Weather Proof Your Brain: 6 Tips for Beating Winter Blues

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            “I just feel so, blah.”  Said Carly, age 31. “Once the leaves fall off the trees, everything gets so gloomy and grey.  I just can’t get motivated and I feel sluggish all day.  When the  snow hits, I just wish I could crawl into bed and stay there until Spring. I joke that I must be part bear, but honestly, the way I feel most of the fall and winter doesn’t put me in much of a laughing mood.”

            According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 6% of people suffer from full-blown seasonal depression and another 20% experience what might be termed a more serious case of “winter blues” that include symptoms like sluggishness, irritability, changes in sleep and eating patterns, weight gain, and difficulty being around other people.

Interestingly, though, winter blues don’t have to be a foregone conclusion.  In sections of Scandinavia that experience “polar night” from November through January experience remarkably low rates of seasonal depression or winter blues suggesting that the problem may not be as much a deeply ingrained biological problem as much as it is a state of mind.  Inhabitants of these northernmost regions of the planet have developed some fantastic strategies for beating the winter doldrums.  Whether you tend to experience more serious manifestations of seasonal affective disorder, or just find yourself dragging through the winter months, here are some simple things you can do–drawn from both the experience of our northern neighbors and the latest research– to not just survive but thrive when the winter sets in.

1.  Celebrate

During the long darkness that descends with Norwegian winter, people have a remarkable number of celebrations, get-togethers and parties.  Although people going through seasonal blues often feel that relationships are a chore, resist the temptation to hide out.  Make a point of getting together with friends even more regularly than you do in the sunny times of the year. Invent a reason to host a party.  Brighten your home with friendship, fun foods, and some festive decorations!

2.  Cocoon

While it is never a good idea to isolate, Scandinavians have a great way to make the times they are home alone more joyful.  They get koselig, literally, “cozy.”  For them, the long winter months are a time for sitting by the fireplace,  lighting lots of candles (at mealtimes and just because) and/or huddling under warm blankets with a warm drink and good books. This is also a great time of year to do put a little extra effort into making your home…homey.  Even if you’re the only one at home, you deserve to live in a nurturing space.  Put some energy into making your home a respite; place that is welcoming and pleasant to come back to.

3.  Get Out!

When they’re tired of cocooning, Scandinavians get out of the house and enjoy winter activities like hiking, skiing, sledding and tubing. If you have seasonal blues or even seasonal depression, winter is a great time to  develop that all-important, abundant-living skill, leaving your comfort zone.  Especially if you don’t like the cold, or the snow, get out of the house and hang around people who do.  Be willing to learn from the example of those who feel energized by the cold weather.  Studies show that people who challenge their comfort zones and are open to new experiences–even experiences that they don’t think they would enjoy–live more enjoyable, fulfilling lives.

4.  Deal with the Past

Moving off the experience of our Norwegian neighbors and into what the research has to say about seasonal depression, we find that many people who struggle with the winter months do so because of bad memories that accompany the winter months.  For those who grew up in chaotic homes or experienced the death of a loved one in the winter months, this time of year–especially with so many major holidays–can be particularly painful.  Psychologists refer to the pain caused by memories associated with particular times of year as “anniversary reactions.”  The root memories causing these reactions aren’t always obvious.  One good way to identify anniversary reactions is to sit with the feelings you are having and write our whatever images or memories bubble up to the surface.  Don’t ask what memories are “causing” your feelings.  Instead, ask what memories attend your feelings and how those memories might be contributing to your gloominess.  Remind yourself that these times are past and make a point of writing out all the ways you’ve grown since you had those experiences and all the things you have to be grateful for in your present.

5. Be Grateful

Speaking of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal (and reviewing your lists regularly) is a proven way to increase your happiness set-point (the natural degree of happiness you tend to experience from day-to-day) by 25%!  Especially if you are experiencing winter blues, make sure you take stock of all the things you have to be grateful for each day, especially the friends and people that make your life a better place to be.

Another way to be grateful is to make what St. Paul calls a “sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:5).  Praising God, even when you don’t feel like it (which is where the “sacrifice” part comes in) reconnects us with God’s love and providence in those times when we feel lonely and blah.

