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Spirituality in Psychology

Tracie Timme

 

Spirituality in Psychology

An academic paper by

Tracie L. Timme – Online Counselor and Therapist

This paper is about exploring the use of spirituality in the practice of psychology and how it could potentially strengthen their bond with their patients.  There could be a better understanding of issues and treatment if spirituality were apart of therapeutic practices.

Psychology got its start in ancient times from philosophy.  Psychology remained part of philosophy until nineteenth century (Leahey, 2004).  Here we have the beginning of the mind-body problem.  To some the mind was our essence and the body a mere vessel.  When the physical body died, the soul moved on to an afterlife (Leahey, 2004).  The soul (mind) has the spiritual world knowledge, whereas the body has the physical world knowledge (Leahey, 2004).

spirituality-in-psychologyEverybody but atheists, have a faith that they follow.  It has been addressed that psychologist show gain education and knowledge as to the role that religion and spirituality plays on personal factors (Shafranske, 2010).  There was an introduction of value in different consciousness in therapeutic practices.  It is very important for the therapist to integrate the patients’ spirituality in the course of interventions (Shafranske, 2010).  It is also important to take into consideration the personal and professional influences of inspiration from the therapists’ point of view.  This can greatly impact how the therapist entices the patient to open up, and help the therapist to relate better to the patient (Shafranske, 2010).  “This leads to an associated point: Given the lack of attention given to the religious and spiritual dimension in most psychology training, how prepared are clinicians to be mindful of the potential impacts their religious and spiritual commitments have on their professional practice, to appropriately and ethically integrate spirituality in psychological treatment, or respond to emergent transcendent experiences” (Shafranske, 2010, pp. 125)?  This seems to mean that therapists should have the understanding to be able to mindfully talk about spirituality in their practice and treatment plans for their patients.

Spirituality is hard to define, but it has been explained a few ways.  One is that spirituality can be called one’s highest or ultimate values or reality, and the relationship one has with those realities or values (Braud, 2009).  A second way is the belonging or link to the transcendental ground of being.  Another is how people relate to God, other humans, or Earth.  Some refer to it as how committed one is to practicing a particular faith.  However, it is important to distinguish between healthy practices and beliefs and ones that are unhealthy to well-being (Braud, 2009).  Yet another general term by Lindholm and Astin is involving the process inside when you look for personal authenticity, wholeness, and genuineness; transcending one’s center, having a deeper sense of connecting to self and others from having relationships and community, having meaning, direction, and purpose in life, being open enough to the possibility of a relationship with a higher being that is above human existence and knowing, and having a value for the sacred (Braud, 2009).  There are other definitions of spirituality for femininity and other cultures.  But they were not included in the ones above.

There is a relatively new field of psychology called transpersonal psychology.  In addition to conventional ways, transpersonal psychologists use heuristic research, intuitive inquiry, organic inquiry, and integral inquiry.  These are depicted in these psychologists by a higher level of integration and inclusiveness in the whole person, more variety of benefits and functions in a session, sources of inspiration, more ways of knowing, topics and questions researched, different ways of gathering, using, and explaining information, including epistemology and ontology, and ethical thoughts and values that are relevant  (Braud, 2009).  This gives a broader perspective of all aspects of the issues at hand.

When we think in terms of helping people with their psychological issues, it just makes sense to include everything you possibly can to understand what the patient is going through and how they see thing possibly running their course.  Because a lot of people do follow some sort of faith, it is important for the therapist to know as much as possible about their patient’s spirituality, in order to help them the best way possible and include every aspect of that person as a whole.  Having this knowledge will provide the best treatment plan for that specific patient.

REFERENCES

Braud, W. (2009). Dragons, spheres, and flashlights: appropriate research approaches for studying workplace spirituality. Journal Of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 6(1), 59-75.

Leahey, T. H. (2004).  A history of psychology: Main currents in psychological thought (6th ed.).  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Shafranske, E. P. (2010). Advancing “the boldest model yet”: A commentary on psychology, religion, and spirituality. Psychology Of Religion And Spirituality, 2(2), 124-125.

