Question: Sometimes when I pray, I get really bad, even disgusting thoughts… I am not sure whether I should mention this in Confession.
Answer: “You are not alone in this problem: even some of the saints have spoken of it. Such thoughts are a particular kind of involuntary and distressing distraction in prayer. Obviously you don’t intend to have such thoughts and so you are not committing a sin, but if you want to, you can talk about the matter in Confession, though without going into details about what exactly the thoughts are. Your confessor will probably have heard of this phenomenon before and will help to reassure you.
More than normally open to distracting thoughts
When we pray we are more than normally open to distracting thoughts of all kinds. These sometimes arise from, or are consequences of, our experiences. If you have committed sins of unchastity in the past, you can renew your sorrow for those sins but without dwelling on them. We also believe in the Devil: his petty and nasty character may be responsible for the attempt to soil your prayer and to dishearten you. Therefore it is also a good idea to pray to St Michael and your holy Guardian Angel for protection.
More positively, turn away gently and peacefully from your thoughts that have disturbed you, and take the opportunity to dwell with a renewed determination on what is holy. One way to do this is to take some concrete scene, perhaps one of the mysteries of the rosary or one of the Stations of the Cross , and imagine yourself there, speak to our Lord from your heart, and ask Him for the particular graces that you need today.
Focusing on the words of the Mass or on a traditional prayer can also help. Most of all, do not be unduly disturbed and do not be tempted to give up on your prayer. It may well be that when you have found prayer difficult and a struggle; it is precisely then that Our Lord brings good out of evil, rewarding you with a deeper union with Him.”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published in the Catholic Herald newspaper, issue 11 2014. [The inserted links to well-known traditional catholic devotions and prayers referred to in the above text have been added afterwards]. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk [external link]