40 Days to a Better Marriage, Thurs 2/28: Forgive Your Spouse’s Quirks.

40 Days to a Better Marriages Tip of the Day Thurs 2/28–Forgive Your Spouse’s Imperfections–Chances are, you get irritated by certain things your spouse does; things we can’t stop calling attention to but they can’t seem to stop doing.  I don’t mean things that are dangerous, immoral, or demeaning, just those stylistic differences the rub your the wrong way.  Make a promise to forgive this irritation for at least today.  Instead of pointing out this imperfection in your spouse today, offer it up for the good of the Church.  When you feel like criticizing your spouse, give them a hug and hold them until the critical feeling passes.



——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.


Losing My Religion–Should Anyone Care? The Social & Psychological Benefits of Religious Faith

Religion gets a lot of bad PR these days. Some of it is certainly deserved. Much, I would argue, is not. But all of that begs the question, “Does religion provide any objective purpose for the psychological health of the person and the good of society?”

Benefits of Religious Faith: All in Your Head?

It’s an important question, especially as more and more people jettison religious faith in favor of more subjective, personal, spiritualities. According to the Pew Research Center, the rate of 18-29 year olds jettisoning religion has doubled from 8% to 16% over the last 10 years.

If religion is merely a personal affectation–something done in private for one’s own pleasure–then throwing it over for a more self-styled spirituality–or nothing at all–just makes sense. But what if religion offers more specific and robust benefits to psychological health and the health of society than personal spirituality? What if there are objective benefits to following a specific creed, participating in specific rituals, and actively associating and worshipping with a particular group on a regular basis?

Does the person and society as a whole lose something if it jettisons, specifically, religious faith?

A Question of Science, Not Faith.

I want to be clear that these questions go beyond both the truth claims of any particular religion and the issue of whether religion is personally meaningful or not. The question of any objective benefit of religion to the person or society is really one of social science–psychology, anthropology, and sociology, especially. Obviously, religious people subjectively think that religion is useful, but why? Perhaps they’re just deluded. Psychologists going all the way back to Freud have argued that possibility. Does it really all just come down to religion giving people a warm-fuzzy feeling inside? And why should non-religious people care about religion at all?

Freedom and Dignity

It would be easy to say that religion concerns itself with “the big questions.” But the truth is, no one needs religion to (with apologies to Douglas Adams) contemplate life, the universe, and everything. Almost everyone is fully capable of asking those questions without a creed, rituals, or a group to support them.

But I would argue that what a person and society does need religious faith for is to proclaim and protect the dignity of the human person and the value of authentic freedom. Atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have correctly noted that you don’t really need religion to be moral or good. But even a casual look at the data seems to suggest that as religiosity of a particular society decreases, human rights abuses increase.

As a society actively (like in communist countries) or passively (as in the consumerist West) stamps out religion (and I’m not just speaking of Judeo-Christian faiths, but virtually all religious faiths) two things happen: First, society begins to see people as things. Second, people begin to see themselves as things. And when people become depersonalized, “thing-ified” if you will, psychosocial health suffers to the point of non-existence.

Reason Without Faith is Nihilism

People are capable of great feats of reason on their own, but without religion, people struggle with significance. There’s an old saying that goes, “Some people know the price of everything but the value of nothing.” That’s reason without faith. Without faith, people too easily begin to think of themselves and each other as things, as merely means to a particular end. Every person has a price. But no one is valued.

Religion: ”Meet Needs AND Respect the Person”

Human beings tend to be pragmatic by nature and we stink at delaying gratification. We see a need and we want to fill that need in the quickest way possible. Unfortunately, the quickest way to fill a need usually involves treating people (others and ourselves) as things. When I’m hurting, the last thing I’m prone to care about is human dignity and freedom. I just want to meet my need. Now. By any means possible. What’s the quickest way to meet a sexual need? Porn or prostitution. What’s the quickest way to win a domestic argument? Treat my spouse like a punching bag. What’s the quickest way to meet an economic need? Treat workers like slaves. What’s the quickest way to achieve a political goal? Treat people like cattle to be hearded instead of citizens deserving of respect.

