Katrina Fernandez "fixes it for you" with advice on spiritual dryness (and plain old grumpiness)
Dear Miss Fernandez,
I wonder if maybe you would compose something for those who are lukewarm? My sister-in-law, a very special person and a mother with a career, suggested this was a current concern of hers. I suggested the obvious… begin Advent with confession, more prayer, and immersion, but am not a very persuasive communicator.
Very best regards,
Being a mom who works outside the home too, I understand your sister-in-law’s situation all too well. I’ve gone through my own cycles of “lukewarmness” (in practice, not belief). Those periods in my spiritual life are usually punctuated by dry spells in prayer when we feel God as distant. Busy parents often struggle with maintaining an active spiritual life because trying to find the time to pray can be challenging.
Tell your sister-in-law to be more forgiving of herself. The very fact that she’s concerned about her own “lukewarm” attitude right now tells me she’s might be confusing being lukewarm with spiritual dryness. A Catholic lukewarm in their faith is content about not being challenged. Quite often someone who is lukewarm doesn’t even recognize the state they are in and they certainly wouldn’t care enough to ask advice about it from a family member. If your sister-in-law isn’t struggling with belief or accepting Church teaching she’s probably experiencing a perfectly normal dry spell. If that’s the case, she is just responding to her Catholic conscience. The conscience works the same way physical symptoms alert us that something is wrong with our body. Our conscience is pricked when something is off spiritually, and it’s our soul’s way of saying we need to get to a physician, in this case, the Church. You were on point suggesting confession.
More practical ways to cure spiritual dryness can vary greatly depending on the person. Confession, prayer, and Mass are the main ways, of course, but there are other things you can do to help you persevere over that hump. For me, when I feel that pang of apathy I reach for a book. The way to my heart is through my brain. The more I learn about God or the Church the more I grow in love.
If your sister-in-law is more the service or community type then perhaps she would benefit more from volunteering in her church. If she’s more outgoing she may find joining a weekly prayer group could help her stay focused. Sometimes all it takes is to surround yourself with other people enthusiastic about their faith. Some people are more contemplative, like Carmelites, and find a weekly quiet hour in adoration helps.
Personally for me, I have to go to Mass at least once during the week. I’m too nasty, grumpy, and crotchety by midweek if I don’t go. By Wednesday, the following Sunday seems like a distant memory, what with the demands of work and motherhood. I’m not ashamed to admit that I need a little extra Eucharist to get me through until the following Sunday.
Of course I’m not suggesting your sister-in-law is a grump like me. I just know that the demands of a being a wife, mother, and employee can pull our time and attention in every direction, and sometimes that direction is away from God. So maybe a weekday Mass could be just the thing she needs to re-center her focus.
Just keep encouraging your sister-in-law and engaging with her. If the root of her problem is a lack of time to pray then offer to babysit so she can go to Mass. But if her issue is more serious and stemming from spiritual doubt, actual lukewarmness of faith, then suggest she speak with a priest and seek out a good spiritual director. Pray for her and her family and let her know you’re there for her, which it sounds like she already does.