Hey Parents. Tired of “Losing It?” Here’s What To Do Instead.

This article is part of a series on the “Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.”  To discover ways to experience more grace at home, join our facebook discussion group, CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission)–Family Discipleship.

Every parent has had that moment where our kids get under our skin and we react. We might find ourselves lashing out, or making threats we know we have no intention of following through on, or punishing too severely, or just giving up,  or a million other things that make us feel ineffective and undermine our power as a parent.

Many of these reactions are rooted in attachment wounds we received in our families-of-origin. Healing these wounds requires us to become aware of the unconscious scripts that drive our actions so that we can intentionally redirect our emotional energy down healthier paths.  

Remember, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life–like liturgy in general–is a tool God uses to heal the damage sin does to our relationships. Instead of beating up on ourselves for responding to our children in less-than-ideal ways, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life asks us to bring these moments to God and consecrate them so that he can heal us and transform these experiences into moments of grace.  We need to be willing to say, “Lord, I know that I am not being the parent you want me to be.  Give me the grace to fill in the gaps between what I am able to give my child and what you want to give my child through me.”

In addition to bringing these moments to God, it can be helpful to pray through what I call the Four Questions Exercise (this exercise is outlined in detail in the new, upcoming 3rd edition of Parenting with Grace).

1. How did my mom and/or dad approach situations like this? 

2. As a child, did their approach draw me closer to them or make me afraid of/close off to them?

3. Would I want my child to feel the same way toward me as I did toward my parent in  this situation? If not, how would I like them to feel toward me?

4. How could I need change my approach so that I could effectively address this problem, but still allow my child to feel the way I would have wanted toward my mom and/or dad?

The point of this exercise isn’t to condemn your parents.  Every parents does the best they can with what they have.  The point is to make us more thoughtful about how our own experiences with our parents continue to influence our own relationship with our children and whether or not we would like those patterns to continue.  This exercise allows us to make sure we’re giving our kids the correction that they need, but to do it in a manner that is both effective and actually strengthens our relationship with our kids rather than undermining it.

But why should we care about our relationship with our kids? Isn’t the most important thing just correcting their behavior? Yes and no.  When we correct our kids in a manner that closes them off to us (or makes them afraid of us) the lessons we are trying to convey tend not to stick.  Brain science tells us that learning is impaired when we are stressed.  Although conventional wisdom says that unless we come down hard on our kids they’ll never learn, science actually shows the opposite.  The harsher we are, the more we undermine our own effectiveness.  Kids focus on the fact that “Mom/Dad is mad” instead of “I did something wrong and I need to do better next time.”

The more we can be conscious of where our reactions are coming from and how we can respond to our kids’ problem behaviors in a manner that allows them to open up to us, the more we can make sure the lessons we’re trying to teach will sink in. Let the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life bring about the healing God wants for your heart and your home.

Need more help healing the hurts that undermine our relationship with our kids? Visit CatholicCounselors.com to learn more about our books, resources and Catholic tele-counseling services.

“Watching Mass” With Your Family. Futile or Fulfilling? What Makes the Difference.

This article is part of a series on domestic church life.  To learn more about creating a dynamic domestic church,  join the conversation on our Facebook discussion group CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission)–Family Discipleship.

A friend made me aware of this article in The Catholic Thing about the frustration the author, Randall Smith, felt about watching mass online.

Photo via Shutterstock.com Used with permission

He writes…

The danger for me is that I get spiritually numb.  It’s easy to get busy with work and just skip it without a thought.  There’s something good about having to get up and walk over to the chapel.  You must commit to something, physically.  There’s not the same movement either of the body or the spirit if I just click a link and then sit there and watch Mass, as if I were watching the video of an online lecture….I’m not always wrapped into a state of ecstatic contemplation at a regular Mass either, but watching Mass online is like listening to someone narrate the events of their vacation trip while they slowly scroll through the pictures on their phone.  “And here’s Gladys and me with the waiter at a great sea food restaurant in Galveston.”  And you think, “I could be doing something useful now.  But I’m not.”  

I certainly appreciate the author’s view.  But something about it made me a little sad.  That feeling grew as I read the comments on my friend’s Facebook page in response to the article. One, in particular, stood out.

