Self-deprecating thoughts during mass, prayer

I’m in a bit of a strange situation currently, at least for me it is as I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m trying to decide if this is a spiritual problem, and emotional problem, or what…??? I will say to begin with, I’m a very well adjusted 30 year old woman. I work as a research scientist and am quite confident in most situations. I don’t have a history of depression or feeling badly about myself generally. Quite the opposite in that I can be overconfident and even arrogant at times.

I attend daily mass, go to weekly Eucharistic Adoration and catechism classes. I was quite comfortable at church until about a week ago. Around that time I began having intrusive self-deprecating thoughts. Such as… I am worthless, I don’t deserve to be here (in the church), no one likes me, when I speak to the priest I am wasting his time, others are more deserving, my prayers don’t mean anything, I should just quit going to church, and so on, ad nauseum. It doesn’t happen to me anywhere except church or when I’m trying to pray. I’m remembering as I type that its also happened prior to a week ago, the few times when I have had a pressing issue I needed to discuss with my priest. In those cases it took me a few days usually to get up the courage to talk to him, because of the thoughts.

Today at mass the thoughts were so intense that I almost started crying. I had a very strong desire to leave. I did leave right after mass, but it was my day off and I had intended to stay after mass and say the rosary by myself. I started walking home, then felt a “pull” to go back to the church and say my rosary as I originally intended. I went back into the church and started saying the rosary. I was alone except for someone who was cleaning the church. While I was starting to pray, the thoughts came back, including some new ones like, you are in the way of the person trying to clean the church, its selfish of you to interfere with the person cleaning, get out, etc. I fought the thoughts for a while but the person was cleaning around me so finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and left. On the walk home I felt very disconcerted. The scariest thing was, on my walk home I have to cross a bridge, and as I was crossing the thought came into my mind that I was a loser and I should just jump off the bridge! :eek: Of course I would never do it. I am not depressed, not even close… I love my life. But it scared the **** out of me, that the thought even came to mind. I fought it though and it went away as quickly as it had come.

So… I guess I am asking for any thoughts on the matter. Is this something I should take to a counselor? My priest? I really have no idea what’s going on and its so unlike me, I can’t stress that enough. Its very scary honestly… my mother had a severe mental illness and I worry that I am going crazy. :frowning:

It sounds as though you’re experiencing a mix of things. I think some of your thoughts are just random events, and you can and should shrug them off. Some of your thoughts are infernaly inspired and should be prayed against. Scripture tells us to take captive our thoughts to God. We should submit our thought life to God and ask His protection of our thoughts. Many thoughts can occur to us, the generation of these thoughts are from many sources. Scripture tells us to stand firm, resist the devil, and he will flee.

I wouldn’t bother too much trying to sort out the origen of every thought. Try to say prayers that ask God’s protection of your thought life and get used to throwing off the distractions that many of these thoughts seem to be for you.

We are not contending with flesh and blood but with powers and principalities. Our battle is not so much against the ordinary, obvious, and mundane. That’s one reason we pray deliver us from evil.

I don’t know if this will help or not, and given the history of your mom, it might not be a bad idea to run it past a counselor as sometimes these things can run in the family. However, someone once told me that you are more prone to spiritual attack when you are on the right track with God. For some people, that manifests in a lot of self doubt, negative thoughts, etc., for others it is a more temporal experience (bad things happening). Given what you said about feeling unworthy, particularly while at church, it sounds a lot like this might be what you are experiencing.

Sometimes I will have the most INAPPROPRIATE thoughts while at Mass or praying before the Blessed Sacrament. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that I should just leave because anyone who could have those thoughts while in the physical presence of Jesus, didn’t deserve to be near Him. But for the most part, I don’t give in to that lie, and just try to put my focus back on the Lord. Let Him deal with the devil! :smiley:

Judith, this is certainly consistent with a spiritual attack. The suddenness of its arrival, its level of negativity, its strength, its timing and location all make it quite suspect. Since you are also reading the Cure´of Ars, you may already know how he was harassed by the evil one. This did not deter him, but rather made him draw upon his gift of fortitude to persevere in his faith. I would ask your priest about praying a “spiritual warfare prayer”. I have the feeling that he will be well acquainted with such matters. If he does not have a favorite, you can simply Google “Catholic spiritual warfare prayers” and many will pop up. One of them will be written just for your situation. I was having a somewhat similar problem and it stopped after I sincerely prayed the prayer.

I will be praying for you.

Also, I hear St. Michael just LOVES to intervene in cases like these! :smiley:

Dear Susan… I’m sorry that you’re going through this. :console: But it seems crystal clear to me… that what is happening to you, is another lame attempt by the enemy (satan) to thwart a devout soul (you, dear Susan). Simply put… you’re making the devil mad… with your attendance at Daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration and your Catechism classes.