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Tracie Timme is a Privileged ProvenTherapist. See her Profile for counseling support.

The Five Ingredients of an Effective Apology

The Five Ingredients of an Effective Apology

Why our apologies don’t work and how to fix them
Published on November 21, 2013 by Guy Winch, Ph.D. in The Squeaky Wheel

Apologies are important in any society and children are taught to say “I’m sorry” pretty much as soon as they are capable of constructing a full sentence. Unfortunately, our skill level does not improve very much from there. More often than not apologies made by adults are just as insincere and unconvincing as those made by children.

Why are we so bad at apologizing?

Effective Apologies as the Antidote to Guilt

Ask yourself (or someone else) why you (or they) are offering an apology in a given situation and the answer is likely to be, “I’m apologizing because I was wrong/mistaken/at fault,” or “One should/must/is expected to apologize in such situations,” or “It’s the right/mature/responsible thing to do.” And therein lays the problem. Because while such motivations are well and good, none of them reflect what the apology actually aims to achieve.

Consider that if you’re apologizing you must have done something to distress, hurt, offend, disappoint, frustrate, upset, anger, startle, or disrupt another person’s emotional equilibrium in some way. Therefore, the primary goal of your apology should be to ease that person’s emotional burden and garner their authentic forgiveness. As a bonus (and an important one), and only if your apology is effective, your own feelings of guilt or regret will ease.

However, for apologies to be effective, they have to be focused on the other person’s needs and feelings, not your own. This fundamental misunderstanding of who should be the focus of the apology is the reason so many politicians, athletes, and other celebrities sound blatantly insincere when offering them publically, and why so many of our own efforts are ineffective—because we’re not trying to make the other person feel better, we’re trying to make ourselves feel better.

The Keys to Constructing an Effective Apology

Apologies are tools with which we acknowledge violations of social expectations or norms, take responsibility for the impact of our actions on others, ask their forgiveness, and by doing so, repair ruptures in our relationships, restore our social standing, and ease feelings of guilt. This formulation implies that for an apology to be effective it must have the following key ingredients:

1. A clear ‘I’m sorry’ statement.

2. An expression of regret for what happened.

3. An acknowledgment that social norms or expectations were violated.

4. An empathy statement acknowledging the full impact of our actions on the other person.

5. A request for forgiveness.

The most important of these five ingredients and sadly, the one we tend to omit most often, is the empathy statement. In order for the other person to truly forgive us, they need to feel as though we ‘get’ the full implications of our actions on them (read How to Test Your Empathy here). Doing so convincingly is harder than it might seem. Let’s see how you do with the following example:

Setup: You had a horrible day at work, you’re in a terrible mood, you get home late and feel too wiped out and irritable to go to your very good friend’s birthday party. Besides, you figure your presence will only be a downer, so why ruin the event for everyone else? You wake up the next morning flooded with guilt and feel even worse when you realize you didn’t even let them know you weren’t coming.

Apology: What points do you need to cover in order to convey you ‘get’ the full impact of your actions on them?

Make a list of points you would mention before you continue reading. When you’re compiled your list, check key #4 to see how many of the necessary points you identified. Here are the five key ingredients an effective apology should have:

1. I am so incredibly sorry…

2. …I didn’t make it to your birthday party last night.

3. I had a terrible day and was in such a bad mood I just went to bed—but there’s no excuse for not showing up and for not even calling to tell you I wasn’t coming.

4. I can only imagine how (a) upset and (b) hurt, (c) disappointed, and (d) angry you must feel. (e) I know how much work you put into the party. (f) You must have been wondering when I would show up and (g) where I was. (h) I’m sure people asked you where I was and (i) I feel terrible for putting you in such an awkward and embarrassing position. I hope you weren’t worried (j) and that you were able to enjoy yourself but I feel awful that my (k) selfish behavior affected your (l) mood, (m) your night, or (n) the party in any way. I am so sorry I (o) wasn’t there for you as a friend should be and that I (p) wasn’t at your side to celebrate your birthday.

