When prayer become a near occasion of sin

Whenever I pray, attend Mass or just simply visit a church I experience intrusive thoughts of a sexual nature about our Lord. At first the thoughts were so unwanted and extremely distressing but after a long period I started to enjoy the thoughts and have actually acted on them.
Attending Mass, even just praying has become a near occasion of sin for me. I am more likely to sin sexually after praying or going to Mass than I am at any other time. In fact, the only times I‘ve sinned sexually in the last six or seven months were after Mass or prayer.
I’ve seen a mental health professional about this issue and was told that it is a form of OCD. I started taking medication for it and was advised to avoid the activity that leads to the distressing thoughts. I don’t experience intrusive thoughts in any other area of my life and I’m not scrupulous. I’ve been on the medication for a while but it doesn’t seem to help. The mental health professional I see isn’t Catholic and seeing someone who is Catholic or Christian isn’t an option for me due to financial issues.
For a few months now I have avoided going to Mass because I determined that missing Mass was better than going to Mass and ending up either in severe psychological distress or sinning sexually. I’ve also stopped praying for the same reason. I was told by a priest that if I missed Mass for psychological reasons it wasn’t a sin.
My relationship with the Lord is understandably suffering greatly because of this and I’ll admit I’m frustrated that the Lord is allowing me to experience these awful thoughts. I don’t know what to do at this point because the things that are supposed to help spiritually (prayer, Mass etc.) present very real near occasions of sin for me.

Fr. Wade Menezes’ “Ten Commandments for the Scrupulous” (not the one from Fr. Thomas Santa, also excellent), #7 says:

If you have prayed at the time of temptation, you can be sure you did not commit a
mortal sin.

fathersofmercy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Ten-Commandments-to-Guard-Against-Scrupulosity.pdf

You may claim you’re not scrupulous, but this “commandment” still holds. The intrusive thoughts themselves are not sinful for as long as you do not consent to them. For as long as you resist them the best you can, there is no sin.

Prayer can NEVER be an occasion of sin, because prayer is your communion with God, and God and sin cannot coexist. And it’s true. While the thoughts are disturbing, they are not sinful, so prayer is not an occasion of sin. But drop your prayer, and I can assure you, you WILL sin.

To the OP… consider this.

In the Song Of Songs our Lord uses extensive and frankly super hot sexual imagery to express His love for us symbolically.

Maybe He is calling you to a deeper relationship with Him than most of us could imagine. Remember that as the Church we are His bride. He is our Husband. This is extremely hard to understand, ESPECIALLY for me as a man.

If you are married… when you and your spouse engage in the marital act you are recreating the sacrament of your marriage, just as we recreate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross when we celebrate the most blessed Sacrament of the Mass. Christ is there in the marriage bed, not interfering, but rather making the marriage bed Holy.

If you are not married… perhaps He is calling you to a deeper vocation than what you presently have. Nuns are brides of our Lord in an even deeper way than we lay members of the Church. Even monks, as brothers of the Lord are His bride in a strangely deeper way than the average believer.

Crazy as this sounds… perhaps he’s just showing his Love in the way you best understand it.

Do not fornicate or do other lewd things during or after prayer, but DO pray. He is trying to tell you something. And as for your suffering, which must be immense, give that to Him. He suffered all the sufferings of the world, past, present, and future, and He bled for YOU. He has already experienced the suffering of this sexual temptation that you have. He’s sharing that suffering with you. And that is SUCH an honour, as horrid as that sounds. So ask him to share in your suffering. He is compassion. He is Love incarnate. He will hear you.

You need to find a regular confessor who can direct you. And I highly suggest finding a Catholic counselor - for you are not simply dealing with a psychological issue that can be addressed secular-ly like overeating or something - but one that involves your life as a Christian in a very theologically pronounced way. We are not permitted here to give medical advice - so what I wish to do is to strongly refer you to a Catholic Therapist and as I noted a regular confessor.

I have heard Catholic Answers staff mention this site and so I saved it to suggest to those in need: catholictherapists.com/ It is very customary for counselors to work with one’s financial situation. So please seek this out. As to scrupulosity - yes that can be part of this - not that OCD is scrupulosity but a person with OCD can have such - and one can be scrupulous even in only very limited areas. And what one describes there is in keeping with such.

Thoughts that occur to one as you describe - that is un-consented thoughts - or as you note intrusive thoughts that one does not want one does not endorse with ones will – are not a sin. So being in a near occasion to such is not being by definition a near occasion of sin.One is not wanting them, one is not consenting to them. For sin there must be consent.

