I have a two and a half year old toddler. Anyone who has raised kids that age knows that you have to watch them like a hawk. He will find a new and creative way to either hurt himself or destroy something the instant you turn your attention elsewhere. I’ve seen water cups poured on tables because he wanted to create a swimming pool for his toys. Crayons, pens, and markers rarely stay on paper. Sharp objects on kitchen tables that used to be out of reach are suddenly reachable. Kids just have the sixth sense of knowing when they aren’t being watched.
Why do I bring this up? Is it to vent about the challenges of raising kids? Okay, maybe that’s partially it. But this isn’t a blog about parenting. It’s a blog about faith and rosary prayer. And I see a lot of parallels between practicing the faith and raising a toddler. Chiefly, if you turn your attention away from your faith, even for a second, trouble will fill the gap. Like a parent who has to constantly watch a toddler, you have to be constantly aware of your faith and how God’s calls you to live so that you will avoid falling into sinful behavior. What that means is that you have to routinely pray the rosary so that it will serve as a small check up on the health of your soul.
The more you pray the rosary the more in touch with your faith you will be. Going back to the child analogy. Will a child that is checked on every few minutes get into less trouble than the one checked on every few hours? Probably. Similarly, the soul that is “checked on” more often will less likely fall into sinful behavior. In one of my original posts on the First Luminous Mystery I said how rosary prayer is a lot like brushing your teeth and going to the dentist. You need to brush your teeth regularly and see a dentist so that your teeth remain in the best health and problems can be corrected when they are still small. Similarly, you need good spiritual hygiene of routine prayer — daily prayer if not more often. That allows you to recognize and correct faults and weaknesses while they are small before they escalate into major problems.
The rosary — it’s your soul’s little dentist visit.
Another aspect to keeping a toddler out of trouble is actively engaging them. While sometimes I wish my son would entertain himself with his toys and all I need to do is occasionally correct him if he starts doing something wrong, that is not how raising a child works. Keeping my son out of trouble usually means interacting with him through playing, reading, singing, etc. Sitting down with my son with a bucket of Lego bricks has proved infinitely better at keeping him out of trouble than millions of passively said “no’s”, “don’t touch that”, “and take that out of your mouth.”
The rosary is also something that works best when you’re actively engaged praying it. When you break out of thinking of rosary prayer as a mechanical uttering of words you also forge a more meaningful relationship with God. Rosary prayer isn’t a passive activity, at least it’s not if you want to get something out of it. Like the toddler that needs your engagement more than he needs to hear your rules, the rosary requires active participation to be truly effective. It is your opportunity to really interact with God and lay out your petitions, sorrows, and thanksgivings. It’s not about fulfilling some todo item to make God happy but is your chance to actually learn God’s plan for you.
I understand that making time for rosary prayer is difficult. It’s probably even more difficult than interacting with a toddler. Last time I checked, a rosary doesn’t take a box of crackers out of the cupboard and empties it out on the kitchen floor when you don’t pray it. A rosary can be easily forgotten. After all, bills need to be paid. You need to go to work. You need to sleep. You need to clean. You need to keep your children from painting on the walls. I get it.
I learned in college that you always make time for the activities that are priorities. There are just some activities you cannot ignore because your health, finances, or relationships depend on you making time for them. My challenge to you is to elevate your spiritual well being as a priority in your life and make praying the rosary a routine. It’s Advent now which means it’s a new church year. Make rosary prayer your resolution.
There is a best selling book titled Heaven is for Real about a young child’s glimpse of Heaven. You may have heard of it since it was also made into a movie. But have you heard about the much darker prequel, Hell is for Real? Okay, it’s not really a prequel and it doesn’t go by that title. I’m talking about the first secret of Fatima when in 1917 Mary showed three Portuguese children a glimpse of Hell. Since November is dedicated to praying for souls, I want to focus on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and how the Fatima Prayer in the rosary is a great tool for praying for souls in need.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – The Madonna of Carmel and the Souls of the Purgatory – WGA22270 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And now a flashback to my childhood. In my grade school I remember we had “rosary afternoons” in May where we broke up into small groups to pray the rosary. The groups were led by an eighth grader who explained how the rosary worked and led a group of seven other students, one from each grade 1st through 7th, through five decades. When I think back to those childhood rosary days I now recall one prayer being noticeably absent — the Fatima Prayer.