5. I know it might take you a while, but I just hope you’ll be able to forgive me.

Although it might seem intimidating to ‘own up’ to bad behavior so completely, doing so will not only help mend important relationships and ease feelings guilt, but taking responsibility and doing the right thing can feel extremely empowering. That said, be aware that effective apologies and especially empathy statements require practice, so plan for a learning curve.

And if you know any politicians, athletes, or celebrities who screw up or put their foot in their mouths—feel free to give them these five keys—they could probably use them….

For more about repairing relationships check out the chapters on Guilt and Loneliness in, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013).

Staying engaged

Ryan’s love [for his girlfriend] was audacious. It was whimsical. It was strategic. Most of all, it was contagious. Watching Ryan lose himself in love reminded me that being “engaged” isn’t just an event that happens when a guy gets on one knee and puts a ring on his true love’s finger. Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about – full of abandon, whimsy, and in love. I want to be engaged to life and with life.

http://staymarriedblog.com/5-ways-to-stay-engaged/

Appraisal by a ProvenTherapist

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A One-step Solution for All Your Problems

Leeza S. Dillip – Approved ProvenTherapist

Leeza S. Dillip

“What is this life if, full of care

We have no time to stand and stare.”

William Henry Davis “Leisure”

Life today, is so fast-paced, challenging, complex and full of ups and downs. Do you remember the last time you laughed heartily, spent memorable times with your loved ones, jumped with joy or cried like a child, looked at the beautiful sunset or spun stories watching floating clouds? Most of us would be trying to answer these questions. We may have conquered many milestones in terms of education, profession, materialistic pursuits and so on. But, deep within our emotional sensitiveness is becoming shallow.

New Look

Life manifests itself in varied ways. Some moments impart a lot of happiness and positive aspects. While some instances render us hopeless and helpless. Loss of a loved one, transitions in life, daily stress, depression, break ups, emotional pains, anger and agonies, failure and frustrations, mood swings and confusion, chaos and loss…there are manifold ways in which life hits you hard and makes it unbearable. Under these circumstances it is very hard to find a support system, a shoulder to lean on, a person who can understand you pains in a non-judgmental manner and one who can show you the way out of all these challenges and pains.

If you are someone who is struggling with the ebb and tide of life, if situations are literally churning you up and if you are becoming a prey to mental health issues…we, at ProvenTherapy are dedicated to hold your hand and show you the path out of all the atrocities you are facing.

ProvenTherapy is like a Multi-specialty and Super-specialty health set up. With more than 100 specialized counselors, therapists and life coaches, ProvenTherapy is a pioneer in the field of Online Counselling. You can find different therapists specialized in different areas of life skills, mental health, therapy and healing…..all at a single place. Here are some of the hallmarks of ProvenTherapy:

  • Highly Qualified and experienced counselors and therapists
  • 24/7 online counselling and therapy support through live chat, emails, etc
  • Multi-specialized professionals to help you in dealing with your problems
  • Your privacy, security, confidentiality and dignity are never breached
  • Empathetic understanding of your pains and showing you varied ways of dealing with them
  • Extensive and intensive assessment, diagnosis, treatment, counselling and follow-up systems so that all your problems are treated in a wholesome manner
  • Flexible timings, user-friendly set up, easy to access and sign up, economic and less time consuming
  • Additional services also can be accessed free of cost. Like: Forums, therapist forums, blogs, therapeutic articles and videos and much more.

ProvenTherapy is not just a website full of words; it is a world full of well-meaning people who are dedicated to help you and to take you out of the overwhelming problems that you are facing. We, at ProvenTherapy await your arrival to facilitate your health, happiness and overall well-being.

Letting go

Eric HolmesA psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Remember to put the glass down

The Church must bring Jesus to a humanity in crisis

Pope Francis - washing of feetPope Francis puts his certainty of faith down to his grandmother, from whom he first heard the Christian proclamation; to a life changing encounter with Christ at age 17, through a unknown priest who heard his Confession; to his daily praying of the Rosary to his ‘Mother’, Our Lady and to allowing himself to be held in God’s gaze even when he nods off after a tiring day, while in prayer before the Tabernacle.