I have heard of “attacks” occurring at these times. :sad_yes: The devil will do its best to distract us, to encourage unholy thoughts and to make us feel “empty” in the very Presence of Jesus, by telling us we’re “worthless”. If Our Lord is permitting it, though… perhaps you can turn the situation around (and thereby, kind of “work” with Jesus :wink: )… by making an offering of your emotions (whatever they may be) to Our Lord. Contemplate the nearest Crucifix… and remind yourself… “Jesus died on the Cross, for love of me. I am loved by God!”. :slight_smile: Then, perhaps… ask Our Blessed Mother for her protection and prayers. The devil is basically a coward, and thoughts like these will send it running for cover.

If this were happening to me right now (and it HAS happened to me, in the past) I think I would definitely talk to one of my priests about it, first. If he then recommended some sort of other counseling, I would consider that as well.

I will keep you in my prayers, Susan. God be with you.

MV :slight_smile:

Hi Susan,

I’ve experienced the exact same thing you mention above – but maybe for different reasons, who knows?

Regardless, my pastor thought it might be best that I start seeing a psychologist in order to work through these issues. I’ve yet to meet with him, but it’s still a plan, as far as I’m concerned! I also plan on seeing a spiritual advisor at the same time. Perhaps you should consider also going to a good Catholic psychologist and speaking with your pastor simultaneously so that you receive good emotional and spiritual therapy.

:yup::thumbsup: just what i was going to say.

Fear is a great weapon and it seems to be seeping into you. DON’T let it. Paranoia over mental illness is only going to make that fear grow and make you unstable. Listen to Po, this seems very sudden and definitely unlike you.

Certainly look for those prayers and contact the priest to help you! Getting you out of the Church is what the enemy wants, so fight harder to STAY in. Don’t forget how you were drawn by the Church and how many things happened since. You were worried about a time when feeling great about all this would fade. It seems, rather, that instead of having the feeling fade, you’re falling under attack. If the enemy is really taking notice then you’re doing something right.

Stay strong in your prayers and devotions! You’ve come this far, and now it seems that the time has come for a “trial”. Continue giving thanks to the Lord and don’t despair!

If you’re really worried about mental health at some point, then by all means go get checked but you mustn’t be afraid! Don’t give in to the fear. Every time those thoughts creep in pray harder and use that good noggin’ of yours to realize how illogical those thoughts are to send them away.

I hope this prayer helps: St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…

It sounds like you are under spiritual attack.

There are usually three signs of diabolical tempation or activity, confusion, fear and depression.

The saints all thought they were worthless. They at the same time realized they did not deserve God’s love and knew they were loved.

We are all works in progress. There is only one thing you can know for sure about what will happen, what it will be like, if you fall into God’s hands. You will change. We can not know what that change will be like or what we will be like when God works on us, what His grace will do to us. We can say He will make us holy, but we don’t know what that is like and we don’t know when the process is finished. The saints who are holy are being made holier.

You are a very competent woman, highly intelligent, strong, self reliant, self confident and capable. This is all fine, but at the same time you need to realize you are totally dependent on God for everything. That realization comes when we call out to Him for help, in desperation, needy and helpless. This is not a one time event.

God does not take away who we are. He takes us with our personalities, temperment, character traits and makes it all better.

As soon as those thoughts come into your mind at church, say the St. Michael the Archangel prayer. After reading your post, I also thought the same as others posting here, that you are under a spiritual attack.

May the lord Jesus and his holy Mother Mary, protect you, bring peace to your soul at church, and vanquish those thoughts from your mind if they’re coming from the evil one.


Judith,I agree with the others, I think you are probably under a spiritual attack, esp. when you say this only happens when you pray or are in church. I have had this happen to me, and also, like another poster, have had the most inappropriate and bizarre thoughts enter my head when going up to receive Communion. And they came out of the blue. I know these thoughts are not from me, they are foreign to me, like somebody else is in my head. I also think, from reading the lives of the saints, and from what others have said about it, that it is a fairly common thing to happen when one is growing closer to the Lord. The purpose of it is, of course, to turn you away from God.

Ironically, the closer you get to God, the more aware you become of your sins and unworthiness, but that is not the same thing. That is a natural progression in the growth to holiness, and is not something that feels forced upon you or foreign to you. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, I once heard someone say, and will not force Himself upon you, and will not make you feel worthless, depressed, and despairing and ready to give up. How many souls would He save if He operated like that? That certainly would be counterproductive to His intent.

I agree with others that the Prayer to St. Michael is a powerful prayer, from my experience, as well as asking Mary for her intercession. Satan hates Mary, and fears her, because through her his greatest enemy was incarnated. He knows that she is the example of the potential of every human being to be united to Jesus, and that her prayers to her Son do not go unanswered. I would like to suggest that at times like this, you say the Prayer to St. Michael and the Hail Mary. They really are helpful. Padre Pio called his Rosary his “weapon”. May God bless you.

