Of Birds, Bees, and Human Beings

By: Christopher West


We ain’t nothin’ but mammals, so let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel — so go the lyrics of a song by a band called “The Blood Hound Gang.”   The band’s name carries the same theme — we’re animals with an urge to merge, so let’s go for it whenever the urge presents itself.   The idea is almost laughable, but for the fact that large swaths of humanity accept it as modern common sense.

Songs like this, backed by the media and even mental health professionals have fostered the notion that sexual restraint is inherently bad for us — and many of us have believed them.   But does this make sense?   We encourage self-restraint all the time: don’t hit your sister, share your toys, don’t eat the whole cheese cake.  These, and a great multitude of other restraints, are considered normal and healthy.   But why do people cry “pathology” as soon as someone suggests restraint for the sexual appetite?

A Culture of Indulgence

It’s certainly true that a puritanical and repressive approach to the sex drive is not healthy.   No one (I hope) wants to return to the days of deafening silence about sex when the sight of a woman’s ankle could cause scandal.   But is unrestrained libido the answer?  Our society has come to champion sexual indulgence as a right.   And we wonder why molestation, rape, abortions, “fatherless” children, adultery, divorce, pornography, and STD’s are rampant.   Could it be because human beings, both men and women, are behaving like animals?

When push comes to shove, do some people really believe “we ain’t nothin’ but animals”?   If a woman says of her date, “He was an animal,” we know immediately what she means: he did not respect her as a person; he treated her as an object to satisfy his own instincts.   If we “ain’t nothin’ but animals,” where’s the problem?

Take this behavior to its extreme.   Suppose a man forcibly indulges his “animal instincts” with a woman.   What makes this a crime?   Blood hounds can’t be charged and prosecuted for sexual misconduct.   The very words “crime” and “misconduct” indicate a moral order, a meaningless concept for animals.   And this is precisely the point.

Human Dignity and “Animal Rights”

So often behind the modern push to equate human beings with animals lies the subtle or not-so-subtle agenda of moral relativism, the rejection of a moral order to which all are accountable.   And so often behind the agenda of moral relativism lies the desire to indulge libido without any restraint — that is, the desire to behave like animals when it comes to sex.

A world that teaches “chickens are people too” is inevitably a sexually confused world.   When we raise animals to the level of human persons, we’re not really dignifying animals, we’re debasing ourselves.   And one of the first human mysteries to be debased in the animals-are-persons and persons-are-animals world-view, as the above song points out, is sexuality.

Although biologically similar, the joining of man and woman in “one flesh” is worlds apart from the copulation of Fido and Fidette — at least its meant to be!   Fido and Fidette are merely following an instinct intended to continue their species.   Man and woman are meant to be loving one another in the image of a life-giving God, something impossible for a being ruled by instinct.

Because of the effects of original sin, we often experience our sex drives acting upon us as if we were animals.   But if we are ever to find happiness, we must, with the help of divine grace, raise our behavior above — far above — what the musk oxes and jack assess are doing on the Discovery Channel.

Sex, Heaven, and Priestly Celibacy

By: Christopher West


In a recent column called “Ostriches at Vatican City” Steven and Cokie Roberts insist that the Catholic bishops have chosen to “bury their heads in the sand” by reaffirming the requirement of priestly celibacy.   Steven and Cokie believe that “ending the ban on marriage is the easiest fix” for the priest shortage.

Priest  Can  Marry

No Catholic would deny that we need more priests.   And it’s true that the practice in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church of reserving priestly ordination to celibate men could change.   The Catholic Churches of the East have valid married priests.

So, if someone asks, “Why can’t priests be married?” the real answer is, they can.   There is more to the Catholic Church than the Latin rite.   However, with good reason, priests in the West are normally chosen from among men who have discerned celibacy as their vocation.

There is a supreme value to the celibate witness that seems entirely lost on Cokie and Steven.   This is understandable.   Generally speaking, the Church in America has done a lousy job educating her flock on the meaning of the Christian vocations, and the scandalous behavior of some avowed celibates within the Church has only added to the confusion.