At 17: 30 the Pope entered the square on his jeep and for a full 30 minutes toured through the throng arriving half-way down the Via della Conciliazione to greet as many people as possible.

After two readings taken from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans and the treatise of St. Irenaeus, there were two testimonies. John Waters, an Irish journalist, spoke of his leaving the faith, in search of a freedom that “makes us feel all-powerful and deeply powerless,” typical man of today who “seeks to dominate everything and that’s why he feels isolated and alone” . He then recalled being brought to “ his knees” by alcoholism, from which he was saved thanks to some friends who helped him rediscover the faith of his childhood. Now, he concluded “I am not only John, but one with the One who created me and I could not be free in any other way.”

The second testimony was that of Paul Bhatti, former minister for minorities in Pakistan, who thanked Pope Francis for being able to “share the pain and hopes of the Christians of Pakistan.” He recalled the mission of his brother Shahbaz, who was killed by Islamic extremists March 2, 2011, his commitment to the poor, the marginalized, the weak who “are the body of the persecuted Christ.” At the same time, his brother never stopped dreaming of “a Pakistan free and open to all communities and minorities”, in dialogue with Muslims, who “bear witness to the love of Jesus.”

Four representatives from the Movements then addressed their questions to Pope Francis. Pope, who had previously read the questions, gave an unscripted response, apologizing at the end that he was “too long”. The dialogue lasted for at least 40 minutes:

Pope Francis began by wishing everyone his signatory “Good evening”. He said “I am very happy to meet you and that we are all coming together in this square, to pray, to be united and to wait for the gift of the Spirit. I knew your questions beforehand so I thought about them – this is not without some thought! First, the truth! I have them written here. But that first one, “how were you able to achieve certainty of faith in your life, and what the path can you indicate to us so that each one of us can overcome our fragility of faith?” Is a historical question, because it is about my history, my life , no?

I have had the good fortune to grow up in a family where the faith was lived in a simple and concrete manner, but it was especially my grandmother, my father’s mother, who marked my journey of faith. She was a woman who explained everything to us, who spoke to us of Jesus, who taught us the Catechism … I always remember that on Good Friday in the evening, she would take us to the Candle-light Procession, and at the end of this Procession, we would arrive before the recumbent Christ, and my grandmother made us – us kids – kneel down and she would say: “Look, He is dead, but tomorrow he will Rise up!.” I received my first Christian proclamation right from this woman, from my grandmother, right? That is something beautiful! The first proclamation is in the home, within the family, right? And this makes me think of the love of many mothers and so many grandmothers in the transmission of the faith. They are the ones that transmit the faith. Even in the early days, because St. Paul said to Timothy: “I remember the faith of your mother and your grandmother.” To all the mothers who are here, to all grandmothers, [I ask you to ] think about this! Transmitting the faith. Because God puts people alongside us who help our journey of faith. We do not find our faith ‘in the abstract, no: it is always a person who preaches it to us, who tells us who Jesus is, who gives us the faith, who gives us the first announcement. And so it was in my first experience of faith.

