Scrupulosity Kicking In Again


#1

Hello,

Let me apologize in advance for what may prove to be an unbalanced, silly thread – but I feel like my interior life is being called into question by my simple, everyday, human actions – which I know isn’t unbalanced at all since I am human. It’s just that everytime I take a look at my spiritual life, I wonder if I’m doing enough – and lately, I’ve felt so incredibly lazy and lukewarm even though I make time everyday to do morning/evening prayers, read Scripture, and various other prayers plus my general helpfulness which I try to demonstrate at home and at work.

I’ve got myself so confused, though, and so bent out of shape now that I’m bordering on scrupulosity, something which I have been handling rather well for the past 2-3 months.

Like, for instance, during Lent I gave up music because I do like listening to it, there is an attachment there, and I knew I needed to distance myself from it – which worked. Sometimes I now prefer silence, especially at home. There are also times at the office when I prefer not to listen to it since it makes me much more productive; however, given that my job is very repetitive, I often like to listen to music (I like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, especially) while working – but now I feel like I should give it up and just live in silence because I’m probably not spending time with God like I should even though I really try to find the Catholic, Christian elements in the songs which I can apply to myself. I wonder, “Am I really giving full attention to my spiritual life like I should?”

And then I wonder if sitting on the front porch each evening reading a book, whether it be a book about the Little Flower or even a short story by Flannery O’Connor, isn’t somehow succumbing to laziness and a deprivation of my spiritual life because I’m not spending great chunks of time in prayer.

Again, I’m sorry for this thread. I really am! I’ve just managed to confuse myself horribly…and now’s the time for prayer and discernment, which I will do and am doing…I just feel like I’m being pulled in multiple directions: just when I come to grasp the notion of what it is to be human and to enjoy life, I hear or read something that suggests we’re all seemingly called to be mystics spending hours in prayer; and just when I’m comfortable with dedicating my being to the spiritual life, I’m reminded that I’m human and not pure spirit. I thought that I had found a balance between the two, but I guess the journey continues…


#2

Spiritual reading is as nourishing for your soul as studying is for the mind. It is a very, very good thing. Even reading a decent non spiritual book is very beneficial to your overall growth as a person. But a spiritual book, never worry that it is in place of prayer, it is prayer. The saints often read a spiritual book during their times of meditation. You are reading about God, and reflecting on Him, that is prayer. Even with a non spiritual book, it is part of your daily life prayer to God. Meaning everything we do that isn’t sinful gives glory to God. So whenever you read, whether it be a spiritual or non spiritual book, offer up the time of reading for His glory and honor and the salvation of souls. This goes for the music to. Listen to the glory of God. That is enough. Do not worry about this. You may wish to look into finding a daily offering prayer, if you aren’t already praying one. This way your whole day spiritual and non spiritual, all your work, reading, prayers, relaxation and resting, joys, sufferings, everything will be consecrated to God and be for His glory and honor and the salvation of souls. That’s the best we can do :slight_smile: :thumbsup:

Again, this is certainly nothing to worry about. I too suffer from intense scrupulosity. I know from experience. Hang in there, it can very hard at times. :console:


#3

There’s an article called, “The Seven Habits of Holy Apostolic People,” written by Fr. McCloskey, out there on the net somewhere. If I had more time, I’d give you a link. Go find it and take it to heart. You need balance in your life.

Betsy


#4

I think this is the key. Also having a sense of peace is very important too.

Many religious bro/sis spend lot of time praying, but I think their trust in God in their heart gives them peace.


