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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Feel free to submit a new question or concern in the comment box below.  Various topics and questions are archived here for easy retrieval.  Please be courteous.  Comments are moderated so please be patient in waiting for them to appear and for any responses.  God bless you!





3,908 Responses

  1. Can you clarify what sufficient reflection/ deliberate consent for mortal sin. Is it possible for a person with a history of scrupulosity like myself to commit a mortal sin in a half second? Sometimes it feels like when temptations face those facing scrupulosity, we actually do consent and fulfill grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent. However, I want to stress this is only for about a half second maybe less! So is it possible to commit a mortal sin with such little time. This sufficient reflection thing is confusing.


    Do not fool yourself. The window of opportunity might open and close quickly but deliberation is ongoing and begins with our religious formation. Believers are aware of the Ten Commandments and the demands of the Church. We learn the difference between right and wrong.

    Momentary or flashing thoughts lack due deliberation. Remember that mortal sin requires (1) grave matter, (2) awareness of the wrong, and (3) deliberate (freely willed) consent. Do not be overly scrupulous about this!

    The grave matter that would constitute a sin is neither up to the penitent nor to the confessor. God has revealed his will through both divine positive law and the nature of creation. The Lord and his Church sets the parameters for grave matter.

  2. Hi Father,

    Can I attend a Greek Orthodox mass with a friend? He has fallen away from the faith but I’ve been able to encourage him to pray and he asks me lots of questions about my faith. I am a cradle Catholic confirmed who attends confession and mass weekly. Can I take the Eucharist in the Orthodox church? Just as a one off I’m not planning on changing churches.

    FATHER JOE: Given that you have easy access to a Catholic church, you must fulfill your Sunday obligation at a Catholic Mass. Outside of this obligation, yes, you are permitted to attend a Greek Orthodox liturgy with a friend. Indeed, in countries where there are few or no Catholic churches, participation at an Orthodox liturgy would suffice for your Sunday obligation and Catholic law would allow you to take communion. The issue of receiving communion is complicated because while Catholicism would permit it, you are obliged to follow the ecclesial laws of the church you are visiting. Some Orthodox churches permit intercommunion with Catholics and others do not. It would be best not to take communion until or unless you have spoken to the pastor about it. The Catholic Church does acknowledge as valid the priesthood and the sacraments of the Orthodox churches. However, we are not in full juridical union with them. There is division over the scope of the papacy and a few doctrinal clashes, as in the relations or generations between the divine persons of the Trinity.

  3. When on retreat or vacation, is it ok to stay in same house as members of the opposite sex if you are in private room? Also, this question could apply to a man or woman who is staying with members of the same sex but have homosexual attraction.

    FATHER JOE: Yes, especially if there be private rooms.

  4. Dear Father Joe:
    My parents were raised Catholic, but now are at best agnostic. I want to become Catholic but I have so many doubts. I used to be an atheist, and I have trouble accepting the existence of God and the Devil, and other ethereal beings. I want to though, and it pains me that I can’t believe. Please help, Father. I need some spiritual guidance. Bless you.


    It may be that this desire that God has planted in your soul is the seed that will constitute the beginnings of faith. First, you need to realize that religious faith is a gift that can be nurtured through study and efforts at prayer. Two, despite the naysayers, religion does not stand in the way of scientific and historical investigation and truth. Three, beware of the current “angry” atheism where sober argument is often supplanted by anger and mockery. Four, open your heart and mind to the messages of faith— that there is intelligent design, that we are loved and are not cosmic accidents, and that in this vast universe, there is one who keeps us in existence and has a plan for us. This ultimate meaning is particularly important; otherwise, all mortal existence, human achievement and creativity are ultimately in vain. We are more than worm food. As a Catholic I believe that God has made us in his image and that he desires for us to participate in his love and life forever. Here is some reading that may be helpful:

    CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM & ATHEISM by William Kilpatrick
    FROM ATHEISM TO CATHOLICISM edited by Brandon McGinley
    THE EVERLASTING MAN by G.K. Chesterton
    WHY WE’RE CATHOLIC by Trent Horn

  5. Hello, Father!
    Where did John the Baptist get the honey (he lived in the desert)? Where did the bees come from?

    FATHER JOE: We should not be presumptuous against the presence of honey-producing bees in arid areas. Further, honey in antiquity did not always refer to the product of bees. The word for honey applied as well to sticky food substances and sweet nectar as from sap and figs.

