I was raised and educated Catholic. I spent years studying theology and I was good at it, never anything less than an A in grammar school, HS, college and even post graduate work. I’m one of those folks that read theology books on the beach and by the pool.
My problem is that I know a lot, but I don’t feel ANYTHING. When it comes to going to Mass, I’m apathetic. When I do go, my knowledge of how the liturgy SHOULD go gets in the way and I find myself more frustrated than enlightened. I can say prayers in English and Latin, but again-I don’t seem to care if I say them or not. I don’t feel good if I do the right thing, and I don’t feel guilty when I don’t. I believe, and I know…but I don’t feel.
I envy the people here who write so eloquently about their connection to Jesus and Mary. I want that kind of feeling, but in all my study, it’s one thing I never learned how to get. I’ve prayed for it, and I’ve tried various types of parish experiences to try and get it. Modern Church, Traditional Church, Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration heck, I even tried Charismatic prayer. I’m still waiting.
Any advice? Or is this just how God made me and I need to learn to deal with it?
I can relate to what you’re saying, as I’ve been there. Sometimes I need to cut back on my spiritual reading and just try to spend some time talking to Jesus. That usually cures me.
You may also want to look at The Catholic Truth website (link at the bottom of this post). I developed this apostolate to help people get closer to Christ using a holistic method, which involves prayer, Mass, the Bible, Mary etc. I really believe in the method and it will cost you nothing.
I’ll pray for you. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
See that’s not really my problem. I’ve taught religion, I’ve taught CCD and I’ve taught RCIA-I’ve read the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’ve read books by Aquinas, Augustine and the more modern theologians. I’m reading Pope Benedict’s work on Jesus of Nazareth now, and for lighter reading I’m going through Fulton Sheen’s Life is Worth Living.
Teaching RCIA, I always marveled at these people who came to class talking about the connection with Jesus that they were looking for. How they had been praying and praying and Jesus led them to the faith. How Jesus and Mary were already a part of their daily lives, assisting in their struggles.
I chose the Catholic faith because it was reasonable to do so. I have no question of the truth of it. If one is going to follow the Christian faith at all, the Catholic church is the only logical choice as it is apostolic. I was never “thrown from my horse” as was Paul. I can acknowledge that the Mass is beautiful, but I’ve never been as moved by it as my students have.
My experience has been all very right brain.I guess what I’m longing for is the left brain side.
Start where you are. If you are feeling frustrated, that is a feeling. Some people have more gifts of feeling than others, but some people have been given gifts of feelings that they repress for one reason or another. Wanting to feel more is also a feeling. Although it has become a trite phrase, there is real meaning to “get in touch with your feelings”. As you go through a day, or a week, or a minute, try to open your own awareness to how you feel about whatever is happening. The important point here is to FIND OUT how you are feeling, not to try to regulate your feelings. Allow yourself to have mixed or layered feelings. For instance, when I am taking care of my infant grandson, I am truly aware of and feeling the enormousness of the gift from God of just being allowed to take care of this precious and wonderful person. Yet at the same time, when I have to clean up an ordinary spit up, or a really stinky diaper, there is a strand of mild disgust. It doesn’t stop the awe and gratitude, but it is there. When he does the same baby things that all my children did, all the children I babysat for did, all his older siblings did, I can and do sometimes feel, at the same time, the delight in the newness of it, for him, and a bit of boredom, for me. If I only allow myself to acknowledge the good feelings, the other feelings are still there, but hidden deep. This dishonesty does not help either one of us.
I do not acknowledge the negative feelings to the baby, only to myself, and my very close friend, who is also a mother and grandmother, (and now you).
It is also possible that your lack of feelings is due to a very deep and serious problem which would benefit from professional help. Consider the possibility.
I have feelings about people-I have parents that I love, a god daughter that the sun simply rises and sets on. I have friends that I can say that I love. I can enjoy a day at the beach, or the theme parks, find the beauty in a morning swim or a cool breeze after sunset. If I were unable to connect to those things as well, then I would be concerned about a deeper problem.
It’s God and the Church where the feeling seems to vanish, one area of my life.
You are a Catholic who has been given the gift of Faith.
You may be experiencing a “dark night of the soul.” You may want to read Mother Teresa’s journal.
Mother Teresa used to always say that FIDELITY is the greatest act. No matter how you “feel”… keep coming back to our Lord in the Eucharist.