But…there is a very important day for me: September 21, 1953. I was almost 17 It was the “Day of the Student,” for us the start of Spring – for you the start of Autumn. Before going to the festival, I went to my parish. And there I found a priest I did not know, but I felt the need to confess. And this was for me an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. I do not know what happened, I do not remember, I do not know if it was that priest who was there, whom I did not know, why I felt this urge to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. Someone was waiting for me for a long time. And after the confession I felt that something had changed. I was not the same. I felt a voice call me: I was convinced that I had to become a priest. And this experience of faith is important. We say that we must seek God, go to Him to ask for forgiveness … but when we go, He is waiting for us, He is the first one there! We, in Spanish, we have a word that explains this well: “The Lord always there primerea” is first, is waiting for you! And it is a really great grace to find Someone who is waiting for you. You go to Him a sinner, but He is already waiting to forgive you. That experience that the Prophets of Israel said that the Lord is like the flower of almond trees, the first flowers of Spring. Before any other flowers appear, there He is: He who waits. The Lord is waiting for us. And when we seek Him out, we find this reality: that He is waiting to welcome us, to give us His love. And this creates wonder in the heart of those who do not believe, and this is how faith grows! With an encounter with a Person, with an encounter with the Lord. Some will say, “No, I prefer to study faith in books!” Ah, yes it is important to study. But look, that alone is not enough! The important thing is our encounter with Jesus, our encounter with Him, and that gives us faith, because it is He who gives us Faith! While you were talking about the fragility of faith: how do we overcome it. Fragility’s biggest enemy curiously enough, is fear. But do not be afraid! We are weak, we know it but He is stronger! If you are with Him, then there is no problem! A child is fragile: I have seen many today. But they are with their father, their mother: so they are safe! We too are safe with the Lord, we are secure. Faith grows with the Lord, out of the very hands of the Lord. And that makes us grow and makes us stronger. But if we think that we can make it on our own, ah, think of Peter, what happened to him, “Lord, I will never disown you,” and then the cock crowed three times and he had, no? We think, when we have too much faith in our own abilities, we are more fragile, more fragile. Always with the Lord, speaking with the Lord, with Him in the Eucharist, in the Bible, in prayer … Even as a family, with our Mother, even with her because she is the one that leads us to the Lord, the mother who knows everything the Lord. So let us pray to Our Lady and ask her as our Mother to make us strong. That is what I think about the fragility: at least, in my experience. The one thing that makes me stronger every day is to pray the Rosary to Our Lady. I feel great strength because I go to her and I feel strong”.

Moving on to the second question, the Pope discussed the challenge of Evangelization for the Movements, of how to effectively communicate the faith in today’s world”.

Pope Francis said “I will say three words only. First: Jesus. What is the most important thing? Jesus . If we push ahead with planning and organization, beautiful things indeed, but without Jesus, then we are on the wrong road. Jesus is the most important thing. I would like to take the opportunity now to make a small, but fraternal, reproach, among ourselves, alright? All of you in the square shouted out: “Francis, Francis, Pope Francis ” … But, where was Jesus? I want to hear you shout out. “Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and He is in our midst.” From now on , no more “Francis”, only “Jesus”. Alright?

The second word is prayer. Look at the face of God, but above all – and this is related to what I said before – know that you are being looked at in turn. The Lord looks at us: He looks at us first. And this is my experience, this is what I experience in front of the Tabernacle when I go to pray in the evening, before the Lord. Sometimes I nod off a little bit, No?, It’s true, because the strains of the day’s work makes you fall asleep. But He understands me. I feel so much comfort when I think that He is looking at me. We think that we have to pray, talk, talk, talk … No! Just let the Lord gaze at you. When He looks at us, He empowers us and helps us to witness to Him. Because the question was on the testimony of faith, right? Prayer … first, “Jesus”, then “prayer” and feeling that God is holding me by the hand. And the importance of this is to allow ourselves be guided by Him. And that’s more important than any planning or calculations. We are true evangelizers when we let ourselves be guided by Him. Think of Peter … maybe he was taking a siesta after lunch and had the vision, the vision of the tablecloth with all the animals and that Jesus was saying something but he did not understand. Then, some non-Jews came to call him to go into a house, and he saw how the Holy Spirit was there. Peter was guided by Jesus in that first evangelization of the Gentiles, who were not Jews, something unimaginable at that time. And so it has been, throughout history, throughout history. Be guided by Jesus. This is our leader: Jesus is our leader.