…my husband is not Catholic, and I am not always in charge of what the house is doing while we are home. [Watching Mass] just becomes another boring TV show the younger kids want nothing to do with, and after my first attempt, I’m sure the teens are not “into it” either. It is so much easier to pack everyone up and go to church, and I can’t even believe I’m saying that!

I want to be clear. Nothing I write here is an attempt to deny the experience of these good and faithful people.  We are not obliged to watch Mass online.  We are free to feel whatever we feel about it.  There isn’t a “right” answer.

At the same time–spiritually, as in life–I often find it helpful to try to cultivate a spirit of openness.  I find that–at least in response to more important things–it isn’t enough for me to say, “Meh, this isn’t my thing.”  If someone I care about believes that there is something good, true, or beautiful about something–especially if I don’t–I find it useful to try to ask what I might be missing.  How do they approach that thing in a way that’s different from me?  What about their approach allows them to experience it differently than I do?  And would it be useful for me to change my approach so that, maybe, I could get something out of it too?

As I reflected on my own, surprisingly, positive experience of watching mass online with my family, and reading a few comments of those who also found it to be a positive experience, it occurred to me that those who appreciated it did so for exactly the reasons the author of the article found it uncomfortable.  It challenges us to be more intentional about mass.

My family has made a point of actively watching.  We literally behaved as if we were at church. We stood, knelt, sat, sang, and said all the responses out loud.  We even got dressed up for Easter Mass. And it’s been kind of wonderful.  Why?   Because we were forced to be intentional about everything.

In some ways, I agree with the person who’s comment I posted above. It is actually a lot easier to just pack everyone off and go to church.  When I’m at church, everybody is doing the same thing.  I don’t have to think about it. And I don’t have to work that hard to get my kids to go along with it.  Sure, they can get squirmy, but in general, they aren’t going to draw attention to themselves by defiantly standing when others are kneeling, or sitting with others are standing.  Herd mentality takes over and we all go through the motions.

But doing church in my family room was…weird.  We had to think about it.  Why are we doing this?  Isn’t this a little… crazy? Yes!  It is!  And that’s the point. Even though it’s weird, it was important enough to all of us to be weird and keep doing it.  The question, “Why, exactly, is this so important that we would put ourselves out this way?” was in the back of our minds the whole time, which led to some really good conversations about what our faith means to us and what we would be willing to do to proclaim that with our lives.

But My Family Isn’t Faithful.

But what if your family doesn’t share your faith?  Is it still worth doing?  Could you still get something out of participating in an online mass?  Of course everyone has to decide that for themselves.  It’s a question to take to prayer.  But I would suggest that it is a question worth considering.

Imagine the witness it would be for a mom (or dad) to value their faith so much that they insisted that for this hour–whether anyone cared to join them or not, and whether anyone approved or not–they were going to commandeer the family room to watch Mass.  And what if, while they watched, they actually attended.  Imagine that they stood, and sat, and knelt, and sang and said all the responses out loud. Imagine that they were willing to deal with the snarky comments, and eye-rolls, and, afterward,  have the discussions, and, ultimately demand the respect that they deserve as a son or daughter of God?

What if not one other family member joined this parent?  And what it, afterward, their spouse and kids mockingly said, “So, how was Mass?”  What if they answered truthfully. “Honestly, guys, it was kind of hard and kind of lonely.  I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but the fact is, it’s sometimes hard being part of a family that doesn’t love or respect me enough to even try to see what’s good about things that are important to me.  But the thing is, I am grateful that, each time I go to Mass, God gives me the strength to hang in the and hope that maybe things can get better.  So, I’m going to keep doing it even if you make fun of me. OK, then.  What would you all like for breakfast?”

Just imagine the conversations that would get started.  And just imagine the what it would say the next week when that faithful spouse/parent did it all over again.

Spiritual Eyes Wide Open

I would respectfully suggest that whether one’s family is faithful or not, participating in mass at home is an exercise in being more conscious and intentional about attending mass.  There is nothing about it that allows you to just go through the motions, check the boxes, and pat yourself on the back because “at least we showed up.”  Participating in mass at home is a commitment that I truly believe will make me and mine more mindful of why we’re participating at mass when we finally get to go back to our parish church.

