My issue with Roman Catholicism


Not quite so triumphant as that.

Me feelings would be more accurately described as “Someone please put me out of my misery and help make a convincing argument to me that would allow me to feel comfortable returning to the Catholic Church, because i feel as though i have some massive road blocks i can’t climb over”.

I don’t know why but i always come across as more terse online than i intend…


Interesting perspective. Thank you.

Are you (or the Jesuits) not concerned with not being in conformity with the desert fathers and the early church? This is an important point. It seems like in the Orthodox Church - and more specifically in the Coptic Church - we believe that the early church was the purest and being in conformity with that original purity is our goal, whereas in the Catholic Church with it’s doctrinal development theories it’s almost like the early church was only a shadow of the full flowering of Catholicism that really took off 1000 years after the Resurrection.

I guess what i am saying is: Personally, i trust St Anthony the Great more than i do St Ignatius of Loyola when they speak of how to handle the imagination during prayer.

What would the Jesuits say?


If you are having a nagging feeling that you want to return to the Catholic Church, you need to listen to that.

Why do you feel your life in the EO church is so “happy”? If it was as happy as you claim, you would not be having nagging feelings to return to the Catholic Church. I think what you actually feel is safe in your EO church and are using your objections to the way the Catholic Church does things as an excuse not to leave that security.

My advice is that you direct your questions and doubts to the priest of the Catholic parish you would be attending.

It isn’t important that the Catholic Church agree with the EO church. It’s important that we obey and follow God.


I will think on this…

btw…I’m not a Jesuit…never say never…but not today. I deeply admire the Jesuits.

One piece of advice is to consider speaking to a Jesuit priest about your concerns if you get the chance. They can say things far more eloquently and clearly than I can…in fact it is pretty impressive sometimes.

Also I would say specifically speak to a Jesuit priests about your concerns rather than a diocesan priest if you have a chance. First your concerns are with Jesuit spirituality…imagination prayer. Second, the Jesuits have been controversial for nearly 500 years. They are still controversial. When I visit family I go to a diocesan parish somewhere in the middle of the Midwest. When I’ve told these priests how much I like the Jesuits and that I go to a Jesuit parish, they tense up or go silent or make a weird remark. You may not get a clear picture of what the Jesuits are about if you speak to a diocesan priest.


I am listening to that nagging feeling. I am exploring my options and i read a TONNE of Catholic books. I tell my Catholic friends that i am more Catholic than most Catholics. But i still have issues that prevent me from reverting, and i don’t think those issues will be resolved.

I think that i am in essence “Orthodox in spirit”. It fits my personality and my core values. I conflict with too much of Roman Catholicism. It is an uneasy feeling. But you are right, Orthodoxy has it’s problems, and if it were perfect i wouldn’t be asking these questions.

The best way to describe my beliefs re: Catholicism would be to read Rod Dreher, the way he see’s Catholicism is almost exactly the way i do, including why he left. The only difference between he and i is that i am open to returning, provided i could resolve these issues.


I think a possible key difference between the Eastern Churches and Roman Catholicism is that the spirituality of a given Eastern Church is rather uniform. This is not necessarily a knock on the Eastern Churches, they tend to be smaller and (historically at least) geographically localized. But the Catholic Church has long recognized that when it comes to spirituality, one size does not fit all. So one can say the Church allows the Charismatic movement to exist, but does not encourage it for everyone. I am not an expert, by any means on Jesuit spirituality, but again, the Church will say it is fine for people if that is what works. If it doesn’t, try something else.

As for mental imagery, I believe I answered that above, but let me add this, the Church may allow it under the auspices of Ignatius spirituality, but it does not encourage it for all. Catholics may revere saints who have had ecstatic visions, but it does not encourage us all to seek them. Indeed, when reading about the lives of these mystics, you will often find their spiritual directors/confessors advising even them to proceed with caution.


Depends on what you mean by “a problem with spiritual exercises”. If by that you mean, someone has a problem they are allowed to be practiced, then I would agree somewhat. If by that you mean someone has a problem finding them useful, then I would disagree.