  6. Hellp I M interested in what religion has to say about the outcome.for people who commit suicide. Do not people who take their lives do so because of extreme mental duress. Should they be punished I have the afterlife for a decision that may be be influenced by. Mental health issues. Depression. Confusion or simply from being tired and overwhelmed. Could someone please email me back about this. I am very concerned for a friend.

    FATHER JOE: Depression, mental illness, great loss, etc. might mitigate from the spiritual cost of such a sin. However, it remains serious as it impugns the gift of life that God grants us. Only God can judge souls. All that we can say is that the “matter” of this sin is mortal or grievous. It is possible, given the emotional and mental state of the person, that the sin of suicide could damn a person’s soul. It has traditionally been spoken about as the one sin from which a person could not repent. Our spiritual state before God becomes fixed at death. There are the damned and the saved. While there is no more hope for the damned, hope for the saved is realized. Some of these saints go immediately to heaven and other poor souls pass through purgatory on their way to paradise. The saints dance and bask in the fire of God’s love. The souls in purgatory are purified and made perfect by this very same fire. The tiniest speck of this fire keeps the damned of hell in existence. I suspect the fire that torments the senses is a distraction and God’s final gift to the damned. The fire that truly torments them is the spark or speck, given that the devils hate God and his presence.

  7. Hello Father Joe,

    I Love the Mass and attend regularly. I also travel around the country and worldwide. I am a bit confused about some of the differences I experience and would like to hear your thoughts on what is proper concerning gestures and responses.

    In some churches I see the congregation use a lot of hand and arm gestures when we say ” and with your Spirit”. Others simply say the response. Is there a standard?

    Also, before the Priest or Deacon proclaims the Gospel, he cross his forehead, lips and heart. Is it proper for the congregation to also copy this gesture?

    Finally, at the sign of peace, I have heard a variety of statements from the Priests and/or Deacons. The most concerning is: ” offer a sign of peace to the person next to you only”. Again, is there a standard?

    Thank you,



    The response “And with your spirit” is the rubric. There are no directions about hand-and-arm movements from the laity. Some Catholic parishes have picked up gestures of various sorts from the Charismatic renewal. However, they are not dictated.

    As for the crossing of the forehead, the lips and the heart, this gesture should be done both by the homilist and the worshippers in the pews. It is a reference to our disposition and our openness to the Word. We are literally praying that the Lord will be in our minds, proclaimed upon our lips and alive in our hearts.

    There should be no words added to those prescribed for the sign of peace. However, it is understood within the directives of the liturgy that the gesture of the handshake should only be offered to those near you. Movement tends to destroy the order of good liturgy. There is no necessity to give the gesture to everyone in the parish community. It is already understood as sufficient by the words of dialogue between the priest and people and the gesture given by each to a sampling of the congregation. The community is bonded in Christ. The sign of peace element of the liturgy is a symbol of our unity in the Lord. There should be no division among God’s people as they prepare to take Holy Communion. Sometimes in Charismatic Masses, Gospel Masses, etc. the sign of peace is shared with a larger sampling or the whole church. This adds time and some confusion to the celebration. Many of us look the other way about this; however, it signifies an aberration from typical liturgy. The priest and deacon share the gesture with servers and others around the altar or in the sanctuary. They are instructed expressly by the rubrics not to leave the immediate area around the altar.

  8. I am sorry to ask about such a heavy topic, but I feel like I’m not getting good advice where I am now. I fully understand the catholic view on suicide, and when I speak to my priest l feel like he wants to scare me out of it rather than talking about why I do. I know I would be condemning myself to hell, but I feel like I am already living it despite my best efforts at living a good Christian life. I feel like even my church doesn’t care if I live or die, I just feel attacked for even considering a thought that I feel I can’t control. I know the secular view would be that I should go see a psychologist but I don’t want to be drugged, I truly believe there is an answer from God but for some reason I can’t figure it out. Could you please give me some guidance aside from “you’ll go to hell if you do”? I am lost and I feel abandoned by people I used to be able to turn to with other problems in life I had.

