Q: Dear Trent, I tend to worry about trivial details, even to the point of being kept from participating in the sacraments. However, I want to work out the matter on my own because I’m afraid the priest I ask for help will be unable to do so because he won’t understand me. What do you think I should do?
A: Thanks for your question on this central aspect of overcoming scrupulosity. It can be tempting to try to solve problems without any help, but consdier this observation about that: you’ve been your own spiritual director up to now but it doesn’t sound like it has worked out all that well… That sentence alone could suffice for an answer, but here’s a little more:
It can be difficult for us to diagnose and deal with our own problems, but it tends to be very easy for others to do so for us, and us for others. A question about myself may take up hours, days, or even weeks of wondering, but if someone asked me the same question about himself, I could give a response within seconds. It is far easier for us to see others objectively than to see ourselves objectively. Priests have the added grace to enable them to guide souls in spiritual matters, which makes spiritual direction very beneficial to the scrupulous.
It is true that a priest could give bad direction, but this problem can be avoided by doing the necessary research. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the patron of the scrupulous, wrote to nuns regarding the matter of spiritual directors and confessors. He stated, “For the nun that sincerely desires to become a saint and wishes for nothing but God, every confessor that is appointed by her bishop is a safe guide.” The laity can take that advice as well.
When contacting your local bishop, it would be a good idea to ask him for the names of three priests in your area who would be able to help you. If you don’t recognize the names already, you could look into their backgrounds and then go to the one most likely to help in an orthodox manner. By conducting this preparation beforehand, the possible problem of bad advice can be avoided, as can the possibility that one of the priests would be unable to help because of previous commitments, etc.
It is also helpful to remember that it tends to be easy, even for the scrupulous, to spot advice which is certainly sinful. The issue for the scrupulous is centered on those things that may be sinful, and when in doubt, it is safe to go with the advice of a director whose background you are aware of and whom you have accepted. Saint Philip Neri stated that “There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectively cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good.”
Trent Beattie lives in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of the newly-released book on scrupulosity, Scruples and Sainthood: Accepting and Overcoming Scrupulosity With the Help of the Saints, and he selected the daily meditations for Saint Alphonsus Liguori for Every Day.
Other Helpful Posts
- Finding a Spiritual Director
- Understanding and Overcoming Scrupulosity Part I of II
- Understanding and Overcoming Scrupulosity Part II of II
- The Ten Commandments of Scrupulosity