As to the former case, let me clarify my “agree somewhat”. One of the common things I see these days is that a Catholic finds something that really worked for them and they feel it changed their life, and they automatically assume its great for all (the ACTS retreat folks come to mind). They are wrong, but their position is understandable. Well, if someone finds something that absolutely doesn’t work, they tend to advice everyone to ignore it (people who don’t like Charismatic stuff are often an example). Again, they are wrong to do so, but it is understandable. Its not necessarily “the tip of the iceberg” as far as them being way off base.


The idea that God does not encourage the use of imagination just defies reason and common sense.

No person can stand in the presence of God and see him. We would vaporize, or something like that, if we saw God. It is not possible.
And so God reveals himself to us mercifully as Jesus Christ Incarnate God in the flesh.
And Christ reveals the Father to us, to the extent we are able to perceive.

And how does Christ reveal the Father? Parables and story are a big part of revelation. What is the point of a parable, if not to create an image of the Father for us? What is un-seeable is made present for us through the use of our human faculties.
Let me ask you: Is the Father of the Prodigal Son a real historical figure? NO. Christ uses the power of communication, intellect and imagination to reveal His Father.

And what does the word “repent” mean? Literally “change the way you think”. Human beings perceive, and conceive in the mind, and think, and imagine.
Using these faculties is simply part of being a whole human being.


Many Catholics have issues with the Catholic Church. My main issue has always been the scandals which were around even when I was too young to understand.

Even though I was born, raised and confirmed (at age 7) Catholic, I had a Protestant mother. So I went to Protestant churches as well as the Catholic Church. It would have been so easy for me to remain in the Protestant churches where there didn’t seem to be any scandals and the services were so expressive.

But I felt that “pull,” that “nagging feeling,” that indelible mark on my heart and soul that let me know my place was in the Catholic Church, warts and all, and that I had to turn my back on Protestantism entirely which I did with a clear conscience.

When you find your views in conflict with the Church, know that it is you who must change not the Church. The Church believes, preaches, teaches and lives the teachings of Christ.

I’ve never been to an EO church. I would probably feel like a fish out of water.

I’ve never heard of Rod Dreher. Thank you for recommending him. I’ll have to check out his writing.


Just to clarify…I agree wit this. Just because imagination prayer works for me doesn’t mean the OP should do it. If the OP finds another type of prayer works better, that is what they should be doing. I think God reaches people in different ways at different times in their life.

In my parish, imagination prayer is something you’d have to search out to find. It is certainly not thrust upon you. Other options like centering prayer or praying the rosary after mass are actually more easily available. Most Catholics remain pretty traditional. My Irish aunt married a polish gentleman. When he died it was quite touching to see all of his relatives pray the rosary at his wake…this type of prayer really remains the core of Catholicism.

The “tip of the Iceberg” comment had more to do with Catholic thought…I’m still thinking on that one…


A few things…

  1. It was interesting to learn about Saint Anthony the Great…

I think it is very likely that a Jesuit would point out that he is not a monk…St Anthony is nicknamed “the father of monks”. Jesuits don’t have monasteries and are known to be a very “social” order. The essence of their spirituality is to “find God in everything” rather than find God in isolation. I’m not saying either way is a better way to find God. Perhaps at different times in our lives we need one way or the other and I think it is great that both paths are available.

Why would the same rules apply for the Jesuits as a Monastic order? Maybe imagination prayer would not work well for the Benedictines, but it works well for the Jesuits. The charism of their orders is completely different.

  1. I would look at the history of the Jesuit order and the good they have done. This is not a trivial effort or investigation by the way. For example, many of the locations where they operated and were eventually kicked out of in south America still have higher standards of living generations later. Look at the Jesuits contributions as scientists, mathematics, a couple Doctors of the Church, missionaries, martyrs, etc. If they are promoting heresy, by the standards of the original desert fathers, how can they do this good?

