Is Technoference Affecting Your Family?


We often hear how children’s overuse of smartphones and other devices is responsible for a host of problems including academic underperformance and social impairment.  But if you’re a parent, did you ever stop to think that your smartphone use might be causing your kids to act out?

A new study discovered that 48% of parents report technology disrupting time with their children such as during meals, playtime, or other activities more than three times a day, while only 11% of parents said this never occurs. This kind of disruption in personal time is referred to as “technoference,” the way technology use interrupts or distracts us from being fully present to the individuals around us.

The study indicated that, “As technoference increased, so did children’s behavioral problems, such as whining, sulking, restlessness, temper tantrums and acting out.” Likewise, children’s own technological use increased as their parents’ use increased. The researchers noted that “even low and seemingly normative amounts of technoference were associated with greater child behavior problems.”

While technology can be helpful, and the use of technology is often necessary, it is also important to have designated times in which parents and children alike put away their devices and spend quality time with one another. Parents should be especially mindful of avoiding technoference during family meals, playtime, game nights, or other bonding activities.

Kids grow up fast.  Cherish your time with them.  That cat meme will still be there after they go to bed.

For these and other parenting tips, check out Parenting With Grace: The Catholic Guid to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids! and tune in to More2Life weekdays, 10am E/9am C on SiriusXM 139.

Unsupported? Simple Tips to Get The Help You Need


Feeling overwhelmed is something that we all experience all too often. Our “to-do” lists are seemly endless between work, home life, family life, relationships, and every other commitment or obligation we may have. Because of this, it becomes very easy for us to fall into the mindset of “I have to get everything done!” and we feel like “everything is up to us” which hinders us from getting the help we need.

Furthermore, sometimes, we struggle to open up to the help that’s available because “it’s just easier to do it by ourselves.”  And other times, we know we need help, but we’re not sure how to ask for it, or if it’s even worth it. However, Theology of the Body reminds us that we’re never alone. We were created for communion. By helping each other and opening up to the help that others are able to offer, we grow together and support each other in becoming everything we were meant to be. We should never hesitate to ask for help or, for that matter, offer help when given the chance. Mutual service is the heart of creating a community of love.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for getting the help you need:

Recognize You Need Help–Sometimes it’s hard to know that we need help. We get so caught up in “just getting through this” that we don’t notice that we’re getting further and further in over our heads. If you are starting to feel harried or resentful, those are your emotions’ way of telling you it’s time to ask for help. Whether you are struggling with keeping up with the house work or having a hard time working through a marriage or family problem, resist the temptation to just keep pushing through. Instead, ask yourself, “what kind of support would help me get through this situation more gracefully?” Even if it’s difficult to arrange for that kind of help right now, identifying the help or support that you need allows you to start looking for ways to get more of that kind of support in the future.

No One Is A Mind-Reader!–Often we don’t ask for help because we assume it’s so obvious that we need it that if other people aren’t offering, they must either be too busy or just uninterested in helping us. People can’t read minds! If you need help, you need to ask for it! Remember, Theology of the Body reminds us that there are two ways to be generous; by helping people, and by allowing people to use their gifts to help us. Don’t you feel good when you can make a difference in someone else’s life? Well, give someone the gift of feeling good about making a difference in yours. No, that doesn’t justify being a “user” but it does remind us that we’re not meant to struggle alone. You have a right to ask for–and expect to get– the help you need.

Keep At It–Sometimes it can be hard to get the support we need even when we ask for it.  Sometimes that help isn’t readily available. Other times, people are reluctant to help. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means you’re doomed to keep feeling like it’s all up to you. Instead, bring the situation to God, and ask him for the strength to keep seeking the help you need to overcome the particular challenge you are facing. God did not mean for us to struggle alone. He wants you to get the help you need to thrive. Don’t stop looking for ways to either find the right help or hold accountable the people who are meant to help you. Remember the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge. The widow only got the judge to help her because she persisted to the point of driving him mad. If we need help, have the courage to persevere in asking for it until you get it.

For more insight into getting the help you’ve been looking for, check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts!, tune into More2Life Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on SiriusXM 139, or check out our tele-counseling services at

Are Cola Wars Killing YOUR Marriage?


