Silencing The Inner-Critic: 4 Keys to Loving Yourself

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

It can be hard to love ourselves.

Many of us are afraid that loving ourselves will make us narcissistic and selfish.  Many others of us have too hard a time getting past our inner-critics to even try to figure out what it means.

Despite popular fears to the contrary, loving ourselves is an essential ingredient in being a truly moral person.  As Jesus, himself, observed, the Golden Rule states that we must love others as we love ourselves (Mk. 12:31). Perhaps the reason the people seem to struggle so mightily to love one another is that most people don’t have an adequate sense of what it means to properly love themselves

Love Defined

To love someone means that we are committed to working for their good.  To love ourselves is to be similarly committed to working for our own good.   St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body teaches that authentic love must be free, total, faithful & fruitful.  This usually refers to the love between man and woman, but I think these terms can also be applied to a healthy love of self as well. The following description of the four keys to loving oneself properly are taken from my new book, Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart (in stores June 2, PRE-ORDER TODAY!).  I hope you find them helpful in your journey toward greater self-acceptance.

4 Keys To Loving Yourself

I will love myself freely.  I commit to working for my good without reservation, without grumbling.  I will not hold back in my efforts to challenge myself to open my heart wide to receive the transformation God wishes to give me and to cooperate to the best of my ability with his grace at all times.

I will love myself totally. While there are parts of myself that are hard to like, I will not turn away from them.  I will celebrate the fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), that I am good (Gen. 1:31), and that God has great things in store for me (1 Cor 2:9).  I will fearlessly cooperate with God’s grace and strive for greatness so that every part of me, especially the parts of me I like the least, may be transformed and bear witness to the wonders God can do.

I will love myself faithfully.  Even on the days I want to give up on myself I will continue to fight the good fight (2 Tim 4:7).  I reject self-criticism and false guilt and any movement of the spirit that tries to separate me either from the love of God or his ability to  fulfill the incredible plans he has for my life (2 Cor 10:5).    On the days I can no longer believe in myself, I will cling to the knowledge that God believes in me.  On the days that I cannot count on my own strength, I will rely on his.  I will not beat myself up for my weakness.  Rather,  I will boast in the power of God (1 Cor 1:31) to raise me up from weakness to glory.

I will love myself fruitfully.  I will rejoice in the good things God does in and through me.  I will look for ways to be a blessing to others.  I will share the blessings God has given me and I will proclaim the good he has done for me (Ps 116:12) that others might be inspired by the wonders God is working in me.

 Be Not Afraid!

This is the attitude we aspiring mystics must adopt as we face even the darkest parts of ourselves and our frustrated efforts to heal.  Not fear, anger and condemnation, but the free, total, faithful and fruitful Love that enables us to rejoice in our failings because of God’s immeasurable mercy and love and, in turn,  be transformed by the power of his infinite grace.    To learn more about how you can learn to love yourself as God loves you, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

Popcak masterfully reveals how even our darkest desires ultimately point to something beautiful, to a destiny beyond our wildest dreams, and he offers a powerful, practical plan for readers to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for their lives.  A must-read for anyone who wants to live the redemption Christ won for us!”  -Christopher West, Founder & President, The Cor Project  Author, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, & the Universal Longing

More Sex Doesn’t Necessarily Increase Couple’s Happiness, New Study Finds

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Despite what many popular authors propose, a new study finds that more sex does not necessarily lead to greater relationship satisfaction. In fact, in the particular study, couples who had more sex at the researchers request experienced a slight decrease in both sexual and general relationship satisfaction.  In the words of the authors of the study…

“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. It wasn’t that actually having more sex led to decreased wanting and liking for sex. Instead, it seemed to be just the fact that they were asked to do it, rather than initiating on their own.”

