For Father’s Day, 15 Reasons Dads Matter

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

This weekend is Fathers’ Day, so I thought it would be good to take some time to remind us all how important dads are.  Check out these great dad facts!  (Teaser:  I saved the most surprising fact for last!)

1.  Fathers’ interaction with babies (engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, emotional warmth, physical care) reduced their infants’ chances of experiencing cognitive delay

2.  Children whose fathers are involved in rearing them (“sensitive and responsive fathering”) fare better on cognitive tests and in language ability than those with less responsive or involved fathers.

3.  Fathers who are involved in their children’s schools and academic achievement, regardless of their own educational level, are increasing the chances their child will graduate from high school, and perhaps go to vocational school, or even to college.

4.  A fathers’ involvement in children’s school activities protects at-risk children from failing or dropping out.

5. Positive father involvement decreased boys’ problem behaviors (especially boys with more challenging temperaments) and better mental health for girls.

6. Fathers who are more involved with their children tend to raise children who experience more success in their career.

7.  Fathers being involved in their children’s lives protects against risk factors that pose harm for children (such as problematic behavior, maternal depression and family economic hardship).

8.  Father involvement is associated with promoting children’s social and language skills.

9.  Involved fathering is related to lower rates of child problem behaviors, including hyperactivity, as well as reduced teen violence, delinquency, and other problems with the law.

10.  Father involvement is associated with positive child characteristics such as increased: empathy, self-esteem, self-control, feelings of ability to achieve, psychological well-being, social competence, life skills, and less sex-stereotyped beliefs.

11.  Children in foster care who have involved fathers are more likely to be reunited with their families and experience shorter stays in foster homes.

12.  Children who grow up in homes with involved fathers are more likely to take an active and positive role in raising their own families. For example, fathers who recall a secure, loving relationship with both parents are more involved in the lives of their infants and more supportive to their wives.

13.  Both men and women who remember having loving, supportive fathers had high life satisfaction and self-esteem.

14.  Educational programs that successfully increased father involvement produced positive changes in children’s behavior.

15.  Most importantly, when it comes to passing our faith and values on to our kids it is critical for fathers to take the lead. When mom and dad are regular churchgoers, 33% of their children will be regular churchgoers and 41% will at least attend irregularly.  BUT SHOCKINGLY WHEN DAD ALONE IS A CHURCHGOER, FAITH RETENTION RATE ARE EVEN HIGHER!  It turns out 38% of children with irregular churchgoing mothers but active fathers grow up to attend church regularly and 44% of children with non-active churchgoing moms but faithful dads grow up to go to church regularly.

Obviously that doesn’t mean moms shouldn’t go to church with their families, but it does mean that the more committed and active dads are, the more likely it is that the children will follow his lead with regard to faith and values even when mom isn’t involved.  By contrastif the father is an irregular churchgoer and the mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.  LIKEWISE if the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshipers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!

The bottom line?  Dads matter. A lot.  For more thoughts on ways to be a great, involved, faithful dad, check out Parenting with Grace (especially our “Dad’s Da Man!” chapter) and Then Comes Baby (especially our chapters on involved fatherhood).  And Happy Father’s Day!


(Facts gathered from: Bronte-Tinkew et al., 2008; Chang et al., 2008; Flouri, 2008; Lamb & Lewis, 2004; Lamb & Tamis-Lemonda, 2004; Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004; Sarkadi et al., 2008; Haug & Warner, 2000)

Something Fishy? Why is THIS Missing from Pope Francis’ Environmental Encyclical?

Image Shutterstock

Image Shutterstock

I was not one of the many Catholics dreading the publication of Laudato Si.  I teach a college course on Catholic Social Teaching and stewardship of the environment is one of the major themes of this great and influential body of work.  As Catholics, we believe that when the Word of God became flesh, all of creation was raised to a new dignity in Christ.  Human beings do not own the world, we are merely stewards of it.  It is an established point of Catholic social doctrine that all of us have a grave moral duty to do what we can to leave this planet in better shape than we found it. As Pope Francis inspiringly notes, honoring God’s creation is  an important way that God’s people give praise to him.

Wanted:  Strong Catholic Voice

In light of this, I was genuinely looking forward to reading what Pope Francis had to say on this important issue.  In all the debate about environmental policy, strong Catholic moral leadership has been conspicuous by its absence.  In this regard, Pope Francis does not disappoint.  He does a wonderful job recognizing the common errors that many secular environmentalists make–from worshiping the earth as a deity to misguided efforts to “save” the planet through abortion and population control and many others–and makes many excellent, practical points about how people can promote an approach to environmental stewardship that improves the life of the planet while simultaneously improving the lot of the poor.

Something Fishy:  A Curious Absence

That said, as a frequent writer on issues related to sexuality, there was one thing I was seriously disappointed to not find in the document; namely, any reference to the serious problem of water pollution caused by the build-up of contraceptive hormones in the water supply resulting in health problems for both wildlife and, potentially, people.  This is not a small issue, nor is it a fringe “Catholic” issue.

For instance, in March of 2015, The Washington Post published an article titled, Fish Don’t Want Birth Control, but Scientists Say They Get it from Your Pill.  Here’s a snippet.

Your birth control pill is affecting more than just your body. Flushed down toilets, poured down sinks and excreted in urine, a chemical component in the pill wafts into sewage systems and ends up in various waterways where it collects in fairly heavy doses. That’s where fish soak it up.  recent survey by the U.S. Geological Survey found that fish exposed to a synthetic hormone called 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, produced offspring that struggled to fertilize eggs. The grandchildren of the originally exposed fish suffered a 30 percent decrease in their fertilization rate. The authors mulled the impact of what they discovered and decided it wasn’t good.

The WaPo article echoes many points raised in a 2012  article by the science portal LiveScience titled, Water Pollution Caused by Birth Control Poses Dilemma.  More frightening still, an article appearing around the same time in The Daily Mail cited similar problems in European waterways, and further suggested that artificial hormones in the water supply could be having a negative impact on human male sperm count–which has lowered, on average, by 25% in the last 20 years.

No Easy Answers

 The problem, of course, is that current approaches to water treatment cannot remove these chemicals from our drinking water leading many environmental experts to express potential concerns about human health risks to long term exposure.  Scientific American published a Q&A article that cautiously validated many of these concerns and discussed the challenges of removing artificial reproductive hormones from drinking water.

Additionally, there are no simple–or even affordable–solutions for how water treatment plants could rise to this challenge.  In fact, purifying the water supply of these chemicals could prove to be so expensive that Forbes Magazine ran an article in 2012 arguing that Women on Contraceptive Pill Should Pay $1500 a Year More Tax 

Missed Opportunity

When a pope releases a document, inevitably people in every corner pick it apart for how it did or did not treat their pet issue, and readers might well accuse me of doing exactly this, but I would argue that it is a serious missed opportunity for the Church that a Catholic document on the environment would fail to mention a serious environmental issue that the Church is uniquely–and almost singly–positioned to address.  Catholic social teaching is not a collection of random concepts.  It is a whole, a “seamless garment” if you will.  To have not included this insight–even in passing–about the negative impact artificial contraception is having on the environment is to have missed an important chance to emphasize the coherence of the Church’s moral theology as it applies to both personal and environmental morality.

None of this is, of course, to suggest that Pope Francis is soft on the Church’s stand on contraception.  In fact, he is on record as being a strong defender of the Church’s teachings on this issue and has even praised Pope Paul VI’s promulgation of Humanae Vitae as “courageous.”   Nevertheless, despite the fact that Laudato Si is an excellent and inspiring document overall, it it hard to not to argue that Pope Francis, the Church’s first fisher of men, missed the boat at least on this particular point.

