I read this article on the Catholic News Agency about just how toxic anger can be in a marriage. It starts:
Of the countless Catholic couples who have come through Father T.G. Morrow’s office in Washington D.C. for marriage counseling, two remain imprinted in the priest’s mind even today.
In many ways, these two Catholic couples were the ideal; they were open to life, they formed their children in the faith and they frequented the sacraments.
But both of these marriages fell apart. The culprit? Anger.
“Anger is a poison,” Fr. Morrow, a moral theologian and author of “Overcoming Sinful Anger” (Sophia Press, 2014) told CNA. “If a husband and a wife are angry with each other a lot, it destroys the relationship. It makes it so painful that people want to get out of that relationship.”
I’m going to broaden the conversation to not only talk about anger, but general self-imposed unhappiness. I think a lot of anger stems from losing sight of what’s really important. When we put a little perspective on our lives it’s almost humorous in hindsight what we get so upset about. We get all tied up in knots over traffic, a late flight, a sink of dirty dishes, a slow loading web page, no cell signal, etc. And why? How is stewing over all these little annoyances going to make life any better? How is lashing out at someone over a pet peeve going to foster the good in that relationship?
As I wrote in the introduction to The Rosary for the Rest of Us, one of the main benefits of praying the rosary is that it offers me the proper perspective on life. The rosary reminds me that our world isn’t perfect, but that’s okay because this world is only temporary. We are meant to spend eternity in the joy of God’s heavenly kingdom. Rosary prayer is all about focusing on that glorious kingdom to come, not dwelling on the imperfect worldly kingdom that is.
I picture our Mother Mary in Heaven shaking her head in disbelief when she sees what we get so upset about. She must think what I think when one of my kids melts down over nothing. The other day my three-year old son had a fit because I dared serve him a waffle cut in half instead of whole. My explanation that the waffle would taste the same didn’t comfort him. All I could think was, “Really? All this unhappiness over a cut up waffle?” I think Mary must be sitting in Heaven also asking herself, “Really?” Because from her perspective, we must come across like little three-year olds — bringing so much unhappiness on ourselves over ultimately trivial problems. Even the “big” problems in life such as finances and health are as significant in the heavenly perspective as a waffle cut in half.
Mary Queen of Heaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Let’s look at the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary. When we meditate on Mary crowned Queen of Heaven, let’s ask for her intercession, especially when it comes to controlling anger and gaining a more heavenly perspective. She wants nothing more than for us to live for her son, Jesus Christ. And when we humbly ask for her help, she will gladly offer it. But the key is that we have to understand what holds us back from truly living for Heaven. We must realize that when we’re angry about the trivial aspects of this world, we really don’t have a heavenly perspective because we are worrying too much about the here and now.
I’m not saying that keeping a heavenly perspective is easy. If it was then there really wouldn’t be much need to regularly pray the rosary. But because living for God’s kingdom is difficult, we have the rosary, our gift from Mary Queen of Heaven, to help manage our anger and keep us focused on what’s really important.
I’ll leave you with this last piece of advice from the Catholic News Agency article. If the Golden Rule is about treating others as you want to be treated, then I believe this should be the Silver Rule:
“People get angry about little, trifling things,” Father T.G. Morrow said. “You have to say “Is this worth getting angry about?” If not, then you have to let it go. Just forget it.”
Now back to your regularly scheduled program. My last few posts where political in nature and that is an area I try not to spend too much time writing about. There are much better sources for political news and commentary. And honestly, writing about current events through a Catholic lens is flat out depressing because it seems like everything our world holds dear is an attack on Catholic values. So let’s get back to something more hopeful — spiritual fitness through rosary prayer!
