This part of Spirituality – Running to God will offer spiritual counsel from Marti Armstrong, a pastoral counselor. There will be new entries each month. Scroll down for the latest entry.
I am a nurse. I work long hours. When I come home my husband, who was laid off, is sitting playing games on his computer. He doesn’t even want to have dinner with me. He just takes his plate and brings it to the computer. I am so lonely I am thinking of divorce. - Lynn
This has to be a very stressful time for you and your husband. Your being a nurse tells me that you are a devoted, nurturing, hard-working person anyway, not to mention the long hours at work. It is only natural for you to come home after hours of nurturing others, feeling a need of respite, of nurturance for yourself. The fatigue and the loneliness in your present situation obviously are adding to your own stress.
Add to this your husband's job loss and his resulting lowered self-esteem. Often, when a man, especially a man, loses his job, there is such a sense of helplessness, of failure as the principal bread-winner, as the man who supports you and your lifestyle as a couple, or fear of the future, and therefore, he suffers some degree of depression. Depression alone can have a negative impact on your husband's relationship with you, how he speaks to you, how he reacts to what you say or do, your sex life, even his ability to hear what you are saying -- or not saying. If this depression, expressed by being glued to his computer, began with the job loss, it is probably safe to say that his self-esteem is sorely impacted.
For you, Lynn, I can think of a few possible strategies. During this time, you need some healthy, practical distraction and respite. Whether it is a movie at a theatre or at a DVD at home, a good engrossing book that you would like, or some activity that you yourself enjoy, make time to do so. A brisk walk for 20 or 30 minutes, every other day or so, can really be a great help for you. One or two good, trusted women friends can make a difference for you. Often, even in the best of marriages and the best of times in marriages, the friendships of women with one another can take a great burden off relationships between wives and husbands. Many, if not most, husbands are not as able to absorb some the emotional baggage we women carry. For example, to say to your husband at this time: " I had a horrible day at work and am ready to drop", might well lead him to think: " Yes, but at least you were able to be at work. Don't complain to me!" A close woman friend is more likely able to listen and give some feedback, and she is not enmeshed in the situation. Also, you might get the help of a counselor to help you during this time. Most important of all, you need to turn to God, to confide your hurt, your worries, your frustrations, your lack of energy, yourself and your husband, to Him. "Cast all your worries upon Him, because He cares for you" (Peter 5:7). If you take this care of yourself and let God do His part, you will find it less difficult to deal with this hopefully temporary situation.
Your husband needs you to help build up his self-esteem at this time. Listen to him when he chooses to share anything with you, anything however seemingly important or unimportant to you. Just listen. A simple compliment, such as "I like the way you did (or do) this or that", or commenting favorably and sincerely on something he has said or done. He needs to feel your acceptance even in small things. Helping build the self-esteem of your spouse actually leads to a more loving response from him and from you as well. He needs your patience and acceptance of who he is at this time. At the same time, any angry shouting or abuse, verbal or otherwise, should not be practiced or tolerated. Make sure that you pray for your husband. I suppose, with the computer as a problem, you would like to pray for a power outage sometimes, but seriously, your husband needs your prayer support. Not only will this help him, but it will help you and the marriage as well.
Let your husband know your concern about his suffering during this time. Help him to find a counselor who can help him in several ways. He will be able to better deal with his depression, and, hopefully, get some feedback and perhaps some leads to finding new employment opportunities. If there is a support group available in the area, you each can take advantage of this. Groups like Al-anon, Recovery, Inc, can be very helpful at this time. You could call your local mental health facility and request information and phone numbers concerning such groups. I would love to see support groups for people who have lost their jobs. By the way, even if your husband does not want to go to counseling, Lynn, your going to counseling yourself can sometimes do much for you as an individual, and for both of you as a couple in the long run. I have seen marriages saved by only one spouse going to counseling. I used to work with people in troubled marriages. Our statement was: With one or more spouses and God, most marriages can be healed. "Then call on Me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor Me" (Psalm 50:15)
Our little son has cancer, a form of lymphoma. I prayed and prayed for it to be healed but nothing the doctors do works. At first I felt some peace praying to God for him, but now I feel betrayed by God and don't want to pray at all. Why would God let this happen to an innocent child? - Jim
During this excruciating time, you really need to take time to be especially gentle with yourself, your wife and other family members, and of course, especially, your son who is living through this illness. Hope is a commodity very needed at this time. This sense of hope needs to be transmitted to your son, especially during his treatments and between treatments, the discomforts, the fears and uncertainties. I cannot emphasize enough the priority of your relationship with your wife. This type of trial is quite a challenge to your marriage. Your patience and understanding of her, accepting her with her feelings during this time, can actually reinforce and enliven your relationship with each other. Connecting with other people, with other families, with similar problems is a big help. Through the medical center and the local cancer society, you may be able to locate such a support system.