    FATHER JOE: Divine assistance is not limited to the miraculous or spiritual. We can also discern God’s hand in the intervention of counselors and medical professionals. It is wrong to close any of the doors by which he can reach us. If your malady is depression, it might be resolved through psychiatric counsel. I have also known poor souls suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts because of physical or chemical imbalances that were treated well by medicine. If this is what your priest has told you then it is proof that the Church and her ministers care very much about whether you live or die. The problem may be that you do not really care enough. As for condemning oneself to hell, you need to reflect upon your priorities. Do you really love God? Hating and being indifferent really amounts to the same thing. If this love is real has it been expressed in worship, prayer and service? This love when genuine reaches out to others. Those who are self-absorbed close themselves off from this love— they create their own hells in this world. The saints focus on heaven and seek to realize Christ’s kingdom in the here-and-now. The damned take hell with them everywhere they go and would draw others into their circle of selfishness. Death simply makes this state permanent. Just as virtue can be sensed, evil is also real. Instead of inspiring and energizing, it moves us to despair and drains us of the joy of living. Such people drive many of their friends away. Those who are courageous in the faith will try to love those who make themselves hard to love. But the door to the human heart must always be opened from the inside. We have to really want to be helped.

  9. Hi Father,

    My boyfriend has been with me for years. We wanted to get married. He wonders if he should be a priest or marry. He said he feels more like marriage. He saw our parish priest who we hardly go to see. The priest told him I might be infertile because of my age (late thirties). He said that we don’t know how any child might come out… he means like with an illness, etc. I feel this was not his place to say such things about me… just because my boyfriend told him about a possible calling to priesthood. How can he know if God will give me healthy children? What do you think about it?

    FATHER JOE: I am hoping that the priest was misconstrued. If not, then yes, I think what he said was out of place. Given that you have been together for years and are mature adults, I would have rather urged serious consideration of marriage. As to whether you two might have children, that is something between the two of you and God. If your boyfriend was not serious about eventual marriage, then there is a real concern of his taking advantage of you. Men should not string-along women who want to get married and have families. It seems to me that your boyfriend has a responsibility or duty toward you that he should fulfill with a request of marriage. Peace!

  10. What would you do if this happened in your church?

    Not sorry for saying ‘Go put on man clothes’
    Published: 2 days ago
    (KANSASCITY.COM) – A Chicago pastor who asked a man dressed in drag to leave a worship service because he was dressed like a woman stands by his actions after coming under fire.

    A Facebook video of the Sunday night encounter shows Antonio Rocquemore of Power House International Ministries asking the unidentified man to step out into the aisle.

    “Can you leave my church and go put on man clothes? And don’t come here like that no more,” Rocquemore can be seen telling the man in the video, posted by Christian James Lhuillier.

    “I hold a standard in here. Whatever you do on the outside is your business, but I will not let drag queens come in here. If you’re gonna come in here you’re gonna dress like a man.”

    People in the crowd cheered and said “Amen” and “thank you Jesus” as Rocquemore addressed the young man.

    Read more at https://www.wnd.com/2018/11/chicago-pastor-asks-man-in-drag-to-leave-church/#PJ4C3FEomDfFABM2.99

    FATHER JOE: This was not a Catholic parish and so I really cannot speak as to right or wrong. A faith community has a right to welcome whom they please and to function as they see fit. As long as people are not disruptive to the liturgy, I suspect that most Catholic pastors would be more tolerant. Speaking for myself, I would prefer to talk to people after Mass about proper decorum instead of embarrassing them directly during services. Pastors sometimes address the issue of modesty but again would not seek to hurt people.

  11. I‘m wondering if I have an obligation to seek to help correct what are labeled as serious liturgical abuses. I am aware that changing words of the Eucharistic prayer is seriously wrong according to Redemptionis Sacramentum and it calls it a “serious duty” for the faithful to try to get abuses corrected. However, I was also under the impression that we are generally not obligated to correct others who are “above” us such as our parents or priests. If the priest changed some words, assuming he intended it and it wasn’t an in-the-moment mistake, do I have to say something?

