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Catholic Spiritual Direction

No More Passion for Life

April 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Fr. Bartunek, Suffering

Dear Father John, ten years ago my husband left me after 25 years. We had been together since we were 15 and had three Artemisia_Gentileschi Mary Magdalene 2 Wikimedia commonsboys. But one day he just said he wasn’t happy, met someone else, got remarried and had two children. One of my sons is in a job full of serious risks. I get sick to my stomach with worry about him, along with feeling terrible confusion about my life in general. But then I feel miserable that my trust in God is not strong enough to see me through this. It’s okay for a while, and then I give in to this feeling of despair. I don’t know what’s wrong. I feel like life is passing by and I know God wants something of me but I don’t know what. I work forty hours a week and have to commute for three hours every day. I get home so tired, and I can’t do much more than just plop onto the couch. I have no passion for life anymore. Everyone tells me I just need to move on, and that God will take care of me if I just trust in him, but no one tells me how. Can you?

The most important thing for you to remember is that you are not alone. You have not been alone. God is with you, has been with you, and will never leave your side. And his accompaniment is not just generic. He actually knows what you are suffering. He too was unfairly abandoned; he too lived a daily life full of toil and repetition, for thirty years; he too felt the absence of his Father while he was dying on the cross. You are not alone. He is with you.

SPIRITUAL DARKNESS

In a sense, you have been going through a season of spiritual darkness. You have felt a certain helplessness in the face of the challenges and disappointments that are pressing down upon you. When God permits seasons of darkness, he works in hidden ways within them, purifying our souls, detaching us from passing realities that we were hoping would make us happy. Only God can make us happy. Not even a perfect marriage (if there were such a thing) or perfectly successful children (if that were possible) can fill the God-shaped hole that we have in our hearts; only God can do that.

To move forward in this season of darkness will require at least three things from you, I think, though it is really hard for me to get a full picture only through email. I can only make a few general suggestions.

NO LONE RANGERS

First, you need fellowship. We are not meant to walk the path of Christian discipleship all by ourselves. We need friendships and support from people who share our faith. We need to offer that support and to receive that support. Christians are not meant to be lone rangers. We are members of a body, the Church, and we need to stay connected with that body. Sunday Mass is the absolute minimum, but in today’s secular and aggressively anti-Christian culture, that is almost never enough. I would encourage you to reach out, to look for a place where you can go on retreat or a pilgrimage, or plug into a parish Bible study, or get involved in some kind of ongoing Catholic education or faith-sharing team. I will also ask God to open some doors in this area for you. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us isolated.

INTIMACY WITH THE LORD

Second, you need to keep making an effort to grow in your intimate friendship with Jesus Christ. He really does want to show you how much he loves you, how much you mean to him, how deeply he desires your closeness. Daily mental prayer, personal study of the faith, and frequent reception of the sacraments are the bread-and-butter of this intimate friendship. And that life of prayer will overflow in your normal, everyday activities. You will find yourself wanting to live your day in a way that will be pleasing to Christ. You will find yourself not just going through the motions at work, but really wanting to engage in your duties and your relationships, living actively and proactively, as Christ lived and as he calls us all to live. But we can’t put on that dynamism from the outside, as so many self-help programs seem to think we can. No, the dynamism and energy that we yearn for have to come from within, from our soul having deep, regular, and intimate contact with the Lord.

We have written a lot of posts on these topics, and you may find it helpful to search through them for ideas. Also, the book “Navigating the Interior Life” could really help you jump-start this area of your life.

LOVE MORE

Third, you need to keep loving. Your husband’s departure and your children growing up and leaving home have cut off, in a sense, the most natural channels for your love. This, I am sure, has contributed to your sense of aimlessness and discouragement. But you are still made for love, and you still have the power of love in your heart. I would even say that your experiences of the past 10 years have increased the power of love in your heart, because someone who has suffered can love more deeply.

When I say you need to keep loving, I am referring to Christ-like love, not necessarily to romantic or sexual love. No one loved more than Jesus, but his love wasn’t romantic and sexual. The Blessed Virgin Mary is next in line for intensity and depth of loving, and she too was chaste and celibate. I am not discounting the possibility that, if there were grounds for annulment in your situation, God might use matrimony to lead you closer to him. But that is by far not the only option, not at all!

Unfortunately, our culture tends to try and convince us that real love has to involve sexual love. Not true. Loving means self-giving. You have a lot to give. You are created in God’s image, and you have a unique combination of personality, talent, experience, and opportunity. With God, you can make a difference in people’s lives. How can you put your gifts at the service of others? Ask God to reveal this to you. And don’t wait for a complete answer – rather, follow where your heart leads you. Reach out to serve and to give and help others who are in need, whether those may be people close to you, or others. This is the path to renewal, to the abundant life that Christ came to give to us.

