Rosary is one of the most powerful prayers the Blessed Virgin Mother has given us. It is believed that in the 12th century, St. Dominic de Guzman had a vision of the Virgin Mary giving him the rosary. He then spread the devotion to it. Through time, the prayer became widely known among the faithful. It was even recited by some of the famous Catholic Saints in the History of the Catholic Church.
As Catholics, we want to do our best to recite the rosary to show our deepest love to our Mother Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ but, what if, blasphemous and lustful thoughts get in the way while praying it and fear takes over because instead of showing devotion we feel we are offending God and His Mother? It might appear unconventional to some but this is the main enemy of those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
In Psychology, these unwanted thoughts are called intrusive thoughts. These are ideas that enter one’s mind without alert. The thoughts are usually disturbing. Having these is frightening especially if one does not know how to manipulate them. As a result, a defense to alleviate the fear could develop. This mitigation is called compulsion, which could be a ritual, spell or image that when performed or imagined could reduce the fear.
Having intrusive thoughts is not new to some Catholics. As members of the Church, we believe in God but, our views about Him might not be unanimous. Some might see Him as punishing while others might perceive Him as merciful. Those who think of Him as the former could fall into the trap of being too sensitive about their actions. This is how scrupulosity begins. And when it happens, intrusive thought follows. The reason behind this is when you are afraid of offending God, the more you think of the things that could possibly displease Him. These random thoughts can distract you and warp your perspective about faith.
As scrupulous myself, I mostly encounter intrusive thoughts while praying. And the prayer that this random enemy invades is the long one such as the Rosary.
I can still remember how I recited it for almost an hour, repeating it again and again because of the blasphemous thoughts that kept on bothering me. It was hard and discouraging to a point that I beat myself up.
It took me a while to find out what was I going through. I tried different ways to be liberated from this tribulation. It has been slow but it was all worth it.
Last year, I promised myself that I would share my experience with all who might need it. I know how it feels to feel alone in this kind of anguish. It is awful. And the best thing I could do to show my support for others who experience the same is to impart how I control these thoughts.
Below, I listed the approaches that helped me to stop intrusive thoughts while praying the Rosary.
Break the developing compulsion as soon as possible
This is for the persons who have just begun applying an antidote for their anxiety. As soon as you can, break it before it runs your prayer life.
Having intrusive thoughts started when I became scrupulous. It is actually a sign of scrupulosity. I was afraid of sin. Blasphemous and lustful images then entered my consciousness. Act of Contrition was my go-to spell to eliminate the guilt these thoughts had caused. Every time I had undesirable thoughts, I prayed it. This extended my rosary prayer time.
Early this year, new compulsions arouse but as soon as I realized that it could probably affect my spiritual life and prolong my prayers, I quickly suspended it.
In this way, you could avoid the possibility of unnecessary long prayer time due to rituals and the like.
Limit your compulsion
For those who are currently having their compulsions, try to set a limit.
I know it’s hard but based on my experience, there were days that I felt so different that I restricted my compulsions to a certain level.
Do it often until you get used to it.
Exposure is the key for us with OCD.
Once, you are accustomed to doing this, cap it to a much lower amount until you finally eradicate it out of your system.
Ignore Intrusive Thoughts
You might probably raise your eyebrow because it seems impossible advice, but you can do this through time.
Do not feed your senses with false pictures. They are not true. It is not your fault.
Remember the more you are afraid of these thoughts, the more they boggle you.
When you are up to something you know false thoughts could occur, continue doing it, not minding them.
Instead of being fearful, face them. God understands.
Never repeat a single prayer
OCD sufferers tend to repeat things because they doubt if they actually performed them.
Just like those who are obsessed with germs who wash their hands multiple times to make sure they are clean, those who pray the rosary with the disorder will repeat the prayer because they think they did not recite it well.
Again, the solution is being exposed.
Practice continuous praying without any reiteration.
Next time, it will be a habit.
Here’s the Exposure Technique I use consistently to lessen my compulsions.
Record the changes you have made
This tip actually helped me drastically!
All you have to do is to write down all the changes you have made.
Did the salacious depiction bother you again but managed to ignore it and continue praying? Write it down! Did a profane idea intrude you in that mystery but kept up until you are finished? Write it on your list.
The point of this is, the next time you encounter the same scenario, you already have a point of reference not to do the same again.
You smashed it before, you will smash it again.
Why is this important?
Because as scrupulous, we always stick to what we are used to doing. Change hurts us. As much as possible, we cling to our criteria regardless if these cause us to be inefficient. And the best way to track all our deviations from our standards is to log all revisions we made. The next time, you think of repeating things again, you just have to look at your list and follow it.
Day 1: You recited the Act of Contrition as your compulsion while praying the rosary because of sexual thoughts.
Day 2: You were able to shun your compulsion and continued praying even though intrusive thoughts were all over the place. On the same day, you recorded it.
Day 3: You were about to say the Act of Contrition because of undesirable random ideas but you remembered that you overcame them last day and you have a record so you ignored it.
Keeping track of your improvements will really be your aid when intrusive thoughts strike again.
This Prayer Journal made for the Scrupulous can help you track your compulsions.
Trust in God’s Mercy
Through scriptures, we get to know God.
Through the Eucharist, we are able to receive Him.
The great thing about our faith is that we can tangibly experience God through His Church, through the Sacraments.
As human beings, we naturally believe in things we can see, smell, hear or feel. So when things happen our senses cannot comprehend especially bad ones, we become doubtful.
We are baffled about what we did wrong, scared of what can occur next.
It’s just that, we can’t live in uncertainty. We want an absolute response.
We want to know our mistakes so that we could avoid bad things to happen again.
And as someone who is scrupulous, we subconsciously create in our minds a punishing God.
As a result, we become terrified that He might chastise us for our transgressions regardless of gravity.
And to avoid that, we end up wanting to do what we think pleases Him.
We want to be perfect in His eyes thus, we tend to be prudent in our actions just to avoid sin.
A wrathful God is how we see Him.
This distorted mindset discards how clement God is. Even the bible has given us verses that talk about God’s unfathomable mercy.
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
God also used parables to highlight how forgiving he is for those who repent. One of these is about the prodigal son. That despite the son sinned against his father, the father still accepted him. Rejoicing in his son’s repentance.
St. Faustina of Kowalska, the Secretary of Divine Mercy proved God’s forbearance.
“On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls- no one have I excluded.”
Jesus to St. Faustina, July 1937 Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, 1882
“From all My wounds, like from streams, mercy flows, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn Me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about My mercy.”
July 1937 Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, 1190
Trusting in God’s mercy is the start of the defeat of scrupulosity. We just need to rely on it in times we feel we are most unworthy. The Sacrament of Confession is always there waiting for us.
Rosary is a very effective weapon, especially with what is happening around us now. It is a prayer that gets us closer to the love of the Blessed Mother and our Father. The more the temptation to not recite it, the more we should clutch on its beads and contemplate the life of God one mystery at a time.
If you are struggling not only with the recitation of the Rosary but also with scrupulosity as a whole, I recommend getting a Spiritual Director. You can visit this guide in finding one.
For the available resources for scrupulous click here.
Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.