ASK FATHER: I’ve lost all desire and motivation to pray, fast, etc. It all seems so pointless.

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I’ve lost all desire and motivation to pray, fast, etc. I’ve become apathetic towards the spiritual life. It all seems so pointless. God stopped listening and caring about me years ago, and I feel as though my time would be better spent actually doing things that will help me rather than spend the time in prayer asking God to help me (which he never does). At the same time, I don’t want to go to hell, but I just can’t motivate myself to pray or do anything related to the spiritual life. It all seems so pointless. I feel like God just doesn’t care about me anymore. Pray or don’t pray, my life is still the *****. What do you recommend?

This sounds rather like the affliction of acedia or accidie (from Greek akedía, “I don’t care-ishness”). This is “spiritual sloth”, which is one of the seven capital or deadly sins.  It has to do with lack of concern for or regret about one’s spiritual well-being especially because of the obligations it involves. In many cases this is a venial sin but it can be a mortal sin if this lack of care or regret leads to omitting grave duties of one’s state of life and the duties of religion.

Rather than address this at length here, allow me to recommend some good reading.

First, The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times by Jean-Charles Nault.

US HERE – UK HERE

Also, Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire by R.J. Snell.

US HERE – UK HERE

As we move deeper into the Passion that the Church is bound to undergo now, I suspect that this will be an affliction for many good people who, in anxiety and frustration, may retreat into acedia in a kind of self-afflicting self-defense choice.   But it is a dead end.  We were made for glory and God always and constantly offers us the graces we need.  There are times when He will withdraw consolations from us, or a sense of His presence, for the sake of testing our love and will to persevere.   Even when we have fallen into mortal sin, God extends to us those prevenient graces which work to stir within us the wherewithal to seek Him again through interior conversion and the sacraments.

God truly is like the father in the Lord’s parable about prodigal son.  Eventually the thought of home and the wretchedness of his condition moves the son.   But the father’s role is foundational, because he provided in the first place the home which becomes the object of his longing. Also, the father was watching watching watching the road for the son and then rushed to meet him.  “But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20.

Since you’ve asked for help, probably under the guidance of God, here’s some help.  Use the reading and say to yourself, often, to the point of memorization, the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love and Contrition.  Try these at least three times a day, to start.

I like the versions with “Thees and Thous”!

 

ACT OF FAITH

O MY GOD, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I believe that Thy Divine Son became Man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.

ACT OF HOPE

O MY GOD, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I
hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and Life Everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

ACT OF CHARITY

O MY GOD, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

ACT OF CONTRITION

O MY GOD, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

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31 Responses to ASK FATHER: I’ve lost all desire and motivation to pray, fast, etc. It all seems so pointless.

  1. mysticalrose says:

    I have had a similar experience of this ever since the present papacy really ramped up — just after the first synod or so. To have had a certain conception of, and love for, the Church one’s whole life and to have it completely overturned is difficult, demoralizing, and absolutely saps spiritual strength. I will be taking Father’s advice as well. Thank you for it.

  2. makarioi130 says:

    What a tall, cold drink of refreshing water, Father Z. I was at the threshold of this the last few weeks, the Lord answered me through this post. Laudate eum! Praying for all tempted by acedia.

  3. I once went to confession and poured out a similar complaint to the priest. I felt like I was taking beating after beating with no end in sight, and that God was ignoring me. In his reply I could hear the priest’s voice cracking as he fought tears. This touched my heart and comforted me, since I understood that I had found a priest with the heart of a true father, who would pray for me and maybe even do penance for me.

    It seems to me imperative to continue fulfilling our obligations, even though this gives us no feelings of satisfaction. But it must give God satisfaction, since Jesus didn’t say we had to feel all warm and fuzzy toward Him, but did say that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. I’m sure a mother and father don’t feel all warm and fuzzy about having to change a dirty diaper at 3:00 a.m., or having to go without some necessity so the child can eat, but they do it all the same. That is where love is.

    And if you need to make use of some (legitimate) crutch to help you fulfill an obligation, then by all means, use it! That’s why God provided it! The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have some recordings of the Rosary that I use as a crutch to help me pray my daily Rosary at times when I really, really don’t want to pray it.