We all have our preferred brands: Our favorite kind of soda, our favorite brand of ice cream, or even our favorite type of laundry detergent. But did you know that our personal brand preferences can have a serious effect on our relationships and even cause divorce? It’s not as silly as it sounds.

A new study conducted at Duke University reveals that “preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.” Researchers discovered that the more powerful or influential partner in the relationship usually determines what brands the couple uses, however this can have a negative effect on the happiness of the lower power, or less influential, partner. Power, in this case, is indicated by an individual’s ability to shape or influence their partners’ behavior. Because of this, the less powerful partner usually loses out on buying his or her preferred brand, which could cause increased levels of unhappiness long term.

In other words, when one partner is consistently choosing their preferred brands without considering your preferences it can lead you to feel uncared for and undervalued.  Plus, since these are such little things, no one wants to make a big fuss about it, so the petty resentments can pile up into one big mountain of, “You ALWAYS get EVERYTHING you want! When do I get MY turn?”

Take heart, however, because knowledge is power. With this information about brand influence, we have options for how to negotiate this potential problem. First, we can talk to our partner and learn to compromise. For example, one week we will buy Diet Coke and the next week we will buy Diet Pepsi. Second, we can adopt new preferred brands. For example, instead of buying either of the originally preferred brands of cereal, we can go to the store with our partner and find a cereal we both enjoy. The point is, the devil really is in the details.  Even though any one of these micro-conflicts is no big deal, a little thoughtfulness, over the long haul, goes a long way. Taking small steps like these can have a big impact on the overall health, well-being, and happiness of our relationships.

For more tips on how to have a happy and healthy relationship, check out When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love or contact us at Pastoral Solutions Institute on the phone (740.266.6461) or online at

5 Key Ways to Prepare for Spiritual Direction


Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

Spiritual direction is a great way to grow closer to Jesus Christ and His Church. This is particularly true when there is a good “fit” between the director and directee. That said, simply going to spiritual direction for its own sake is not enough.  Spiritual direction is not an end-in-itself, but a means to an end; intimate communion with our Lord through growth in the interior life.

To better appreciate this important distinction, consider this analogy. When we’re sick we typically visit our primary care provider to seek relief.  If our provider prescribes a particular procedure, drug or therapy and if we don’t follow this counsel, we shouldn’t expect to get better. Simply put, we need to actively participate in the therapeutic process if we are to be healed.

The same is true for spiritual direction. For spiritual direction to be effective, for the directee to draw closer to Jesus, he or she must actively participate in the process. There is nothing more challenging as a spiritual director than to have a directee come to direction unprepared hoping that the director, by his intercession and counsel, will fix the problem. Authentic spiritual direction requires work on the part of the directee. This is not at all to suggest that grace is not operative.  In fact, it assumes grace to be in effect such that the “work” represents the directee’s response to a divine initiative already begun in his or her life.

Here are five key ways to better prepare and participate in spiritual direction.

Approach the Session in a State of Grace Spiritual direction helps the directee to hear God more clearly and follow Him more faithfully.  These essential aspects of the interior life are significantly diminished if we are not in a state of grace. The state of grace is the condition of a person who is free from mortal sin and living in an ever-deepening friendship with Jesus Christ. If the director is not a priest, then the directee should seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to the session. If the director is a priest, then Reconciliation can take place during the session.

Keep a Journal or Notebook We can tend to think of our encounters with God as separate and disconnected events. Like occasionally bumping into someone we know while out shopping, the relationship lacks a sense of continuity and intimacy. Nothing is further from the truth when it comes to God.  He is ever-present and always communicating His love to us. By keeping a journal or small notebook and recording these events, we begin to see that they are not fragmented messages, but parts of a larger conversation. Writing them down enables us to see patterns and these patterns can be brought into spiritual direction to discover, in a deeper sense, God’s plan for our lives.

Prioritize What You Want to Talk About Spiritual direction occurs in sessions that are, by their very nature, limited. If it has been a while between sessions, the directee may want to discuss several things.  By prayerfully prioritizing the list, he or she can ensure that the most important things are addressed making the session fruitful and effective.

This prioritization can also have another effect. It can help us to distinguish the more important aspects of spiritual growth from the less important aspects. Too often we are distracted and confused by the many spiritual challenges we face. Prioritizing our talking points within the context of prayer and meditation refocuses our spiritual life so that the secondary aspects don’t diminish the primary enabling us to make real progress in the spiritual life.

