Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

We Are All Prodigal Sons Spirituality Can Help Redeem Men's Health

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

We Are All Prodigal Sons Spirituality Can Help Redeem Men's Health

Article excerpt

Sunday mornings are always the same for me. I wake up, drink coffee (black), read the newspaper and then head to Mass with my family. It's probably the best part of my week.

I belong to a wonderful faith community at St. Bonaventure Parish in Shaler. I grew up in this parish, went to school there, was married there. It is a joy to see many of the same churchgoers I saw when I was a child, while also being part of the new "Young Adult Movement."

I go to church, my dad does, many of my male friends do. In fact, I see many men at church each week -- single men, fathers, grandfathers, married, not married. In many ways, I feel inspired by these men to live a better life, to be a better father and man.

However, my experience may be different from the norm among men in the United States.

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According to the Pew Research Center, women are more religious than men. Pew surveys indicate that men are less likely to be affiliated with a religion and less likely to consider religion to be important in their lives, to believe in a personal God or universal spirit, to pray or to attend weekly worship services.

I have mixed feelings about these statistics. They stand in stark contrast to my personal experiences, yet the conclusions reached by Pew confirm some of my professional experiences as a counseling psychologist.

I have worked with many college-aged men who lacked meaning in their lives and have suffered from depression, anxiety and social isolation. These men were good guys but seemed to make terrible choices about their health and well-being. They just seemed lost.

When I would inquire about their spiritual or religious beliefs, almost all gave me some kind of answer that equated to "that's not for me" or "I used to belong to a church, I don't now." My hunch was that there was a connection between their problems and lack of spiritual experiences. But this was a tough connection for college- aged men to make.

During these clinical moments, my mind recalled the familiar biblical story of the Prodigal Son. Like the Prodigal Son, these men have set out to distant lands, away from their families and communities of origin to prove themselves as earners, providers, self-made men. …

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