Just THINKING About Marriage Inspires More Responsibility in Young Adults



Sociologically, we know that marriage, itself, socializes people.  For instance, very few violent crimes are  committed by married men as opposed to single or cohabiting men.  

It turns out, however, that new research shows that even the thought that “I want to be married in the next five years” inspires greater responsibility and maturing in young adults.

“This is a reminder that marriage still matters,” said Claire Kamp Dush, co-author and professor of human sciences at Ohio State. “Just the expectation of marriage may be enough to change some people’s behavior.”

The study appears online in the Journal of Marriage and Family and will be published in a future print edition.

The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. This study included 7,057 people who were 15 to 20 years old when the data for this study was collected in 2000 and 2001.

The participants were asked in 2000 and 2001 to estimate the percent chance that they would be married in five years. They were also asked whether they had committed certain delinquent acts – including property theft, personal assault, drug dealing and property destruction – since the last time they were interviewed for the study.

On average, participants in 2000 thought there was a 43 percent chance they would be married within five years, increasing to 48 percent in 2001.

In 2000, there were 1,492 young people in the study who reported any delinquent acts and they averaged 1.74 such acts in total. In 2001, participants reported slightly fewer delinquent acts, with 1,273 reporting an average of 1.62 incidents of misconduct.

The key finding was that young people with higher marital expectations in 2000 had lower levels of delinquent activity in 2001.

There are good reasons why people who expect to marry may be avoiding a life of delinquency, Arocho said.

They probably feel they have to watch their behavior to gain social acceptance and be seen as “marriage material,” she said. Plus, people with a job, good income and education all have a better opportunity to get married – and delinquency stands in the way of achieving these goals.

“If you’re thinking of getting married soon, you may do things differently and you act more like an adult,” Arocho said.  READ MORE

A Different Kind of Fatherhood for All Men?

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

A guest blog by Pastoral Solutions Institute pastoral counseling associate, Dave McClow, M.Div., LISW, LMFT.

The Ultimate Challenge, at least in this column, is about men and faith.  But today I will use an example of a fictional female character to illustrate a different kind of fatherhood.

C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce tells the story of a man from hell who takes a bus tour of Heaven. He sees some “bright Spirits.”  Amongst them is a lady surrounded by musicians, and boys and girls singing to her and honoring her.  The man notices her exquisite beauty but cannot remember if she was naked or not.  She was either naked, covered with “joy and courtesy,” or “her inmost spirit shone through the clothes.”

He wonders if this lady with “unbearable beauty” was Mother Mary herself.  But his guide quickly corrects, “Not at all….Her name…was Sarah Smith.”  On Earth she was no one special, but in Heaven, “She is one of the great ones.”  And the many young men and women are her sons and daughters.  The man is dumbfounded, saying she must have had a very large family.  The guide explains,

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son—even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

The man asks, “Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”

“No. There are those that steal other people’s children.  But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”

The woman was surrounded by animals as well.  This seemed a bit excessive for the man, but the guide responds:

“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love.  In her they became themselves.  And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”

The man is amazed.  The guide continues,

“It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength.  But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

Spiritual Fatherhood

Lewis illustrates a different kind of motherhood.  But what can Sarah Smith teach men?

  1. There is a “different kind of fatherhood” in Heaven which is first lived out on Earth! It is spiritual fatherhood.  It is for all men, even the average single or married man, with or without kids—not just the elite canonized saints.  Everyone you meet is your spiritual child, but especially the widow, the orphan, and “the least of them.” The calling of every Catholic man is to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
  2. How are we to live out spiritual fatherhood? Spiritual fathers are not possessive and do not use people for their own selfish gain. Paraphrasing Lewis’ lines regarding the animals, every person who comes near a man has his or her place in the man’s love as his spiritual child, and in him they become themselves.  When people meet true Catholic men living as spiritual fathers, they are loved deeply and become more themselves, who they are meant to be.  This “different kind” of love always implicitly or explicitly challenges them, sending them back to their lives with more love toward others.
  3. Lewis uses the image of a stone that creates ripples of concentric circles. In other words, God’s love must always be fertile and fruitful!  You must beget children who must beget children who must….You get the idea!  There is no infertility in Heaven!