One more thing…some of the most important philosophers out there have debated the value of Jesuit Philosophy, thought and spirituality…One non Christian book to read on the subject is “Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche. He spends a good deal of time directly and indirectly bashing Jesuitism using similar arguments that you are using…I’m not comparing you to Nietzsche by the way…He really had problems with Christianity. His arguments were that the vast majority of people where not equipped on many levels, educational, spiritual, and their ancestry to tackle the major issues that would pop into their brains using Jesuit spirituality. As a consequence they would make up nonsensical arguments justify their feelings. He also argues against being open for most people…“if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee”.

My point is I’m not going to out argue Nietzsche on this…not tonight at least :yum:


But Rome isn’t explicitly saying that mental imagery is good. Rome just hasn’t made any pronouncement on it, so She allows you to make your own choice where prayer methods are concerned. If you want to pray without mental imagery, then do that. That’s what most Roman Catholics do anyway, as far as I know. I already pointed this out to you in my earlier response, but you seem bent on perceiving this as an obstacle to returning to the RCC, when really it isn’t.

Could it be that you’re just torn between your nagging feeling that you should return to the RCC, while at the same time your are (understandably) attached to the community that you are currently part of? And could it be that therefore you are trying to find “formal” reasons to decide against a return to the RCC?

It’s okay to be honest with yourself about this, you know. Community is a big part of religion, so if you want to remain with the Coptic Orthodox for now, that might be best. You’re still free to study Roman Catholicism and incorporate it into your spiritual practice insofar as that doesn’t create any conflicts. Whatever you do, I think it would be healthy if you faced up to what your real dillemma is.

Like an earlier poster, I thank you for mentioning him. Very interesting indeed, I am reading his 2013 TIME article now.


I’m not addressing the prayer difference now. It’s late! What I want to say, is regardless of the Religion, keep looking up. The world is a horizontal gaze. Verticals is a Godly view. The center of RC is the sacraments & Communion. Be comfortable where you are, or come back.Just rely on Jesus & live the Sacraments. In Jesus name. Amen


Have you read The Cloud of the Unknowing?


No, not at all.

I’m just saying that icons are not artistic expression, and they have stylistic rules on how things are to be expressed. There’s not a place for creativity in them.

“Now let guys set aside all earthly cares . . .”

I’m certainly not going to say that there’s a need to suppress imagination–it’'s just not the focus, and certainly doesn’t go into the writing (not painting!) off icons.


i thought icons were used in orthodox worship. i would say icons derive from the human imagination. are icons not a part of orthodox prayer?


The OP is flawed because even IF this were true for Roman Catholicism, in the Latin-based tradition, it would not be true for the various Eastern Catholic Churches and traditions, which includes the Coptic tradition that you are now part of (though small). It also includes the Syriac, the Maronite, the Greek Byzantine, Syro-Malabar, and Chaldean.

If anything, the Catholic Church preserves more form the ancient Church, because it includes ALL of the various ancient and Eastern liturgical and spiritual traditions — not just Byzantine, not just Coptic, etc.

That aside, while every journey is different — and so your concerns are worth engaging with — I do think it is worth pointing out that most Orthodox, even on here, would disagree with you and say that there are more fundamental issues, like Papal supremacy. Orthodox and Catholics may bicker over some spiritual practices here and there, but I don’t think most learned persons would say there is anything substantially different with regards to prayer and liturgy.

Also, while you may have addressed this later in the thread, Coptic Orthodoxy is not part of the Eastern Orthodox communion. SO my question would be: How do we discern which communion is fully consistent with the Early Church? Is it the Assyrian Church? The Oriental Orthodox? Eastern Orthodox? Is it just based on our personal hunch regarding prayer disciplines?


No. They are “explication”, not “imagination.”

They are prayers in their own right, which we seek to join, and are significant fro both Orthodox and Eastern Catholic spirituality.


