Spiritual Direction, Scruples, Vocation, Confession, etc. (Spiritual Situations Q&A on CuriousCat)

Spiritual Direction, Scruples, Vocation, Confession, etc. (Spiritual Situations Q&A on CuriousCat) December 7, 2018

Hands praying over Bible (Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash CC0, Logo by CuriousCat FairUse)
(Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash CC0, Logo by CuriousCat FairUse)

A few weeks ago, I published an intro to the spiritual life Q&A based on questions via my CuriousCat. Well, I promised a follow-up about specific situations in the spiritual life. Here it is. I doubt every question applies to every person but scroll through the questions to see if any fit you and share with friends.

How do you get a spiritual director?

There is no surefire way to get a spiritual director but I’ll give you some general steps.

Method 1
1. Find someone who is holy in a way that’s attractive to you. Maybe a priest you see celebrating the Mass or maybe someone leading a prayer group.
2. Ask them to either be your spiritual director or recommend a spiritual director to you.

Method 2
1. Look around for a spiritual group that attracts you (a movement like Regnum Christi [what I’m involved in], lay Franciscans, etc.).
2. Aak about discerning joining the group & usually they’ll find you a spiritual director.

Method 3
1. Call the diocese or a local retreat center to ask who they have as a spiritual director, or who they recommend.
2. Usually, they’ll have more than 1: try one & if it doesn’t work out, try another.

Method 4
Ask around in Catholic circles…

What advice you would do to help someone whose is struggling with scrupulosity? God bless you, Father!

A few things:
1. Get a good confessor / spiritual director who can tell you when you’re being scrupulous and obey them to not worry about things.
2. Get tested by a psychologist. Scruples is a spiritual malady but often stems from a psychological issue like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

As an exception, the next question is related and similar…

I have scrupulosity/OCD and I’ve been reading extensively on the matter which has helped a lot! I’m wondering if you could recommend a way to examine your conscience? I get that a person with scruples shouldn’t do it any more than 2 or 3 min, but I’m wondering how do I perform it. Also, I’ve been told if I commit a mortal sin, it’ll be clearly obvious like a car crash. What if it’s not that obvious to me?

This seems to be multiple questions combined.

1. I would recommend examining your conscience by looking back at recent days/weeks and seeing what stands out as something wrong. If you need a guide the US bishops offer several.

2. You are right that if scrupulous you shouldn’t spend too long on it.

3. If you are OCD and scrupulous, it will be obvious to you. A mortal sin is hard for a normal person to commit without knowing it but impossible for someone with diagnosed OCD and scruples. It requires grave matter (something really bad), full knowledge (you know it’s really bad) and deliberate consent (you freely chose to do it knowing it was really bad). You WILL know if you did that.

Finally, stay strong in this struggle as scuples are a tough cross to bear.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to stay Catholic while I’m college and in the future? I will be a senior in high school soon!

I’m not a great expert on this but here’s a few ideas & a book.
1. Find a Mass & a Catholic community right away – be part of it. If it is close enough, maybe go out to Mass there a few times while you’re a senior to get to know people.
2. When in doubt about stuff professors or residence deans say, check with the community or us Catholics online.
Book: How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard: Forty Tips for Faithful College Students

What would you say to a person who is aspiring to be a priest? And what are some troubles you have faced while being a priest?

If you are thinking about being a priest there are a few important points:

1. Get a spiritual director

2. Develop a prayer life and ask God to enlighten you

3. Visit seminaries and religious houses for discernment retreats

4. Discern but don’t stay in a “discernment holding pattern” for years.

Most of the troubles being a priest are similar to troubles with any other life. It’s tough to adapt to new circumstances and my first few months in the silence of novitiate were hard. Sometimes obedience is hard. At times, it’s tough to try to live up to expectation but know you can’t fully do so.

When praying, is it either a) useful or b) necessary to know specifically which Person(s) of the Trinity you are addressing? A lot of times I just pray to “God,” and I guess? I’m addressing either the Father or all the Persons at once, but I wonder if it would be better for me to be clear on this point.

Beyond the prayers of Mass & other official liturgies, I generally recommend people pray in the way that draws them closer to God – usually following some general tradition of the Church such as rosary, divine mercy, lectio divina, etc. As far as praying to the Trinity together, to Jesus, to the Father, or to the Spirit, I’d recommend whatever brings you closest to God.

If my spouse converts away from Christianity, do I have to divorce? Is that grounds for divorce?

As Catholics, we understand that divorce is a legal fiction. Once a marriage exists, it keeps existing forever. Nonetheless, divorce is sometimes advisable such as when someone turns violent and the state gives the victim more protection if there is a divorce.

On its own, I see no reason that a person becoming non-Christian would be grounds for divorce. You can be there and sanctify them, hopefully bringing them back to the faith.

I feel like my Confessions have been primarily motivated out of fear of Hell than love for God, does this mean I have to reconfess my sins? How can I go from mostly fearing hell to loving God?

If you were sorry for your sins and confessed them you are good even if you did so out of fear of hell. Theologians actually explain one of the effects of confession as transforming things like that to a salvific contrition.

Sidenote: In my personal life, I am writing a grad theology thesis on confession. The discussions leading to the clear teaching of Trent on this matter are interesting but far beyond the level of this Q&A.

Concluding Notes

I will have a third which is more about Catholic teaching, not prayer. If you want the spiritual basics again, here it is.

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