  4. abdiesus says:

    Wow thanks Fr. Z I really needed this.

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    This day and age causes people to think that the practice of religion always results in a sanguine disposition and that God answers prayers like a wishing well.

    So it can quite often be the case that those that are having difficulty with the Faith is because they are expecting it to be different than it is and part of the process of growing in the virtue of religion is to set aside what one thinks the Faith should be and bring and accept rather what it is. To that end, I recommend Faith Hope Love by Pieper and The Heart by Von Hildebrand.

    Speaking directly to the questioner’s “My life remains ***** no matter if I pray or don’t pray.” It is worth considering here what is being prayed for. Are you praying for material or emotional good things only and are disappointed when they don’t come into your life? In that case, consider praying in thanksgiving for what you have and for the grace to use what you have well for God’s glory. Desire not for what you don’t have but desire to glorify God with what you do have. OR are you praying for an end to the sinful actions in your own life and find that you cannot stop sinning and, as a result, grow despondent and doubtful of God? In this case consider, as scripture says, the forbearance of God as forgiveness, and work on rooting out sin one at at time understanding that it will all take time and not without a good deal of sacrifice on your part. Don’t look to the top of the mountain but only on where you are currently at and what sin you are currently working on.

    To the point of “I feel as though my time would be better spent actually doing things that will help me rather than spend the time in prayer asking God to help me”. It takes less than 5 seconds to say “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner”. So there is plenty of time. Secondly, praying IS bettering yourself. Again, prayer isn’t using God as a wishing well. Prayers of petition are only one of the many prayer forms, but the point of praying isn’t for God’s sake, but for your sake, for it is through prayer that you enter into the life that your soul desires. Thirdly, prayer isn’t limited to contemplative prayer forms. Your work itself can and also should be a prayer, being done for God’s glory and by and through grace.

    To the point of “It all seems so pointless. ” The different temperaments react to spiritual difficulties, spiritual aridity, and not being able to see the fruit of their work, or the light at the end of the tunnel when undergoing trials, in very complex and different ways. Understand your temperament and act accordingly. I am personally a strong melancholic. That means that I am going to have real difficulties with hope, especially hope when applied to my own person. A melancholic’s natural state is that of spiritual aridity and the dark night of the soul. But the opposite side of the coin is that it takes considerably more for me to actually lose all hope than others. So what I have to constantly work on is that, while I have a firm grasp on the “point of it all” and that though all is darkness the son shall come again, I need to work on having hope that I too shall see the end of all things and not remain forever in darkness.

    I do want to restress here that prayer and bettering yourself are not things that are opposed. Why should they be? Whether it is bettering yourself by rooting out sin or by improving your lot in life, start the action of the day in prayer asking for the grace to accomplish the action, during the action throughout the day give prayer to persevere in the action, and at the end of the day give prayer in thanksgiving for whatever it was that was accomplished during the day, no matter how small.

    The trick of the devil in this is simple — to think that you have to do more than you need to do and to think that what you have done is worth less than what it is. Many will flag and grow despondent because of this and fall into acedia (the noonday devil because halfway through the day you consider that there is too much of the day left and too little accomplished in the day that has passed).

    Though this trick is simple, don’t expect the fight on your part to be easy or without much toil. It won’t be. The key though is to let Christ do the fighting and you carry on with whatever the day has tasked you with doing. So “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner,” whenever you start considering that your work, whether for improvement of lot in life or for spiritual growth is pointless and then keep on with your work.

  6. rhhenry says:

    Thank you for this advice, Father.

    I am in no way a spiritual master, but may I also suggest getting out and doing charitable work, especially the corporal works of mercy. You can even start really small: hold doors for others, say “thank you” clearly to others (rather than mumbling it, as I have a bad habit of doing), pick up a piece of trash blowing down the sidewalk, and so on. Later will come traditional gifts of alms, volunteering at various food drives, and so forth. This has helped me “jump start” my spiritual life at times when it flagged.

    If we are growing in true charity, motivated by love of neighbor, we necessarily grow closer to God, Who is Love Itself. In my life, performing corporal works of mercy has led to performing spiritual works of mercy, which has led to starting to set aright my relationship with God.

    I will keep the questioner in my prayers.