#5

Well, I thought that I had found such balance and was operating decently and relatively peacefully until I hear that it’s recommended that I fall asleep thinking on something I’ve read in Scripture, to re-read that passage again in the morning, to do an examination of conscience in the mid-afternoon and in the evening - plus spend (seemingly) hours doing meditative prayer. This, of course, not counting the other devotional, prayerful exercises we personally prefer daily. Perhaps I am exagerrating, and maybe my exagerration is derived from improper interpretation, but being this was a recommendation delivered to the laity, I feel my spiritual life has been aggravated and upset now, plagued by doubt and self-doubting suspicion. I have no argument that we should trust God – this much I have learned from *reading *Merton – and this has thankfully served as my modus operandi since reading such – but now I am, again, plagued by the suspicion that I need to re-evaluate everything…especially if I value sanctity and salvation.

The thing which is so distressing is when our pastors and spiritual directors advise us to steer clear of worldly attachments, to steer clear of laziness, to steer clear of distractions with relatively few qualifications or examples, thus leading individuals such as myself to make these broad assumptions that listening to a couple of CDs while at the office is somehow detracting from my spiritual life and advancement, or that spending my evenings reading about the life of a group of Catholic authors (“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”) is tantamount to succumbing to laziness. Seriously, when some john-of-the-crossed pastor begins discussing the interior life, you never hear him speaking in a balanced manner, advising a good bourbon and cigar outside of at least one hour in quiet, meditative prayer. No, the whole sermon is full of quotes and anecdotes depicting the saints as stowed away from the world in their cells, either interior or exterior, lost in ecstasy.

I’m ranting at this point…


#6

I don’t think you are exaggerting and I could see you are overwhelming yourself with prayers and devotions. Did you ever stop and just relax without thinking you had to pray certain number of devotions?

You can only do what you can handle. Overwhelming yourself will harm you a certain way. Just relax - that is what you need - relax. Relaxing does not mean you take God out of your mind.

God gives you vacation time too! :slight_smile:


#7

But I’m not, and I don’t want to. I won’t give a list of what I do and don’t do, but I’ve seriously tried just letting go and letting God take control of my life and the world, especially since my retreat at Gesthemani Abbey. I care about my relationship with God, though, and it’s that intention which I believe matters more than anything I could actually say or do! But when a priest suggests that our everyday lives should mimic Teresa of Avila’s, it’s a little daunting…

I don’t know, maybe I’ll mention all of this to my pastor.


#8

Whatever you do, it ought to be step by step, not all at once. Now, I’m assuming you already prayed before the priest gave you this step, but adding, say, another whole whole hour of meditative prayer on top of an hour a day is going to be very tough to work in. Especially if you are living in the world and not in a monastery.

If you feel as though you aren’t praying enough, it’s ok to pray more. But do it in small increments, I think, so you can learn to adjust. Maybe you can lengthen one sitting for meditation from 30, to 40 or 45 minutes, for instance, or pray your rosary over the course of 35-40 minutes rather than 25-30 minutes. Little increments.

Second, make sure you take your spiritual cues from a good confessor and spiritual director. If this priest just flat out said you need to live a monastic life in the world, then I’m wondering what type of people this talk was given to. Half of the game of religion is prudence and wisdom. If you don’t have a good confessor who understands your predilection to scrupulosity, start looking for one. And let him set your spiritual table. A good spiritual director or confessor like this can be Jesus’ personal and loving presence to someone with a troubled conscience because he can tell you “only do these spiritual practices and no more!” and it will even have the sweet spiritual benefit of obedience added to it. This way when some priest recommends that you do extra, different or other spiritual practices you can take it right to your confessor-- “priest X said this, what should I do?” And hopefully he’ll say no. :smiley:

t’s recommended that I fall asleep thinking on something I’ve read in Scripture, to re-read that passage again in the morning,