St. John Paul II challenges biological fathers to be the stone that creates the ripples:  “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family….”  This is the call for all men, as spiritual fathers, not just biological dads!

  1. There is a power in spiritual fatherhood!  As Lewis says, “Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength.”  But the joy in only one’s little finger can awaken “all the dead things of the universe into life.”  The ultimate power of love and joy culminates in the Resurrection.  In the same way, the love and joy of our spiritual fatherhood is the greatest power in the universe!

The ultimate power of and challenge to spiritual fathers: we both conceive spiritual children and resurrect them when wounded by sin through revealing and reliving “the very fatherhood of God” via our love and joy for them.  We then challenge them to a fertile love, to create their own ripple effects until they illuminate “all nations.”  “Arise, let us be on our way” (Jn. 14:31).

Why Most Bad Parenting Advice Begins with “But My Pediatrician Said…”

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission.

Let me say up front, this is NOT an article bashing the medical professions in general, or pediatricians, in particular.  I LOVE physicians.  I LOVE pediatricians ESPECIALLY.  They do tremendous (and often thankless) work.  Contrary to a lot of stupid opinions on the internet, when it comes to treating sick children, there is no one better to turn to than your friendly neighborhood pediatrician.  In particular, my kids’ pediatrician is awesome. She has gotten my kids through many illnesses and is a big part of helping my kids lead happy, healthy lives as young adults. So let me say up front, THREE CHEERS FOR PEDIATRICIANS AND THE SCIENCE OF PEDIATRIC MEDICINE!!!  Hip Hip, HOORAY!


Now, having given pediatricians their proper due,  here is something that you need to know.  Pediatricians are trained to treat childhood diseases.  They’re very, very good at that job.  BUT they don’t know any more about parenting than you do, or your mom, or the stranger you bump into on the street, or the internet. They don’t have time in med school–which is focused on teaching pediatricians how to save your kid’s life–to take courses on parenting.  The open secret–that any honest pediatrician will be happy to admit–is that nothing about the normal course of training in pediatric medicine qualifies a pediatrician to be a qualified parenting expert.

True, some pediatricians go on to get Master’s Degrees or even Ph.D’s in child development or child psychology, but that is not what most pediatricians do.  Most pediatricians take, at most, one or two classes in psychology in the course of their entire medical education.   Don’t believe me?  Check out the full course of study for med students at the University of Texas (in which first year med students take one, 6 week course in “Human Behavior”)   or Georgetown (which may, in fact,  require some psychology courses, but, in fact, does not even bother to list psychology at all in the description of its overall pediatric course of study).


Again, this is not to bash pediatricians.  The fact is, they are put in a difficult position. Parents ask them for behavioral advice and they do their best to be as helpful as they can. They want to help.  Good on them.  That’s what any decent person would try to do.   The problem is that most parents think a white coat conveys omniscience and that every word “the doctor” utters is rooted in years of professional training and scientific rigor when, in fact, this is often not the case (unless “the doctor” is talking about treating actual medical illnesses–or perhaps, in very special cases, the Tardis).


I am writing this because hardly a week goes by where I don’t get a message from some very upset, anxious mom whose missive begins with “my pediatrician says” and then goes on to describe some truly antiquated, generally horrifying,  bit of parenting advice that clearly came from the good doctor’s sainted granny but has no bearing on anything related to validated principles in child development or child psychology.  One particularly egregious example?  Many pediatricians will tell you that babies can “self-soothe” when left to “cry it out.” There is absolutely no scientific grounding for this idea.  In fact, what we do know about infant development says exactly the opposite.  A baby’s autonomic nervous system is not developed to the point that she can down-regulate her stress responses without the loving presence of an attentive caregiver.  No one can explain the mechanism of action for  this mysterious, magical power of “self-soothing” that so many people believe in.  There is absolutely no scientific, medical, or psychological basis for the idea that babies can “self-soothe.”   This is not medical advice.  It is unsubstantiated, wishful thinking. It is nonsense.