I saved this article and filed it under “I should write a RosaryMeds article on this some day.” The article is almost a year old, but it’s still very relevant. This short video talks about the health benefits of meditation, something I’ve written about before. I very much consider praying, particularly praying the rosary, a form of meditation. In fact, I think you aren’t getting the most out of the rosary unless you are treating it as a form of meditation. Otherwise, you may fall into auto pilot mode or what the Bible calls meaningless repetition (Matthew 6:7). It looks like medicine and psychology are verifying what people who practice their faith have known for a long time — your body benefits from meditation. I’m going to go one step further and say that your body and soul needs prayer!
I’ve attended happiness seminars that echo the same sentiment as this video. Your situation partly determines your health and overall happiness. But a lot of your well being comes down to you making the choice to strive to be happy and healthy regardless of the situation. I know many people who say they would only be happy if [insert some event or condition]. In other words, they’re saying “I’ll be happy when my world is perfect.” The problem with that type of thought is that you are moving happiness from something you control to circumstances you cannot control. And unfortunately, our world has a lousy track record of producing an environment that fosters happiness.
Part of the reason why our world can’t make people truly happy is because our societies throughout history have focused more on trying to acquire happiness through physical means. This may mean the acquisition of basic comforts to personal wealth and luxuries. Many centuries ago it was just about staying alive where a good day was a day without a viking invasion. Now it’s about having a home theater, a fast smartphone, and a reliable car. Regardless of the time period, so much of that is determined by factors outside your control — where you’re born, what opportunities you’ve had, your genetic makeup, etc. But not only that, but the happiness that is dictated by your circumstances is always fleeting because the world can (and probably will) change on you.
And that’s where we get back to rosary prayer and meditation. The rosary isn’t about getting something temporary or something that can be taken away arbitrarily. It is more about training your mind, body, and soul to realize everything you already have that God has given you. God has freely given you many gifts through his grace but you have to slow down to take stock in what you have. God has given you strength just as he gave Mary strength to be the Mother of God as seen in the First and Second Joyful Mysteries. God provides you guidance as seen in the Third and Fourth Glorious Mysteries. God has given you a sense of purpose and a mission as seen in the Second Glorious Mystery. Pick any rosary mystery and you will see that God has already given you a tool for true and eternal happiness.
Saint Padre Pio stated: “Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him”. The Rosary: A Path Into Prayer by Liz Kelly 2004 ISBN 082942024X pages 79 and 86 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Stop looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Stop waiting for your world to be perfect (or at least comfortable) to start working on being happy. True happiness starts and ends with you forming a relationship with Jesus. And rosary prayer is one of the best ways to foster and grow that relationship.
It’s here! After many months of development I’m proud to announce my latest offering on RosaryMeds — my new booklet, The 44th Rose: Rosary Intentions for Today’s Busy Person. Think of this as an addition to The Rosary for the Rest of us. While The Rosary for the Rest of Us provides commentary of the general themes of each rosary mystery, The 44th Rose offers ten specific intentions/meditations for each mystery. Naturally, I chose ten intentions so that you can have one for each Hail Mary.
I jumped back and forth whether to put this book on Amazon. On one hand, a book on Amazon has the potential to reach a greater audience. But on the other hand, you have to charge something to make a book available for the Kindle ($1 minimum). And I know for me, I pass on many things that aren’t free (books, apps, supporting developers of free software I use) even when the price is trivially small.
I’m making The 44th Rose free for download in multiple formats — epub, pdf, online, and even as PowerPoint slides. Not only can you download this book for free, but feel free to share it with others. In fact, consider sharing this book as your way of paying for it. I get so much joy knowing that I’m helping others get the most out of their rosary prayer and introducing new people to the rosary meditation. Share the link, send a file, print some copies for friends — it’s all good with me.
Please go to the Intentions page listed at the top of RosaryMeds and download your free ebook today.
August 10 2015 | catholic | Comments Off on Introducing my New Book! The 44th Rose
I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news. I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time. Why this case got so much attention beats me. I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.
A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.
The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.
Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.
Here’s my take. People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history. Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder. This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.
This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion. Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost. Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed? Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow? We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes. We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know. We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers. It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it. In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.
