Welcome to the Season of Lent! We, Catholics, once again would focus on the period’s three (3) Pillars: Almsgiving, Praying, and Fasting. These 3 would have us accompany Christ in His journey up until His resurrection on Easter. Lent is challenging but even more challenging for those who have scrupulosity. The practices during Lent could trigger scrupulous individuals resulting in anxiety. As someone who has religious OCD, I know how stressful the Lenten season could be. That’s why I made this Lenten Guide for scrupulous.
In this, we will be clarifying some of the concerns scrupulous individuals have during the penitential season, helping them to get through the journey with the right mindset.
When we say almsgiving, it could be material donations to charities or directly to persons in need. It could also be giving your time to them or to the Church. It is considering the needs of others as our own.
The usual concern of the scrupulous with this pillar is the fear that they may sin should they cannot give. The constant guilt bothers them if they could not offer something.
Give only if you can. Do not pressure yourself. If you cannot give alms, it does not mean you are sinning.
According to Pope Francis, Lent is a privileged time for prayer. It is through praying that fasting and almsgiving are fueled. Unfortunately, it is in prayer that a major sign of OCD usually occurs, intrusive thoughts. These are unwanted thoughts that just enter one’s mind randomly. Scrupulous tend to react to these thoughts known as a compulsion.
Prayer is essential for lent. For those who have OCD, it may affect their whole mood during the season.
If you plan to add a prayer to your normal routine, just add one (1) short prayer. Keeping it short could avoid intrusive thoughts lingering.
Be vigilant, if you notice you are repeating the prayer many times, it’s time for Exposure Response and Prevention (ERP) Therapy. You can check this technique here.
Fasting is detaching ourselves from the bondage of this world thus growing our relationship with God. During Lent, the Church bounds all Catholics from age 18 until age 59 to observe fasting and 14 years older to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Additionally, it is also a common practice for Catholics to give up something as a form of fasting during Lent. It could be as random as sweets, social media, vices, and other attachments.
Sticking to the fasting rules is simple for the scrupulous, the only issue that usually arises is the fear that they would break them resulting in extreme doubt.
One example is meatless Fridays. For the first few Fridays, it would be easy but the following Fridays, it could be stressful.
I remember how overly cautious was I if meat was mixed up in my food. I literally checked on my food carefully just to make sure there were no signs of meat. And also, how I felt excessive guilt because of accidentally eating meat on one Friday. The fear of breaking the fast triggers this inordinate reaction.
To lessen it, know that if you did not intentionally break the fast, it is not a sin. You can check this out for Fasting and Abstinence Guide for Scrupulous.
Another one is tracking something you gave up. It is draining thinking if you missed doing what you vowed to avoid. Did I eat sweets? Did I use Facebook? Since doubt is normal for those who have OCD, keeping track of your multiple sacrifices is tiring and discouraging.
- If in doubt if your food has meat, consider there’s none unless reasonable evidence is presented to you. ERP can help you with this.
- For those who plan to give up something, choose only one. It would make your tracking easy.
RELATED– Prayer Journal for Scrupulous that can help you track and overcome compulsion.
The Lenten Season is all about being with God. Journeying with Him through darkness and light. As we walk with Him, I know some of you, scrupulous like me, are fearful that we might not please Him because of our shortcomings in the lenten practices. One thing that I always remind myself in times of fear, is to depend on Him and not on myself. This is actually a good yet challenging sacrifice for us, to decrease and let Him increase.
May we all have a Holy Lent!
For more resources on scrupulosity, you may check this out.
Lord Jesus Christ, be with us.