My point isn’t to fixate on sleep training.  It is just to illustrate the larger point.  Parents ask pediatricians parenting questions because parents think pediatricians are supposed to know something about parenting.  But, as a general rule, they don’t know any more than any other non-expert does.  Asking them parenting advice is as useful as asking me how to treat cancer because I happen to have known several people who have had it.  My thoughts on the subject might not be entirely useless, but you sure as heck shouldn’t make treatment decisions based upon it. And, as an actual, trained and certified parenting expert,  I’d be the first to tell you that.

If you have a discipline question, or a question about your infant or toddler’s eating habits, or a question about your baby or toddler’s sleep habits, or questions about school behavior, or…your child’s behavior in general, you may certainly ask your pediatrician for advice–as long as you put that advice in the same category as the advice you get from your mom, your friends, or the internet.


If, on the other hand, you are sincerely seeking an expert opinion about addressing childhood behavior issues, including feeding and sleep habits, discipline, and general parenting/family issues,  the best source to turn to is a child and family psychologist, family therapist, or child development specialist.  All of these professionals have extensive academic, practical training, and supervised experience in child development, child rearing, and empirically-validated approaches to addressing childhood behavior problems.

The takeaway here is that, as well-meaning as they might be, you should never have any confidence in any parenting advice that begins with the statement “my pediatrician says” unless what follows is, “that the best way to treat (insert childhood disease here) is….”

To learn about effective, faithful approaches to discipline and family life, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids and Then Comes Baby:  The Catholic Guide to Surviving & Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood.

What’s Up With All Those Catholic “Rules” About Marriage?

My latest for OSV Newsweekly…



I recently received the following question about the Church’s requirements for weddings and marriages:

“My girlfriend is a Protestant, and her mother recently asked her a question that I haven’t been able to find much information on. She asked, ‘Why can’t a Protestant and a Catholic have a Protestant marriage recognized by the Catholic Church?’ My understanding is with the proper dispensation, it is possible. I couldn’t really explain, though, why a dispensation is required or what that entails. Can you enlighten me on how to explain what the rule is and why it is that way?”

The most common way to answer this is in terms of the canonical rules or sacramental requirements, but I think these sorts of answers, while being technically correct, miss the point. What does it really mean to say to a person that a “dispensation from form” is required for a Catholic to get married in a non-Catholic church? That often ends up sounding like this: “Catholics have a bunch of rules that have to be followed by everyone regardless of whether or not they’re Catholic … so there!” It doesn’t really move the conversation forward in any personally meaningful way.

I would like to suggest a more pastoral and practical answer. READ MORE

5 Ways Spiritual Direction Can Change YOUR Life


A guest blog by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D., Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program.

Traditionally, spiritual direction was most closely associated with clergy and religious as part of growth in the interior life. Throughout the history of the Church, few lay people received formal spiritual direction relying instead on the confessional and private devotions. As a result of the Second Vatican Council with its emphasis on the vocation of the laity, spiritual direction is no longer primarily reserved for the clergy, but available for all.

In its most basic sense, spiritual direction is primarily concerned with the directee’s relationship with God.  It is the assistance given by the director to help the directee to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her and to respond to this personal communication in concrete ways. Spiritual direction is a means to grow in holiness through the development of the interior life.

Here are five ways spiritual direction can change your life.