Stuck at Home? Your Family Can Still Be a Blessing To Others

This article is part of a series on the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.  Want more information on having a more dynamic at-home faith life?  Join our  Facebook discussion group: CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission)–Family Discipleship.

The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is a model of family spirituality that helps Catholic families “bring Jesus home” in more meaningful ways so that we can make the faith the source of the warmth in our home.  “Liturgy” is a word that refers to the work God does through the Church to heal the damage sin does to our relationships with him and others.  The Liturgy of Domestic Church Life has three “rites,” each of which looks at how families can use elements that are common to almost every family to draw closer to God and each other.

The Rite of Christian Relationships helps families leave behind the selfish–and sometimes sinful–ways we treat each other and learn how to care for each other with the love of Christ. By living out Christ’s sacrificial love, this rite helps us practice the priestly mission of our baptism.

The Rite of Family Rituals encourages families to take a little time to work, play, talk, and pray together. More than nice things to do, when a Christian family has strong family rituals, they are practicing the prophetic mission of baptism by modeling Christian attitudes toward work, leisure, relationships, and faith.

Finally, the Rite of Reaching Out lets God use your family to be a blessing to others.  This rite helps families practice the royal mission of baptism. Jesus, the King of Kings humbled himself and served us.    “To reign with Christ is to serve with Christ” (Lumen Gentium).  We share in Jesus’ royal dignity by using our gifts to make other’s lives easier and more pleasant.

Even while families are sheltering in place, there is still a lot you can do to be a blessing to others.

erving One Another at Home.  St Paul says, If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1Cor 13:3). Did you ever notice how much easier it can be to be kind to strangers than to the members of our own households?  The Rite of Reaching Out helps families remember that authentic Christian service begins at home.

-Do you respond promptly, generously, and consistently to each other’s needs?

-Do you serve each other cheerfully (instead of grudgingly)?

-Do you see the chores and tasks you do around the house as ways to say, “I love you!” to your family, and “Thank you for this blessing!” to God?  Or do you think of them as “just stuff that has to get done so you can get to the other more fun/more important stuff.”

The more we practice loving, generous, cheerful service at home, the more the service we give to people outside our homes will be genuine (instead of self-aggrandizing) and properly-ordered (instead of competing with our domestic-church life).

The second way to practice the Rite of Reaching Out is by Thinking About Others While Being a Family-At-Home. The main way to practice this habit  is by remembering that everything you have been given to you by God—your food, your clothing, your furniture, your toys, does not belong to you.  They belong to God. The Church teaches that Christians are stewards, not absolute owners, of the things God has given us. We are to care for the things we have well, so that when we are done with them, we can pass them along in good condition to others who may need them. Thinking about others while being a family at home means regularly asking if you can prepare a little extra food for a sick or disabled neighbor, or if—together as a family—you can go through the gently used toys, clothes, and other things you no longer need and pass them on to other brothers and sisters in Christ who might need them next.

There are other ways to practice the Rite of Reaching Out, but just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t still make a difference.  God wants to bless others through you and through your family.  These two habits can help you celebrate some of the simplest ways God can work in you, with you, and through you to make a difference–starting right now!

Gentle Discipline: The Power of Catching Them Being Good

In the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, the Rite of Relationship is concerned with modeling Christ’s love in everything we do in the home.  How can we, as parents and

Image Shutterstock

kids, challenge ourselves to stop settling for the love that comes naturally to us, and intentionally use this moment to live more like Jesus.

Gentle discipline is one of the four ways families can celebrate the Rite of Relationships (along with prioritizing family time, extravagant affection, and promptly, generously, and consistently responding to each other’s needs). “Catching your kids being good” is a powerful tool of gentle discipline.

It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of exclusively pointing out when kids fail to meet our expectations. A much better approach is to note good behavior with small gestures of affection and affirmation. Studies consistently show that simple, positive reinforcement produces consistently better outcomes than punishments and consequences (Dwyer, Dweck, and Carlson-Jaquez, n.d.). Your child wants nothing more than to see the light of approval in your eyes.

