With all of life’s challenges, it’s important to find ways of dealing with discouragement that you can turn to again and again. Feeling disheartened is very common, but when discouragement creeps into your spiritual life, it can seem even more daunting to raise yourself up all on your own.
Leaning on your relationship with Jesus Christ can help you find freedom from today’s worries, and we’d like to share a few of the practices that will support your journey from discouragement to comfort in the Lord.
Causes of Discouragement
How does discouragement become something that seems impossible to overcome? Many different emotions can lead us into a downward spiral when we don’t have the tools or perspective to face them. Work, relationships, finances, and health can all become catalysts for our discouragement and manifest themselves in feelings such as:
The good news is that, while there are many causes of spiritual discouragement, how we address them is tried and true, especially if we take a closer look at the life and teachings of OMV founder Venerable Bruno Lanteri.
Venerable Bruno Lanteri lived in Italy in the 18th century, a dark time for Catholics and a period of upheaval in broader society. Despite a movement to portray God as unmerciful and unloving to the masses, Lanteri was determined to teach the infinite Mercy of Jesus Christ and encourage all to seek His love.
Today, we continue to learn about dealing with discouragement through Venerable Lanteri’s letters to his spiritual directees. A few of the common themes in his writings are consistency, accountability, and, of course, lots of hope.
Dealing with Discouragement
Even though Venerable Bruno Lanteri offered his guidance centuries ago, we can still apply his advice to modern-day spirituality. When it comes to dealing with discouragement, there are several key components to keep in mind, which Venerable Lanteri summarizes in a letter to his spiritual directee, Luigi Ricasoli:
“A holy tenacity in the faithful practice of your ordinary exercises of the spiritual life, especially in meditation and spiritual reading, will always be a source of great blessings for you. Add to this a weekly practice of the Sacrament of Penance and more than weekly Holy Communion, with a firm and invincible resolution always to begin again and to hope ever more firmly in God.”Venerable Bruno Lanteri (February 29, 1804)
As discouragement can easily permeate into our daily lives, it’s crucial to make meditation a daily practice. In a later letter to another spiritual directee, Gabriella Solaro della Margarita, Ven. Lanteri writes, “Do not forget meditation, at least for a quarter of an hour, frequently raising up your heart to God throughout the day.”
By being consistent, we build new habits that strengthen our relationship with God. Similarly, in the words of Pope Francis, “For us Christians, meditating is a way of encountering Jesus. And in this way, only in this way, can we find ourselves.”
If you need a place to start, Fr. Bill Brown, OMV, finds that making the Examen a daily practice helps align his actions with God’s will and helps him identify God’s presence in his life.
Much like meditation, making time each day for spiritual reading is a peaceful way to reflect on holy teachings. And don’t worry, Ven. Lanteri gives permission to focus on “but a single page” if that’s all that you can commit to right now.
Beyond scripture, there are many sources of spiritual reading you can turn to in times of discouragement. In addition to Ven. Lanteri’s writings, such as Counsels of Hope, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary offer a wide selection of publications in our bookstore and we’re happy to make recommendations in the comments below.
Throughout his letters, Ven. Lanteri encourages others to receive the Eucharist at least once a week as a way to reconnect to the source of hope and love through Jesus Christ.
Throughout the Year of the Eucharist, which ends on the feast of Corpus Christi in 2022, there are many ways to join in and make the Eucharist a more consistent part of your spiritual practice, even if you aren’t able to attend Mass in person. You can find more Year of the Eucharist resources and readings from our ministry at St. Francis Chapel.
Overcoming discouragement isn’t something that you should go through alone. Spiritual directors or accountability partners can be helpful in your journey, both the highs and the lows. There are many benefits to finding a spiritual director, which we see in the relationships between Venerable Lanteri and his spiritual directees.
Whether you work with a trained spiritual director or seek out a less formal accountability partner, the most important step is that you identify goals for yourself and work to achieve them. For example, you and an accountability partner might commit to 30 minutes of prayer and spiritual reading at the same time each day and do a regular phone call to reflect on the past week.
Through creating healthy spiritual habits like meditation and prayer, reflection on spiritual readings, receiving the Eucharist and holding yourself accountable to it all with a spiritual director or accountability partner, you can work to strengthen your relationship with the Lord. The more you focus on this relationship, the more you’ll see that discouragement melt away.
Find Help Overcoming Discouragement
If you’d like to explore Ven. Lanteri’s letters and teachings more closely, Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, is now offering a free virtual workshop entitled “Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement.” Everyone is invited to register and begin the workshop anytime!
In addition to learning more about the life and times of Venerable Lanteri, Fr. Tim offers practical applications for overcoming discouragement in your spiritual life.
No matter the source of your discouragement, remember that you are not alone and God’s love and mercy is without end. Please let us know if we can join you in prayer.