  1. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Reminds Us that We Do Not Journey Alone
    While the Christian life has a deeply personal component, it’s never meant to be private – just me and Jesus in my prayer closet. To be Christian is to belong to a faith community and one aspect of that community is mutual support. Ongoing spiritual direction reminds us that we are not alone. Instead, it provides us with someone we can trust who can guide us to growth in the interior life.
  2. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Keeps Us Attentive to the Presence of God
    It’s far too easy, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to forget that we are always in God’s presence. Ongoing spiritual direction helps us to be more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us in prayer and through our experiences with one another.
  3. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Calls Us to Participate More Fully in the Life of the Parish
    The parish is our primary faith community. It is the place where we encounter Jesus in His Word and Sacraments, most fully in the Eucharist. And yet, it’s easy to treat the parish as a kind of weekly stop for spiritual fuel with little else to offer in our busy schedule.  Ongoing spiritual direction reorients our lives to be more active in the community, more giving in our hearts.
  4. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Draws us into a More Intimate Communion with Jesus Christ
    The goal of the Christian life is intimate communion with Jesus Christ. While this is accomplished fully when we receive His eternal embrace at the end of this life, our Lord offers us a bit of heaven here on earth.  Ongoing spiritual direction fosters a deeper experience of God’s love on a personal level. It is a life-long process in which our relationship with Him is cultivated and enriched. In this, we gain a sense of self-confidence and fulfillment. Spiritual direction disposes us to anticipate and even yearn for eternal life without losing sight of the here and now.
  5. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Transforms Our Lives
    Authentic growth in the spiritual life is gauged by growth in the exterior life; that is, in our everyday choices.  Jesus tells us that we shall know a tree by its fruits. If, in spiritual direction we seek to somehow leave this world to find Christ, we will simply pass Him on the way.  Jesus Christ is here. He is present in those around us and particularly in those that suffer.  Ongoing spiritual direction has the potential to transform our lives allowing the love of God we experience to change and inspire us to become more loving to others.

For most of us, the challenge with spiritual direction is finding a director whose time is flexible enough to accommodate our busy schedules.  Recognizing this deeply felt need, the Pastoral Solutions Institute offers spiritual direction by phone at the convenience of the directee.  Whether you’re an at-home or working mom, a busy dad or just someone who can’t find a good director close by, spiritual direction by the Pastoral Solutions Institute may be just what you’re seeking.

For more information, contact us at SpiritualDirection@CatholicCounselors.com


Deacon Dom

Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program and is Founder of Diaconal Ministries. Formerly, he served in full-time pastoral ministry specializing in adult formation. He has also taught theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost along with ethics at Thomas Nelson Community College. While at Franciscan University, Deacon Dominic also established and developed the Distance Learning Masters in Theology Program. He has nearly 30 years of experience in catechetical and pastoral ministry on both the diocesan and parish levels.

Deacon Dominic possesses a BA in Theology from Franciscan University, a MA in Theology from Duquesne University where he also completed his Ph.D. course work with a concentration in healthcare ethics. In 2009, he was awarded a Ph.D in Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Ordained in 1995 as the first permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, Deacon Dominic has developed a number of formation/catechetical programs included a highly successful program for returning Catholics that was featured in USA Today and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a national speaker and author. He and his wife Judith have been married for 34 years and they have seven children and six grandchildren.

Twice As Much Sex Makes Relationships About Half As Good.

Image shutterstock.

Image shutterstock.

Sorry, guys.


By Shilo Rea

Countless research and self-help books claim that having more sex will lead to increased happiness, based on the common finding that those having more sex are also happier. However, there are many reasons why one might observe this positive relationship between sex and happiness. Being happy in the first place, for example, might lead someone to have more sex (what researchers call ‘reverse causality’), or being healthy might result in being both happier and having more sex.

In the first study to examine the causal connection between sexual frequency and happiness, Carnegie Mellon University researchers experimentally assigned some couples to have more sex than others, and observed both group’s happiness over a three month period. In a paper published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, they report that simply having more sex did not make couples happier, in part because the increased frequency led to a decline in wanting for and enjoyment of sex.

One hundred and twenty eight healthy individuals between the ages of 35–65 who were in married male-female couples participated in the research. The researchers randomly assigned the couples to one of two groups. The first group received no instructions on sexual frequency. The second group was asked to double their weekly sexual intercourse frequency.

Each member of the participating couples completed three different types of surveys. At the beginning of the study, they answered questions to establish baselines. Daily during the experimental period, the participants answered questions online to measure health behaviors, happiness levels and the occurrence, type and enjoyableness of sex. The exit survey analyzed whether baseline levels changed over the three-month period.

The couples instructed to increase sexual frequency did have more sex. However, it did not lead to increased, but instead to a small decrease, in happiness. Looking further, the researchers found that couples instructed to have more sex reported lower sexual desire and a decrease in sexual enjoyment.

To learn more about what it REALLY takes to have a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling sexual and marital life, check out Holy Sex! The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving


Got Spiritual Direction? New Resource Helps YOU Get the Most from Your Spiritual Life!

