Three Ways to Stop Settling and Live the Life You Were Meant to Live

Do you want more from your life? Are you struggling with dissatisfaction in your life or relationships? You’re not alone. We were created for more, yet our fallen nature often causes us to settle for less or holds us back from aspiring for more. But the good news is, there are ways to break this habit and live the life we are meant to live!

Theology of The Body reminds us to stop settling.  To see that God wants to fulfill the deepest longings of our heart for a love that doesn’t fail, for relationships that are fulfilling, and for a life that reflects the glory of his grace.  Pope St John Paul the Great reminded us that we must keep our eyes, not on what we see in front of us when we look at our broken world and our broken lives, but on what God sees when he looks at us and what God wants to make of our lives and relationships so that his glory could be known in the world through our lives.  The truth that will set us free is the truth God sees when he looks at our lives.  Our job is to stand up to to our doubts and fears and lean into the vision that God has for us instead so that we can become what we are.

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Do you want more from your life? Check out:

The Life God Wants You To Have

Discovering the Divine Plan When Human Plans Fail

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Here are three ways to stop settling and live the life you are meant to live:

1.Get Your Binoculars–We tend to settle because we get so caught up in the frustrations of the present that we lose sight of the destination to which God is leading us; Namely, a life and relationships that are healthy, whole, and holy.  Stop settling for what is in front of you.  Get your binoculars and look to the horizon line.  Keep imagining what a healthier, whole, and holier life and relationships would look like and start walking toward that.  Sometimes it will seem impossibly hard.  No Matter.  Trust that God’s grace will make up for what you lack and start walking.

2.Take Small Steps–We often settle for surviving because we can’t see ways to make the big changes that need to happen.  Remember, big journeys are made up of a million little steps.  Ask yourself, “What is one small thing I can do today to make the change I want to see in my life?”  Do that, and then ask that question again, and again, and again. Each time, remember that you are fighting against the temptation to survive and, instead, learning to cooperate with God’s grace to live life more abundantly.

3.Turn On Your GPS–We tend to settle when we feel lost.  But there is no reason to ever feel lost if you have your GPS, your GOD POSITIONING SYSTEM–that is, PRAYER.  When you feel lost and find yourself giving into the temptation to survive in your life or relationships, ask God to help you make the turns you need to make to get back on the path to wholeness, health, and holiness that he wants you to be walking.  Just like with a regular GPS, chances are, it will only take a few simple turns for God to get you back on the path.

If you want more information on how to overcome the frustrations in life and stop settling, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com.

Becoming More Playful — The Added Benefits to Our Overall Well-Being

*This post is a continuation of the series based on Catholic HOM—Family Discipleship. Join the discussion in our facebook group.

There’s a lot in life that we have to take seriously. A lot to think about, a lot to manage, just… a lot. In the face of all this seriousness, one of the first things we adults lose is our ability to be playful.

Are problem solving and playfulness mutually exclusive?

A growing body of research has actually found that playfulness in our daily life has a large impact on our ability to handle challenges effectively, as well as increasing our overall life satisfaction.

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Do you want to cultivate greater joy and satisfaction in your family life? Check out

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids

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Researchers from the University of Zurich and Pennsylvania State University teamed up to conduct a study on 533 participants. The participants were separated into three groups, two groups were given exercises pertaining to practicing and recording playfulness in their daily lives, the third group acted as a control group and were given exercises unrelated to the study.

The results found that those individuals who actively looked for ways to be playful in their daily lives reported greater life satisfaction even 12 weeks after the experiment took place, whereas the control group reported no difference. Furthermore, the results indicate that it is possible to teach individuals who are typically not prone to playfulness how to be more playful simply through intentional practice and participation in playful activities.

This study, as well as research conducted by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, shows that playfulness in our daily life actually increases our ability to process emotions and solve problems. Dr. Neufeld refers to playful activities as “emotional playgrounds,” stating, “When words fail us, emotional playgrounds are our best answer for safe emotional expression and for feelings to bounce back,” and that “Play is where we are most likely able to feel our emotions safely.” Neufeld and other research demonstrates that this is the case for both adults and children.

Research such as this highlights the significant importance of creating and maintaining family play rituals, like the ones we describe in the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life and the Rite of Family Rituals.

