Prayer Power – A New Study Reveals The True Meaning Of “The family That Prays Together, Stays Together.”

We’ve often heard the phrase “The family that prays together, stays together.” While this adage—originally coined by the Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton—has rapidly grown in popularity, the Journal of Family Psychology recently conducted a study to evaluate the true effects of couple and family prayer.

The researchers conducted a national study evaluating 198 diverse families in a manner which viewed family prayer as a ritual within religious families. The results of this study demonstrated seven related themes between couple and family prayer and the connectedness of the individuals.

These themes indicated that couple/family prayer serves as a time of family interaction and togetherness, an opportunity for social support, and a means for passing religious practices among intergenerational family members. Moreover, as couple/family prayer included issues of concern for the individuals, couple/family prayer proved to help reduce relational tension between those praying together, and provided feelings of connectedness, bonding, and unity between the couple and/or family. Lastly, couples and families reported that when they felt disunity within their family, they found it more difficult to pray together.

When families experience this feeling of disunity and difficulty praying together, the results of this study suggested that couples and families increase their practice of rituals such as family meals. The participant results showed that “the place of prayer in family life was interwoven in the context of other naturally occurring rituals,” further stating that, “Perhaps, families may begin by considering family prayer as a family ritual that can become as naturally embedded in family life as are these other rituals. Instead of exclusively focusing on praying together, they may consider improving other family rituals and then extend the family’s ability to come together to naturally participate in family prayer.”

Overall, the results of this study demonstrated that couple and family prayer provided opportunities for togetherness, social support, interaction, and connectedness. As stated by the authors, couple and family prayer provides a ritual that is a “potentially unique pathway to family cohesion.”

For more on how to pray as a couple, check out Praying For (& With) Your Spouse: The Way To Deeper Love and tune in to More2Life—Monday through Friday, 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130!

Overcoming The Resentment Overload

We all know the feeling of resentment. It can grow slowly and then quickly feel overwhelming, or it can hit us all at once. No matter how resentment sneaks up on us, it can be extremely difficult to let go of.

We often feel guilty about resentment and, of course, resentment isn’t something we want to hold on to. But the Theology of the Body teaches that God designed our bodies to work for our good and the good of those around us. If we learn to listen to the ways God is speaking to us through our bodies, we can hear him guiding us on how best to take care of ourselves and other. All of our emotions–including feelings like resentment–are part of our body’s response to our environment. When united to God’s grace, our emotions can give us important information. But what could God possibly be saying to us through resentment?  Well, Theology of the Body tells us that healthy relationships are mutually self-donative. That is, a healthy relationship can only exist when both people are doing everything they can to take care of each other. Resentment is the feeling we get when we feel like we are giving more to the relationship than the other person is. Resentment is a warning light on the relationship dashboard that asks us to check if our relationship is really still mutually self-donative or, if somehow, we are allowing ourselves to be treated more like an object than a person. Understood properly, resentment shouldn’t lead us to pout or withdraw, it should lead us to do healthy things like express our needs, or ask for help, or clarify the other person’s intentions. If we deal with our resentment gracefully, it will help us make sure that each person in the relationship is giving as much as they can to protect the health of the relationship and doing as much as they can to look out for the wellbeing of each person in the relationship.

What can we do to truly be able to overcome resentment?

Name the Need–The first thing to do if you are feeling resentful is to identify and name the need that isn’t being met. Do you need help? Do you need a little TLC? Could you use help getting a break? Is there a problem between you and another person that needs to be resolved? Resentment tends to occur when a need sits on the shelf too long and it starts to spoil. Instead of beating up on yourself for feeling resentful, bring your resentment to God. Say, “Lord, help me to name the need that is feeding my resentment and help me to address it in a way that glorifies you and makes my relationships healthier.” Once you know what the need is, you can make a plan to meet it instead of letting it continue to spoil on the shelf, feeding that growing sense of resentment.