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

You don’t have to be a saint to want to draw closer to God or have more confidence in what he wants for your life.

Spiritual direction is an important ministry that helps people at every stage of the spiritual walk draw closer to God and have more confidence in his will for their lives.  In fact, the Church acknowledges the incredible value of spiritual direction and encourages anyone who is serious about their spiritual walk to seek a competent, qualified director (Catechism #2690). The problem is finding a person who is both qualified to be a spiritual director (in training and spiritual maturity) and who has the time to see you. There simply  aren’t enough clergy to go around  in the first place, and of those who are, many either don’t have the time or training to do ongoing spiritual direction.

What’s a sincere Christian to do?

A New Service for YOU

In addition to our well-respected Catholic Tele-Counseling practice, the Pastoral Solutions Institute now offers telephone based Catholic Spiritual Direction Services.  Now, whatever your state in life, whatever your place in your spiritual walk, and wherever you are in the world, faithful, competent, compassionate spiritual direction is as accessible as your smartphone.

Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D. heads up the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program.  Deacon Dominic combines nearly 30 years of experience in pastoral and catechetical ministry with a Ph.D in theology and a graduate certificate in bioethics. Ordained in 1995 as the first permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, he is the founder of Diaconal Ministries. In these roles,  Deacon Dominic has served for many years as a popular speaker, trainer, and spiritual director for priests, and deacons, and seminarians throughout the country. In addition to his scholarly writing, he is the author of, In the Person of Christ the Servant, a book that explores the nature of the diaconate and is used in many diaconal training programs across the country. He has also been a popular guest on many Catholic radio and television programs (Please see his full bio below).

For more information on the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Services, including rates and availability,  I invite you to send a message to SpiritualDirection@CatholicCounselors.com and/or review both the FAQ and Deacon Dominic Cerrito’s full bio below.


What is spiritual direction?

The purpose of spiritual direction is to enable you to listen and respond more effectively to God’s personal communication in your life. This, in turn, cultivates the interior spiritual life where you meet the Holy Spirit one-on-one and true transformation takes place. The ultimate goal of spiritual direction is to deepen your intimacy with Jesus Christ and to help you live the Christian life more effectively. It is about helping you place your life more fully under the dominion of the Holy Spirit who is the primary spiritual director.

What does a spiritual director do?

The Pastoral Solutions Institute’s spiritual direction program exists to assist you in your conversation with God. Your spiritual director will help you be more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and encourage your progress in the spiritual life,  A good spiritual director is careful not to come between you and God.  Instead, the director plays a supportive role in your relationship with God by encouraging you to engage in a process of ongoing spiritual growth that is grounded in an active parish life, supported by a commitment to prayer in its many forms, enlivened by the reading and study of Scripture, deepened through ongoing catechetical formation, and nourished through frequent use of the sacraments—especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Can spiritual direction work over the phone?

Absolutely. In fact, telephone-based spiritual direction helps facilitate a major goal of spiritual direction; namely, that the spiritual director should be as little a distraction as possible so that you can become more aware of the presence of God in your session rather than the presence of the director in the session.

What should I expect from spiritual direction through Pastoral Solutions?

The Church has long recognized that living the faith is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Just as there are a number of schools of spirituality within the Catholic tradition, there are a number of valid approaches to spiritual direction. The key is choosing one that best empowers you to discover the unique relationship God desires with you.

In your sessions, your spiritual director will adopt a contemplative posture; listening to both you and God.  As your director prayerfully attends to your time together, he will help you be attentive to and “stay with” the movements of God within the depths of your soul. In this experience, you will discover a safe harbor from which to explore and develop more particular spiritualties such as Marian, Ignatian, Carmelite, Dominican and Franciscan. As you progress in your work, your spiritual director will help you discover the spiritual model that is best suited to the work God is doing in your life.

Do I have to be “spiritually advanced”  to benefit from spiritual direction?