Dr. Sam Livingston, a promising young physician, killed and harvested for his organs
The RosaryMeds Prescription
Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on. Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44). It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy. This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception. We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But let’s dive deeper. What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions? What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong? The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind. When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil. This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.
We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God. When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth. We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.
Last week I posted an article that looked like a takedown notice from the Department of Justice. It appears many of you thought the notice was real. Part of my intent of writing that article was to grab your attention and maybe even have the post go viral (which unfortunately didn’t happen). I wrote that article in response to some concerning news articles I read. Instead of jumping straight into commentary and risk just going into a snarky rant, I decided to write the fake takedown notice to set the stage (pretty clever huh?).
First, I have some thoughts about the responses I received regarding my fake takedown notice. The fact that so many people thought that it was real struck me as very concerning. I find it alarming that many people believe that the government is taking legal action against people simply stating their religious beliefs. I would like to think that in saner times people would have immediately noticed the ridiculousness of such a post. That tells me that for many, the loss of religious freedom isn’t something that may happen one day but is already here.
Also alarming then is that we are just allowing the loss of our religious liberty without putting up much of a fight. If my article was real as many people thought it was, then besides of few “that sucks” or “really??!!!” comments, people just moved on with their lives. After all, who do you complain to? Is it really worth anyone’s time and energy to make a lot of hay over some obscure blog site being targeted by the US government? Do you really want to stick your neck out and potentially being singled out for government harassment? Not that I want marches on Washington D.C. over RosaryMeds, but I wonder how many little nibbles the government can take into our religious liberties before we find that it’s gone entirely.
Yeah, that will show ’em we’re serious.
Now let’s back up to what originally prompted me to write the satirical takedown notice. After the Supreme Court made its gay marriage decision back in June, I immediately saw numerous commentaries suggesting reforms on religious institutions that object to gay marriage. These commentators want to see the removal of tax exempt status for religious institutions and banning government aid to private colleges that object to gay marriage. This is on top of the fines the government is already imposing on businesses (bakers primarily) who have a religious objection to participating in a gay marriage.
One of the main selling points of gay marriage was that it wouldn’t affect religious institutions or people who have a religious objection to it. I heard over and over how the Catholic Church would never be forced to perform gay weddings. And while that may technically be true, it seems like what was being muttered secretly by gay marriage advocates was “the Catholic Church will never be forced to perform gay weddings because the government is going to shut them down.”
This should all seem like a rerun (or a reboot) of ObamaCare. When it passed there were plenty of assurances that Catholic hospitals would never have to perform abortions or employers would have to provide abortive contraception coverage. And yet millions of our tax dollars go to Planned Parenthood and the HHS Contraception Mandate has gone to the courts multiple times (thankfully the courts repeatedly rule in favor of religious liberty). It’s still very unclear whether ObamaCare does fund abortion considering that the Executive branch has a habit of unilaterally changing the law when convenient. It seems like assurances that religious beliefs will be respected are just platitudes and don’t carry much weight once the law is passed.
“The government is taking away our freedoms. Change the channel!”
Whether it’s gay marriage or health care, the trend is clear — we are entering a period of increased hostility to organized religion, especially Catholicism. I believe that many in power would love nothing more than to see Christian organizations vanish and to scare Christian people from publicly voicing their faith. The political class loves the idea that something is right or wrong based on whether they can convince enough people to vote and pass a law or mandate. They hate the idea that there are universal truths that exist outside their power to change when it’s politically advantageous. And that is why they will use any cause, whether it be health care, gay marriage, immigration, gun control, assisted suicide, etc. to rally people against religious truths. Because if religion can be relegated to a church for one hour on a Sunday, politicians can pass all sorts of crazy laws without being bothered with people bringing up the moral implications.