The ritual of play allows us to not only build rapport and connection as a family on a regular basis, but also creates the opportunity for these “emotional playgrounds.” Play enables us and our children to become more emotionally intelligent and emotionally healthy. We are able to problem solve, increase our emotional intelligence, and emotionally regulate more effectively, if we integrate play/playfulness into our regular, daily lives.

But how do we make time for this ritual of play on a daily basis?

Here are a few ideas:


– Start a family tickle fight when getting out of the car on your way home after soccer practice.

– Take turns bringing a joke to family dinner.

– Turn on your favorite music and have a dance party while picking up the living room or washing the dinner dishes.

– Sing your favorite songs in the car or snuggled up before bed.

– Read stories together and/or have your kids read to you while you get chores done (like folding the laundry).

– Take a walk together.

– Bake a yummy dessert.

– Integrate crafts into school activities and sit down and do them together.

– Have a family movie night, but make it special with your favorite pillows, blankets, and snacks.

– Play a card game during/after a meal

Start your own list of fun activities! Have everyone add to the list, hang it on the fridge, and pick one thing off the list that you have time for every day.

For more ideas on cultivating the ritual of play—and all the rituals of connection—in your family, join the discussion at Catholic HOM and visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com

The Secrets of Communication: How to Be A Better Listener

We try to be our best. We mean well, and when our efforts are misconstrued we feel like there’s nothing we can do. But there’s good news: recognizing the ways that we can grow in no way means that we’re not well intentioned and doing our best! This is one of the greatest keys to communication. Understanding that we’re well intentioned, but we always have room to learn from the other person and grow in ourselves and our relationships with others.

In order to learn from another person and learn to grow in relationship with them, it’s crucial that we learn to listen effectively.

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Are you struggling to get along with difficult people?

Check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts!

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Research published in the Harvard Business Review describes that the typical ways we think we’re being good listeners—such as being silent, periodically nodding or acknowledging the other person, or even repeating what the other has said—aren’t as effective as we may think.

Here are a few ways to become a more effective listener:

Ask questions—while sitting in silence allows the other person to talk, it doesn’t always communicate that they’re being heard. Asking questions shows both interest and comprehension in what the other person is discussing. Likewise this allows for the dynamic of listening to understand rather than listening simply to respond.

Be a cooperative partner—research indicates that the most successful conversations are those where the individuals view one another as partners, meaning neither person gets defensive about comments made by the other. When we are partners in a conversation, we work together, we care for one another, and we are certain that our responses are solution focused (rather than derogatory, competitive, or distracting from the topic at hand).

Offer reflections—A good listener keeps the conversation going by gently offering reflections that open up new lines of inquiry. Complaints often occur when someone feels as though the other just “jumped in and try to solve the problem.” Good listening, however, requires that the suggestions/solutions are not the end of the conversation, they are a support to the conversation.

To learn more tips and techniques for effective communication, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com

Speak Up! The Negative Effects of Self Silencing

We all have a desire to “keep the peace,” and because of this, we tend to do a lot to maintain our relationships. Often, one of these tendencies is to self-silence—to not speak up for ourselves, express our needs, or vocalize our needed boundaries. We think that filtering ourselves, or keeping our needs to ourselves helps us to “keep everyone happy.” 

New research, however, shows that there are a great deal of negative effects that come from self-silencing. Not only does this practice not help us develop the types of relationships we deserve to have, but it actually is detrimental to our physical health as well. Researchers have found that individuals who self-silence—particularly women—have increased carotid plaque buildup, which could lead to a stroke or other cardiovascular problems.

Speaking up—respectfully and effectively—to get our needs met is crucial for our mental and physical health. Here are three ways to effectively speak up:

Making the implicit explicit—when someone says or does something that hurts your feelings, don’t keep it bottled up inside. Instead, say something like, “I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by this, but when you did ____ or said ____ I felt hurt (or specifically state what you felt). What did you intend to mean by that?” Saying something like this phrase is effective because it offers the other person the benefit of the doubt—we are not accusing them of anything, however it asks the clarifying question to better understand the other person’s intention. 

Look for solutions—When you and another person have differing needs or opinions, ask the question, “What can we do to get everyone’s needs met?” This helps convey that there are options and that no one’s needs are less important than another’s. 

Create healthy habits—Create a routine where you and your spouse/significant other ask each other, “What can I do to make your day better?” This helps build the rapport between you and your spouse to say, “I want to work for your good.” Likewise, when we are in this habit of asking and being asked what we need to have a good day, it makes it easier for us to ask for something when a need arises. 