    FATHER JOE: The scandals that are inflicting the Church come from this false mentality that the clergy can never be questioned. If someone does wrong, it is appropriate to give correction, even while seeking to avoid public ridicule. Obedience, as to parents, never overrules what is right or wrong.

  12. Hi Father

    What prayers can I say against demonic/evil attacks?

    FATHER JOE: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Act of Contrition, Prayer to St. Michael and the ROSARY.

  13. Good afternoon Father, I have been reading a book called SAPIENS. It talks about Christianity as a religion that forms part of an imagined reality (in other words something created by humans and something where large units of people share same beliefs). I have trouble trying to defend my position as a Christian, as I don’t agree with this view. Here is my question: How would you explain to an atheist that the Church is not an imagined reality but a lot more than that?.

    Thanks a lot, God Bless!


    We do not believe that Christianity is an imagined reality. We believe that God intervened in human history and called a people to himself so as to make possible his revelation to us and his redemptive work. This begins with the Jews and is consummated in Christianity with Jesus Christ. We believe that salvation history is real and not fanciful.

    I am doubtful that I would start a discussion with an atheist on the nature of the Church. The steps to such a debate would begin with more basic elements and work up: as with intelligent design behind creation, the transcendental spirit of rational men, the meaning and purpose for our existence, the intervention of God into human history, etc. Prof. Yuval Noah Harari’s roots are those of a secular Jew who subscribes to the notion that there is no meaning other than what men subscribe to things. This is very popular today and it eclipses the Church’s appreciation of objective moral truth outside of us. (Certain things are granted of science and technology that are disavowed in human persons.) Harari is not a Catholic and he and his fans embrace a brand of secular modernity that is more hospitable to Eastern thought than to a classic Western view of history or of basic Christian anthropology.

    Philosophical efforts to meet secularism with a philosophy of natural law would fall flat with such authorities. His contention is that our sense of “self” is only a construction wrestled into existence between biology and culture. Just like the proponents of New Age religions, he turns to Eastern thought, and even meditates in a way similar to Buddhist mysticism (upon the body). It is the kind of prayer that unsympathetic critics call navel gazing. The late Pope John Paul II was criticized by Buddhists when he summarized their faith in CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF HOPE. He writes:

    “Buddhism is in large measure an ‘atheistic’ system. We do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad. The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world. To save oneself means, above all, to free oneself from evil by becoming indifferent to the world, which is the source of evil. This is the culmination of the spiritual process. These words indicate how between Christianity and the religions of the Far East, in particular Buddhism, there is an essentially different way of perceiving the world. For Christians, the world is God’s creation, redeemed by Christ. It is in the world that man meets God. Therefore he does not need to attain such an absolute detachment in order to find himself in the mystery of his deepest self. For Christianity, it does not make sense to speak of the world as a ‘radical’ evil, since at the beginning of the world we find God the Creator who loves His creation, a God who ‘gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life’ (John 3:16).”

    Adopting the Eastern view, Harari regards personal identity as a transitory and deceptive drop within an ocean of consciousness. Sleep and ultimately death will strip the hallucination away. While Christianity deals with the many questions of self; his view says that there is no self to question. We want to be more than a drop of water lost in the larger sea. Christians find this view offensive because it denies the survival of personal identity. Unlike strict atheism, this philosophy (more than a religion), posits this nothingness as a type of something— a non-individuated universal consciousness or identity. He denies the existence of human souls. He rejects the moral foundations of right and wrong. He embraces flux or change over necessary stability. As culture changes, he would argue so would the answers to our questions. It should be noted that the author is both gay and in a pseudo-marriage to another man.

  14. Fr. Joe,
    I’ve only been to confession a few times in my life, and it’s been many years since I went last. I’m thinking of trying to go before Christmas this year, but I’m unsure about how to confess sins. I was reading information on how to go to confession. A lot of it seems straight forward, but I have a couple questions. When it says to “state your sin in number and kind”, what does that mean exactly? Are you supposed to give the number of the Commandment you broke? What if you’re not sure how to categorize a sin? Can I just tell what sin I committed in words? Or do I just have to say something like, ” I sinned against the 1st Commandment 10 times”? Most of the guides are very vague about how you are supposed to confess sins, so I feel unsure about it. If possible, could you give a couple examples of what a confessed sin would sound like?