Emotional Intimacy Drives Satisfaction

On the one hand, it makes sense that couples who are told to do anything would find it less pleasurable than if that activity emerge more naturally from their relationship, but I wonder if more isn’t going on here.  In my book,  Holy Sex! I note other research that ties sexual satisfaction not so much to frequency, but to the degree of emotional intimacy a couple enjoys.  For instance, last week I reported the results of a study showing that couples who experiences high levels of emotional intimacy can manage differences in levels of sexual desire better than couples who have lower levels of emotional intimacy. These couples may not be in the mood for sex, but because they feel emotionally close to their partner, they don’t mind extending themselves–at first–for their partner’s sake, but then they end up enjoying themselves as well.   Researchers refer to this positive relationship quality as “sexual communal strength.” That is, the ability to be sexually generous, even when one isn’t in the mood, without feeling taken advantage of and even being able to enjoy the experience despite not starting out in the same place.  Sexual communal strength is directly related to the degree of emotional and spiritual intimacy a couple enjoys.

Use = Shame & Shutting Down

I wonder if what this study shows isn’t the opposite.  Couples who have lower levels of emotional intimacy will often feel resentful about increased sexual intimacy.  From the perspective of the theology of the body, couples in this situation often intuit that they are not so much experiencing  more a loving act as they are feeling like they are being used as an object of gratification.  Because we were not made by God to be treated as objects, we naturally rebel against being treated that way–even when we don’t consciously realize we’re doing it.   Couples with lower emotional intimacy tend to think of sex as scratching an itch–something they do if they feel the urge for it.  There isn’t anything wrong with this as far as it goes–even St. Augustine acknowledged this function of sex as being appropriate to marriage.  Even so, the more lovers think of sex as scratching an itch, the more they both tend to see themselves as things being used to scratch each other’s itch rather than persons being invited into a deeper, more intimate relationship with one another.  The more we feel used the more we experience a sense of shame that makes us shut down and withdraw so that we can protect ourselves from being treated as objects.  Sometimes this happens consciously, sometimes not, but humans almost universally have a powerfully negative reaction to even the perception that they are being used and they automatically close up in an effort to protect their sense of dignity as persons.

The Take-Away

I think it would have been interesting if researchers in this most recent study had controlled for emotional intimacy.  Regardless, the take-away for readers of this blog is that more sex doesn’t necessarily equal a better relationship.  If you want both better sex and greater relationship satisfaction, you have to cultivate emotional intimacy by making regular time to work, play, talk, and pray together every day so that you can build up the shared body of experiences that lead to deeper levels of intimacy, shared connection, and mutual understanding and respect.

For more information on how you can have a more passionate, intimate, affirming sexual relationship in your marriage, check out Holy Sex!  The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.  

 

 

Resolving Sexual Conflict–A Spiritual Response

shutterstock_216792595Research shows that about 80% of couples experience some degree of conflict related to mismatched sexual desire.  Some couples manage this mismatched desire well while, for others, differences in desire can become a huge marital issue.  What separates between these two groups?

Libido Not the Cause of Conflict

It turns out that mismatched sexual desire may, by itself, not be necessary contributor to marital conflict.  New research suggests that it is the couple’s response to mismatched desire that matters more than the discrepancy in libido itself.  Specifically, couples who demonstrate what researchers call, “sexual communal strength” find ways to resolve this mismatch peacefully.  Sexual communal strength is defined by both a deep generosity and respect between the partners around sexual issues.  When couples display this quality, the partners delight in making each other happy and tend to be willing to make at least small sacrifices to their own comfort levels to facilitate their partner’s happiness.  But, because that sacrifice comes from a genuine, as opposed to grudging, place the sacrifice actually contributes to the happiness of BOTH partners.  According to the researchers…. 

People who are high in sexual communal strength—those who are motivated to meet their partner’s sexual needs without the expectation of immediate reciprocation—were less concerned with the negatives of having sex — such as feeling tired the next day. Instead, these communal people were more focused on the benefits to their partner of engaging in sex, such as making their partner feel loved and desired. In turn, these motivations led the communal people to be more likely to engage in sex with their partner in these situations and also led to both partners feeling more satisfied with their sex life and relationship. This means that even though they engaged in sex to meet their partner’s needs, they reaped important benefits for themselves. In fact, communal people maintained feelings of satisfaction even in these desire discrepant situations.

