Faith & Emotions

     One of the constant struggles I have to face in my spiritual life has to do with emotions.  I can intellectually understand the difference between actual faith and emotions.  However, I find that I, even though I am a priest, am regularly tossed about by my emotions.  At times when I am sad, overly tired, anxious or just lonely, I find myself thinking that I have lost faith.  It usually takes a saint, canonized or otherwise, to snap me out of it.

     One of my closest brothers in Christ will often remind me, "Father, you know who this is."  Usually, I will grin and be brought back to reality, knowing that it was the evil who once again tried to neutralize me with emotions.  A quick rebuke followed by a Rosary, blessing myself and thanking God gets me back on the Kingdom Track.

     Another friend who is a Priest in West Virginia will roll his eyes and wearily just say, "Emotions"  when he notices that I have once again "stepped in it".  I don't always grin when he says it even though I know he is correct.

So what to do, what to do?  If you share this tendency with yours truly, I would suggest the following:
1.  Don't go all crazy on yourself.  You are human, and human beings have emotions. Cut yourself some slack as you once again put your emotions in the proper context.  In fact, if you don't beat yourself up for feeling the way you do at that moment, it is really freeing to recognize that it was not a lack of faith, just emotions!
2.  Rebuke the evil one by praising God in all things.  God is in control.  The phantom shadows of our emotions and the wiles of the devil are powerless in God's presence.
3.  Make sure you have a prayer partner to help you recognize those occasional forays into the dark side.  This can be your priest if you know him well, a spiritual director, or a close friend who is mature in his/her faith. .  Not all "down" days are the "dark night of the soul" that St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross have written about, and discernment is important in these matters.  If you choose a friend, it really should be a friend of the same sex that you are
4.  Pray the Rosary!  Beat those Beads! Allow the Mother of God to comfort you and take you back to Her merciful Son.  
5.  If you are dealing with serious or clinical depression, do all the above, but don't try to just brush it aside or laugh/cry/pray it away.  In addition to laughing, crying and praying get some professional help.  Your doctor can point you in the right direction.  

These are the things that work for me.  Especially praying the Rosary!

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