Good evening father,
My name is Giulio, I am 19 years old and I recently enrolled in the Faculty of Political Science at the University Roma 3; from the age of 6 until I was 12 years old I was a scout agesci (tn. the Italian Catholic Scouts Association) and after receiving confirmation I attended a post-confirmation program organized by neocatechumenals which ended this year in June. Almost every Sunday I attend mass, and I pray every day. I have noticed that lately my faith in God has faded away; it is like I do not expect anything from Him anymore. For example: looking for help with my exams, we started a novena to St. Theresa, as suggested by my mother, and while I was praying I realized that I was praying out of habit. I must admit that I can’t help but notice that almost every time I pray I do it solely out of habit; I pray because I live in a family of believers, particularly my mother who passed this teaching on to me. For years I have been having the feeling that, if I don’t pray every day, God gets angry with me, because the very next day I run into unpleasant situations. The experiences I lived in the scout movement and in the post-confirmation activity left me with few positive things; as in the case of neocatechumenals, for their way of looking at life, with a God mastermind behind everyone’s actions. I do not fully agree with this perspective, because I think that we do have the freedom to choose some key factors of our life, thus God influences our life but not in everything. My current relationship with God is dull, repetitive. I keep being a believer only thanks to my mother, who transmitted the faith to me; were it not for her, I would be completely atheist now. In recent years I have always felt distant, despite being aware that God exists. I like life, I like owning things, and if I don’t I don’t feel bad, yet I am very materialistic. I am writing to you because I am in a deep state of confusion, I don’t really know what I want, I can’t discern if God is really important to me. What’s your advice for me?
The priest’s answer
1. You have written to me long ago. Unfortunately I answer to you only now and I apologize.
You are telling me that there is dullness in your spiritual life and that what you do is just out of habit, without fervor or enthusiasm.
You say that if you are not an atheist by now, you owe it to your mother who is a strong believer and who cares about your faith. But everything you do, you do it with indifference.
2. I believe that one of the reasons for all this is in a swift remark from your email: “Almost every Sunday I attend mass, and I pray every day”.
I do not take into account the daily prayer, because perhaps it is due to communal prayer within your family. So it is there, though without fervor just because you can’t avoid it.
I want to emphasize those other words of yours instead: “Almost every Sunday I attend mass”. That almost speaks for itself.
Someone might say: “Well, after all, this is a good boy. Especially compared to others who go to Church rarely or never”.
3. However, that almost is a distinctive sign; the sign that one does not live in God’s grace.
It is precisely through this life of grace that God becomes present in our hearts, according to what the Lord said: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him“. (John 14,23).
This presence is felt in our heart as a sense of inner fullness and spiritual sweetness.
4. This is the reason why you write: “In these years I have always felt distant, despite being aware that God exists”.
If there is no life of grace, you cannot feel God’s personal presence.
Now, I am sure you know, because your mother certainly told you so, that not attending Mass on Sundays – unless there is a grave impediment – makes you lose Grace. It is a mortal sin. It is called mortal because it makes you lose the presence of God, which is a soul’s source of life.
To voluntarily disregard to observe the Lord’s day is a symptom of a disease of one’s soul: God is no longer the center. Things are more preferable than God: “I like life, I like owning things, and if I don’t I don’t feel bad, yet I am very materialistic”.
But if there isn’t a life of grace, one is dead inside.
And just as the dead no longer feel anything, so it is also happening for you in your spiritual life.
You believe in God, but you are not united with Him heart-to-heart.
But this kind of faith is not enough. Demons have it, too.
5. I mentioned the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”.
But there is not only the transgression of this commandment that makes one lose his life of grace.
For many young and not so young there is also the sixth commandment, which sounds like this: “You shall not commit adultery” (sexual sins) . Through sins of this nature not only we plunge into apathy, but we become mind-blinded (cecitudo mentis).
Just as a blind man trying to look around himself does not see anything, so does he who is affected in these circumstances. He cannot see the presence of God, well evident instead to those who are pure in heart.
Everything speaks of God to those living in Grace. Holy Scriptures in particular become a pleasure to read, and “words that communicate eternal life”, i.e. they communicate the presence of God in one’s heart.
6. That’s what you need: to return to living in God’s grace.
And you accomplish that by returning to the sacrament that removes all stains, purifies you and sanctifies you: confession.
You must return to this sacrament regularly and frequently.
Take it as a long-lasting commitment of your whole life.
7. The transformation of every believer begins with Confession.
Likewise, the true reform of the Church, the renewal of souls, begins with Confession.
A new springtime, either in individuals or in Christian communities (parishes, various associations like Agesci, movements like the neocatechumenals) without this Sacrament, will not happen.
The reason being that Confession is the Sacrament of Christian healing.
8. It is the most needed Sacrament of a Church that is and defines itself as a field hospital.
If the hospital does not offer remedies – in our case, confession – what does it cure? It remains an empty word.
The sick and the dead will only increase endlessly and the city will remain more and more deserted.
So will the Church, if it stops providing the means of Christian healing.
9. Therefore, start planning a good and sincere confession of your sins.
The Lord is waiting for you. He awaits nothing but this from you.
I accompany you with my prayer, I wish you well and I bless you.
translated by Riccardo Mugnaini