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“Ask a Priest: Why Do I Still Feel Rotten?”
Q: Just over a year ago I went to adoration and received the gift of tongues while praying for my dying mom. After this experience, I felt compelled to attend daily Mass and go to confession monthly. Everyone told me I would receive great spiritual graces from daily Mass. Here is my question: Why do I still feel like a “rotten” person even though I am called to daily Mass and monthly confession? I still think bad thoughts, say things I shouldn’t. I have colorful language while in traffic, and wish I had more patience with my husband and family. I thought maybe these graces would help change me and make me a better woman. My mom passed away, grief came, but I never became angry with God, as I know she finally has peace and is with my brother and is loved by God even more than we could ever love her. God also saved my marriage, gave me an amazing career, and two beautiful children. And yet I am still this same wretched person. Is my heart that hardened? If so, how do I get to be more holy and not just go through the motions? I read spiritual books too to help educate me but I feel like I will never become more holy. Thanks for your help and guidance. – M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s not unusual that we are aware of receiving special graces from God, and yet we still feel keenly our own sinfulness.
In one sense this is healthy. The closer we get to God, the closer we draw to the Light. And the closer we draw to the Light, the more clearly we see our defects.
It is the difference between a person looking at herself in the mirror at night under a black light, and looking at herself in the morning sunshine. Same face, but the defects are more obvious in daylight.
The important thing is that your sense of your sinfulness brings you to a deeper love for God and a deeper desire to move ahead in the spiritual life.
If feeling our limitations makes us humbler, that’s good. This keeps us close to Our Lord in prayer. It can also make us more patient with the people in our lives.
If, on the other hand, your sense of your sinfulness leaves you discouraged, that isn’t coming from God. It might be coming from the devil. If that is the case, just shrug off the sad feeling, get to confession if need be, and continue with your regimen of prayers and daily Mass.
It might be helping to seek out a solid, regular confessor or a spiritual director who could guide you. An objective observer can help us move on if we feel stuck on a plateau. In some cases spiritual attention might need to be supplemented with a bit of therapy. (For further reading, see Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions.)
It might help to keep in mind that God in his wisdom tends not to take away all our faults — he knows that would easily lead us to pride.
Rather, he lets us feel our limits, even as he helps us to overcome them little by little. This keeps us humble and close to him. Count on my prayers.
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