Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pastoral Counseling and the Year of Faith

It has come to my attention that the Catholic Church has declared October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013 as The Year of Faith. As a committed Christian and theologian-psychologist I applaud this emphasis. It accentuates a goal shared by Compass Therapy: How to help people deepen their personal faith in Jesus Christ and experience the benefits of Christ in personality health and wholeness.

I believe The Year of Faith expresses the heartfelt cry of Christians worldwide to draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ in our modern day. As Paul says, There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6). This especially speaks to pastoral ministry, where daily challenges call for active faith.

When the Catechism of the Catholic Church first came out I read it cover to cover in a week. It is a profoundly spiritual, Scriptural, and psychologically sensitive work. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, was a chief architect of the Catechism. 

I want to share with you one powerful paragraph from Pope Benedict's apostolic letter Porta Fidei that has introduced The Year of Faith. I do this with admiration for his spirit of pastoral care—and with the conviction that he is speaking on behalf of the Body of Christ, Catholics and Protestants alike:

The Year of Faith is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: “We were buried ... with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).
As the Pope says, personal transformation is a journey never completely finished in this life. We can benefit from psychological and spiritual tools that help us move forward. One of these is the Self Compass. As pastoral counselors, the Self Compass helps us renew our personal conversion to Jesus and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our counseling ministry. 

This Vatican has endorsed the Compass Model of personality because it supports "shaping the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection." Applying the Self Compass growth tool in counseling sessions will help people undergo "purification and transformation" during this Year of Faith.


Faith is deeply connected to personality health. Faith helps to counter the corrosive effects of anxiety, depression, and anger. The Self Compass promotes personality health and thereby increases a person's faith

Love and Assertion are two complementary compass points within every person's Self Compass. What is the connection between faith and Love? In order to love God or another person, we must reach out to them. We must open our hearts. We must risk caring for them. This requires faith! I have counseled hundreds of people who suddenly received this insight and gasped: "Oh no, now I realize I've lived my whole life to be safely self-contained. I've been too afraid to ever really love anyone." 

To grow in Love requires the courage of Assertion. Mary risked trusting the Angel Gabriel's message to her. Though she no doubt felt some fear, and though she certainly didn't know how she could become the Mother of our Lord, she ended the conversation assertively: "May everything you have said about me come true" (Luke 1:38). Mary dared to assertively express faith in the God whom she loved and trusted. Human beings can become more like Mary.


Spend a few concentrated moments today or tonight hungering and thirsting for Christ’s presence in your pastoral ministry. Don’t be afraid of any Weakness. Integrate your vulnerability and even self-doubts into your faith in God’s Strength. The Catechism says, “Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power” (273). Out of Weakness we are made strong. This humble Strength is what God loves to foster in us. A rhythm between Weakness and Strength never makes us arrogant.  

The Self Compass helps you cooperate with grace, so that in Pope Benedict's words, your "thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed." Undergoing our own transformation helps us counsel others with empathy and confidence. 

In case it might help your own personal journey of faith this year, I'm including a link to God and Your Personality: The Newly Revised Catholic Edition. You can imagine my humble gratitude when Pope Benedict's personal theologian wrote and told me that this book had been added to his personal library

Paul Cardinal Poupard of The Vatican has this to say: “God & Your Personality is no New Age influenced waffle clouded in a mystique of blurb, but a useful tool for all those who seek to address personality issues and quench their innate spiritual thirst with the living-water which truly satisfies.”

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