You don’t have to throw a parade everytime your child does something that pleases you but remarking on good behavior lets them know that you’re actually paying attention AND that you glad to see them succeed.  Here are some examples of catching kids being good.

“I really like the way you guys are playing together.  You’re really good at sharing!”

“It means so much to me when you just start picking up your toys on your own. I love how responsible you are.”

“I know that you’re frustrated, but I see how hard you’re trying to be respectful anyway.  That really means a lot to me.  Thank you.” 

“I can see from the look on your face that your homework is really tough tonight.  I really admire the way you’re sticking with it through.  That’s really impressive.”

In each of the above examples, the parent remarked on a desireable behavior that occured spontaneously and complimented the child for the virtue that the child was displaying. Doing this also helps you deal with times your kids aren’t behaving well. How? Because they’ll know exactly what you mean—from experience–when you ask them to be “better sharers,” or show more responsibility, respect, or stick-to-itiveness. They won’t just understand the words.  They will be able to relate to the specific behaviors associated with them because you took the time to punctuate their successes.

Would you like to learn more about living the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life?  Join the discussion at Catholic HŌM–Family Discipleship on Facebook.

How Are You Coping With COVID? Take Our Quiz.

To say that people are stressed in the face of global pandemic is an understatement.  Beyond the very real concerns about our health and the health of our loved ones, the shelter-in-place orders combined with the loss of so many normal spiritual resources are making many people feel unmoored.  Psychologists have coined the term Covid Stress Syndrome to describe the psychological effects of the pandemic, and the CDC has released recommendations for dealing with the emotional fallout from this crisis.

How are you coping?  The following quiz can help you evaluate the level of stress you’re under and identify the supports you might need to manage your stress, worry or anxiety.

Select “0” for no, and “1”  for yes.

1. I am an extrovert. 0 or 1
2. I personally know someone who has COVID-19. 0 or 1
3. I personally know someone who died or is in critical condition from COVID-19. 0 or 1
4. A major life event occurred since the coronavirus outbreak (someone I know died, I moved or was unable to move, became homeless, etc. ) 0 or 1
5. I am pregnant. 0 or 1
6. I have an immunocompromised or at-risk family member living with me. 0 or 1
7. I do not have access to outdoor space (live in an apartment). 0 or 1
8. I have children. 0 or 1
9. My life was majorly changed as a result from working from home. 0 or 1
10. I personally or my partner lost his/her job as a result from the coronavirus. 0 or 1
11. I was working parent prior to this outbreak. 0 or 1
12. My sleep has been disrupted in the last two weeks. 0 or 1
13. My eating has been changed (eating more or less than usual in the last two weeks). 0 or 1
14. I have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 0 or 1
15.  I am concerned I have it or frequently concerned about my health. 0 or 1

Add up the number on the right to view your total.

Mild Impact 0-5
You’re currently managing well. Consider ways you may be able to lend a hand to someone in need.

Moderate impact 6-10
Life has been disrupted but to a manageable degree. You’re making efforts to take care of yourself and your loved ones, but you are hopeful that when this crisis passes, things will return to normal. Make sure to continue eat well, exercise, engage in meaningful activities, connect as much as possible with loved ones, spend time making a “sacrifice of praise” to God by writing down the blessings of each day, and limit your exposure to news and social media.  If you like, you can take this time to increase your resilience by turning to books like Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety (get it 50% off through the publisher for a limited time) to learn new tools for managing stress and anxiety.

Severe Impact 11-15
This crisis is having a major impact on your life. You have serious concerns about how all of this will affect you and it is impacting your ability to cope. It will be important to strengthen your efforts at self-care (eating well, exercising, engaging in meaningful activities, connecting as much as possible with loved ones, making regular “sacrifices of praise” to God by writing down the blessings of each day, and limiting your exposure to news and social media), as well as learning new tools from books like Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety (available for 50% off through the publisher for a limited time) and considering seeking support from a professional tele-counseling agency like The Pastoral Solutions Institute which offers Catholic-integrated, professional pastoral counseling services by telephone.

Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.  Be mindful about self-care, connecting with others and God, and getting the resources and support you need to stand strong in the face of this crisis.  As a Christian, it isn’t our job to simply weather the storm. We are called to show the world that is it possible to be strong, confident, peaceful and joyful even in the face of crisis, and to do all we can to work for the good of others. Don’t let the stressors of the world weigh you down. Get the help you need to become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled person you are meant to be.


Cuomo Scandal: Excommunication Isn’t Only Way To Demand Justice

Like so many of my fellow Catholics, I have been truly sickened by the NY Legislature’s passage of the law allowing abortion up to birth.  Worse, the bloodlust is spreading as other states are either passing or considering similar legislation.

In light of the NY law’s passage, most of the public conversation has focused on whether Governor Cuomo could or should be excommunicated.  I would absolutely  support such a canonical response to Cuomo’s advocacy of what I believe are moral (if not legal) crimes against humanity.

Unfortunately, even conservative canonists (most notably, Ed Peters) argue that there is not clear path by which to accomplish this.  Moreover, both Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Scharfenberger (Cuomo’s Ordinary in Albany) have stated that excommunication is not an appropriate response. On top of this, it has been observed that Cuomo is already voluntarily refraining from communion for his illicit relationship with celebrity cook Sandra Lee. It’s not unreasonable to ask what difference piling excommunication on top of this would make.

Missing the Point.

All that said, while I support canonical sanctions, I wonder if all this talk about canon law isn’t missing a larger opportunity. The goal of any initiative cannot be to merely find some punishment to apply.  We need  a long-term, corrective strategy.

Specifically, I think there are several vigorous pastoral responses that could be even more effective than canonical penalties (which often just look like so much inside baseball to all but the most devout). As a pastoral counselor and professor of pastoral studies, I would like to offer a few examples of actions that I think would be appropriate and impactful.  To be clear, I am not necessarily saying that any/all of the following must be done.  Undoubtedly, some of the following ideas are more doable/practical/impactful/appropriate than others.  But I think all are worth considering. More importantly, I would like these ideas to start a conversation about other pastoral initiatives that could be applied to address this crisis.  Remember, being pastoral doesn’t just mean being “nice.”  It means using the tools at one’s disposal to respectfully call people to conversion and build the kingdom of God.  Sometimes that means being gentle.  Sometimes that means being more assertive.  But at all times it means doing what must be done to glorify God and and work for the common good in the face of grave injustice.

Here are my suggestions for getting this conversation started.

*Call It Like It Is–Let’s face it.  This latest initiative isn’t about abortion.  Being permitted to kill a child up to the day before it is born it not abortion.  It is legal infanticide. Pure and simple. As such, every bishop, pastor and lay Catholic should, in media interviews, pastoral letters, prayers of the faithful, and other public communications, refuse to characterize this law as “an expansion of abortion” and refer it–properly–as either “infanticide” or the “legal murder of infants.”

*Mandated Petitions–Until this grave moral injustice is overturned, the bishop of every diocese containing a legislator who voted for this abhorrent law should require that those legislators be named in a petition at every Mass. The specific petition should ask for God’s mercy for the legislator and should ask that God would call that legislator to experience “either a radical conversion of heart and a firm resolve to correct the moral crimes they have committed or that God would facilitate the legislator’s speedy removal from office for their abuse of power in favor of legalized infanticide.”

For example: “Let us pray that God would pour out his mercy and justice on Governor Cuomo (and other legislators in the district):  That he would either experience a radical conversion of heart and resolve to correct the injustice he has committed against the children of New York, or that God would remove him from office in light of his abuse of power and advocacy of legalized infanticide. Let us pray to the Lord.”

It should be required by the bishop that a petition like this would be said at every Mass until the law is overturned.

There should also be a required petition begging for God’s mercy and a conversion of heart for all clergy and laity who have failed, and continue to fail, to promote the cause of life.

*Public Repentance–It isn’t just Cuomo or the other legislators who made this happen.  These lawmakers were put there by voters–many of whom are Catholic.  The blood of these children is on every person who voted for the monsters who made this possible. The bishops whose dioceses incorporate these districts should institute diocesan calls for days of strict fasting, abstinence and other penances. There should not be exceptions made for things like St Patrick’s Day or St Joseph’s Feast Day, etc.  It should be made clear that any person who is capable of participating in these acts of communal penance, but does not participate in them, should refrain from communion.

