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8 Tips for Catholics With Doubts


JENNIFER FULWILER

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Catholic Perspectives
Date:
3/14/2012

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ABSTRACT8 Tips for Catholics With Doubts |Blogs | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  April 8, 2012   Donate Archives Blogs Store Resources Advertise Jobs Radio Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Christmas Music Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tim Drake Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Editorial Calendar Order Web Ad Order Print Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Blogs » Jennifer Fulwiler Jennifer Fulwiler 8 Tips for Catholics With Doubts Share by Jennifer Fulwiler Wednesday, March 14, 2012 5:19 AM Comments (99) “I feel like I’m losing my faith,” an acquaintance told me the other day. This person explained that she used to have an intimate relationship with God, but now feels empty inside, and has even begun to question whether God exists at all. She wanted to know how I recommend that she proceeds. Even though I’m neither a saint nor an expert on the spiritual life, I get asked questions like this fairly frequently. Perhaps it’s because I’m an atheist-to-Catholic convert, or because readers of my personal blog know that I’m a spiritual spaz and therefore am likely to have been through a variety of rough patches in my relationship with God. Whatever the reason, over the course of the past six years I’ve had dozens of conversations with people who are struggling with doubts. Through these conversations, as well as meetings with confessors and spiritual directors about problems I’ve faced in my own spiritual life, I’ve learned a lot about traveling the rocky road of doubt. So for my acquaintance who’s questioning her faith, as well as anyone else who might be struggling with beliefs that used to come naturally to them, here are the top tips I think you might find helpful: 1. Make sure that the problem is doubt First, make sure that your main issue is doubt . Problems like clinical depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. can lead to a lack of closeness with God that might initially seem like doubts, but have a deeper root that would be best addressed with a qualified Catholic therapist . Similarly, in my own life there was a time when I said I was experiencing doubts, but when I took a closer look I realized that it was simply a lack of consolation (i.e. a spiritual dry spell) rather than serious questions about the validity of the teachings of the Faith. “Doubt” is often used as a catch-all term that covers a variety of spiritual problems, so it’s important to take a second look to make sure that you’ve diagnosed the situation correctly. 2. Confess your sins Whenever I complained of problems in my prayer life, my spiritual director would always ask me if I’d made a good confession recently. Having doubts isn’t necessarily caused by being in a state of sin, but certainly our sins can fuel any existing feelings of distance from God. Visiting the confessional is a good first step to clear your spiritual slate before moving forward. 3. Listen to the Church’s side of the story This one seems obvious, but is surprisingly easy to overlook. When I talk to folks who have begun to embrace viewpoints that are contrary to Catholic teaching (such as those of the New Atheists), I often find that they have not spent much time listening to the Church’s counter-arguments. I see this most often among people who were raised Catholic: There’s a feeling of, “If there were a good response to this I surely would have heard it in Catholic school or in a homily at some point, and since I haven’t, there must not be a good answer.” The Church has a two-thousand-year-old body of wisdom that covers pretty much every aspect of human existence, so it’s perfectly possible that even someone raised in a faithful Catholic environment could have misunderstandings about exactly what the Church believes in certain areas. If you haven’t done so already, find faithful Catholic authors and see what they have to say about the areas in which you’re experiencing doubts. (The EWTN Catalog and Lighthouse Catholic Media both have great resources to get you started.) 4. Research your questions, but wait to do so until you’re in a place of peace My spiritual director always used to say that we shouldn’t make big decisions when we’re feeling agitated, and never is this more true than in matters of faith. If you’re feeling stressed out, frazzled, angry, exhausted, resentful, or otherwise unsettled, try to regain a sense of calm before you begin seeking answers to your questions. As much as .......