    Then, many of the guides suggest to end with, “For these and all the sins of my past life, I am truly sorry”. What do they mean by “past life? What are they referring to as far as “past life”? Why would this be a good thing to add in confession?

    Also, if it’s been a really long time, do I have to include everything over 10+ years or only the more recent things? If it’s been more than 10 years, it could take a while to say everything. I don’t want to take too long, but I also don’t want to leave something important out.

    I definitely feel intimidated and uncertain, which is partly why I haven’t gone in so many years. Thanks for your help!


    Kind = What is the specific sin? (stealing, cussing, gossip, masterbation, fornication, adultery, murder, lying, etc.)

    Number = Approximately committed how many times? (reveals if it is an aberration or habit)

    Past Life = Forgotten sins, unmentioned venial sins, etc. (to insure a good confession)

  15. Thank you Fr Joe.

  16. Hi, Father Joe,

    I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

    I was asked to take Communion to a cousin and her husband. While he is for the most part homebound; she can get around quite well. They are in their mid-70s and were married in a Methodist church. They receive Holy Communion when they attend Mass. No one in the congregation knows of their marriage outside of the Church. She was a widow. He was divorced and attempted to get an annulment but was refused. His first wife has since died.

    Since they are not in a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church, am I committing a sin if I give them Holy Communion?

    I can’t tell our priest why I’m refusing. I feel it is up to them to abstain but they have been receiving for over 15 years.

    Should I suggest to them to see the priest and ask for their marriage to be blessed now that his wife has died?

    It seems to me the right thing to do.

    Thank you,
    Lemoine in WV

    FATHER JOE: Given the death of his first wife, they are free to con-validate the marriage in the Catholic Church. As an Extraordinary Minister you are an extension of the pastor’s ministry and the people you visit should know that you share what you learn with him. Yes, I would urge them to see their priest. The con-validation (not really a blessing) can be done quietly with two witnesses. Maybe you could volunteer for this. If the priest has heard their confession it is possible that they are living as brother and sister. If so, then this might allow them to legitimately receive the Eucharist.

  17. Hello,
    I am not Catholic, but my neighbor is. (She and her family are Filipinos)
    She recently lost her sister, and her community came over to pray “novena” with her.
    She is sweet, generous and kind, and I want to pay my respects in a meaningful way.
    How do you recommend I approach her?
    When a Hindu family friend suffered such a loss, I was able to find information online on how to dress and act appropriately, but I haven’t found such information on Catholic practices.
    I appreciate any help you can offer.
    – Arielle

    FATHER JOE: Even though you are not Catholic you can have a Mass intention offered for the deceased at a local parish. Stipends are usually ten dollars. Ask for a Mass Card that you can give to the family.

  18. Good Day Father!
    Is the line “your religion cant save you, only your faith can” true?

    FATHER JOE: No it is not true because Catholicism associates faith with true religion. The Church is viewed as the Mystical Body of Christ. He is the head and we are the body. Thus it is Catholic teaching that none are saved apart from faith (in loving obedience) in Jesus Christ. Because of the intimacy between our Lord and his Church, we also teach that none are saved outside the Catholic Church. The Church is viewed as the sacrament of saving encounter with Christ.

  19. Dear Fr,

    I have a bit of a stupid question. do you think it’s sinful to buy/drink Starbucks Coffee? I heard that Starbucks supports an organization that supports abortion and supports gay marriage. Am I supporting those things if I buy Starbucks? Should I consider not drinking Starbucks anymore? -AutmnSpring❤️

    FATHER JOE: I do not think it is sinful to drink their coffee. As to whether you want to drink it is an individual judgment call. I find it too expensive.