*Priestly Training and Discipline–The bishops should require each pastor to attend ongoing trainings in pro-life advocacy and teaching the truth about the Catholic vision of love and sexuality. Pro-life initiatives like 40 Days for Life and other programs must be actively encouraged and promoted throughout the diocese.  Each pastor should be required to present the bishop with his plan for directly promoting the pro-life movement in general (as opposed to merely promoting initiatives that might indirectly impact the rights of the unborn), and the overturn of this unjust law (and the conversion/removal of these unjust legislators) in particular. Failure to actively develop and promote such a plan on the parish level should be dealt with as a public act of defiance to one’s bishop.

*Active Promotion of Pro-life Activities And Comprehensive Ethical Education of the Laity–As above.  There should be a doubling-down of efforts to encourage all lay people to become actively involved in advocating for pro-life causes. It should be made clear that–especially in light of this crisis, there is no excuse for anyone to not be actively involved in the fight to overturn abortion and infanticide at every level and for every reason. It must be made clear that this is non-negotiable.  There must also be a comprehensive and serious effort made to educate the laity , not just about  what the church teaches about sexuality but why and to what end.  Quoting catechism verses at people and calling it a day is nonsense, and largely, that’s all the clergy has done. Bishops need to demand that their priests learn and teach there fullness of the truth of Catholic anthropology and morality (again, not just the “what,” but the “why” and to “what end?”)

It is ultimately the failure of the clergy to take this responsibility for the moral education of the laity seriously that has led to this nightmare.

*Symbolic Protests-Every Catholic parish, school, hospital, and institution should be required to fly their flags at half mast in mourning for the legalization of child-murder in the State.  ADDITIONALLY, it should be require the New York State flag to be flown upside down.  Flying a flag upside down is traditionally recognized (in federal law) as  “a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” This practice should continue until the law is overturned and the offending legislators have a conversion of heart or are removed from office for their abuse of power and moral crimes against the common good.

Likewise, I think it would appropriate  for the Bishops Conference to stage a symbolic, public funeral for the “death of the moral conscience of New York.” At this event, then conscience of each legislator who voted for this measure should be symbolically “buried.”

 Talk Amongst Yourselves.

As I said above, some of these ideas may be more or less appropriate, impactful, or workable than others. I don’t mean for this to be an exhaustive list.  My intention is to start a conversation by helping people realize that, in addition to whatever canonical penalties the bishops may or may not ever find the will to apply, there are many other serious, dramatic and effective pastoral initiatives that could be used to respond to this horrific situation.

I would suggest that we, the laity, should not focus our efforts solely on demanding canonical penalties, because we are too easily dismissed as ignorant or reactionary when we do. Plus, they have limited effect even when they are imposed.  Instead, we should demand that the clergy use every canonical and pastoral means at their disposal to address these moral crimes against humanity and fulfill the prophetic mission of their office.  The fact is, the refusal to preach and teach clearly, convincingly, and with conviction on matters of sexual morality is what has led to this horrific state of affairs. We need to demand a comprehensive, pastoral response that calls the legislators and voters in these districts to repentance or removal from office.  We need to make it clear any weaker response from our bishops and pastors will be seen as a radical betrayal of their office and an abdication of their call to teach, govern and sanctify.

Enough is enough.  The blood of the innocents cries out to heaven for justice.  May God have mercy on all of us.



Historic Gathering Seeks Renewal of Catholic Family Life

Image via Shutterstock

The Catholic Family Life Symposium Helps Families Find Time for Christ

Major conference with 30 experts at the University of Notre Dame July 19-21  will discuss the renewal of Catholic family life,

Families are under more pressure than ever today. School, work, social media, drugs, materialism and other issues all challenge each member of the family and make it more difficult to find a spiritual connection. The constraints on time alone make it tough for families to even have dinner together! Catholic families are no different; however, they are called to live differently.