Absolutely not. All you need is a desire to take your spiritual life more seriously.  To this end, in addition to facilitating your ongoing conversation with God and looking at ways to deepen your spiritual life, your spiritual director will help you get more out of basic spiritual practices such as regular church attendance, participation in the sacraments, and a day-to-day prayer life.  Beyond these things, to get the full benefit of spiritual direction, the only other things you’ll need is a willingness to meet regularly with your director, and a sincere desire both for greater union with God and openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Does the director tell the directee what to do?

Your relationship with God is sacred and personal.  As such you will always have the right to make the final decision about how that relationship should unfold.  Your spiritual director will certainly offer suggestions he prayerfully feels would be helpful for deepening your relationship with God but he will never tell you what to do. It is your spiritual director’s job to ask you questions that help him understand where you are at in your spiritual journey and give you the tools to discover the best way forward. Good spiritual direction respects your free will just as God does.

How often is spiritual direction necessary?

There is no strict timetable for spiritual direction though it should be regular. After the initial spiritual assessment period, where your director helps you take stock of your spiritual journey thus far, you and your director will decide on the frequency that best serves you and your goals. However often you decide to meet (monthly at minimum), it will be important to be faithful to your time together.  Your commitment builds a relationship of trust between you and your spiritual director so that,together, you may be more responsive to ways God is working in both of you.

How is spiritual direction different from counseling?

Spiritual direction can certainly be a healing process.  But though spiritual direction can be a helpful part of recovery from emotional problems or relational conflict, the primary goal of spiritual direction is not recovery from problems so much as it is deepening your relationship with God, attending to God’s will more effectively, and being more confident in the ways God is working in and through you in your present circumstances.

Beyond this, where counseling is more directive, focused on teaching techniques, building skills and concentrated on resolving problems, spiritual direction is most interested in helping you develop the quiet place in your heart where you can encounter God more personally and receive whatever blessings, graces, and wisdom he wishes to share with you.

Is it ever advisable to undergo counseling and spiritual direction at the same time?

Depending on their particular circumstances and needs, a directee/client will often choose either spiritual direction or counseling.  Even so, there is nothing that would prevent you from experiencing the benefits of both as they are intended to be complementary to each other.

Along these lines, it may also be the case that, in the course of spiritual direction, a director may make a referral to counseling or, in the course of counseling, a counselor may make a referral to spiritual direction.  In such an event, you would be free to work with a director or counselor of your choosing—whether or not they were associated with the Pastoral Solutions Institute.  That said, Pastoral Solutions Institute therapists and spiritual directors are part of the same team.  We learn from each other, value each other’s input, and work together closely to help our clients achieve their goals in the most efficient way possible.

Are the sessions confidential?

Yes. Any disclosure that a directee makes during the sessions is strictly confidential. The director may never reveal it or use it. The only possible exception to this standard of confidentiality would be the case of grave, immediate, or mortal danger involving the directee or another person.

Do I have to be Catholic to have spiritual direction?

No. All Christians are welcome. While the Pastoral Solutions Institute spiritual direction program is deeply rooted within the Catholic tradition, the directee need not be Catholic. Accommodation can be made to direct the directee from a more general Christian approach.

Is there a charge for spiritual direction?

Yes.  Spiritual direction is a demanding profession that requires many years of  academic and personal preparation to do well.  That said,  we have set the cost of our service so that almost anyone could afford to take advantage of these services.  For rates and availability, please send a request for additional information to SpiritualDirection@CatholicCounselors.com .



Deacon Dom

Deacon Dominic Cerrato offers spiritual direction under the Pastoral Solutions Institute and is Director of Diaconal Ministries. Formerly, he served in full-time pastoral ministry specializing in adult formation. He has also taught theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost along with ethics at Thomas Nelson Community College. While at Franciscan University, Deacon Dominic also established and developed the Distance Learning Masters in Theology Program. He has nearly 30 years of experience in catechetical and pastoral ministry on both the diocesan and parish levels.

Deacon Dominic possesses a BA in Theology from Franciscan University, a MA in Theology from Duquesne University where he also completed his Ph.D. course work with a concentration in healthcare ethics. In 2009, he was awarded a Ph.D in Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Ordained in 1995 as the first permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, Deacon Dominic has developed a number of formation/catechetical programs included a highly successful program for returning Catholics that was featured in USA Today and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a national speaker and author. He and his wife Judith have been married for 34 years and they have seven children and six grandchildren.

