Friday, December 21, 2012

Martin Seligman: The new era of positive psychology

Positive Psychology 

I ran across an interesting article in Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) on positive psychology. Positive psychology is the study of happiness. Psychology traditionally focused on dysfunction—on people with mental illness or other psychological problems and how to treat them. Positive psychology, by contrast, is a relatively new field that examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.
As a Franciscan, we are the people of Franciscan joy, this interested me. The article focused on the four levels of happiness presented in “Healing the Culture” by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, a Jesuit. Now I won’t hold that against him, though one would think this topic belonged to a Franciscan.
The four levels are:
  1. Bodily Pleasure. Food, drugs, sex. (L1)
  2. Competitive Advantage. (L2)
  3. Loving and Serving Other People. (L3)
  4. Loving and Serving God. (L4)

Before I expand on the four levels I’ll turn to an article in Psychology Today. It says, “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology.” In my twenties I subscribed to this magazine as I was interested in how I and others tick. I think this branch of psychology has taken a great leap. The article goes on to list the following as to what has been learned recently:
• Most people are happy.
• Happiness is a cause of good things in life and not simply along for the happy ride. People who are satisfied with life eventually have even more reason to be satisfied, because happiness leads to desirable outcomes at school and work, to fulfilling social relationships, and even to good health and long life.
• Most people are resilient.
• Happiness, strengths of character, and good social relationships are buffers against the damaging effects of disappointments and setbacks.
• Crisis reveals character.
• Other people matter mightily if we want to understand what makes like most worth living.
• Religion matters. [My emphasis. It took them a long time to realize this.]
• And work matters as well if it engages the worker and provides meaning and purpose.
• Money makes an ever-diminishing contribution to well-being, but money can buy happiness if it is spent on other people.
• As a route to a satisfying life, eudaimonia trumps hedonism. [I had to look this one up, eudaimonia: a contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous.]
• The "heart" matters more than the "head." Schools explicitly teach critical thinking; they should also teach unconditional caring.
• Good days have common features: feeling autonomous, competent, and connected to others.
• The good life can be taught.
So L1 is concerned with bodily pleasures. This of a baby. He/she is all about bodily pleasure: contentment, warmth, touch, food, diaper change. The problem with L1 is that it brings happiness that doesn't last long. If you are hungry and eat you receive happiness until your full. You also build up a tolerance this is where addiction comes to play or obsession/compulsion. This brings on pain, not happiness, to oneself and others.  Becoming obese, or an alcoholic, or as they say a sex maniac.
L2, Competitive Advantage is basically about money, keeping up with the Jones’ or rather surpassing them. But it manifests in other ways as well, power, popularity, status,  and fame. Here we see happiness though victory. “I beat out Ed for that promotion;” “I’m prettier than her.” It could be winning an award, being chosen to a good school, first in class, elected class president, prom king/queen, getting a date with that hottie, etc. We know the adage “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
Most of these things are good in themselves and we should try to exceed, encourage our children and others. But does in bring lasting happiness? Many people think that having and spending money brings happiness. But when studied this is not necessarily true. Once you have your basic needs met, more doesn't necessarily bring happiness. Shelter: we might live in an apartment or live in a million dollar home, yet we both have shelter. Clothing: We have that winter coat, some have a mink, we’re both warm. Great wealth doesn't mean great happiness; just look at St. Francis.
The OSV article points out, “Soon after having achieved a particular level of wealth or having purchased the desired product, the happiness recently enjoyed will fade and disappear.”
“Think about your last birthday. Do you still have the thrill of opening your gifts?” You probable hardly recall what you received.
Now the flip side of all this wealth, fame, power gained it it’s effect. Think of how many celebrities go down the drain: Michael Jackson. He had it all, did he not? So many others dying from drug addiction. .. Others, power going to their head, divorce, legal actions, rehab. “Happiness cannot be found in bodily pleasures, money, fame, popularity or power. Level one and level two cannot deliver happiness.”
Before I go on to L3 and L4, I wanted to mention that I also ran across a YouTube video by Martin Seligman: The new era of positive psychology. It is 23 minutes long but interesting.  See my next post. Martin has a number of books. I just bought “Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment”
The article points out that psychologists find the happiest people have”
  1. Meaningful activity
  2. Good relationships with others
  3. Strong religious ties
So it seems the key to happiness is in loving ourselves, others and God. Well, we knew that, didn't we? So we need not neglect L1 and L2. We just need to put them in their proper place. This brings to my mind our great Catholic tradition of fasting, humility, almsgiving, Confession, Adoration, etc. So we have the key to true happiness. We just need to work on it a little. Self-indulgence is a nice treat but should not be our focus.
To finish up, I ran across a neat exercise that I started to do myself. Each night think of three things that made you happy that day. Best to journalize. This will remind us of God’s constant gifts. My first one last night was:  1. My boss was not at work today. Now that is happiness!
O.K. I’m off to McDonald’s.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Take the Christmas Pledge!