Generosity NOT Resentment/Coercion

Of course, that doesn’t mean that couples who exhibit sexual communal strength are just doormats who can’t set limits or never say “no”  to their partner.  Again, the researchers note…

It is very important, however, that this motivation to meet a partner’s needs comes from a place of agency, where people feel that they are able to meet their partner’s needs, and a delight in seeing ones partner happy. Situations that involve coercion or where a person ignores their own needs in the process (termed unmitigated communion) do not lead to the same benefits. In fact, an important part of communal relationships is that both partners are attuned to and responsive to each other’s needs. At times this may also mean understanding and accepting a partner’s need to not to engage in sex.

In other words, sexual communal strength is a shared virtue where both the husband and the wife work hard to be sensitive to each other’s needs and, by virtue of a kind of unconscious relationship algorithm of mutual generosity, are able to intuit who has the greater need and the greater emotional resources to respond to that need.  Any one exchange between a couple where one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t could, in fact, go either way, but because both husband and wife are convinced of this underlying generosity and mutual respect, they are content to know that all of their separate needs will eventually be attended to. That makes it possible to make a “safe” sacrifice in the present moment.

Holy Sex and Self-Donation

In my book, Holy Sex!  The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving I describe a process couples can use to resolve sexual differences, including differences around libido. Essentially, this process involves different ways the couple can cultivate what Pope St. John Paul the Great referred to in his Theology of the Body as  “mutual self-donation.”  That is, the kind-of heroic generosity that commits two people to seeking little ways they can use everything God has given them–including their bodies–to work for each other’s good.  When a couple practices this mutual self donation–both in and out of bed–both the husband and wife’s needs get met without either one having to make too much of a fuss because both are trying to be mindful to look for ways to make each other’s lives easier or more pleasant.  Rather than this being an unattainable ideal, research like the study I’m presenting demonstrates that mutual self-donation is a reality that helps couples negotiate the most challenging aspects of their lives together, including their sexual lives.

Sexual Problems:  Always Rooted in the Marriage

The other thing this study really drives home–and it is a point I spend a great deal of time on in Holy Sex!is the idea that sexual problems are always, always, always rooted in the wider relationship.  A couple can’t develop sexual communal strength if, in the rest of their relationship they tend to live parallel lives, are generally hostile to each other, or tend to love their comfort zones more than they love each other overall.  

The upshot is that just because  you and your spouse have different libidos, it doesn’t have to be a point of contention if you can learn how to manage those differences with generosity, respect and a spirit of mutual self-donation.  This is just one example of the many ways a couple’s sexual life can be the catalyst deep and profound spiritual growth.  

Of course, if you are experiencing conflict about sexual frequency, it’s important to realize that the problem may not actually have its roots in your sexual relationship and it will be important to look at how you respond to each other’s needs in general.   As the saying goes, “sex begins in the kitchen.”  The more generous, respectful and self-donative you are in every other room in the house relates directly to how generous, respectful and self-donative you will ultimately be to each other in the bedroom.   The good news is that even when sexual differences are causing major conflict there is a great deal that can be done to find peace and sexual fulfillment.  For more information on ways you can have a more joyful, grace-filled, and satisfying sexual life, check out Holy Sex!  A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to see how our tele-counseling practice can help you experience the passionate love you deserve in your marriage.

4 Ways Good Relationships Can Save Your Life

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Researchers estimate that 40% of Americans feel lonely.  That’s remarkable, considering that we’re more connected than ever.  Unfortunately, there is some evidence suggesting that the kinds of connections we’re seeking are not the kinds of connections we need.  Most of us are actively engaged in some form or another of social media, but researches have recently discovered that the more time a person spends on social media, the more likely it is they will also experience a depressed mood.