The Truth Will Out

Although this issue did not get a mention in Laudato Si, I would encourage my fellow Catholics to take this opportunity  afforded by the incredible press being generated by this document to highlight yet another reason of why the Church has stood fast in its opposition to the Pill.  The more time passes, the more creation bears witness to the prophetic voice of Humane Vitae.  The Pill is bad medicine.  It is bad for women’s health.  It is bad for relationships.  And it is bad for the environment.   To learn more about how the Catholic vision of love can help you live a more passionate marriage AND empower you to save the planet, check out Holy Sex!  The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.

How Much Does God Love You? THIS Much! Why the Feast of the Sacred Heart Matters To You Today.


The following reflection on the significance of this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an excerpt from my newest book, Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

God loves you so much! It sounds so trite to say it in such simple words, but it is so infinitely true!  God’s love is so deep, so powerful, so profound, it is often simply easier to passively ignore it than try to actively comprehend it.

By analogy, on a purely human level, I often feel frustrated in my efforts to communicate my love for my wife.  I love her so much!  I tell her this. I try to show her in what small ways I can. But it never feels like enough to me.  I sincerely believe that if she knew how much I really love her, she would start to glow with the passion that burns in my heart for her.  Sometimes, I will tell her that I wish I could take out my heart and put it into her chest so that she could feel everything I feel for her and see everything I see in her.  But of course, I can’t do that.

But God can.  And he does.  That is what grace is, the very life of God in us.  When God gives us his grace, it is like he is taking his heart–beating with love and passion and joy– out of his own chest and offering to place it in ours, so that we can be filled with everything he feels for us and see all the wonders he sees when he looks at us through his eyes of love.

Receive My Sacred Heart

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque experienced a vision of our Lord in which he held his  heart in his hands extending it to her as a sign of his love and passion.  In those visions, she heard our Lord say, “Behold the heart that has so loved humankind.”  God loves you so much that he wants to place his Sacred Heart in your chest, that you could feel the constant beat of his love filling you up from the deepest parts of yourself.

That is what we celebrate today on this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The spiritual journey is not a guilt trip.  It is not a trail of tears we walk for a cruel, heavenly master who demands either perfection or death.  It is, after all, a honeymoon, where our Heavenly Lover runs to meet us, to save us from even ourselves, and make us whole with his love so that we can live together in joy and passion for all eternity.

Hark! The sound of my lover! Here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.  See! He is standing behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices. My lover speaks and says to me,  “Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come! ~Song of Songs 2:8-10.

A Heavenly Proposal

Throughout this book, we have explored the Seven Divine Longings of your heart; the longings for abundance, dignity, justice, peace, trust, wholeness, and communion. Each of these longings is really an invitation from God to join him at the altar of the Eternal Wedding Feast.   Through these longings, God gets down on one knee and holds out–not a ring–but his Sacred Heart.  He is proposing to make you whole, and to show you how you can live in his love for all of Eternity.  He is asking you if you would do him the honor of letting him fulfill your deepest desires so that you would never want for anything again, and that you could discover how to love yourself the way he loves you.

The God of all Creation, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God of gods, the Savior of the world is humbling himself out of his love for you.  He is down on one knee.  He is holding his breath.   What will your answer be?

To discover more about how much God loves all of you–especially the parts you like the least–check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart. 


Preventing Gender Confusion: What’s A Parent To Do?

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about gender issues lately. The Caitlyn Jenner story is everywhere, of course, but it’s difficult to say anything meaningful about that drama because it just seems, to me, like all flash and no substance. Caitlyn isn’t really sharing anything genuinely personal about this journey, and the media can’t stop fawning long enough to ask any interesting questions.

But LaVern Vivio, a Nashville traffic reporter and commercial personality for TheBlaze TV wrote an article that I thought was truly brave, honest, and insightful. More importantly, I think it highlights something we, as Christians, can do to help prevent gender confusion both in our kids and in society itself.

LaVern is a 52 year old mother of 4 wrote penned a piece called, “I wished I had been born a boy.” I encourage you to read the whole article, but here’s a snippet.