  20. Thank you for the reply. I see I didn’t provide enough details. One thing that’s for sure supernatural is the day I felt I jump inside me, no I wasn’t possessed but I felt it’s weight and heard it’s steps before it was inside and while it was inside. Ever since then I’ve felt it’s pres hovering over me every day all day. My body sways from it being in my personal space. The energy issue isn’t a human or hormonal or lifestyle issue because I feel it’s violent vibrations and grabbing and jabbing at me everywhere I sit or sleep or rest which keeps me at a very low level of energy while it’s doing that. Also I’ve seen it’s presence in my peripheral vision causing things to move like my ceiling fan blades and pieces of paper next to me anything that it’s ghost-like precense can cause to move. There’s more supernatural stuff that has happened and confirmed by others that’s why I know it’s not something made up in my mind and I know I’m not having a psychotic break. My body has physical reactions when it’s around which may have something to do with my gift of discernment

    FATHER JOE: Sorry, but nothing you describe would suffice as evidence of the supernatural. You need to seek psychiatric assistance. As a pastor of souls, I really do think that your problem is mental and not one of any kind of spiritual assault. The only possible demonic involvement might be your supposition as having a gift of discernment. What you detail largely invalidates that claim.

  21. I have been dealing with an entity following me everywhere I go, draining my energy every day for over a year now. My last apartment had something evil attached to it because I was spiritually & mentally weak at the time, it attached itself to me. I got it off but it is still everywhere I go, it followed me to my new apartment, it physically drains my energy where I sit down, lean up against, or lay down.
    I have prayed and prayed for GOD to let me know what im doing wrong so I can rectify it for the spirit to leave but not answer. The spirit is unaffected by my praying out loud and sleeping with the Bible on my chest. It is still able to make 100% physical contact against me. I’m lost and have no clue what to do to stop this! Is this something a Catholic priest can remove since the pastors I’ve spoken to can’t help?

    FATHER JOE: You reveal nothing that would distinguish what you are experiencing from paranoia. Energy levels can also be affected by many causes, overwork, frustration, Lyme disease, etc. Given nothing supernatural has occurred, I would urge that you seek professional help and counseling.

  22. Hello Father, this is regarding an earlier question I had asked about reading sexually explicit literature in college classes. I am in an Enlightenment class and a month or two ago we had to read Wycherley’s “The Country Wife” and essays by Rochester, “The Imperfect Enjoyment” and “A Satire on Charles II”. I was just recently looking up these things again to study for a test, when I saw that these texts are considered “pornographic”, or at least that is how people described them. Now I feel so scared that I am going to hell because I read them, even though I knew they were sexually explicit. I even kind of confessed a couple Confessions ago that I told my teacher I liked her class even though we were reading bad material, so now I’m worried that Confession was invalid because I didn’t really elaborate on waht we were reading. So if you could tell me what you think about this as well as answer my question: Is it my obligation to go to my teacher and tell her we should not be reading porn in class, or go to the president of the college or something?

    FATHER JOE: Such works are included in the six volumes of The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. As such they are not aberrational or unique to your teacher’s particular tastes. Not everyone may need to read such things as you list, but if you were an English Major I would suspect that it would be hard to dismiss them and remain in good academic standing. Try to fulfill your assignments while remaining critical and honest about your own sensibilities as a Catholic. Given what you tell me your confession was perfectly valid.

  23. I am writing a book about an ancestor and I need information for two chapters. In the first, Robert is a visitor at a Priory. His brother William dies in battle but he only finds out 5 months later. The Monks hold a Mass for him. Can you tell me what would have happened and what Roberts involvement would have been. IN the second Mary who is just 5 is allowed by Father prior to help giving the wine to the Monks – Blood of Christ. Can you give me details of her role and would the goblet be given a particular name and what would be said in Latin as this is 1548. So far nobody seems willing to help. I would have more help from the Mafia with their finances.

    FATHER JOE: It sounds to me that you need to read a few books about ancient monastic life and about Catholicism. Your ignorance of the times and the life of the Church is too egregious for me to resolve in a couple of questions. That is probably why you are getting little assistance. What is the monastery? Some did not take in guests or pilgrims? What order are we discussing? Many monks are brothers and cannot offer Mass. Priests could have offered a requiem Mass. As for women, they could be found in nunneries but not with celibate monks. Further, women had no part in the distribution of Holy Communion until the modern era and only by way of exception as extraordinary ministers. Women were not readers, servers or ministers of the sacrament. Children of 5 years of age were not allowed to receive the sacrament themselves… something you should know if you were an informed Catholic. Read up on your subject before you write or else give up the project.

