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Questions and Answers

[Through much of my life] I was convinced (and I still struggle with this issue) that I could not turn to God. After all, isn’t it a teaching of the Church that if one isn’t in the state of grace, then one’s prayers are worthless (except the prayers asking for the grace of repentance)? I could not pray for my family when they were in terrible pain, and that was and is a helpless and horribly guilty feeling. I believed I could not go to confession, I was not God’s friend, so basically I couldn’t ask for anything from Him until I was first able to go to confession. That is a vicious trap: BECAUSE I could not ask God to help me and my family in their sufferings, I felt even more trapped in sin/guilt/regret/self-hatred. I still struggle with this.

Outline of the Answer
• Disordered Desire
• The State of Grace
• The Sacraments
• Praying Properly
• The Communion of the Saints

First of all, please understand that God does not demand that we be perfect before He will love us. He simply asks us to accept His guidance so that we can learn from our mistakes and grow in perfection.

Now, some traditions have said that when we are in a state of sin our prayers are worthless. But this doesn’t mean that our prayers are worthless simply because we are in a state of sin; if ever our prayers are worthless it is because the state of mind that underlies our sin is the state of mind of not desiring God more than anything else in the world. In this case sin is the effect of a disordered desire, because so long as you desire the satisfactions of the world you put yourself in a state of mind that is not penitent and does not want to turn to God to seek His mercy. Thus, in this disordered state of mind, you are saying that you do not really want any help. That’s the psychological dynamic that makes your prayers ineffective.

So let’s look at what it will take for you to turn away from sin in order to make it possible for you to turn to God. For truly it is always possible to turn to God no matter how worthless you feel. Never doubt that God’s mercy is always available to the penitent.

The State of Grace

When you are in a state of grace, you are in a state of mind and heart to receive the graces God continuously pours out upon all of his creation. If you are not in a state of grace—that is, when you are living in sin—you cut yourself off from accepting God’s graces. God doesn’t stop his graces because of your disobedience; you reject those graces through your own disobedience. In her Spiritual Dialogue, Saint Catherine of Genoa expressed this very elegantly:


This Soul also beheld a certain ray of love issuing from that divine fountain, and darting towards man with a force as if to annihilate him; and she saw that when it found impediments, then, if it were possible for God to feel pain, he would suffer the greatest of all grief. This ray aimed only to penetrate the soul, and it was her own fault if she were not penetrated by it, for the ray surrounded her on all sides, seeking entrance; but the soul, blinded by self-love, did not perceive it.


—Saint Catherine of Genoa
Spiritual Dialogue, First Part, Chapter VIII

The Sacraments

Now, the Sacraments—the visible manifestations of God’s grace—are administered through the Church, and, being tangible things, they are protected with tangible methods. Thus the Church denies them to persons not in a state of grace.

But aside from the Sacraments, your ability to overcome disobedience and to receive and benefit from God’s grace is purely between you and God. All you have to do is learn to pray properly.

Praying Properly

To pray properly, it is important to pray for the right thing, and it is important to pray enough.

Praying for the Right Thing

When many persons pray to God, they try to tell God what to do. They ask God to do what they want, or to prevent something they don’t want, or to give them material things that they think they need. For them, prayer is all about them.

Real prayer, however, is about praying that God’s Will be done. In real prayer we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s righteousness, and then all the other things we need will follow from there (see Matthew 6: 31–33).

So, no matter what difficulties and obstacles afflict you, learn to pray for the strength and the courage to endure all trials and difficulties gracefully, to trust in God’s justice and providence, and to grow in love and chaste purity as a consequence of your struggles.

Praying Enough

Most persons don’t pray enough for one simple reason: they are too preoccupied with seeking the satisfactions of the world. Rather than praying, they spend their time watching TV and movies, playing sports and video games, listening to music, chatting on their phones, texting their friends, surfing the Internet, and entangling themselves more and more in their social networks. They waste hours of life daily, and years of life over a lifetime, on things that have nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s no wonder that they do not find the answers to their prayers that they seek: they turn to the world before they will turn to God.

So, to pray enough, detach yourself from the unholy ways of the world and devote all of your mind, all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your strength to keeping your attention focused on the Kingdom of Heaven.

Assistance from the Communion of the Saints

Still, as you are learning how to pray properly, directly to God, you also have access to the Communion of the Saints. If we ourselves are lacking, we can call upon the Saints for their intercession to pray on our behalf.

The greatest saint of all—especially in regard to assisting sinners—is the Blessed Virgin, the Refuge of Sinners. In the Hail Mary we ask her every day—well, actually, for those who pray the Angelus and the Rosary, it’s literally dozens of times a day—“pray for us sinners.”

Not only can we implore the Blessed Virgin to carry our prayers for others to her Son—even if we ourselves are not completely pure—but also our prayers might somehow crack open our own hardened hearts to let in a tiny ray of divine grace that can then take root and start to grow within us.

Keep in mind here that God will not violate our free will, and so no divine action can make us holy or stop us from sinning. But in our love for the Blessed Virgin, and in our awe for her profound humility and obedience, our free will can be softened by her motherly softness, and so we can be slowly weaned from a state of sin to a state of grace, from self-hatred to proper self-love.

Both Saint Dominic and Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, for example, rescued large parts of Europe from heresy by fostering devotion to praying the Rosary. Their efforts prove that anyone St. Louis Marie de Montfort who prays devoutly and faithfully for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin must of necessity be led to greater and greater purity of heart. Saint Dominic How can anyone who venerates the purity, humility, and obedience of the Blessed Virgin not grow in purity, humility, and obedience under her guidance? 

All it takes, then, is that you consecrate yourself to the Blessed Virgin.[1] As long as you know that you are now committing some sins, even if you cannot now see the full depth of them, no matter how disgusted you feel with yourself, no matter how much you doubt your ability to change, just throw yourself at her feet. See her as the Mother of Mercy who seeks always The Divine Mercy of her Son, and then follow her instructions. Slowly you will reject your own desire for sin, and your eyes will be opened to more and more of your sins—things that even now you think are not sins—and you will grow, day by day, in your ability to receive God’s grace.


Let the weak sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My mercy. . . . My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness?

For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust, to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.


—as told to St. Faustina
(Diary, 1059; 1485)


Who wrote this web page?


1. Complete instructions for the Consecration to Jesus through Mary can be found in Saint Louis Marie de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.


Who wrote this web page?


Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.

A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips in book form with a comprehensive index.
Psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

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