“CB Catholic” Wow! This really sums it up well! This is a very clarifying thought! And so true. Realization of our condition as sinful humans, is not the same thing as the thoughts that have been plaguing poor Susan. When we realize our true “condition”, it is more a humble knowledge of the fact that we are fallen creatures (which the devil hates, by the way… because it hates humility)… AND that God does indeed love us. :yup: He loves us SO MUCH, in fact… that He wanted to prove it to us, by becoming one of us… and then, sacrificing His own life for love of us. :heart: Can you imagine that! The KING of ALL Creation… wanted to prove to ANTS (us) that He loves us! :extrahappy:

God is AWESOME! :gopray2:

Wow, thanks so much to everyone who wrote to me with advice… I stayed up into the middle of the night to read most of the replies. Tonight I’m back to report how my day went, and re-reading. I really appreciate everyone’s help. More than anything, sharing here, getting it all out in the open, if even on an internet forum helped to dispel my feeling of being alone in this, which was a huge aspect of it.

After reading what everyone said last night, I made a few decisions. First of all, that I would pray for God’s guidance, which I intended to receive through my priest. So I got up very early this morning and prayed for an hour. It was very difficult as the thoughts kept coming, but I stuck with it as people here suggested. I prayed asking God to speak to me through my priest, and promised I would do whatever he told me (including counseling, if he thought it was necessary). I made the decision to see him at the earliest possible opportunity. Then I printed out the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel on a small piece of paper and took it with me to morning mass.

Mass was a huge struggle, but I held the paper in my hand and said the prayer over and over again during mass, every time I had a bad thought I said it. I probably recited it about 100 times through the 40 minutes of mass. It was exhausting. I was hoping to see the priest at some point today, as this was also a day off for me from work so it would be ideal. However, at the end of mass Father mentioned there was a horrific accident yesterday, and 4 deaths, so he will be busy with the funeral preparations. I didn’t want to disturb him. I felt a bit discouraged not being able to see him right away, but told myself I was doing things according to God’s will not mine, and I felt better again.

As I was leaving church, I suddenly had the thought to sit down on one of the benches outside and wait there for a few minutes. Sounds kind of weird maybe, but when I get thoughts like that, I listen to them… usually something comes of it. Sure enough, after a few minutes, this retired couple who are always at daily mass came out of the church and greeted me. We chatted for a bit and when they discovered I had the day off, they invited me to their home. I spent all day there! I helped them in the garden, and chatted with them for literally hours. They have an amazing garden with several statues of Mary and various saints. What was really amazing though, many of the questions and thoughts that were bothering me… in the course of talking to them, I had my questions answered! Like for instance, my thought that I was wasting the priest’s time… well, they said to me in talking, you know Judith, Father thinks very highly of you. We like you too and we’re glad you’re in our church. It really cheered me to hear that. Eventually I told them about my struggles during mass, and they were like, OH you should speak with Father RIGHT AWAY and they were going to ring him on the phone for me lol. So I said no no its OK I can call him myself. :wink:

I stayed until after supper and when I finally left they insisted on sending me off with more food, borrowed Catholic books of theirs, and even some things for my apartment… I just moved to the city not long ago so my apartment is very bare. They also gave me a prayer card of St. Michael the Archangel.

Then the weirdest part of the day… as I was walking home, I heard someone say “Hello Judith” behind me, and it was my priest! :eek: He was walking home, he lives very near me. So I asked if I could walk with him and he said of course. So I told him everything. He said praying to St. Michael was a very good idea, and that he would personally pray for me also. And that next week we could meet to discuss the rest. He jokingly remarked he didn’t think I needed therapy, as, if I could spend a whole day with the retired couple (who love to talk a LOT), without going a bit crazy, I mustn’t be depressed. :smiley: He did say seriously though that he would discuss everything with me next week.

Anyhow, so I had a very good day! The praying for guidance really paid off, I am amazed! I don’t think its “over” by any means though because I had serious issues tonight again when I tried to say the rosary. But I definitely feel better, and I thank you all once more for your help.

glad to hear you had a great day, judith!.
as for your bare apartment. do you have a crucifix yet?
what about pictures of saints?
as for the pictures, in the interrim, i would find some nice pictures of your favorite saints on the internet, print them out, and “hang” them on the walls.
they will keep you company while you pray at home.
take care

Thanks! Yes, I had a very good day which was very encouraging. And I can’t thank everyone here enough for the suggestions.

I have a small shrine that I set up for myself, I put a couple of prayer cards in frames and have a small statue of Mary, some candles and some holy water in a small bottle. I don’t have a crucifix yet. There is a religious shop nearby and I’m not poor exactly but things are extremely expensive in that shop! The crucifixes I saw started at about the equivalent of 100 USD. I already splurged there buying a couple of books and my rosary… but I like your idea of printing things off the computer. I may do that, especially in my bedroom. I probably should also ask the priest if there’s a cheaper shop somewhere!

Please pay attention to the advice to get a crucifix. If you do not have one already, get one immediately and have your priest bless it. Also you need holy water in your house. Also think about a picture or statue depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Having Saint Joseph there wouldn’t hurt.

Go online and shop.

Yes online is probably a good idea. I think too that shop near me is a bit of a tourist trap, which is probably why its so pricey. I imagine Father would know where things are a little cheaper, there may even be some items at the church I could buy. But thanks for the suggestions, I will do that ASAP.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit