The Bunny, The Bunny, Got to Love the Bunny. Why Easter isn’t Pagan After All

Happy Easter.  Her’s why you shouldn’t feel so guilty about tucking into your Easter basket.

But here’s the thing: whenever you see History Channel and Protestants uniting to say something’s pagan, it’s usually a pretty good tipoff that said-something actually has deeply Catholic roots. This rule holds true for Santa, Christmas trees, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and especially the Easter Bunny.   Read more

I’ve Got the Cure for Your PTFWS* (*post-traumatic foot-washing syndrome)

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread and all, but since I am committed to the healing arts and it pains me to think that any of you are among those rending their garments over Pope Francis’ washing of women’s feet this past Holy Thursday, worried that this is just the first sign of the new Pope’s  hidden proto-feminist agenda and the imminent ordination of women bishops and subsequent ending of the world (curse you, Mayans!–the Pope is from South America, after all), I thought I would pass along an historical anecdote as a way of demonstrating that this really is nothing about which to get your wimple in a knot.  In fact, as far as I can tell, the matter was resolved almost 30 years ago by a Vatican decree–as if the Pope needed a decree to do something in the first place.    Now, before I share this,  I’ll  tell you up front that I will round file with extreme prejudice any obnoxious, anti-clerical, more-canonical-than-thou, liturgi-terroristic comments.  Likewise, I’m not spending my Easter break arguing with anyone–especially over this.  Thoughtful, substantive, respectful comments, as always, are welcome.  With that, read on…

Once upon a time, back in 1985, I was in the seminary for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The newly installed, then, Bishop Bevilacqua (later, the now-infamous  and recently deceased, Philly Cardinal) was both a canon and civil lawyer.  He was a stickler for details and not exactly a people-person, bless his heart.  Anyhoo, he rankled the diocesan women by refusing to wash their feet on Holy Thursday and ordering all the priests of the diocese to do the same. HUGE outcry. You’ve never seen so much anguish. Protests outside St Paul’s Cathedral for weeks. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  We seminarians were actually booed walking into the Cathedral at one point.  It was like Bishop Herod was killing the city’s children. In his defense, the bishop pointed out that the latin translation of the rules regarding the Holy Thursday liturgy said that the feet of 12 “viri” (men) should be washed–and anyway, the entire rite is optional so what was all the fuss about? Long story short, after even more histrionics, clarification was requested of the Vatican which later that year said that it was fine to wash women’s feet. Specifically, the Vatican said that,  in this case, it was fine to translate “viri” in the more general sense  of “men” meaning “persons”  (as in, “Jesus died for all men”–i.e., not just dudes, chicks too).    Bevilacqua lifted his ban the following year. The feet of the women of “the Burgh” didn’t have to stink anymore (well, not as much at least) the Bishop made a healthy breakfast of the egg on his face.  People went on to being petty about other things.

You may make of this what you will.  I only share it because part of my job as a therapist is to check people’s reality.  Consider your liturgical reality checked.  Nothing to see here folks.  Old news.  Now, go back to rejoicing in the fact that the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed!  Alleluia, Alleluia!

We Adore You, O Christ, and We Praise You. Because by Your Holy Cross, You Have Redeemed the World.

The Reproaches

(Click above link to listen to the St. Paul Cathedral Choir of London sing the Reproaches.)

1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Savior to the cross. 2: My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: Holy is God! 2: Holy and strong! 1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you safely through the desert. I fed you with manna from heaven,ù and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

Repeat “Holy is God…”

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you. I planted you as my fairest vine, but you yielded only bitterness: when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink, and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

Repeat “Holy is God…”


1: For your sake I scourged your captors and their firstborn sons, but you brought your scourges down on me.

(Repeated throughout by Choir 2) 2: My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the sea, but you handed me over to your high priests. 2: “My people….”

1: I opened the sea before you, but you opened my side with a spear. 2: “My people….”

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud, but you led me to Pilate’s court. 2: “My people….”

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert, but you struck me down and scourged me. 2: “My people….”

1: I gave you saving water from the rock, but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink. 2: “My people….”

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan. but you struck my head with a reed. 2: “My people….”

1: I gave you a royal scepter, but you gave me a crown of thorns. 2: “My people….”

1: I raised you to the height of majesty, but you have raised me high on a cross. 2: “My people….”


Savior of the Week

Pope Francis offers a helpful reality check to the self-help culture.

We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.

Papa Pancho makes a good point.  There is a difference between seeking help for a problem and chasing after the savior-of-the-week.  The Holy Father is really speaking to the latter more tha the former.