The Value of the Sacrifice

A short column can’t do justice to the issues, but it’s a start.   First, in order to understand the value of celibacy, we must understand the value of marriage.   Why?   Because the Church bases the value of any sacrifice on the value of that which it sacrifices.   For example, it would be meaningless for me to give up smoking for Lent.   Smoking holds zero value for me.

The Church places such a high value on celibacy precisely because she places such a high value on that which it sacrifices — the union of the sexes.   In the Catholic view of things, the joining of man and woman in “one flesh” is a sacred foreshadowing of the eternal union that awaits us in heaven (see Eph 5:31-32).   God gave us sexual desire, you might say, to be like the fuel of a rocket that’s meant to launch us toward the stars and beyond, to the eternal mystery of Christ’s union with the Church.

But what would happen if those rocket engines became inverted, no longer pointing us heavenward, but pointing us back upon ourselves?   Welcome to the fall-out of the sexual revolution.   The union of the sexes serves as an icon, a sign of our ultimate fulfillment, but it is the beginning of our demise when we worship sex itself.   A culture that worships sex has surely lost sight of heaven.

Marriage in Heaven

Jesus says we will no longer be given in marriage in heaven (see Mt 22:30).   Why?   Because we no longer need signs to point us to  heaven, when we’re in heaven.   The “marriage of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7) — the union of love that alone can satisfy — will be eternally consummated.

In turn, Jesus calls some to remain celibate not for celibacy’s sake, but   “for the sake of the kingdom” (Mt 19:12) — that is, as a living witness to the union that awaits us in heaven.   Authentically lived, a celibate’s life proclaims that, as beautiful and wonderful as the union of the sexes is, there is a greater love, a greater union worth “selling everything” for.

It is entirely fitting that priests would be called to this level of sacrifice.   In a world that idolizes sex, we desperately need the courageous witness of priestly celibacy.   For, when it is properly lived, it very effectively reorients our rocket engines toward the heavens.

Perhaps the bishops, rather than having their heads in the sand, were actually looking toward the stars.

Why Do Men Look at Porn? Oprah Viewers Want to Know

By: Christopher West


A few years ago I happened across Oprah’s web site and noticed that her show that day was called “Why do men do that?”   I’m not a regular Oprah viewer, but I tuned in that day to see a panel of “experts” on male behavior, including Jay Leno, explain why men look at pornography, go to strip clubs, and cheat on their wives.

First of all, ladies, be assured, not all men do these things.   One would have thought by watching Oprah that faithful men were extinct.   Not so.   But, alas, the pornographic culture has seduced a great many men.   Why?   All Jay Leno and his panel of friends could offer were excuses.   Many of the women in the audience were visibly and audibly pained as they were told in so many words to “get over it” because “it’s no big deal.”

Why do a great many men look at pornography, go to strip clubs, and cheat on their wives?   Because the human heart has been twisted by lust.   God created sexual desire to be the very power to love in the divine image.   This is what enabled the first man and woman to be naked without shame (see Gen 2:25).   They loved rightly, and there is no shame in loving as God loves.

But since the dawn of sin, sexual desire has become inverted, self-seeking.   We cover our bodies in a fallen world not because the body is “bad,” but because the body is so very good and — when we are in touch with our own goodness — we instinctively feel the need to protect the body from the degradation of lust.

In men, inverted sexual desire tends to seek physical gratification at the expense of women.   When lust takes control of a man’s heart, it seeks release in whatever outlet presents itself.   This is exactly what the porn industry capitalizes on.

Why does all of this, pain women so much?   Because women want to be loved and cherished for who they are as persons, not for the sexual release they offer men.   The opposite of love is not hatred.   The opposite of love is to use someone merely as a means to an end.   This is what lust leads men to do — use women rather than love them.

Women don’t simply want their husbands to direct their lusts exclusively towards them, as if this made a man “faithful.”   As our late Pope John Paul II once pointed out, a husband can commit “adultery in his heart” with his own wife  if he treats her as nothing but an object for his selfish pleasure.