For more on how to effectively communicate our needs with others, tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am EST/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130 and check out God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts!

Dealing With Others’ Emotions

We all know that when someone yawns, then we start yawning too. New research shows that our emotions cause the same chain reaction. 

A study out of Yale University—lead by sociologist Nicholas Christakis—documented a variety of interactions of approximately 5,000 people living in one town over the course of 32 years. When discussing the results of this study, Christakis says, “We were able to show that as one person became happy or sad, it rippled through the network.” The study demonstrated that this can happen even through the small interactions that occur with others on a daily basis, such as smiling at someone you pass on the street, while of course there are even larger effects with those we have one-on-one interactions with. 

As this research shows, our emotions “spread” to others. Structures in our brain replicate the feelings of others. Biologically, that’s another sign of the way God created us for communion. Our ability to actually feel the emotions of others gives us an opportunity feel connected to them, to identify their needs and work for their good more effectively. The downside is that we can get too caught up in other’s feelings or allow their emotions to drag us down. The key is remembering the personalistic norm. It isn’t enough to feel what others feel. We have to always orient ourselves to working for their good, for our good, and the good of the relationship– whatever that means in the situation. We might start by empathizing, but then we have to ask “what does God want for me, for this person, for this situation?” And move in that direction. Doing this allows us to be generous in our response to other’s feelings while not getting stuck in their feelings.

The question is, how do we set this personalistic norm to ensure that we are always working for the good of others and ourselves? Here are a few tips!

Empathizing isn’t Wallowing–It is good to want to be there for others who are experiencing emotional pain, but there is a difference between empathizing and wallowing. Empathizing allows us to have enough of a taste of what the other person is experiencing that we are able to make them feel truly understood. But research shows that once we have made that emotional connection, staying in an emotional place actually makes things worse. Once we’ve made that empathic connection, it’s time to ask, “What do you think you’d like to do about this?” and start helping the other person find even tiny things they can do to respond a little better to the situation at hand, to take a little better care of themselves, or at least be more effective at gathering the resources they need to make a better response. Feelings are not an end in themselves. Neither is empathy. Empathy exists so that we can make enough of an emotional connection with each other that we can stop each other from falling into emotional holes in the first place or help each other not get stuck in the emotional holes we do fall into. By all means, be willing to meet someone where they are at emotionally, but once you have made that emotional connection, be sure to ask God what he wants you and the other person to do to respond to the situation more effectively and gracefully.

Keep Up Emotional Boundaries–Being willing to support someone who is going through a bad time emotionally doesn’t mean that you have to be willing to put up with abuse. At first, it can be appropriate to “bear wrongs patiently” as you realize that a person who is upset, frustrated, or hurting isn’t really meaning to take it out on you, but if their bad behavior persists or becomes habitual, then it’s time to set some gentle but firm boundaries. For instance, you might say, “I love you and I want to support you, but when you treat me like this its hard to be what you need me to be. I’m not your enemy and I need to you stop treating me like I am.” Setting these gentle boundaries can make all the difference between allowing yourself to be a safe landing place for the people you love versus being their punching bag.

Know Your Limits–It’s good to be there for others who are suffering, but our responsibility to work for their good requires us to know when someone needs more than we are able or qualified to give them. Sometimes, we can get in over our heads when we feel like someone needs us so much. We might suggest that they talk to the person they are having problems with or seek professional help, but they either don’t do it or they tell us that they just need more of us. Then, we feel guilty pulling back because they need us so much. It’s important to remember that in a case like this, we actually make things worse by trying to be the other person’s only or primary source of support. Instead we need to say, “I wish I could do more, but this is the point where you need to talk to so and so, or seek help from this and that. If you can’t or won’t do that, I’m not going to be able to be here for you either because you need more help than I can appropriately give you.”  Knowing our limits allows us to be there for others in a way that actually works for their good instead of allowing them to stay stuck and dragging us down with them.

For more resources on how to deal with others emotions, 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 channel 130!

Our Kids Might Know More Than We Think They Do

As parents, we often want to protect our children from negative encounters or situations that we experience in our adult lives. But is this the best approach? New research reveals that kids may know more about how we feel than we might think. 