And though these may be the quickest means to meet particular ends, they are hardly means that respect the dignity and worth of the human person. The thing is, it is difficult to object to these practices on reason alone. All reason can tell us is that people are bags of meat. Reason can tell us that consciousness exists, but it can’t tell us the significance of that fact. Reason can tell us that, generally speaking, it’s better for me to treat others with respect–unless I can get away with doing otherwise. If I have the power to shield myself from the consequences of my actions, why shouldn’t I treat people as things if it would benefit me? It simply isn’t reasonable to think otherwise.

Likewise, because they are personal, individual spiritualites tend not to stand up well to social pressure. Individual spiritualities thrive where religions have made it safe for them to grow. But when religous faith is stamped out, mere pragmatism–the organized thing-ification of persons–kills spirituality altogether.

The more a person is treated, or treats themselves as a thing, the more they break down. The cost of porn? Sexual addiction, depression, lost work hours, broken marriages and families. The cost of prostitution and sexual trafficking? Post-traumatic stress, depression, addiction. The cost of domestic violence? Depression, suicide, anxiety, addiction, broken marriages and families, and an increase in all manner of psychosocial disorders in children. The cost of inhumane working conditions? Depression, suicide, anxiety. The cost of political oppression? All of the above.

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

When mainstream religious faith is in conflict with a particular society as a whole, or with particular groups within a society, it is almost always because a religious faith is asserting that a particular means by which a person or society is attempting to satisfy a particular need runs contrary to the dignity or freedom of the human person.

Whatever you think of the nature of their respective creeds, Christianity, Buddhism, Falun Gang, are all mercilessly persecuted in China because they assert that persons must be more than cogs in the system. Whatever you think of their particular claims, progressive Christianity came under attack during the civil rights movement just as traditional Christianity is now under legislative attack in the US because it asserts that certain efficient means of solving social problems are beneath the dignity of the human person. In every case, it is organized, religious faith–much more than even individualized spiritualities which, because they are personal, tend to be easily subverted by outside pressures–that has the power to inspire people to realize that they are worth more than others (and even they, themselves) say they are. It is religious faith that consistently asserts, as point of revelation as opposed to mere reason, that people must be treated as persons, not things.

Moreover, it is organized religious faiths, more than personal spiritualities, that have the organizational power to demand social change and encourage personal growth and change in a manner that is respectful of the person and the groups those persons participate in (family, work, society).

So, whether you are a believer or not, the next time religious faith stands in opposition to a pet solution you favor, stop and consider whether your impulse is driven by a pragmatism that has not considered the dignity and worth of the people around you. As Flannery O’Connor once put it, the life you save may be your own.


Hard to Say Goodbye…

My dad died of a brain tumor at 65. I remember being at his bedside and having to say, “Goodbye.”

It was about 2am.  My mom had fallen asleep and I was sitting there in his hospital room.  Watching him.  Unconscious.  He was struggling to breathe as the tumor that first robbed him of his speech reached deeper into his brain, taking his life inch-by-inch. Fortunately, we’d had our chance to say the things we needed to say.  All was silent now. There was nothing to do but feed him ice chips.  And pray.  And wait.  I watched him breathe out one last time.  Then…nothing.  He was gone.  Too soon.

My dad was a quiet, faithful man.  He taught me to pray.  He helped me answer my questions about God, life, faith.  He showed me was it was to be a loving, godly man.  In his passing, I was surprised by the urgency I felt to grow up a bit more.  I had been an adult for 20 years, but I still leaned on him. And now, I would have to stand at least a little bit more on my own.