Speak the Need–Sometimes, even when we have identified a need, we have a hard time feeling like it’s OK to meet it. We tell ourselves, “We shouldn’t have to ask for help.” Or, “I shouldn’t have to say anything about this.” Remember, the theology of the body tells us that the voice of God speaks to us through our bodies. If you are feeling resentful, God is asking you to find a healthy, godly way to meet an unmet need and make your relationships healthier and stronger. Trying to talk yourself out of meeting that need is like trying to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit! Once you’ve identified the need that is feeding your resentment, it’s time to make a plan to meet it. Go to the people around you and say, “I really need your help with X.” Don’t worry if they aren’t receptive at first. Be confident in the need that God is asking you to address. Remember, healthy, godly relationships are mutually self-donative. Sometimes that means that we have to be willing to stretch ourselves a little bit to work for each other’s good. That’s not always fun, but it’s always good. Give the people in your life the opportunity to stretch themselves a little for you. Don’t let doubts about others rob them of the opportunity to learn to love you as much as you love them.

Get Help to Meet the Need–Sometimes, even when we have tried our best, getting our needs met can be…complicated. If you find that you can’t stop feeling resentful no matter what you do, or if you are struggling to actually identify your needs in the first place,  or articulate them in ways that the people in your life can actually hear and respond to, it’s time to get some new skills. Don’t give into the temptation of thinking that there is nothing you can do just because you can’t figure our what to do on your own. Remember, if God is calling your attention to a need, God has a plan for meeting it. Talk to a faithful professional counselor who can help you learn how to cooperate with God’s plan for meeting the unmet needs that are feeding your resentment.

To learn more about overcoming resentments check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts! Making Peace with Difficult People and be sure to tune in to More2Life—Monday through Friday, 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130.

If you are looking for a faithful professional counselor, contact Pastoral Solutions Institute at 740-266-6461 or visit us at CatholicCounselors.com.

Healing From Old Hurts

Forgiveness is a common subject. We frequently hear “inspirational” quotes about forgiveness and letting go. But what does forgiveness and letting go really mean and what steps do we need to take to truly be able to heal from past hurts?

Forgive–Forgiving doesn’t mean pretending “everything’s OK” or acting as if more healing doesn’t need to take place. St Augustine said that forgiveness simply requires us to surrender our natural desire for revenge. To forgive someone just means that you are going to refuse to be defined by the injuries you have suffered at their hands, and that you are refusing to make things worse by hurting them for having hurt you. Forgiveness allows something other than our pain to come into existence. It allows the possibility for healing to occur. The first step in letting go of old hurts is choosing to forgive the other person by refusing to be defined by your pain and choosing to get on with letting God’s grace heal your heart and any other damage that might have been caused by the other person’s actions.

Focus on Healing Not Hurting–Sometimes, even after we’ve forgiven someone, it can be hard to heal. Sometimes, we can even fall a little in love with being the victim. Holding on to victimhood sounds bad, but it can feel good, because it makes us feel like we’re on the winning team of us against the world. But this is an illusion that separates us from God’s healing grace. You don’t have to deny the pain you feel from those old hurts. You just have to focus on taking the next step in healing those hurts. When those injuries come up, instead of nursing them, ask yourself, “What’s one small thing I can do right now to heal myself or this relationship? What’s one small step I can take to regain what was taken from me or heal what was broken in me?”  Then do that thing. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, seek guidance from a faithful mentor, spiritual director or pastoral counselor. Either way, the key to letting go of old hurts isn’t found in pretending they don’t exist or in wallowing in them. It is found in making a plan to let God’s healing grace into your heart so that you can not only restore what lost, but so that you can rise up to new heights through God’s mercy and his healing love.

Cultivate Joy–Cultivating joy in the face of old hurts doesn’t mean putting on a happy face and denying your problems. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the quality we achieve by doing everything we can to cooperate with God’s grace to live a more meaningful, intimate, and virtuous life.  Living more meaningfully means doing whatever we can to use our gifts, talents, and abilities to make a positive difference in our lives and the world around us. Living more intimately means doing whatever we can to make our relationships healthier and deeper. Living more virtuously means asking how we can use whatever life throws at us as our opportunity to become stronger, healthier, godlier people. The more we respond to our pain by throwing ourselves into cultivating meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue, the more we cooperate with God’s desire to give us joy in place of the hurt.

For more on how to heal from past hurts check out The Life God Wants You To Have and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN SiriusXM channel 130.

Be Still My Anxious Heart

Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be a creeping whisper or an overwhelming feeling. No matter how it presents itself, the feeling of anxiety can be intrusive and disruptive to our daily lives. So how do we calm our anxious hearts?