At this time, it is natural for you to go through various stages of worry and anticipatory grief, stages such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified these stages of grief after losing a loved one, anticipatory grief at the possibility of losing a loved one, and the pain from any deep emotional trauma. At this time, your feeling betrayed by God and the consequent anger are a natural part of the anger that goes with this type of grief. I highly recommend praying with your anger to God. This can be done by praying quietly in a place where you feel safe, praying your emotions to God. Give yourself permission to speak plainly, sincerely, openly with Him, to cry, to let your emotions out to Him. Bring the real you to Him! Pray from Scripture, from the many Psalms which apply to your hurt, for example, Psalm 143, “Lord, listen to my prayer: turn Your ear to my appeal…” .
Also, it would be a great help to contact your priest or clergyman for support in counsel and prayer. If you do not already belong to a prayer group in your church, you might inquire to see if there is one you might attend. And bring your son to for prayer! If he is not strong enough to attend a prayer group, have members of that group come pray with him and over him. Make sure to invite your priest or clergyman to pray with him too. “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5: 14-15) From this passage, you also need to ask your priest to give your son the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
None of us knows why God permits suffering. His own Son suffered and died to save you and your son, each family member. We cannot understand why He gives to each of us the unexpected and unearned pleasures and joys we receive as well. You need to trust Him, to make an act of trust in Him, even if, and especially if, you are not feeling that trust at the time! There are some timely passages that may help you here: Isaiah 43:1-4; Isaiah 49: 14-16 : “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of My hands I have written your name.” This especially concerns your son, whether God chooses to heal him physically or call him home to Him for all eternity.
I have been retired for over a year, and I really looked forward to retirement and spending more time with my wife. My wife has a job she loves. She is ten years younger than me and wants to continue to work outside the home part time. We do not need the extra income, and she only works two days a week. What bothers me is that whenever we are with other people, whether it is couples or anyone really, she seems to be paying more attention to the other men than to me. For example, when we went out last night with another couple, I noticed that she seemed to be looking at the other man when she was explaining an idea, and she did not look as much at me. I felt ignored. I kept getting the idea that she found him more attractive than I. When she stays later at work, I wonder if something is going on between her and her supervisor. I confronted her recently about this, and she told me that I, and only I, am the love of her life. We have been married for 40 years. It has been a very good marriage. I want to believe her, but she is very attractive, talented, and well-liked and respected. I am afraid of losing her. What should I do? - Roger
It sounds as if you and your wife have been blessed with a good marriage.This is a moment to congratulate you, and at the same time, thank God for what He has done for you both. I always ask prospective retirees: If you know what you are retiring from, make sure you know what you are retiring to! You mentioned spending more time with your wife. With the exception of her two days at work, there are five remaining days in the week for togetherness. Beyond that, ask yourself if there is something you might enjoy during those days your wife is not at home. Is there a sport, a hobby or past-time, some reading, a project you might find fascinating or challenging? Is there something that you might enjoy alone, quietly, for example, in your work shop, something that would not necessarily interest your wife. Your own project! Is there a church project or charity, or something like Meals on Wheels? Physical exercise or brisk walks are good for body and soul.
More often than not, this kind of jealousy is rooted in some form of low self-esteem. I maintain this especially in your case because of your good marriage. Listen to your own self-talk when you are feeling jealous, anxious, any kind of negative emotions or hurt. “I never get it right!” “I’m worthless.” “I’m not as good as…..” It might well help you to bring these feelings to prayer, to quietly ask God to help you to remember hurtful incidents in your childhood and early years, incidents in which a parent, teacher, another child or peer said or did something that contributed to your negative self-image and self-talk. This type of prayer exercise will enhance your relationship with God and with yourself, and as a result, with your wife. Also, such a prayer will lead you to a greater trust in God, and He will help you, not only to trust Him, but to have a greater trust in your wife.
Jealousy is only a feeling, if you do not act upon it and let it control you. Consequently, you need to make the decision to trust your wife! Make sure that you give her sincere, specific compliments, that you affirm her. This too will build a mutual good feeling in which both of you will experience a more comfortable relationship.
Like Peter, this decision to trust God – and consequently, your wife – means that you are choosing not to focus on the waves, like the storm at sea, but on Jesus. Choose not to sink into jealousy and hurt, but to keep your eyes on Him and what He can do for you and your marriage. He had said at another time: “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” (Mark 5:36)
In the meantime, be aware that your retirement, like most retirements, has been a major life change. Talking with a counselor and discussing your feelings could be a great help during this time.
I come from a family with 7 kids. I was the “bad girl”. So when I had a mid-life conversion to being a total militant Catholic, it didn’t go down well with the rest of my siblings who are “cafeteria Catholics”, or go to non-Catholic Christian Churches or none at all. (Note from Dr. Ronda – for those readers who don’t know the term “Cafeteria Catholics”, it refers to Catholics who pick and choose among the teachings of Scripture and the Church.) At this point. None of my brothers and sisters wants to even have me visit because they think I am some sort of priest-controlled fanatic. I live in grief. I want to see my nieces and nephews at least. What can I do?
Your situation is ironic, a mixed blessing. On the one hand, God has uniquely blessed you, called you back to the Faith, reaching down and choosing you for Him and His Church. You, in answering His loving invitation, have chosen Him, the Pearl of great price! Now, as a result, you are very graced, favored, and yet, with your family relationships, you are suffering loss and grief because of your momentous decision to say “Yes” to Him.