  7. JRP says:

    Having read, and experienced similar, I was moved to respond with some practical things.

    1) Find a good examine of conscience, and go to confession weekly (shop around for a good confessor), in kind and number with only critical circumstances. Old sins, like scar tissue, build up, make our hearts hard. If you haven’t been for a while, do the best you can to catch all the most serious sins, but don’t flip out. After that, confess new sins (even venial ones) and confess old sins as they occur to you. Put yourself on the side of truth over against what you want. Do this regularly for a couple of months, and then decide if safe to slacken.
    2) Some things really are just chemical: God has provided us Doctors. Go see a shrink – best if you can find a Catholic one, maybe ask your priest or parish secretary, or nearby solid priests, &c and be open to trying a few different kinds of antidepressants, or help with sleep, or whatever it is you may need. Best use is, imo, after reaching therapeudic levels, to help you break negative patterns, free you to form better habits. If they help for a long time, so much the better, but I find they maybe help 20%, which is enough to overcome. Talk if you need to talk, but changing habits (including habits of thought) is pretty valuable. Good shrinks often have good tools, like tricks of the mind over the brain.
    3) Read something Catholic – writings of the Saints, Doctors – that you may think is too hard for you. Straight up Aquinas Summa Theologiae, start anywhere, skip around, think about it. Augustine. Bonaventure. Whatever. Get what you can get from it, enter in. “Speaking in tongues” also includes, metaphorically, entering in to language and ideas you are not familiar with. “The truth will set you free”.
    3) look at your activities and friends. You don’t have to give up even bad friends (maybe you are their good example), but try to find some good Catholic ones. Go to a Catholic thing once in a while (like a retreat or lecture). Hang out with a priest you trust for part of a day, maybe bring food and make dinner with him in the rectory, if that is a thing he might be interested in (in this case, just be friendly, not needful of something from him, it will be a major change of pace for the poor guy, I’m sure). Try a Latin Mass. “There are more things in Heaven and on Earth, Horatio…”
    4) make sure you get some beauty in your life. Go out into nature, go see fine art, take a weekend at a retreat house, take a long drive, hang out by a lake, . Get off the internet. :)
    5) finally, volunteer your time – an hour a week, maybe – to someone. It doesn’t even have to be a big charity: help family, friends with their stuff. Offer the suffering and effort up to God in reparation, and in generosity.

  8. Cafea Fruor says:

    To the letter writer: I will pray for you especially this week! Acedia has plagued me frequently in the past, and I can deeply sympathize. The sorrow can be tremendous. A couple of bits of advice from my personal experience with this:

    Having a priest or other spiritual director to talk to about this is immensely beneficial. It’s so much less difficult if you have a person to talk to, especially when it feels like you can’t talk to the Lord. And consider checking in with a Catholic therapist if you can find one–you might be totally fine, but sometimes, acedia can overlap with depression or certain unresolved issues, and it can help you change your thinking, which can help you fight/survive the acedia. For example, for me, a combination of spiritual direction and therapy helped me realize that I was doubting God’s goodness because I’d had a terrible childhood in which what I wanted just didn’t matter to anyone, and I was projecting my anger and disappointment with my life onto God the Father, assuming He didn’t want what I want either. It took a third party for me to be able to see that, and healing from those experiences has taken a large edge off the acedia, so if/when it hits, it’s much less severe than it used to be. The desert fathers often said it was necessary for a monk to bring his acedia to his spiritual father, and though we’re not monks, we still have that need to take it to someone else, despite the temptation to grit our teeth and go it alone.

    Also, I found it helps to sit down and confront the Lord about it, painful as that might be. Tell Him how frustrated you are, how empty and sorrowful you are, whatever it is. Scowl at Him; yell at Him even (at least internally); complain. I figure that this does two things: first, it’s letting yourself be honest and real with the Lord (which a lot of us actually tend to avoid in prayer, which leads to unrealistic expectations about prayer, which can lead to…acedia), and second it makes it easier for the Lord to reach you if you’re not effectively slamming the door in His face, and yelling at Him is better than not to talking with Him at all because it leaves a wedge in the door. The biggest temptation is to stop praying altogether, and that’s precisely what the devil wants.