I know it’s a cliché, but why do so many wives claim “headache” when their husbands want sex?   Could it be because they feel used rather than loved?   Marriage does not justify lust; it is not a ticket to treat a spouse as a means of selfish pleasure.   A woman who is the object of lust soon realizes, “You don’t love me; you don’t need me.   You’re only interested in a means to your own gratification, and you can get that anywhere.”

When the name of the game is self-gratification, any outlet will do.   In this view, the Church’s teaching on sex seems tailor made to “keep me from having a good time.”   But when the name of the game is self-donating love, everything the Church teaches seems tailor made to help me overcome lust and learn to love as God intended in the beginning.   Bingo.

The truth of the Church’s teaching on sexual love is confirmed in the pain and heartache of those who are immersed in lust.   Would that someone on Oprah’s panel could have validated women’s pain and encouraged them not to settle for men enslaved by lust.

As an aside, men are not the only of the sexes to experience this lustful desire to use another person as an object of gratification. Women are just as likely to experience lust as men are, although it may take the form of emotional use more often than a strictly physical and sexual use (although it should be stated that woman are increasingly experiencing lust in the latter form as well.) The topic of this article was addressing the problem of men’s objectification of women given the nature of the particular Oprah episode being discussed.

Another View of the Prodigal Son

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak


The Prodigal Son:   The Story

As most of you recall, the parable tells the story of a son who demands his share of his inheritance while his father is still alive.   Upon receiving the money, the son retreats to a far-off land where he squanders the money on all sorts of immoral pursuits.   Running out of money, the son is forced to work as a pig farmer until he decides that it would be better to be his father’s servant than to continue where he is.   He returns home expecting to have to beg to be allowed to be an employee in his father’s household but his father sees him on the road, runs to him, forgives him, and reaffirms their relationship as father and son even to the point of throwing a party for the son who was lost and has returned.

Most people who hear that story cast themselves in the role of the prodigal son.   We imagine ourselves as the ones who left our father and who are in need of forgiveness.   We experience the story as a powerful witness of God’s mercy and love and we rejoice in knowing that nothing we could ever do could separate us from the love of our Heavenly Father.

Research shows that many children of divorce do not see the story this way.

How Divorce Twists the Story:

Rather,  children of divorce tend to cast themselves in the role of the abandoned father.   They see  their parent  as the prodigal son who leaves the family because of some sin.   Children of divorce tend to hear this parable not so much as a comforting story of the abundance of God’s forgiveness and love, but as a command to forgive the prodigal parent.   As a result, children of divorce often struggle with faith because they are either not ready to forgive that parent or perhaps feel that their faith is commanding them to do something that is not safe (as in the case of an abusive parent).

It’s an eye-opening finding.

I hope that we can do more to help children of divorce step out of the caretaking role and experience that love and forgiveness that comes without cost.  Or, better yet, perhaps we parents can work on our marriages a little harder and stop putting our kids in the role of being our emotional/spiritual



Come Away, My Beloved-Do You Know How Much God Desires You?

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

heart on fire

“Come Away, My Beloved. Let him kiss me with kisses of the mouth! More delightful is your love than wine!” (Song of Songs 1:1)

Is there anything more beautiful than a bride on her wedding day? Is there anything more touching than seeing a groom’s face light on the eyes of his beloved? I remember when I saw my bride for the first time standing at the back of the Church. I could barely catch my breath. I couldn’t believe how blessed and lucky I was to be marrying such an amazing woman. What if I told you that is exactly how God feels about you? The Song of Songs is a scandalously passionate exploration of the love between a bride and her bridegroom.

This book of the bible leaves little to the imagination as the bride sings of her longing for her man and the bridegroom replies with intimate praise of her beauty. In the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great,

“Hence it is that…words are set down that pertain to bodily love, so that the soul, wakened anew out of its listless state by a language to which it is accustomed, may heat up and may, by the language of a lesser love, be aroused to a higher. For in this book, kisses are mentioned, breasts are mentioned, cheeks are mentioned, loins are mentioned; and the holy picture these words paint are not meant for mockery or laughter. Rather ought we focus our minds on the greater mercy of God. We must notice how marvelously and mercifully, in making mention of the parts of the body and thus summoning us to love, [God] works with us; for he reaches down in to the vocabulary of our sensual love in order to set our hearts on fire, aiming to incite us to a holy loving. Indeed, by the act in which he lowers himself in words, he also elevates our understanding; for from the words associated with this sensual love we learn how fiercely we are to burn with love for the Divine.”

–Pope St. Gregory the Great: On the Song of Songs.

You know, at least intellectually, that God loves you. But did you ever stop to think of how much he desires you and longs to be desired by you in return? When you are in love, what else can you think about? What would you let stand in the way of getting one more second on the phone, one more minute by your love’s side? Is there anything that could be more fascinating to you than your beloved’s face? Is there anything more wonderful than the eyes of your beloved looking at you with so much care? So much warmth? God is looking at you that way right now. Is there anything more comforting than your beloved’s arms wrapped around you? God wants to hold you that way now.  He doesn’t care what you’ve done; who you are; who you are not. He doesn’t care where you come from or how much of a hot mess you are. Dry your tears. He loves you as a bridegroom love a bride. You are his beautiful beloved and he longs to be one with you. Will you say, “I do” today?

To learn more about the surprising ways God reveals his love for you, check out How to Find True Love—a book about discovering God’s love in unexpected places.

Supporting the Sacraments: What Parents Can Do to Help Their Kids’ Faith Stick.

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

first communion

Whether, Baptism, first Confession, First Communion, or Confirmation, preparing to receive the Sacraments is a big step in our children’s lives and a  huge  opportunity to do more in our families to help deepen their experience of the faith.

The Church calls families “the Domestic Church” which means that the vast majority of our faith is lived in our homes.   The Church tends to assume that there is a continuity and a complementary relationship between the way we live our faith at home and the way we celebrate our faith in the Sacraments.   The best way to make sure our children own their faith is to do everything we can to maintain this continuity by looking for ways to connect our kids experience of the Sacraments with our daily life as a family.   Here are some examples.


-Our baptism is the day we were born into the family of God.   Find out your children’s baptism day and celebrate it for the birthday that it is.   Have a special meal and a special dessert.   Dig out the photos you took of your child’s baptism and share the story of that special day every year.

-Does your child know his or her patron saint?   Traditionally, Catholics would give their children the name of a particular saint so that he or she could be an inspiration to their child and pray for their child.   Even if your child was not named after a particular saint, you can help your child choose a saint to be his or her patron.   Read stories about the life of your child’s patron.   Make sure to ask that saint to pray for your child when you pray together at night or other times.

First Confession

-Confession represents your child’s growing awareness of right and wrong and the need to take responsibility for his or her actions.   Most importantly, it is an opportunity to experience God’s love and mercy and his willingness to walk alongside us as we work to become the best version of ourselves.   Does your family go to confession regularly?   Make it a habit to go together at least once a month.

-During your child’s nightly prayer time with you, help your child make a simple examination of conscience.   Gently ask your child to think about the times he struggled to be obedient to you or kind to his brothers and sisters.   Help your child ask God for help to do better with those things.   Encourage your child to confess the things he consistently struggles with so that he can receive God’s special help to do even better.

First Communion

-If baptism is our birth into God’s family, communion is when we actually become God’s flesh and blood.   What an incredible honor to be able to share so intimately in God’s life!   Do you take time to prepare for Mass as a family?   Make the effort to get to Church early so that you have time to pray before Mass and get yourselves ready to participate the incredible honor of receiving Christ’s body and blood.

-Take a few minutes to at least read the Sunday Gospel reading as a family the night before.   Use a good children’s bible to make it more accessible to younger children.   Discuss the reading and ask your kids how it applies, practically, to their lives.

-Although it’s a different sort of meal, making regular time for real family meals (where you actually sit and talk to each other) will give your kids a deeper appreciation for the intimacy they can experience at the Table of the Lord.


Confirmation is not a Catholic Bar-Mitzvah or graduation ceremony.   Some dioceses do it  before  First Communion, in fact, and the Eastern Church does it at the same time as baptism and communion—in infancy.   Confirmation is the sealing of the Holy Spirit and a kind-of commissioning that empowers us to proclaim with our words and actions that “Jesus Christ is Lord!”   (see, 1 Cor. 12:3)

-Teach your children how to lead family prayer.   Give them opportunities to lead grace at meals, the rosary, and other family prayer times.   Teach them that they have an important contribution to make to the family’s spiritual well-being!

-Review the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity).   Ask yourself on a regular basis, “Which of these virtues would make our family stronger this week?”   Ask each child to identify one thing they will do to work on that virtue.   Talk about your efforts over dinner.

-Talk with your children about the ways their good choices proclaim that “Jesus is Lord!” at school or with friends.   Talk with them about the fact that God has a mission for their lives and that whether at home, school or with friends, they are called to lead by example and try their best to bring out the best in others.

Be Creative

These are just a few ideas to get you started.   Use your own creativity to identify more ways you can celebrate your family’s connection to the sacramental life of the Church.   The more you do, the more you can enjoy the good fruits that, nurtured by sacramental grace,
will grow on  your  family tree.

For more information on how to help your kids get more from their faith and celebrate a grace-filled home life, check out  Parenting with Grace: The  Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.

The Lies We Believe

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak


We believe so many lies about ourselves.   We believe we’re hopeless, that  we  can never change, that  things  will never change, that nothing we do matters, that we don’t deserve  love  or goodness or justice or dignity or a million other things.   We are trapped by the lies we tell ourselves and the lies that others tell us.

Consolations V. Desolations

Jesus told us that   the  truth  will set us free (c.f., Jn 8:32).   St Ignatius of Loyola developed a system  of discernment that could  help us to determine the difference between movements of good spirits and movements of evil spirits.     A million or more times a day, a thought will pop into our head.   We have no idea where these thoughts come from but if we own them and take them in, they will affect our emotions and behavior.   If we let them pass through our minds without claiming them, they leave us unaffected.   In a sense, we could say that these thoughts are the result of good spirits and bad spirits whispering thoughts into our spiritual ear.   We have free will, so they have no direct power over us, but if they can persuade us to accept their whisperings as true, those thoughts become part of who we are, how we feel, and how we act.     It is our job to learn which of these whisperings we should attend to and which we should ignore.   St. Ignatius called the thoughts and feelings that draw us closer to God and his will “consolations.”   In spite of their name, consolations don’t always feel good, but they always cause to have clarity of the best and godliest way to respond to our circumstances.   If we attend and act upon those consolations, we can discover God’s will for our lives and fulfill our destiny of becoming whole in this life and happy with God in the next.

Similarly, St. Ignatius called the thoughts and feelings that move us away from God and his will “desolations” because they tend to separate us from God and make us feel powerless, hopeless, and self-indulgent.   The more we attend to these desolations, the more we pull away from God and become confused about who we are and how we are to live.

Cognitive Distortions

In addition to these spiritual helps, cognitive  psychotherapy has identified 15 Cognitive Distortions.   These distortions represent the lies we hear in our heads about who we are and how life works.   The more we believe these lies, the more complicated, confusing, and unhealthy our life and relationships become.

I would argue that just as God is the author of all truth whether found in revelation or nature, we know that Satan is the Father of Lies.   As such, whether the lies we hear in our heads are of a more spiritual or psychological nature, we can understand that all of these lies spring from Satan’s own heart.   By uncovering those lies and exposing them for what they are we can begin to live in the truth.   Here is a complete list of the 15 Cognitive Distortions that wreck our lives, ruin our relationships and steal our peace.   Are you living in the truth that will set you free?   Read through the list to see what lies are holding you back (Source:  PsychCentral).

1. Filtering.

We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking).

In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure – there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

3. Overgeneralization.

In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.

4. Jumping to Conclusions.

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.

5. Catastrophizing.

We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and use  what if  questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”).

For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake, or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections).

6. Personalization.

Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

A person engaging in personalization may also see themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. For example, “We were late to the dinner party and  caused  the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

7. Control Fallacies.

If we feel  externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of  internal control  has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness.

We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us, “Life is always fair,” and people who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel badly and negative because of it.

9. Blaming.

We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem. For example, “Stop making me feel bad about myself!” Nobody can “make” us feel any particular way – only we have control over our own emotions and emotional reactions.

10. Shoulds.

We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything.

For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.”  Musts  and  oughts  are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When a person directs  should statements  toward others, they often feel anger, frustration and resentment.

11. Emotional Reasoning.

We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are – “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

12. Fallacy of Change.

We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

13. Global Labeling.

We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy label to themselves.

For example, they may say, “I’m a loser” in a situation where they failed at a specific task. When someone else’s behavior rubs a person the wrong way, they may attach an unhealthy label to him, such as “He’s a real jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. For example, instead of saying someone drops her children off at daycare every day, a person who is mislabeling might say that “she abandons her children to strangers.”

14. Always Being Right.

We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around a person who engages in this cognitive distortion, even loved ones.

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

Sometimes becoming aware of these lies is all a person needs to break free of their bonds, but sometimes we need more specific techniques and guidance.     If you would like more help in overcoming the lies that hold you back, check out  God Help Me, This Stress is Driving Me Crazy!  Finding Balance through God’s Grace  or contact your PaxCare Tele-coach  to learn the skills you need to succeed.

Treating ADHD without Medication

By: PaxCare Staff


We want to say up front that we don’t personally believe that medication treatment for ADHD  is completely useless or should be avoided altogether.  We  do  think that  people are being oversold on the effectiveness of ADHD meds, however.   Ritalin, and its cousins are not a cure for ADHD.    They only control the symptoms for a limited period of time.   Likewise, in children, ADHD meds can  stunt growth:  “Adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to be shorter and slimmer than their same-age peers, according to a new study published in the  Medical Journal of Australia  today.” (Source: MedicalXpress)  Most interestingly, research by SUNY Buffalo shows that even if they do initially bring on some improvement,  ADHD meds stop working altogether within 3 years of beginning them.  Read the entire article here.

So what’s a parent to do?

Fortunately, there are a ton of effective behavioral treatments for ADHD.   Think of behavior therapy—and similar psychosocial interventions—as  physical therapy for the brain.     Psychotherapeutic exercises literally increase the connectivity, development, and healthy functioning of  the brain, especially  brain processes that control attention,  awareness, focus, and impulse control—all skills lacking in persons with ADHD. In fact, cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial interventions for ADHD have consistently  been shown to be more effective than medication for ADHD: “Cognitive and behavioral therapies that help young people reduce impulsivity and cultivate good study habits are costlier and take longer to administer, but may be more efficacious over time.” (Source: Scientific American)   Ultimately, cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial approaches to treating ADHD actually heal the brain imbalances that make it difficult for ADHD sufferers to focus, follow-through, and control impulses.

Here is a great resource that lists many of the available treatment options  for both  children with ADHD  and  adults.

Other Alternatives

In addition to the above,  mindfulness training  (where the client learns how to calm and focus the brain through various exercises that improve concentration and focus)  has been shown to be very effective  for treating both adults and children with ADHD:


“The study by Grosswald et al. (2008) shows in 10, 11—14  year old children with ADHD reduced attention and total problems after transcendental meditation using a non-controlled pre-post design. Zylowska et al. (2007) report that mindfulness meditation training in 24 adults with ADHD resulted in improvements in self-reported ADHD symptoms and test performance on tasks measuring attention and cognitive inhibition.”

Likewise,  neurofeedback, (a therapy that uses computer assisted exercises to  teach the client to have conscious control of various brain skills like attention and focus)  has a great deal of research showing it to be an effective treatment for ADHD:

“Neurofeedback trains children to become more aware of their physiological responses and how to gain control of the brain’s frontal lobe, which is the executive functioning center.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Take a look at the above links.   You might be surprised to find resources that are more effective than meds and could actually cure the ADHD instead of merely  controlling it for a time.

That They All may be One

By: PaxCare Staff

electric touch

Everyone longs for connection.   We all crave closeness but it can seem so elusive at times.   In the  face of the struggle to fulfill that desire to be in synch with others, we can often despair that it was ever meant to be.

We shouldn’t.  The Theology of the Body  reminds us that we were created to live in unity with God and others.  And, of course, this idea  is deeply rooted in scripture.   Genesis (2:18)  asserts that it was God’s intention from the very beginning that we would live in intimate  communion with others.   Jesus, himself, prayed for the unity we all crave  in John 17:20-23 where he said,

   “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

 The desire for unity that is written on the human heart points to this call to ultimate unity between God, us, and all of humankind.

A Taste of Heaven

All of us have experienced at least  flashes of this unity in our lives.   Every once in a while, God gives us a taste of that connection for which we were created and to which we are destined.   Even if it  is rare, most  of us have had that experience of being in the presence of someone who, for some reason, in that moment, makes everything seem peaceful, makes connection seem easy and  helps it all   just “makes sense.” Whatever you call it, it is a universal longing of the human heart and our happiness depends on our ability to fulfill that longing.

Unity and Holiness

What does it take to cultivate this sense of unity with others?   Most people would say, “time” or “quietness” and to some degree they’re right.   A person needs both of these things to cultivate the qualities that contribute to their ability to be in synch with others.   That said, it’s possible to have this sense with someone even when you don’t have a lot of time and are in a noisy crowd of thousands.   For instance, people who experienced Pope John Paul II, or Mother Theresa, or even now, Pope Francis, will tell you that even if they only got a few seconds with one of these holy people, they were made to feel like they were the only ones who mattered in that moment.   There was a transcendent connection—in the middle of the chaos of the crowd—where one felt “in synch” (in synchronicity) with the other. (Note:  Synchronicity  is the  experience  of two or more  events  as  meaningfully  related, where they are unlikely to be  causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence. The concept of synchronicity was first described by  Carl Jung, a  Swiss  psychologist, in the 1920s.) Source: Wikipedia.

Christian mystical theologians tell us that this ability to experience and create moments of unity is a sign of holiness.   Since God is one, and gathers all things into himself so that all may be one, the closer we draw to God, the more we are able to experience unity and share that experience of oneness with another.

Cultivating Connection:   Four Qualities

So we see that the ability to be in synch with others isn’t so much a product of our environment as much as it is a state of being, a mindspace if you will, in which it becomes possible to take down the barriers that separate us from each other and, in turn, create intimate connection.   Psychologists who study these states of being as they naturally occur have identified 4 qualities that enable a person to cultivate that sense of connection with another.   We all have the potential to exhibit these qualities and chances are we already exhibit them to some degree or another.   The trick is to develop them  to the degree that  we can experience them consistently and simultaneously.    The four qualities that lead to this sort of soulful connection between people are known by the acronym  COAL; Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance, and Love.    Let’s look at each of these qualities.

COAL Fuels Connection

Curiosity  is defined, in this context, as the genuine and honest desire to know another person; their  story, thoughts, feelings, and heart.   This type of curiosity is driven by a sincere desire to understand the other person and appreciate the world through their eyes.

Openness  is the  willingness to leave my comfort zone for sake of connection with the other.   We often resist opportunities to see the world through others because it can be disturbing  to our own sense of reality.    A healthy sense of openness allows us to leave our own worldview intact while we try on the worldview of another.   The goal of openness is not so much agreement with the other as it is understanding of the other.