6.   Get Help

Sometimes, self-help isn’t enough.  If you find that your winter blues are negatively affecting your work, health, or relationships, it is time to talk with a professional.  A mental health professional can help determine whether medication, light therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy (all treatments that have been shown to be affective with Seasonal Affective Disorder) or some combination of these would be most effective for you.  The good news is that whether you are suffering from milder or more serious problems with seasonal depression, treatments are available that can help get you to happier, more joyful place.  Don’t buy the lies that say, “this is just the way I am” or “this is how it has to be.”  With a little help, you can learn to see all the good things winter has to offer and learn to love the gifts it brings.

Dr. Greg Popcak, the author of many books and the host of More2Life Radio, directs The Pastoral Solutions Institute, which offers pastoral counseling by telephone to Catholics around the world.  Learn more at or call 740-266-6461

Raising Faithful Kids: A Cautionary Tale

Image Shutterstock.

Image Shutterstock.

In Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids my wife and I share research showing that the likelihood that a child will grow up to own their faith is directly related to the degree they experience the faith as the source of the warmth in their home.  Everything else–everything from mass attendance, to catechesis, to family prayer, to moral instruction–is essential, but secondary to the children’s experience as the faith as the source of the warmth in their home. Without this strong relational dimension to the faith, the other things tend not to stick as well–or, in some cases, at all.

It was in this context that I read Leticia Ochoa Adams brave piece at Aleteia about her reckoning with the mistakes she feels she made in the faith formation of her seven children.  Mistakes that, she feels, resulted in all but two of her kids being driven from the faith rather than drawn to it.  I deeply respect her honesty and willingness to share her powerful story.  You should read the rest, but here’s a sample…

I nagged everyone to freakin’ death. I told them to dress right, sit up right, pray right, look right, behave right and on and on. I didn’t allow them to ask questions, and I made it clear that if they didn’t go to Mass, they were not going to live in my house. I even once kicked my oldest son out when he missed Mass at age 17.

I was making my family a means to an end. I objectified them to make me look good so that I could prove to everyone that this girl who had been dirt poor her entire life, came from the ghetto and was always sleeping around really did belong in this middle class suburban Catholic parish.

I never did prove that and in the process I pushed my kids away from God.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would not be so afraid.

I was afraid of what people would think of me if I didn’t raise “good Catholic kids.” My only concern should have been their souls.  READ THE REST

While it is true that our children have their own free wills and nothing we do can guarantee that our children will grow up to love the Lord, we can do much more than we think.   Raising faithful kids isn’t like playing a slot machine where you do what you do and hope for the best.  There really are tons of things parents can do to stack the deck in favor of raising truly godly, faithful kids–but it all begins with creating the kind of family life that enables your kids to experience the faith as the source of the warmth in your home.  If you can do that, you will enable your kids to develop discipleship hearts that make them turn to you so that they can learn the secrets you have to share about what it takes to continue living life as a gift as they become adults.  To learn more about creating the kind of home life that serves as an incubator for your children’s future faith, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.  (Also, because many parishes are offering Discovering God Together as a gift for parents of kids making their First Confession, First Communion and/or  Confirmation, Sophia Institute Press is offering a 50% discount on all bulk orders!  Tell your Pastor or DRE! Call 1-800-888-9344 to learn more!)

This is Your Brain on Terrorism…Any Questions?



Dr. Eric Haseltine is a recognized expert in both neuroscience and counter-terrorism.  He has a great article in Psychology Today about how understanding the way our brains work can lead us to a healthy response to terrorism.  Although he is not writing from a religious perspective, regular readers of Faith on the Couch will recognize how consistent Dr. Haseltine’s approach is with the Theology of the Body, the assertion by Pope St. John Paul the Great that by understanding the way God made our bodies and brains to function, we can discover His plan for healthy relationships and creating a Civilization of Love.

From Psychology Today…

It’s very rare that my backgrounds in Neuroscience and Counter Terrorism  collide, but the Paris terrorist attacks have just  made this happen.

And the atrocities have lead me to a strong opinion about what we should do about ISIS

The bottom line is that both Neuroscience and lessons from Counter Terrorism experience argue that military force, by itself is, not going to solve the problem. Neither will efforts to “de-radicalize” Islamic teenagers. Ditto for diplomacy, support to foreign governments  that  motivate them to fight ISIS harder, or efforts to win over “hearts and minds” of Sunni populations  that support ISIS.

