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Catholic Spiritual Direction

I am struggling with resentment towards the Church, what should I do?

February 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Forgiveness

Dear Dan, I have been Catholic for three years now, and am very grateful for the gift of faith. However, I have recently been struggling with resentment towards the Church – feeling that there are too many demands, hardships, that too much is being asked of me. How does one combat resentment?

Dear Friend, welcome home! I am sorry to hear about your suffering. Immediately after reading your question, Jesus’ call to rest came to mind:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

These words are worth reading slowly. They show the great compassion that Christ has for us. He knows that we live heavily burdened by many things and he offers to free us from them. However, coming to this freedom is a path of allowing Christ to unravel the things that bind us to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and keep us from the perfect freedom that he has for us.

When we experience emotions like resentment toward the very instruments of grace and the means of the grace and love of Christ (the Church), then we know something is askew in our souls. But what is the source?

Sometimes when we feel a burden that is too great, it might be that we have placed more upon our shoulders than Christ has asked of us – a yoke that he has not assigned to us. This can happen when new disciples in their fervency attempt to conquer too many things at once. Jesus gives us the strength to carry whatever burdens we must in order to find the freedom and healing he offers to us. However, when we take on more than he has asked of us, we become weighed down, burdened, and our progress slows to an even more frustrating pace.

There are also cases where we have patterns of personal challenges that were present outside of our faith and then resurface in our relationship with God. For example, if we have had one or more parents that were more task rather than nurture oriented, we might also envision God as a taskmaster. In this case, the oppression we feel is not rooted in Christ but in our own expectations and in the roles that comfortably replicate the relational patterns of our childhood.

Then, there is the weight of our own sins. Sin obscures reality – like a fog that clouds our ability to see the truth. Depending on the density of the fog, we can easily lose our way and find ourselves in a spiritual wreck. This clouding of the soul can also yield affection for things we should not desire and repulsion for the very things that offer us true healing and rest.

A final possible source is the enemy of our souls himself. I shared your question with my wife and she pointed me to a quote from Father Adolph Tanquerey. In this brief quote he summarizes a reflection from St. Ignatius’ second rule of discernment regarding what happens when a soul turns to God:

When it is a question of souls that have sincerely returned to God, the devil excites in them sadness, torments of conscience, and creates all manner of difficulties in order to make them lose heart and halt their advance. The good spirit, on the contrary, inspires them with courage, energy and good thoughts to make them grow in virtue. By the fruits then will the tree be judged; whatever hinders progress comes from the evil one, whatever promotes it proceeds from God. (Spiritual Life: 953)

It is important to understand that Father Tanquerey assumes that we are operating from the standpoint of an authentic, even if yet imperfectly lived, embrace of Church teaching. Sometimes people judge things as “good” and from God because they make them feel good or feel like they are making progress. However, there is never real progress when living in willful opposition to the truths of God and thereby to God himself.

So, these are a few ways to evaluate our struggles though they might not be exactly on target for you. Regardless, it would be wise for you to take this to confession. During your confession, openly share your angst with your priest and ask for some insight into why you might be feeling this way. I suspect that you will find your way free of this battle (at least for a time) if you confront it without hesitation.

Be assured of my prayers, and the prayers of the many good people who frequent this site.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • judeen

    in our smaller churchs there is alot of things to do , and if your organized it seems a person gets all the choirs …. it is not that one does not want to do them , which is true.. but the church is everyone one not just 10 people.. the devil comes into this.. wearing out the people who are deep in faith also . those who want control instead of faith.. are sometimes put in charge … keep your faith simple.. what you enjoy, and helps you go in faith keep.. or really seems to help others.. let the rest go.. there is more busy work instead of bible studies and reliogous things going on.. more making feeding the pocket and body than feeding the soul… even if one wants to bring in speakers or have retreats , these are denied do not know why… not even tryed.. when you say no others have to give… maybe it is time for the whole church to do Gods work.. or they have to say no to the busy work… remember if they ask for money all the time , faith is not their 1st priority… and things need to change

  • Germinasekito

    Well done Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction!

     Resentment may be unresolved anger  someone has  against the   a person in case the church; that is the group of the followers of Jesus Christ the only son of God, for some certain reasons which he/she may know  which may be misinterpretation of church tradition;   (am trying to say;  he may be having some misconception towards the faith .  In this way you may find  someone says,”I do not want catholics, they adore the statutes!”  Or someone was a catholic and deserted the faith and now has anger against the church, due to some misinterpreted piece of church traditions.  And to some  extent a person may be a believe but has anger to the church because of the blames he/she puts on the church leaders.  Such things may tie down the faith of that person and loses a good vision towards  the church more especially if does not forgive himself  and fixes the eyes to  Jesus Christ on the Cross. Germina

     

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    Thank you, Dan for your encouraging  response to this new Member to our “Family”.  This sentence, to me, strikes me as the source of our friend’s resentment. “… 
    This can happen when new disciples in their fervency attempt to conquer too many things at once”….your advice that he/she takes the worry to the Confessor is spot on. Many a time, we do find solutions to our problems in the Confessional when we seek advice, even before one goes to one’s SD. I would encourage our new Family Member to remember that in the Confessional, it is Jesus Himself Whom we encounter…..the Priest is just His medium and I have no doubt Jesus will be there to comfort and show the way.  My prayers are guaranteed….it is the reason why we love this Website where we are nurtured in our Faith, where we build one another, encourage one another, and walk hand in hand on our journey to Eternity.  

