raised loosely as a christian. What I mean by loosely, is that I was taught about God and Christ and even taken to church time to time, but beyond that I didn’t have much a spiritual foundation. God was not an active element of our family household.

When I was about 13 my dad remarried. My stepmother was a Catholic, and being married into her family- my father was expected to convert and to from that point on raise my sisters and I as Catholic.

Because it was forced on me, my initial conversion was colorful. I fought it, as a young teenager. My stepmother was not expressly a bad person, but she did a lot of bad things to our family, likely without meaning to. I won’t go into too much detail on the how’s and the what’s of it.

When I was about 17, I’m not entirely sure what clicked, but something finally clicked. Maybe in part it was for the positive attention I would receive and maybe it was simply because I was exhausted with fighting- but I finally embraced Catholicism. Not only did I accept it and believe it, but I embraced my faith so tightly that by the time I was about to graduate high school I was fairly certain I was going to become a nun. I had a vocational counselor and I was researching various orders.

However, that wasn’t my vocation. It became to clear to me over my discernment that as much I as loved the lifestyle of the sisters that I needed to be able to fall in love and have children. My call to motherhood was much too strong to ignore. I grieved over the loss of my calling. I had convinced myself that I was going to become a nun and then having realized that that wasn’t what I was meant to do I was very upset and distressed. I didn’t know what to do with my life. My faith was shaken, but not swayed… yet.

Having graduated high school, with no finances or grades to get me into college, I didn’t know what to do with my life. All I knew is that I needed to get away from my abusive household. So I panicked and did the first thing that offered me a secure means of doing so. I joined the military.

Now I know what you are thinking, jumping from wanting to be in a convent to running around in battle dress is quite a stretch. But somehow I managed.

Here’s the problem that this whole story has lead up to. At some point, close to around the time I left home at 18, something about my faith began to brake. I couldn’t quite place it at the time, but I knew something was off… something was wrong. I felt less connected to God than I had before.

This feeling only amplified over time. I believe that when I was 18 I was just barely beginning to step into what is known as “the dark night of the soul”, a period of doubt and struggle that many faithful must go through. Unfortunately- I entered my dark night and never left it.

I am now 21. I am happily married and have one son (Jason, 12 months old). I’m not in the military anymore. I’m using my GI bill money to go through school to become an elementary school teacher. I have adapted well enough to being a student again and the rest of the time I am a stay at home mom and house wife. I am very happy with my life now, but there is one thing that has me in great distress…

As I mentioned eariler, I began my dark night and nearly 4 years later I am still in it. It has been a very drawn out struggle. It began with nothing more than a feeling of detachment from God. Over time it grew into a feeling of complete loss- of being completely cut off. I could not feel God anymore. Still I kept my faith and went to church. Time pressed on, though, and slowly that feeling of loss slowly began to submit to doubt. I started questioning existence and life. I hit a point where, though still going to church, I felt much grief because I was beginning to believe in my heart that I was only trying to believe in a fairytale because I was afraid of dying. I slowly stopped believing in God, but constantly trying to, constantly going through the motions.

These feelings were only amplified by the fact that I had no one to help pull me out of them. My husband is not Catholic. I did not foresee this as being such a struggle when I married him, but it is. I love him. We don’t have problems in the marriage, but it’s such a drain on me that he isn’t the spiritual support system that a husband is supposed to be, not to mention the sadness I always feel when I realize that he will likely never convert and all I can do is live by example. He is a good husband and allows me to raise our son Catholic, but he will not convert and I will not force him to. Not only is my husband not a good support for my faith, but the Catholic family I once had was always so far away and bad at keeping in touch and now that my dad has divorced my stepmom they have estranged themselves. I am now the only Catholic in my family and really have no one to turn to for spiritual advice.

This is why I have turned to this forum, sadly. I am reaching out for spiritual advisers and a sort of extended family, fellow Catholics to share my faith with. I dont’ have any friends or family who share my faith, and that lack of fellowship I think is what turned my dark night of the soul into a dark span of years. In the end I am the one at fault, but everyone needs support.


#2

Ack- I couldn’t fit my whole post xD !

To finish my story, I confess that I haven’t gone to mass actively in months. I have a very broken prayer life- if I even pray at all. I am coming up on my son’s baptism and I realized that my own faith is far too broken to properly nurture his growing faith. I need to fix my own broken faith first.

I promise in this post that I am going to get back into the habit of prayer and going to mass. I ask for prayer that my efforts will be rewarded. I miss God. I haven’t felt his existence in a long time and I miss it. I feel like dispite my efforts I keep reaching and feel nothing. It’s very disconcerting.