That’s a nice spiritual practice but it’s hardly “recommended”-- except by some people for some people. No spiritual practice in a concrete form is universal. Bro. Lawrence of the Resurrection is the best example of this. He wrote “the Practice of the Presence of God.” It’s just about living an intimate conversation with Jesus always. It’s not about jerry-rigging Scripture meditation at all times and whatnot. It’s just living in deep conversation with Jesus. If you find all this other stuff too much, look into Br. Lawrence. But that’s just a suggestion-- don’t feel like you have to do this. Let me stress: the interior life of every Christian is different. Not every Christian has to pray lectio divina. Not every Christian has to pray the rosary even. Not every Christian has to do meditative prayer by reflecting on images in the Ignatian style. There are so many ways of praying. You do what’s best for you. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to pray, and we all need to engage in meditative prayer, but there’s no one way to do it. I know because I have a tough time with composing mental images a la St. Ignatius, or even doing the lectio thing the way it is presented. So don’t worry. You don’t need to do anyone’s favorite devotions.

to do an examination of conscience in the mid-afternoon and in the evening

That’s nice, but again, something which only holier people will be able to do. I know that sounds ridiculous, because holy people sin less, but they are also far more sensitive to faults and sins. For most of us, it can even be difficult doing a daily examination because we’re so clueless about our own sinfulness.

Here’s a good attitude to take in prayer. Be open to growing in a way that someone talks about. But shelf it for now. At some point… years down the road… you may be able to do multiple examinations of conscience throughout the day. But I know I sure as heck can’t right now, and if you can’t either, don’t worry about it. But when you can, it’s waiting there for you.


#9
  • plus spend (seemingly) hours doing meditative prayer.

If you’re seriously trying to live a life of holiness it takes a commitment. But that commitment is relative to the duties you have in life and the time you have, and, your own personal stage of spiritual development. If the guy recommended two hours of meditative prayer, which is what I think St. Teresa of Avila did, that’s nice. But if you aren’t there yet, that’s not bad either. It’s ridiculous to expect to be able to have 2 hours of meditative prayer a day, plus Mass attendance, plus, say, the Liturgy of the Hours every day. You might have time for that on Sundays, but find that when you work or have school it’s just impossible. That’s alright. No big deal. Quite frankly, if you can do a full hour of meditation a day, you’re already ahead of the game. If you do half an hour… that’s great. It’s not about being at an absolute point. It’s about growing in the spiritual life. We wouldn’t make someone who is new to working out bench press twice their weight. :slight_smile: We’d give them a load they can carry. Our spiritual muscles, likewise, get stronger over time.

You and I are both weak and limited. We can’t do everything. Let it be a humbling experience. God hasn’t given us the grace he has given other saints to do such awesome things. We’re just His little flowers doing what little He wants us to do.

The thing which is so distressing is when our pastors and spiritual directors advise us to steer clear of worldly attachments, to steer clear of laziness, to steer clear of distractions with relatively few qualifications or examples, thus leading individuals such as myself to make these broad assumptions that listening to a couple of CDs while at the office is somehow detracting from my spiritual life and advancement, or that spending my evenings reading about the life of a group of Catholic authors (“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”) is tantamount to succumbing to laziness. Seriously, when some john-of-the-crossed pastor begins discussing the interior life, you never hear him speaking in a balanced manner, advising a good bourbon and cigar outside of at least one hour in quiet, meditative prayer

The created universe is good. It is good to enjoy created things. You can only learn to use created things better by living a prayerful live… and using created things!

And go get a drink, smoke your cigar, and listen to some music, while reading a good book, darn it. If I were your confessor, that’s the penance I’d give you. :thumbsup:


#10

Here’s the link to the Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People.

It’s aimed at people who need to be convinced to do more, but I think you, as a person who may need to be convinced to do less, can also take it to heart.

Betsy


#11

But you are not Teresa of Avila.

What I mean is that while you try to imitate her, don’t try to do all the things that she did because you may not … I hope that you could be somewhat like her someday, but you can only take step 1…then 2…and 3…before thinking about step 100. While being on step 1, don’t look at step 3 because it might be meaningless to you.

I had a friend who tried to do exactly what you did - he did not have peace. It is because he tried to skip steps; he wanted to do what some Saints were doing. Until he takes it slowly … one step at a timẹ – deal with what he can and cannot do, then he is a more joyful guy right now.