Antidepressants for a Bad Marriage Yield Depressing Results.

Image Shutterstock

Image Shutterstock

New research shows that doctors regularly diagnose patients as “depressed” when they complain about marital and relationship problems.  The problem is, being sad about a bad marriage isn’t depression, and anti-depressants can’t treat marital woes.

From PsychCentral

New research finds that psychiatrists nearly always respond with prescriptions for antidepressants when clients complain of bad marriages.

The medical definition of depression does not support the assumption that people struggling with their marriage or other domestic issues are depressed and require antidepressants, said Dr. Jonathan M. Metzl, professor of sociology and medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt University and the study’s lead author. 

The study, conducted using a Midwestern medical center’s records from 1980 to 2000, appears in the current issue of the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. READ THE REST

If you are struggling with marriage and family problems, be sure to get the right kind of help.  Medication can’t cure relationships problems. Marital Counseling can. But remember, not every therapist or psychiatrist is trained as a marriage or family therapist even if they say they do marriage and family therapy!  The success rate for therapists who “do marriage and family therapy” is about 30% while the success rate for therapists who have trained as marriage and family therapists (which includes completing internships in marriage and family therapy and receiving professional supervision) exceeds 90%!  To learn more about getting the help you need, check out When Divorce is NOT An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute (740-266-6461) to learn how our Catholic Tele-Counseling Practice can give you the tools you need to live a more joyful, grace-filled, passionate marriage and family life.

Parents vs. iPhone: A Problem of Liturgy?

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

A guest blog by Pastoral Solutions Institute clinical counseling associate, Dave McClow, M.Div., LMFT, LISW.

A 13-year-old boy, Peter, was anxious, even compulsive, melting down whenever his parents asked something of him, especially to get off his iPhone or iPad and re-engage in the human race–specifically, his family life.  I know this is not extremely uncommon.  I was working primarily with the mother, who was having difficulty engaging her husband.  He seemed too busy, and she hesitated to bother him.  Having low expectations of men is a chronic problem in my pastoral counseling practice, especially around family and spiritual life.  Men live up to high expectations at work, but not at home.  While the wife believed that leaving him alone was loving, generous, and kind, it was actually the opposite—it was not working for his good, for love, and it was not helping him get to heaven.  Low expectations do not help a man become the best version of himself.  He needs a challenge; he needs to be needed! But he also needs to know what to do without being nagged.

What should we expect from men?

The Abba Prayer for Men at AbbaChallenge.com answers this in an outline form.  In the prayer I suggest that the summit of being a man is spiritual fatherhood lived out in chivalry as priest, prophet, and king.  I would like to focus on our priestly role through which we link the human and the divine.  What does this mean?  For one thing, when we love our friend, spouse, or kids—working for their good—we connect or link them to God, because God is love.

Priests enact liturgy

As priests, all baptized men are called to enact liturgy, though certain Church liturgies such as the Mass are reserved for the ordained priesthood.  Liturgy is the means through which God forms his people into his children, his disciples.  Liturgy is built into creation, the story of which ends in a liturgical event, the Sabbath rest.  Fathers, before they worshipped the golden calf in the desert (Ex. 32), were the priests who led their families spiritually.  So what is the liturgy of the baptized priest?  I think liturgy is a ritual and/or routine that communicates love.  If you are married and/or have kids, you are the priest in the domestic church!

Everyday liturgy

We are perpetually engaged in liturgy, a/k/a, service or work:  we have morning and bedtime routines, customary hellos and goodbyes, birthday celebrations, anniversaries, etc.  Not all rituals and routines communicate love, however.  So if we have problems in our relationships, as with Peter, we need to evaluate and reform our liturgies so our love is better experienced by our kids and spouses.  Dr. Greg Popcak, in an excellent book, When Divorce is Not an Option, cites over 60 years of research and hundreds of studies showing that rituals of connection increase satisfaction in life and relationships and significantly decrease depression, substance abuse, promiscuity, and behavioral problems.  The liturgy of the domestic church is powerful formation!