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Well said Mary

  • Kephas

    Eloquently expressed Dan.

    The passage from Matthew flows with compassion. As the Gospel readings have reminded us, The Lord will heal the brokenhearted. The compassion of Christ is often the sanctuary of our souls. The antiphon from the intercessions for Vespers on Monday, week 1 (OT) lifts up the voice of the Church pleading for The Lord’s compassion: ‘Lord, bless your people’.

    Thank you for this post.

  • judeen

    i sounded kind of angry yesterday.. sorry,, i guess I am… so many in my family left the church . they were right about why they left.. yet too it was because of old wounds and selfish reasons.. church is for you and God.. and we have to stand up against abuse of things.. that is why we need to talk.. to stand up and expose the devil working and stealing faith… we go to church to worship God and also to love thy neighbor.. Jesus was angry over turning the tables.. for a reason… if we want people to come back we need to right the  wronges and put God 1st in everything.. and help each other grow in love

  • sue

    This is very helpful.  I also don’t understand why we are encouraged to make reparation for this or that, when others (whom I believe will also be saved) seem to just cruise…

    • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

      Sue, you wonder why we are called to do reparation for others.  I hope this extract, from the Holy Father’s Lenten Message for this year answers your question : 

      “The Lord’s disciples, united with him through the Eucharist, live in a fellowship that binds them one to another as members of a single body. This means that the other is part of me, and that his or her life, his or her salvation, concern my own life and salvation. Here we touch upon a profound aspect of communion: our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse.  Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension.  This reciprocity is seen in the Church, the mystical body of Christ: the community constantly does penance and asks for the forgiveness of the sins of its members, but also unfailingly rejoices in the examples of virtue and charity present in her midst.As Saint Paul says: “Each part should be equally concerned for all the others” (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body.” You can find the full Message in yesterday’s Romereports

  • Brenda Montague

    Thank
    you for writing about this.  I too am
    struggling with resentment, bitterness, and anger toward my local parish church.  I was away from the Catholic church for 25
    years and now back after so much time in evangelical protestant churches and
    buddhist temples I found my local parish to be cold, prickly, unloving, and
    outright unfriendly.  I’ve been back
    there since last April and I’ve had to force myself to keep going back week
    after week in obedience and to continue praying for them.  I go daily Mass at churches near my office or
    when I’m travelling and I have to say that I haven’t found much love and
    welcome in the Catholic church anywhere I’ve gone – but that cool distance and
    space is what drew me back to the Catholic church in 2008 while serving in the
    military.  I was tired of the fake showy
    hypocritical hugging in the protestant services I found consistent on military
    installations in my travels.  I liked the
    Catholic services, being able to come in, go to the service, and leave without
    having to explain my salvation story that protestants seem to have some
    compulsion to ask about.  It’s so
    tiresome.  Salvation.  Sigh. Why do I have to prove my relationship
    with Jesus Christ to almost every protestant I meet?  I felt as though I should ask them, some new protestant
    at some gospel service on the local military installation, who I just met a
    minute ago, if I tell you my long winding path that includes all of my pain and
    anguish, my personal revelations, then does that somehow make me valuable to
    you and your church that I’m visiting this morning or somehow make me a REAL
    christian?  Perhaps more valid and deserving
    of your prayers? 

     

    My
    last priest while I was deployed told me that upon my return home I should find
    my local parish, attend, give, and where I found problems, I should fix them.  Obedience. 
    Love as an action.  It’s
    difficult.  I’ve been confessing it, and
    that has helped.  I also realized that I
    was behaving like a bad spouse – I choose to stay in the relationship, am vocal
    about that, but I’m also not forgiving, and I’m continuing to complain about
    the other to anyone who will listen.  It
    happens the other in this relationship is my local parish.  How can love grow when all I’m doing is
    tearing down the one I’m supposed to love? 
    A great protestant pastor once explained that much like a hospital is
    full of sick people seeking to get well, a church is full of sinners seeking
    direction and healing.  My role there in
    this relationship is to love, obey, serve, and make the situation better.  I am hopeful that our new focus on
    evangelization will help our local churches grow into places that are loving
    and welcoming for others when they come home or come to visit for the very
    first time.

     

    So
    now here at home, when I find myself distracted by some of the feelings of
    resentment and anger I have for the people who have made me feel rejected and
    unwelcome, I pray specifically for them. 
    I have also started praying through the Litany of Humility (http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/humility.htm)
    and I have added some
    things I need to be delivered from.  I
    know the enemy would have me walk away when Jesus calls me to love and
    stay.  I will stay, work for change, and get
    inside the heads and hearts of the people I need to love there.  I will love my church, and with God’s help, I
    will make it a more loving place for others.