ONGOING GUIDANCE

It would be extremely helpful, in this season of your life, if you were able to find someone to meet with for spiritual direction or even for some spiritual mentoring. I would encourage you to search through some of our previous posts on finding spiritual directors. But don’t wait on the three things I mentioned above – you can begin all of them now, even without a spiritual director. And God will be with you. He will guide you. I will pray for you; I promise.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published four other titles: "Seeking First the Kingdom", "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions", "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", "Inside the Passion"--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation".

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  • Joseph

    I find myself in a more or less similar situation. I’m married and have two kids, before we were married my wife (who was a United Methodist Christian) decided to be baptised into the Catholic Church. However, recently we have been having serious marital problems, no intimacy for the last five months and not even touching hands is allowed. She does not accept Church teaching on birth control and recently has started questioning the validity of the sacrament of Baptism because we do not immerse people in water (despite that the Church has money) etc etc. Besides my marriage everything else is falling apart, terrible problems at work, serious mysterious misfortunes and ‘bad luck’. I also found out my spiritual director is in the Necatechumenal Way and my conscience screams against that group and their Eucharistic practices (e.g. no kneeling at consecration, communion sitting down, the relegation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because ‘God is not offended by our sins we just need to own up to our weaknesses etc etc.

    I also have nightmares ‘fighting’ with evil spirits that brag in my dreams that even you should admit that we got you through your wife. Sometimes I feel suffocated as if a huge thing is pressing me down and scrambling my brain so I cannot shout the name of Jesus in my sleep. I do my daily Rosary though even if I feel abandoned and recently I’ve cut down from two daily Rosaries to one so I can make time for daily Divine Mercy. I still hold on to my daily prayers first thing when I wake up, last thing before I sleep, daily scripture readings though I skip some days, mental prayers throughout the daily and attempted discussions with God during the day.

    Despite all that I feel as if God has left my side, I think back to what my prayer life used to be and I’m depressed. Even now I can’t focus when I do my Rosary or Divine Mercy. I feel I should quit but, I can’t because for me God is no longer in the realm of faith but of knowledge. I have serious fights in my head with certain people, forecasting what they may say and responding and this goes on and is tiring. I’m reading a book called “A message of Hope – Confessions of an Ex-Satanist” and from that have started watching my thoughts and trying to collect them and stop the fighting.

    Generally, I have no clue what God expects from me. I can’t quit praying and believing because my brain totally rejects that as absurd but I feel I’m not making any progress but rather sliding back very fast. Fr John, what does He want from me!!! I know very well I can never abandon Him, I meditate on His passion regularly; no peace in the home, no peace at work and in life; I pray that I may love Him more but sometimes I feel I don’t even know Him. I read about my faith daily, sections of the Catechism, aspects of Church Doctrine, History of the Church (I love the Church and the Mass to bits) but no peace and very very very desperate. Please help I’m going out of my mind here.

    • Camila Malta

      Dear Joseph,

      When you say “I know very well I can never abandon Him,” It might help to allow yourself to imagine the other way around. God will never abandon you, even if you do abandon Him.

      I have a one year old baby and when he imagines I’m letting go of him (even though I’m not, all I’m doing is changing position to hold him better) he clings to me with all his might. I laugh because I’m right there, holding him with strong arms, yet he insists in holding on as hard as he can to me. My baby could never sustain himeslf to my neck, he’s too small and weak, so he gets tired. When I’m finally able to detach him from my neck or he gives up from holding so tight I place him in a much more comfortable position, like cradling him in my arms. He’s then content and resting. He can see my face and we can sing and smile and he’s happy.

      God holds you like a little child and desires to give you rest. Don’t imagine you are clinging to Him – He’s the one that has you in His arms.

      I will pray for you.

      • Joseph

        Thanks Camila, you see I thought I knew what it means to surrender to God, I used to think I knew what it meant to trust Him. However, all I hear when I talk to people is that “You need to trust in God, you need to stop thinking you can do it alone”

        I’ve realised that perhaps I don’t know what I used to think ‘imagine’ I knew. I used to think talking to Him in prayer is surrendering to Him but I’m not so sure any more. Could you be more specific … I mean how do I rely on Him, how do I behave as if I am not dependent on myself … what do these things even mean? Do I just sit, don’t do anything and say “God I give everything up to thee, Amen or what do other people do?

      • http://www.facebook.com/diane.reiber.5 Diane Reiber

        What a great visual Camila! Learning to rest in Him, as your baby does in you, is when we truly learn to trust in Him. He is our shelter.
        Thanks for this, it gave me peace this morning. I will pray for you also Joseph.

      • Pat

        Your response is absolutely beautiful, Camila, and presents such a magnificent spiritual and mental visual in which to rest; thank you!