I wished I had been born a boy. Probably until I was well into junior high and maybe even high school I was fairly convinced God had simply mixed me up with John Mark, the name my parents had selected if I had been born male. I am over 6 feet tall and very large-framed. I wear a size 13 shoe. My hands are as large as any man my height. I was always told I had a pretty face but because of my height I was able to carry a lot of extra weight without looking fat and the fullness on my frame tended to make me look less pretty and just attractive. Still I never felt pretty or much less feminine. So for many years I wondered. Did God make a mistake? …Back then when a girl like me came along they called me tomboy. For the guys the term was sissy or girlie. I suppose it was probably easier to be a tomboy rather than a girlie or sissy guy, but maybe not. Just like the guys opposite me, I was having trouble finding comfort in what God made me to be.

LaVern eventually made peace with the fact that she is a woman–exactly the woman God wants her to be–but it was not without enduring a lot of hardship, taunting, and pain.

As I read her story, the thing that stood out to me is her tremendous agony from not fitting the feminine stereotype in her looks or her preferences or her demeanor. As one friend puts it, “You’re practically a dude.”

When I hear stories like this, and as a counselor, I hear them fairly frequently, my heart breaks because people like LaVerne are tormented, not because there is something wrong with them, but because there is a lot wrong with the culture we live in and the way our culture defines masculinity and femininity.

Masculinity & Femininity: False Definitions

For the most part, our culture defines masculinity and femininity in functional terms. People tend to think that women are women because they think these ways and do these things and enjoy these preferences. Likewise, men are men because they think these other things and do these other things and enjoy these other preferences. But even if these stereotypes are true for a significant number of men and women, they aren’t true for all men and women–even a lot of men and women.

The Myth of the “Male” and “Female” Brain

For instance, autism researcher, Simon Baron-Cohen, famously developed the theory that autism spectrum disorder was the result of a person having an “extreme male brain.” But this language is misleading. Speaking of a “male brain” or a “female brain” is just a popular (and, to my mind, confusingly unfortunate) way to refer to Baron-Cohen’s actual categories of “Systematizing Brain” versus an “Empathizing Brain.” Statistically, more males have a primarily Systematizing brain type and more females have a primarily Empathizing brain type, but (and I have corresponded with him about this directly) Baron-Cohen, himself, asserts this says little about individuals.  Why? Because a significant number of men (about 30%) have a more Empathizing Brain and about the same percentage of women have a Systematizing Brain. Beyond this, another (roughly) 10% of men and women have brains that are both equally systematizing and empathizing. Furthermore, men who have primarily Empathizing (“female”) brains and women who have primarily Systematizing (“male”) brains are not more likely to be homosexual than the general population.

Unfortunately, I speak with a lot of men and women who feel that there is something wrong with them because they “don’t fit the mold” whether because they have the “wrong” brain types or are more or less empathic than others of their gender, or  happen to be attracted to certain gender atypical pursuits or careers. These cultural, functional, definitions of masculinity and femininity fail them, but they have been led to believe by parents, coaches, teachers, and friends that they are the ones failing the “norm.” Many, many problems related to self-image and sexuality begin with this deeply felt disconnect between “who I am” and how “the world says I should be.”

The Truth About Gender

The Theology of the Body offers a wonderful alternative way of understanding gender differences. Rather than indulging in the functionalist trap that defines male-ness or female-ness by superficial attributes, TOB sees masculinity and femininity as gifts. They simply ARE.

Men ARE men–and manly–because of their male body. They don’t have to do anything to earn their masculinity or “man up” so to speak. There is no “norm” to conform to, except the norm that comes with the male body and the maleness that emanates from that. Likewise, women ARE women, and womanly, because of their female body. Period. The TOB perspective is that people are best served when they stop trying to fit themselves into cultural stereotypes in order to try to “become” more of something they already are. Develop the body and mind God gave you to your fullest capacity and celebrate the respective masculinity/femininity that emerges as the fruit of that effort. Stop worrying about what you’re not and be what your body proves that you already are.

