Struggling with my faith after something my aunt said


I hope this is the right category, I wasn’t sure where to post this. I have an aunt who is a nun. I’ve always had a great relationship with her and she’s always been very supportive of me, especially with my ongoing illness, and since my mother died. Recently she visited me in the hospital and I started talking to her about the scandals in the Church and how I’m struggling with them. I was hoping she would have some words of encouragement for me, because I feel kind of lost in it all, and I’m trying to be a good Catholic. But what my aunt said really surprised me… she told me that the Church is just a “container” that some people use to get to God, but that all religions are just man made.

I’m 21, I’m an adult so obviously I can choose to believe what I want and not listen to my aunt if I don’t agree with her, but what she said really devastated me. I never realized she didn’t believe in the Church. She does belong to a really modern congregation but I still thought she was a regular Catholic. Now I feel really dumb and naive, and kind of disillusioned, because she’s a spiritual director and I’ve always asked her advice about spiritual matters, especially since my mother died.

Its been about 2 weeks since this happened, and I don’t seem to be getting over it. I find that I alternate between doubting my faith, being angry with my aunt, and have so much trouble praying. I used to say a rosary every day, and do about 30 minutes of meditation, but now I’m struggling with praying at all because if its all just a “container” like my aunt says, then are my prayers worthless? Am I just wasting my time? Like what’s the point of being Catholic, or any religion at all, if she’s right? A lot of the time now, when I try to pray, even if I pray to God to help me deal with this, I just start crying and feel like I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. I really love the Church and I want to believe in it. Its helped me a lot through my illness. I know I could go talk to a priest about this, but I’m scared he’s going to tell me the same thing as my aunt and then I will feel even worse. I’m not sure what to do, I just feel so terrible.


The only thing you can do now is continue your obedience to God while praying the chaplet of divine mercy for your aunt.


Thanks yes, I’ve been trying to pray for her, though I’m still really upset about it, so its been hard. But maybe you’re right and I should just concentrate on that. I’ve actually never used the Divine Mercy chaplet before but I will start now.


Maybe it is a sign you need another spiritual director? One that brings more trouble and strife to me while I am ill would not be one I keep.


She is very much wrong. Keep praying for her.

Sadly, being a nun or a priest doesn’t mean they will always be right. Especially some nuns that do belong to modern organizations can end up pretty out there. It may be she didn’t always hold those beliefs, but was poisoned by a bad environment.

Maintain a close relationship with her, but go with a different spiritual director.


I’m in a similar boat.

These days if asked I’ll self describe as a Catholic Christian, but deep down I’m more agnostic.

I love both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis so deeply however, and I respect them both as massive towering figures of both intellect and charity… To me the PE and Pope are proof Jesus is real. And I also know for a fact that Jesus existed and his story is true, and also that of the great Apostles like Paul.

This brings me great comfort and hope.

Also, read the Scriptures.

Also, ask your aunt to clarify what she meant. Maybe there is much more nuance to what she was saying and you’ve been perturbed these past weeks over a simple misunderstanding.


Your aunts opinion was that all religions are just containers,
She didn’t say there is no God…big difference.

We know better don’t we, our prayers are heard, God is in heaven and your faith is sound. There will be other tests in your life I’m sure as we all are tested by this world and by people. Our Lord Jesus gave us the Catholic Church to help save our souls, rejoice in that.


It is possible that your aunt has her own struggles, and her comment might come from that, so I agree that praying for her is a salutary move. We can often get through our own issues by praying for others to get through theirs.

Additionally, I would like to say, if you would permit one such as I: Do not despair! Though we have our particular disagreements, running the race is worth it in and of itself. Besides, there is enough historical evidence to convince at least me of the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, and thus the veracity of the Christian faith, making the qiestion of pointlessness moot. When in doubt, cling to the foot of the Cross: Go to Mass, hear the Word of God read and preached, and receive, when able, the holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Additionally, I have found the prayer rope to be a great benefit, praying “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” for myself and “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on [name]” for someone else.


She’s not really my spiritual director, but yeah I guess I have been using her that way since she is one. Not anymore though, you’re right. It was really upsetting and we actually got into a fight at the hospital and the nurse asked her to leave. :cry:


Thanks yes, I’m going to pray for her and try to talk to someone else about my doubts.