      • LizEst

        Interestingly enough, Camila, at the end of life, when a patient who cannot move on their own is turned, they have the same sensation of a one year old baby. They feel like they are going to fall. We must all become more like little children and put our complete trust in the Lord, instead of relying on our own understanding. He asks us to trust Him especially when it feels like the bottom is going out from under us. He is our refuge and our strength and will never allow us to fall.

    • LizEst

      Joseph – I don’t know much about the Neocat way. But, if their practices bother you – and what you’ve said sounds a bit odd to me – look for another spiritual director.

      I don’t know if your director is a priest; but, I would specifically look for a priest to talk to for some guidance and direction. A priest/pastor has resources he can recommend to you. There are Catholic marital counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists in a diocese/archdiocese. A priest can recommend someone to you. You seriously also need to address the satanic thing with him. If he thinks it is serious, he may recommend an exorcism, having your home blessed, etc. Some here have recommended the book “Unbound.” I caution you that you are never to deal with satanic forces on your own. They are much smarter than we are and can outwit you. Rather, call on the Lord to help you.

      Keep up your spiritual practices…even when they don’t bring you consolation. It is very important to keep that up. God is with you through all of this even when you don’t have proof. Your new director could give you a hand with that. I agree with you on dropping one of the rosaries. One rosary is well and good for you. I’m impressed that you used to do two. Your name is Joseph. Ask for help from St. Joseph, your name saint.

      See Christ in your wife. Will she talk to a priest about her questions about the faith? Questions about faith are normal. But, she needs to get answers as well. Sometimes, it is easier for someone to accept and hear the answers from a professional rather than their spouse.

      Get some help in all this. You cannot do this alone, as Father wrote above. At a minimum, see your pastor and tell him, at least, everything you have written here. God bless you and your family. I will pray for all of you, Joseph.

      • Joseph

        Thanks LizEst, I love prayer and you just made my day when you said you will pray for me.
        Yes my director is a priest, he is in the middle of the NeoCats Way and has a number of seminarians from NeoCat seminaries. So my wife gets some of her teaching from him. On their teachings abt the Eucharist, they emphasis the Jewish Passover and its practices and they bake their own two large pancakes (unleavened) and use that in their celebrations.
        I get desperate abt her because the teachings she gets are different from what the Catechism teaches and so I become the rigid and proud fundamentalist who cannot let go of ancient medieval practices and beliefs. Those who know me at this parish think I’m rigid and old fashioned and to make matters worse I receive the Body of Christ on my tongue while kneeling (the guy with the holier than thou attitude).

    • JoFlemings

      Joseph, my heart aches to hear you recount these sorrows. I have some experience with some similar things so I will offer what helped me, but I hope anyone else with more spiritual training and wisdom will correct this if I err.

      #1) I think the attacks in your dreams are demonic. To counter these, first of all, I would go to confession, and again renounce anything I might have done/participated in involving the occult; and mention the temptations or attacks in the dreams to the confessor. I would also mention the temptation to sin agains hope through despair. I think the power of these things is broken in this sacrament.

      #2) I would fix in my mind vividly an image of Jesus Christ Crucified- and meditate on this image before sleep- maybe in praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, as you go to sleep. You do not have to even say Jesus name in these attacks, if you experience that thing where you can’t talk, all you have to do is think ‘Jesus’- or turn your mind to HIm in this image crucified, and in my experience it can break the power of the weight, the oppression, and the terror.

      #3) I would do a thorough review again of what you expose yourself to or allow in terms of entertainment, books, movies, music, through your tv and computer or other electronics etc.- and reintroduce a habit of use of sacramentals in the home; blessing each room with holy water, wearing the St. Benedict medal, and hanging it in the home, crucifixes in each room, consecration to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, applying blessed salt at the points of entry, doors and windows etc. But let me say these things only reinforce a deeper spiritual reality that comes from a heart and life committed to Christ and to love, they are not talismen. They do not ward off evil apart from a heart cooperating with grace- sometimes cooperating heroically by necessity.

      #4) This comes to the relationships, and the need for professional help. First consult a priest you love and trust about these things, all of them. Secondly, I would consider seeking marital counseling, even just for yourself, as God leads, from a trained solidly Catholic psychologist/therapist if you can. There are Catholic therapists you can find online that you can even skype with for appointments.

      #5) I find it very helpful, especially in times of trial where I might feel abandoned by God, or if I am tempted to bitterness or discouragement, especially in my vital day to day relationships- marriage and family life- to have regular connection with Godly friends in a Christ-centered pursuit. BIble study, small group study or prayer groups- these can be really helpful. They lift your heart—If you can find a small group men’s fellowship to graft into, that can really give you strength in the Lord and by diverting your focus to the larger plane in life ( this kind of helps when we feel like all our trials are swallowing us). And I would definitely look for an all men’s group for support if you are suffering in your marriage. The key is to find a group who are focussed on Jesus and lift you to Him in a context somewhat outside your immediate trial, because it can really help you stay grounded- anchored in our greater hope.