And third, “witness.” We have Jesus, then prayer – prayer, letting oneself be guided by Him – and then witness. But I would like to add something. This allowing ourselves to be guided by Jesus opens us to being surprised by Jesus. When people think of evangelization, they think of projects, strategies, making plans? But … they are only tools, small tools. The important thing is that Jesus, and being guided by Him, and then come the strategies. But that is secondary. Witness, the communication of faith … but the faith can only be communicated through witness and that is through love. Not with our ideas, but by living the Gospel in our own lives, which the Holy Spirit breathes within us. It’s like a synergy between us and the Holy Spirit, and this is witness. The Church is brought forward by the Saints, who are the ones who really give this witness. And like Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI said, the world today has so much need of witnesses. Not so much of teachers, but of witnesses. Less talk, speak through the way you live: the unity of your life, the consistency of your life! Consistency of life means living Christianity like an encounter with Jesus that leads me towards the other and not as a social fact, but … is this how we are socially? Are we Christians? Closed in on ourselves? No, not that. Witness”.

The third question regarded how we can live as a poor Church, for the poor. How does the suffering of others question our faith? How can we all, as Movements, Lay Associations, offer a concrete and effective contribution to the Church and society to address this crisis that touches the public ethics “- this is important! – The “model of development, politics, in short, a new way of being men and women?.

Pope Francis responded “I will pick up again from the subject of witness. First of all, the main contribution we can make is to live the Gospel . The Church is not a political movement, or a well-organized structure: it is not that. We are not an NGO, and when the Church becomes an NGO it loses its salt, it has no taste, it’s just an empty organization. And this – be clever! Because the devil deceives us, because there is the danger of hyper – efficiency. One thing is to preach Jesus, effectiveness, being efficient is another thing: no, that’s another value. The value of the Church, basically, is to live the Gospel and give witness to our faith. To be the ‘salt of the earth, light of the world’, is called to make present in society the yeast of the Kingdom of God and do it first with our witness, our witness of fraternal love, solidarity, sharing. When you hear some say that solidarity is not a value, it is a primary attitude that needs to be done away with… there’s something wrong! Today people are only concerned with worldly efficacy. The moments of crisis, such as the one we are experiencing – as you mentioned before, “we are in a world of lies”, no? Lies, it is a crisis – this time of crisis, but … let’s be careful, ok? It is not only an economic crisis, it is a cultural crisis. It is a human crisis: what is in crisis is mankind! And what can be destroyed, is mankind! Mankind, the image of God! For this is a deep crisis. In this time of crisis we cannot worry only about ourselves, close in on ourselves in loneliness, discouragement, in a sense of helplessness before our problems. Please do not close in on yourselves! That is a danger. But … we lock ourselves up inside our parish, among our friends, in our movement, with people who think the same as we do … But, what is happening? When the Church becomes closed in on itself, it gets sick. Think of a closed room, a room locked for a year, when you go, there is a smell of damp, all these things here, that’s not right. A Church that is closed in on itself is just the same, it is a sick Church.

“The Church must go out from herself. Where? Towards the existential outskirts”, even if that means risking accidents along the way, in the outward journey. To those who worry about what can happen to the Pope responds : “I prefer a thousand times a Church damaged by an accident, than a sick Church closed in on itself”. Faith- he added – is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do the same, help others to encounter Jesus.

Pope Francis continued “we live in a culture of confrontation, no?, A culture of fragmentation, a culture of what we don’t really need. A culture of the disposable. But,– this is part of the crisis – just think about the elderly, who have the wisdom of a people; think of the children who are … The culture of waste. But, we have to bring about encounter, we have to make our faith a culture of encounter and of friendship, a culture where we find brothers and sisters, we can talk even with those who do not think like us, even with those with which have a different faith, who do not have the same faith as our own. But everyone has something in common with us: they are made in the image of God! They are children of God!. Being open to an encounter with everyone, without negotiating the faith we belong to. And this is important: with the poor. If we step outside ourselves, we find poverty. Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don’t have food – that’s not news. This is grave. We can’t rest easy while things are this way!

But … this is the way things are. We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea. We have to become courageous Christians and seek out those who are the flesh of Christ, those who are the flesh of Christ”.