Well firstly, yes pray for your aunt. Remember also that it’s possible you are taking what your aunt said out of context or putting your own spin on it, that’s making you upset. So can you speak to her about what upset you? is it possible you misunderstood it. Ask her what she means?
Also she may have been having a bad day/week/year. Have you ever heard of spiritual dryness? something people even, in fact especially, spiritual people go through at various points when they feel like God has abandoned them. It is possible she is or has been going through this. It may also be that the scandals have caused her to feel great distress and spiritual sickness too.

Your prayers are not worthless (you may be going through spiritual dryness your self - this is a time of testing, where God is in fact closer than ever, some say so close that you are blinded by His light and that’s why you can’t feel or see Him) . God hears every single one of your prayers, even before you say them, so keep on saying them, He loves to hear them. Keep believing in the Church, these are testing times for all of us. We are being tested just like Jesus said we would be, for love of Him. Read the gospels in the Bible and you will see. If you are struggling to do that, then watch the gospels in movie form (you can also pray the rosary on you tube with music or without which might help you concentrate) . Here’s a link to one of the Gospels (matthew) if you want to watch it…it’s pretty long but maybe watch 1/2hr each day or if you are ill and have nothing better to do then as long as you can manage. God bless


Thanks, I understand where you’re coming from, especially lately! I have been reading Matthew the last few days, specifically Matthew 5-7, because I’m trying to make a total consecration to Mary and those chapters are recommended for the first 12 days. I find though that when I’m reading the chapters, I struggle with obsessing over what my aunt said. But in those chapters, Jesus doesn’t really seem to agree with her, so… I’m going to keep reading.

I didn’t mention it in my initial post but I did ask her further what she meant, and she something to the effect that people need containers, rules and regulations when they are young, but when you are mature you let go of all that. Then she said I wasn’t 5 years old anymore so I should understand that, which made me angry. We ended up having an argument over it, the nurse asked her to leave, and I haven’t really spoken to her since. She did text me yesterday to ask how I’m feeling since being discharged, and I replied that I was feeling a bit better but she didn’t mention our fight and neither did I. I feel kind of distant / detached from her right now.


Your aunt is wrong.

Unfortunately, many members of religious orders who joined in the decades prior to 2000 - which I’m guessing includes your aunt based on your own age and the role she has been playing in your life - have had many “modern” ideas about religion which do not conform to the teachings of the Church and are often not helpful to others. Members of religious orders also have their own doubts and issues with religion and this can spill over into their discussions with others.

It sounds like your aunt went down a bit of a wrong track in her beliefs about Catholicism some years ago. It’s true that the Church is run by human men and therefore is going to have to deal, on an ongoing basis, with the errors that its human leaders might make. However, the Church came from Jesus, who is God, not from men. The Church also is not to be lumped in with “all religions” and especially not by a member of a religious order.

It’s a bit upsetting that your aunt is a spiritual director and therefore is not only influencing you but perhaps is leading others astray, but we can’t do much about that except pray for her.

I agree you should maintain a close family relationship with your aunt, but seek another spiritual director. Perhaps try taking your questions to the parish priest or hospital chaplain.


Well first off you yourself need to learn about the Faith. I was going to suggest asking her questions like ‘what Church is Jesus talking about in Scripture?’ and ‘according to Jesus, who is the final arbitrator when we have disagreements?’ (answer…the Church)

But if you don’t know the answers or have doubts then you need to focus on yourself for now.


Yes its possible I misunderstood her, I am wondering that now. But we did talk about it a bit more at the time, though I got angry and so did she, it turned into an argument. So things might have been said in anger that weren’t really meant. But basically she said that when you are a child, you think of things in terms of black and white, so the rules and regulations of a Church container are needed. But when you are mature spiritually you let go of whatever religion you were born into and its just about God. And she said she didn’t believe in salvation through the Catholic Church. She told me to look up the meaning of “sensus fidelium” and that when I did so I would realize that the Church needs to change, and that I wasn’t 5 years old anymore so I needed to realize this stuff. But then everything kind of deteriorated into a fight, so… I’ve actually never really fought with her about anything so that in itself was upsetting.