We’ve  tried these approaches for decades, and the best you can say is that they’ve only partly succeeded.

The reason for the mixed success is that these approaches focus primarily on “them” (terrorists) and very little on  “us” (victims or potential victims of terrorists).

Here’s what I mean.

One of ISIS’s objectives in the Paris attacks was to polarize non-Muslims  against Muslims.  This increased anger could produce two things ISIS covets:  Western military responses  in Muslim countries that  deepen Islam’s resentment of the West, and increased  bias against Muslims, which, in turn, increases alienation of Islamic youth in Western countries.

Resentful populations in Muslim countries are more likely to support ISIS and so are disaffected Islamic youths in the West.

So… how we react to the events in Paris will play a big role in how often such incidents are repeated.

And , unfortunately, the latest Neuroscience suggests that our response will be dangerously imbalanced.

Bear with me while I explain.

Dr. Gregory Berns at Emory University has shown that the part of our brains that respond to “utility” (cost vs. benefit) are entirely different from the parts involved in “sacred values” (absolute right vs. wrong). And it’s because these two parts are unconnected that I’m worried.

For instance, when faced with decisions like “how much money would it take to get you stop drinking Coke,”  fMRI scans showed that  test subject’s  right Inferior Parietal neocortex activated. But when asked whether money could make them kill an innocent person, other areas, such as the Tempororparietal Junction and amygdala lit up.

In other words, no amount of cost/benefit analysis will change the strong responses in our brain to fundamental beliefs, like” terrorists are evil and should be killed.”

So, in responding to terrorism, our “sacred value” brains will tend to ignore cost vs benefit–  such as how much American military action will raise our taxes. Or how many more American soldiers  and  civilians will die with escalated military operations. Or– most important–will added military action really work?

Worse, the attacks are likely to make our sacred beliefs about Muslim  terrorists—and by association all Muslims—even more sacred. This is bound to affect some of our conscious and unconscious attitudes towards Muslims.

And Muslims in the West are bound to feel it.

And some of them will become more radicalized. If that happen, ISIS wins.

Not just once, with military attacks on Muslim countries that increase ISIS support

Not just twice with increased alienation of Muslims in the West.

But  three times with attitudes we pass on to our children.  READ THE REST.


Holding Children Hostage to Doubt

Interesting article on the soul-searching of religious “nones” and whether they should saddle their children with their own doubts.

What if the religion you rejected was a rich and wonderful part of your own childhood that made you feel protected and safe? Should you attempt somehow to recreate that feeling, along with transmitting your secular perspective, so that your children can make their own decision? But how can you do that with integrity if you no longer believe what you were taught?  Continue Reading

Pope Francis: The Heart of Spiritual Fathers

A guest post by Pastoral Solutions Institute Clinical Pastoral Counselor, Dave McClow, M.Div, LMFT.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Cardinal Kasper thinks that “heroism is not for the average Christian.” Can you hear Jesus say, “Be mediocre, as your heavenly Father is mediocre”?  Or, “If it is hard to do, don’t bother picking up your cross”?  Or, “Lay down your life if it’s convenient”?  I don’t think sooo….  Men need to be challenged!  They need to be loved, but they definitely need to be challenged to live a heroic life.  In fact, I think that all men are created to live heroic lives as spiritual fathers, to make a difference in our world.  The real question is not if, but how, do we live heroic lives as spiritual fathers?  During Pope Francis’ recent visit, he provided some answers.

In a Catholic vision of masculinity, I have suggested that spiritual fatherhood is the summit of being a man.  Pope Francis speaks to this new order of fatherhood: “[A pastor] will enable his brothers…to hear and experience God’s promise, which can expand their experience of…fatherhood… (Mk 3:31-35)” (Meeting with Bishops, 11/27/15).  Jesus instituted this new spiritual family or household when he said, “whoever does the will of God” is my family (Mk 3:35).

What gets in the way of living out a heroic life as a spiritual father?  Since the fall of Satan there has been a battle that creates fear in the world!  Pope Francis proclaims, “Bishops [spiritual fathers] need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world” (To the US Bishops, 11/23/15); and he encourages us to teach our “children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil” (WMF, 11/27/15).