Pope St John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body reminds us of Genesis’ exhortation, “It is not good for man to be alone”  (Gen 2:18).  Time and again, modern research shows us how true that statement  is.  Work by Harvard primatologist, Robert Sapolsky, in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, reveals that if we neglect our need for real, meaningful, intimate connection with others, the resulting loneliness can compromise our health (and ultimately, even kill us) via a 4 step process.   1.  Poor social support causes chronic psycho-social stress.  2.  Chronic psycho-social stress causes the chronic activation of our bodily stress responses.  3.  This causes the suppression of the immune system and the activation of the body’s inflammatory response.  4.  Thus we become more vulnerable to both infectious disease and inflammatory illnesses.

Of course, the reverse is also true.  The more we intentionally cultivate healthy, intimate connections with others the stronger our social supports become resulting in lower psycho-social stress levels, which leads to increased immunity and lower inflammatory responses in the body which ultimately makes us more resistant to infections and inflammatory illnesses.

Sure, we’re all busy, but some time today be sure to take some time to turn off the computer, step away from your work, and connect with the people you love and who love you in return.  It could be the best thing you do for your health all day.

For more information on creating the kinds of relationships that help you be healthier in your body, mind and spirit, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts!  Making Peace with Difficult People.

Big Announcement #1: You CAN Balance Baby, Marriage, Family, & Your Needs–Here’s How!

We mentioned a few big announcements this week. The first is the launch of my latest book with my wife and co-host of More2Life Radio, Lisa Popcak titled, Then Comes Baby:  The Catholic thencomesbabyGuide to Surviving & Thriving in the First 3 Years of Parenthood.  

The biggest parenting question we get is, “How can I balance it all?  How can I attend to  baby’s needs without losing my mind or my marriage?”    Then Comes Baby:  The Catholic Guide to Surviving & Thriving in the First 3 Years of Parenthood shows you how to do this an a whole lot more!

In Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood, Lisa and I lend readers the benefit of our twenty-five years’ experience in parenting and marriage and family counseling to help them navigate the earliest years of parenthood.  Here are just some of the things we address…

~How to meet your baby’s needs fully without neglecting your own needs or your marriage.

~How to manage feeding, fatigue, and finances.

~Managing common questions about baby and mama’s sleep.

~How to protect yourself from The Mommy Wars.

~How to overcome the self criticism that can undermine your confidence as parents.

~How to deepen your spiritual life by discovering the grace of each moment with your child.

~How to establish rituals and routines that will serve as the foundation of a joyful, faith-filled family life!

~AND SO MUCH MORE!!!

We coach Catholic couples as they adjust to their new identities as mom and dad and help them face the inevitable challenges of parenthood–all while seeing these everyday experiences through the lens of Catholic teaching on the purpose of family life.

They Like Us!  They REALLY Like Us!

Then Comes Baby provides solid, hands-on help and rich Catholic guidance for parents on how to love their child deeply as they strengthen their love for each other. This book will help them become holy families.”   Most Reverand Joseph E. Kurtz.  Archbishop of Louisville President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“Then Comes Baby is a delightful book for new Catholic parents, full of personal anecdotes and wonderful insights. But most of all, the advice and encouragement you will find is extremely useful in learning how to be the parents God has called you to be. What we like best about this book is that it addresses the new mom and the new dad with equal emphasis. Husbands and wives are together called to build a healthy Catholic family by having a strong faith walk. This book tells them what works when both parents, together, are uniquely aware of the design God intends for families when Baby comes.”  Dr. William and Martha Sears,  Co-authors of The Baby Book and The Attachment Parenting Book

“God wants to fill the hearts of families with the fire of his love. Greg and Lisa Popcak show you how to open to that love through all the joys and challenges of welcoming a new baby. If family life is a gift, Then Comes Baby shows you how to unwrap and celebrate that gift in all its forms.”  Christopher West.  Author of Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing

“Greg and Lisa Popcak remind us that in spite of our fears, God invites us to do the most important work in building a good and holy world: raising children. This wise and practical guide will help parents navigate the sometimes challenging, often uplifting work of parenting babies. More importantly, it will remind them to love every minute of it!”  Tim and Sue Muldoon.  Authors of Six Sacred Rules for Families

“Then Comes Baby will help every parent rejoice in both the gift of new life and all the blessings and changes that come with it. The Popcaks articulate a practical vision of family life that is deeply faithful, extravagantly loving, and incredibly joyful. You can create the family your heart desires. This book will show you how.”  Damon Owens  Executive Director, Theology of the Body Institute

Yes, There IS a Catholic Way to Parent. Here’s Why.