Theology of the Body reminds us that anxiety is not God’s will for us. Before the Fall, even though Adam and Eve were completely vulnerable, they were confident in God’s care and their love for one another. Only AFTER the Fall, when they were separated from God, each other, and themselves did they feel exposed, ashamed, and ANXIOUS. Confronted by the bigness of the world and their own sense of smallness and insufficiency when separated from God they hid cowering behind the bushes. How often do we feel that way. TOB reminds us that while worry and anxiety are common enough experiences in the modern world, the answer to our worries is to recenter ourselves in the loving arms of ABBA, daddy, the Father who loves us, cares for us, and shelters us from the storms of life–especially when we feel alone, scared, and helpless.  That’s why Pope Saint John Paul II, was constantly reminding us “Be Not Afraid.” Yes, the task before us is great, but God’s love and providence is greater. In the face of life’s battles, let our battle cry be, “ Jesus I trust in You!”

Here are three More2Life hacks for combating anxiety:

Focus on the Right Target–Resist the temptation to think that your anxiety is caused by all the things going on around you or happening to you–the overwhelming amount of work that has to be done, the weight of all your responsibilities, the problems that you face. Yes, these are real things that need to be taken seriously, but they can’t cause anxiety in and of themselves. Anxiety is created in us when we let external events distract us from the need to maintain our internal sense of wellbeing. If you are feeling anxious, it is not because you have too much to do or too many problems to face. It is because you are forgetting to take care of yourself in the face of those responsibilities and problems. Instead of focusing exclusively on all the external things that need to be addressed, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to take care of myself while I handle these situations?  How will I pace myself?  How can I approach these challenges in a way that will allow me to stay reasonably cheerful and connected to the people that I love? How will I face all the things I have to deal with in a way that allows me to be my best self–mentally, physically and spiritually?” Don’t brush these questions aside and say, “I can’t worry about that. I have too much to do!” It is exactly that tendency that causes anxiety. Remember, you can’t solve any problem or accomplish any task well if you are allowing yourself to get rattled, sick, hostile, and stressed. The MOST important job you have to do is make sure you are keeping your head and health about you even while you handle all the things life is throwing at you.

Tame the Tornado–When we’re worried and anxious, our mind spins between “I have to get control of this!” and “There’s nothing I can do!” Tame this mental tornado not by focusing on the ultimate solution, but merely the next step. What is the next tiny step you can take that nudges you toward a satisfying resolution, gathers new resources, and enlists more support? If you can refocus enough to identify the next step, then the next, and the next, God will help you tame the tornado in your mind and help you find the answers–and the peace–you seek. Don’t try to solve the whole problem at once. Focus your mind on addressing the next tiny step in front of you and then celebrating that small success. The more you concentrate on breaking big problems down into bite-sized pieces and celebrating the little successes you achieve along the way, the more your peace will increase.

Recall God’s Mercy–We often get anxious because we allow the stress of this moment to obliterate our memories of all the other things we’ve been through, all the other times God saved us, supported us, and carried us even though we thought we were overwhelmed, doomed, or done for. Before throwing yourself into this next pile or problems, take a moment to remind yourself of all the past times in your life when you felt overwhelmed, stressed, defeated, and not up to the task and remember how God helped you make it through all those past times, even when you weren’t sure how you were going to do it. Chances are, at least some of those situations turned out really well. At the very least, you made it through. In both cases, God was present and he provided for you. Remind yourself that this time isn’t any different. God loves you. He has demonstrated his love to you by delivering you from your troubles and overwhelming responsibilities time and time again. Bring that love with you into this latest challenges. When you start feeling anxious, take a moment to close your eyes, thank God for all the times he has carried you through your past worries and ask him for the grace to face the challenges in front you with courage and peace. The more you remember to intentionally recenter yourself in God’s mercy, providence, and grace–especially in the middle of all the craziness–the more your peace will increase.

For more on how to calm the anxiety in your heart, tune in to More2Life—weekdays 10am E/9am C on SiriusXM 130 or check out God Help Me This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy!

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Dealing with Jekyll and Hyde

It seems like you are best friends one day and total enemies the next. We all have those people in our lives—friends, family members, co-workers, bosses, you name it—who lash out at us and then pretend like nothing ever happened. Although this Jekyll and Hyde type of personality is not uncommon, it can still be difficult to know how to handle gracefully.