Change requires work and grace.  There is no person or program alone that can save you.  If you need help, it is good to find a competent, trained professional to work with.  If you find a therapist you  basically get along with, who supports your faith journey, who is sensitive and responsive to the concerns you bring up about either your life or your therapy,  and who is giving you practical advice, techniques, or guidance (as opposed to just saying, “Hmm… tell me more.”)  then–barring some major offense or obstacle that presents itself in session– you should probably stick with that person until you’ve made the changes you want to make, even if it takes longer than you expected.    Fostering your spiritual life, looking for ways to serve others, and committing to the hard work and accountability serious change requires are really the best ways to make significant, long lasting improvements in your life.

But as Pope Francis points out, help-seeking can become problematic when it becomes a quest for the person or program that is going to save me.  If I go from person to person, retreat to retreat, therapist to therapist, training weekend to training weekend looking for that one person with the right words to make it all click for me, or,  if I think that I need to stay locked up inside myself or my house until I can get “fixed” and THEN I’ll make a gift of myself to others, I’m not really seeking help.  I’m looking for salvation through human works.

—If you are ready to make a change in your personal, marriage, or family life, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how you can work with a faithful, professional, Catholic counselor through our tele-counseling practice. 

Why Children Need Moms and Dads–Culture, Complementarity and a Whole Bunch of Other ‘Portant Bidness.

I’m planning a post–probably after Easter–that gathers some of the research that illustrates the different gifts mothers and fathers bring to the parenting table.  But for now, a commenter, Lucy, asked a question that is more philosophical in nature that I thought merited a longer answer than a simple combox reply could give.

Essentially, she wanted to know what I meant by the rights of children, and why having a mother and father was more a right than, say, having two parents who the same ethnic/cultural background.  Here is my attempt to answer that.

Hi Lucy (and by extension, anybody else who cares about this stuff),

What I mean by “right” is that it is right and reasonable for a person–especially a child–to expect to be given whatever is necessary for them to become a fully-functioning, healthy,  human person.

Having two parents of the same ethnic/cultural background doesn’t rise to this level.   Culture is the way we live out our humanity.  Culture can certainly shape the way we express our humanity, but it isn’t what makes us human.  Culture proceeds from humanity.  That is, a fully human person can move from one culture to another and retain their humanity despite adopting the traditions of the new culture, but someone who is not a healthy human person cannot participate effectively in any culture.

I believe the research pretty clearly shows that motherhood and fatherhood is essential to developing a healthy sense of human-ness.   The absence of one or the other due to any number of circumstances tends to lead to any number of problems or impairments.  It seems to me that’s pretty clearly borne out by the research as well as my clinical experience.  But why?


I suspect you would agree that both man and woman have masculine and feminine attributes.   How does man or woman develop a healthy relationship between their masculine and feminine selves?   I would argue that there is good evidence that mothers and fathers show them. (and this, of course, is where feminist theories of gender would want to argue with me.  It just isn’t possible in this space to take that battle on.  Suffice it to say that even though cultures do influence the specific ways traits are integrated, there obviously remains something that is consistently masculine and feminine across cultures.  Even the most affectionate, expressive Greek or Italian man is still considered a man by the most stiff-upper-lip Brits or Germans.  I believe this ontological, cross-cultural sense of masculinity and femininity is biological and is resistant to cultural programming.)

At any rate, I would argue that fathers model the masculine form of that combination of masculine and feminine traits, and mothers model the feminine complement of that combination of masculine and feminine traits.  But to be fully, healthily human, a man or woman has to learn how to integrate the qualities that make them fully man or woman.

MEN ARE MEN & WOMEN ARE WOMEN (no matter how hard they try to be otherwise) 

Now, you might think that where I’m going with this is that gay men aren’t fully masculine and lesbian women aren’t feminine.  But I DON’T mean that at all. In fact, I would argue the opposite.  I would argue that there remains something masculine about the most effeminate gay man and that there remains something feminine about the most butch lesbian.  No matter how it is masked, men and women cannot be other than what they are.  An effeminate gay man cannot model the unique combination of human traits that make a woman “mother” no matter how effeminate he might be.  He is still going to nurture in a more masculine way than a woman would.   He can certainly be fully nurturing, but it is still going to be masculine nurturance in a real and palpable way.  The most butch lesbian is still going to approach the role of father in a more feminine way than any man would.  She can’t help it.    She is a woman despite the object of her sexual attractions.