Pope Francis believes that our consumer culture that “discards everything” is destructive, saying it produces “a radical sense of loneliness.” We seek empty things including “accumulating ‘friends’ on [a] social network.”  The result: “[l]oneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized” (Meeting with Bishops, 11/27/15).

I think that fear is at the root of most, if not all, sin and always disrupts love and relationships.

What is the remedy to fear?  It is heroic spiritual fatherhood, which always starts with receiving love in the heart! The Apostle John writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). Pope Francis chimes in, “‘[L]ove consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us’ first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us.  It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them” (WMF 11/27/15).

Pope Francis speaks of the heart: “It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance.…of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts” (Vespers, 11/24/15).  Memory is the key to the heart and to our faith!

Maybe you have not had this amazing encounter with Christ.  You must find ways to experience his love in your heart as a beloved son!  Talk to your priest or someone you know who is living the faith.  Go to a conference; go to a men’s meeting; go on retreat; listen to Catholic radio; or start reading the Gospel of John.  And above all else, start talking to God as a friend, which is simply prayer.  You can’t give what you don’t have!

If you have had this amazing encounter with Christ, remember it, relive it!  Our identity is based on remembering who we are in Christ, and it leads us to joy.  “[T]he joy of men…who love God attracts others to him” (Vespers, 11/24/15).

Authentic Catholic men receive love as sons and offer it as spiritual fathers.  Love must be encountered, received, and experienced in our heads, hearts, and hands for us to be fully integrated or wise.

How do we heroically live out love as spiritual fathers?  Pope Francis explains, “[a] grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work. Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love” (Vespers, 11/24/15).

Our response to this love must be lived heroically, but not necessarily conspicuously.  The Pope states that happiness and holiness are “always tied to little gestures….These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family….quiet things.…little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion….small daily signs which make us feel at home” (WMF, 11/27/15).  As spiritual fathers living out our priesthood, we must give blessings and hugs upon awakening or before bed.  We must have little ways of acknowledging our friends and co-workers.  Our daily liturgy consists of these little rituals and routines that communicate our love for others.  Moreover, “the heart of the Pope [and spiritual fathers] expands to include everyone. To testify to the immensity of God’s love is the heart of [our] mission…”

Pope Francis knows “there is always the temptation to give in to fear [and self-pity].” “But we also know that we have been given a spirit of courage and not of timidity” (To the US Bishops, 11/23/15).  To conquer fear, we must experience and remember in our hearts God’s love for us as sons.  This will “impel” us to action with “boundless generosity,” sacrifice, and love for our spiritual children—our neighbor and the fatherless.  We must then challenge our spiritual sons to live from their hearts as spiritual fathers.

I Don’t Think “Openness To Life” Means What You Think It Means.


In a curious piece in Aleteia, David Mills wonders if having a fat bank account doesn’t make being open to life easier and if the bourgeois class of Catholics aren’t being just a little insensitive promoting openness to life when so many people can’t afford more than one or two children.

A Common Misunderstanding

Sadly, among other problems, (like not mentioning NFP or the doctrine of responsible parenthood which contextualizes the Church’s teaching on openness to life) David perpetuates a common misunderstanding that the only way to be open to life is to be open to conception.  Through the doctrine of “integral procreation” (c.f., #18), the Church reminds us that creating a certain number of children is not the goal of being open to life.  What is the goal?  Cultivating an openness of heart to receive all the blessings God wants to give.  And God can bless families of different circumstances in different ways.

Many Different Blessings

As I explain in both Holy Sex! and in the new, revised and expanded, 2nd edition of For Better…FOREVER! , while the Church does most definitely teach that children are a blessing and that large families are praiseworthy, integral procreation reminds us that being open to life does not end at conception and birth.  Rather, it finds its fulfillment in the way parents commit themselves to forming well-developed Christian persons by attending conscientiously to the temporal, psychological, emotional, spiritual and relational needs a child has at each age and stage.