Recognize that Spiritual Direction Is Not Pastoral Counseling Properly understood, the primary focus of spiritual direction is the directees’ relationship with God and concerns the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In this respect, it is aimed at the salvation of the directees’ soul through a response to our Lord’s personal initiative to follow Him. Consequently, direction always takes place within the framework of prayer and spiritual intimacy.

Pastoral Counseling, on the other hand, seeks to address, struggle through, and resolve problems in our lives and relationships within a Christian context. Where spiritual direction tends to look forward toward growth in intimacy with Jesus Christ, pastoral counseling tends to look backward toward healing past hurts. That said, both must bring the directee/client into the present.

Because the interior life must, by its very nature, express itself in the exterior life, the life of our choices and actions; spiritual direction also includes pastoral guidance. This involves sound, practical, and prudent counsel by the spiritual director to the directee regarding their choices and actions. This insures integrity and consistency between the faith we believe and the moral life we live.

While there is some overlap between spiritual direction and pastoral counseling, the focus, emphasis and gifts of the spiritual director and counselor are different and address different concerns. The person should understand these differences and not seek pastoral counseling in spiritual direction and vice versa. However, in some cases, a person may benefit from both provided they are consistent in their Christian approach as with the Pastoral Solutions Institute.

Work on the “Take Aways” Effective spiritual direction should always leave the directee with spiritual and practical “take aways.” This is to say that during the course of direction the directees discover something about their relationship with God or themselves and, through prayerful discussion with their director arrive at certain remedies.  These remedies are suggestions made by the director to aid in the cultivation of the directees’ interior and moral life. In all cases, this counsel simply represents suggestions made by the director to the directee to prayerfully and prudently apply to his or her life. In the Catholic tradition, the director may never bind the directee under spiritual obedience, only offer good counsel. These “take aways” are the directees’ homework and represent the basis of conversation for the next session.

For moral information on spiritual direction or pastoral counseling, visit the Pastoral Solutions institute at

Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of Pastoral Solutions Spiritual Direction Services

Can We Decrease Anxiety by Changing the Tone of Our Inner Voice?



We all have an inner voice. I’m not necessarily referring to the “Jiminy Cricket, conscience” type of inner voice, but rather, an inner sense that helps us identify emotions, opinions, make decisions, and so on.

Because we have this constant inner voice, however, it is easy for us to get caught up in our personal monologue which could cause unnecessary anxiety.

A new study by Dr. Mark Seery, an associate professor in the University of Buffalos Department of Psychology, found that switching from first to the third person as the framework for our self-talk “can help us see ourselves through someone elses eyes and can lead to improved confidence and performance.”

For instance, if your name was “Pat” and you were to use the technique to help decrease your anxiety about an upcoming job interview, you might write, “Pat feels nervous about his upcoming job interview.”  It may seem silly, but this study found that writing or speaking about feelings in the third person actually activates the para-sympatheric (or “calm down”) nervous system in powerful ways that puts the breaks on the physical experience of fear, worry, and anxiety. Most significantly, people who used this technique had much greater control over their heart rate in anxiety situations than people who simply spoke of their feelings in the first person.

This type of third person self-talk is referred to as “self distancing,” or taking a “distance perspective.” Dr. Seery states that “Being a fly on the wall might be the way to put our best foot forward.” By inserting our name where we would usually simply say “I” allows us to gain a new perspective and “see ourselves as an outside observer.” As Dr. Seery found, this seemingly minute change can make a big impact on decreasing anxiety and gaining a healthier, more balanced perspective on both the big and small issues that we encounter in our lives.

For more tips on decreasing anxiety, check out my book God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy! and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network!

5 Reasons Why Spiritual Direction Might Be Right for You


Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

A life lived in faith has only one final goal, intimate communion with Jesus Christ. Without Him, life is empty and stripped of its ultimate meaning. With Him, we gain a sense of fulfillment and purpose. While perfect communion only exists when, at the end of our lives, we see God in the face; the nature of the Christian life is to grow in ever-deepening intimacy with Him during our earthly walk.