Theology of the Body reminds us that, in all things, the Christians’ responsibility is to love others; that is, to work for the good of other people. That remains true even when it’s hard or costs us personally to do it.  The Jekylls and Hydes in our life don’t like to be called on their behavior, but we aren’t being loving–that is, we aren’t working for their good–if we just play their game and pretend that nothing ever happened. Bearing wrongs patiently is the right thing to do IF an offender recognizes what they have done wrong and are trying–on their own–both to take responsibility for their actions and get the help they need to make real changes.  In these cases, to call further attention to their bad behavior is to just to rub salt in their wounds.  But when a person refuses to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong, or worse, wants to pretend nothing ever happened so that they can keep acting that way, it’s time to use a different spiritual work of mercy and admonish the sinner.  Even if the verbally abusive person would rather just ignore what they have done, we have a responsibility, in love,  to gently, but persistently insist that they change their unacceptable behavior.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for dealing with those Jekyll and Hyde personalities in your life:

1.  It’s Not Over Until YOU Say It Is–As we mentioned earlier, Jekylls and Hydes want permission to lash out whenever their feelings get the best of them but then pretend that nothing ever happened when they feel calmer.  Just remember, they can only get away with this if you let them.  The fact is, no conversation is over until YOU feel that your needs and concerns have been adequately addressed.  It doesn’t matter that the other person doesn’t want to deal with it. You have a responsibility to be loving–to work for the good of others–even when it is hard.  Assuming you are not fearing for your physical safety (in which case, you need to be making plans to get yourself to safety) the most loving thing you could do when the abusive person comes back to you is to say, “I’m glad to see that you are in a better place, but we’re not ready to move on until you can tell me how you are going to handle the times you get upset with me differently because unless I know that you have healthier ways to manage your anger, you aren’t a safe person to be around.”  They won’t want to hear it, but that doesn’t matter.  Insist, in love, that they be willing to address their problem behavior with you and get whatever help they might need to make it stop for good.

2. Don’t Settle for the Magic Words–Many people who struggle to hold Jekylls and Hydes accountable feel obliged to accept even the most poutily offered, “I’m sorry, alright?!?” as a genuine apology. They know that the verbally abusive person doesn’t mean it, but they feel like it would be mean to hold the abusive person responsible once they have said the magic words.  This is nonsense.  A genuine apology requires that your  offender be able to empathize with how badly they hurt you, they they acknowledge that you have a right to expect that they do better (instead of trying to tell you that the REAL problem is that you’re just too sensitive) and, most importantly, that they are willing to sit down with you to make a plan so that the offending behavior doesn’t happen again.  If the verbally abusive person in your life is unwilling to do any of these three things, they aren’t really sorry and you cannot let them off the hook.  Don’t settle for the magic words.  Keep working for their good and the good of your relationship by insisting that they be willing to work with you to make a real plan for change.

3. Get Support–It can be hard to hold a verbally abusive person accountable.  They will try to make you feel guilty.  They will try to turn the tables on you and say that it’s REALLY your fault. They will accuse you of being unforgiving and unchristian.  If you feel your resolve flagging in the face of these attacks, don’t give in. Get help. Reach out to a trained pastoral counselor who can help you be loving, confident and firm in your effort to set appropriate limits with the Jekylls and Hydes in your life.  The fact is, we teach people how to treat us.  If you are not satisfied with the way people are treating you and you don’t know how to change the situation, you need to get help to learn what to do differently.  Verbally abusive people CAN control their behavior when it suits them.  Learn how to be the kind of person it takes to let the Jekylls and Hydes in your life know that they need to be on their best behavior around you.

For more on how to handle difficult relationships check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts! and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139!

Tending the Fire—Hey Married Couples, Here are 3 Ways to Keep The Spark Alive!

God gave us the gift of marriage so men and women could learn to truly cherish each other and feel loved, supported and treasured in each other’s arms.  In Christian marriage, especially, passion and romance shouldn’t feel like an optional add-on. But some days, it can feel more difficult than others to cultivate that peace and romance in your relationship, especially with all the distractions and pressures of life getting in the way.