These concerns and more will be addressed by leading experts at the Family Symposium July 19-21 at the University of Notre Dame. This major event is organized by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak of the Pastoral Solutions Institute and sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor, Holy Cross Family Ministries, and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.

More than 30 authorities in the fields of theology, social science and pastoral ministry to families will come together to discuss and answer these questions about Catholic family life July 19-21 at the University of Notre Dame. They will explore how families can encounter Christ in everyday relationships and how to express that experience with each other and in their community.

“As we work to help families live a truly Catholic life, particularly as family, the domestic church, we need to identify what it is that makes a Catholic family different and provide resources to simply and practically live a Catholic family life,” said Dr. Greg Popcak, Director – Pastoral Solutions Institute. “This symposium will address many of these issues and provide tools to help families strengthen their relationships and improve their spiritual well-being.”

Some of the experts scheduled to speak at the Family Symposium include several well-known Catholic family authorities Dr. Greg & Lisa Popcak, Andrew and Terri Lyke, Tim and Sue Muldoon, Julie Rubio, Justin Bartkus, Pat Fagan, Darcia Narvaez, Mark Gray, Joe Atkinson, Julia Dezelski and many others.

Organizers of The Catholic Family Life Symposium will focus on ways families can experience faith in the home with each other and spread that faith into their communities.  The conferences focus will center on:

  • Helping parents and children to understand how to live as a Catholic family.
    Provide best practices that are flexible for all families to live a life of faith.
  • Identify day-to-day life practices so family members can better relate to each other and experience God together.
  • Provide materials that outline spiritual practices that fit with the messiness of family life.
  • Show how the family can change the world working together as family to make a difference.


To gather input from families about what it takes to be a Catholic family in today’s world, a survey had been developed.  Families and professionals are invited to complete the survey.

For more information on the symposium go to: www.cflsymposium.org

YOU Can Make A Difference. We Can Help

The Holy Apostles College online Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree will give you the tools you need to bring God’s grace to a hurting world.

Have you ever felt the desire to…

   –live a more meaningful life?  

   –make a difference?

   –let God lead you in exciting new directions?

If so, the online Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) Program at Holy Apostles College might be just what you have been looking for.

Our faithful, dynamic, convenient, and fully-accredited online master’s degree in pastoral studies will give you the skills you need to bless the Church, build God’s Kingdom, and make a graceful difference in the lives of others.

7 Ministry Concentrations

We offer 7 ministry concentrations to help you discover how God can use you to touch hearts and transform lives.

–Spiritual Direction                             –Pastoral Counseling

–Marriage and Family Studies          –Catechetical Ministry

–Youth & Young Adult Ministry       –Catholic Womens’ Leadership

–General Studies.

Relevant Courses

The MAPS program is designed for people who want to make a difference and live their Catholic faith fully in their life, work, and relationships. Our practical courses have been developed to help you apply your faith to the tough challenges we all face.   As a MAPS learner, you’ll choose from courses like.

-Nurturing the Domestic Church: Facilitating Family Life and Spirituality

Pastoral Counseling 1:  Spiritual Helping and Accompaniment

-Mission and Evangelization                       -Apologetics

-Pastoral Issues in Human Sexuality        -Theology of Social Media

-Spiritual Direction: Skills and Practice   -Catholic Social Teaching

And many others.  All our courses are specially designed to give you the theological insights and practical skills you need to make a difference in your family, parish, diocese, community and the world.  Plus, in every course, you will be encouraged to apply everything you are learning to the specific, ministry work God is calling you to do.

Tailored for Busy Lives

Built with your busy life in mind, the MAPS program consists of only 12 dynamic courses (36 credits).  We are accredited by nationally-recognized authorities such as  NEASC and the Association for Theological Schools to offer our MAPS degree as a fully-online program with no residency requirement.  Take as many or as few courses as you like, learn at home, and learn at your own pace. Your academic advisor will help you design a program that works best for your life today and helps you achieve your goals for tomorrow.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you feel God calling you to do more, we invite you to learn more about how the Holy Apostles College MAPS Program can help you fulfill your calling.   Ready to go?  Apply today to begin your journey!

Pastoral Solutions Seeks Faithful, Catholic Therapists to Join Our Growing Practice.