Take the Christmas Pledge!

My Christmas Pledge with Prayer to the Infant Jesus

I Promise . . .
1. To make my Christmas a holy day with Christ-----not a holiday without Him.
2. To observe Christmas as the birthday of Christ-----not  to give and receive material gifts. 
3. To remember that the real symbols of Christmas are the Star, the Stable and the Crib-----not Santa Claus and his reindeer.
4. To teach my children that "Santa Claus" is the nickname of St. Nicholas-----who gave to the poor in honor of Christ.
5. To help one poor family-----in honor of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Bethlehem.
6. To send Christmas cards mindful of Him, the Infant Savior-----not decorated only with candy canes, dogs, ribbons, and wreaths.
7. To make room in my home for Him-----with a Christmas Crib to remind me that He was born in a stable.
8. During the Christmas season, in a special way, to honor Mary, His mother-----who kept the first Christmas vigil beside the manger.
9. To begin Christmas by leading my family to His altar-----to receive the Bread of Life.
10. Today and every day, to give "Glory to God in the highest"-----to work and pray for "Peace on earth, to men of good will."

Nihil Obstat: Joseph A. M. Quigley, Censor Librorum
Imprimatur, + John J Krol, D.D., J.C.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia, March, 1964

Prayer to the Infant Jesus
Come to me, O Divine Savior, vouchsafe to be born in my heart. Grant that, taught by Thine example, and assisted by Thy grace, I may be poor in spirit and humble of heart. Keep me chaste and obedient. I wish to live but for Thee, and to do all things purely for love of Thee.

O Mary, my Advocate and Mother, obtain by thy prayers forgiveness of my past offenses and holy perseverance unto death. St. Joseph, do thou also pray for me, that I may become daily more pleasing to Jesus. Amen.

Merry Christmas to all, especially to those who have touched my life in this last year.

I Love This - Father goes into baby crib!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Year of Faith – Reflection II

Year of Faith – Reflection II

Since the Bears are losing and I lost interest in the game, and since I have a new PC after all the aggravations of a vicious virus in both my PC and laptop, since it has been a while, I thought I would take some time to write another reflection based on some current events.

Perhaps you are not aware–and I wonder why you would be with the Catholic news blackout by the mainstream media–there was a Synod of Bishops in October to discuss the many current issues facing the Church. There were 49 Cardinals, 71 Archbishops, 127 Bishops, and 14 Priests. There were also 72 collaborators, included among them many non-Catholics. So if you had not heard of this it shows we need to support the Catholic media and I will add I think our parishes can do a better job keeping us informed.

The theme of this synod was “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian faith.”  The New Evangelization is not a focus of bringing non-Christians to the faith, as much as it is an outreach to bring back those who have left the church. Especially in this Year of Faith, it also means re-evangelizing ourselves; to read Scripture more, to become familiar with the Vatican II documents and the Catechism. You may say, “Hey, I’m a Catholic. I go to Mass;” or something like it. Well, we are all in need of ongoing formation. Not just as Franciscans, but as Catholics too. “Why” you might ask? Very simply, we are living in a very secular society with a government doing its best to get rid of God in the public forum. Here is a test: Do you feel uncomfortable talking about your faith in public, to family and friends? Aware of it or not, we are affected by the secular society, in the news, in movies, in our acceptance of political correctness.  For many Catholics things that were abhorrent to them 30 years ago, became less so 20 years ago, 10 years ago it was “well if they don’t bother me,” or “keep it in private.” And now, it is acceptance. There is also a lot of indoctrination especially in schools.

I would say this rejection of Catholic faith, morals, and teachings began with the rejection of Humane Vitae and the Church’s teachings on the Pill. If we can reject that, we have already opened the door; it is easy to reject other teachings. Just like sin. Commit a sin once and it is easier to commit that sin again. I've recently said in a discussion group at my parish that it is not for the Church to conform to our wishes/demands, but for us to accept and conform to the Magisterium’s teachings. This is our Rule, this is our life, and this is our duty.