      I know this is alot of words, but I have found these things helpful. And I will pray for you to St. Joseph, patron of fathers and husbands, because I know him to be a fast and faithful friend and father. :o)

      • Joseph

        Thanks Jo, they may be “a lot of words” but everything that comes from the heart stays in the heart of the receiver. Almighty God speaks to us through the words of people we meet or those you will never meet in person. I’ll respond to the suggestions you made each in turn so I can reveal more of myself to you and you can give some suggestions on how to proceed (if you have the time that is);

        #1) I’ve no links to the occult or friends in cults. These things started years back when I had a very strong spiritual conversion. I got this conversion when I was very drunk and coming from a nightclub; I might have fallen asleep on the way because I had a “dream” in which I was speaking to the Blessed Mother. I promised to change my ways and to return to my faith. The next day I started doing my daily Rosary, didn’t need alcohol or cigarettes and people who knew me were astonished at the transformation. I would go to Mass in the morning before going to University and after lectures in the same day, with frequent confession.

        I would wake up at 3 AM to pray; I would have dreams of the Blessed Mother (a frequent occurrence then), St Michael, God the Father and once of Jesus; However, these would then be followed by these demonic nightmares in which I would be in a spiritual void and being suffocated etc etc. So this is how it started.

        #2) I will certainly do this. I used to keep the face of Jesus when Pilate said to the people “behold the man”. For me that showed the extreme of God’s love; thanks I will get this back.

        #3) I never used to watch TV or worldly movies, but recently I’ve started again because my family felt I was isolating myself and injuring family unity. I only used to watch homilies (I downloaded all sorts of them), ewtn’s The Journey Home, Mother Angelica etc etc and mostly movies on the lives of the saints. This fascinated me but bored others to death as a daily thing. I guess I should avoid TV again as I used to, it offends me greatly but I need to be charitable to others I guess.

        #4) On the relationship, we are seing a marriage counsellor and it is not working; she is a nun and she can’t see us in one session because she says we do not listen to each other. In my sessions these days she says I’m worried about you and has been suggesting annulment continuously, but I need time to think about this and not do things in haste.

        #5) My work is relocating to another town and I think I’ll be able to do what you suggest here. My family is not coming with me, my wife is studying for her PhD and kids are in school so we agreed that we shouldn’t disrupt things, I’ll go and I’ll visit them regularly (It’s about 1200 KM (~746 Miles) away; I’ll be able to do what you say under this point.

        • JoFlemings

          Oh Joseph! I think you could advise me way better than I could advise you in anything. What else can I do as just a voice from somewhere to help you shoulder this burden? I know everyone who regularly participates in this site wants to give encouragement and succor to those who suffer- so many people are undergoing trials like this, where often the person suffering is ‘doing’ all the right things, but their suffering is not alleviated. So what to do in that situation?- that is where I feel like I cover my mouth, and lower my eyes in reverence, not with a hands-washed-of-this-circumstance, but a renewed piety because God is working here and it is beyond my understanding and requires great faith by the person called to the trial.
          I will pray for you. The only other thing I could say is that if you are not really familiar with your Bible on various things that might apply to your situation in the spiritual and practical life, you might draw some further strength from immersing yourself in God’s word. Maybe the book of Hosea, and definitely the Psalms. Sometimes the Bible opens up for us the heart of God and we can find how clearly our own sufferings mirror His own as father, spouse, leader of a group, king, lover etc. That helps me.
          I don’t know what else to tell you about the very real spiritual combat you endure- when I experienced those things I was young and still had alot of secular ties and influences in my life, and when I was very young I was very actively engaged with the occult, so there was a proximate association, it was kind of a backlash I guess. I know the devil and co. are pretty blatant with Catholics these days, I hear about this regularly-especially with young, relatively spiritually safe ones- young people who actually have devoted relationships with Jesus and Mary. It surprises me because of that. If that stuff becomes so oppressive that it hinders your daily life or your interior peace, I would ask a priest about an exorcist- suffering unto redemption is one thing, being harassed to distraction by demons is another.
          Listen, the last thing I will throw out by way of exhortation because we all need to think this through on some level regularly, is to consider: am I holding back anything in my heart from God? Am i retaining unto myself some reserved area of my being that I have not yielded to Him or that I refuse to yield to Him or to His sovereign disposition? Sometimes moving through that in prayer is a type of test and takes time to work out, and causes an increase in all this life friction. It isn’t just a check the block thing because this is a relationship we are in with Jesus and He is really asking us to evaluate our hearts and determine or purify our attachments in Him, and sometimes to move to a deeper level of trust and experience in Him.
          Anyway, there is a balance to be gained in keeping your own soul safe and being with your family in fellowship- I think it is better to find common ground in trying to lead them to more dignified or nobler pursuits than to remove yourself from their company because their taste is more profane. But only you can determine that best for yourself. I think there is a saying that the law of charity is above all other laws- love not license. Finding the path there is sometimes an art- God bless you.

