BLOG TOUR: The Choice of the Family

 

In The Choice of the Family: A Call to Wholeness, Abundant Life, and Enduring Happiness, Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican and organizer of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, takes a look at the importance of the family in the twenty-first century.

In this series of interviews and reflections, Bishop Laffitte “invites readers to understand in a more profound way the experience of his or her own family, and in so doing to acquire a new, joyful embrace of family life,” notes Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus.

Not only is The Choice of the Family an excellent resource for anyone wanting to better understand church teaching on issues concerning marriage and family life, but it is an especially valuable resource for those wishing to understand the vision behind the upcoming World Meeting of Families to be held in Philadelphia in September 2015, which will coincide with Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States.

We invite you to join us for a blog tour featuring The Choice of the Family by Bishop Jean Laffitte (Aug. 26 – Sept. 2). This virtual book tour will feature honest reviews from Catholic bloggers as they reflect on Bishop Laffitte’s practical insights on how to deepen our relationships with our parents, children, brothers and sisters, and, ultimately, God.

Follow along on the tour to learn more about this insightful book and how you might apply its teachings to your own family life.

We’re grateful to our blogging friends for sharing their thoughts and hosting stops on the tour. We encourage you to visit their sites (links below) and read their reviews.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Aug. 26 – National Catholic Register

Aug. 27 – Quite, Dignity and Grace

Aug. 28 – Stuart’s Study

Aug. 29 – Abigail Benjamin

Aug. 30 –Simple Mama

Aug. 31 – The Catholic Book Blogger

Sept. 1 – Catholic Bibles

Sept. 2 – Amazing Catechists

 

 


INTERVIEW: Dr. Christopher Kaczor

Q. Why did you write The Gospel of Happiness?

This book arose through personal experience.  After a serious set-back, I had a few years of feeling very unhappy and searching for something that could remedy the blues.  In looking into becoming happier myself, I discovered “positive psychology,” a branch of psychology focusing on optimism, well-being, and flourishing.  I had previously read both philosophical and theological treatments of happiness, but this psychology approach was new to me.  As I read I was amazed at the overlap between what positive psychologists found and the teachings of Christian spiritual guides, such as the founder of the Jesuits St. Ignatius Loyola.

 

Q. Early in the book you mention that your only personal experience in psychological counseling had not been positive and that you had always viewed psychology as an alternative to religion. Can you tell us a little bit about how your thoughts on the matter changed when you discovered “positive psychology”?

In my mind, I thought of psychology and spirituality as two alternative ways to pursue happiness.  What I discovered was that these two approaches are often complementary, and in deed can be mutually reinforcing.  Positive psychology provides empirical confirmation of the happiness producing effects of Christian practices, such as serving others, giving thanks, and forgiving others.  Moreover, psychology also indicates ways to enhance Christian spiritual practices. At the same time, Christian wisdom enhances and deepens recommendations found in positive psychology.  So, rather than think it is either psychology or spirituality, ideally it can be both psychology and spirituality.

 

Q. For the purpose of this book, how do you define happiness? How do you measure it?

In this work, I think about happiness in terms of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement (PERMA, as Martin Seligman calls it).  Part of happiness is positive emotion, such as joy, optimism, and excitement. But happiness is more than just ‘feeling good.’ It also includes engagement with the flow of life when we are so caught up in our hobbies, work or activity that an hour or two feels like ten minutes.  At the heart of happiness is good relationships with people.  The findings of positive psychology reinforce the ancient teachings of Aristotle that no one can be happy without friends.  Likewise, happiness requires meaning which is making a positive difference beyond the self such as to family, church, community, neighborhood, or school. The final aspect of happiness is seeking achievement of various goals-personal, social, spiritual, and professional.

 

Q. In The Gospel of Happiness, you highlight the many ways in which positive psychology and Christian practice overlap. You offer helpful suggestions on how to become happier in everyday life and how to deepen Christian practice based on contemporary psychological insights.  Do you have a favorite activity that combines positive psychology and Christian practice? 

The very first practice I learned from positive psychology is called the “Three Blessings Exercise.” At the end of the day, simply think over how the day went looking for whatever went well—a tasty nectarine at lunch, a funny conversation with a neighbor, a task finally off the “to do” list, or a moment of relaxation with hot coffee.  Once you’ve come up with three things, you write down what happened and why it happened. Research indicated that “Three Blessings Exercise” reduces depression and helps increase happiness by making us more aware of the good things that are already in our lives to which we may have not paid much attention. Centuries ago in his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola recommended something like “Three Blessing Exercise” in what is called the Examin.  When we look for what is good we are more likely to find and celebrate what is good. When we thank God for the joys we find in life, our gratitude is enhanced.