If you bear with my analogy, I think of your Catholic upbringing as a childhood in a wealthy family. You, as an individual, did not enjoy the wealth but chose to become poor and live on the fringes of society, getting what meals you ate from garbage bins. Your family members, meanwhile, began to lose their wealth. Some of your siblings managed to support themselves and their families very modestly; some other siblings needed to be on public assistance; and some were almost as impoverished as you. Suddenly, without your merit or initiative, a very wealthy Person comes into your life, falls in love with you just as you are, and gives several billion dollars to you. At last, in mid-life, you are grateful; you are in love; and you are enjoying this wealth. You happily attempt to give money and what it can buy to your siblings. They reject you, insult the wealthy and their riches, and continue to enjoy their impoverished life style. In the spiritual realm, this is what has happened in your family and many families, especially during the past 40 years. Like the Prodigal Son, you have come home to your wealthy Father and the True and original Catholic Church that His Son established. You want so much to share this newfound love and wealth with your siblings.
The first and most basic thing you can do is pray for your brothers and sisters and their families. In fact, you can offer up that grief you are suffering for them. These prayers and offerings will bless them and you! It would be like anonymously sneaking money into their pockets while they are sleeping
If you should have the opportunity to be with any of your siblings or their children, be the person God has helped you become. Let Him shine through you. Listen to them and be kind and pleasant. Do not be the person to bring up any religious or controversial topic no matter how important. Keep the subject matter neutral if you can. Listen to what interests your family members, whether it is hobbies, sports, school, or achievements. Before any type of meeting with your family, pray to the Holy Spirit. If, and only if, someone brings up a question or comment about your Catholic beliefs, answer as simply and kindly as possible. “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.” (Matthew 10:19) Again, if you were this new-found billionaire, your family might be insulted if you offered them money, but if they asked you for money, as they ask questions about your belief system, then you would give generously to them.
Keep in mind that your mid-life conversion was a totally undeserved gift from God. You were singled-out, loved, called, chosen! When we are hurt, insulted, or shamed in any way by family members, it is tempting to point the finger at them. Again, here you are, the “billionaire”! In your gratitude, ask God to similarly grace your siblings. In a sense, you are like the biblical Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery, yet years later, it was Joseph who exercised mercy on those same brothers, saved them, “and gave them holdings in Egypt on the pick of the land.” (Genesis 47:11)
Meanwhile, take advantage of prayer and any wholesome common ground with your family. Also, cultivate friendships with people who also take their faith seriously. Keep thanking God for calling you to Him and the wealth He has given you.
Leading Your Loved Ones to Christ - From Presentation Ministries
Because of personal hurts and the ultrahigh stakes of eternal salvation or damnation, many followers of Jesus are brokenhearted and deeply concerned about the salvation of their children, parents, family members, or friends. If you are brokenhearted because your loved ones don't know the Lord, be thankful that you have faith enough and love enough to care. The Lord will not forsake you.
Give your life to Jesus and then give your spouses, children, family, and friends to the Lord. "Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you" (1 Pt 5:7). At the great family reunion in heaven, the Lord will gather your family members, and we have reason to hope that not one will be missing.
THE NOVENA OF LOVE
We usually focus on the sinfulness and stubbornness of loved ones who are not totally committed to Jesus. However, we should first remove the plank from our own eyes before taking the speck out of theirs (Mt 7:5). Let's focus on our sinfulness, go to Confession, forgive, and be forgiven. Then we should commit or recommit our lives to the Lord and ask for the Spirit to be stirred up in us (see 2 Tm 1:6-7). Also, we should surround ourselves with a cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) — faith-filled people who will support us in prayer.
All this prepares us to be effective ministers of God's grace for our loved ones. When our lives are in order — under His lordship, in the power of the Spirit, and in unity with Christ's body — then we may be called to pray and possibly fast for an extended time. (NOTE FROM RONDA – FASTING DOESN’T MEAN BREAD AND WATER EXCEPT FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE) Often the Lord calls us to a novena, nine days of prayer. In this novena, we pray not so much for other persons as for ourselves. We pray and fast to be freed from false impressions, negative feelings, condemning attitudes, and lack of faith (see Is 58:6). We want to see our family in a new way — God's way. We pray for ourselves to love our loved ones unconditionally. We probably love them in some way, but not with God's agape love. And without this kind of love, nothing we do will work (1 Cor 13:3). We begin by praying for ourselves to receive unconditional love.
We must be sure the foundation is laid, if we are to be effective ministers of God's grace. When loved ones delay in coming to Christ, it is sometimes more our fault than theirs. Often we try to mold others before we have let God mold us. This makes matters worse and delays our loved ones' conversion. But when we've let God deal with us for an extended time and have opened up to receive His unconditional love, then we're ready to be used by God in leading our loved ones to Christ.
To transform others' lives, we simply must act according to our relationship with that person. For example, if you are a wife, you will lead your husband to Christ by the hidden beauty of your life (1 Pt 3:1-4). If you are a husband, you must take spiritual leadership, call your wife to obedience, and serve her sacrificially (Eph 5:22-26). If you are a parent, give your children prime time, personal attention, and affectionate love. Teach them, pray with and for them, and call them to obedience (Eph 6:4). If you are a child, you will win your parents to Christ by honoring and obeying them (Eph 6:1-2).(NOTE FROM RONDA – OF COURSE YOU CAN’T OBEY THEM IF THEY ARE TELLING YOU TO DO ANYTHING THAT IS IMMORAL) If you are a brother or sister, be faithful and self-sacrificing. God has created these relationships; they are the primary ways in which He works.