          • Joseph

            “I think you could advise me way better than I could advise you in anything” … you have this backwards Jo!!! I am not in a position to advise anyone on Spirituality, if it were Church teaching, history of the Church (some) and the saints (some) then I’ll be useful in that. I promised Jesus I’d give up smoking and when troubles started I went back (lightning speed) now I’m stuck; I’m short tempered and others say I’m stubborn. Thanks for your prayers everyone.

          • JoFlemings

            And here we all are, a pretty ‘motley crew’ in Christ! I am confident of one thing, Jesus wants to save our souls and He is powerful to do this….so we fight on, hold one another up, encourage one another, love one another fervently from the heart, exhort one another to go farther, higher, faster, and carry one another when we can no longer stand. You know, the Lord impressed on me a number of years ago that if I wanted to encourage my priest friends in their lives of devotion and sacrifice that the most effective way to do that was to be more immersed more devoted and more engaged in my own vocation- the more I lived my own vocation with love and devotion the more I could bring grace to my brothers and sisters in theirs- no matter where or when or how— so I am sure that the people praying for you, Joseph here, and the lady who wrote the original post, and each person who has mentioned their hardships here etc. All these people in their faith are helping save our souls. God loves us this much- we have nothing to fear, and every reason to hope and have joy, right? So Joseph, if you press on, and maybe delay that next cigarette an hour longer, the girl who wrote this post and also Father John himself, will be strengthened, and I will make a similar sacrifice for you at your point of need in my prayers, too. And we will take back what the enemy has stolen one small victory at a time. God bless you!

        • Camila Malta

          Dear Joseph,

          I struggle with many similar things that you do in your marriage. There are a few practical advice that I have received that has helped me:

          1) Do not think about annulment as an option.

          2) Seek to understand what is God trying to do with you.
          For example – you Joseph have the opportunity to dive deeply in God’s unconditional love by loving your wife unconditionally. By learning to be patient with her, forgiving her promptly, finding the little seeds of goodness in her and encouraging these to grow, by being an example of steadfast commitment of selfless love especially for your children, by being long suffering and generous in your self gift no matter what comes your way. You better than many can understand what it means to love a sinner – unconditionally.

          3) Be a witness of Christ’s generous love for the sake of the children. Let them see this father that gives and gives and gives and finds his nourishment in his faith and in Christ – not in the world. The kids are watching and it is amazing what they learn from observing parents. Be faithful to your wife and to your Catholic faith.

          4) The burden you carry feels very heavy. Seek to detach yourself from the affections of the world (die to the world and to your self will) – this will free you to find the burden light. This has been the most difficult for me – because there isn’t anything pleasant about dying to self; but when I have been truly capable of doing this, it is amazing the freedom I feel to love like Saint Francis said – it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.

          5) Seek holy friendships that will encourage you to pick up your cross and follow Christ – not to let your cross on the floor in seek of more pleasant paths.

          6) Read Navigating the Interior Life and follow it. It will give you a concrete, practical, tangible plan to follow in your life and spiritually. (This has been a huge blessing for me.)

          7) Once a plan is set – follow thru one day at a time – moment by moment. Don’t look back into the past and don’t worry about the future. (This has been very hard for me; but when I’m able to live it out it is blissful.)

          • LizEst

            I will pray for you, as well Camila. May God bless you.

      • MarytheDefender

        I’m grateful to read your advice on nightmares. I think I have had similar nightmares as well. I’ve had dreams of not being able to speak and an invisible force is pushing and pulling me. I would pray to Jesus or Saint Michael then I wake up. Once, since I couldn’t speak, I started spelling Jesus in sign language, I woke up right after. In one dream it grabbed me from the kneeler during Consecration. And I’ve never participated in the occult either.

        In terms of what I watch, my family and friends like watching some shows and films that make me uncomfortable. But I’ve been wary of telling why I don’t want to watch them. That they might think I’m being too conservative etc. I know that I should not let that stop me though…

    • MarytheDefender

      I’ve been praying for you too! I went through a period of depression a few years ago. Only God’s grace has sustained me and brought me out of the darkness that ate up so much of my life. I’m sure God is giving and will continue to give you the grace to endure.