Our wonderful Lord is always pleased when those who are struggling, suffering, and having difficulties STILL trust in Him… and STILL remain prayerful.
It is all “fun” and “easy” when you are feeling good. Praying and believing is simple. When things become more profound and challenging… then we see what we are made of. I am sure God is very pleased that you are concerned… and still long for God (just like the deer who longs for water)
We seem to have the opposite problem. I have plenty of feeling (though that’s something that’s growing) but struggle on a daily basis with belief. I have no problem with the Church (like you, Catholicism seems to be the only logical choice) but on a daily basis I question the existence of God. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with coldness in my gut, with the “certainty” that He doesn’t exist.
On the one hand, I struggle with unbelief. On the other, my passion for Him grows daily. I often wonder if I am madly in love with a God who doesn’t exist at all.
Feelings aren’t necessarily important. Maybe not having them is a cross you’re meant to bear. Maybe it’s important for you to witness to others that feelings are not an indication of faith. Too often people believe in God because of “feelings”, and when those feelings go away, they stop believing.
Remember Galations 5, the fruits of the Spirit. Feelings aren’t what’s important; whether God is working in you is the important thing. Check out those fruits. Are you improving in any of those areas? Those fruits come from God. If you have them, you may be missing the feelings you desire, but that’s not necessarily relevant.
I wish that you could pay less attention to how you think the liturgy should be when going to Mass and instead of realize the gift of the Mass. It might help you if you can just focus on the good and ignore the rest, focus on the gift of it.
And praying in two languages suggests you know a lot of rote prayers. Do you pray in other ways?
For me, though my unbelief grows as my passion for God grows, a couple of things have changed how I am emotionally. (As I said, I definitely feel things.)
First, Lent of 2008 I decided to attend Mass daily. A very wise priest once told me, after I shared my unbelief with him, that I should receive Eucharist as often as I can. It took me several years to realize I can receive every day. I started doing this for Lent, but Lent went by so quickly and I had no desire to stop by the end of it.
I still attend daily. The priest where I go always has suggestions for applying the Word of God to everyday life. I listen closely and follow his advice as much as I can, and I can tell you that I’ve changed a lot.
One suggestion my priest made was to spend time in intentional prayer daily. By that, I mean not praying just while, for example, driving or doing housework or whatever. Those things are good, but it’s also important to give God undivided attention.
But I’m not good with memorized prayer. I used to talk a lot, but I learned it’s more important to listen, even though I don’t actually “hear” anything. I may ask God for help for me or others, but the bulk of my prayer time is just realizing that God is everywhere and trying to realize that I am in His presence, along with (to paraphrase) being still and know that He is God.
But different ways of praying are effective for different people. I would suggest you find different ways to pray than you do, something a bit less “in your head.”
I would highly suggest daily Mass and a different way to pray. But I would also suggest that you pay attention to the poster who mentioned fidelity. You’re doing great in that department.
Because the thing is this: there might be a reason for you to not have feelings at this time. It might be in God’s plan for you. I try to accept that, no matter how God talks about belief in the Bible, it may be in His plans for me to struggle with this. Who knows how much it is helping my personal growth (unwanted unbelief has a way of keeping God on your mind every minute), and who knows how I might be able to help someone else in the future because of it?
I’ve gone through this as well. But the fact that you know so much about our faith shows that you do care, and your caring comes from your heart. My relationship with God strengthened greatly when I started praying to the Holy Spirit. I often pray to the Holy Spirit, even if I’m just talking about my mundane daily tasks. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with God’s love.
Remember, we all go through these times. You’re not alone. Praying for you.
I apologize if I step on somebody toes, for I’m new to this great forum. Nonetheless, I have read replies and your statements, and one especially one got my attention on which I would like to base my reply.
“I envy the people here who write so eloquently about their connection to Jesus and Mary. I want that kind of feeling, but in all my study, it’s one thing I never learned how to get. I’ve prayed for it, and I’ve tried various types of parish experiences to try and get it. Modern Church, Traditional Church, Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration heck, I even tried Charismatic prayer. I’m still waiting.”
My dear friend, for all the readings, for all the knowledge, for all the adoration, for all rosaries prayed please know that all of this is great and worthy of praises, but in all of this did ever occur to you, that if you look upon how that is - the answer is so straight forward that you might think I’m joking - silence my friend, silence of heart.