Recognizing more who you are … where you are on your spiritual journey - with true humility - then you will not overwhelm yourself with the thought that you had to mimic Teresa of Avila and slow down.


#12

St Theresa lived in a convent…her life was dedicated to prayer. That was her vocation. Do you have a job? Do you have any family obligations? Do you have to pay bills? It would be nice if all we did all day was pray and read scripture but we have to live in the world and give praise to God in all that we do. That means to praise God in our work, and in fulfilling our obligations and in our recreation. St. Benedict told his monks to find balance in life…balance between work, prayer and recreation. If you are focusing only on the prayer then you are not doing the other two and not achieving a balanced life. There is nothing wrong with doing non-spiritual reading. There is nothing wrong with not spending free time in prayer. The key is that you do pray during the day and that you dedicate your day to God. Pray as you can, not as you can’t.


#13

Yes, I’m quite aware – increasingly aware – of that!

What I mean is that while you try to imitate her, don’t try to do all the things that she did because you may not … I hope that you could be somewhat like her someday, but you can only take step 1…then 2…and 3…before thinking about step 100. While being on step 1, don’t look at step 3 because it might be meaningless to you.

I had a friend who tried to do exactly what you did - he did not have peace. It is because he tried to skip steps; he wanted to do what some Saints were doing. Until he takes it slowly … one step at a timẹ – deal with what he can and cannot do, then he is a more joyful guy right now.

Recognizing more who you are … where you are on your spiritual journey - with true humility - then you will not overwhelm yourself with the thought that you had to mimic Teresa of Avila and slow down.

Look, I think you and I are on the same page: I started this thread looking for corroboration that I’m not somehow doing something “wrong” by not spending my every free moment in payer, that I’m not somehow doing a grievous offence to my spiritual life by choosing to listen to music while at the office or even in my car, and likewise with reading. And this is what you, and others, are saying.

Again, for humility’s sake, I don’t want to list the things I do or don’t do in my spiritual/devotional life, but I don’t think it’s quite what you’re imagining it being. However, without a list, I don’t know how else to adequately convey the sense of how much I truly recognize that I’m not a Teresa of Avila right now nor am I rushing to get there - nor am I sure that such conveyance matters in the long run.

My question’s been answered, though, and so I’m going to bow out of my own thread because otherwise things could get nasty with qualifications.

Thanks to all!


#14

Good for you. I hope whatever the answer you got will help you in long run.


#15

JMJT

Dear Epistemes,
Being afflicted with scruples is a very hard thing and a tremendous cross. It is made more terrible because the person suffering it really wants to please God. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus suffered acutely from scruples which did not go away even after years in religious life.

All of the other people gave you some good advices. But for someone with this affliction, they really would not help! That is the nature of the spiritual illness.

My suggestions to you would be these:

  1. Do not pay attention to your scruples, to how you are feeling or even talk about it to anyone, except to your spiritual director. The more you talk about it, the more you will be feeding the fire and it will engulf you.

  2. Try not to be taking your “spiritual temperature” at any given time. Questions like, “how am I doing?” " Is this what Saint _____ did?" “Am I doing enough devotions?” you should not lend an audience to them. Ignore these temptations of thoughts. If you entertain them, you will not win, as you are finding out.

  3. When you become acutely aware that your scruples are rearing its ugly head, make a conscious spiritual offering to God. Name your scruples and give it back to God as an offering of humility and resignation. You may want to say in your heart, “Lord, I accept this cross you are pleased to send me. You know all things, you know well that I love you.” Then move on.

  4. Carry on with your spiritual life. Be gentle with yourself. God is still in-charge.

St. Therese suffered a lot from scruples but through grace she was able to integrate it and USED it as an instrument to grow spiritually in what she called later on as Spiritual Childhood and Abandonment to God’s Merciful Love. You can do the same.


closed #16

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