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“Ask a Priest: What if I Don’t Feel a Connection With God or the Church?”
Q: I’ve been a longtime Catholic. My family wasn’t very religious, but in going to a Catholic high school and university, I came to the faith on my own. The idea that no one is here by accident and that God has a purpose for us all has had a profound effect on my life. However, while I believe in God, I feel like I have no connection to him or the Church. I go to Mass, participated in Cornerstone [Scripture study], raise my children Catholic, and genuinely believe, but I just don’t feel it. This lack of connection becomes particularly difficult when life gets difficult. I’m at a loss as to how to fix this … so far, my prayers haven’t worked. I’d appreciate any advice you could give. – K.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It sounds as though you have had a great grace, finding the faith despite your family background.
My knowledge of your situation is very limited, of course, but I’ll venture to throw out a few ideas for your consideration.
What you are going through isn’t uncommon. Whole books could be written on the subject.
Catholics, even faithful Catholics, might feel a disconnect with the Church because their local parish community is shaky.
There might be lots of goodhearted people in the parish, but they don’t connect as a group. When Mass is over, they rush for the parking lot. Or they are stressed with all the demands of life, be it work, the household, the long commutes, the 24/7 of media bombardment. There is little time left for forging a real sense of community and solidarity among fellow Catholics.
The wider culture doesn’t help. It is increasingly secularized, as is the thinking of many Catholics. The result is the fabric of religiosity has grown thin. We don’t live and breathe Catholicism the same way faithful people might have done a few generations ago.
So what can you do?
First, it might help to know that you aren’t alone and that there are reasons you feel the way you do. One book you might find helpful is Forming Intentional Disciples.
Second, you might consciously look to network with other faithful and apostolically oriented Catholics, that is, Catholics who try to get involved in projects to build the Church and evangelize. Evangelizing others, in fact, is one of great ways to strengthen our own faith.
Here, you might want to look into an ecclesial movement or a third order. You might consider Regnum Christi, for instance (the force behind the RC Spirituality website). There are other entities, too.
Also helpful could be doing a silent retreat or going on a pilgrimage.
The important thing is to integrate action into your Catholic faith. It’s a good thing to pray and go to Mass. It’s a very different thing to, say, go on a Holy Week mission where you are knocking on doors and sharing the faith and inviting people to the sacrament of confession at the parish. Or getting neighbors to go on a weekend retreat with time for intense prayer and spiritual direction.
I hope some of these ideas help you. Count on my prayers.
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K – Have you ever lived Cursillo. Everyone I know who has “lived Cursillo” (experienced a Cursillo weekend) has describe it as “transforming”, “amazing”, “inspiring”, “life changing”. Contact your diocese to see where/when is being offered. I will be praying for you! Peace, Jan