On top of this, we Christians have a rather ambivalent relationship with romance. We tend to think of it either as a Hollywood invention that we should be suspicious of, or as something that couples do in the early stages of the relationship that should just naturally fall away in a more mature love.  But the Theology of the Body reminds us that marriage is a sacrament, in part, because the world needs to be reminded that God’s love for us is a passionate love. By first dedicating the passionate and romantic dimensions of their marriage to God and then intentionally cultivating those dimensions of their love for one another, a husband and wife remind, first, each other, and then the world, that God doesn’t just love us “from a distance” or “as a group.” Rather, He cherishes us personally and passionately, loving us with a free, total, faithful, and fruitful love that never fails. Like love of the bridegroom for the bride in the Song of Songs, God’s love is an all-consuming fire that proclaims, “You are precious to me and I desire all of you.”

By keeping the following More2Life Hacks in mind, having a truly romantic, passionate marriage doesn’t have to be a daily struggle!

1.Make Your Romance a Prayer–It can be hard to love each other the way God wants us too, and that is doubly true when it comes to expressing romantic love. The first step to keeping the spark alive in a Christian marriage is making your romance a prayer. Each day, take a moment with your spouse and, in your own words, pray something like this, “Lord, I give you all the love I feel in my heart for my spouse–all my desire, all my longing. Help me to love my mate with the love that comes from your heart. Help me look for little ways throughout the day that I can make my spouse feel desired and cherished, so that my spouse will know how precious they are–both to you and to me.” Then follow up on that prayer, knowing that every time you do some little, loving, romantic act for your spouse that day, you are making your marriage a prayer, by communicating how precious your spouse is, not only to you, but to God.

2.Make Romance a Daily Event–Don’t save romance for date night. Make it an integral, intentional part of your daily lives. Tell your spouse, “I love you.” Say it, text it, leave little notes about it. No, you don’t have to be dramatic, but it’s ok to make at least a little fuss. Is your spouse special to you? Are you glad they are in your life? Find some little way to show them today. Right now. Don’t let the moment pass. Give them a meaningful hug or kiss. Make a point of sitting next to each other (instead of across the room). Make a favorite meal or a special treat.  Bring home a small token of your affection. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. It’s really the thought that counts. Just find tiny ways throughout the day to say, “In the middle of my crazy, busy, day, I just wanted you to know that I’m still thinking about you, and I’m glad you’re mine.”

3.Guard Your Spouse’s Heart–Nothing kills romance faster than little criticisms, petty sniping, or jokes at your spouse’s expense. Guard your spouse’s heart. Be gentle when they make mistakes. When you see them struggling, instead of criticizing or poking fun, offer to help. Find things to give them sincere compliments about. Remind them what they’re good at. In a world filled with people who want to tear your spouse down, be the one person your partner can count on to make them feel safe, special, and appreciated. Research shows that the most romantic couples maintain a 20:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. They make a point of being 20 times more complimentary, encouraging, supportive, affirming, and affectionate than they are criticizing, complaining, or argumentative. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It just takes a little mindfulness. Think before you speak, and ask yourself if what you are about to say says, “I think you’re an idiot.” or, “I think you’re special–even when you aren’t perfect.”

For more information on keeping the spark alive in your marriage, check out Holy Sex! and tune in to More2Life, Monday-Friday—10am E/9am C—on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 139.

Fear, Men, and The Locked Doors of Our Hearts

Guest post by Dave McClow, Pastoral Solutions Institute

Men are more wired to assess threats than women; maybe that is partly why the disciples hid in fear behind locked doors after Jesus’ crucifixion (see John 20:19-23).  Fear perceives the other as the enemy.  Fear underlies all sin—any attack on the dignity of the human person.  It becomes a problem when we fear the wrong people—like our spouses and kids.  It is not a new problem, since it dates back to the Garden of Eden and the Fall.  In fear, Adam and Eve covered themselves when they understood they could take advantage of each other, and they hid from God in the bushes.

Because God is love, we are a religion of love, as demonstrated by the greatest commandment and a new commandment.  Fear is the opposite of love: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  “Be not afraid” is a thread running throughout Scripture.  And it was a motto, of sorts, of St. John Paul II.

The Locked Doors of Our Hearts

The disciples lived in fear of the Jews, having locked the doors, and it was evening…isn’t this usually when our fears come out?  When we feel fear, we often lock the doors of our hearts, even to loving people, including Jesus.  So what hides behind the locked doors of your hearts?