TOB vs. Feminism

In the course of discussing this with a friend of mine, she suggested that, in some ways, TOB and secular feminism had a lot in common. She noted that the secular feminist movement of the 70’s asserted that women can be effective, as effective as men, in the career of their choice–so we shouldn’t call people “mailmen” or “postmen” or “firemen.” That’s true as far as it goes, but there’s an important difference in that secular feminists denied the reality of the body. They said that women could be whatever they wanted because the body didn’t matter.

By contrast, TOB says that women can be anything their body allows them to be and still be feminine just as men can do anything that their body allows them to do and still be masculine. In fact, a woman doing a “man’s job” could be perfectly competent but still approach it in a different and feminine way than a man would. Likewise for the man doing a more traditionally “feminine” profession. That embodied, inescapable difference defines the “feminine/masculine genius.”

Secular feminism and TOB both have functionalism as a common enemy, but while the former destroys the body as a means of combating unjust functionalist limitations, the latter delves more deeply into the mystery of the body to develop a fuller meaning of its multifaceted significance.
The Upshot

The take-away from all this is that people in general–and parents in particular–need to stop defining their own masculinity or femininity (or their children’s) by what they do, how they think, or what they prefer. We need to recognize that masculinity and femininity are free gifts that flow naturally out of the body God gave us. There are many ways to be masculine and they are all perfectly manly just as there are many ways to be feminine and they are all beautiful. Trying to force yourself or your child into a stereotype just leads to alienation, self-doubt, misery and sometimes even serious sexual confusion.

I do not mean to imply that this cultural, functionalist perspective on gender is the cause of things like same sex attraction or gender dysphoria–no one can honestly say what all the factors are that contribute to these phenomena–but I am convinced that the attempt to pigeonhole men and women into superficial, trait and preference-based categories does real damage to a person’s psychological and sexual well-being. Parents, especially, do well to teach their children that whatever they look like, whatever they enjoy, and however they feel, they are exactly as God intended them to be and perfectly masculine or feminine just the way they are.

To learn more about raising children to exhibit a healthy and holy sexuality, check out Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids.

My Talk with National Review’s Kathryn Lopez on “Broken Gods.”


National Review’s Kathryn Lopez recently interviewed me on my most recent book, Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.  Take a look!

What does God see when He looks at you? That’s a main question Gregory K. Popcak asks and answers in his new book Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart. Popcak, executive director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, talks below about the book and some of the prospects its raises for a beautiful life. — KJL   ​

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Do you want to be “perfect, whole, healed, and, yes, even immortal”? These seem high promises for a book!

GREGORY K. POPCAK: Well, of course! Because it’s a great book! No, look, in all seriousness, I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I’m simply reiterating the promises Jesus himself made to all of his followers; promises that were echoed by every single one of the Church fathers. Jesus says, “Is it not written you are gods?” and “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:34, 10:10). What is that abundant life, exactly? Nothing less than our “divinization” — that is, the process by which we become “partakers in the divine nature” (Peter 1:4). As Saint Thomas Aquinas shockingly put it, “The son of God became man so that men might become gods.” Saint Justin Martyr said it even more jarringly: “He who listens to the Lord, and follows the prophecy given by Him, will be made a god going about in flesh.” Of course it’s true that there’s only one God — and we’re not him. But early Christians were unanimous in asserting — up through the Reformation — that the entire point of the Christian life was to allow God to transform us into “gods” in the classic sense — perfect, whole, healed, and yes, even immortal — and destined to be loved by God and united to him eternally.  

LOPEZ: How does this idea that we are “broken gods” change things?

POPCAK: When Christians say that “we are broken and in need of salvation,” it prompts the question, “We are broken what?” Most people think we are broken in the same way that the occupants of the Island of Misfit Toys are broken — hopeless, absurd, and more than a little pathetic. Of course, the appeal of this idea is lost on a lot of people, especially non-believers, who tend to reply, “What do you mean ‘I’m broken?’ Who do you think you are anyway? I have a good job. My family loves me. I do nice things for people. I’m fine just the way I am…CONTINUE READING

Men & Porn: New Study Finds 4 Reason Porn isn’t “Normal” For Guys

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Pornography is a huge industry.  In fact, it is difficult to wrap one’s head around how big a business pornography is.  According to the Science of Relationships Blog, pornography use generates 13 billion dollars a year, which is more annual revenue than Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, eBay and Netflix produce combined.