I am reminded of my grief at the loss of my father today as I watch and reflect on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  In some ways, the comparison strikes me as strange.  I never had the privilege of meeting this pope.  I didn’t know him personally.  He isn’t dying.  But I feel his loss just the same.  Over the last 8 years, I connected with him as a spiritual father.  I benefitted from his wisdom and his quiet example.  I became a better man under his leadership.  I am grateful to him. I am sad to see him go.

Today, as on the day my father died, I am aware of my need to grow up a little bit more.  When the Pope first announced his resignation, several people called our radio program to say they’d felt abandoned.  They wondered how, if the Pope was our father, he could just walk away.  I reminded them that the Pope is not really the head of the Church.  Christ is.  The Pope is Christ’s Vicar on earth,  a physical sign of Christ’s leadership of the Church, but though Popes will always come and go, Christ will always remain. The Pope’s resignation is a reminder to all of us to place our hope, not in a man, not even in a great man,  but in Christ.  In a way, the message I take from his resignation is a similar to the message I take from Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Spe Salvi.   In all things, we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ.  Everything else is a distraction.

Today, the Chair of Peter will be vacant.  But the Church is not adrift.  Christ is still at the head.  Benedict, himself, reminded us of this in his farewell address. “Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her….”

Today, we will say goodbye to a man who has our spiritual father for the last 8 years.  We will feel the loss of him.  But perhaps his final gift to the Church is a similar one that my father gave me at his passing; the gift of maturity.  Benedict, as a teacher, has been teaching us to stand both closer to Christ and more confidently in Christ.   As his leaves the Chair of Peter, he challenges us to stand up, to be men and women of God.  To be strong. To be the Church Christ calls us to be.  Let us show our gratitude to Pope Benedict by rising to the challenge this great man has placed before us.

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”  (1 Cor 16:13).





Coming Thurs on M2L: Respecting Our Limits…

Coming Thurs on M2L Radio:  Respecting our Limitations–The Pope’s resignation challenges all of us to look at how we deal with our own limitations.  We have a tendency to beat up on ourselves when we hit our limits, but that doesn’t help anything.  Today on M2L, we’ll look at the godly way to approach our limitations.  We’ll offer tips to know when to keep pushing through and when to surrender and how to avoid the guilt that comes when we hit the wall.  Call in from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C) at 877-573-7825

Don’t forget to answer our M2L Facebook Q of the D:  (It’s a two-fer)   1.  What situations in your life tend to make you feel like you’ve “hit the wall”  or have come to the end of your rope? 2.  How do you feel about yourself in those times when you bump up against your limits?

—-Listen to More2Life live weekdays from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C).  Can’t get M2L on a Catholic radio station near you?  Tune in live online at www.avemariaradio.net, listen via our FREE AveMariaRadio IPhone or Android App (Check your app store!), or catch the M2L Podcast!

Seth McFarlane Saw Your Boobs–(and Crescat is on the Case)

Crescat speaks truth.

“For anyone to be mad at poor stupid Seth, bless his heart, is silly. The easiest way for women to avoid objectification is to put on a shirt and not allow themselves to be used in the first place. But that puts the responsibility on the actress for her own behavior. It puts the burden on women to behave like ladies, and well, we can’t have any of that…”    Go read her.

“Should I Force My Teen to Go to Church?”

Over at the National Catholic Register, Matt Archbold discusses his frustration with parents who give older kids and teens a pass on going to church.

I thought I’d throw my .02 in as well and say that Matt is on to  something when he encourages parents to insist that their children of every age attend Mass.  The Eucharist is the food our souls need for eternal life.  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:56).  If your children were not eating healthy meals, you would insist that they sit at the dinner table and eat.  If they resisted further, you would recognize that the child might have a problem–even an eating disorder–and you would seek help.  If you, as a parent take your child’s earthly nourishment seriously, why would you neglect your child’s spiritual nutrition?   It needs to be understood in your household that Mass attendance is not optional.  Sometimes we don’t bring ourselves to the Lord’s table in the best mood or the best spirit, but we must always bring ourselves to the Lord’s table.