Man and woman are both capable of living out all the qualities that make them fully human.  Men and women can both be fully nurturing.  Men and women can both be fully analytical.  Etc, etc.  But there remains a more masculine approach to nurturance and a more feminine approach to analysis, for instance, that are both efficient in their own right and complementary to each other.  Catholics refer to this as the “complementarity of the sexes.”  That is, man and woman are made in God’s image.  We literally, image God.  Let me break this down.


Man and woman are both fully human–and exhibit all the virtues that make them human– but they live out that humanity–and the virtues that make them human–through their masculine or feminine body.  Let’s go back to nurturance.  My wife and I can and should both be fully nurturing to our children.  But her body gives her ways to express nurturance that I can’t.  For instance, she can nurse.  No matter how much she might want me to nurse our kids at 3am, I am never going to be able to lactate.  Likewise, my greater upper body strength allows me to toss my kids high up in the air–and sometimes even catch them.  And my facial hair–or even my 5 o’clock shadow if I shave–allows me to tickle my kids when I zrrrbrrrrt their chins or tummies.  My wife can’t do either of those things.  We can both be fully nurturing to our kids but our complementary nurturance feels different to our kids in real and meaningful ways.  The differences may be subtle, but they are real enough to make kids prefer one type of nurturance or another depending upon how they’re feeling and what their needs are at the moment.   Returning to the idea of complementarity and the Imago Dei, my wife and I are both fully capable of being nurturing, but when we nurture together, we are a more complete image of the nurturance of God for all of humanity and we present a more complete “nurturance package” (so to speak) to our kids.

Imagine that subtle difference spread out across the thousands of virtues that make us human and you’ll get a better sense of what I mean when I say kids need both mothers and fathers.

It isn’t, as you said,  that men “tend to be this way” and women “tend to be that way.” (i.e. men are aggressive and women are gentle)  I would say that that is demonstrably false, because all you’d have to do is find one man or one woman who wasn’t “that way” to disprove the thesis.  I’ve known plenty of aggressive women and gentle men.  It is that men and women are fully capable of living all the traits and qualities that make both fully human but that men and women live out those qualities in a more masculine or feminine “style” that is dictated by their neurobiology.   Together they present a fuller picture of what it means to be fully human and an image of God.  Together, they model for their children how to be fully human and image God themselves.

In order to become a healthy, fully-formed, human person, a child needs to experience this subtle difference in an up-close and personal way.  And that’s why both mothers and fathers are important.

Long Term Help for Those in Recovery

Recovering from addictions is a painful process.  It isn’t unusual for a serious addict to have to go through a treatment program 3 or more times before they can maintain sobriety.  One of the biggest challenges of recovery is changing your life and your social network after you get out of treatment.  If the addict keeps the same friends or stays in the same environment post recovery as he or she did before seeking help, there are just too many temptations.

Comunita Cenacolo (Community of the Cenacle) is a Catholic program designed to assist those who desire to live a life free of addictions.  It is not so much a treatment program as an opportunity to rebuild one’s life centered around God, service, and healthy friendships.  The Community requires a minimum 3 year commitment and offers support to both the addict and their parents.  They accept men 18-40 and women 18-30.  From their website:

…founded in Italy in 1983 by a dynamic, vibrant, and faith-filled religious sister named Elvira Petrozzi.  Mother Elvira felt certain that God was calling her to serve the poor of the modern world: disillusioned young men and women who live in desperation and hopelessness, convinced that life has no meaning or value. Unable to find peace or joy in their lives, they seek to fill the emptiness with the illusory pleasures of the world, only to find themselves steeped in an intense interior isolation.

Trusting unwaveringly in the direction of the Holy Spirit, Mother Elvira proclaims to all those who live in darkness that only Jesus Christ can heal and transform their shattered lives, changing despair into hope, sadness into joy, hatred into forgiveness, and death into life.

Our Way of Life

To everyone we welcome, we propose a simple, disciplined, family style of life, based on the rediscovery of the essential gifts of prayer and work (”ora et labora”), true friendship, sacrifice, and faith in Jesus.   The spirituality of the Community is profoundly Eucharistic and Marian.  The day is structured around times of prayer (Eucharistic Adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary), work, deep sharing about one’s own life in the light of the Word of God, recreation, and times of celebration.  We believe that the Christian life in its simplicity and fullness is the true answer to every restlessness in the human heart and that, in the living encounter with God’s Mercy, man is reborn into hope and is freed from the chains that have enslaved him, thus rediscovering the joy of loving.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addictions of any kind, check out Comunita Cenacolo. It’s a unique resource that can make a profound difference.

Study Shows: People who Don’t Go to Church are Haters.

Ok, now that I’ve got your attention, the study doesn’t say that… exactly.  But it does show that non-religious persons are much less willing or able to forgive themselves or others than religious people.