DISMANTLING THE FAMILY
When we act according to our relationships, we see the Lord moving powerfully. Usually the first reaction is resistance. Things get worse before they get better. The family becomes even more divided. Jesus came "for division. From now on, a household of five will be divided three against two and two against three; father will be split against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:51-53). However, this division is part of the process of reordering the family. When something is put together wrong, it must be dismantled before it can be resembled properly. During this time of division, we feel worse, worried, and fearful. The devil uses these circumstances to manipulate us into our taking back control of our lives and families. We are like fishermen who have thrown out our lines; but every time we're afraid, worried or resentful, we reel them in a little. Soon the cares we have "cast" on the Lord are back in our hands (see 1 Peter 5:7). Trust the Lord. Keep your family and loved ones in the nail-scarred hands of the crucified and glorified One, Jesus. He is your Savior and your family's Savior.
For more such teachings click on our link to Presentation Ministries.
I have been trying to lose weight since I was a teen. My mother was overweight and stuffed all the kids. I’ve tried every diet and they work for awhile, but then I feel compelled to eat more and more again. My husband wants me to get a tummy tuck but I hear that is dangerous. I could go to Overeaters Anonymous but I hear their success rate is low and I don’t like groups to begin with. - Anonymous
Though I am not an expert on weight loss, I will share with you some ideas from those who have succeeded. Let me begin with the tummy tuck or gastric bypass if you will. I know people who have risked this surgery, had negative side effects, and still repeated the surgery later on. For your own benefit, I highly recommend that you do not choose that surgery!
The best results I have witnessed have come from individuals choosing healthy high-protein foods, especially meats, fish, eggs and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Breakfast, a protein-enhanced breakfast with eggs or ham or yogurt, or a combination of like foods, is a very necessary element in your weight-loss program. This increases good energy and controls appetite healthfully. Generous servings and a variety of vegetables need to be the most consumed items in the diet. The less simple carbohydrates, like bread and pasta, the better! Use only fruits to indulge your sweet tooth, and try to eliminate most, if not all fats from your diet. Exercise, such as swift walking, running, swimming, is a key ingredient for success….However, it is imperative that you choose exercise that is not harmful to your personal health. If you have not been exercising, check with your physician before doing so. You are probably familiar with most of these suggestions, but they are worth repeating.
A fundamental element in this process is, first of all, getting started. Just begin! Along with getting started, what motivates you to want to lose? Are you able to be in touch with why you want to lose weight? Health? Appearance? Pleasing yourself? Others? Focus on the positive, the success of this endeavor! Do not focus on the lack of caloric goodies, but, instead, on positive results. “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4: 13)”
What you are really looking for is more likely to be successful, if you see the well being, weight loss and maintenance as a life style, not just a diet. At the same time, remember that you are doing this for yourself, not for your husband or anyone else. In fact, if you want lose weight for someone else, let it be the Someone Else who created you to be the best you can be, the happiest and the healthiest and most disciplined you can be. Ask Him: ask the Holy Spirit what He wants you to eat, how much how much He wants you to eat. Then listen to Him! Try journaling your feelings, and pray in the journaling. Become aware of your needs and feelings and hurting emotions. Then, give your feelings to Him!
The idea of an organized group is worth investigating. Over-eaters Anonymous can be a support. You might consider Light Weigh, a Catholic weight loss organization and Bible study for that specific purpose. On line, you can check it out at Lightweigh.com
My friend Carol is having a hard time. She lost her scholarship at the university because of lower grades in two subjects. She is an emotionally fragile person anyway. I am worried about her because of her condition at this moment. She told me that she has no money and no place to stay, so I have lent her some money, and she is staying temporarily at my aunt’s place. Meanwhile, a mutual friend has informed me that Carol told her that she does have enough money. I feel as if I have been deceived by her. Should I confront her?
There are a few possibilities going on in this situation. Carol may have sincerely been thinking of the money you lent her and the temporary housing with your aunt as at least short-term assistance. Indeed, a sense of gratitude, even hope, may be disguising her need for the moment.