Thank you for any prayers and advice offered. PM me if you are interested in maybe being spiritual pen-pals of a sort. :smiley:


#3

Hey welcome to the club! :grouphug: Now go to confession and get your tail back to mass!! :gopray2:

If your life outside your religious practice is a happy one, continue to love it, enjoy it, relish it. Dwelling on your doubts, thoughts about faith, and lack of feeling in prayer is an internally focused activity. It is like St. Thomas when he said he would never believe Christ had risen from the dead; doubts rolling around in his head. Thomas had to look outside his head to see Jesus risen. You have to look outside your head at the love pouring to you via your family life and if you can, get involved in your parish and get to know the people there. Jesus in IN PEOPLE. :hug1:

Catholic spirituality is not separate from daily life. I believe that was called Jansenism. In fact, Catholic spirituality is deeply embedded in the muck of this life including the joys and sorrows, baby spit up and husband’s lack of religious sentiment. So don’t worry that you don’t have the answers to unanswerable questions. Live life with a quick thought to God throughout the day in thankfulness or anger or sadness, even if you doubt He exists. If we knew for sure, there would be no need to believe. “I believe, Lord help my unbelief” was Thomas’s response to seeing Jesus risen. It doesn’t sound to me like he was totally cured of his unbelief, a comfort for us! :thumbsup:

So again. Go to confession and get your tail back to mass! :wink:


#4

I will be praying for you.May I suggest watching (and praying)the Divine Mercy Chaplet here: www.catholic.org/video/?v=220 .May our Lord be with you.


#5

Hey-
I am 22 years old, and in my last year of school to be an elementary school teacher! So I guess I know the dilemna you are in. My boyfriend is not Catholic, and that causes many strains in our relationship- so hard that I dont know if we will get married. But anyways- my advice to you is to try to convert your husband. I know it may sound silly, but honestly that is why everything feels like its dragging, because you NEED that faith family. Tell him that you want your son to have two parents who are Catholic, in the same religion. Ask him what he thinks your sons going to say when he gets older and he can either go to church with mommy or stay home with daddy… hmmmm. lol.

I hope everything gets better :slight_smile:


#6

I would suggest that you begin to spend more time in prayer, and if possible spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration. As you pray remember to pray for your husband’s conversion … all things are possible … and pray for your own conversion and strength. You may want to get Mother Theresa’s book on her life … it may give you some insight to those who are in the dark times of the soul. Continue to form your knowledge of the Catholic Church as you help your child form it’s own life. As you both go through this process and you learn more , your faith will be strengthened and God will be with you on this difficult journey. I hope this post makes sense. As I reread it, I know what I want to say , but I am not sure the message / meaning gets through.


#7

I can say in all honesty that I know how you feel. For about twenty plus years, I did and thought many of the things that you describe. I felt cut off from God most of those years for one reason or another. Two years ago, on Palm Sunday, I finally had had enough and I flatly told him that I surrendered to Him, that I had had enough. In that darkness, that uncertainty, I gave myself up to Him, with out any feelings at all. I had been away from the Church for many years, but about a year before that Palm Sunday in 2007, I did start going back to church. I don’t even know why, because I felt nothing. I didn’t go to confession or receive communion.

I would like to caution you, from personal experience, that don’t depend on feelings to have a great relationship with Jesus. He will give you many consolations in the beginning, but after awhile, He expects you to come to Him without the “goodies” the consolations. He wants you to love Him for who he is, not for what He gives. I know this is very hard, I was hung up on consolation, feelings, really bad, but I am finally learning not to depend on them for a relationship with Jesus. If He gives them to me great, if He does not, this is ok too. This has been very hard, but I am finally able to love Him and go to Him without the emotional attachment of consolations.

If you truly Love Jesus and desire to follow Him, just go to church, confession and receive Communion. The “dark night of the soul is tough”, but don’t just love Him for the candy (consolations) that he give you, love Him for who He is, our Awesome God.

In the “dark night” he want to test you, to see if you will still follow Him when he does not give you those wonderful feelings of His presence. He is there, but he wants you to mature in your relationship with Him. Just go on back to Church and confession and do not depend on the “feeling of God” to guide you. Your feelings will lead you astray, they can be the devil’s playground.

I hope this helps you to get through this period. I and many others on this forum know from experience what you are going through. If you would like you my PM anytime.


#8

I’m almost where you are, except I was raised heathen and God was used as a threat. In a way I envy people who knew Jesus as they grew up.

Isn’t it that even the great saints go through what they call ‘aridity?’ We’re supposed to keep praying then. Perseverence? Right?

And yes, go to Mass. I’ve been having to drag myself there for a long time, but then I would have to drag myself even if the Easter Bunny showed up on my doorstep with a magic coach and a free ticket to Happyland.

You can listen to EWTN on your computer, right? Do you get it on TV? I love listening to Mother Angelica. She’s the best talk show host ever. I also love Fadda Corapi. Some of those people could inspire you. I always like The Journey Home, too.

I have at least one ‘invisible friend’ who lives in Germany, btw. :smiley: Hang in there, you won’t be sorry.


#9

I forgot to say, that it is important to find a spiritual director or at least a holy priest who is known for his prayer life (ask around). No one can discern whether or not they are in a dark night of the soul by themselves. We can easily delude ourselves going it alone. I’m sure all who post here will agree with this.

The byproduct of a dark night of the soul is joy and a deep engagement in life outside ourselves. All the Saints did this and often forgot themselves; why I said what I said in my last post.

In any case, a good sp. dir. or at least a consistent confessor who will know you well over time is a very wise thing to do. Perhaps someone else on this post can give you advice how to find one.

