Ask Fr. Robert J. Spitzer Have questions? Ask Fr. Spitzer and find answers here at Magis Center. EverythingAsk Fr. SpitzerSort By NoneDateAuthor READ MORE What Causes Depression? Surprising Answer Linked to the Spiritual Life June 21, 2018 We tend to think of depression in a purely natural terms, a condition that can be treated solely with medication or counseling or both. This is often true, but there may be more factors at work. Since we believe the person is both body and soul, it is possible to have spiritual causes at work as well as physical/psychological ones. Fr. Spitzer explains a few possible causes of depression in the video below. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Causes-of-Depression.mp4 What is Depression? Not all sadness is depression. We all go through times of unhappiness. We may be sad, grieving for a loved one, or going through a time of uncertainty and upheaval. Depression occurs when we are unable to get out of this state and physical and psychological symptoms persist. Depression is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as: "A common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks." Common symptoms include: Persistent sad or “empty” mood Irritability Loss of interest in hobbies Decreased energy or fatigue Difficulty concentrating Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping Appetite changes Thoughts of death or suicide Aches or pains without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease with treatment The symptoms of depression can vary - some experience many or all of these symptoms while others do not. The best way to address depression is to tackle the physical/psychological causes first, and then explore the possibility of spiritual causes. Physical and Psychological Causes First things first: make sure to see a doctor to check for any physical causes. A blood test and other indicators can detect any imbalances or deficiencies that may be at work and proper medication can often provide some relief. Anti-depressants are a common prescription that have helped many people with chronic depression. Another source of depression may be sheer stress. The mind has a certain amount of mental energy we exert to take in information, make decisions, and communicate with others. A long, stressful period of time uses up a lot of mental energy, leaving us tired and worn out with no end in sight. This may be alleviated by medication and/or counseling prescribed by a medical professional. Another cause of depression could be from a traumatic event that your mind is attempting to deal with. A trained therapist can help you safely examine your past and address any of these issues in a healthy manner. Spiritual Causes A person who has moved away from God and a healthy prayer life may feel a certain kind of depression that comes with a lack of the transcendent. Fr. Spitzer often calls this “existential anxiety”. It refers to the absence of the sacred in modern nonreligious people which introduces a heightened anxiety about existence, meaning, and reality. It comes from “the absence of things yearned for” – that is the absence of the transcendent which we desire implicitly or explicitly (for more on this topic check out The Anxiety of “Non-Religious Man”). It may help to renew commitment to a healthy and fulfilling prayer life. Another possible spiritual source of depression could be from unrealistic expectations that we set to make ourselves worthy of love. If we are constantly working on tasks to make God love us (self-inflicted penance, unrealistic fasting, adding on hour after hour of prayer) then we aren't trusting in that love in the first place. The idea that we are unworthy of God's love is false. If there is someone or something telling you that God will only love you if - don't listen. God wants us to follow the commandments and to do His will so that we will be with Him in heaven, but He loves us unconditionally. Though not technically depression, there is one more source of desolation called the dark night of the soul that shares many symptoms with depression. The dark night of the soul typically occurs to those who are in a very advanced stage of the spiritual life. It has been documented by saints such as St. John of the Cross (who wrote extensively about it), St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Paul of the Cross. In his article, Fr. Spitzer elaborates: As St. John of the Cross indicates, the “dark night” is yet another form of suffering – experienced by only a few truly holy and loving people – given by the Lord as a stage of final purgation to help purify Level 4 love of any remaining imperfections – residual attachments, aberrant affections, and spiritual pride. It may seem bewildering that the Lord would (lovingly) cause the most loving people to experience emptiness, darkness and profound loneliness in order to complete their purification in love. To be sure, He does not do this with the vast majority of people – even those who are very advanced in holiness and love; yet, He does do this for a select few whom He knows can endure it and benefit from it. Conclusion If you or someone you know if suffering from depression, talk to a M.D. and/or psychologist about different treatment options, and consider speaking to a spiritual director as well. For more information on depression, see this guide from the National Institute of Mental Health. Alienating as it feels, know that you are not alone. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the nation. We at the Magis Center keep you in our prayers. READ MORE What Catholics Think about Suicide June 9, 2018 In April, popular DJ and producer Avicii died at the age of 28, and it was recently revealed that the cause of death was suicide. Earlier this week, successful fashion designer and businesswoman Kate Spade also took her own life. And just yesterday, talented TV personality and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was found deceased in his hotel room from suicide. As we mourn the loss of these greatly admired artists, entrepreneurs, risk-takers, and dreamers, we are left to contemplate the questions that plague us after such tragic endings. Fr. Spitzer is asked these questions by a viewer dealing with her own grief, and his answer may help those who are struggling with the loss of a friend or loved one. Please know our thoughts and prayers are with you. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/What-Catholics-think-about-Suicide-1.mp4 Catholics, especially, are thought to have a complicated, and often harsh, view of suicide: Isn't it a mortal sin? If so, what does that mean? How can we help those who are grieving? What about God's compassion? Criteria of Mortal Sin In order for something to be considered a mortal sin, it must meet three criteria: The sin must be of grave nature. It must be done with sufficient reflection and full knowledge. It must be committed with complete consent. We know that suicide is indeed of a serious nature because it breaks the Fifth Commandment by unjustly taking away a life. But the second and third criteria are more complicated. In order for someone to have full knowledge, they must have the time and ability to reflect on the matter. This means they must acknowledge there are other options, but instead have chosen to do this act. Furthermore, they must understand that the act itself is a grave sin. This isn't always the case for those who "see no way out". The third criteria is even more significant to this issue. Even if a person is completely aware of the sin they are committing, it is possible, even likely, that there is an impediment to their free use of the will. Complete consent requires the full, unhindered use of the will, and thus the full and proper operation of all mental faculties. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." God's Compassion Finally, God will not be outdone in generosity. We can trust that He loves our friends and family members more perfectly than we do. Those affected by suicide may be comforted by offering up prayers, (especially these "Prayers for Times of Trial, Suffering, and Anxiety"), and by contemplating the love and compassion of God. The CCC reassures us, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” READ MORE Quieting the Mind: The Path to Prayer May 26, 2018 How can we quiet the mind to better hear the Holy Spirit, especially when we are suffering? https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Quieting-the-Mind.mp4 The Human Condition Our first reaction to discomfort, fear, or pain is negative. We grow frustrated and angry towards others, especially God. It requires an act of the will to turn around and choose peace, and with peace comes a quiet mind. We must choose to move ahead in faith. But this isn't easy. To be able to resist this natural human reaction requires an act of faith that is only possible through a relationship with God - a relationship that is made possible through prayer. A Prayer for Prayer In order to trust God we must have a better prayer life and in order to have a better prayer life, we must trust God. The two go hand-in-hand. So where do we start? Fr. Spitzer recommends starting with a simple petition, "Lord Jesus, I place my trust in you." By repeating this prayer over and over, we can get over our fear and anxiety. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to put our trust in God and allow Him to lead us. READ MORE Jesus Told us why Good People Suffer May 14, 2018 Does it mean that God loves us less if we suffer more? It's easier to understand suffering when it's something we've done to ourselves: we put off studying and end up stressing over an exam or speed on the highway and get pulled over. But what about when it really isn't our fault? A flood ruins your home, or a freak accident leaves a loved one injured or deceased - how are we to deal with these tragedies? Jesus actually address this question Himself in the Gospel of Matthew. Check out how in this clip from EWTN's Fr. Spitzer's Universe. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Other-Forms-of-Suffering.mp4 The Eye of the Needle In order to answer this question Fr. Spitzer brings up Matthew 19:24, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” A "rich man" was considered to be more than just someone with money. It described anyone who had talent, beauty, opportunity, power, influence, honor, skill, etc. In this period of time, wealth was thought to be God's blessing. They believed that a man who was blessed in this life would also be blessed in the next. This is partly why lepers and those with diseases were cast out of society - they were considered condemned by God. In this passage, Jesus tells them that this is not true. He says that those who are rich (i.e. talented, honored, skilled, influential) will have a more difficult time getting into heaven - it is those who suffer who are more likely to be welcomed through the gates. God vs. Materialism The logic of materialism tells us that whoever has less material suffering is a happier person. To put it another way, the "rich" person (who has more possessions, wealth, opportunity, influence, etc.) must be a happier person. But this just isn't true. Happiness is not defined by how long your life is or how many things you have, but it is defined by how you love others, and how you love God. It's not the suffering itself, but how we deal with it that changes our lives. READ MORE When Prayer Doesn't Help May 7, 2018 What should we do if we have a healthy prayer life, but still feel like we're missing something? A viewer asks Fr. Spitzer if she is being tested in some way when she finds herself growing impatient and angry with others, even after implementing a daily rosary and Eucharistic adoration. Father's answer, which is rooted in psychology, may surprise you. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/When-Prayer-Doesn27t-Help.mp4 Prayer and the Mind Everyone uses something called "executive function," which Fr. Spitzer referred to as "psychic energy". It's the mental effort we exert to take in information, make decisions, and communicate with others. Like our bodies, our minds can grow tired too, especially when we use up a lot of mental energy to concentrate on a specific task - like prayer. An article in Scientific America explains: "When you focus on a specific task for an extended period of time or choose to eat a salad instead of a piece of cake, you are flexing your executive function muscles. Both thought processes require conscious effort-you have to resist the temptation to let your mind wander or to indulge in the sweet dessert. It turns out, however, that use of executive function—a talent we all rely on throughout the day—draws upon a single resource of limited capacity in the brain. When this resource is exhausted by one activity, our mental capacity may be severely hindered in another, seemingly unrelated activity." When we commit too much executive function to certain tasks, we can encounter "decision fatigue". According to this article from the NY Times, "Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy." This can help explain why someone who spends a lot of time everyday in prayer may grow impatient and angry by the end of the day. We need to make sure that we save some of our mental energy for those we go home to. Finding a Balance We hear about saints who prayed for hours on end in the chapel, and of course we want to emulate them, but should we? Put it this way, if you wanted to run a marathon right now, could you do it? Assuming you're not currently training for a marathon, probably not. We can condition ourselves to be in the right physical shape to do so, but we need to have the time and opportunity to do so. It's the same way with mental energy. When we have the time and ability to do so, we can and should devote ourselves to time with God, studies even show that it's good for us, but we also have other responsibilities that God Himself has given us. A student must study, an employee must work, and a father must care for his child. God wants us to pray as much as we can, but it should be in its proper place within the greater vocation of our lives. You can also cut down on decision fatigue in other ways. Check out this article from Forbes for tips on how to reserve mental energy. READ MORE Do We Need Suffering? April 30, 2018 When it comes to suffering, we all agree on one point - we don't like it. But there are many disagreements on how to avoid suffering, and what to do when it inevitably catches up with us. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Anti-Life-Culture.mp4 Avoid Suffering We think of suffering as harmful (whether physical or emotional) because it causes us pain. When we have this view, we seek to avoid it at all costs - but how can we? You've probably heard the old saying about two things everyone encounters in life, death and taxes - and both of them involve some degree of suffering. This leads many people to reject God. After all, who wants to worship a god that causes them pain? Value of Suffering But in the light of salvation, suffering takes on a whole new meaning. As Father Spitzer points out in the video above, suffering can be a gift that purifies us in love and faith. When we accept our burdens, they help us get to heaven, to an eternity of joy. For more from Fr. Spitzer on suffering and happiness, check out this full article. READ MORE Why is the Shroud of Turin Still a Mystery? April 18, 2018 With all of the tests run on the Shroud of Turin, why are scientists still disputing its validity? https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/FSU-26April17-Clip-1.mp4 The Shroud has undergone considerably more scientific testing than any other relic in human history. The 1978 STURP Investigation and subsequent investigations were remarkably thorough, and with the exception of the questionable 1988 carbon dating (see video above), all the evidence points to its being the burial cloth of Jesus. Contemporary Dating Tests The vanillin dating test of Dr. Raymond Rogers, the two spectroscopic analyses (of Dr. Giulio Fanti), and the compressibility and breaking strength tests (of Dr. Giulio Fanti) date the Shroud to a time commensurate with the life and crucifixion of Jesus. Extrinsic Dating Evidence Testing of pollen samples by Dr. Max Frei, roman coins on the eyes of the image on the Shroud, and 120 coincidences of blood and fluid stains between the Shroud and the Sudarium (Facecloth of Oviedo) give evidence of a date and location of the Shroud’s origin similar to that of Jesus. Blood Stains on the Shroud The blood stains tell a story very similar to the highly unusual crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth (for more information, check out this article) – they were imprinted on the Shroud before the image was made (the opposite of what would need to be done by a forger. Image on the Shroud The image was not formed by dyes, chemicals, vapors, or scorching. The only known explanation for the formation of the image is an intense burst of vacuum ultraviolet radiation (equivalent to the output of 14,000 excimer lasers) emitted from every three-dimensional point of the body in the Shroud. For more information on these tests and more, check out Fr. Spitzer's article, Science and the Shroud of Turin. READ MORE Where did Jesus' Y-Chromosome come from? April 13, 2018 Jesus, being fully man, must have had a Y-chromosome, but since he was born of the Virgin Mary, where did it come from? A viewer submits this question in this clip from Fr. Spitzer's Universe and asks if any genetic testing has been done on blood from the Shroud of Turin or Eucharistic miracles. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Jesus27-Y-Chromosome.mp4 For more on miracles, check out these articles on the intercession of Fulton Sheen and the miracles of Jesus from a historian's point of view. READ MORE Inconsistencies in Scripture April 5, 2018 Can we believe the scriptural accounts of Jesus' passion, even though there are inconsistencies? Fr. Spitzer tackles this question in this clip from EWTN's Fr. Spitzer's Universe. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Inconsistencies-in-Scripture-clip.mp4 To determine if we can accept inconsistencies in the bible, we must examine the reliability of eye-witness accounts. In addition to the six main criteria to examine historicity, historians, along with psychologists and lawyers, deal with human recollection in their work - here's what they already know. Inconsistencies in Memory Perhaps the biggest factor in recollection is memory itself. We often think of our brain as a video recorder, constantly taking in the feed and storing it in the recesses of our mind until we bring it to the forefront to press play. But according to an article from Scientific America, this is not true. "On the contrary, psychologists have found that memories are reconstructed rather than played back each time we recall them. The act of remembering, says eminent memory researcher and psychologist Elizabeth F. Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, is 'more akin to putting puzzle pieces together than retrieving a video recording.' " Even with the best of intentions, we inadvertently say things that are inaccurate. Telling a Story Have you ever started telling a story in the same room with someone who was there? At some point, they probably interjected with a statement like, "That's not how it happened!" or "That's not how I remember it." It is common for people to recount events differently, as each person has a unique point of view from which they view the world. An article from the Standford Journal of Legal Studies explains this phenomenon. "Every act of telling and retelling is tailored to a particular listener; we would not expect someone to listen to every detail of our morning commute, so we edit out extraneous material. The act of telling a story adds another layer of distortion, which in turn affects the underlying memory of the event." As we piece together events to make a comprehensive story, we either edit out or add details to make it more compelling and comprehensive. Conclusion If our memory is imperfect and we shape our stories from our point of view - can we rely on eye-witness accounts at all? Think back to the last story you told when someone else remembered it differently. Did that event really happen despite the inconsistencies? Of course it did. The details may vary, but the main events remain. For more videos from Fr. Spitzer's Universe, check out our YouTube page. READ MORE Did Jesus' Divinity Save Him from Pain on the Cross? March 30, 2018 Today, on Good Friday, between the hours of noon and 3:00pm, we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The wounds of Jesus are horrific to think about – yet alone endure. As we reflect on His death, we may wonder if He was able to more easily withstand the unbearable pain of crucifixion due to His divinity. Fr. Spitzer discusses this thought in this clip from Fr. Spitzer's Universe. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Did-Jesus27-Divinity-Save-Him-from-Pain3F.mp4 Check out these links for related articles on divine intervention, the Shroud of Turin, and historic evidence for Jesus' miracles, as well as this video discussing the reasonableness of Jesus Christ. READ MORE The Catholic Church on Evolution March 22, 2018 The Catholic Church often gets a reputation as anti-science — especially when it comes to evolution. Is it possible for Catholics to believe in evolution without contradicting Church doctrine? https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/The-Catholic-Church-on-Evolution.mp4 For more information from Fr. Spitzer on evolution, check out this article that focuses on the bible and evolution and this video which discusses the historical relation between the Church and scientists. Also available is this article, God’s Periodic Table… & Evolution from Dr. Robert Kurland (AKA, Dr. Bob), a retired professor who taught Physics at both Harvard and Carnegie Melon. READ MORE A Relationship with God March 19, 2018 Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, the Husband of Mary. We can certainly learn a lot from St. Joseph, especially when it comes to his relationship with God. Fr. Spitzer talks about this relationship and how it teaches us to overcome temptation and engage with God. https://www.magiscenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Mary27s-and-Joseph27s-Relationship-with-God.mp4 Ask My Question Ask Fr. Spitzer your Reason or Faith-based question! Twitter Ask Father Spitzer your Reason or Faith based question: First name Email Address What's your question for Fr. Spitzer?