Although we do know that pornography has negative effects on people, little is known about the specific problems associated with the use of pornography.  A new study addressed this question and found four particular problems associated with the use of pornography.

“To understand the effect of pornography on men’s romantic relationships researchers examined pornography viewing among young men who were in heterosexual relationships. They sampled 373 college-attending men who were involved in relationships of 4 months to just over 7 years in duration. The men were asked to complete a series of questionnaires, including measures of gender role conflict, attachment style, relationship quality, and pornography use. The questions measuring porn viewing asked about frequency, amount of time each week and per sitting, and if porn interfered or negatively impacted daily life.

What did they find? The frequency of men’s pornography viewing was positively associated with gender role conflict, insecure attachment, lower relationship quality, and decreased sexual satisfaction.” READ MORE

What Does This Mean?

The researchers note that their study could not determine whether these problems were caused by porn use or made the use of pornography more likely.  It is probably some combination of both.  For instance, because attachment styles are relatively fixed traits that are established in the first several years of life, it is more likely that anxious or avoidant attachment styles (as opposed to secure attachment) are associated with greater use of porn than it is likely that porn leads to insecure attachment.  At the same time,  there is good reason to believe that pornography use could contribute to gender-role conflict, since other studies have suggested that porn use tends to increase misogyny, and decrease both relationship quality and sexual satisfaction.

Porn Isn’t “Normal”–Even for Men.

Whether subsequent research determines that pornography is the cause or bad fruit of these problems, it is clear that porn use isn’t the sign of a normal, healthy functioning person.  For instance,  many people believe that more men’s use of  pornography is both normal and unavoidable because they are “more visual” and because men “think about sex every 7-15 seconds.”   These oft quoted “facts” are actually both myths (see here and here).   In fact, as I point out in Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids. based on the available research it is much more likely that the reason men are more frequent users of porn is that male children are often more poorly attached than female children due to parent’s fear of giving too much affection to boys less they “sissify” them.  The fact that this study found a lower association between securely attached men and porn use reinforces this conclusion. In other words, degree of porn use is not a normal part of masculine behavior, it suggests that many traits that we popularly associate with “maleness” are actually traits that men and women display if they are poorly attached.

Good Help is Available

Regardless, if you or someone you love is using pornography, don’t accept is as normal.  Address it directly and seek appropriate help. To learn more about how to have a healthy, vital, adult sexuality read, Holy Sex! or, for help raising porn-free kids, check out Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids.

Green With Envy: 3 Steps to Rediscovering Your Worth in Christ

Image via shutterstock.

Image via shutterstock.


The following is adapted from my newest book, Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart

“Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the  presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we are created in the image of God.”     ~USCCB,  Economic Justice for All

The Source of our Dignity

Do you have any idea of what you are worth in the eyes of God?  Words can barely describe it.

The modern world has a skewed view of what gives a person dignity. We tend to think that our dignity is tied up in our possessions, our status, our accomplishments or our position in society.  But none of these things is powerful enough or stable enough to convey the innate dignity that each of us has in the eyes of God.

A friend of mine is caring for his elderly father.  His father can do little for himself. He is weak and sickly and it is difficult for him to get out of bed.  But my friend loves his father.  He visits him daily in the nursing facility.  He brings his father little treats and tokens of his affection.  He tells the staff stories of his father’s younger days, the adventures he had as a young man and the kind of father he was.  My friend’s love shines out for his father.  Thanks to my friend’s dedication, even the staff treats my friend’s father with a little extra respect.  They don’t know him.  They don’t have any reason to consider him in any different light than any of the other patients in the nursing home.  So why do they take a little extra time with him and speak to him more gently?  Because he is loved.