Is there a Catholic way to parent?shutterstock_163230620

It really depends upon what you mean by the question.  If you mean, “Is there an approved list of preferred parenting methods the Church requires that we use for child rearing?”  Well then, of course the answer is “certainly not!”

But if you mean, “Does our Catholic faith ask parents to have a mindset about parenting that reflects the Church’s unique vision of family life and make choices that are mindful of that vision?”  Then the answer is, “unquestionably, yes!”

Vision, Method, and Mindset

Catholicism is an incarnational faith.  Catholics can’t just say prayers that invoke the name Jesus and be done with it.  We have to live differently.    So, while Catholic businesspersons aren’t “required by the Church” to use a certain brand of accounting software, they are challenged to have a mindset about work, management, and money, that reflects the Church’s views on economics and, in turn,  informs their workplace behavior and choices.  Likewise, the Church doesn’t tell soldiers what uniforms to wear or weapons to carry, but the Church does insist that soldiers have a mindset informed by Just War principles that will govern their behavior and choices on the battlefield.

In the same way, the Church never says to parents, “Parent this way.”  But it also doesn’t say, “Just do what works best for you!”   Instead, the Church does say, “As Catholics, we have a unique vision of family life,  so Catholic parents, please keep that vision in mind when making decisions about parenting so that vision may be fulfilled and you can be the witness the Church calls you to be.”   So, what is that vision?

The Vision

Archbishop Chaput once observed that Pope St. John Paul the Great wrote about two-thirds of everything the Church has ever said about marriage and family life.   His Theology of the Body could arguably be said to make up the mission statement for Catholic family life.  If Catholic parents are looking for a place to turn to see what makes the Catholic vision of family life different from, say, the various Protestant denomination’s views of family life or a more secular view of family life, then it would be hard to find a better place to start than the Theology of the Body (TOB).  And while TOB doesn’t tell parents what parenting methods to use, per se, it does articulate certain principles about family life and love that Catholics are encouraged to give serious consideration to when choosing their parenting methods.  In fact, the parenting methods we choose are actually a kind-of catechism.  The way we interact with our children–even more than what we say to them–teaches them how to think about relationship, life, faith, priorities, and morality. 

TOB & PARENTING:  2 Principles for Practice

TOB is a huge body of work, and this article couldn’t possibly begin to articulate its unique vision of family life in any comprehensive way, but here are two points taken from TOB to begin to give you an idea of how TOB can help parents make choices about parenting that are truly informed by a Catholic vision of relationship.

1. Love is Embodied.

TOB teaches that God gave us our bodies so that we could express love for one another.  It isn’t enough to have warm feelings for someone.  To be truly meaningful, love must be expressed with our body and experienced by another body through words, and acts of service, presence,  and affection.  The more bodily an expression of love is, the more senses it uses to communicate itself, the more intimate that expression of love is.

Catholic vision of family life is one of embodied self-giving.  God gives moms and dads bodies so they can hug and hold and carry and cuddle their children so that their children can feel God’s immense love in real and tangible ways.  As TOB says, “the body, and it alone is capable of making visible that which is invisible; the spiritual and the divine.”   Our children first encounter the reality of God’s love through our loving touch.  The more physical we are with our kids, the more they develop the capacity to feel love and be loving.  Interestingly, this theological point is backed up by neuroscience.  Physical affection stimulates nerve growth and myelination (the growth of coating around nerve cells that make them fire more quickly and efficiently) especially in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, picking up on facial and social cues, moral reasoning, compassion and other pro-social traits.   TOB teaches that biology is theology because God’s fingerprints are all over creation.  If we want to know how God wants us to relate to each other, look at the ways of relating that make our bodies function at their best.