Jesus appears to the disciples behind those locked doors.  He starts with “Peace be with you,” showing them his hands and side.  I am sure he does this to identify himself; but beyond that, he leads with his wounds.  This is an interesting leadership style, worthy of reflection in a culture that peddles “Never let them see you sweat.”  This motto, ironically, is a perpetual prescription to live in fear of exposure and…to sweat!

Jesus never imposes himself on us.  So we must invite him behind those locked doors of our hearts, where everything is bound and loosed (CCC 2843), into the ugliness where our fears, wounds, and sins have reigned.  For many men, this ugliness is the sin of pornography.  Fear and shame keep us from inviting him in. Satan is the Accuser, but he transfers this job to us, and we tend to cooperate by accusing ourselves!  The Devil’s name means “to separate,” especially from God and others; and separation results from self-accusation.  Freedom is found only in God’s presence.

How Does Jesus Come? 

Once invited, Jesus does not come as a King to judge in power, but as the King who heals—the wounded healer who leads with his wounds.  He comes as Priest to link our fearful hearts to his Father of love, or to Love’s second name, Mercy.  He comes as Prophet not to speak harsh words in love, but to speak the truth of Love Itself to the lies of our fearful hearts.

I imagine him entering my heart, absorbing my fears, pain, and darkness into the wounds in his hands.  But it is not enough to “sweep the house clean,” leaving it vulnerable; it must be filled!  So I imagine the wound in his side that gushed forth the water and blood of our Baptism and the Eucharist, pouring forth his love and mercy, filling the empty space with the fullness of God (cf. Eph. 3:14-21)!  Sometimes I don’t even know what his wounds are absorbing; I just know I calm down and am no longer fearful, and I feel grateful.  And I rejoice as the disciples do!

Loved and Now Challenged!

But he is not done! He continues, “Peace be with you.”  Each time, I understand this more.  Then he stuns with, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  It means we must receive God’s love, as Jesus does—the Father gives himself totally, without reservation, to his Son, an echo of which is heard when the prodigal’s father tells his older son, “Everything I have is yours.”  We are loved first, now challenged.  We must work from love, never for love.

Jesus is sent as priest, prophet, and king, so we are sent as priest, prophet, and king.  We are baptized and made gods—not just adopted, but made sons of the Father through a nature change.  Then we are strengthened with other sacraments.

He is still not done! In his overwhelming generosity, Jesus breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”—Love himself.  Of course the apostles receive a special authority to bind and loose here, but we are also given the Holy Spirit and must receive him to fulfill the challenge of love!

We fear being unlovable in our sins.  So the Father sends his Son in love as priest, prophet, and king.  We must invite him behind the locked doors of our hearts into those shame-filled rooms.  By his wounds, he leads and heals us to receive his peace.  Then he sends us out with the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet, and king to love others as spiritual fathers!  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Faithful Families, Faithful Kids—What It Takes to Raise Children to Own Their Faith

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According to recent research, 74% of surveyed adults said that they left Catholicism between the ages of 10 and 20 years old. With these harsh statistics, we might wonder if there is anything parents can do to effectively and joyfully raise our kids to be the next generation of faithful Catholics. The good news is, we can.

Theology of the Body reminds us that family life is the school of love and virtue, it is where we learn and practice all the qualities that help us live life as a gift. As parents, if we want to raise faithful kids, we need to do more than just take them to church, send them to Catholic schools, or teach them facts about faith and morals. We need to lead them into a meaningful, personal, relationship with Our Lord. Our children need to encounter Jesus as another member of the family–the most important member of the family who is the source of the warmth and love in our home. We need to show our children that Christ is not just present at Church or even just in family prayer time, but that he is present at the heart of mealtimes, family rituals, that we recognize him as the source of our blessings and the source of our strength in challenging times. And we need to show them how to develop a meaningful, personal prayer life that allows them to have a real encounter with God’s love. It’s a tall order, but God gives us the grace to do it. It all begins with asking God to help us be the parents our children need us to be and to help then encounter his love in their relationship with us.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for raising faithful kids:

Be A Disciple—A study by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) demonstrated that over 90% of Catholic parents pray individually, but only 17% of Catholic parents pray with their kids. Raising faithful kids means showing them how to encounter Christ in a personal way, and that means discipling them to have a personal prayer life.  How can you do that?  At least once a day, sit down with your kids. Teach them to close their eyes, to see Jesus, and to talk to him like they would talk to the person that knows them best and loves them the most. Help them thank God for the good things that happened that day. Teach them how to ask God for help with the challenges of their day. Remind them to pray for others, and help them ask God for the grace to become the loving, graceful people he created them to be. Let them imagine God holding them close in his arms, and have them tell God they love him.  Just 10 minutes a day can give your kids a lifelong, meaningful relationship with Christ.