This isn’t about Catholics wanting to codify our beliefs into law. It’s not specifically about gay marriage or health care. This is all about Catholics (and religions in general) fighting to preserve our God given right to our religious beliefs without being persecuted by the government by having our livelihood threatened. The last time I checked, there was no Constitutional amendment repealing the First Amendment which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The blog article you are accessing has been indefinitely suspended by order of the United States Department of Justice due to content that some may find insensitive.
This article contained references to the Mormon practice of abstaining from caffeine and alcohol, the Muslim practice of abstaining from pork, and the Jewish practice of abstaining from shell fish. Since the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, pork, and shell fish are legal under United States law, any practice that discourages their use has been flagged as bigoted and hateful and has no place in public discourse. Furthermore, the article encouraged actively engaging in prayer outside a house of worship which is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State.
The DOJ takes matters of religious freedom very seriously. While we do respect the right for religions to hold their own beliefs and traditions, their practices must be sensitive to the beliefs of those who do not share that faith. We will take all measures to make sure that all references to religious dogma comply with United States laws and will take legal action, including loss of tax exempt status, of those religions that do not comply.
We’ve contacted the operator of this website and have informed him that we are not taking any legal action against him at this time because this is his first infraction. We have also informed him that he may be using outdated religious materials that are not updated to comply with the latest US laws. He has 30 days to update all articles on this website to confirm to teachings as stated in the The New American Bible, Supreme Court Edition, v2015.06. After 30 days, he will be subject to a $100 fine per article per day that does not conform to the NABSCE 2015.06.
The DOJ thanks the anonymous party that brought this offensive webpage to our attention. While we use every resource available to us in partnership with the National Security Agency to keep offensive webpages like this one away from the public, our best resource is the ever vigilant, patriotic United States citizen. Together we can ensure a safe and civilized internet experience free of any overtly religious or controversial discourse today and for generations to come.
Meditation ideas on the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary for dealing with all the troubling news the world is encountering right now.
Lately there has been a lot of news that has many people thinking the world is falling apart. We hear of people suffering from natural disasters across the globe, atrocities committed by groups like ISIS across the Middle East, silly presidential election news (Trump? Hillary Clinton’s favorite ice cream flavor?), and troubling social/political news about Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and ObamaCare. Basically, if you’re looking to get worried and upset about something, you don’t have to look much further than your Facebook news feed to grow a few gray hairs.
To me, praying the rosary is all about gaining perspective. And I think everyone could use a little perspective right now. I try to remember that the world has never been a perfect place and has been marked by problems both natural and man made. However, we live in a time when news has never been more accessible which means we get more bad news at an accelerated pace. Or we get a distorted view of the scope of outrage or support on any given issue. But thinking society is falling apart isn’t new. Mankind has always had its share of problems.
Picture back to the time Jesus lived. If Facebook existed then people’s walls would have been filled with complaints about cheating tax collectors, Roman occupation, and corrupt pharisees. Furthermore, people were probably praying for the same types of solutions we pray for today. Something to the tune of “Please God, make all our problems go away.”
Jesus did not come into this world to magically change the world with a wave of his hand. He didn’t make all the Jews’ problems go away. But he did answer the people’s prayers. He did that not by making things easier but by challenging people to look beyond the troubled state of the world and their immediate, physical needs. He wanted them to concentrate more on the state of their souls rather than the actions of Cesar. For example, he told the rich man to look beyond earthly wealth and to gain riches in Heaven by being charitable (Mark 10:17-31). He said that those who are persecuted in this world will find glory in Heaven (Matthew 5:10). He said that we all have to take up our crosses in this life so that we may find comfort in the next (Matthew 16:24-27).
In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Glorious mysteries of the rosary and meditate on gaining a more heavenly perspective instead of dwelling so much on the today’s troubling issues.
#1. Live for something more than this earthly world
The First Glorious Mystery is about Jesus rising from the dead. The perspective gained from this mystery is that our earthly death is not an end. Jesus’ crucifixion and death was only a transition from his earthly life to his true, heavenly one. Jesus’ rising proved that there is so much more to us than the physical realities of this world.