A study conducted at Washington State University Vancouver evaluated mother’s and father’s interactions with their children after experiencing an anxiety inducing event (such as public speaking with negative feedback from the audience). The participants were separated into two groups, one group was told to suppress their emotions in front of their child while the second group was instructed to act naturally. 

After the negative event, the parent’s were given a task to complete with his or her child that required the parent and child to work together as a team. 

The researchers found that the parents who suppressed their emotions had less positive and less efficient encounters with their child than those who acted normally and shared their negative feelings with the child. 

One researcher stated, ““The act of trying to suppress their stress made parents less positive partners during the…task. They offered less guidance, but it wasn’t just the parents who responded. Those kids were less responsive and positive to their parents. It’s almost like the parents were transmitting those emotions.”

Moreover, this study showed that when parents suppress emotions the children became more sensitive to the parents, particularly to their mothers. 

Researcher, Dr. Sara Waters, continued by saying, “Kids are good at picking up subtle cues from emotions. If they feel something negative has happened, and the parents are acting normal and not addressing it, that’s confusing for them. Those are two conflicting messages being sent.”

The results of this study show that it is more beneficial for parents to share their experiences with their children. Allowing children to see the full trajectory—from beginning to resolution—of a conflict teaches children how to regulate their own emotions and learn that problems can get resolved. Waters says, “It’s best to let the kids know you feel angry, and tell them what you’re going to do about it to make the situation better.”

This statement by Dr. Waters demonstrates the parenting technique of Modeling that we discuss in our book Parenting with Grace—The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids! 

For more parenting tips and information, check out Parenting with Grace and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM channel 130!

Dealing With Hurtful People

We all know the world isn’t what it was meant to be. People say hurtful things and it is often difficult to know how to handle it. Similarly, it is difficult to not take what they say to heart. What’s important to keep is mind is that we can’t control what others do, but we CAN control how we react.

Theology of The Body reminds us that we are all works in progress but the best way to see that God’s plans are fulfilled in our lives is to build each other up, not tear each other apart. When we are frustrated, we have a tendency to criticize and pick at each other. It’s good to address the problems and concerns we have with others, but we need to make sure we are approaching people in a way that is respectful, loving, and solution-focused, instead of angry, hurtful, and problem-focused. With God’s grace, we can learn to address the frustrations we have with each other in a way that leads us to be closer to each other instead of worn out by each other.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for dealing with hurtful people:

Clarify and Do-Over–Believe it or not, sometimes hurtful people don’t know they are being hurtful. The first step in addressing another person’s criticisms is not to take offense or even to respond to what they said, but rather, to clarify. When you feel criticized, picked on, or attacked by someone, the first thing to do is say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to come off as hurtful, but something about the way you said that really seemed hurtful. Can you say that again so I can hear what you’re really trying to tell me?” Don’t attack back. Don’t argue the point. In fact, don’t respond in any kind of substantive way. Instead, give the hurtful person a chance to think about what they are really trying to say by first giving them the benefit of the doubt, then telling them how their statement made you feel, and finally, inviting them to say it again–more thoughtfully this time.

Don’t Ask Permission to Be Offended–Sometimes, even after you’ve told a hurtful person how much they’ve hurt you, they react by denying it. “I didn’t mean anything!” “I was just kidding!”  “You’re too thin-skinned.” Don’t fall into this trap. The best response is to say, “Listen, I’m not asking you permission to be offended by you. I’m telling you that what you said was hurtful. If you want me to hear what you’re really trying to say, your going to need to say it again.” Then leave it to them. If they decide to respect you enough to listen and correct themselves, do your best to listen respectfully and move forward with the conversation. On the other hand, if they refuse to take a more respectful approach, it’s ok to end the conversation even if they act put out about it. Don’t ever ask permission to be hurt by someone. If they hurt you, say so and stand by it.  If they love you, they’ll adopt a more respectful approach going forward.

Build Good Fences–If your attempts to clarify and be respectfully assertive are not effective, it’s time to set some boundaries. Limit your relationship to those places or contexts where the person is less likely to be hurtful. Do they do better in public? On the phone? For shorter visits?  Limit the time you spend with them to these contexts as much as you can. If they complain, simply say that you’d love to get more time with them but in order to do that, they’d need to be more sensitive about the ways they speak to you. Then see how they respond. If they manage to be respectful in the contexts you’ve limited the relationship to, then you can re-evaluate some of your boundaries, but if they continue to be hurtful in their speech or actions, you can either hold the boundaries where they are, or further limit the relationship.  Let their good behavior determine how close you can be.  Good fences really do make good neighbors.

