…even my prayer life is compulsive.

So, I’m Catholic. Not just a Christmas and Easter Catholic, I’m an obsessive Catholic. Jim Gaffigan would probably call me a “Shi’ite Catholic.” I’m pretty traditional, very into the sacraments and the Saints, and I find great comfort in the Church. It is my home.

So naturally, I find it difficult when I find my OCD manifesting itself in my prayer life. I struggle with scrupulosity–a fear of sinning or disappointing God–and worry about my salvation. Which is, of course, ridiculous, because if we were perfect, then Christ died for nothing. I then find myself caught in tension between “I shouldn’t sin” and “I should have more faith in Christ’s mercy and love for me.” It’s agonizing.

My OCD further manifests in rituals I perform. Catholicism is full of many beautiful rituals, and it is very regimented. This, in and of itself is not disordered. Where it becomes a problem for me is when I cross the line from doing these things out of reverence and a desire to love God with my whole heart to doing them because not to would cause me great anxiety.

Take, for example, passing by a church. From childhood, my father taught us to cross ourselves when passing by any church where the blessed sacrament resides. (I.e., Catholic, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox churches–any of the churches that are in full communion with the RCC). I love this ritual. I find it beautiful and meaningful.

It is a problem, however, because I now have great anxiety over whether or not I remembered to cross myself upon passing a church and find myself crossing myself repeatedly and apologizing to God for being so thoughtless. This is where I’ve crossed the line into OCD.

So this is something we have to work on. I don’t want to stop performing the rituals for the rest of my life. I find them inspirational and I find that they help bring me closer to God, but I want to perform them because I want to perform them, not because I’m anxious at the thought of not performing them. I want to do these rituals out of a genuine love of God, not out of fear of Him. I want to pray because I want to pray, not because I’m scared. I want to come before Him from a place of confidence.

So, that’s where I’m at. I need to find a way to have a healthy spiritual life.

“Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will.”

-St. Ignatius of Loyola


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