Is the problem serious? You bet it is. Pew Research learned that 62% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly believe abortion should be illegal. What, only 62%? My God, it should be 100%. Of those who attend Mass less frequently the number drops to only 27% who believe it should be illegal. The same holds true for same-sex “marriage.”

Many Catholics leave the church, I believe, for entertainment and go to mega-churches or just stay at home and watch TV. Sports seems more important to many than Church.

Our house is divided. There are the pro-life Catholics, mostly conservative, believe abortion is the greatest evil of our time; and there are the social-justice Catholics, mostly liberal, who want to help the poor and the marginalized (and from what I’ve seen are mostly pro-abortion). The truth of the matter is that there is no social justice without the right to life. How any Catholic/Christian/humanist/moral person can say it is O.K. to kill babies in the womb is beyond my comprehension? If you reject life you reject the Church, as the Church is nothing if it is not about the dignity of life. I would say a lot of this is ignorance of what the Church teaches. Many form their opinion from the media, from friends and co-workers. They are not hearing it from the pulpit. As Catholics and Franciscans we must embrace both sides of the coin. We must be pro-life and we must be concerned for the poor.

How very blessed we are that we live in a country based on Christian values although we are losing that foundation. Think of being born in a communist country like Russia or other Eastern countries that suppressed the church and taught and indoctrinated there is no god. Now that they have their freedom it is difficult for them as they have lost their faith roots.

I think an answer to this, in part, is the restoration of some of our beautiful traditions; Adoration and the Rosary. How very blessed I am sitting/kneeling face to face with God. How very disheartening it is to attend a Holy Hour and see only a dozen people in church, if that church has a Holy Hour or Adoration at all. Bring on J.M.J., St. Joseph, litanies, novenas, Adoration, Holy Hours, and First Fridays; let’s learn from the saints. Let’s bring back the beauty and awe of the sacred arts. Let’s bring back the Sacred. As we are sent at the end of every Mass, let’s bring the Gospel to others, let’s evangelize and let’s evangelize ourselves. How every blessed we are to have the True Presence, the Eucharist.

Have a happy Advent and Christmas. Let’s Rejoice!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Sowing and Reaping ...

Here are a few basic principles concerning sowing and reaping:

1. We reap what we sow. You can't sow hatred and reap love. You can't sow unbelief and reap faith. You can't sow bitterness and reap forgiveness. You can't sow selfishness and reap friendship.

2. Sometimes, we reap what others have sown. Somebody paid the price for the things we enjoy and often take for granted. We have electric lights because Thomas Edison worked through the night. Our family values and traditions were passed along from our parents and grandparents. Every building was constructed at a price. Somebody was willing to pay it.

3. Occasionally, we reap the painful consequences from what others have sown. A choice to drive drunk can shatter a stranger's family. A dishonest employee can bring great dishonor to the business owner. An abusive parent can damage and harm the parent for life. A thief can leave the victim penniless.

4. We reap more than we sow. The mighty oak is just a little nut that held his ground. Small, daily investments bring a tremendous harvest in the end. One seed, planted in good soil, produces a thousand seeds. One good deed planted in God's love, produces a thousand deeds.

5. It usually takes a while between the sowing and the reaping. There is no such thing as instant success. It takes a lifetime. Patience is virtue. Do not be weary in well doing. Sooner or later, what you do will catch up to you – both good and bad. If at first you don't see results, remember that the first growth is underground.

6. The more we sow, the more we grow. Don't just sow a little bit and quit. Keep on sowing and you'll keep on reaping! Sow in the unexpected places, and you will discover unexpected results. It's never too early or too late to start sowing.

An article from Pastor Mark O. Wilson, Hayward, Wisconsin.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I had to pass this on. Who said there are no more prophesies?

This was 47 years ago. April 3, 1965. An amazing prediction.

Do you remember the famous ABC radio commentator Paul Harvey?

Millions of Americans listened to his programs which were broadcast over 1,200 radio stations nationwide.

When you listen to this, remember, the commentary was broadcast 47 years ago on April 3, 1965.

It's short...less than three minutes. You will be amazed.

This video ..... should certainly be heard by everyone.. Have sound on...