  24. Fr. Joe,
    Thank you for your answer about the distracting and disturbing thoughts that have been jumping into my mind mostly during Mass, but sometimes during prayer too. Thankfully I am free of mental ailments of any kind, but some of your other questions rang truth for me. It reassuring to know that others experience this at times as well.

    I am under a lot of stress in my marriage with a husband who was unfaithful almost 13 years ago. We have slept in separate beds and lived separate lives while living under the same roof and raising our kids. I have been fully faithful to my vows and have lived a celibate “married” life all these years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been easy! I live with many emotions that feel like grief in some ways, over the loss of intimacy on all levels. There really is no marriage other than what our marital status claims. I feel anger, hurt, abandonment, frustration, resentment, confusion, etc. I’m still young, and wonder about my situation, if this is my reality until I leave this earth. I am of the wrong gender to be attractive to my husband anymore and a physical relationship will always be out of the question due to a medical condition he now deals with as a fallout from all of this. While I wish things were very different in my life, I feel a great desire to live my life in line with how Jesus would call me to live, but chastity is a struggle.

    So, yes-I’m going thru something difficult, no-my relationships are not what I wanted them to be, Yes-I am frustrated and unhappy in reference to sexual desires and drives, and Yes to stress.

    I have recognized this messy situation fully in my life for over a decade. So, I guess, why now? Why am I having these disturbing and distracting thoughts now? Are there things I can do to deal with them or reduce their frequency? What can I do in the moment when it happes?
    I do find it difficulty to “shake” these thoughts or ignore them when they come into my mind.

    Thank you Fr. Joe.

  25. Hi Fr. Joe,

    Lately something has been happening repetitively that is a bit unsettling, and I wanted to ask you about it. I’ve been growing in my faith and relationship with God over the past 6 months ago. I attend Mass 2-3 times during the week, and it’s been amazing the graces that come for it. During Mass, I will feel very tuned into the readings or gospel, feeling close to God’s word or message. Then, out of the blue….BAM! A crazy thought pops into my mind from out of nowhere and suddenly I’m distracted by this thought. Sometimes these thoughts can be disturbing, lewd, or dark. It makes me thing how thankful no one around me can read my mind because even I’m shocked or embarrassed!! It makes me feel guilty for thinking these type of things, but I’m definitely don’t feel that I’m willing these thoughts to come into my conscious.

    This has been happening very regularly. It makes me feel really badly for having such appalling thoughts especially during Mass. And, I also feel badly about being distracted and losing the connected moment I was experiencing. Any thoughts on why this keeps happening? And, is there anything that I can do to make it go away? Usually I leave at the end of Mass feeling badly rather than encouraged and nourished. And, I don’t think I’ve ever had this happen, or at least so consistently.

    God Bless and thank you!


    I would not immediately jump to a spiritual answer. Too often sufferers of intrusive thoughts imagine that they come from outside— from a demonic entity. This is frequently not the case.

    While we are believers, our minds are struggling with the values of our secular society, especially those that conflict with our Christian beliefs. We might readily dismiss this conflict but it is still taking place within us. We also struggle with the flesh and our own brokenness. Most normal men and women want to get married and have families. They want the intimacy that marriage brings. Sexual temptation is often quite serious, especially for youth. Further, the materialism of current culture rubs against the grain of our notion of poverty in spirit and the demands of charity. We promote the right to life and marriage but many of those around us are promiscuous while avoiding both marriage and children. All this and more is bombarding us. Our minds are also constantly trying to process subliminal messages, as in advertising.

    Given that there is no mental ailment like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Bipolar Disorder, a number of things can be said. First know that you are not alone in that sometimes while at Mass or prayer there intrudes odd or disturbing thoughts, seemingly out of nowhere. Second, many of us can just brush these thoughts away; however, there are those who struggle when these thoughts seem to get pinned to their immediate awareness. In other words, they cannot get them out of their heads. Most thoughts of this type emerge from the person’s subconscious mind. Third, while they may be simply junk thoughts, there might be something buried deep within the person that is seeking to be addressed. These thoughts are often one of three things: (1) undesirable memories, (2) violently acting out, and (3) sexually acting out.

    Are you currently going through something that is particularly difficult?

    Are your relationships what you want them to be?

    Are you frustrated or unhappy in reference to sexual desires and drives?

    Are you under a lot of stress at home or at work?

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