About this, we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained to practise to distinguish good from evil – Hebrews 6.14
I don’t know about you, but I constantly ask questions about the Faith. All the time. The above verses from the letter to the Hebrews are definitely relevant for me.
A friend of mine sometimes asks me for advice on a range of different issues pertaining to the Faith. I am very happy (and flattered) to help, but all I do when she asks me (if I don’t know the answer) is that I either search online and find an answer from a reputable source, or I ask a trustworthy priest. I used to struggle on my own and I spent hours thinking and worrying about things, and I usually got it wrong when I eventually came to a conclusion. The problem was, I wasn’t looking in the right places or asking the right people! I was relying on myself and I am nothing.
Twitter was very useful for me for a long time, before it started to interfere with my prayer life, so it might be useful for those who are just coming back to the Church, or who are interested in Traditionalism, to get involved with some trads/other orthodox Catholics on Twitter (any friend of Bruvver Eccles is sound!). You can find lots of links to great sites like Catholicismispure.wordpress.com, St. Peter’s List, Rorate Caeli and blogs run by individuals like Mark Lambert. There is a lot of petty arguing on Twitter though, so be careful!
Nowadays, we can’t trust all the advice that we get from our local parish priests or catechists (if you are lucky enough to have any catechists at all). Sadly, I can’t even listen to everything the Pope says or does without taking it with a pinch/fist of salt. See here, for example (I stand with Hilary White by the way!). My advice, as someone who is plagued by doubts and questions, is to seek out a good priest and ask him, when in doubt. The priests that I trust know who they are because I send them a fair number of emails (yep, sorry ’bout that…). I try not to bother them if I can find the answer online though. As we know, the number of priests is falling, so they’re very busy…especially the good ones!
If you are fortunate enough to live near a good and holy priest, I would beg them (on your hands and knees if necessary!!) to be your spiritual director. St Faustina emphasised over and over again how important it is to have a spiritual director to help us get to heaven. I have been looking for a spiritual director for a long time. I suspect that I have not found one who can help me primarily because I am difficult, not because the priest is not good enough. I won’t give up though!
St Francis de Sales wrote in ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’:
I say to you, if you would really like to tread the paths of the devout life, seek some holy man to guide and conduct you…”A faithful friend”, we are told in Holy Scripture, “is a strong defence, and he that hath such an one hath found a treasure;” and again: “A faithful friend is the medicine of life; and they that fear the Lord shall find him”. These sacred words have chiefly reference, as you see, to the immortal life, with a view to which we specially need a faithful friend, who will guide us by his counsel and advice, thereby guarding us against the deceits and snares of the Evil One…but who can find such a friend? The Wise Man answers:–“He that feareth the Lord:” that is to say, the truly humble soul which earnestly desires to advance in the spiritual life. So, daughter, inasmuch as it concerns you so closely to set forth on this devout journey under good guidance, do you pray most earnestly to God to supply you with a guide after His Own Heart, and never doubt that He will grant you one who is wise and faithful, even should He send an angel from Heaven, as He sent to Tobias
What I am trying to say is that we shouldn’t struggle on our own. We should try to seek help. If you can’t find a spiritual director, keep trying, but in the meantime, seek out someone (maybe not necessarily a priest, if it’s not for formal spiritual direction) who can answer your questions.
I am fortunate because I have been able to attend lots of wonderful masses and pilgrimages, such as the recent pilgrimage to West Grinstead with Bishop Schneider (I was blessed to be able to speak with him at length as I got to share a car journey to Reading with him and Fr. Goddard, an FSSP priest. Thank you, God!) and of course the LMS pilgrimage to Walsingham and the Chartres pilgrimage. I also try to get to Juventutem London masses when I can and other Old Rite masses (I am going to a Missa Cantata in Swansea for Corpus Christi this Thursday, for example), where the sermons are almost guaranteed to contain good guidance. I have attended the Faith conference twice now, and that is another great source of spiritual guidance (though they celebrate the New Rite only, when I was last there, they used the altar rails so we could easily receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue! Alleluia!). At these events, I’ve been able to relax and speak freely. It’s amazing what you can pick up just by having a little chat over a cup of tea with wonderful and faithful Catholics.
We need to get out ‘there’, as much as we can. I wish we could rely on our local parishes, but sadly, we often have to avoid them. Our souls are worth protecting, and that means being prudent regarding the spiritual advice that we follow. Of course, God has to be the first person that we consult about any problem or question that we have, but as St. Francis de Sales says,
In truth, your spiritual guide should always be as a heaven-sent angel to you;– by which I mean that when you have found him, you are not to look upon him, or trust in him or his wisdom as an ordinary man; but you must look to God, Who will help you and speak to you through this man, putting into his heart and mouth that which is needful to you