A baby can’t do anything for herself.  She can’t bathe or feed or dress herself.  She can’t help pay the bills or clean the house.  Despite all this, strangers see her and say how beautiful and precious she is.  Why?  Because she is loved.

Our dignity and value as persons is not found in what we have or what we can do.  It is anchored in God’s undying, perpetual love for us.  As the quote at the top of this article asserts, each person is sacred and worthy of awe because of God’s miraculous love for us.   Even if the love of others fails, God’s love never fails (1 Chron 16:34).   God loves you so much that not only has he made you in his image, but he was born, lived, suffered, died and rose again so that you might know how much you are worth to him.  And if that wasn’t enough, he loves you so much that he wants to transform you into someone who is perfect and immortal and can be intimately united to God–so that you can spend all of eternity being loved by him.

Envy:  The Twisting of our Dignity    

When we forget that God’s love for us is the root of our sense of worth and dignity,  envy takes hold.  Envy represents the twisting of our Divine Longing for Dignity.   It tells us that our dignity is not rooted in God’s love for us, but rather in having, doing, and being everything that the people around us have, do, and are.  Envy chains us to a treadmill that makes me run after everything that everyone else has so that I can feel “as worthwhile as” they are.  The problems is, no matter what I acquire or achieve, either someone will always be further up the ladder or I will always run the risk of losing what I’ve accomplished and, by extension, what sense of dignity those accomplishments have afforded me.  The more I give into envying someone else’s life, marriage, family, money, position, or anything else, the more I have separated myself from the experience of God’s love, which is the only true foundation on which my dignity can rest.

So when I am tempted to give into envy, how can I recover?

3 Steps to Beating Envy and Reclaiming my Dignity in Christ.

1.  Recenter the Battle.    When we give into envy we tend to beat up on ourselves. “Look at how pathetic I am?  What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I just be grateful for what I have?”  None of this works.  The only way to beat envy is to identify the threat to my divine longing for dignity.  Ask yourself, “Why do I feel my dignity is threatened?”  “What is making me feel unworthy of God’s love?”

For instance, “I feel that God doesn’t love me because I am not successful like so-and-so.”  Or “I feel that God does not love me because I don’t have the family that so-and-so does.”   If we can identify the perceived threat to our dignity, we can identify the idol that is separating us from God’s love.

Mission Possible: 5 Keys to Raising Faithful Kids

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

What are your chances of raising faithful kids?  Answer these 5 questions!

For the Catholic parent, there is no more important task than communicating our faith to our children. That doesn’t just mean teaching our kids Catholic prayers and rituals. It means teaching them how to have a meaningful and personal relationship with God. How to think and act morally. How to love rightly and intimately. How to celebrate and live life as the gift that it is meant to be. And, ultimately, how to be saints — living witnesses to a life of grace.

As critical as this mission is, it’s understandable that many parents feel overwhelmed about the undertaking. Fortunately recent studies examining how faith is transmitted through family life is taking some of the mystery out of the process. Answer the following questions to see how effectively you are sharing the faith in your home.

1. Do your children experience your faith as the source of your warm, family relationships?
The Christian life is a call to deeper relationship with God and others. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that children are much more likely to “own” their faith when they experience it as the source of the warmth of their family relationships. When children of faithful parents experience no difference in the quality of the relationships in their homes relative to the quality of the relationships in their non-Catholic or non-believing friends’ homes, they come to see faith as either a hobby they can take or leave or, worse, as a fraud. This is especially true when faith is experienced as a collection of restrictions and rules instead of the source of the family’s sense of joy and togetherness. To this end, children raised by faithful parents who adopt an authoritative parenting style marked by clear expectations and loving-guidance approaches to discipline are much more likely to raise faithful kids than are parents who adopt authoritarian (heavy-handed) or permissive (hands-off) parenting styles.

2. Is your children’s father taking the lead in faith formation practices and discussions?
Dad’s active involvement is critical for effective faith transmission. For instance, one study showed that when fathers faithfully went to church despite being married to an unchurched woman, 44 percent of their children became regular churchgoers as adults, but when mothers faithfully went to church despite being married to an unchurched man, only 2 percent of their children grew up to be faithful church attendees. Dads must take the lead in the spiritual formation of their children if parents want the faith to stick.

