Severe spiritual dryness. I need help

I have these episodes where I go through extreme feelings of despondency because I feel like I’m not adequately equipped to fully defend the faith. It’s a strange feeling. I’ve constantly gone back and forth with intellectual issues. I have this compulsive tendency to develop new theological arguments, defend certain issues, and research objections. It’s exhausting, and I’m never at peace. For instance, if I may see a transgender student at campus I suddenly start going through my mind, trying to find arguments for the Church’s teachings on sexuality, answering hypothetical objections, and determining how I would approach arguments against the Church’s teaching.

Treat people like people, and trust in God to guide you when the time comes. Don’t force yourself into situations that stress you out. Relax, and breathe.

Ditto: TheAmazingGrace. Praying that you will find peace.

You don’t need to defend the faith. Instead, you’re probably trying to defend your own ego.
I don’t know, you’ll have to examine yourself honestly on this.

If faith for you is an intellectual exercise, rather than a relationship with Jesus Christ, I would suggest focusing on the latter.

Faith is from God, not from our own doing. It is God’s revelation of himself, however that may happen.

Our job is to be open to God, so that he can reveal himself to us as he knows we will be able to understand.

Jim

Worshipping God is easy when blessed with God’s grace, but it is tested when we become dry. It’s common, and many saints go through it.

PSALM 42
1 For the leader. A maskil of the Korahites.
2 As the deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
3 My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
When can I enter and see the face of God?
4 My tears have been my bread day and night,
as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”
5 Those times I recall
as I pour out my soul,
When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One,
to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of thanksgiving,
with the multitude keeping festival.
6 Why are you downcast, my soul;
why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God.
7 My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I remember you
From the land of the Jordan and Hermon,
from Mount Mizar,
8 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your torrents,
and all your waves and breakers
sweep over me.
9 By day may the LORD send his mercy,
and by night may his righteousness be with me!
I will pray to the God of my life,
10 I will say to God, my rock:
“Why do you forget me?
Why must I go about mourning
with the enemy oppressing me?”
11 It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,
when they say to me every day: “Where is your God?”
12 Why are you downcast, my soul,
why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God
.

To build upon Jim’s fine words, researching apologetics really should be a means to an end. Knowledge should be a way that we can dispose ourselves to cooperating with God’s grace. But if we make knowledge an end in itself, then all we’re doing is cheating ourselves out of a sincere relationship with Jesus.

I would also add that what you describe might be venially sinful, or at least an imperfection.

We are not under any sort of obligation to pursue knowledge that is beyond our state in life. Getting caught up in nuances of theology, for example (when we lack the proper training as well as the proper need), could be a desire for the pleasure of fulfilling curiosity, which in this case can be a vice. It can also come from a lack of humility, and from a desire to usurp more authority for ourselves than is truly owed to us.

So yes, if you’re not pursuing love for Jesus, and if you’re indulging imperfections, the natural result might be the sort of dryness you mention. To echo something Mother Angelica once said, people can be so overly intellectual these days that they lose all of their heart. It’s almost as if they’re robotic. But Jesus doesn’t want us to be robots, He wants us to be as children, trusting Him and relying on Him and loving Him with all of our hearts. If the mind isn’t freeing the heart, then it’s simply indulging itself.

That’s not dryness. Dryness is the sense that you and God are not communicating with one another. I have to endorse everything here that Jim says, in that this is likely not so much about God as it is about you. For instance, I see a lot about apologetics, which anyone with an intellectual aptitude may learn, but little about prayer and little about the action of grace in your soul. Indeed, you admit that you’re “never at peace.”

I get a sense, Yosef, that you need to get out of yourself and detach from the desire to defend the faith. When this feeling comes back, just stop and say an Our Father or a Hail Mary very slowly, much the way a child would. It might be wise to speak also to your confessor about your prayer life. Lastly, the semestre will end soon. Go on retreat to a quiet monastery or religious house. That can do a lot to quiet your mind again, to the point where you can listen, and not simply speak.

You’re probably right. My anxiety about not being able to properly defend the faith partly stems from a fear of looking stupid in front of others. It also stems from a desire to prove to myself that I have the Truth. I feel like Lewis in A Grief Observed, where he talks about his faith being like a house of cards, something easy to knock down. That is a huge worry of mine–that my faith isn’t strong enough. I want to be devout, I want to be a saint, but I struggle with these intellectual issues, trying to prove to myself that my faith is strong.

I can tell you that my desire to pursue theological knowledge does not originate from a need to fulfill curiosity, rather it comes from a fear that my faith isn’t strong enough. Whenever I encounter an objection to the faith, I tirelessly look for arguments against said objection. I pray to be “a burning saint.” I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being set on fire by the Holy Spirit, yet I feel too cold and–as Mother Angelica would put it–robotic.

It’s funny that you mention that, because someone I know suggested that I could go to a monastery for awhile. I just want to be done doubting. I doubt so much.

Those sentences in bold tell me a lot. Yosef, are you looking at the Catholic faith as an intellectual exercise or as an encounter with Jesus Christ as a living Person, or in Pope Benedict’s words, “an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason?” This comes from one of the loftiest thinkers of his day and a man whom we might someday refer to as a Doctor of the Church.

If I could recommend any reading to you, it wouldn’t be apologetics–or dogmatic or moral theology, liturgical rubrics, or canon law for that matter. None of that can dispel your doubts. Consider instead the words of our beloved Pontiff Emeritus: w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html.

I think you’re right. There was a time, early on in my faith, when I saw the Church as a catalyst for good feelings. I thought prayer was supposed to make me feel good, or eating the Eucharist was supposed to give me a sort of ecstasy. I eventually realized that feelings can be misleading and I started to look at the Church as a wealth of knowledge that I needed to conquer. When it comes to theology, philosophy, and history, the Church is a banquet for the intellect–and this is how I view Her. I suppose, somewhere along my intellectual journey, I’ve objectified the Church, seeing Her as an impersonal library of thought. This is why I feel so disconnected.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been fascinated by the devoutness of the saints. I see now that all my intellectual endeavors, my dozens of books on Church history, philosophy, teaching, theology, are not what makes a saint. The reason Aquinas wrote–the reason why he sought to use his brilliant mind–was because he was in love with God and His Church. All the great Catholic intellectuals, they think because they love. That’s where I went wrong several years ago when I first rekindled by Catholic faith, I wasn’t in love.

There is nothing wrong with thinking how you would approach someone with a problem. Just remember that we can"t play God and Savior. The best arguments will convert no one. If the occasion arises you can share your beliefs, and point the way. You can express a loving concern for the individual tactfully, and just simply be a friend. We need to discern how far we can go in leading people to Christ. Some may be receptive, and some may not. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you As long as you are motivated by love for God, and love for neighbor you are on the right track. You may be too dependent on yourself, and your judgement and not on God. We are all vulnerable, because we are human Pray for me to follow my own advice.

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