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Torn Between Contradictory Emotions: What to Do? (I of II)

I Am Torn Between Contradictory Emotions:
What Can I Do? (Part I of II)

Dear Father John, In my daily prayer, I cannot help but feel myself torn between two emotions. One is the heartfelt desire to trust Jesus totally as I know he is present with me. The other is a human fear about the rise of demonic extremist Islam and the decline of our Judeo-Christian culture. I want to experience peace but so many current cultural trends are counter-Christian and our civilization has become so Godless. I feel the desire to simply run away from the mess we are morally in but something also tells me that in moments like these, those of faith are called to be spiritual warriors, despite the uphill battle. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thank you and God bless you.

I am absolutely sure you are not alone in feeling these strong and seemingly contradictory emotions. And I do have some thoughts – well, at least two.

The Battle Has Been Raging for a Long Time
First, it is very, very, very important for all of us to remember that the anti-God and anti-Truth currents working so actively in our culture are not new; they are just putting on some new disguises. This earth is a spiritual battleground, and it has been since the dawn of human history. I am not making this up. Here is how the Catechism puts it:

This dramatic situation of “the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one” makes man’s life a battle: The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity. (CCC, paragraph 409).

St Michael Archangel-Angelo_Bronzino_010We really have to let that truth sink in. Today, because of the powerful reach and immediacy of mass media, we are much more aware than past generations of the violent struggles, tragedies, and sickening injustices that are going on across the globe. But they are not new. They have always been going on. Since the beginning of the Church, the struggles have been happening. There is an unbroken line of Christian martyrs stretching from today back to the beginning. There is an unbroken line of cultural, philosophical, and theological trends that directly contradict and try to undermine Christ’s truth, tracing itself back from today’s secular humanism to the first century’s heresies.

Sin, evil, and the horrors that flow from them are not just now rising up in the world. Perhaps in your own life you are only becoming fully aware of this “dour combat” right now. But the fact is that today’s cultural battles are in continuity with yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s will be in continuity with today’s. There has been no golden age in which all was harmony and peace – not since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

What Should We Do?
SacredHeartOfJesusJoseMariaIbarraranYPonce2-smallRestroredTraditionsREQUIRESHOTLINKSecond, what should you do about it? This question has become pressing for you. Maybe ten years ago you weren’t so spiritually sensitive, and the sins of the world didn’t weigh on your heart as heavily as they do now. This development, spiritually speaking, is positive. Your heart is now more attuned to God’s own heart, to Christ’s heart – that Sacred Heart that is surrounded by a crown of thorns, thorns which stand for all the sins of the world, which pierce his heart. Take comfort in knowing that your spiritual sensitivity is deepening; this is a grace from God: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Keep Seeking Holiness
Practically speaking, every one of us needs to do two things. In the first place, we need to take seriously God’s call to holiness. We need to continue developing our life of prayer; we need to continue studying the faith and learning the teaching of the Church; we need to continue an intentional pursuit of growth in virtue in our daily lives; and we need to keep our hearts open to our neighbors in need, loving our neighbors as ourselves – the close neighbors first of all: our family members, friends, colleagues, and members of our local community and parish. This is the bread and butter of every mature Christian’s life. This is how each one of us becomes a healthy organ in the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), an organ that is producing spiritual nourishment for the rest of the Body, pumping grace into the world simply by the way we lead a Christ-centered day-to-day life.


Editor’s Note:  In Part II, we will examine the second thing we should do about these circumstances.


Art: Fresken der Kapelle der Eleonora da Toledo im Palazzo Vecchio in Florenz, Deckenfresko, Detail: Erzengel Michael [Frescoes of the chapel of Eleonora da Toledo in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, ceiling fresco, detail: Archangel Michael], Angelo Bronzino, 1540-1541, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Sacred Heart of Jesus, José María Ibarrarán y Ponce, 1896, Restored Traditions, used with permission.


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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • @BatteredCitizen

    Thank you for this-I too share this struggle and know that it is Jesus’ Grace that allows me to recognize it. I say often to anyone who will listen, I would much rather “be in the know” than to be in the dark and blind sided by the evil infecting the world.

  • Judy Silhan

    Once again, Fr. Bartunek, you have helped quell the emotional storm which I also struggle with. Yes, I believe that my awareness of the seemingly rampant infiltration of evil in the culture, as well as the Mystical Body of Christ, including clergy, started shortly after I became a student at Avila. It seems that the more I try to grow closer to Christ and know His will for me, as you mentioned, I have become spiritually sensitive to the evil which, at times, does, indeed, threaten the peace I finally found, when I started living for Him. I can understand what you said about the cultural battle going on since the beginning of the Church, and with mass media, the world is aware of all the injustices and atrocities occurring; but what I really don’t comprehend, is how many people deny evil’ s existence. Are some people blind to it, as we read in the Gospel, a couple of weeks ago? Thanks, Fr. Bartunek, for your welcomed response to the questions continually put to you by those of us fighting this Spiritual Battle.

  • Julia Rubtsova

    I’m sure this blog will be very useful for all of the Catholics. Because it helps to get answers for many important questions.

  • Pameladoiron

    Indeed sometimes our love of God feels like an abusive relationship in that we those who do our best in daily devotion are punished while our non-believing friends are rewarded. It doesn’t make sense,

    • LizEst

      God never abuses us. He is so respectful of our freedom.

  • Pamela R. Doiron

    I totally agree, Liz, as I have read “Lives of Saints” and get that the spiritual battlefield is most palpably experienced by those who are active in their faith, especially those who might hope to share their faith. What I hope to understand better is how to explain to others the frequent disparity and disconnect between true devotion and tangible fruits of devotion. Sometimes we who pray the hardest suffer more than those who don’t even acknowledge that there is at the very least, a higher power at work in our lives. Maybe our sufferings are a gift in that we are brought to our knees in those moments-and thus brought closer to God. Maybe we are actually blessed when we feel the weight of the Cross while others feel nothing. I am still trying to make sense of the perceived “unfairness” of it all as the devout pray in poverty and the atheists or agnostics enjoy so many pleasures and treasures on earth.

    • LizEst

      It’s been going on since the fall…and Scripture is full of this! We read in Sirach 2:1 that when we come to serve the Lord, we are to prepare ourselves for trials. I recommend reading Psalm 73 on the trial of the just. As well, Blessed Mother Teresa often indicated that those who have trials and sufferings are being kissed by Jesus…to which one person told her, “Tell Him not to kiss me so much!” When we follow in the footsteps of our crucified Lord, it always leads to the Cross…and then, eventually, to Resurrection and eternal life. As Paul said, the wages of sin are death. I’d rather have the wages of following Jesus via the Cross.

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