Pope Francis spoke of when he would hear Confessions, he would always ask: “Do you give alms to the beggars on the Street?” “Yes, father”. “Ah, good, good”. And I used to add: “Tell me, when you give alms, do you look into the eyes of the person you are giving alms to?” – “Ah, I don’t know, I haven’t noticed.” My next question: “And when you give alms, do you touch the hand of the one to whom you give alms, or throw the coin and [wipe your hands]?” That’s the problem: the flesh of Christ, touching the flesh of Christ, to take upon ourselves this pain for the poor. Poverty, for us Christians, is not a philosophical or cultural or sociological category: no, it is a theological category. I would say, perhaps the first category, because God, the Son of God, humbled himself, became poor to walk along the road with us”.

The Holy Father continued: “Being a poor Church for the poor begins by embracing the flesh of Christ. If we embrace to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something about what poverty is, the poverty of the Lord. And that’s not easy. But there is a problem which is not good for Christians: the spirit of the world, the worldly spirit. Spiritual worldliness. This leads us to a certain sufficiency, to live according to the spirit of the world and not that of Jesus”. Pope Francis said that in order to address the current crisis that touches public ethics, the development model, politics we must first understand that it is a “human crisis, it destroys the man, it has stripped man of ethics. And in public life, in politics, if there is no ethics, an ethics of reference that makes us transcendent, everything, everything is possible and we can do anything we want. And we see this when we read the newspapers, how this lack of ethics in public life greatly wounds all of humanity.

I would like to tell you a story. I have told this twice this week, but I’ll tell it a third to you. It’s the story about a biblical midrash, a rabbi of the twelfth century. He tells the story of the building of the Tower of Babel, and he says that to build the Tower of Babel bricks had to be made. This meant making the mud, bringing the straw, mixing them … then, in the oven, and when the brick was made it had to be hoisted up, to build the Tower of Babel. Every brick was a treasure, for all the work it took to make. When a brick fell, it was a national tragedy, and that worker guilty of breaking it was punished. But if a worker fell, nothing happened: it was something else. This still happens today: if investments in banks, drop a little , it’s a tragedy! But if people are starving, if they have nothing to eat, if they are not healthy, it does not matter! This is our crisis today! And the witness of a poor Church for the poor goes against this mentality.

Pope Francis then turned to the fourth question about how we can help and support our brothers and sisters who still today are persecuted for their faith. He said:

“Two virtues are needed to proclaim the Gospel: courage and patience. They are in the Church of patience. They suffer and there are more martyrs today than in the early centuries of the Church. More martyrs. Our brothers and sisters. They suffer. They carry the faith until martyrdom. But martyrdom is never a defeat: martyrdom is the highest rank of witness that we have to give. We are all on the way to martyrdom. [We are ] small martyrs: we give up this, do that … they, poor things, give up their life, but they give it up – as we heard in the situation in Pakistan – they give it up for love for Jesus, to witness Jesus. A Christian must always have this attitude of meekness, humility, the attitude that they have, trusting in Jesus, entrusting themselves to Jesus. It should be noted that many times these conflicts do not have a religious origin, often there are other causes of a social and political nature and unfortunately, religious affiliations are used like fuel to the fire. A Christian must always know how to respond to evil with good, although it is often difficult”.

We must try to make them feel, these brothers and sisters, that we are deeply united – deeply united! – to their situation, that we know that they are Christians who have entered a state of patience. When Jesus goes to his Passion, he enters [a state of] patience. We must make it known to them, but also make it known to the Lord. I ask the question again: Do you pray for these brothers and sisters? Do you pray for them? …in your every day prayers? I will not ask you to raise your hands. But think well, do we in our everyday prayer say to Jesus: “Lord, look at these brothers, look at these sisters who suffer so much, so much suffering.” And they experience the limits, they very limits between life and death. And to us, this experience should lead us to promote religious freedom for all: for everyone! Every man and woman should be free in his religious confession, whatever it is. Why? Because that man, that woman are children of God”.

And concluding his unscripted response to the questions put before him, on how to be certain in the faith, on how these Movements could live out their mission, about being a poor Church for the poor and about supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, Pope Francis repeated : Never be a Church closed in on itself. Be a Church that goes outside, which is on the outskirts of existence. May the Lord guide us there. Thank you”.