Considering this teaching of embodied self-giving as the ultimate sign of love, Catholic parents have a clear mandate to ask themselves which parenting methods do a better job of communicating this vision embodied love: breast or bottle? Co-sleeping or crib? crying it out or comforting to sleep?  And so on.  The Catholic vision of love is embodied self-giving.  Parents who want to convey an authentically Catholic vision of family life do well to choose those methods they prayerfully believe are the most bodily-based expressions of their love they are capable of giving.

2.  Love is Intimate

TOB also teaches that we were created not just for love, but for intimacy. The entire point of the Gospel is loving, intimate, eternal union with God and the Communion of Saints. Think of intimacy as a unit of measure for love.  Just like ounces, or cups, or gallons tell us how much water there is, intimacy tells us whether the love that is present is a puddle or an ocean.   TOB tells us that families are to be “Schools of Love” that help us experience, as much as possible, the ocean of love God has for us.  By extension, Catholic families are encouraged to choose those styles of relating, organizing their priorities, and disciplining their children that foster the deepest level of intimacy possible.

In Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul the Great wrote,

By word and example, in the daily round of relations and choices, and through concrete actions and signs, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial  openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity and all the other values which help people to live life as a gift.

Here, Pope St. John Paul II articulates a mission statement for the Catholic family.  To approach parenting with an authentically Catholic mindset, we have to make all of our choices with this call to respect, justice, cordial openness, dialogue, service and radical togetherness in mind.

Does the Church tell parents exactly how many activities to let their kids participate in, or what discipline methods to choose, or how much time parents and kid need together?  Of course not.  But you parent with the mind of the Church when you ask yourself how many activities your kids can be involved in while still preserving the prime importance of family intimacy. Likewise, you can determine which discipline methods are more “Catholic” in the sense that they are more relationally-based and more likely to foster the open dialog and cordiality discussed in Evangelium Vitae.

Why, “Do what works for you”  Is NOT Enough

Theology of the Body doesn’t give parents a step-by-step methodological blueprint for parenting that says, “do these methods instead of those.”  What it does do is say, “Here is the mindset God wants you to have about family life.  Choose accordingly.”

As Catholic parents, it just isn’t enough to say, “What works?”  Or even, “What works best for you?”   Catholic businesspeople can’t do that.  Catholic soldiers can’t do that.  Catholic families can’t do that either.  Rather, from a TOB perspective, Catholics are challenged to ask, “Of all the different ways I could raise my kids and organize my family life, which choices enable me to do the best job I can of bearing witness to the embodied self-giving and call to intimacy that rests at the heart of the Catholic vision of love?”

For more information on how the Theology of the Body can transform your family life, check out Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids and Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids.

Dr. Greg Popcak is the author of almost 20 books. He directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute which provides Catholic tele-counseling to clients around the world.  www.CatholicCounselors.com

“You Are the Average of the 5 People You Spend the Most Time With.”

Yesterday on More2Life Radio, Lisa an I discussed an assertion of a new book, The Power of No Specifically, that “you are an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

shutterstock_74932492I haven’t read the whole book, but I was struck by this assertion.  It’s really a terrific way of communicating, in simple terms, the Theology of the Body’s claim that the human person is communal and relational by nature.  We have a profound impact on the lives of others and others have a profound impact on us.  And although we have a tendency to think of ourselves as entirely separate and in charge of our own choices, the people we associate with do play a huge role in supporting or undermining our efforts to become the people God is calling us to be.

So, let me ask you….

1.   Are the 5 people you spend the most time with helping or hurting your chances of becoming the person God created you to be?