When we think about all the injustice, death, and suffering in this world we should remember that none of it will persist after our earthly death as we rise to new life in Jesus’ kingdom. And while a lifetime of pain and suffering may seem like an awfully huge cross to carry, it isn’t even a measurable instant of time compared to the eternal joy and happiness Jesus prepared for us in Heaven through his resurrection.
#2. Pray for those have fallen
The Second Glorious Mystery is about Jesus ascending into Heaven. The perspective gained from this mystery is that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and will judge the living and the dead. This is important to understand because we need to pray for the repentance and conversion of those who live in sin and cause so much scandal, misery, and unhappiness. It may seem easy to complain and become stressed over others’ misdeeds. It’s also easy to ignore them and focus only at our own salvation. But we do need to pray for them and always be an example to the world of Jesus’ Truth. Because everyone, including those who live in sin, will one day stand before the Lord with their sins in plain view. Since we are called to love one another, we should do whatever is possible so that everyone, saint and sinner alike, will enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.
#3. Let the Holy Spirit guide you
The Third Glorious Mystery is about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension. We live in a difficult world but we can look to the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and courage to persevere and maybe even change the hearts of others. I don’t think any of the apostles would have thought that they were going to change the world when Jesus first called them to put down their nets and become fishers of men. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit they did just that by boldly venturing out and spreading Jesus’ truth.
We too may not think that there is much we can do when we see what appears to be impossible situations to fix or the deep seated hatred in people’s hearts. But the Holy Spirit does give us the power to live according to Jesus’ truth and to lovingly bring people into God’s grace. Like when Jesus was here in this world, he did not provide a quick fix to humanity’s problems. Similarly, the Holy Spirit won’t give us a quick fix either. But if we have faith and let the Holy Spirit guide us, we can personally thrive and bring others to know Jesus Christ.
#4. Follow our mother Mary’s roadmap for happiness
The Fourth Glorious Mystery is about Mary’s assumption into Heaven. God had a very special plan for Mary and her assumption shows just how revered and elevated she is. She was not only set aside to be the vessel through which God would manifest himself in human form, but she was also set aside to be our guide and mediatrix after her earthly death. Like with the Third Glorious Mystery, the perspective we should gain from this mystery is that Mary is always there to help guide us closer to her son’s love. She has appeared many times with a message of hope, love, and a call to action for conversion. Over the generations, she has laid out a roadmap of prayer, fasting, and repentance which we should follow. While it’s easy to get down and think nothing we do can do that will make much difference, Mary says otherwise. And we should all listen to our mother.
The Fifth Glorious Mystery is Mary’s coronation in Heaven. We have to understand that there are evil force at work. And Satan and his minions are playing the long game where they want you to focus all your energy on this world in the hopes that you will be led astray and become his slave for eternity. He wants you to “go with the crowd” even if what is popular in modern society goes against God’s plan. Or he wants you to fall into despair, blame God for all that is wrong with the world, and turn away from your faith. But Mary is a powerful queen who reigns in Heaven. When we accept and live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom then we fall under Mary’s protection against evil and Satan’s influence. No matter what transpires in our world we know that we will have protection for what matters most — our eternal soul.
This year my New Year’s resolution was to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’m happy to report that I finished part one which explains Church doctrine by walking through the Creed. It looks like reading the Catechism is going to be a two year project given that it’s already June and I’ve only finished the first part. I thought I would write about the Catechism as I finish each part instead of waiting until I was completely done reading it. Here are my thoughts about part one of the CCC.
I always thought that Catechism was the 10 (thousand) Commandments of the Catholic Church. I was expecting a “do and don’t” list of sorts. But providing a list of rules without any context doesn’t make much sense so naturally our church fathers laid down a spiritual foundation to start the CCC. Part one is a well crafted narrative that walks through each phrase in the Creed and uses it to explain some aspect of the Catholic faith. And boy does it go into detail at some points where a simple phrase in the Creed referencing the Holy Spirit or the Communion of Saints expands to multiple chapters of theology. It does get a bit dry and heavy at times but it does provide a solid foundation for the “rules” that come later on.