On the other hand, if she is being intentionally deceptive, you need to be aware of a few possibilities. Often, when we think that a friend or acquaintance is purposely deceiving us, we need to look into possible reasons before confrontation. Sometimes, it is good to stand back and mentally walk in the deceiving person’s shoes. This kind of deceit is often a mask for something else. For example, shame, low self-esteem or a sense of failure could be playing into this. Carol may trust you and your sense of discretion or she may know or believe that the other person is not in a position to help her financially. Be aware of your own tendency to be judgmental in your conversations. People often fear disclosing their problems to those who judge or ridicule those with problems. Work on developing your friend’s trust, and make sure that you are trustworthy. Give this some time. Observe her behavior--- and yours! If, after the tested time, you are still concerned about her dishonesty, especially if there are other serious instances, sit down and have a calm, affirming dialogue with her. Let her know how much your friendship means to you, and also how much you treasure honesty in your relationships. Gently share your concern with her. This may indeed be about trust in God, inculcating trust in Him for yourself and for your hurting friend. “He will call on Me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15)
I am a 50 year old single Catholic man, who goes to Mass daily. In the winter I wear ear-muffs so I won’t get angry at the false teaching my pastor puts into his sermons. The nearest Church with the good pastor is an hour away. I get most of my spiritual nourishment from watching EWTN (a strongly “conservative” Catholic TV station). I especially loved listening to Fr. Corapi, who I watched for years on EWTN. Now I hear that he is leaving the priesthood over the bishop’s suspending him. And that EWTN took him off the station. This is a real crisis for me. I don’t believe the allegations and I think that Corapi is right that suspending a priest without evidence of wrongdoing is wrong. Maybe I should drop out of the Catholic Church and just follow Corapi on his webs. What do you think?
This situation with Father Corapi is both tragic and unfortunately symptomatic of the time in which we live. In fact, I was stunned, almost physically ill on hearing this news. Father Corapi has been a hero figure to you and to those of us who yearn to hear the absolute truth of the Catholic Church, not a watered-down version or “Catholic-Lite”, so to speak. From your question, I assume that you want the unadulterated Message of the Church our Lord established, from the Solemn and Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Up to this point, I am sure that this is what has attracted you and most of us to Father Corapi.
Please bear with two scenarios. If Father Corapi is innocent of any misdeeds, well and good, but in choosing to follow him, and dropping out of the Catholic Church, you are actually choosing against the very teachings Father Corapi gave us up to the present time. Those truths do not change! Jesus Christ, the Son of God does not change! We change; we make mistakes; we sin! Our Lord has promised: “On this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The word is “prevail”; the world, the flesh, and the devil have been militating against the Church since its beginning. On the other hand, even if Father Corapi were not innocent, what he has been teaching up to now is still valid. As one priest used to say, “If Peter baptizes the baby, the baby is baptized; if Judas baptizes the baby, the baby is baptized!”
The dignity of the priesthood transcends any ministry, or calling, or personality! Only the priest can say the Mass! Only the priest can forgive sins in Jesus’ Name in the Sacrament of Penance! A sermon, a speech, no matter how noble or inspiring, cannot measure up to the Mass, the unbloody Sacrifice of our Lord. At the same time, though the sermon at your church may be lackluster or even false teaching, the Mass itself, the Eucharist, is the utmost gift of Christ to you, to each of us Catholics. By the way, have you ever politely approached your pastor, challenging his heretical views?
Meanwhile, there are movements that may have had noble origins, such as great reverence for the Latin Mass. Some waited in obedience for Vatican approval, for example, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter; but some others chose to neglect official Church authority and became schismatic, for example, the Society of St. Pius X. Though both groups preferred the traditional Latin Mass, patience and obedience won out for the obedient. In the same way, St. Padre Pio was silenced for years while he was investigated by Church authorities, and he could only say Mass in private. He chose humility, obedience, and being silenced during that time. A similar situation existed for St. Gerard who was also falsely accused of scandalous behavior. St. Joan of Arc was treated reprehensibly as well. In each of these Saints, obedience led to their greater sanctity. Paul said: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess.2:15)
The peace you need at this time, actually a time of grief if you will, will come from obedience to the Church Christ founded. “He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me.” (Luke 10:16) At the same time, the Church needs your prayers. Father Corapi and all of our priests need many prayers from you and from each of us! Yes, “Pray without ceasing!” (1 Thess. 5:17)
I am a thirty-five-year-old Catholic woman. During my late teens and young adult years, I left the Church and played around a lot. Recently, I had a conversion back to the Faith. I want to be chaste, especially to make up for the years of sin, using contraceptives, I went through before. When I go out on dates, even with Catholic men, they think that chastity went out after Vatican II. I am afraid that if I try to do the right thing I will never get married. What do you suggest?
This is a time of gratitude and rejoicing for your re-entry back to the Church for you and for all of us in the Church! This is a good time to recognize your recent blessings and reflect on how Our Lord brought you back to Him, to His Church, to experience your feelings, thanksgiving, and growing in your relationship with Him. Call on the Holy Spirit to guide you in your new life. A renewed…or a brand new…relationship with Our Lady will stand you in good stead during this remarkable time. Try saying the Rosary, or at least a decade, each day. Mary is not only the Mother of God and your Mother given to you at the foot of the Cross, but she is also the model par excellence for each of us women, whether married, single, widowed, divorced or consecrated. I remember as a teenager encountering a priest who suggested that I say the Rosary every day. At that time, I dismissed him as unenlightened and irrelevant. Years later, to my surprise, I found out that this same priest was a highly educated and respected professor at the University of Louvain in Belgium. When my own children reached adolescence, this priest’s advice came back to happily haunt me.
If men know that you are “doing the right thing”, that you put more value on your own self-respect and the eternal values of your newly re-found faith, they will learn that you are to be taken seriously. Remember, the best marriages are based on true friendship, and deeply-held religious and moral values shared in common, and friendship with God and with the man you are dating and marrying. Recently, I heard in a discussion on marriage that your ideal spouse will be someone who loves God more than he loves you. If he puts God first in his life, as we need to do as well, what love and respect will come from him dating, engaged, and married to you!