  • Ray

    In Matthew 10:41 Jesus is very direct and clear, saying, “Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger will share in his reward.  And whoever welcomes a good man because he is a good, will share in his reward.”  God’s messengers surround us but we must listen with an open heart. 

    Resentment is the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.  When that feeling begins to surface. try to replace that feeling by immediately saying to yourself, “I forgive you.” But, try to say it slowly and softly as you  breathe, saying, “I forgive” as you inhale, pause and then saying, “you” as you exhale.  It works for me in less than 90 seconds. +++

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Great insight.

  • Greg J. Esser

    I feel that “demands and hardships” are, of course, an individual thing. I think it would be good to evaluate whether these are “temporal and of this earth” or are you talking about the “spiritual” demands, etc? A lot of churchs are so focused on our temporal activities that it sometimes feels that they are the only importance of that partucular church. If that’s the case, step back, look at what you are being asked to do and if these are all items like attending dinners, music groups, doing fund raising, preparing food at the church, etc, etc Then it is time to back out and focus on you and God. Pray to Christ for his guidance and don’t let this destroy or weaken your faith, afterall it is faith that we need to get to the New Earth, not temporal involvement.

  • Mollie

    I would encourage the reader to take heart, that God always “meets us where we’re at” and guides us gently. He doesn’t push and prod us along the path to salvation. Be as gentle with yourself as God is with you!

  • maren

    This is clearly an attack from the evil one…here are some of the tools I use when I can feel an attack coming on. I say, “I rebuke you satan in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and my Savior”, “Jesus I trust in You”, I ask for the intercession of Mary and pray a Hail Mary. If you practice this can happen all in one breath. Also, praying to God for His grace will build your faith which, in turn will open your heart to His love. He wants you to love Him and His church He gave to us.

  • Betsy

    If you are a new convert, and an adult, you come with “baggage'”…Just as you would come to a marriage.  The past is something we bring with us.  Christ calls us out of the World; we are to live in it as citizens of Heaven.  This is something that we must first understand; and then work toward.  It is a process, beginning with the voluntary laying-down of our own wants, or surrendering of our will, in order to strive to give God our whole self and obey His will for us.  There is so much that hinders us in these times, that did not exist when Christ came 2 millenia ago. And yet it wasn’t easy even then…

    It gets easier if and when we put Him firmly first, and decide to love and serve Him above everything else.  But if we become Catholic as just one more dimension of our busy life, we will live with “irreconcilable differences” and find ourselves incompatible, just as many do who rush into marriage without proper preparation. 

  • Mary W

    What I find helpful is a simple recognition of the fact that the life of a Christian is supposed to be hard, but not without the grace to survive and even be blessed by that difficulty.  When we choose to follow Christ with our entire being, we also need to be prepared to follow Him to the Cross, but we can never forget that after the Cross comes the Resurrection.  I think of Sirach 2: “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials…”  yet through walking close to him in obedience and trial, we have every reason to “hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.”  This whole chapter of Sirach 2 is well worthy of slow meditation when one finds life to be hard, particularly when the burden seems to be caused by one’s choice to follow Christ. 

    You, know, what’s strange is that when I saw the title of this message, I thought it would go in a completely different direction, for I, too, am struggling with some resentment toward the Church, but of a completely different nature.  My resentment actually comes from almost the opposite direction. I get so frustrated when many in our clergy and/or diocesan staff, etc., fail to embrace all that the Church proposes to us as good and true.  In a false compassion, they all too often let us off the hook on the more difficult teachings, say on contraception.  Yes, some of the teachings of the Church are challenging, but when we look closely at the reasons behind them and pray for the docility to embrace them, much fruit is borne not only in our own our lives, but in the Church and the culture at large.

  • martin

    Well, this sounds familiar, I am sure we all develop some kind of resentment at times, what is more important is to explore where that is coming from. Then I think there is a need to look teh fact that nothing is going to be easy… be it faith, marriage, church work, one’s career, we reach a point where we develop cold feet, it is part of the human condition.  Again as some hinted, the devil rejoices when we slide or when we want to give up, it is the greatest temptation that he uses, to let us give up, to think this is too. Matter of fact, if you start feeling like quitting, it is because you are doing well, and so that spirit of resentment and discouragement comes in and all the gains will be lost, so as St. Paul says in Thessalonians, never grow tired of doing what is right.  Martin s.c.

  • Clare Northern

    It is true, today Our Church bears many scars and lacerations. Criticisms and attacks upon Her have Never merited Her Restoration, Sanctification nor Her Purification. No, I choose to Love Her in His Light and through Her Darkness so that My Lord can guide Her Feet into the Way of His Peace.

    God has asked Prayers for The Church today, more to adjust you to God than adjust God to you. In the Church today, is better to have an understanding what God is about to do, than to tell God what you want to do for It. For when God speaks He always accomplishes His Purposes and what He initiates He Always completes.

    Clare

  • Claire

    Your answers are excellent, Dan!  God bless you and your wife! Pray God’s special blessing be upon  our beloved “Burdened  Questioner!”
     

  • Glennann

    Keep fighting the battle and never give up.