 

Q. What do you hope folks will gain from reading The Gospel of Happiness?

First, I hope readers become happier!  We all want happiness, and The Gospel of Happiness provides empirical evidence for what does and does not deliver on the promise of human flourishing.  I also hope readers find an encouragement for faith.  I found much evidence in psychology for the wisdom of the teachings of Jesus encouraging forgiveness, service, prayer, gratitude, and hope. Thirdly, I hope that people find practical suggestions for doing what can be challenging, such as forgiving others and doing the right but more difficult thing in the face of temptation.  Finally, I hope that readers can see the beautiful harmony that can exist between faith and reason, between spirituality and psychology. We can learn much from the rich interaction between them.

 

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One of the most interesting parts of the book, I think, is the final chapter about weakness of will. Good people want to do the right thing, but sometimes they actually do what is bad.  St. Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Oscar Wilde echoed the sentiment, “I can resist anything but temptation.” Fortunately, contemporary psychologists offer ways to strengthen willpower.  These discoveries—many of which were discovered centuries earlier by saints—can help people live the message of Jesus more consistently.

 


PRESS RELEASE: The City and Soul of St. John Paul II

George Weigel, New York Times best-selling author of Witness to Hope and the preeminent biographer of John Paul II, presents a spiritual travelogue that further illuminates the life and homeland of one of the most influential Catholic leaders of all time.

Weigel’s latest book, City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Kraków (on sale Oct. 27), takes readers to Kraków, the site of World Youth Day 2016, to learn the dramatic story of how a city and a man interacted in ways that changed the course of contemporary history.

In City of Saints, “the story of Karol Wojtyła, St. John Paul II, and the story of Kraków are interwoven in a chronological pilgrimage through the life of a saint that reveals, at the same time, the richly textured life of a city where a boy grew into a man, priest, a bishop—and an apostle to the world,” writes Weigel.

Part travel guide, part history book, and part biography of St. John Paul II, City of Saints is the perfect resource for those wishing to learn more about John Paul II, the city that shaped him, and their impact on the history of our times.

“To follow Karol Wojtyła through Kraków is to follow an itinerary of sanctity while learning the story of a city,” writes Weigel.

With over 100 stunning photographs by Stephen Weigel and historical notes on the city’s principal sites  by Carrie Gress, City of Saintsoffers an in-depth look at a man and a city that made an indelible impression on the life and thought of the Catholic Church and the 21st century world. Additionally, it is a must-have guide for pilgrims traveling to Kraków for World Youth Day 2016.

World Youth Day was founded in 1985 by Pope John Paul II as a worldwide encounter with the Pope for young people that draws millions of participants from around the world. The 2016 World Youth Day is especially significant because it will take place in Kraków, the longtime home of its founder.

As Weigel notes, “In 2016, World Youth Day will come to the city where, in a sense, this remarkable innovation in the rhythm of global Catholic life first started – in young Father Karol Wojtyła’s remarkable chaplaincy to university students who became his lifelong friends.”

 

The Influence of Kraków on the Pontificate of JPII

Many distinctive characteristics of the pontificate of John Paul II had their origins in his years as archbishop of Kraków. Following are a few key examples:

  • John Paul II’s magnetism for the young was presaged in the remarkable group of lay friends that first formed around the newly ordained Father Karol Wojtyła when they were university students.
  • His pastoral pilgrimages as pope were foreshadowed in the lengthy parish visitations he made as archbishop of Kraków.
  • His groundbreaking teaching on human sexuality, marriage, and the family reflected his work as a bishop in Kraków, during which he had founded an institute for marriage and the family as a key component of the archdiocese’s ministry—the first institution of its kind in Poland.
  • His steady efforts to provide an authoritative interpretation of the Second Vatican Council in his papal encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, and apostolic letters was a natural outgrowth of the work he had done to implement the Council in Kraków, in a process that was arguably the most comprehensive of any diocese’s in the world.
  • His remarkable command of the world stage was possible because of his experience as a public figure in Kraków.