    And lastly, I find it helps to use the acedia as an opportunity to help others, changing the anger/frustration/sorrow into some positivity by offering the struggle for the good of the Poor Souls, reaching out to others who are really suffering (it pulls you out of yourself), or getting involved in some charity/volunteer work.

  9. Gerard Plourde says:

    In addition to Fr. Z’s excellent advice, I’d point out that many of the saints experienced times of spiritual desolation. St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Theresa of Calcutta, and St. John of the Cross all suffered from periods during which they could not discern God’s presence. These times of trial can lead us to a deeper relationship with Him because they call us beyond the comprehension we have created of Him into a fuller understanding of who He is. As St. Paul reminds us, we always see Him partially and indistinctly. Through prayer we come closer to knowing Him as He is.

  10. RosaryRose says:

    Praying for you, Dear Reader! This horrible despair is from the enemy. The war is raging right now, it sounds like you are in the midst of it. Sending my Guardian angel to help. I am praying for you.

    Despair is of the enemy. We are people of hope. If you are too worn to pray, make every action your prayer. Make every suffering your prayer. When you don’t feel it (emotion), know that God is still with you.

    I am so sorry for this terrible trial you have right now. I pray for you to have a glimmer of light to give you some encouragement.

    If you are in a state of Grace, your offerings will be efficacious! Your sufferings will be a Powerful weapon against the enemy. I am praying for you and for all of us in this Valley of Tears.

    Pray (offer your sufferings) for the souls in Purgatory, and when they get out, they will pray for you.

  11. RosaryRose says:

    Also, give yourself a break sometime! Celebrate Sundays! Celebrate Holy days! Eat up! Enjoy!

    When we pray a daily rosary, there is only ONE set of Sorrowful Mysteries, all the others are full of joy and glory. Your Mother knew you needed that.

    Peace!!

  12. Ellen says:

    I’ve had these periods of dryness too. They eventually pass away but I’ll admit they make you very uncomfortable. And yet I persist and eventually encouragement comes and the clouds go away.

  13. beelady says:

    Thank you, Father!!
    My husband is suffering from this very problem and I have been at a loss regarding how to help him.
    I can’t wait to show him this post, I think it will be very helpful.

  14. LeeGilbert says:

    If it were I . . .For me, I do not say for you, I would be doing an inventory of my inner life to see if I were angry with someone, if I were holding a grudge. There is such a thing as righteous anger, of course, very necessary to parents and teachers all day long, but if I were “righteously angry” as a constant spiritual/emotional state, even at a very low level of intensity, I would expect my prayer life to fall off. This can be a very subtle and almost imperceptible business, not excluding anger with a long dead parent, with a spouse, with President Bush, and with God for that matter.

    Although God does not need our forgiveness, we can be in the ridiculous situation of needing to forgive God. Isn’t He all powerful? Then why did He permit this or that? “O Lord, I know this is ridiculous, but I do forgive you for not healing my dad.” Of course, this is a theological absurdity, but it can also be a psychological necessity. At least I have sometimes found it so . . . Benedicamus Domino.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Spiritual dryness is the “leg day” of our spiritual training by God. It is a pain, but it helps us get strong. And we cannot sense God, but He is right behind us, spotting us and helping us.

  16. Toan says:

    If prayer seems pointless, it is because, in a sense, good prayer can actually BE pointless. Especially the Mass, our greatest act of worship. We should be happy with that fact.

    Why? As Frederick Faber put it, “Prayer is not meant for luxury, or selfish pastime sweet. It is the prostrate creature’s place at his Creator’s feet.”

    That is, the point of prayer is not to be servile, or useful, in a utilitarian sense. When I learned this fact this year (reading Piper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture), it was truly liberating: No longer do I need to worry about the products of prayer; I just need to pray, because prayer is worth doing and perfectly justifiable in itself.

    Sure, prayer can be useful. It can make us feel closer to God. It can make us more productive. It can and will save the world, in a sense. But to hang out hearts on our achieving (or really, noticing) those results is no good. We should be content to give some of our limited time to God, with whom we hope to spend unlimited time in Heaven. If the world is saved as a result, praise God, and if not…praise Him still.

  17. CanukFrank says:

    Dear “reader”, thank you so much for sharing your burden. I don’t feel so alone, today.