Family Size is a Red Herring

Mills falls for a red herring when he interprets “openness to life” as directly related to family size.  Contrary to his assertion, the Church’s teaching to being open to life is not insensitive to the poor, because the Church, in fact, teaches that being open to life should be understood more broadly than simply having a large family.  Parents who, for serious economic, health, or other reasons, have one or two children may, according to integral procreation, be just as generous and self-donative as a family with 10 children if they are attending with their whole heart to the formation of healthy Christian persons in their home.  Likewise, a family of 10 (or more) children could, according to integral procreation, be actually be less open to life than a smaller family if that larger family fails to respond to the spiritual, emotional, temporal, or relational needs of their older children because they are so busy concentrating exclusively on having and raising babies.  This is why Pope Francis told Catholic families that they do not have to be “like rabbits” in order to be faithful.  It’s also why he decried the fact that so many children are being raised like orphans in their own homes, deprived of the time and emotional connection they need from their mothers and fathers.

Do Not Yearn For Wicked Offspring

It is also why Sirach 16: 1-3 (which is only in the Catholic bible) says, “Do not yearn for worthless children, or rejoice in wicked offspring. Even if they be many, do not rejoice in them if they do not have fear of the LORD. Do not count on long life for them, or have any hope for their future. For one can be better than a thousand; rather die childless than have impious children!”

Being “open to life” might very well be a bourgeois idea that is romantic for the rich and a burden to the poor if, in fact, the Church really taught holiness by the numbers.  Fortunately, she does not.

If you want to be authentically open to life, then by all means, have as many children as you can fully and responsibly form into adults who know how to love God with their whole hearts, minds, souls, and strength and love their neighbors as themselves.  If you do this,  no matter what number of children you have–be they 1 or 100–your family’s name will be praised in Heaven.



Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! 9 Signs They’re Not Telling the Truth (AND 3 Things You Can Do About It).



New research suggests that, rather than going with our gut to know whether someone is being truthful or not, it is better to focus on a particular cue, like how hard someone has to think about what they’re saying or how much what they are saying squares with what we know to be true.

In general, studies find that the average person has a slightly better than even chance (54%) of detecting a lie from a stranger.  This goes up to 60% for people who are trained. Of course, the closer you are to someone, the more likely it is you also know the “tells” that indicate that they are not being honest.  Likewise, you can increase your skill by becoming aware of the general cues that often attend lying behavior.  For instance…


  • When questioned, deceptive people generally want to say as little as possible. Researchers initially thought they would tell an elaborate story, but the vast majority give only the bare-bones. Studies with college students, as well as prisoners, show this.
  • Although deceptive people do not say much, they tend to spontaneously give a justification for what little they are saying, without being prompted.
  • They tend to repeat questions before answering them, perhaps to give themselves time to concoct an answer.
  • They often monitor the listener’s reaction to what they are saying. They try to read you to see if you are buying their story.
  • They often initially slow down their speech because they have to create their story and monitor your reaction, and when they have it straight “will spew it out faster.” Truthful people are not bothered if they speak slowly, but deceptive people often think slowing their speech down may look suspicious. “Truthful people will not dramatically alter their speech rate within a single sentence.”
  • They tend to use sentence fragments more frequently than truthful people; often, they will start an answer, back up and not complete the sentence.
  • They are more likely to press their lips when asked a sensitive question and are more likely to play with their hair or engage in other “grooming” behaviors. Gesturing toward one’s self with the hands tends to be a sign of deception; gesturing outwardly is not.
  • Truthful people, if challenged about details, will often deny that they are lying and explain even more, while deceptive people generally will not provide more specifics.
  • When asked a difficult question, truthful people will often look away because the question requires concentration, while dishonest people will look away only briefly, if at all, unless it is a question that should require intense concentration.

There are actually three things that you can do to tease apart lies from the truth in those times that you aren’t sure whether someone is being completely honest…

  • Have people tell their story backwards, starting at the end and systematically working their way back. Instruct them to be as complete and detailed as they can. This technique increases the cognitive load to push them over the edge. A deceptive person, even a professional liar, is under a heavy cognitive load as he tries to stick to his story while monitoring your reaction.
  • Ask open-ended questions to get them to provide as many details and as much complete information as possible (“Can you tell me more about…?” “Tell me exactly…”). First ask general questions, and only then get more specific.
  • Don’t interrupt, let them talk and use silent pauses to encourage them to talk.