  • Patricia Budd

    I too have been there with feeling what’s the point getting up in the morning. Sometimes things are to much. I am grieving over four different people who I have lost in the last three years. Two in the last two weeks or so. It hits me hard and my grief at times is uncontrollable but regular confession sometimes weekly helps and receiving the Eucharist and adoration. I say in all my grief loss and empty void I place my trust in you OH SACRED HEART OF JESUS. Praying the rosary and divine mercy chaplet helps. Keeping my routine prayer life even if I can not get to adoration is a great benefit, however receiving healing graces in the sacraments and from adoring our Lord. There is no better healing. Spiritual direction and sometimes counseling is a must. It all depends on the person situation. It has been rough three weeks a rough month loosing two people what happen in boston which is close to where I live. It can be a scary world we live in and especially if we feel abandoned and orphaned. We need to realize God is truly our Father and we can turn to him in times of spiritual darkness. My prayers are with those who are living with spiritual darkness and please pray for me too. We are all in this together and we are never alone.

    • LizEst

      Patricia – My prayers for you during this difficult time as well. You are right to stick to your prayer routine. Keep your focus on Christ and His resurrection and His promise that we, too, will have eternal life. He has gone before your loved ones to prepare a place for them that where He is they also may be. What town in the Boston area are you in?

      • Patricia Budd

        I live in northampton Mass but my relatives live in boston newton and work in boston. I ask prayers for a special intention for my soul,

        • LizEst

          I will pray for your intention. Greetings from Medway!

          • Patricia Budd

            I believe all of boston and newton and surrounding towns were. On lock down

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=718170644 Kathryn Heemskerk

    I do not know this woman, but I do think one thing more to be reasured of. She is not called to go out and do more than her talents time and energy can offer right now. She is in a time of healing. But she did say she feels called to do more and does not know what to do. A couple of small things that are really good: talk to God. Pray. Not necessarily the formal prayers. Tell him your worries and hurts and fears. He stumbled, He cried, He called out to His Father too. The more she can spend time with Jesus the more intimate their relationship becomes. Maybe she cannot go serve radically. But maybe she can do small things well. Pray for her kids. Pray for someone she knows in need at work or in her neighbourhood. Write an encouraging email or letter to someone who needs it. And read something spiritual to help you deepen your faith. We never stop needing to learn more about our faith. It is an endless well.May God bless her and encourage her deeply.

    • LizEst

      If we are living in Christ, then we do feel a strong need to give of ourselves. We are part of His Body and this is what Christ does. I agree that she needs to find some small way to give of herself. This will help a lot. Losses like hers are not something you “get over”. Rather, one learns to adjust to them. Helping others, even in a small way, helps get the focus off her difficulties, if even for a short time. Just like in the prayer attributed to St. Francis, “It is in giving that we receive.” God bless you Kathryn.

  • rob

    Does anyone think she should see a doctor? What if it is a thyroid problem, iron deficiency or clinical depression? These illnesses are physical and not necessarily spiritual darkness. Although Physical and Spiritual challenges can and often do coincide, they require separate (but complementary) treatment.

  • Barbara Sanders

    The world, the flesh, and the devil are toxic to our fallen nature. To find
    refreshment we need to drink from the Living water of Jesus Christ. This is
    often hard to do because we are so busy.
    B (being) U(under) S(satans) Y(yoke)
    barbara

  • LizEst

    Yes, I prayed for you and your family this morning at Mass.

    OK. So, you’ve revealed a little bit more about yourself. NeoCats are approved by the Church but they have recently, I believe within the last year or so, been directed not to do certain things. I’m not an expert about them. So, again, go to your parish priest with this. He can set you straight or recommend someone to you who can. And, if he doesn’t do that, ask him specifically to do that. The thing you wrote that I found strange about them is that you said is the “relegation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because ‘God is not offended by our sins we just need to own up to our weaknesses…” You did not say what they relegate the Sacrament of Reconciliation to. Do you mean they say not to go to the sacrament? I would find this very, very strange…and that’s why I found what you said odd.

    Why would you say “to make matters worse” about how you receive the Body of Christ? This is not worse, it is just your preference and there is nothing that says that you can’t receive in it that way.

    So, just a thought…I think you both need to do a little research on what the Church believes and teaches. Get the documents, use that as a learning experience. Ask her if she will pray and join together with you so you can both learn better what the Church believes and teaches. And, you have to say it with sincerity. Ask her, “will you teach me and show me where it says blah, blah, blah?” “And, will you let me teach you and show you where it says blah, blah, blah?” The next part of this project is that you both have to go do your research and show the proofs. And, if one of you is more correct than the other, then whoever it is cannot stand there and say “See, I told you so.” You have to let the Holy Spirit do the work of convincing the other. The Church is a great big family. Did you know that there are more than 25 rites within the Catholic Church? They all do things a little differently, some a lot differently. One of the marks of the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit unites. It does not, however, mean anything goes. It means that we are one in what the Church believes and teaches. When people get away from that, they are walking in error. So, this might be a good project for both of you. Learn from each other and you might grow from the experience.