For more on how to effectively handle hurtful people, check out Unworried—A Life Without Anxiety and tune in to More2Life—weekdays, 10am E/9am C—on EWTN, SiriusXM 130!

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!

“He Ain’t Heavy…”: The Death of My Same-Sex Attracted Brother

Guest post by Dave McClow, Pastoral Solutions Institute.

“I don’t believe in hell.  If there is a hell, it can’t be any worse than my life here.”  These were the most striking words from my 55-year-old-same-sex-attracted brother Mark in the last two-plus weeks of his life.  He died February 27, 2017, from throat cancer.  I wanted to remember him here and witness to the abyss of God’s mercy.

It started in May 2016 with a diagnosis, then treatment in August, and two hospitalizations in January 2017 which included a heart attack and a lack of response to treatment.  When my wife and I saw him on February 10th, he was exploring hospice.  This began the whirlwind of two and a half weeks of reconnecting and parting with my brother.

Hell: A Homeless Heart

Mark remembered many more ugly and painful memories from childhood than I did that shook the foundations of my world.  He felt profoundly unloved and was bullied at home and in school.  He was assaulted as an adult for his sexual orientation.  He struggled with bouts of deep depression and would want to die.  He disconnected from our family for decades; he had a “Homeless Heart” (from a song on his iPod).

He had a way of remembering things that kept his wounds open.  In his hell, he did not know that Jesus experienced deep excruciating pain when he said, “I am grieved unto death,” or “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  I share some of Mark’s pain here, because he disliked when people minimized it with clichés, and because I think it made his life more remarkable.

Responding to Hell

Early in our conversations, when he talked about hell, I responded, “I believe there is a hell, but I don’t think you’re going there.  God doesn’t send anyone to hell (see CCC 1033)!  God is love, and he can’t do anything but love you. Because of your free will, he will honor your rejection.  He understands if you are angry at him, that you have been hurt.  But God does not send people to hell—they must request it.”  I continued, “When you die, you will step into love—the love you have never known and always longed for.” He nodded in thoughtful approval, a light in the darkness.

Ugly Into Beautiful

Ironically, I think because Mark had seen so much ugliness in his life, he had a strong sense of and attraction to beauty.  A rehabber at heart, he could make the ugliest houses beautiful!  God is a “rehabber” too, bringing good out of evil.  So Mark had unknowingly lived out a deep Catholic spirituality, making the world more beautiful.

Making Death Beautiful

Death is ugly.  But it was also awe-inspiring to stand at the boundary between life and death with Mark.  We talked about his life, about the end, about his regrets.  I was able to put my hand on his heart, to hold his hand, and cradle his head.  And even when he could not talk, I challenged him to forgive himself and others.  I read him a note of apology from my mom.  He would respond with groans and would calm down when I told him to be at peace.

The Hour of Mercy

On the Friday before Mark died the hospice doctor thought he could go that afternoon or within 48 hours.  So I asked St. Faustina to intercede and let Mark die during the hour of Mercy as a sign to me.  Friday turned into Monday, waiting at the foot of the cross.  I left for a lunch break at 2 PM.  Just before 3 PM, the nurse called me back, saying Mark was on his last breaths.  When I arrived, he had just breathed his last—exactly at 3 PM he had stepped into love.  I sobbed at his side.  He was gone, and I couldn’t believe the time.  I urged him to go toward God’s love.  It had been an absolute whirlwind, an agony in the garden, with deep joy, too.

But God was not finished.  Songs have come into my life at particular times to capture the moment and bring a message of love.  After perusing Mark’s iPod that day, I hit play and heard Queen Latifah’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!  I felt God was showering his mercy on Mark from above, and Queen Latifah from below.  I had surrounded him in mercy because (I can’t resist)—“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

Not Really the End

We dressed him for cremation in a flannel shirt, cargo pants, and an old pair of work boots.  After all, he was a rehabber.  Now that he has stepped into love, I believe he has a new job from his place in purgatory and heaven, this time rehabbing hearts, making the ugly beautiful.  I sense his presence and blessing and often call on him to help with a hurting client.  Please join me in letting his new-found love “spill over” into our lives (Benedict XVI) to heal broken hearts—please pray for him and to him.

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.