The Pastoral Solutions Institute (www.CatholicCounselors.com) is looking for experienced, faithful, Catholic therapists to join our growing pastoral behavioral telehealth practice.

Since 1999, Pastoral Solutions has provided pastoral counseling services to Catholic individuals, couples and families around the world via telephone and video-teleconference.  Pastoral Solutions is a recognized leader in the effective and ethical integration of Catholic theology and spirituality with clinical practice.

Our ideal candidate meets the following qualifications.

-Current license for independent practice in counseling, clinical social work, or marriage & family therapy (supervisory credential preferred).

-A faithful Catholic in good standing.

-In addition to his or her clinical degree from an accredited program, the ideal candidate will have a BA, MA, in Catholic theology or pastoral studies or be able to demonstrate the equivalent level of theological preparation/study.

-Gottman Relationship Therapy Training.

-Knowledgeable of clinical applications of attachment theory and/or interpersonal neurobiology

-Experienced in practicing and/or teaching Natural Family Planning.

-Knowledgeable of Theology of The Body

-Familiar with the mission of the Pastoral Solutions Institute and the books published by Institute director, Dr. Gregory Popcak


To apply, please send the following materials to gpopcak@CatholicCounselors.com

  1. In your brief introductory email, BRIEFLY describe your familiarity with attachment theory, the theology of the body and the mission and work of Dr. Greg Popcak
  2. Your current CV.
  3. An 800-1000 word spiritual history describing your religious formation, current prayer-life and spirituality.

Application deadline:  June 15, 2018.

Lent is For Lovers?

So, Ash Wednesday falls on St. Valentine’s Day this year.  What to do?  Well, you could sit around penitentially eating clear broth in heart-shaped bowls, OR you could discover how two great things that don’t seem to go together…really do!

That’s where the Lent is For Lovers program comes in.  The Dominican fathers in Cincinnati developed this wonderful program that has grown from a local outreach to an international ministry that is touching hearts in places as far as Kenya.  Visit the Lent is for Lovers website to discover how, this lent, you can fall even more deeply in love with Christ and your faith.  Here is a reflection on the idea that Lent is For Lovers by the logo’s designer, Jacob Popcak.

When we’re young, we get easily embarrassed by anything too romantic. We blushingly refrain from holding hands, admissions of affection, and more. But as we grow older, we learn that being willing to embarrass ourselves a little for the sake of a lover is key to a happy and successful relationship. We stop caring as much about the possibility that a stranger might think us “uncool” for, say, smooching in public, because this vague threat pales in comparison to the affection we feel for a beloved.

It is with this very same spirit – a willingness to risk unflinching awkwardness in the name of unfailing love – that the Church begins the season of Lent. After all, how many times have we felt self-conscious about parading around wearing ashes on our foreheads? How many times have we taken this annual 40-day period to bring upon ourselves those comparatively mild but wholly voluntary discomforts we call “penances”? We don’t do these things because we get any particular kick out of them – no. We do them for the same reason we risk embarrassment for earthly romance: we’ve chosen to love someone else more than we love our own carefully curated sense of coolness.

How fitting, then, that Ash Wednesday this year falls on Saint Valentine’s Day. For although ashes and sackcloth might seem a strange pairing to roses and lace, the coinciding of the two dates gives us a beautiful chance to reflect. Are we going through the motions of Lent as one would the forced romance of a stale relationship, or are we embracing with sincerity each opportunity for awkward, uncomfortable professions of love, not to just any old Valentine, but to Him whom the Scriptures call our Heavenly Bridegroom?

It was this question that guided me as I designed the logo for our “Lent is for Lovers” initiative. At first glance, we see a classic Valentine; the sort a child might risk his reputation in order to give to his crush. But on closer inspection, we see in the black lace every step of the Stations of the Cross. A jarring juxtaposition, but perhaps more thematically similar than we might immediately assume. It was a moving experience to design the image, and it is my sincere hope that it might serve as a source of inspiration during this Lenten season.

With prayers for an awkward, embarrassing, and deeply loving Lent,

Jacob Popčak

To participate in the online Lent is For Lovers program, visit the website, and discover how much more God wants to reveal his love for you this Lent.