For the countless people who are trying to begin again, the concept of secondary virginity can be a great benefit. Of course, the Sacrament of Confession is the basic cleansing and healing way to return to the Faith and union with Christ. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1: 9) Secondary virginity can be further explained in two websites that may help in this area are:
www.lovematters.com/startover.htm and www.reapteam.org/what-is-secondary-virginity
During this time, think of what interests you the most, for example, golfing, or the arts, music, photography, history, nature, bowling, cooking, playing cards, or whatever it is. Pursuing an interest or hobby gives you the enjoyment and recreation you need, makes you more interesting, and leads to more potential enjoyment shared with others. If you join a club focused on your preferred activity, this may be a healthy way to meet someone with similar interests. There are also groups of Catholic adults or young adults who share their Faith and enjoy the social and cultural aspects of their beliefs. This is especially helpful to foment good friendships and marriages. For example, there is a young and not-so-young group in the Archdiocese of New York called Catholic Underground. You might want to also check out good recommended web-sites where serious Catholics can meet others of like mind. This is a time for growth for you, a new life, a new beginning. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)
My daughter has had some health problems. She has a young family and seems to need extra help. Her husband is often away from home because of business trips. I am a widow in my seventies with my own age-related health issues, but my daughter has asked me to move in with her and her family. I will be moving more than a thousand miles away from where I am now living. What do you think about this idea?
Such a move will be a milestone for you as well as your daughter and her family. Since time immemorial, moving in with one’s children may have numerous benefits for all concerned. Before attempting this move, you need to weigh the advantages as well as the disadvantages for yourself, your daughter, your son-in-law, and the family. Make sure that your son-in-law is also enthused about this move. Indeed, this decision-making needs to begin and end with intense prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Also, it would be very wise to consult a spiritual director, priest, or a counselor during this process. Inform your friends who know you well. Listen to their feedback. This helps you weigh the pros and cons of your decision-making.
You need to discern about several aspects of your shared life. Your physical condition should be well thought-out. The energy level of a grandmother is not what it was when she was thirty or forty. You need to take care of yourself in terms of rest and recreation and personal needs. You will be a greater help… and a more agreeable grandmother… if you are not exhausted and burned out. Be aware of your own physical limitations before taking this step. This may well include consulting with your current physician in advance.
How are your finances? You need to deal with your own financial arrangements and communicate with your daughter and son-in-law about how these will affect you and them. By the way, should this living arrangement prove not to work out for you and your family, make sure that neither you nor your daughter’s family is in any way trapped by financial decisions made by any of you. These arrangements should all be addressed before making your move.
Emotionally, you need to be aware of your own limitations, stressors, worries, strengths and weaknesses. For example, how much time and energy are you able to use wisely with active, noisy children? What about two women in the same kitchen? On the whole, how do your daughter and her husband deal with conflicts, annoyances with one another, or with frustration in general? Does their relationship appear to be a strong one? Not threatened by your living with them? How do you take care of your own emotional well-being now? Make sure that you have your own inner resources, your own interests, preferred pastimes and hobbies. You will need to create your own space and boundaries, and you will also need to respect the boundaries of family members. Anticipate also ways in which you can become involved socially, for example in your new parish. You and the family will need some times of independence from one another, mini-vacations if you will. Also, your social involvement outside the home will help stimulate your own brain, keep it younger and more useful to them, and to you!
The spiritual component pervades the whole decision before you. Again, praying for guidance is vital! You will need God’s help in decision-making, your day-to-day life, especially in the common interactions in the family. Make Sunday and Holy Day worship mandatory for yourself. In the process, you set a tone, giving a positive model to your family, for example, “Like mother, like daughter”. (Ezekiel 16: 44) If you can add it to your schedule, try to take advantage of attending Mass sometimes during the week. It will strengthen you and bring you more peace, and if you bring along a grandchild, this will help in his or her religious formation. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law,” (Galatians 5:22) If you can, try to join a prayer group, cultivate friendships with other people who share your religious beliefs. “Honor widows who are real widows. If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” (1Timothy 5:4)
share their Faith and enjoy the social and cultural aspects of their beliefs. This is especially helpful to foment good friendships and marriages. For example, there is a young and not-so-young group in the Archdiocese of New York called Catholic Underground. You might want to also check out good recommended web-sites where serious Catholics can meet others of like mind. This is a time for growth for you, a new life, a new beginning. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)
My husband is a successful lawyer, and before our first child was born, a very loving husband and good friend. We have two sons, a toddler and a four-year-old. A year after our wedding and our first son was
born, my husband began to change. Roger has become very critical of me, saying demeaning and really cruel things to me and about me, even in front of our little children. I end up in tears when this happens. I do
not speak up to him for fear of what he might further say or do. I have come to feel nothing but hatred for him. I would really like to leave him, but with his legal skills, as well as his influence in the community,
I fear that I might lose custody of our children. I would rather live in this unhappy marriage than lose my children. What do you think?