 

GEORGE WEIGEL, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America’s foremost commentators on issues of religion and public life. Senior Vatican Analyst for NBC News, Weigel is the author of twenty-one books, including the New York Times best-seller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

 

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with George Weigel, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@penguinrandomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.


PRESS RELEASE: Does Your Faith Make You Happier?

Philosopher Uncovers Link between Faith and Well-Being

“All people seek happiness.” – Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 425

 Dr. Christopher Kaczor had always thought that psychology was an alternative to religion; that the two were mutually exclusive. That was until he discovered “positive psychology.”

In his latest book, The Gospel of Happiness: Rediscover Your Faith Through Spiritual Practice and Positive Psychology (on-sale Sept. 8), Dr. Kaczor examines happiness from a theological and psychological perspective and shows readers how they can rediscover their faith through spiritual practice and positive psychology.

Psychologist David Myers notes “survey after survey across North America and Europe reveals that religious people more often than nonreligious people report being happy and satisfied with life.” Additionally, people who strongly believe in God are more than twice as likely to report being happy as those who do not believe in God.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are many ways in which positive psychology and Christian practice overlap.

While conducting research on the subject of happiness, Dr. Kaczor discovered that certain findings in positive psychology can help Christians to better live the message of Jesus. He realized that he did not need to choose between Christian faith and positive psychology any more than he had to choose between Christian faith and modern medicine.

In The Gospel of Happiness, Dr. Kaczor highlights the commonalities between positive psychology and Christian practice while offering practical suggestions on how to become happier in everyday life and how to deepen Christian practice based on contemporary psychological insights.

“Just as Aristotle’s natural theology bolstered Christian theology, today positive psychology provides an empirical justification and aid for Christian practice, a kind of natural moral theology,” writes Dr. Kaczor.

 “I hoped to write a book that would be helpful for Christians by providing a glimpse into an exciting new development called positive psychology which can significantly enrich their lives and provide surprising new justifications for practices recommended by Jesus himself,” writes Dr. Kaczor. “The Gospel of Happiness is good news indeed.”

DR. CHRISTOPHER KACZOR is William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University and is professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Dr. Kaczor’s research on issues of ethics, philosophy, and religion has been in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, and National Review, as well as on NPR, BBC, EWTN, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, MSNBC, TEDx, and The Today Show.

PRAISE:

“At last, a Christian perspective on Positive Psychology that ratifies scripture by presenting the latest evidence-based science.  Kaczor soars when he shows how Christian practices are the way to find fullness and freedom of life. Impressively integrative, reading this book was simultaneously edifying and enjoyable.”
~ Robert A. Emmons, Professor of Psychology UC Davis, Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Positive Psychology, author of Gratitude Works! and Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier

“Professor Kaczor truly proclaims the Gospel of Happiness.  In conversation with scientists and sages, literature and liturgy, drawing upon a treasure trove of classical and contemporary sources, he offers profound and practical pathways toward happiness, virtue, and the flourishing life.  In engaging style suitable for personal growth, small group study, pastoral counseling, or college classroom, he shows how positive psychology validates Christian practice and how Christian practice completes positive psychology.  Grace truly does perfect nature, and Kaczor perfects positive psychology.”
~ Keith A. Houde, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Ave Maria University

“Professor Kaczor has distilled the findings of positive psychology on the subject of happiness, showing their congruence with Christian theology.  Amidst the torrent of self-help and popular psychology fads, this book stands apart as a gem with lasting value: it is practical, empirical, eminently readable, and deeply wise.”
~ Aaron Kheriaty, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California Irvine School of Medicine, author of A Catholic Guide to Depression

“Just as Augustine enlisted Plato and Aquinas mined Aristotle, Christopher Kaczor marshals the insights of positive psychology to illuminate the Christian faith in fresh ways, showing us how contemporary science confirms ancient wisdom. If you want to be happy, it turns out one of the best things you can do is practice traditional Christian disciplines like cultivating gratitude, extending forgiveness, and giving yourself away in service to others. This is philosophy that doesn’t just invite you to think differently but live differently.  A marvelous book that has me looking at my own life anew.”
~ James K.A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin College and author of Desiring the Kingdom

“If Christians wish to penetrate the darkness of the modern soul, they must not only dialogue with the social sciences, they must speak in a truly integrative idiom.  Dr. Kaczor’s new book reflecting on happiness through the joint lenses of positive psychology and Christian faith provides a simple and persuasive model for us all to follow.”
~ Christian Brugger, D.Phil., J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Professor of Moral Theology, Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary

“Christopher Kaczor’s new book provides a clear account of both the value of ‘positive psychology’ for Christians and an account of the value of Christian faith for human well-being.  The book is beautifully written and will provide a great resource for those who want to know more about the value of empirical research on human well-being for the religious life, as well as the value of Christian practices and virtues for human flourishing.”
~ C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University

“Many outside the faith (and too many within) believe Christianity to be a depressing religion obsessed with sin and suffering. Kaczor smashingly rights the wrong with this engaging, Christian reading of the scientific findings of positive psychology. Readers of this book will discover the wise happiness at the heart of Christianity.”
~ Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, editor of the Journal of Theology and Psychology

“God made us to be happy — to be blessed and to live with joy. And all of us are born with this desire for happiness in our hearts. But sometimes we can get a little lost along the way. We can find ourselves looking for happiness in the wrong places. Christopher Kaczor shows us the right path and he walks the path with us — shining new light on the ancient ways of forgiveness and gratitude, humility, prayer and service to our neighbor. Kaczor is a wise guide and this book can help all of us to grow in our relationships with others and our journey with God.”
~ The Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles

“In The Gospel of Happiness, Christopher Kaczor creates a refreshing new approach to a traditional theme lying at the heart of both Christianity and philosophy – the pursuit of happiness. Recognizing the dictum of Aristotle that happiness is the one objective we seek for itself, and that everything else is sought for the sake of happiness, he creates an understandable, practical, and usable path that combines contemporary psychology with traditional Christian teaching. He lays his foundation by appealing to seven Christian ways to happiness – “faith, hope, and love,” prayer, gratitude, forgiveness, virtue, and willpower, and enriches them with the five elements of positive psychology – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. By using Martin Seligman’s new positive approach to psychology, he bridges formerly perceived gaps between psychology and faith — opening the way for Christians to benefit from the insights and healing of this important discipline.”
~ Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., author of Finding True Happiness

 

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Dr. Christopher Kaczor, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@penguinrandomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.


PRESS RELEASE: A Look at the Importance of the Family in the Twenty-First Century from the Organizer of the World Meeting of Families

“Love is always good news.” – Jean Laffitte

The greatest joy for a Christian is pursuing the purpose for which God created him or her. For many, that purpose is marriage and family.

In The Choice of the Family: A Call to Wholeness, Abundant Life, and Enduring Happiness (on-sale Sept. 1) Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican, stresses the importance of the family in the twenty-first century and issues a call to action for everyone to reinvigorate the teachings of Jesus in his or her day-to-day life.

“The vocation of marriage, the “choice of the family,” is not the only Christian path to meaning and joy,” writes Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap, archbishop of Philadelphia, in the book’s preface, “but it’s the invitation most men and women will hear from the loving God who made them.”

“It’s a call to wholeness, to abundant life, to enduring happiness,” writes Archbishop Chaput, “And very few people grasp that fact more deeply or speak of it more articulately than the man you will encounter in these pages.”

As secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, one of Bishop Laffitte’s primary responsibilities is the organizing of a World Meeting of Families every three years.

Not only is The Choice of the Family an excellent resource for anyone wanting to better understand church teaching on issues concerning marriage and family life, but it is an especially valuable resource for those wishing to understand the vision behind the upcoming World Meeting of Families to be held in Philadelphia in September 2015, which will coincide with Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States.

BISHOP JEAN LAFFITTE is the current secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family. He previously served as vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

 

PRAISE:

The Choice of the Family is a testament to the joy of the Christian family fully alive. Bishop Laffitte’s own joy of being Christian—the joy of a deep, vibrant, expansive friendship with Christ, whose very life as God is one of a communion of persons—permeates this book with vitality, and provides an appreciation for the Catholic vision of the family that is at once a practical and a sublime guide for every Catholic family seeking to become who they are.”  Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

“In his ministry as a priest, bishop, and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Jean Laffitte’s contribution to the Christian understanding of marriage and family in the modern world has been invaluable. The interviews with Bishop Laffitte that make up the book you’re about to read reveal a man of compassion, intelligence, and deep love for the vocation of married couples and families.” —Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Philadelphia

To request a review copy, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, at kamoore@penguinrandomhouse.com or 719-268-1936.

 



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