One of poster has a picture of Our Lord knocking on the door. It is that picture that has so much symbolism and can elevate your thoughts so close to a Lord its not even funny. Think about this way - look upon that picture, and silently with just as on observer start thinking, just in silence look upon today day, yesterdays thoughts and tomorrow but mostly, that silent knock you will hear, and I can assure you, before you know it, that prayer will be long before you want to go to sleep.
One thing I learned - Lord listens, it just that we must adjust our frequency to his knock.
“Religion is not a matter of feeling; it is a matter of will and of action” (from “My Catholic Faith”)
I’ve felt like you sometimes (too much of the time lately).
I once told my Mom that I tried to love God, but I couldn’t feel it. She said that trying to love God is loving God. It really is a matter of will.
I think the “the dark night of the soul” comes only to those who are quite spiritually advanced. But I think a period of “dryness” could come to anyone. I think this “dryness” is not the same as a general “depression” or a phlegmatic personality, but is rather especially about religion.
A period of “dryness” could last as long as God wills. Maybe this is His cross for you.
Keep praying for His consolations but most of all to know and do His will. Don’t hold anything back from Him. Pray to Mary to protect you from Satan who wants you to be discouraged by your “dryness”.
You could pray for a little drama in your life… or you could just accept what you have as both gift and a burden. One poster mentioned how Mother Theresa journaled about feeling the same way the second half of her life. You know, the half in which she became a household name in about a BILLION homes due to her holiness.
Another resource I keep meaning to read is “Enthusiasm” by Ronald Knox. It comes highly recommended to me. The author makes the point that feelings are a help to motivate us to form more solid roots, not the other way around.
I know that I’m repeating myself, but I really do believe in the power of inspiration. Theology is a science, not always a source of motivation. It is meant to shed light on faith. It is important and all Catholics should study at least some theology.
But the spiritual life rises out of an inspiration to become more united to Christ. For this reason, the biographies of saints are very helpful. They show us how others lived the truths of which theology speaks. They offer good examples of where to start on our own journey or how to redirect our journey, if that is our need.
I’m always reminded of Edith Stein. She was a great philosopher and scholar. But it was reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila that moved her to conversion. When she put the book down she said, “This is truth.” Teresa’s life moved her to change her own. It moved her will and her heart at the same time.
As I said before, Francis of Assisi and Maximilian Kolbe do this for me. I highly recommend this kind of relaxed reading. Don’t analyze these people or their lives. Just read them and enjoy their stories. Something will strike you at the gut level.
You’re already there. You’re probably not the type who’d be satisfied with mere hunches or vague feelings anyway. But even the Damascus road experiences which happen solely at Gods digression come with a caveat: once received the believer has no choice but to live out their life with a significantly deeper hunger and thirst which cannot be satisfied in this life. And paradoxically this can make life harder. We need to be satisfied with what God hands us-to be still and know that He is God. You already know that. You’ve already been given and have exercised a great gift of faith which pleases God immensely and which is itself a dim foretaste of the Beatific Vision. If He wishes to give more He will but He is so pleased with a mature and humble perseverance that your reward may well be all the greater for it. And at some point or another you’ll be surprised by your own growing love for God-which itself is a gift from Him. Be patient.
I completely disagree. I’ve only read the introduction and the first couple of pages to St. John of the Cross’ book, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” The introduction says it could be for anything..
I agree with this.
To mkingdomlvr, I suggest picking up St. John of the Cross’ book, “Dark Night of the Soul.” I’ve experienced. It can be terrifying although it is a wonder that I was rather oblivious to what was actually happening. I received this book as a confirmation gift and so I’m about to start reading it here in a bit. (Which is how I found your thread. I was doing a search on the forum for this book.)
I realize you want to be “left brained” but I think you should cling to what you do have right now. From what I gather, this is all ok. really. But to be prudent, seek out a priest who is willing to be a spiritual advisor. Pray. Even if you feel like you are going through the motions. You may very well be doing so. But this is a situation where an old 12 step program adage of, “Fake it till you make it” can apply.
I’m going to start reading this book this week. If you start reading it, we can get a discussion thread going, I would be more than happy to participate. I’ll get the discussion thread going if there isn’t one already.