3. Are you actively helping your children develop a personally meaningful prayer life?
One recent study by CARA found that only about a quarter of Catholic families pray together. That’s bad news because faith isn’t just caught. It also needs to be taught. It isn’t enough for children to watch their parents pray or to be passive participants in activities (like Mass) that their parents make them attend. Parents need to teach their children how to have a personal prayer life that children experience as relevant and emotionally engaging. This means more than teaching children to “say” their prayers. It means discipling children into an authentic relationship with God. Parents can do this through regular family prayer, having regular conversations about answered prayers and the role God plays in their lives as a family, and by coaching their children how to pray on their own in meaningful ways. – CONTINUE READING 

“Good Morning NY Times. Did You Have A Nice Coma?” The “Paper of Record” FINALLY Wakes Up to the Myth of Overpopulation

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Better late than never, I suppose…

Dr. Ehrlich’s ominous declarations cause head-shaking among some who were once his allies, people who four decades ago shared his fears about overpopulation. One of them is Stewart Brand, founding editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. On this topic, Mr. Brand may be deemed a Keynesian, in the sense of an observation often attributed to John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind, sir. What do you do?” Mr. Brand’s formulation for Retro Report was to ask, “How many years do you have to not have the world end” to reach a conclusion that “maybe it didn’t end because that reason was wrong?”  READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE

Now, if we could only get them to recant 50 years of false reporting on this issue and admit that the real problem facing the world is population contraction–in which first world countries fail to have enough children to support their social infrastructures leading to an aging population and economic collapse through overtaxation–we’ll be all set.  Let’s talk again in another fifty years.

Why I Am STAYING Catholic.

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In light of the recent Pew Survey indicating that people are fleeing Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular in droves, several of my fellow Catholic Patheosi are responding to the question, “Why am I staying Catholic?”   So far  Tod Worner has responded as has Monique Ocampo and our Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Scalia.  Others will soon be following their lead.

We were actually asked a similar question back in March of 2013.  Back then, the general Patheos community asked all the bloggers to explain why they confessed their particular faith.  I notice that my reply to the question “Why I am Catholic” back then is the same as the reason I am staying Catholic today.  So at the risk of redundancy, ere is my small contribution to the effort.

To Hell With It.

Flannery O’Connor once famously quipped at a dinner party that if the Eucharist was just a symbol than to Hell it.   That is my general attitude toward religion.  I don’t want a symbolic, civic faith.  I don’t want a weak social conforming faith.  I want a faith that challenges me to become everything I was created to be.  But most of all, I want a faith that can get me as close to God as humanly possible.  And if a religion can’t do these things, then as far as I’m concerned, to Hell with it.

Go Big or Go Home.

If religion represents the human quest to draw closer to God, I want nothing less than a religion that makes the boldest, most audacious claims about the kind of relationship that’s possible to achieve.  The general Christian belief in a God who wants a personal relationship with us is certainly revolutionary.  No other faith comes close.  But shockingly, Catholics believe that asking Jesus Christ to be our “personal Lord and Savior” doesn’t go nearly far enough.  For Catholics, even that claim of spiritual friendship doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The Audacious Intimacy of the Eucharist.

More than a spiritual communion, Catholics believe God desires to be physically united with us too.  We are not just spirits.  We are ensouled bodies and God wants every part of us for himself (Rom 14:8).  Because of the Eucharist, the true Body and Blood of Christ (Jn 6:55), I am one with His Flesh and His Blood courses through my veins.  I am not just spiritually part of God’s family, I am God’s real kin, his own LITERAL “flesh and blood.”    Having received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in the most personal way possible, I am made a son of God, not metaphorically.  Literally (CCC #460,1391).

Relationship with God doesn’t get any closer than that.  That’s why I am Catholic.  That’s why I’m staying Catholic.