    Thank you, Fr.Z, for a fantastic article, ‘rhhenry’, for the tremendous, practical and “do-able” strategies and ‘suburbanbanshee’ for the Leg Day-analogy!

    I have a son in another province who is often mentally, not in a “good place”. Sometimes his cynicism, “existential woke-ness” and moods make me want to give him a good old fashioned thumping. My daily prayers, regular novenas, masses said, Friday Fastings seem to go unanswered. My quarterly visits (camping trips) and weekly emails seem to make no difference but as my Parish priest said, when I confessed my spiritual frustration and despair, God loves my son more than me. I can only keep the door open and like the father in the parable keep “watching, watching, watching the road….”.

    While the spiritual consolations in other areas of my life are palpable, my wife and our relationship with our son is definitely dry, arid and prolonged.

  18. GypsyMom says:

    It sounds as if the reader is having a particular problem, though that isn’t clear. The line “I feel as though my time would be better spent actually doing things that will help me rather than spend time in prayer asking God to help me…” may be telling. The answers to our problems are usually not an “either/or” situation. We should both work and pray. God often leads us to solutions through using our intellects, following common sense and practical wisdom, searching for answers, and asking for help from others, all the while asking for His help and guidance through prayer and being open to where He may be leading you, even if it’s the not answer YOU think you should be getting.
    I will pray for this person, having undergone similar long trials in my life.

  19. moosix1974 says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Father. I have dealt with this off and on over the years. I am finally coming out of a recent bout of the spiritual funk, with the great help of a parish mission with an TLM priest (Missionaries of St. John the Baptist) and making a general confession. It’s still a struggle from time to time, but overall, it is definitely better. The only thing I can suggest is PERSEVERE! Oh, and maybe a good Catholic novel. Anything by Michael O’Brien really helps to kickstart my spiritual mojo.

  20. TKS says:

    Some years ago I promised God my allegiance and obedience and love. Most of the time I don’t ‘feel’ anything but I know that feelings/senses come and go and that it isn’t important. I have had a few ‘consolations’ that let me know this is the right path for me.

  21. Deborah Y says:

    When I feel like God has stopped listening to my prayers it’s because I sometimes confuse Him with Santa Clause.

  22. carndt says:

    Keep praying the Rosary, go to Confession and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.
    It’s only getting worse…
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7665347/Pope-Francis-denied-bodily-resurrection-Christ-says-Italian-friend.html

  23. matt from az says:

    I say my prayers every night with my son and we are even doing the deMontfort Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. My frustration comes from wondering when I finally get to fight?
    I feel like a solider who spends his entire career training and never sees combat. We can earn an Expert Infantry badge by showing we can do a set of tasks, but we can only earn the Combat Infantry Badge by fighting in real combat.
    When do I get to take the gloves off, Lord, when?
    When do I get to walk around the walls of Jericho blowing horns? When do I get to go on Crusade?
    It’s frustrating that just a few generations ago we could have nipped this problem in the bud. Now in the new, improved Church I have to wring my hands like an old lady or fold them politely like a little girl. My hands were made for the fight!!!
    No wonder men leave the Church. All this prayer and I don’t even get to kick in a heretic’s teeth or run a sword through a reprobate. What a waste of the graces of Confirmation and my Y chromosome.

  24. Julia_Augusta says:

    God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we want them answered. We pray for something NOW and that something doesn’t materialise. Why? Is it because He doesn’t listen and doesn’t care? Is it because ultimately what we pray for is not good for us or for His kingdom? How do we know that He doesn’t hear us or care? We only feel as if He doesn’t. St. Monica prayed for years for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. Did she feel at times that it was pointless? Maybe. But she didn’t stop praying. Why didn’t she?

    Our feelings overwhelm us. Praying sometimes feels hopeless, like nothing ever happens – at least that’s what it looks like. But we can never be sure.

    We are not only made up of feelings. We have a Will. We have to tell ourselves that no matter how hopeless it feels, we will just continue praying. I go through periods of spiritual “dryness” and periods of intense spiritual joy and emotion. I have been praying for certain things to happen for two years now, and they have not happened, but it doesn’t mean they will never happen. These prayers may be answered after I’m dead! Does it matter except for our own personal satisfaction, to see our prayers answered before our eyes? Our perception of time is not God’s. He is timeless. He is not constricted by space and time. Maybe He has already answered your prayers but in a way you have never expected and you don’t know about. You are limited by space and time.