  • JoFlemings

    Praying for this sweet lady to find all that God has for her in blessing, love, and community in Christ!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gemma.pio.1 Gemma Pio

    To the lady whose husband left, the advice you have been given is right on.
    What a wonderful resource you have here.
    I, too have been disappointed in marriage but have found a closer relationship with Jesus and Mary because of it. God is the real love of our life. I see now that what happened to me was to help point that out. He loves us so much.
    I will pray for you, don’t be discouraged.

  • Carol V.

    I’m guessing this lady is middle aged, and with middle age, we tend to start getting some physical issues. One thing I took away from when I read some of l. JP II’s Theology of the Body is that we as Catholics view ourselves as complete individuals, and that includes the body. We’re not just souls walking around in “earth suits,” in other words. And it’s pretty common for folks nowadays to neglect their health. I’d say, if she hasn’t been for a complete physical (and I’m not just talking the annual GYN exam we women usually pay attention to,) it’s high time to get one done, and talk with the doctor about these feelings. This may be spiritual desolation, or it may be depression. Or it may be a combination of both. Also, check on diet and exercise: It’s easy, when you’re alone, to fall into bad habits here. The result is worsening misery.

    Forty hours a week work schedule, plus another fifteen hours a week of commuting? Maybe consider finding a home closer to one’s job? Just throwing it out there: Fifteen hours a week is a lot of time spent commuting.

    When I was single, I found that I had to be selective about opportunities for service to others: I had launched willy-nilly into them, and found that, like all good things, more is not necessarily better. As harsh as this might sound, the same applied to fellowship: Quality, rather than quantity, counted. I needed to find people who would edify me as well. While service to others less fortunate was helpful, I needed reciprocal human relationships to enable me to feel worthy of love based on who I am rather than what I can do.

    The other thing I had to do was learn to structure my off-duty time in such a way that there was some built-in discipline to how I spent my energies. Having some routines helped a lot. And having some time for me and the Lord together daily helped even more: Lectio divina was my favorite, particularly the Psalms. Shortly after that I “discovered” the Liturgy of the Hours. There is a wooded copse near my house, and after work, I would take my volume there, sit, read for awhile, and then meditate on the prayers as I walked around. I found that there was a huge difference between merely being alone (and lonely,) and solitude with the Lord. Walking in the woods gave me an opportunity to better listen to Him speak to my soul.

    Once I was able to achieve some balance in my life, things seemed to improve. Actually, I don’t know if it was “things” that began to improve, but I know I certainly did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DeanHamby Dean Hamby

    LOVE your response!

  • Becky Ward

    Practice the sanctity of the present moment. I ask God every morning to grant me the grace to stay in the moment, that my thoughts come from Him alone, and that all my actions of this day be completed through His Holy Will. We spend so much time in the past or the future where we are unable to do anything!! We are given grace as it is needed TODAY, and at THIS MOMENT.
    Fr. John made a great comment in another post about frustration, and that it is a product of expectations. That really spoke to me…..I was frustrated because things did not happen as I expected them to….or as I believed they should be!! God allows things to happen so we can learn from them. My marriage is far from perfect but I made the decision to leave it in God’s hands, and I pray for my husband, who is not baptized…….and miracles are happening! Tiny ones, and it has taken time….but I see God’s hand at work. Part of this is because I have been taught to look through my formation…and part of it is in having practice….lots of practice.
    We trust that as married people, caring for our family and being as patient as we can in our daily interactions with them, IS what God is asking of us right now….and we go about doing that to the best of our ability.
    One final point – it’s easy to look at others and see them as being patient or holy or humble because we don’t know what is going on in their mind. We have a tendency to think their lives are devoid of temptation , struggles, or suffering but that’s just not true. They have learned to keep it inside and offer it to the Lord. Bearing their trials in union with Jesus as patiently and courageously as they are able.
    I’m praying for you Joseph!

    • Camila Malta

      Dear Becky,

      I really like your post, and I ditto you here:

      “it’s easy to look at others and see them as being patient or holy or humble because we don’t know what is going on in their mind. We have a tendency to think their lives are devoid of temptation , struggles, or suffering but that’s just not true.”

      • LizEst

        Yes, Camila and Becky, every life has in it temptation, struggles or suffering…and God knows what we go through. Christ, himself, had to deal with all of these things. He was a man/a human like us in all things but sin. God bless you both!

    • Joseph

      Wow, people here are amazing. I have gotten a lot of help and no judgementalism detected in any advice given. Thanks Becky, I think I need to learn trust and patients more. I struggle with knowing the practical things that I can actually do to improve my trust in God and to rely solely on His providence. I guess this is one of the lifelong journeys we must partake in. “Live in the moment” is what I try to do but worries about the future mingled with stresses of the past just crop up in my head and these things take me time to brush off … even after brushing them off they still taint the ‘present’ with uncertainty.
      People said they are praying for me here and I believe I’ll emerge better able to face spiritual challenges. Thanks you all and may the Good Lord Bless and protect you and your families, may He cause His light to shine upon you and may He send you the valiant St Michael the Archangel to protect your faith and love from the accuser. Amen

      • Becky Ward

        Thank YOU for your prayers Joseph! They are more precious than gold!