A near occasion of mortal sin is such where one would* generally* falls into mortal sin -one generally commits a mortal sin (or even always!)–or is what is likely to cause one to commit a particular mortal sin now. Due to the nature of thing itself or ones particular weakness. It is not simply temptation and not simply some unwanted thoughts that keep pestering you due to some particular disorder present.

Again get a regular confessor and please seek out other counseling.

You need to find a regular confessor who can direct you. And I highly suggest finding a Catholic counselor - for you are not simply dealing with a psychological issue that can be addressed secular-ly like overeating or something - but one that involves your life as a Christian in a very theologically pronounced way. We are not permitted here to give medical advice - so what I wish to do is to strongly refer you to a Catholic Therapist and as I noted a regular confessor.

I have heard Catholic Answers staff mention this site and so I saved it to suggest to those in need: catholictherapists.com/ It is very customary for counselors to work with one’s financial situation. So please seek this out. As to scrupulosity - yes that can be part of this - not that OCD is scrupulosity but a person with OCD can have such - and one can be scrupulous even in only very limited areas. And what one describes there is in keeping with such.

Thoughts that occur to one as you describe - that is un-consented thoughts - or as you note intrusive thoughts that one does not want one does not endorse with ones will – are not a sin. So being in a near occasion to such is not being by definition a near occasion of sin.One is not wanting them, one is not consenting to them. For sin there must be consent.

A near occasion of mortal sin is such where one would* generally* falls into mortal sin -one generally commits a mortal sin (or even always!)–or is what is likely to cause one to commit a particular mortal sin now. Due to the nature of thing itself or ones particular weakness. It is not simply temptation and not simply some unwanted thoughts that keep pestering you due to some particular disorder that can be present.

Again get a regular confessor and please seek out other counseling.

I do consent to the thoughts. When the thoughts first started happening, I didn’t consent and was extremely distressed by them but as time wore on I gave in and started acting on the thoughts in a sinful way. Now whenever I go to Mass or pray I am tempted to sin and 9 times out of 10, I give in to the temptation. The ONLY times I sin sexually now are after attending Mass or praying. I’m not tempted to sin sexually at any other time.
How can Mass not be an occasion of sin if 9 times out of 10, I sin afterwards? If I don’t go, I don’t sin. So for right now, I don’t go. I realize this is not a long-term solution but I’d rather miss Mass (which I was told by a priest in this case would not be a sin for me) and be free from the guilt of sexual sin than attend Mass and end up sinning. The mental health professional I see thought this approach was a good idea, for now.
I took a look at Catholic therapists website and unfortunately there are no Catholic therapists listed in my area and as I said before, I doubt very much whether I would be able to see a Catholic therapist even if I could find one. I’m very poor.
I do think that finding a regular confessor would be a good idea. I will see if I can find one.

  1. Get a regular confessor and perhaps discuss with your Pastor (who can even dispense you of your obligation to go to Mass if that is part of what needs to be…but I hope this is very temporary…
    There is also 2. Contact “Catholic Charities” - they may have an counselor and can be at little or no cost perhaps. 3. Also discuss with your Confessor or Pastor about all this. 5.We are not permitted to discuss in the forum various modalities for treatment of psychological issues - so let me just note that you can work with your counselor and your Priest (not about confessional matters of course-one would bring it up as a subject outside of confession - I have trouble with thoughts of Z when I do Y) about treatment.

It seems like a good Spiritual Director would be of more benefit than a psychologist in this situation.

I can somehow relate with you…

I went through a very difficult crisis. I have always been praying using Gospel meditation and daily reflection. I used these types of prayers to help me get through the trial. However it worsened everything. The more I reflect and the more I read, the more I feel distressed and get so absorbed with my problem—even to the point of suicidal ideation. IT was really difficult. …I found it so hard to pray even to imagine Jesus is distressing. I even tell him to take me. I knew there is something wrong.

But God showed me another road, through vocal prayers. I believe in the power of this prayer. (My SD doesnt much agree with this) but I have always held on to what St. Teresa of Avila says that the Lord leads souls in different roads…and during that time vocal prayer really helped me (The Sacred Heart of Jesus Novena and the Rosary) I say the words by faith even if I dont think about them much…I say them in faith and good intention…Ofcourse it was powerful…That was the calling at that time.

Now I can practice both prayer…though I’m used to vocal prayer and short prayer imaginations.

I can sense in your cases that the enemy is actively engaged (although there could be perhaps some psychological factors at hand)…An attack on the mass is certainly something. This is your cross…but I encourage do not give up especially on the mass.
Have you gone to confession? Have you asked help from the Lord? Have you asked someone to pray for you? do you have a community or a spiritual director? have you spoken to a priest or nun or a person with such gifts?

Well honestly the best that you could do is really TO PRAY…May God show you the road to get through this trial. I’m sure He will.:slight_smile:

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