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March 2015 Letters

Q: Can prayer become an unhealthy ritual? What are the warning signs?

A: Any human activity can become ritualized; we tend to repeat thoughts, words, and actions that help us or make us feel better. Prayer can become an unhealthy obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) ritual. The most obvious warning sign is when prayer becomes a burden, when it becomes something youÕre compelled to do, often with an impending sense of doom and dissatisfaction. Another sign is that prayer makes you anxious.

This is a wonderful topic to discuss with your confessor and spiritual director.

Q: When does a thought become a mortal sin? Many thoughts run through my head all day and all night. I never have a moment when I’m not distracted. Sometimes the thoughts even seem to be blasphemous.

A: Every human being has random thoughts cascading through his or her head. The only people who don’t are engaged in a level of mindfulness that takes years of highly disciplined spiritual practice to achieve.

So, if we all have random thoughts of various intensity and feeling, how can such thoughts be our responsibility?

If there is no freedom, there is no sin. To say otherwise is to suggest that God created us in such a manner that we are constantly at serious risk of sin.

That is not my understanding and experience of God.

Published in2015 MarchSA Mailbox