Your situation certainly needs several lines of attack. I cannot understate your need for intense prayer. Turn to the Holy Spirit and ask Him for guidance! Make time in your busy schedule for prayer time. You will become more peaceful!
It would really help if you see a counselor or marriage counselor, preferably through your parish or diocese. Often, you can get some perspective, speaking with a Catholic priest. Begin by making the appointment for only yourself. This approach helps you personally and strengthens you, and then later, you will be better prepared to find a way to discuss this situation with your husband about this problem. Often, I have seen marriages transformed, even if only one spouse seeks help. In some hurting marriages, the work of one spouse--- and only that one spouse at the outset --- can be especially helpful.
During this time, some new thinking patterns may help you right away! Begin by planning around what time your husband leaves for work and what time he gets home. Use this time to enjoy yourself and both of your children, and even your less-favored tasks, in peace! It is a great boon to have connections with other mothers of young children in your neighborhood and/or parish. Choose to renounce hatred! Choose to change any negative thoughts. For example, change from: “I dread when he comes home”, to “What a good time the children are having in the sandbox!”, or “What a beautiful morning it is!” Make realistic time for taking care of you. “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24) Enjoy books or hobbies that appeal to you. I knew a woman in a situation very similar to yours. She was consumed by hatred and fear of her husband. When she was advised by a wise person to concentrate on the positive aspects of her hours away from her husband, several benefits resulted. Her new thought patterns led to a decrease of her anxiety and depression. She became more self-confident and positively energetic. Her relationships with her children and acquaintances were enhanced. During this time, she was more often able to let go of her fear of her husband’s judgment of her. She never let her husband know what she was doing about their situation; she just quietly followed the advice of the wise person. Her husband actually became more civil as a result. This eventually lead to a healed marriage.
Seek the help of a priest or a spiritual director, as well as that counselor who also respects the traditional institution of marriage and the family.
Take responsibility for your own feelings and decisions. You will be more peaceful and less wounded and vulnerable, if you do not point the finger at your husband during this time. Blaming the other one helps neither of you and adds to your own helplessness. Also, do not submit to the temptation to bad-mouth your husband to the children. This helps neither you, your children, your husband, or this situation. “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4: 26)
Pray against hatred, surrendering your feelings go God. Call on the Holy Spirit; ask Him to help you. Choosing hatred can only pull you down. Resentment, anger, and bitterness will keep you in an unhappy frame of mind and spirit.Forgiveness, while setting practical, protective boundaries, is a powerful anti-depressant. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4: 31-32)
To sum up, you need to ask for help from God, from clergy and counselors, from positive friendships and activities, from your own newly-accepted inner resources. Especially, trust in God in these circumstances. “Cast all you anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5: 7)
The Christmas and New Year holidays are a real problem for me this year. Normally, I go to visit my parents and sisters, and there usually is a combination of arguments and hurt feelings when we do get together. However, now, our relationship with one another has deteriorated so much that I have decided to stay at home this year. One family member has not been speaking to me for the past couple of months. I am single and live alone. The problem is my unresolved hurt and loneliness. How can I possibly celebrate Christmas, emotionally and spiritually, under the circumstances?
During the Christmas season, there are so many combinations of feelings, memories, and expectations for each and all of us. Whether it is children waiting for Santa Claus, or family members hoping for the perfect family reunion, or most often forgotten but most significant, how to best celebrate the Birthday of our Lord and Savior, the Season is a time of complexities, of ups and downs.
Since you have decided to remain at home, let’s look at how this can best work for you---and your absent family members as well.
If you have a history of family strife during Christmas celebrations, your choosing to stay away this one time may have its benefits. You may actually need the space. For example, you may indeed experience a more peaceful day, at least for this one time. Also, you may even experience some nostalgia and loneliness in your family’s absence. The experience should give you ---and your family where they are ---the opportunity to pause and reflect on this change.
However, this decision needs a few pieces to make it beneficial. Forgiving and self-giving are essential ingredients for your happiness. Forgiveness is a major facet in experiencing a joyful and peaceful Christmas. If you choose to go through with your plan to stay home, begin by examining yourself, your own role in the hurtful encounters. For example, in those hurtful encounters, have you held your tongue and counted to ten when someone said something upsetting? If you have spoken up, for example, to defend a noble idea or a person’s reputation, did you do so with peaceful kindness? Did you choose not to attack the other person?
If you do choose to stay home, you need to contact the family members, perhaps with individual Christmas cards or individual phone calls, or both, to wish them a Merry Christmas. If you have hurt any family members, this is an opportunity to make amends, to apologize for anything that may have hurt them. Keep it simple.
While you are at it, forgive yourself.
During this time of reflection, forgive your family members. Choose to forgive each one, even the person who is not speaking to you. Forgiveness is not a feeling; forgiveness is a choice! You can begin by asking God to give you the desire to desire to forgive.
The Sacrament of Confession is the ideal place to bring your need to be forgiven by God for your sins, as well as your need to forgive others. In the Archdiocese of New York where I live, there are Confessions for several hours in each Catholic church on Monday, December 19th, in preparation for Christmas. There are also Penance services in some of the churches. Perhaps, there is a similar set-up in your diocese. Find out when there are Confessions, and take advantage of it.