Essentially, the imagination is treated differently depending on whether one is under the influence of contemplative prayer or infused contemplation or not as well as whether infused contemplation is intermittent or sporadic or becomes a particular soul’s ‘ordinary’ or customary mode of prayer. This distinction is most important concerning the prayer life of christian souls and it is fundamentally the answer to the issue that you have with regard to the use of the imagination in prayer from various saints and fathers or desert fathers of the Church which may appear to be contradictory. When various fathers or desert fathers of the Church such as St John Climacus speak such as what you say in your OP concerning prayer that ‘the mind is to be freed from all thoughts and images nor to accept any sensual images during prayer and not to gaze upon even necessary and spiritual things’, he is really speaking here I believe of the experience of contemplative prayer or infused contemplation which produces these effects in the soul more or less.

What various saints, fathers or desert fathers of the Church may not have realized is distinguishing clearly which itself is a grace between supernatural infused contemplation which cannot be acquired by our own efforts and ‘ordinary’ prayer which goes by the name of meditation and various more or less simple forms of it which is proper to beginners in the spiritual life and which they make by their own effort purposely engaging the soul’s faculties and, of course, cooperating with God’s ordinary grace. Infused contemplation is a more perfect form and mode of prayer which is not generally given to beginners in the spiritual life but only after they have made some advancement in the spiritual life.

St John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor, identifies the transition from beginners or also what is called the purgative way to proficients or the illuminative way as the beginnings of infused contemplation and which he calls the passive purification of the senses. The form or mode of prayer that distinguishes beginners from proficients is that of meditative or discursive prayer and infused contemplative prayer. Meditative prayer is ‘active’ prayer we ourselves produce with the help of God’s ordinary grace by using our faculties such as the reason, will, memory, and imagination. Infused contemplation is prayer that God himself produces supernaturally in us and we are passive receivers of it though not without our cooperation.



St Teresa of Avila said that it is one grace to receive infused contemplation and various other mystical graces and another grace to understand it and be able to explain it in some fashion. In the Catholic Church, God gifted St Teresa of Avila and her collaborator St John of the Cross in their reform of the Carmelite order with an understanding of the ways and graces of the mystical life and infused contemplation like no other saints in the Church. I think you would enjoy reading their works and especially St John of the Cross’s Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night where you will find what St John treats of infused contemplation is very analogous to what St John Climacus says in your OP concerning sensory images and particular thoughts in prayer. As St John says, through infused contemplation, God gradually purifies the senses both exterior and interior from inordinate attachments to all sense forms and images as well as the intellect or mind from all particular concepts or thoughts so that the soul is as it were in ‘darkness’ to its natural operations and advances to union with God not by a way of knowing, i.e, the natural knowledge we get from using our faculties, but rather by a way of unknowing being led by the Spirit of God.

Both St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross teach that one should not leave meditative prayer which as I have said involves using both our rational and sensory faculties such as the imagination before the experience of infused contemplation which God gives to whom he wills and when he wills. St John describes a few signs in a soul of the beginnings of infused contemplation that a person or spiritual director can tell with sufficient probability. Often times the experience in the beginning is imperceptible to the soul and at other times more perceptible depending on God’s will and grace. One of the signs is that a soul does not want to meditate and use its imagination or reason over particular thoughts but it experiences a general and peaceful loving knowledge of God not knowing where it came from but wants to abide in this general or ‘dark’ and peaceful experience. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, chapters 13,14,15 are very instructive in this regard as well as The Dark Night, Book I, chapters 8,9,10. Check it out, I think you’ll find it quite interesting and I believe these works of St John are online.

One of the reasons why these Carmelite masters of the spiritual life advise to not leave the prayer of meditation which, again, involves our own active use of our faculites before contemplative prayer or infused contemplation is because if we don’t use our faculties in prayer without the experience of infused contemplation, we are virtually doing nothing in prayer. Without the experience of infused contemplation which we can’t acquire by our own efforts but which is a pure supernatural gift from God, most times when we go to prayer we need something to meditate on, think about, read about, or pray about. Of course, there may be times when we just want to sit before the Lord such is in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as after a day’s work when we are both mentally and physically tired

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