      • LizEst

        Thank you for your prayers as well, Joseph. God bless you.

  • fairlady68

    This hits me at just the right time…I have different issues but the same sense of darkness, despair and despondency. Thanks for this article. May the Lord bless you and the lady who originally wrote in to describe her struggles.

  • kcthomas

    Dear Joseph,
    When I read your story, I conclude that “love” is absent. “Love” only can heal hurts. Love without sacrifice is no love at all. Please pray for your wife’s conversion, for God’s presence in your family. Another thing , what is this Neocat that teaches uncatholic doctrines and procedures ? It is necessary that it should be reported to the Bishop, if your parish priest is also behaving uncatholic. There are among catholics some who will misguide you because they have no faith. I am sure by your “love”, marital relationship and peace will be restored in your family. I shall be praying for you, your wife and for the Neocats who have friendship with Satan( for wisdom and conversion to them)
    Kneeling or standing OR receiving Communion on tongue or on hand should not be a serious point for fight. I will always receive Holy Communion on tongue, even when 99.9 percent receive on hand. I prefer that way and our Church permits that. I consider my hand not that clean as may touch many things before going to church. Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI said they prefer the way of receiving on tongue. Those who misguide you are requested to learn more about Catholicism and the Catholic Church.

  • Mary@42

    I shall take this lady to Jesus. Prayers from all of us, for her and for Joseph is what is needed here. Mine is to encourage them not to give up hope and continue to seek help as Fr. John and the Respondents have suggested. JoeFlemmings’ advice to Joseph is particularly helpful. Advice from an trusted Priest for Joseph is urgent.

  • LizEst

    Joseph – The NeoCatechumenal Way, or NeoCats, are approved by the Catholic Church. They are a relatively new group, they have seminaries around the world and are doing great things. They have been, however, under some scrutiny and within the last few years have been told not to do certain things. I am not an expert in the NeoCats. But, they do have Church approval. If a particular group is doing something which is not approved, or has been rescinded, then that particular group is not doing things correctly and needs to follow the instructions of the Magisterium. NeoCats do things a little differently… with Church approval. There are, after all, quite a number of different rites within the Catholic Church. You may know of, or have heard of, or may even be a part of those that celebrate the Malankarese rite, the Syro-Malabarese rite, the Mozarabic rite, the Ambrosian rite, etc, etc. We cannot condemn the NeoCats because they have been approved. They are just a little different than what some people know of…and it makes people nervous. But, with a little education, we come to understand. Here is a good introduction to them. It’s very instructive: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neocatechumenal_Way

    • kcthomas

      Thank you LizEst for the clarification. The Neo Cat may have the approval, but when we notice some serious deviation from Magisterial teachings we should take suitable action. When I read that they use pancakes baked by them emphasising on passover for celebration of Eucharist and about the insistance on receiving Holy Communion on hand , i wrote the comment. Our enthusiasm for Evangelizattion should not result in indirect abandonment of our Catholic doctrines. I hope you will agree with me.

      k c thomas

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

        Careful – it is not healthy to criticize out of unfamiliarity. If you are not aware of their approved rubrics and are just criticizing out of gut feeling… Not acceptable here.
        Sent from my iPad

        • kcthomas

          Respected Bro. Dan, I am sorry I am misunderstood. I have never criticized any one. As a practicing Catholic and as an intellectual I thought it my duty to comment without illwill or judgement. As I have raised the issue, I feel you will avail of an opportunity in future, to see the approved rubrics and assess the position reported to you by Joseph. Whatever it be, kindly forgive me for interruption . May God bless you and the great work you are doing.

  • Deb Swift

    Okay, for the lady whose husband left her, first of all she should see her physician to be assessed for depression. Second, if she is driving to and from work, maybe she could look into some type of public transportation or carpooling. It would free her up for socializing or relaxing. Third, go to bed earlier. Extra sleep can do wonders.If she drives to and from work, try getting some audiobooks to listen to. She can nourish her mind and soul at the same time. Maybe trying to relocate closer to her job. She needs to realize she has the power to make things better for herself. Another thing she might be able to try is to go for a walk in the fresh air during her lunch breaks.

    • LizEst

      Good advice…difficult to do if someone is depressed. I agree that she should see a physician. That would help rule things in or rule things out. Sounds like she could also use a friend.

  • rjk123

    I just came across your post again. Maybe it was the Lord’s gently nudging. I just want to pray for you and to communicate my love for you. May God give you strength today and to let you know once again that you are not alone and never will be. I will particularly remember you at Mass today. Rachel