The most important thing to remember is that trust is a critical part of healthy relationships.  Whether or not you can “prove” wrongdoing on the other’s part, the feeling that you can’t trust, say, your spouse or your child, is a significant problem in and of itself that deserves attention.  If you can’t figure out how to rebuild the trust in your relationships on your own, don’t wait.   Seek professional help to heal the hurt before suspicion undermines the relationship altogether.


RAISE FAITHFUL KIDS! SAVE 50% on a Great New Resource!

If you or your parish are looking for a way to empower families to foster intentional discipleship in the home, I wanted to let you know about a special offer.

Several parishes have expressed an interest in giving my and my wife’s latest book, Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids as a gift to parents for Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation classes.

In light of this, Sophia Institute Press has offered a 50% discount to any parish or group who was interested in purchasing this title in bulk.

The book unpacks the latest research on what it takes to pass the faith on to the next generation and offers tons of practical tips for…

-Meeting the spiritual needs of children at every stage of faith development.
-Developing a meaningful family prayer life
-Helping children cultivate their own meaningful prayer life/relationship with Christ.
-Identifying your family mission/charism.
-Enabling children to identify their mission/charism.
-Tools for facilitating a secure relationship with God (and how parents can begin to heal their own spiritual wounds).
-How families can help children get more out of all the sacraments.

And much, much more!

If you’re interested in learning more, please click the link below or contact Sophia Institute Press directly at 1-800-888-9344

What’s YOUR Catholic Marriage IQ? Take the Quiz!



Do YOU know the truth about the Catholic difference in marriage?

One thing that became stunningly clear in light of the recent Synod on the Family is how little people really understand the Catholic vision of marriage — perhaps most especially Catholics! Test your Catholic marriage IQ with the following questions.

Q: What is the primary job of the Catholic husband and wife?

A: The primary job of a Catholic husband and wife is to help get each other to heaven. That’s a big part of what it means to say that marriage is both a sacrament and a vocation. When a husband and wife get married in the Catholic Church, they are affirming that they believe God has chosen them to play an essential role in each other’s sanctification — second only to the saving power of Jesus Christ. Incidentally, this is also a big reason the Church frowns on divorce. To actively pursue divorce is to say, “I refuse to play the role God chose me to play in helping this person get to heaven.” Of course, God can still get them there, but divorce deprives them of a major support. The only way to step out of this role validly is to find — through the process of an annulment— that God really didn’t choose you to play this role after all.

Q:  True or False. You and your spouse get to say what your marriage should look like.

A: False. That’s why Catholic couples are forbidden to write their own marriage vows. Of course, every marriage is different in some ways, but rather than defining the nature of marriage for themselves, as many secular couples do, Catholic couples implicitly agree to live marriage as the Church defines it. Why? First, because they believe that the Catholic Church has a lot to teach them about what it means to be fully loving people and second, because they want to be living witnesses of the freeing truth of the Catholic vision of love and sexuality. Every Catholic couple is supposed to be a living, breathing sign that the Catholic understanding of love and sex is the path to true freedom, joy and fulfillment so that they can call the whole world to Christ through their example.

Q: True or False. Marriage is the sacrament of sex.

A: True. Every sacrament depends on a physical sign that actually causes what it represents. Baptism uses water to signify the actual cleansing of the soul. The Eucharist transforms bread and wine into spiritual food. Sacramental marriage turns sex into a spiritual reality that, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “rises in ecstasy toward the divine.” Just like you can’t baptize without water, a couple cannot be validly married unless they are capable of having sexual intercourse. In a sacramental marriage, sex actually causes the spiritual union physical intimacy represents. Likewise, it allows couples to be co-creators of life, it serves as a physical reminder of the passionate love God has for the husband and wife, and it helps to sanctify the couple by challenging them to embrace the vulnerability they experience in each other’s arms and to grow in virtue as they work together to build the intimate partnership that enables them to work for each other’s good in and out of the bedroom. (To learn more check out Holy Sex!  The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible, Loving.)  Incidentally, when Catholic couples ask, “What gives the Church the right to tell us what to do in the bedroom?” The answer is that the couple did — when they stood at the altar and promised to live the Catholic vision of love. (Check the small print.)  CONTINUE READING