2.  If–whether you realized if or not–you really were an average of the 5 people  you spend the most time with, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

3.  Finally, if you are less than pleased to be the average of these 5 people, what do you need to do about it?

Learn more about how the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic Tele-Counseling practice can help you transform your relationships.  Call 740-266-6461 or email us to speak with a professional, Catholic counselor.

My Son, Jacob Popcak, In the News

For his presentation at the recent Theology of the Body Congress.

Jacob Popcak, a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, led a group discussion on “How to Start a TOB Organization on Campus.”

“People have wounds. We’re all dealing with similar hurts. Our culture has done a number on everybody both in and outside of the church. Theology of the body is not a mandate, it’s not a get fixed quick solution,” Popcak told CNS in an interview afterward. “It’s the redeeming grace of God saying, ‘Hey, I love every part of you, your body and your soul, your mind and your heart, the desires you love and the desires you’re ashamed of — all of it. And I want to use it for not only my glory, not only your glory, but also for the glory of everyone else on earth and everything that you love.'”“It’s a cosmic love that’s beautifully and practically applied,” Popcak said.

Students and campus ministers, both those new to the theology and those experienced in spreading its message on campus, joined the discussion. Popcak, who leads Franciscan University’s theology of the body organization, offered insights and suggestions to participants.

The biggest virtue needed to bring the theology into campus ministry, Popcak said, is humility.

“Approach it with humility. Really study it. Know enough that you can start living your life according to it — change yourself according to reading it. Once you have done that, be brave, be not afraid; go out and start talking to people — not about what it is but why you love it. Share that love with people and that love and joy will be infectious.”

Ultimately, Popcak encouraged students to keep the leadership of their groups small so they can do big things. Referencing St. Paul, he said, “You can do this stuff because God wants you to. The church was not built on the backs of people who did tiny, measly little things. Do whatever you’re doing to the utmost degree and if God doesn’t like that, he’ll knock you off your horse and make you do something else to the utmost degree.”  READ MORE

My Son, Jacob Popcak, In the News

Theology of the Body Congress A Huge Success

Lisa and I just returned from Philadelphia and the Theology of the Body Congress where we presented a seminar on Capturing Your Child’s Heart Through the Theology of the Body.  In addition, I participated in a panel discussion on Natural Family Planning and the Theology of the Body and our son, Jacob, led a round-table discussion on Theology of the Body at College:  Promoting TOB on Campus.    The Congress was a tremendous success and our contributions were terrifically well-received.   We’re so grateful to have spent last week with so many other people who have committed their lives and ministries to promoting Pope St John Paul the Great’s vision for life and love and how God desires to use our relationships to bring Christ to the world.

After two full days of teaching, practical application, and inspiration on the Theology of the Body, the 2014 International Theology of the Body Congress officially closed on Friday, July 11.  The Congress was sponsored by the Theology of the Body Institute, whose mission is to promote Pope Saint John Paul II’s important teaching on the divine meaning of the human body.

Over 700 people from 12 countries and 40 states attended the Congress.  They represented 50 dioceses in the United States and 60 individual ministries and apostolates. The total also included more than 120 priests, religious and seminarians. “That diversity tells me that this is more than a conference, it’s more than even a beautiful symposium of delving into the teachings,” said Damon Owens, Executive Director of the Theology of the Body Institute.  “This Congress is really accomplishing what it was created for, and that is to convene representatives who are invested in Theology of the body in their own unique way, coming together and learning how together how we can move the teaching forward as well as integrate better into the culture today.” 

Owens delivered the final keynote encouraging those who attended the Congress to take the “communio,” or communion, they experienced with one another to “missio,” the mission of being sent out as an ambassador for the teachings of the Theology of the Body. The Theology of the Body Institute is celebrating ten years of promoting Theology of the Body as a direct answer to the pervasive misunderstanding and misuse of human sexuality in modern culture.  As the Institute’s Board Chair, David Savage looks to the future. “We’re blessed and humbled that the mission continues to resonate in people’s hearts,” commented Savage.  “We’re hoping that in the next ten years it will be recognized as an even bigger gift from St. John Paul II to the Church.”