You have to excuse the nerd speak for a second, but part one of the CCC is like unzipping a compressed digital file. The Catholic faith compresses nicely in the Creed but like a compressed file on a computer, it’s hard to get anything useful out of it when you only see it in its compressed state. It’s doubly difficult when the only time you think about the Creed is for those three minutes you utter them in a half comatose state after the homily during Mass. The CCC is the spiritual “unzip” that takes all that compressed data and makes it something more useful. Note that it doesn’t introduce anything new that isn’t implied in the Creed but it does clarify the pillars of the Catholic faith.
Another way to think of part one of the CCC is like walking through an art gallery. If you don’t know anything about art then you would look at a Monet painting and wonder what’s so special about some blurry landscapes. But if you’ve studied art history and understand the ideas behind Impressionism then the paintings take on a different character. You can understand the richness and the story behind each work. Likewise, the Creed may just seem like a bunch of simple statements but part one of the CCC helps you discover the richness and history behind those phrases. And while someone may not understand every details of the Catechism, that level of understanding isn’t necessary to appreciate it and gain some insight into the Catholic faith.
I recommend part one of the CCC to anyone truly interested on learning more about the foundations of the Catholic faith. As I’ve said before, part of being a faithful Catholic is also being an informed Catholic. We need to make learning about our faith as much of a priority as we make learning basic life skills. Because I can’t think of a more useful tool for Satan to spread his lies than an uninformed Catholic (just look at Nancy Pelosi). Don’t unknowingly be one of Satan’s minions. Become informed and put part one of the CCC on your reading list.
This is a very well known Navy SEAL motto. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the book written by the SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden was titled No Easy Day which echos the same sentiment. There are multiple meanings behind this Navy SEAL motto. In training, it means that each day will be more challenging than the previous one. This is due to increased expectations from the instructors, greater scrutiny because of the increasingly smaller class, the elevated competition because those left in training are able to perform at a high level of intensity, and that the drills become more difficult as recruits get more fatigued.
The physicality of SEAL training is one aspect behind that motto. But it also points to the state of mind a Navy SEAL brings with him, not only in training but throughout his career. It’s a state of mind that is always focused on tackling the challenges at hand and always pushing yourself to do your job better. A SEAL never thinks that the worst is behind him and that it is clear sailing after a certain point. To a SEAL, there is no such thing as resting on your laurels. Even when things are going well the SEAL always searches for ways he can do better.
SEALS must adopt this motto because their lives, and the lives of others, depend on it. They must approach each mission with the utmost focus and intensity to succeed and stay alive another day. And while a SEAL may conduct a certain type of mission, such as a rescue operation, dozens of times, it is the first and only mission for these SEALS from the point of view of those being rescued. They put themselves and the people around them in great danger if these soldiers treated any operation as something they could just coast through because they’ve done it a dozen times before.
Like a SEAL approaching a mission, we must also treat each time we pray the rosary with a fresh and focused mind. We cannot get lulled into a state where we just “coast” or go on “automatic pilot” with our prayers. What’s the point of praying if we just race through the words without any thought? Is that pushing ourselves to get the most out of each rosary? This Navy SEAL motto fits in well with my previous post, almost from the military, about always setting higher standards each day. Otherwise we stop growing our spirituality and could even lose a bit of our faith through complacency.
The rosary isn’t a magical chant or incantation like a spell. In other words, it’s not the quantity of prayers that matter rather it’s the quality. This is why the rosary doesn’t fall into the category of “mindless repetition” that Jesus warns us about in the Gospel (Matthew 6:7).
What is a good quality rosary prayer? It’s focused prayer backed up with specific intentions that is said slowly and deliberately. To focus on the rosary means to consciously block out all those other thoughts that may distract us. You first have to acknowledge when you are distracted and then stop, take a few deep breaths, and resume. If you go through an entire decade without even realizing what mystery you were praying, back up and start that decade over again. Mary will be more pleased with one decade said with focus than an entire month’s worth of hollow prayers.