In terms of self-giving, you might find extra joy working at a soup kitchen on Christmas. Do you know a person who would like to join you for Christmas Mass? Someone who has been away from church and Mass? A person as lonely or lonelier than you? Might you enjoy making dinner and sharing it with some guests? The more you give of yourself and forgive, the more you will be able to share yourself with the Christmas Guest Himself for His Birthday.
This time we have a contribution to Biblical Counsel from a writer other than Marti because Marti has been very busy with family.
I spend a lot of time analyzing what is wrong with myself. Some people think this is self-dramatizing and ego-centric and that it is better to simply pray and trust in God without trying to understand the intricacies of character defects and faults. What do you think?
Struggling with self can be a challenge. I can’t do it by myself, but I can be willing to let God do His part. I first need to consider if I truly am willing to give up myself and Let go and Let God. Self-control has to yield to something or Someone. I think that yielding will ultimately be called trust – total trust. Very simplistic statements, but I think you can see where my thoughts are flowing.
On a continuum, what’s between self and opposite end of not self? (I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.) Let’s call it “Other.”
(“Other” can be persons, places, things, feelings, or just about anything that distracts me from my ultimate goal of union with God.)
Do I go around, over, through, under, or hold on to “other” to get to God? No matter how I try to get to God, “Other” is always somewhere in the path. Obviously, God designed it that way. I ignore “Other” at my peril. The goal is not to get rid of “Other,” but how to trust God to come alongside and tell me/show me how to manage the conflict(s) or the benefits of “Other.”
For perspective, look briefly at the root word Self in the Scriptures, and at just one negative and one positive tendril of the root that leads to behavior choices:
Proverbs 23:6 - Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, Or desire his delicacies;
Romans 2:8 - but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
Philippians 1:17 - the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
James 3:14 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
James 3:16 - For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
Self Exaltation – Jer. 48:29
self-indulgence – Mt. 23:25
self-will – Gen. 49:6
(+) Self Control
2 Peter 1:5-7: and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
Galatians 5:22-24: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24
Romans 15:1-3 Self-denial on Behalf of Others ] Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.
Regardless of the translation of the Bible, each is filled with references to the battle of self. The wonderful thing about scripture – if we really think about it – is that the author of each book, and the quotes we so blithely use, has experienced the pain, the angst, and the victory over the struggle of which he writes. We tend to over spiritualize or over simplify scripture forgetting that it was written by human beings with human failures. God uses these “failures” to identify “other” and to show us that He understands and still loves us; but He qualifies our future with Him by challenging and expecting us to Overcome:
John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
2 Peter 2:20 - For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
1 John 4:4 - You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
1 John 5:4 - For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.)
1 John 5:5 - Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
So, bottom line is: Do we Trust (Philippians 4:13) or not?
Ann Ony Moose
Dear Ann Ony Moose (the pseudonym of one of our Biblical Counselors)
I am a highly over-extended semi-retired professional, 75 years old. I took a break for 6 months from my regular job as a High School guidance counselor and I am doing lots of parish work with teens. I am thinking maybe I should permanently quit the paid job since I can easily live on social security and a pension. One of my motives for quitting is that as I age I am becoming more and more forgetful. I tend to mix up the records at the school even. At the parish there are fewer organizational issues. I only have to put in maybe 10 hours a week vs. 40 at the High School. But I am hesitating about quitting, because maybe the public high school kids need me even more than the parish teens. What do you think?
Most of the times you have described this happening you (where you forget things) you have been under some degree of pressure, stress or anxiety, and then become more stressed and anxious because you let it nag you, hate letting people down, it's embarrassing, and you fear the ignominy of doing it again and looking and feeling even worse. (BTW, you already know that stress can be good - as in excitement, feeling good about how things went, and just wanting to relax and enjoy for a while.) Those are givens for most of us in similar circumstances, and very well may happen again and again, but does that mean you shouldn't guide public school students anymore? I don't think so. It isn't the records you keep that count. What counts is the information, truth, and heart that you impart when you give counsel, and your students will always benefit from that. But that really isn't the primary question.
2. The primary question is do you really, really, want to continue being a guidance counselor at the High School? If, after some really committed prayer time on that one, the answer is a definite "yes," then there are a number of things you can do to limit such mistakes in keeping records and to feel OK when and if they do happen.
3. If you do not want to commit to this job, will your work with the parish teens be enough. You could possibly expand this work to take in teens from neighboring parishes.
4. So, the biggie is will you be satisfied to not to be a full-time guidance counselor of High School students? How much of your identity is in this job? If the prestige of your career is still important, you will probably function under increasing stress as you realize you are getting older and need to do more to keep up with the world around the student's needs. And that's OK, just be sure you recognize and accept the possible increasing stress. It is also OK to say No, time to move on.
Whatever you decide, if you can teach/share only from the heart of the truly dedicated child of God that you are, then His heart will be the teacher and you can relax and enjoy letting Him use you.
Also, whatever you decide, never lose sight of the fact that your Lord deeply loves you, and will be happy with you as long as you spend time with Him. You don't have anything else to prove on this side. It really will be OK if you spend as much time as possible sitting in His lap, being His student, and hanging out with that great cloud/crowd of witnesses – the saints!
Ann Ony Moose