    Finally, God definitely tests people. He tested St. Monica and look what a reward she (and the world) reeeived – the conversion of Augustine. I say when you feel most despairing, will yourself to pray. God will give you something way better than anything you have prayed for.

  25. poohbear says:

    Thank you Fr Z for posting those prayers. I’m always amazed at all of the things I never learned in all my years. Only the Act of Contrition was ever taught to me. I have printed out the prayers and will follow your advice and pray them three times a day. I’ll add your questioner to my prayers, too.

    And thanks to the questioner for sharing his or her struggles, I have been there many times, and with the current atmosphere in the Church its a struggle not to go there again. With one question, you have helped more people than you will ever know.

  26. iPadre says:

    It does seem useless. And even if there were no God. But that is when people have to pray and fast more. The “devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” He knows us better than we know ourselves and will attack there.

    If we could only see the hidden effects of our prayers, sacrifices, and penance. We would be astounded, but maybe filled with pride. God hears and God will answer. He Himself will clean up this mess in a way that we know it’s not our doing.

    Keep on oh Soldier of Christ, keep on!

  27. roma247 says:

    In the world in which we are currently living, most of us will come into contact almost daily with people who have, knowingly or not, invited demons into their lives. Father Z has talked quite often about certain acts, certain practices, etc. that allow demons to attach themselves to a person or place. There are a shocking number of people who commit these acts or are at least opened to them. And those demons want to infect you, too, so especially when you begin feeling like the original poster, you need some “disinfection”.

    Here’s a great example of this:
    I once hired a person off the internet to do a job for me, and it never once occurred to me that there was anything to worry about. I never even met her. But she had some very serious problems, and I won’t bore you with the details, but she not only ruined the job I gave her, she proceeded to make my life a living hell. I found myself spiraling out of control, feeling unable to uproot her influence from my life. And then…

    I recited the Breastplate of St. Patrick.

    Bammo! I was snapped out of it like a trance. Every time she would try to snake back in and get me riled up, I would repeat the dosage. And in surprisingly little time, she and the swirling cloud of problems she was trying to make for me, just melted away.

    Now this is an extreme example. But when you find yourself trapped in feeling worried, unable to do anything to advance your spiritual life, and that there is no point trying anyway, I guarantee you that is the evil one whispering in your ear and you’ve got to get him gone RIGHT NOW.

    And while the St. Michael prayer is good, I really feel that the Breastplate of St. Patrick is even more powerful, at least for the garbage we are wading through in this wreck of a culture.

    So…to the original poster, and all of you reading this, I urge you: say that prayer now, and always keep a copy of it somewhere handy. You WILL forget to say it. You WILL find yourself falling back into the habit of getting upset. That’s OK. Put the prayer in several places around your house to remind you to say it. Every time you think of it, no matter how much you don’t feel like saying it, say it. You won’t regret it.

  28. Charivari Rob says:

    To the reader, within the obvious limits of my knowledge of his/her situation – I would say
    1. Don’t give up on prayer (or the rest etc…
    2. Often, medicine is working a cure (or laying the groundwork for a cure) even when it isn’t necessarily making you feel better yet.
    3. Don’t beat yourself up if your prayer isn’t as much or as “correct” as you or anybody else might think it should be. Resolve to do the best you can each day.

  29. The Cobbler says:

    matt from az,

    This is a battle for souls, and you’re a father: you are on the front lines (if not behind enemy lines)! Do you not know that the enemy has persuaded humans to reengineer entire societies to break a man’s ability to guide, guard and govern his family, to form those under his care? (One of their deceptions is to refer to “patriarchy” rather than to “patriarchs”. It would be obvious a patriarch is not universal bigotry against women, but a father-ruler.) If you succeed in raising your son to be a Catholic man, you snatch victory from the eco-feminist idolators at the last moment – just one man against the combined forces of global propaganda machines and international billionaires, and the world is still outmatched!