We can achieve better focus by turning our distractions into intentions. Do you have worries about members of your family? Offer those worries to Jesus in your rosary prayers. Perhaps the best way to do this is to actually say out loud your concern and that it will be your intention for the decade. And while it may seem silly to vocalizing your intentions, especially if you are praying alone, it really does help bring focus to your prayers.
As you practice on more focused rosary prayer, always try to push yourself. Remember the SEAL motto that the only easy day was yesterday. It’s not just that the situation a SEAL finds himself in gets more difficult, but they expect more from themselves over time. They look forward to that next challenge because they want to prove to themselves that they have the strength of mind and body to overcome it. Similarly, we should be pushing ourselves to get more out of the rosary each time we pray it. While at first it may be enough to remember to pray a rosary every day, later we need to push ourselves to deeper meditative states and really open our hearts to what God is trying to tell us through the rosary.
Pray like you’ve never prayed before. It’s go time Rosary SEAL!
One of my favorite self improvement blogs is LifeHacker. For those who don’t know, LifeHacker has interesting tips and tricks in all areas of life whether it be career, digital, health, finances, play, or family. They posted a link to a podcast featuring General Stanley McChrystal and his philosophy for success. He said that you have to continuously raise your standards every day. The LifeHacker article states:
You can almost always find something you’re able to improve about your life or your work. The important thing is that concept of eschewing comfort. Success doesn’t consist in finding the right routine to stick with for your whole life. Success comes from changing that routine constantly until your life is better.
This piece of military wisdom applies to so many areas of life. Let’s focus on using it to achieve success with rosary prayer and meditation. In my rosary SEAL post I wrote about how we grow spiritually when we accept the discomforts of rosary prayer and push ourselves to block out easier, but less effective, alternatives. From my experiences with software development I learned that routines lead to optimization. In other words, the more we do the same action over and over again, the faster and more efficient we become at it. That’s great when you want to blast through mundane tasks at work but not so great when it comes to rosary meditation. Becoming comfortable with the rosary is what leads to meditation autopilot, distractions, and less effective prayer.
The bigger the challenge, the bigger the success
Rosary meditation is not about speed. It’s about fostering your friendship with Jesus Christ. Are your best experiences with your friends the times when you are distracted and race through interactions with them? Probably not. My most cherished memories in my friendships involved long and deep conversations where I was actively engaged. The same goes for the time we spend in prayer with our friend, Jesus Christ. Our friendship with Jesus isn’t something static, but one that we should always be improving. That means treating each rosary prayer as something new and distinct from the previous rosaries. Yes, the actual prayers may be the same, but the dialogue with Jesus should be something unique because the circumstances you’re prayer under will be unique.
Here is an excerpt from John’s Gospel that should sound familiar since we read it a few weeks ago on May 10th:
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Always remember that Jesus considers us his friend. It’s important that friendship is never a one way street. Jesus has reached out to us but we need to reach out to him. And that means never taking the power of prayer for granted.
Rosary prayer: Quality time with our friend Jesus
The Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary focuses on conversion and communicates a similar idea about never getting comfortable with a routine. What is conversion other than changing our routines until our life is better? Unfortunately, in our broken human state we never achieve a lasting success of living in God’s grace. It’s a process of falling to sin, receiving forgiveness, and striving to be better. No one on earth has ever obtained a lasting perfection in our human form and isn’t in need of some conversion (our Mother Mary excluded of course). When we meditate on this rosary mystery, let’s remember that there is always something more we can do to improve our friendship with Jesus whether it be praying longer, being more aware of the factors that lead us to sin, attending Adoration, receiving the sacraments more often, being more charitable, or just consciously centering more of our lives around Christ.
What are your comfort points with rosary prayer? What can you do to break through them?