Spiritual Dryness in Catholic Laypersons Working as Volunteers is Related to Reduced Life Satisfaction Rather than to Indicators of Spirituality


Phases of spiritual dryness may affect a person’s life orientation and sense of meaning, particularly of persons who work professionally for the sake of others and who rely on God as their main life orientation. This study investigated spiritual dryness in religiously motivated laypersons who are prosocially active volunteers. In particular, the study investigated which indicators of spirituality are related to spiritual dryness and also whether compassion and altruism are related to spiritual dryness. Data from 102 persons working for UNITALSI, an Italian volunteer organization, were collected using standardized questionnaires. Among these strongly religious laypersons, 12% reported that they experienced times of spiritual dryness (as measured with the Spiritual Dryness Scale) fairly often. Spiritual dryness was best predicted by low satisfaction with family life and by future prospects (which together explain 31% of the variance), followed by a low perception of the transcendent (an additional 8%) and high altruism (an additional 4% of explained variance). Most of those who found ways to deal with these feelings were inspired to help others more and perceived greater spiritual serenity and depth afterwards. It was found recently that for Catholic priests and non-ordained pastoral workers, the perception of the transcendent was the best (negative) predictor of spiritual dryness, but among Catholic laypersons investigated in this study, reduced life satisfaction was the best (negative) predictor. The data underline that laypersons who work voluntarily for others require spiritual guidance and support because spiritual dryness as a phase of spiritual crisis may impair their life satisfaction and may conflict with their voluntary engagement.

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We are grateful to the UNITALSI volunteers who filled out the questionnaires.

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Correspondence to Arndt Büssing.

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Büssing, A., Baiocco, F. & Baumann, K. Spiritual Dryness in Catholic Laypersons Working as Volunteers is Related to Reduced Life Satisfaction Rather than to Indicators of Spirituality. Pastoral Psychol 67, 1–15 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11089-017-0798-5

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  • Spiritual dryness
  • Crisis
  • Volunteers
  • Compassion
  • Altruism
  • Spirituality