That said, forcing your kids to go to Church isn’t enough.  Often your kids resistance to Mass attendance is rooted in one of two deeper problems (or a combination of the two); no personal relationship with God or the deterioration of their relationship with you.  Let’s look at each.

Mass Resistance Hurdle #1–The Lack of a Personal Relationship with God.

Too many kids and teens ride their parent’s coattails when it comes to faith.  As parents, we assume that our kid is “catching” faith from us.  But that’s not how it works.  Imagine that you have a friend.  You meet your friend for lunch every week, and you always take your child with you, but before you go to the restaurant, you tell you child that the most important thing to do is to remain silent and still while you talk to your friend.  You do this every week for years until, one day, your teen say, “I don’t want to go to that lunch with your friend.  It’s boring.”  Would you be surprised?  Probably not.

Continuing the metaphor, if you wanted your child to eventually become friends with your friend, in addition to teaching your child how to behave in a restaurant, you would also need to teach your child how to listen to the conversation and make appropriate contributions to the discussion.  This way, over time, your child would learn that he was a welcome part of the discussion and that he could make bigger and better contributions to the discussion as time went by.  Soon, your child would look forward to these luncheons as much as you and your friend would start to become more and more your child’s friend as well.

In the same way, if you want your child to appreciate going to Mass, you have to help your child develop his or her own relationship with Jesus.  We do this through regular family prayer, teaching our children individual prayer, and a host of other family spiritual practices that help our children cultivate a relevant friendship with God.  The better job we’ve done fostering our children’s personal spirituality at home, the less we have to force them to go to church.

Mass Resistance Hurdle #2–Your Relationship with Your Child has Deteriorated.

When teens are angry at mom and dad, they have a tendency to go for the jugular.  If you are a faithful parent, your angry teen is going to go for the jugular by insisting that Church is irrelevant and, perhaps, that he doesn’t believe in God.  In my experience, the vast majority of teenage atheism has nothing to do with God and everything to do with looking for a way to hurt mom and dad–and especially dad (assuming dad is faithful).

Honestly, if this dynamic exists, it is almost always accompanied by the first hurdle as well.  The best way to begin addressing this faith crisis is by first restoring the parent-child relationship and then working on developing the teens relationship with God.  You really can’t do it any other way because you can disciple someone who does not want you to be his mentor.

The Good News

The good news is that if you do this work (instead of just freaking out and indulging in protracted religious lectures) chances are good that even the most resistant teen will re-discover (or discover for the first time) his or her desire to experience God in church and wherever else he can be found.

We offer many more suggestions for cultivating your child and adolescent’s spiritual life and cultivating the sort of relationship with your child that makes him or her want to listen to you in Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.  And if you need more assistance still, please check out the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s pastoral tele-counseling practice, where you can work with a faithful, professional Catholic therapist to get your marriage, family, or personal life where you would like it to be.

COMING WED on M2L Radio–Be All You Can Be!

COMING WED–Be All You Can Be:  Lent is a time to reflect on the people we’d like to become.  Today on M2L we look at what it takes to develop the qualities we’d most like to see in ourselves. Call in from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C.) at 877-573-7825 with your questions about becoming all you can be.

And don’t forget to answer the M2L Facebook Question of the day:  What qualities do you admire in others that you wish you could see more in yourself (and why)?

—-Listen to More2Life live weekdays from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C).  Can’t get M2L on a Catholic radio station near you?  Tune in live online at www.avemariaradio.net, listen via our FREE AveMariaRadio IPhone or Android App (Check your app store!), or catch the M2L Podcast!

40 Days to a Better Marriage–Wed 2/27: Celebrate Your Spouse.

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip–Wed 2/27:  Celebrate Your Spouse.   Sometimes we need to let our spouse know what we think is special about them.  Write down 5-10 things that make you glad that you’re married to your spouse.  Share those things with your husband or wife later today.





——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.