Over the centuries, the Church has used several terms and phrases to describe this dynamic such as conversion, divinization, growth in holiness, and cultivation of the interior life. All of these are meant to convey a sense that God, who is Love, desires us more than we can possibly desire Him. Because of this, and in spite of our sinfulness, He draws us to Himself through the passion, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Beyond this, He established the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, through which the fullness of truth and sanctification subsists.

This said, we live in a pluralistic society that can easily distract us from our final goal and the experience of intimate communion during this life. God, who knows all things, knows this and so provides us with the grace to refocus and reorder our lives. This grace is experienced through such things as: prayer, meditating on the sacred Scriptures, frequenting the Sacraments, active parish life, and ongoing adult formation.

Despite the many ways to encounter our Lord through these pious activities and thus grow in intimate communion with Him, all can benefit from spiritual direction. Here are five basic reasons why spiritual direction might be right for you. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but represents key elements in the discernment of spiritual direction:

  1. Cultivating a Richer Prayer Life We often forget that prayer, as important as it is, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.  We simply don’t pray for the sake of prayer, but to encounter the God who saves us. As we progress in the spiritual life, we can experience dryness or constant distractions. Good spiritual direction helps directees to enter into prayer in a more profound way, to see it as a kind of dialogue in which we are called to listen first and, only after we listen, speak.   
  2. Greater Awareness of God It’s very easy, amid the hustle and bustle of life, to compartmentalize our experiences of God. We are aware of His presence in religious activities, but God is all around us constantly communicating to us through the often-mundane aspects of our lives. Spiritual direction helps directees to better attune themselves to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit in all areas of their life.
  3. Transform Faith into Action The interior life does not exist in a vacuum. As St. James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17).” The interior life finds it’s expression and realization in the exterior life, the life of choices and actions. The more we are aware of the presence of God throughout the day the more likely we are to order our choices to Him. These not only impact the world outside of us by witnessing to others, it also has an inward transformative effect. Spiritual direction helps directees to consider their actions in light of their faith revealing Christ in often subtle, but nonetheless profound ways.
  4. Help Make Major Decisions Life this side of heaven often brings us to crossroads; places where we must make major decisions in the course of our lives. These decisions can be about relationships, career opportunities or even the level of participation in the life of the parish. To a greater or lesser degree, these test our faith and the core values that flow from that faith. Good spiritual direction helps to refocus faith, tap into the grace we received at Baptism, and reaffirm our Christian values so that we are better equipped to make these decisions.
  5. Get Spiritually Unstuck Because the spiritual life is about growing in a deeper more intimate communion with Jesus Christ, it is, by its very nature, dynamic. At times and for different reasons, we may find our relationship with Him as rather static.  At it’s worse, we can experience what seems like an abandonment from God resulting in a kind of spiritual paralysis. This paralysis will negatively impact our prayer life, our reception of the sacraments and the way we see Christ in others.  Sound spiritual direction can help identify the reasons for this paralysis and provide spiritual and pastoral guidance.

Though spiritual direction is not a requirement of the Christian life, everyone seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ can benefit from it.  If you would like to pursue spiritual direction, consult your pastor to recommend a solid spiritual director in your area or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute about spiritual direction over the phone.


Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of Pastoral Solutions Spiritual Direction Services

Overcoming Negativity


Fighting negativity is a constant battle. We live in a world full of inspirational quotes and Instagram captions about positivity, and while these can be helpful, they are not the only—and maybe not even the best—way to truly overcome negativity.

Theology of the Body helps us challenge negativity by reminding us of who we truly a
re and what we are called to become through God’s grace. Negativity traps us in our fallen selves, making us believe that the broken person we see when we look in the mirror is all we are and all we can ever be. TOB allows us to acknowledge the work that needs to be done but gives us the blueprint to imagine what our lives can look like if we keep allowing God to do that work in our hearts and in our world. The Theology of the Body helps us rediscover the freedom the negativity seeks to rob us of; the freedom to cooperate with God’s grace to become what we are; whole, healed, godly, grace-filled sons and daughters of God.