    Teach your son to examine his conscience, confess his sins and atone for them, that he may learn humility and believe the Faith that has been handed down not because the Pope validates his self-image as a good person but because God’s Word is True.

    Teach him to fast, and to catch himself when tempted to distract himself with fun in the moment, that he may learn temperance and be able to control himself. Teach him to focus on what he can control, to handle overwhelming feelings by checking his thinking for accuracy and validity, that he may learn fortitude and be able to stand strong. Teach him prudence, to look for words and deeds that are beneficial, that he not blind himself by blame and self-righteousness. Teach him that justice is not what everyone else owes us, but for us to give to others what is their due.

    The times may be dark, but Catholicism hasn’t changed, and niether has the formula for being a man; and not the Pope himself could change them!

  30. The Cobbler says:

    matt from az,

    One other thing I forgot: if you do this, or are already doing it, you will meet with resistance, and not necessarily from other humans. The enemy would love for you to think you’re not accomplishing anything, or can’t manage it.

    If it’s really getting nowhere, practice these virtues yourself! You can’t form others if you aren’t formed, for one. (I know a man whose only way of dealing with discomfort is to shout others down; his children think he’s a disciplinarian, but he failed to teach them any self-discipline – can’t give what you don’t have.) But also: even just in yourself you should not be cowed by external failure, by slowness on others’ parts to accept goodness.

    They’ll try to make your family conflate the internal freedom that comes from being built up as a person with the external freedom of libertarians, being allowed to do whatever one wants to do. Of course no one is simply allowed by everyone else to do absolutely anything they want; but there’s a world of difference between recognising others’ responsibility for themselves or helping build them up as a person, vs controlling them by breaking them down. What fathers must teach cannot be taught by breaking down, because we’re not merely sharing head knowledge, we’re trying to build people up.

    There’s one thing you need for effective leadership (beyond something to lead people toward), and it isn’t making them feel good enough about you (again, you can’t directly control that): it’s trust. To be trusted, you need three things in the exact order: strength yourself (nobody trusts someone who isn’t capable of holding to their word or following through), for that strength to be seen, and respect for those you ought to lead. Respect, also, is niether deference nor license, per se (though it can be expressed by the former and it allows what ought to be allowed): think of self-respect, it’s treating the person with decency and value… it’s an expression of goodwill, basically, related to how love is properly defined as willing the good of the other.

    So before you start, drill into yourself: if I’m pursuing the good of my family, I’m winning, no matter what results or who opposes it (even if that’s your own Pope or your own family).

  31. The Cobbler says:

    For those looking at depression and psychology, may I recommend (with a caveat) Dr. David Burns’s “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy”? (Here. Don’t be frightened by the size, half of it is reference material on the science; you can skim over the opening chapter or two on that, and ignore the final section, if you need to find time for the meat of the book.)

    The caveat! Burns makes a rather silly appeal to moral relativism at one point, or what he thinks is moral relativism anyway. However, you can pretty much ignore it. What he cautions against is actually morally incorrect (conflating what you want with what should be, focusing on blaming persons), while what he recommends is actually morally correct (focusing on what’s beneficial or harmful and on actions rather than persons).

    (He’s also a bit sloppy at several points, but generally either he fleshes out the details better later, or the point he’s making is valid even if the presentation could be better.)

    As to why I recommend it: Its approach is very objective and methodical (perfect for us manualists; even if some of the writing is hyperbolic), it starts with how to assess how depressed you are and whether you need professional help, and it focuses on teaching you to better understand yourself and think more reasonably. The core idea that how you think determines how you feel (and the emphasis on thinking realistically) is quite consistent with the Catholic notion that one’s emotions should be directed toward good. And there is an entire chapter on practical techniques for dealing sloth in the acedic sense of feeling/believing that things aren’t worth doing. And finally, if I recall correctly Burns rightly defines getting better as not merely feeling relief in the moment but adopting a healthier mindset in the long term.

    Also, on a similar note, I’ve had a lot of good success with a practice of facing temptation similarly: Why do I desire this, or what am I afraid of/angry for/etc.? Why does it matter to me? Take the answers to prayer and ask, How can I handle that in a way that accords with who I want to be? This may or may not lend consolation in the short term, but it can show you startling things about yourself and help you accept God’s healing long-term.