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All the makings of a Christmas scandal?

A lowly birth, a loving family and the big society. Peter Beresford takes a satirical look at social work and the nativity

Sadly it looks as though social work is to be hit by yet another front page scandal in this season of goodwill. The case doesn’t look like going away and there’s already talk of a major national inquiry.

To start with, the case seemed uncontroversial. A new baby arrived, and the social worker’s report highlighted that while the family seemed to be experiencing serious housing difficulties (and some input from parenting classes to support forward planning may be helpful here), a lot of love was nonetheless evident, both between the partners and in their bonding with the child. She noted that despite it being “the bleak midwinter”, a stable-place sufficed.

There also appeared to be some strong support networks to hand. Early on after the birth, three representatives (it is thought from overseas philanthropic organisations) had arrived with gifts for the child. While these were not necessarily suitable and might encourage unrealistic expectations, they did suggest the availability of support to draw upon within the framework of the big society.

However, a very different story soon broke in the local tabloid, which ran a front-page piece suggesting that the child’s parentage was more problematic than first appeared. It claimed the birth father was not in fact Joseph, as had previously been understood, but a more distant and less certain figure. Alarms were raised about whether this was indeed the “hard working family” that had previously been taken at face value by local social services and the young social worker involved.

King Herod’s vizier then intervened to place a particularly worrying interpretation on the conditions the child was found in, referring to a “poor, lowly stable with the oxen standing by … amid the poor and mean and lowly“. In a high-profile speech , he suggested that this reflected “the unhelpful habituation of social workers to families’ poor conditions” and that this was “diverting their attention from the primacy of the child and the need to speed up adoption procedures”.

He spoke of social workers “becoming desensitised to squalor … partly because so much of their time is spent in difficult circumstances … [and they are often] blighted by an ‘optimism bias’ which means that they can put … the rights of biological parents ahead of vulnerable children.”

There have been swift responses from social work’s professional bodies to the political and media profile the case has gained. The College of the Judean People’s Front for Social Work and the College of the People’s Front of Judea for Social Work both said (separately) that this was “an appalling misrepresentation that devaules the role of social work generally and the social worker involved in this case specifically”.

A high-profile charity founder was quoted as expressing her concerns that the disadvantage experienced by the baby, could lead to a “cycle of deprivation” which could cause neurological damage later in his life, resulting in him associating with “vulnerable people” and getting into trouble with the authorities.

The Bethlehem Department for Education reiterated its concern that “children’s future attainment, wellbeing, happiness and resilience are profoundly affected by the quality of their experiences during early childhood. Parents are the most important influence, but high-quality early education can also make a big difference to children’s lives.”

A spokesperson from a local service user-led organisation, however, said: “I don’t know why they can’t just help the family and leave the kid alone. For all they know, he could be an example to us all.”

See the original article here…

Heaven Is Real: Neurosurgeon Who Once Doubted Out-of-Body Experiences Describes His Own

Is Heaven for real? This is really amazing!

This age-old question has been debated for centuries. Of late, the subject has been tacked in theological circles and has been extensively covered by mainstream media. Many who have had near-death experiences regularly describe the images they saw after purportedly crossing into the after-life. Who can forget Colton Burpo’s story? The young boy claims to have ascended into heaven during a near-death experience back in 2003. His story inevitably made its way into a popular book called, “Heaven Is for Real.” But Burpo isn’t alone.

Photo Credit: LifeBeyondDeath.net There have been similar experiences told in popular media. The latest tale comes from Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who, ironically, never really believed in near-death experiences before falling into a coma. In the October 15 issue of Newsweek, though, Alexander details his purported ascent to heaven and his subsequent change-of-heart.

With a firm understanding of the human brain, Alexander had previously dismissed purported journeys outside of the earthly realm as a byproduct of what happens to human beings in the throes of trauma. However, that changed once he found himself heaven-bound. The neurosurgeon explains:

In the fall of 2008…after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death. […]

Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia , a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.

Read the full article here