“Ask a Priest: What If I Don’t Feel Good Enough to Be in the Church?”

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Q: While I need to go to confession, I’m afraid to open up to the priest. I can’t imagine what he will think of me. I struggle with whether or not I want to be a practicing Catholic because I’ve never felt “good enough” to be in the Church. I desire holiness, but for some reason it does not feel attainable for me. I know this must sound horrible, but several times in the last few years I have committed mortal sin not because it was really anything I wanted to do, but more so as a way to see myself out of the Church because I felt, at least in the moment, it would leave me with no choice but to leave. Yet, I can never force myself to leave. Is this something I should take to confession? I feel like such a disgusting person. I am so ashamed that I hurt Jesus by acting this way. – M.B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If you feel the weight of your sins and think that you could never be holy on your own, you are right.

The fact is, none of us can attain holiness on our own. We all need the grace of God. Without it, we’d be lost.

But that is precisely why we have reason to hope: Christ won redemption for us. He calls us to holiness. “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

And if Jesus calls us to holiness, that means he will give us the grace to achieve that goal.

This might sound like a fantasy, but it isn’t. You can become a saint if you left Our Lord transform you.

You are very down on yourself, which isn’t healthy or helpful. I won’t try to guess where this self-loathing comes from. I do know, however, where it doesn’t come from – it’s not from Jesus.

Beloved daughter of God though you are, somewhere along the line you have learned to see yourself in the worst light. That’s not part of Our Lord’s plan for your life.

You need to shake this toxic self-image. It sounds as though the devil is tempting you to get discouraged about your past sins. It’s one of his best tricks. And he loves to keep people away from the confessional. Don’t fall for his tricks! Have confidence in God’s mercy.

Perhaps you are also grappling with deep-seated problems that require a bit of professional counseling. We are complex beings, and sometimes we need psychological as well as spiritual help. Counseling might help you deal with certain issues that need to be resolved.

As for spiritual help, you want to take advantage of the sacrament of confession.

Don’t worry what the priest will think of you. He will probably admire you for your sincerity and spirit of repentance. He might also be able to guide you to counseling if you need something beyond the absolution of sins.

Watching this Retreat Guide on the sacrament of confession could be a big help: From Sorrow to Joy. Also useful might be this one: A Cure for Discouragement.

Do yourself a favor and get to confession as soon as possible. And stay close to Our Lord in prayer. He will help you understand how much you mean to him.

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