Dear Fr Anthony,
I am entering seminary in Spain next month to become a priest. However, when I sin I feel unworthy of carrying the Apostle`s torch. I hope you understand this feeling. How can I overcome these feelings? Thank You.
I am very happy to hear of your decision to enter the seminary. What you are doing is very generous, and many souls will benefit from your sacrifice.
We often find ourselves tending to fall into the same sins over and over. Each individual has his own particular weakness that he has to face up to and work to overcome his whole life long, whether it is pride, anger, sensuality, laziness, etc. We are right in feeling that we are unworthy to carry the Apostles’ torch when we sin. What we sometimes don’t realize is that we would be unworthy even if we didn’t sin. This is because we are just human creatures, and if God makes us his priests and instruments it is a grace he gives us and not something we merit of our own.
Now, you ask me how to overcome this feeling. Frankly, I don’t think you should try to overcome it because it’s more than simply a bothersome feeling, it is actually a reflection of your conscience. You don’t feel good because you know something is wrong, or at least not as good as it should be. The real problem is not the feeling, but the fault that causes it.
So, instead of trying not to feel that way, you need to focus on overcoming the habit of falling into the same sin all the time. This will take patience, prayer, self-mastery, effort to avoid the occasions, regular examination of conscience and regular confession (even when you haven’t committed the sin). Your spiritual director will help you map out the best way to work on these and other helpful points.
As regards feeling unworthy, it will be important to cultivate this conviction, especially when you start making progress in overcoming your sin. Why? Because we are never worthy of the priesthood, we cannot be faithful to God on our own strength, and we are terribly exposed to being proud and wanting to be served rather than to serve. Feeling unworthy will help us live with the conviction that we are priests because Christ has chosen and called us, and if we are going to be faithful we need to build our lives on prayer, sacrifice, humility, avoiding the occasion of sin, and bearing as much fruit as possible in our daily lives.