…those who leave a religious tradition entirely (i.e., those who were religiously affiliated and no longer were at the time of the survey) are less likely to forgive themselves and others compared to those who stay in a religious tradition. What seems to matter in promoting forgiveness, then, is that a person adheres to a religion or denomination; on the whole, the religiously unaffiliated have less of a propensity to forgive.

Previous research has pretty well settled the notion that religious people are more forgiving of themselves and others than non-religious people, but this study wanted to understand what the mechanism of that forgiveness really is.  The study identified three factors that contribute to the more forgiving nature of religious people, the degree to which you exhibit these factors as a religious person tends to determine how forgiving you will be of both  yourself and others.

 (1) one’s relational disposition toward God—in other words, beliefs about who God is, what God does, and the appropriate interactions a believer should have with God;

In other words, the degree to which you believe God is a loving, forgiving God (as opposed to an angry, spiteful God) has an impact on the level of forgiveness you display toward both yourself and others.

(2) the extent to which a person imitates God’s qualities and actions; and

Fairly self-explanatory.  The more you feel you are obliged to treat others as God treats you (assuming point #1; i.e., that you think God is loving and forgiving) the more likely you are to be forgiving to yourself and others.

(3) the extent to which a person believes her religion (and therefore its injunctions and teachings) is or should be pervasive in life.

Also pretty straight-forward.  The degree to which you see your religion as a blueprint for living as opposed to merely a path to personal enlightenment/reflection (as is the case with those who are “spiritual but not religious”), the more forgiving of yourself and others you will tend to be.

If these factors have a signficant impact on forgiveness levels, it also makes sense why non-religious people may have a harder time forgiving.  For example, athiests like Richard Dawkins certainly don’t profess to believe (or even not believe) in a merciful, loving God.  The God they reject is perceived to be pretty angry and spiteful.  Because of that, they certainly don’t see the value in imitating what they perceive to be “God’s” immature, tantrumming behavior, and they therefore reject that any religion that worships such a God should have anything to do with life.

Not having a positive model for forgiveness or a more cohesive definition of what forgiveness looks like outside of their own experience, the non-believer would have a more difficult–if not impossible–challenging himself or herself to be as forgiving as a believer who is consistently challenged by a faith community to at least imagine that it is possible to be more forgiving than he or she has actually witnessed in his or her own life.

QUESTION:  What offenses tend to be the hardest for you to forgive in yourself or others?

——Having difficulties forgiving the difficult people in your life?  Check out God Help Me, These People are Driving Me Nuts!  Making Peace with Difficult People


Coming Wed to More2Life Radio: Pray without Ceasing

 Coming Wed:  Pray without Ceasing–As we prepare to enter into the Triduum, we bring all of our needs to the Lord and support one another in prayer. We’ll be taking your prayer requests and discussing the importance of prayer.  Call in with your prayer requests and comments on your prayer-life from Noon-1pm at 877-573-7825
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The Erroneous Infertility/Post-Menopausal Argument

CNN reports that in today’s session, Justice Kagan and the attorneys for Prop 8 had the following exchange.

“Mr. Cooper, suppose a state said that, because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55,” Kagan asked. “Would that be constitutional?”

“No, your honor, it would not be constitutional,” Cooper answered.

I’m so frustrated by Cooper’s answer (assuming CNN reported this in full).  Why is this SO difficult to understand?  Of course the restriction would be unconstituional…because it is irrelevant.  We can allow infertile and post-menopausal couples to marry because allowing them to do so does not make saying that “a child has a right to a mother and father” discriminatory.   If such a couple were to adopt, for example, that child would still have a mother and a father.

As soon as you claim that homosexual marriage is equivalent to marriage, then you must agree that both kinds of couples are capable of giving the same benefits to any  child they might have.    If you agree with that, then it immediately becomes discriminatory to say that the child actually receives something different from a mother and a father.  It is discriminatory, because a homosexual couple cannot give a child a mother and a father and to say that a child needs a mother and a father is to say that a homosexual couple is somehow less than a heterosexual couple.  You can’t simultaneously say that that two things are the sameanddifferent.

The problem is that all the data shows that children receive important benefits from mothers and fathers and that the absence of one or the other has consequences.  That is not the same as saying that gay people are automatically bad parents or that children raised by gay people are doomed to be axe murderers.  BUT that is to say that if the best homosexual parents are compared to the best heterosexual parents the children of the heterosexual parents will be receiving benefits the children of homosexual parents can never have.  That is unjust.  It is unjust to give a child the chance to have everything but.  Children deserve to have the right to everything society can give them to achieve their full potential.