Give Your Kids A Mission–Raising caring kids means helping them see that they are on a mission to use every moment as an opportunity to become the person God is calling them to be.  Ask your kids to think about the qualities they want to be known for: responsible, thoughtful, loving, joyful, etc. Lead them in praying that God would help them find opportunities each day to exhibit those qualities with friends, family, and in their responsibilities.  Finally, each day–at dinner or bedtime–ask them to share examples of when they tried to live those qualities out. Ask them to think about opportunities they might have to exhibit those qualities at home or in school tomorrow.  Teach them to remember that God wants to use them to make a difference in the lives of those around him and give them a chance to reflect on the ways God is using them to show his love to the world.

Make God A Member of the Family–Create strong family rituals like family meals, game night, family days, family meetings, celebrations and other times like this, AND INVITE GOD TO PARTICIPATE.  Start your times together with a brief prayer.  Thank God for the love you have in your home.  Ask him for the grace to love each other even better.  Ask him to bless this time you are spending with each other and to be present to you as you work, play, talk, and pray as a family. In the presence of your kids, acknowledge that God is responsible for togetherness you feel and that he is constantly working to draw each of you closer to each other, and to him.  Make God a member of the day-to-day life of your family, and let him be the source of the warmth in your home.

For more tips on how you can raise faithful kids, pick up a copy of Discovering God Together and tune in to More2Life—10am E/9 am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.

Frustrated With Your Kids? – 3 Tips for More Joyful, Effective Parenting

shutterstock_390805201Parenting is a tough job. Kids really know how to push our buttons.  Often, we just feel lucky if we can make it through the day losing our minds.  The good news is that there is a way to reclaim your sanity as a parent, to get a handle on all the chaos, get your kids to listen, and start to enjoy your role as a parent.  Honest!

Theology of the Body reminds us that families are schools of love and virtue where we all learn to live life as a gift, and that parents are the most important teachers in this school of love. Catholic parents are empowered through God’s grace in the sacrament of marriage to do more than just “get through the day” with our kids. The world needs loving, responsible, godly people and God asks his faithful couples to give the word what it needs. The more we can approach parenting in a thoughtful, intentional, graceful manner, the more we are able to fulfill our mission as Catholics–to let God change the world through our families by raising the next generation of faithful, courageous, loving, responsible, and godly men and women. It’s a tough job, but God gives us the grace to do it.

Want to be a more joyful, grace-filled parent?  Start practicing the following tips today.

Remember To Lead–When you’re correcting your kids, only 5% of your energy should be focused on what they did wrong.  The other 95% should be focused on leading your children to a better place. Before you correct your kids, ask yourself, “What does my child need to handle this situation better next time?” Put your energy into teaching those skills. Punishments don’t work. Teaching does. Using techniques like do-overs, role-playing, time-in (i.e. bringing your child to you to help him or her calm down), cool-downs, and other loving guidance approaches to discipline focus on giving your kids the skills they need to succeed next time–instead of shaming them for failing this time. Lead your children to virtue by showing them a better way to express their emotions, communicate their needs, accomplish their goals, get along with others, and manage their stress. The more energy you put into teaching instead of punishing, the quicker your kids’ behavior will improve overall and the less stressed you’ll be!

Celebrate Success–Tell your kids when they handle a situation well by acknowledging the virtue they displayed.  You don’t have to throw a parade–in fact, it’s much better if you don’t–but simple comments like, “That was really responsible.”, “You handled that really respectfully.”,  “That was very generous.” “That was a very loving choice.” and similar comments help kids understand that virtues aren’t just a list of words to memorize, but a practical guide for handling life’s ups and downs with grace. Believe it or not, kids want to be good, and they desperately crave your approval. By remarking on all the ways that exhibiting virtues help them manage their emotions, express their needs, negotiate stressful situations, and get along with others, you are showing your kids that they already have what it takes to do the right thing AND you’re making them want to get even better at it. Celebrate your kids’ successful efforts to display virtue by letting them know you saw what they did and that you are proud of them for doing it.