Acceptance  is the willingness to hear  the other person’s  thoughts, feelings, ideas and life  story without judgment.   This is especially tricky for Christians because we believe, rightly, in absolute truth.   It can be hard to feel that I can be accepting  of another’s experience and still be committed to the proposition that there is a right way to live and a right path to walk. Often, curiosity and openness will lead me to encounter people who are very different from me and who’s own worldview clashes significantly, even violently, with mine.   Acceptance of the other’s worldview does not necessarily mean agreement.   It means that I am willing to understand that the other persons views represent  a sincere and honest  attempt on their part  to meet their needs or fulfill their good intentions.   The means by which they attempt to meet those needs or intentions may be deeply flawed, and I might think that it would be better if they changed, but in accepting them, I respect how they came to have the views they do and I respect the needs and intentions that drive those views.   For Christians, this concept might be best expressed as the spiritual practice  of  charitable interpretation.

Loving  represents a  genuine commitment to working for the good of other.   No matter how much I may disagree with someone or how different they may be from me, I actively demonstrate my commitment to doing what I can to making their life easier, more pleasant, more edifying, and healthier in whatever way I can.

The more  we intentionally cultivate these four virtues in  our life and relationships the more likely it is that we will have those flashes of connection, those moments of synchronicity and unity that satisfy the ache in our hearts for intimacy.  The closer we come to fulfilling Jesus’ prayer that all might be one in Him.

Why Does Infant Carying Soothe Babies when Other Things Fail?

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

baby sling dad

Every parent has had the experience of having to walk around carrying a crying baby to soothe him.     We have a lot of different ways to soothe a crying baby, but when all else fails, carrying often does the trick.   Why does carrying succeed when other strategies—including merely holding the baby—fail?

Studying the process of infant  soothing is extremely important  because inconsolable babies are more susceptible to abusive treatment by parents.   Understanding the psychological or biological mechanisms that  enables infants to  be calmed is a significant public health concern.   Because of this, researchers at the  RIKEN Brain Science Institute decided to investigate whether there was a neurological basis for the effectiveness of infant carrying.     They discovered some surprising things.

Carrying Triggers Newly Discovered Calming Reflex

It turns out that carrying an infant triggers a  three-way mechanism in the brain that suppresses involuntary muscle movements & struggling while also dramatically reducing the infant’s heart rate.   These changes happen almost immediately.   In fact, this process is such an automatic response to  being carried  that it could almost be considered a  previously  undiscovered reflex.   The study noted that merely holding a baby does not stimulate this reflex.   Only carrying does.

Moreover, this relaxing response to being carried by one’s parent is not just found in humans, it  is consistent across mammals—from mouse pups to lion cubs—indicating that this response  is a deeply ingrained part of mammalian brain programming.   Indeed, the study notes that the brain mechanisms responsible for this soothing reaction is controlled by the cerebellum (which is responsible for monitoring muscle control) and the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for relaxing the body).

So What?   —The Practical & Spiritual Significance of Infant Carrying

Practically speaking, research like this  gives further weight to the recommendation to practice “baby wearing“; that is, keeping a baby close to your body in a sling to maximize bodily contact between parent and infant.   Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body suggests that as we prayerfully contemplate the meaning of the body, we can discover God’s intention for how we are to relate to one another.   In light of his profound reflection, findings like this from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute are even more significant.  Think about  it.  God actually created structures in the brain that  require a specific kind of external stimulation in order to be activated!   Even our brains are not  entirely our own.   The brain is truly a social organ that effectively  reaches outside of us  so that it  find wholeness and health  by  plugging into the surrounding social network.   Understanding this offers  stunning new insights into  why  Genesis 2:18.  Findings like this speak to both the deeply social nature of the human person and gives neurobiological credence to the otherwise merely philosophical assertion that we were created, primarily, to love and be loved.

When parents are willing to learn from the instruction manual God has given them in the form of their baby’s cues, both parents and baby can be happier and healthier.

For more information on  how principles from interpersonal neurobiology and the theology of the body can make your parenting life easier and more effective, check out  Parenting with Grace:   A Catholic Parent Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.