Thanks for what you’ve said about spiritual dryness, I will check out the video. I’m definitely going through something, and yeah maybe my aunt is too. I really don’t want to be upset with her, and I don’t want this to jeopardize our relationship. I think part of the issue too is just that it was HER that said it… I mean, if it was just some random person I probably wouldn’t have cared as much. But I’ve always trusted and admired her, maybe I need to start having a more adult relationship with her now.


Don’t lose sight of what’s important.

In God’s Presence (paradise/heaven) there is no distinction between Catholic and Protestant or Buddhist and Muslim… Just God and His Creations.

Love and forgiveness trump theological disputes over what the Church is or isn’t every time.


I’m 100% convinced there are souls in Hell who in this life were devout Catholics - some even Popes - and then there are souls in Heaven who in this life were lukewarm Buddhists or devout Muslims.

Think of how many “devout” Catholics lived in say the 1300’s yet who were incredibly evil, torturing and killing humans like bugs.

Then think how many lukewarm or cultural Jews and Muslims have been slaughtered as innocent lambs in the 20th century.

Is the Almighty mocked? Can you “cheat” to win salvation? Would God be the Just Judge if he brought the torturer who received Last Rites into Paradise while condemning the Jewish children killed in Auschwitz? IMO, absolutely not.

God takes belief into account during his judgment, but words and deeds play a bigger role in his judgments than beliefs and/or thoughts.

I sincerely believe that.


Yes, that’s right. I haven’t learned my catechism as well as I could, though I’m working on it. I have started reading on the Vatican website since this happened, and got out my catechism, which I’ve never really read much until now. A lot of what my aunt had said to me over the years contradicts what I’m reading there. We did talk more at the hospital but it ended up being a fight and I found it so upsetting that I don’t really want to talk to her about it anymore. Not to mention, she’s very knowledgeable, has degrees in theology, etc, so she has an answer for everything. And I don’t trust what she says now.


I just read this that you posted, and your other post where you said she talked about Sensus Fidelium and not needing the Church.

This to me sounds like maybe your aunt is having her own spiritual struggles with her beliefs, with the Church, maybe even with her decision to continue in her order. Presumably even if it’s the most modern of orders it has “rules and regulations”, and members of orders can get very worked up over those things (throughout history this has happened repeatedly). I have seen a lot of sisters who really do not like the idea of a Church run by men telling them what to do, and they trash the Church, a lot, and push a “me and Jesus, the Church is irrelevant and old hat” sort of philosophy while remaining nominally Catholic sisters.

This, especially the part about “you’re not 5, you should know that” also reminds me of a sister I knew in high school who was one of the religion teachers. She was also a very modern sister. Most of the sisters who taught at that school were pretty good people who ran the gamut from very traditional older ladies in full habits, to modern sisters in pantsuits or skirts and sweaters, but this particular sister seemed to constantly be trying to poke holes in our beliefs, and we were only about 15 years old when we were in her class. She would drop some bombshell like telling us Genesis was all made up and when some of the girls reacted with shock, she’d laugh and say, “Surely at your age you don’t take all those stories seriously.” I didn’t like her and had a bit of an attitude in her class and she didn’t like me either. She seemed to me to be an unhappy person - I suspect maybe she didn’t like teaching in the classroom and was more interested in doing a ton of social justice stuff, which now that she is elderly she spends all her time doing according to a recent newspaper article I read.


Sounds like heresy to me from a Catholic POV.

It’s not that you no longer need the Church or its moral guidelines and rules when you become mature, but rather you learn how to apply them in a more fair and rational way, and you learn to see the grey areas and reality of life.

The Church is great for giving people ideals to live up to, but people in the Church also have to have the wherewithal to understand that unless they are Jesus or Mary, they will fail time after time to live up to those ideals.

We don’t discard the ideals because they are too hard to live up to, rather we pick ourselves back up by Grace and give it another shot to live up to those exalted ideals.

Jesus and Mary are the only two who lived those ideals perfectly to a T in every way, and we look at them as examples to emulate in our own lives.

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