Fill the Tank–There is a fuel that drives good behavior. Don’t forget to fill the tank. Both research and generations of wise parents will tell you that extravagant affection is the fuel that makes kids want to behave and try harder to please you. Research shows that affection is actually communication. Taking time to hold your kids close all throughout the day actually helps them reset their heart rate, respiration, body temp and other bodily rhythms when they are feeling stressed, frustrated, angry, anxious, or overwhelmed.  Affectionate parents literally incline their children’s hearts to them, and make their kids naturally turn to their parents for guidance and comfort. Yes, you will still need to teach your kids what to do but affection is the fuel that makes correction work.

For more information on how you can practice graceful parenting, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids! and make sure to tune in to More2Life — Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.

Practically Perfect in Every Way – Three More2Life Hacks for Overcoming Perfectionism

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In the age of social media, self-criticism and perfectionism are more prominent than ever. We continue to become increasingly focused on being “perfect”: having the perfect physique, having the perfect job, or keeping the perfect house. In reality, however, this striving for “perfection” simply makes us increasingly unhappy as we lose focus of what we are really working towards.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve ourselves, but both theology and science show us that it is a mistake to believe that we can somehow mentally force ourselves into perfection.

Theology of the Body reminds us that God’s plan for us is written in the design of our bodies. Brain science shows that the more self-critical we are, the more our brains lock down and become resistant to change. It’s actually self-acceptance that creates the chemistry necessary for new neural connections to form.  Ultimately, it’s important to remember that while none of us is perfect, it is God’s love that perfects us.  We are destined to be, as Jesus puts it, “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” God does not expect us to get there on our own.  TOB teaches us that it only by cultivating a receptive posture to God’s love and grace that we are able to be transformed from the inside out through an authentic encounter with God’s love.  Perfection doesn’t come from flogging ourselves to be better. It comes from letting God love us and learning to see ourselves as he sees us–works in progress, certainly–but on the road, by his love and grace, to becoming the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we are meant to be.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for preventing perfectionism from taking its toll on you:

Mind Your Mind–Beating yourself up, feeling “not good enough,” engaging in  self criticism are all signs that your brain is overheating. Brain science shows that giving into these behaviors actually makes the brain resistant to change as it locks down in the face of a perceived threat.  When you hear that inner-critic ramping up, don’t try to challenge those thoughts directly at first.  Instead, remind yourself that self-criticism is just a symptom of the real problem–trying to do too much, too fast.  Give yourself permission to slow down, to create more realistic goals, and make a more realistic plan.  Remind yourself that jobs take the time they take.  Getting mad at them, or yourself, doesn’t alter time.  It just makes you less able to make good time by making you less efficient and less effective.

Deadline and Done–Perfectionistic people have a hard time just walking away. They always feel like they have to add just a little more or review it just one more time. A better approach is to pretend that you are on one of those reality shows where you have a certain amount of time to complete a task and when the clock runs down you have to step away and be done.  Whether you are working on a particular project or trying to plan your day, give yourself what you think will be a reasonably generous amount of time to accomplish your tasks, but when that time hits, walk away.  You can always come back to it some other time if you need to.  But for today? Be done! Perfectionistic people tend to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Setting an arbitrary deadline allows you to step back and gain perspective.  If a particular project really needs a little more effort, then it will still be there tomorrow. For now, move on to other things–like taking a break to connect with the people who love you and can remind you that you are a person, not a machine.

What’s the Point?  Perfectionism is almost always a faulty means to achieve some deeper end.  We WANT love, approval, validation, acceptance, peace, but we PURSUE being a perfect employee, a perfect parent, a perfect homemaker, a perfect…whatever.  But the harder we work at being perfect, the further we get from satisfying the real emotional need driving our perfectionism.  Ask yourself what the point of your perfectionism really is.  Take some time in prayer to reflect on what you are trying to accomplish–emotionally and spiritually–by being so self-critical and task oriented?  When you find yourself giving into the temptation to perfectionism, remind yourself what you are REALLY looking for, and ask yourself what you would need to do to get that?  If you honestly don’t know, then it’s time to seek some help so that you can step off the hamster wheel and start getting your needs met instead of constantly running but never getting anywhere.

For more information on how to strive to be the person God meant you to be, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart, and tune in to More2Life Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.