Saint Alphonsus Liguori, patron saint of the scrupulous, pray for us.
- Scrupulosity series (10 articles): SpiritualDirection
- For each human person, our conscience — the core of our being — can be a place where we are "alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths". For most people of faith, such an image is appealing. But for some the thought of communicating this intimately with the Lord produces a feeling not of comfort but of terror (to a lesser or greater degree). Such people are convinced that because of the presence of evil in their life, God must be displeased with them. As a result, any sin — any manifestation of weakness or imperfection, often the most minute and insignificant — becomes their primary preoccupation, and an intimate relationship with the Lord is impossible. This is called scrupulosity.
- In Catholic moral teaching, scrupulosity defines the spiritual and psychological state of a person who erroneously believes he is guilty of mortal sin and is therefore seldom in a state of grace. A scrupulous person has difficulty making choices and decisions even though he desires above all else to please God and to follow God's law. For a scrupulous person, it isn't that he doesn't "carefully attend to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church" (as the Catechism teaches), but that he becomes overwhelmed with the details and nuances that may be present in the decision.
- An example: We are supposed to fast for one hour before receiving the Eucharist. But, perhaps the celebrant is a little quicker today than normal and you are not sure that the entire sixty-minute period (ALL of the 3,600 seconds) has elapsed. What to do? To receive Communion may well be to risk sacrilege, the deliberate and unworthy reception of the Body of Christ.... There is an exaggerated fear of all that is sacred manifested in any encounter with God or the Church... Although the root cause of scrupulosity is not known, the person who suffers most certainly does not choose it. The fear and the anxiety that scrupulosity produces within the person as he strives to do the will of God are symptoms of the affliction and not an indication that the person is somehow displeasing to God.
- For this reason, a single, trained, patient, and informed confessor remains the best help and hope for the scrupulous person....You should implicitly trust in obedience your confessor and not seek another.
- Scrupulosity is a terrible spiritual affliction that makes it difficult for a person to believe in the mercy and forgiveness of a loving Father. Despite their best efforts and their commitment to moral teaching and the Commandments, scrupulous persons struggle daily on their spiritual journey. Working together with a trained and patient confessor, a scrupulous person can learn to act against his compulsion and slowly come to know the peace and confidence promised to those of good faith.
- Remember, an overly scrupulous conscience is an exaggeration of healthy guilt.
- Understand that scrupulosity can be a temporary condition or a persistent and seemingly unyielding condition; in either case it is not a punishment from God.
- Acknowledge your need for help and guidance and accept that you cannot effectively pursue a path of healing and wholeness by yourself.
- Always remember and never forget that discipline is essential if you wish to become healed. Choose one helper and resist the urge to seek many different helpers and a variety of different opinions.
- Learn to be very patient with yourself, your confessor and spiritual director, your therapist, and with family and friends.
- When you fail, or feel that you have taken two steps backwards, pick yourself up and try again. Do not give in to feelings of failure.... Discover and recognize your successes and learn to celebrate your effort... Never underestimate the power of grace.
- Pray, pray, pray. Try and live a life of thankful praise.