Popcak indicates four areas for rituals and routines that promote connection:  pray, work, play, and talk time.   There should be a daily 5-to-10-minute version and a longer weekend version.

Pray:  Shockingly, only 17% of Catholic couples actually pray together, according to a recent CARA study.  If you are married, pray with your wife!  If you need help getting started, keep it simple, picking a few intentions and saying an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be.  Add more as your comfort level increases.  Pray with your children.  Fathers praying with and for their kids are immensely powerful!  Do it!  Certainly go to Mass every week and to confession with your family each month.

Work:  These are not chores you do separately, but things you do together, such as preparing meals, setting the table, or cleaning rooms together with your wife and/or kids.

Play:  Try playing cards, taking a walk, reading aloud together, or wrestling with the kids!  Family game night or date night with the wife are weekly versions.

Talk:  Family meals are a starting point.  You can ask what was the high point and low point of everyone’s day.  Driving with teens can help them open up.  For more suggestions, get the book!

Let’s acknowledge our current liturgies and pick one area to work on to more fully live out our baptized priesthood.

What happened to Peter?  I worked with both parents and told them they needed to reform their liturgy with their son.  I also stressed that it would be more powerful coming from Dad.  When Dad knew what to do, he started with ping-pong and added other activities where they could talk more.  In two weeks Peter was a different kid—not perfect, but much more open and following his parents’ requests.  If you find yourself saying this is typical teenage behavior, you have ineffective liturgies in place.  In the battle of liturgy vs. the iPhone, the right liturgy wins!  The right liturgies communicate the love you actually intend.  This is the message our culture—and your kids and wife—are aching to hear and experience.

When Daddy Doesn’t Go To Church….

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

I was honored to be asked for input on a terrific article by Marisa Sandora at For Her on this painful topic.  Here’s a sample.

So how can those of us in this situation try to convince our non-practicing spouse to attend church services? “The same way we get our spouse to do anything,” says author and therapist Dr. Gregory Popcak. “We explain how important it is, we insist that we be taken seriously, and we refuse to let it go.” Popcak is the executive director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to tough marriage, family, and personal problems. He’s written more than a dozen books integrating Catholic theology and counseling psychology, including Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.

“Research on couples who experience faith differences shows that when there is conflict about church, it rarely has anything to do with religion,” he says. “It is all about respect. Respect involves more than being nice to each other. Ultimately, it involves trying to see the truth, goodness, and beauty in all the things the other person finds true, good, and beautiful. Couples who manage faith differences well usually don’t see eye-to-eye on religion, but they work hard to try and see what their partner finds good, true, and beautiful about their beliefs and religious practices.”

Modeling respect and generosity in every aspect of the relationship, not just religion, is the key, stresses Popcak.

Deacon Doug Kendzierski of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who’s been married for 27 years and has three grown daughters, echoes this advice, saying honest communication is key. “Suppressing priorities and feelings is not only dishonest, but ultimately harmful. At the same time, a good relationship is not about “convincing,” it’s about explaining and understanding,” he says. “You should be honest about the importance of the family unit at church (i.e. public unity, example for your children, supporting you, togetherness, etc.). Be careful not to be judgmental, merely open and honest about the effect on you, and your concerns regarding the potential impact on the children and the family. Beyond that, prayer is the most effective approach; don’t discount the power of prayer.” READ THE REST

The only other thing that I would add that didn’t make it into the article is that if you are attempting to address this issue in your marriage and you are becoming more and more aware of my above point–that you aren’t really dealing with a religious issue as much as you are dealing with a spouse who really doesn’t respect you and this plays out in many other areas of the relationship where there are differences of opinion–you will almost always need to seek professional help to heal the marriage and, ultimately, resolve the spiritual issue as well.  Why?  Because when one is married to a spouse who refuses to see the value in your point of view, you don’t have the influence you need to be able to change the marital dynamic on your own.  It takes having someone else who can provide  a reality check for the disrespectful spouse to get that spouse to see what they are really doing.  The sooner you get help for this issue, the better, because the stakes–your children’s future faith–are too high.

For more information on books and faithful counseling resources, follow the links in the article above.