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“Ask a Priest: I Don’t Feel God in My Life. What Can I Do?”
Q: I’m a teenager who has grown up in, and been educated in, the Catholic Church since birth; and my school is a very lively faith community. My problem is thus: While I hold the teachings of the Church to be absolute truth, and know my faith very well intellectually and do all that I can to live by it, I’m completely unable to feel God in my life. Intellectually I know that he is there, but spiritually and emotionally (even during the Eucharistic consecration) I can’t feel anything, and it worries me very much. I see the wonder and joy that other members of my community, family, and friends feel, but it just seems like every Mass and Eucharistic adoration I am going through the motions, despite focusing intently what is happening on the altar (I’m actually an altar server as well) / monstrance. What can / do I do? –A.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s possible that you aren’t really having any big problems. Let me explain.
Faith and devotion to Our Lord are not a matter of feelings. Feelings are not the measure of the health of a spiritual life. Feelings come and go like the wind. The better gauge is whether a person is growing in virtue.
If we sense that our patience and generosity are growing, and that we are holding on to high standards despite the temptations around us, then we could be sure that we are on the right path.
Perhaps God has taken away feelings of consolation right now in order to help you grow deeper in your faith. That is, since you don’t get the same consoling feelings as you possibly did before (or as others seem to get), your presence at Mass might require a greater act of the will, and greater faith. And that is what real love for God is about: an act of the will is based on the truth we know by faith. You are in Mass because deep down you might realize that you owe due worship to God. You aren’t there because it leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy; you are there because you want to give glory to God.
It might seem odd, but even many priests and consecrated people don’t have lots of feelings of consolation day by day. Many of them don’t need those feelings; they are faithful to prayer because they want to be faithful to Jesus.
That said, perhaps it might be good to see if you can get involved in volunteer work or some Church-related projects. It is great that you assist at Mass and Eucharistic adoration. The fruit of those acts of worship permeates the whole of your life, motivating your charity and service to others, prompting you to build community wherever you are. Being able to see God in the poor, the sick, the lonely and anyone who needs assistance, will help you be more aware of the Almighty’s continuous presence in your life. Besides, while the faith is intellectual, it is also meant to move the heart.
Beyond that, stick to the basics. Make time for prayer each day, no matter how dry it might be. Frequent the sacraments. And cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For further reading see my colleague Father John Bartunek’s three-part article starting here. You also might benefit from his book “Seeking First the Kingdom,” which helps you take an X-ray of your entire spiritual life, to see what might need work.