Here are three More2Life hacks for overcoming negativity:

1. Don’t Be Positive–The cure for negative thinking is NOT positive thinking. In reality, positive thinking almost always fails to produce effective results because it seems false–and it is.  Just like negative thinking tends to strain out anything good, positive thinking doesn’t allow us to acknowledge the real problems that need to be addressed. You can’t just ignore your way out of your problems by putting a smiley-face sticker on them. So what IS the cure for negativity?  HELPFUL THINKING. Ask yourself, “What would be the most helpful way to look at this situation?” In other words, how could you look at the present situation in a way that would help you find both the resources and motivation to formulate the most productive course of action?  Helpful thinking avoids the pitfalls of both negative and artificially positive thinking, giving you a way of keeping your situation in perspective while figuring out the best way forward.

2. Embrace your Freedom–We often use negativity as a way of escaping from freedom.  We’re afraid to do something about our situation because we might fail, or we don’t want to deal with the consequences of making a choice so instead of praying for the courage to act in the most godly and productive way possible, we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do,” the situation is doomed,” “we are hopeless,” “they’ll never change,” “why bother trying?” All of these lies deny the truth that no one can ever take away our God-given freedom to act. There is always some small change we can make and if we can bring those small changes to God, he can multiply our efforts just like He multiplied the loaves and fishes. Escaping negativity means categorically rejecting the lie of powerlessness and embracing the freedom God gives to all of his children, a freedom that allows us to choose to cooperate with grace no matter what our circumstances.

3. Do SOMETHING. Negativity is paralyzing. To fight back. Do SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  Even if you aren’t sure it will really make a difference, acting at all–especially if it is something you haven’t done before–is better than staying stuck. The good news? Every step you take gives you new information that leads to new possibilities and those new possibilities will destroy negativity once and for all.

For more information on how to conquer negativity in your life check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C, on EWTN Radio Network/Sirius XM 139. Or, give us a call at Pastoral Solutions Institute!

More2Life Hack: Living A More Joyful Life

image via shutterstock

image via shutterstock

It seems as though so many things in life are constantly trying to steal our joy. From politics, to work stress, to the craziness of daily life, it can be hard to find the joy in each day.

We tend to think that joy is a product of stepping away from life and finding little ways to take a break or enjoy ourselves.  Taking breaks can be important, but while doing this can lead to fleeting moments of happiness, it doesn’t lead to joy. The Theology of the Body reminds us that Joy is the fruit of living a meaningful, intimate, and virtuous life. Joy is that quality that allows us to have a deeper sense of rightness and contentment about our lives even when things are a little crazy or not going the way we’d like.  Because Joy is a FRUIT of the Holy Spirit, you can’t pursue Joy directly. Cultivating joy means dedicating oneself to a life of meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue regardless of our circumstances.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for cultivating joy in your heart:

1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind–Joy requires us to be able to step out of the chaos of everyday life and remember who we are and what’s important.  This requires us to stay connected to God–to be able to see things from his point of view. Find ways to bring the present moment to God no matter how crazy it is. Ask him, “What do you want this moment to look like? How can I respond to this in a way that glorifies you?” Then re-engage the situation from this more graceful perspective. Keeping the big picture in mind helps you remain connected to what’s important

2. Be Kind–True joy comes from seeking little ways to be a gift to others all day long. As you go about your day, consciously ask yourself how you can make a difference in this moment? Is there something you can do to make this person’s day even a little easier or more pleasant? Is there something you can do to take down the tension in this situation? Is there some way you can surprise someone with a small thoughtful gesture or little act of service? You don’t have to be a martyr about it. In fact, it’s better if you aren’t. Just look for those little ways to be a gift or create caring connection while you’re passing by or passing through. These little acts of kindness increase your joy by helping you see all the ways you are making a positive difference in your world and in the lives of those around you.

3. Stay In School–Research shows that joyful people are eager students in the “school of life.”  Joyful people are always open to seeing things from a new perspective, trying a new experience, and growing in ways that help them be stronger, healthier, more well-rounded people.  Joyful people aren’t shy about sharing what they like. They know who they are and what they stand for, but they are open to discovering all the ways God is revealing himself to them through the people and the world around them.  And the more ways we open ourselves to this experience of God the more his grace makes us joyful. So, be yourself, but don’t be afraid to be more, learn more and grow more.

For more information on how to live a more Joyful life, check out my book Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart, or give us a call at Pastoral Solutions Institute (740.266.6461)

Don’t forget to tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio/SiriusXM 130.