Blessings


#10

Hi Katie :slight_smile:

I went through a few ‘dark nights’ and I can say for sure that when that happens, there are many temptations to leave faith. And it’s really easy to lose that faith and trust in God then, because we feel far from Him and like there’s nothing holding us. My prayer during that time was always taht God would not let go of me, cause I felt I could let go any second. The good news is that when we don’t feel God’s presence, He is still with us, often closer to us than when we DO feel Him there. I view it sort of like a test… if we feel far from God and still choose to believe, that makes our faith VERY strong, because nothing can shake it… then, it’s dependent on choice alone, not feelings, and we’ve chosen to believe. Often God allows us to go through such times so that we can get less attached to our feelings… this is for our good. Sadly the enemy is there too trying to tempt us so many people also end up losing their faith or struggling with it.

I suggest prayer…just be really honest and open with God, and tell Him about everything you’re going through spiritually. Try to read spiritual books if it helps you… like by the Saints… I really like “Divine Mercy in My Soul” by St Faustina. Try to go to Mass and get rid of any areas of sin in your life.

God bless :hug1:


#11

There is a good book for those with non-believing spouses, it is the diary of a lady, now a Saint, who had the same kind of marriage. It is called “My Spirit Rejoices: The Diary of a Christian Soul in an Age of Unbelief” by Elisabeth Leseur.

Internet is good, it is no substitute for Catholics with skin on - get involved with your Parish!


#12

Thank you, everyone, for all of your advice. I think a lot of what was said consisted of many things I likely already know to do, but have struggled with.

My lack of feeling God active in my life when there was a time where I felt so intensely aware of God mixed with rising doubts has made it very difficult for me to motivate myself to do things that were once habit.

I’m going to confession and back to mass. I’m also going to try and find new ways to immerse myself in good Catholic company. I am at a military base overseas and my catholic parish is not very active. I have never considered myself much of a ‘leader type’, but maybe there’s something I could do.:wink:


#13

Start a Rosary-making group? A Pro-Life Group?


#14

for my 2 cents, do you think the root of your current spiritual malaise lies in your family history? There is certainly a need for healing and forgiveness after one’s parents divorce, and it sounds as if your stepmother has done a lot that needs your forgiveness. I am not talking about condoning or accepting wrongs you suffered because of choices your parents made, but I am talking about facing up to an dealing with the hurt you experienced as a child and teen, letting go of resentment and anger that are now standing in your way. Since you began your story with these things, it sounds as if they are uppermost in your mind right now.

Maybe that is the place to start, healing the memories of your own family, with counselling not only spiritually by psychological if need be. Myself and many others have been helped immensely by a healing retreat such as Healed in the Spirit. Ask your diocesan family life office for referrals to retreats about the diocese. But you don’t have to wait on an open retreat to begin identifying your own issues and dealing with them. But this can be so painful without support, even from professionals, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

In the meantime, the best thing to do is go back to regular Mass and the sacraments, so you are not trying to do this alone, and so that you are with your real spiritual family, your parish and Church, even when you sometimes feel separate from them. You maintain the contact and remain open to how the Holy Spirit is working for your good through them. Begin teaching your child the prayers and introducing her to the Faith, there is nothing so beneficial to your own faith as passing it on to a child.

I have heard from other military wives and moms who share my avocation as catechist that often the vitality of that base chapel or parish depends on volunteers like them, so that may very well be the place to start. They can certainly empathize and help in practical ways for those specific challenges of life in a military family. Perhaps you could start a play group with other moms of pre-schoolers, or a pre-school at the parish where parents rotate duties. Maybe others in your situation would like to find a good bible study–Word Among Us has many short 6-8 week studies targeted for specific interest groups.


#15

Thank you for bringing this up. I think a lot of truth lies in this. Something I struggle with is the notion that my faith has a very bad foundation. There are times I worry that the only reason I am Catholic was because it got me attention/respect as a teenager and now I don’t know any different. :frowning:

In other words, I worry that my faith grew for all the wrong reasons and now I need to find new and genuine reasons and have a real conversion if you will.


#16

I’m glad you are reaching out. To echo what has been said-Get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and “get your tail back to Mass.” It is in the sacraments that we obtain the grace to get through the rough spots of faith and life.

Also, I have recently discovered what a treasure Parish life is. I have few friends and family that share my devotion. it is in my parish that I have found like minded/ spiritual people. i had previously been rather prejudiced in thinking-But my faith is different/ unique- . yes my relationship with the Lord is unique, but what a Blessing I found when I put aside my judgment- they have so much to offer. My path is different than theirs, but I have encouragement and support to discern and follow the will of God.

In a real sense, i have found my spiritual family.

Best of luck to you, I’ll keep you in my prayers.


#17

Someone once told me when I was in that situation: “The reasons you arrive are not the reasons you stay.” Glad you are going back to the sacraments, open to counseling, and willing to rub elbows with people; even volunteer to make that happen. Your openness to these wonderful people giving you advice and willingness to follow through is a strong indication the Spirit is in you though you don’t feel it. “You will know them by their fruits,” not their feelings. :thumbsup: Blessings! :hug1:


#18

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