I think my early experience with the rosary was typical for a lot of kids. Someone thought it was best to shield us from the “scary prayer” that mentions the fires of Hell. I don’t believe this was done out of a disbelief of the reality of Hell, but more out of a concern of not opening that door of fear or questions from the inquisitive youth. I’m sure the school didn’t want to receive calls from angry parents about how their kid came home and said everyone is going to Hell or asked if Uncle Barney, who never went to church, was in Hell.
But the avoidance of talking about the afterlife, particularly Purgatory and Hell, didn’t end with the omission of the Fatima Prayer from my grade school’s rosary education. To this day, it’s a topic that most priests don’t touch with a ten foot pole. When was the last time you heard a homily about the eternal consequences of sin or the need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Over the decades, talking about sin and its consequences was unofficially deemed offensive speech. A priest cannot teach about sinful behavior without being labeled intolerant, self righteous, and uncompassionate. That is truly unfortunate because pretending that sin and Hell don’t exist does not make them any less real. Instead of explaining these scary aspects of reality and providing people with the knowledge, prayers, and the will to confront them, we sweep them under the rug. Instead of urging people to pray and help those “souls in most need of Thy mercy” we, as a Church in general, let people just dive into the fire because we’re afraid of offending someone.
Praying the rosary is a great way of meditating on the afterlife and praying for souls. Because talking about sin and Hell may be a taboo topic we have to put extra emphasis on them in our rosary intentions. After you pray each decade, that Fatima Prayer is that little reminder of Heaven, Hell, and even Purgatory (more on this in a bit). It encompasses asking for the intercession of the saints in Heaven, praying for at risk souls on earth, and those souls in Purgatory. Unfortunately, I too often race through the Fatima prayer. I treat it more like a placeholder while I think about my intentions for the upcoming decade. But slow down because there’s some heavy stuff in this prayer.
“O my Jesus” — God sent his only son for our benefit. He wants us to have a personal relationship with him. You don’t say, “O Jesus.” That “my” is in there for a reason.
“Forgive us our sins” — We all sin and are in need of reconciliation. There is nothing wrong acknowledging that we aren’t perfect and we screw up at times. We are asking for Jesus’ mercy for all peoples’ sins, hence the word “our” and not “my.”
“Save us from the fires of Hell” — Again, we are asking Jesus for his mercy on all souls. The fact that this phrase comes after “forgive us our sins” highlights that connection between sin and Hell. We implicitly acknowledge that sin is the cause of going to Hell.
“Lead all souls to Heaven” — This is where we want to go! Everything we do in life should be aimed towards one day living in God’s glory in Heaven.
“Especially those in most need of Thy mercy” — There are many people on that edge of eternal damnation. But there is still hope for them. They need our prayers and the intercession of Mary, the saints, and the Holy Spirit.
Where does Purgatory factor into the Fatima Prayer? There is a bit of a mistranslation of this prayer from Portuguese into English according to Br. Alexis Bugnolo:
I would point out that this English translation is not exactly correct; because the Portuguese does not say “souls”, but “little souls”, a term of endearment among Portuguese Catholics for the souls in Purgatory, equivalent to our phrase “poor souls”. The the context of the phrase refers to the deliverance of all souls from purgatory into heaven; and thus never signified universal salvation.
Remember, souls in Purgatory rely on your prayers to get into Heaven. Imagine knowing that you are saved and you’re so close to entering God’s kingdom but there is nothing you can do unless people on earth pray for you. That frustration alone must be part of the purification process in Purgatory for your sins. But now you have a reason to remember those souls in Purgatory every time you pray the Fatima Prayer. Time to pray it forward because hopefully someday we all may be in a position where we will need those prayers.
As many of you know, I’m a software engineer. My career revolves around analyzing the business needs of my employer and designing and implementing a software solution. Although my job title has the word engineer in it and my degree is in a science, the software development world can be an undisciplined, unscientific mess. Someone who doesn’t understand software development might be a little uneasy with the number of bugs that are introduced in the process, the amount of code that gets thrown out or rewritten, and how different a final product will look from the initial concept or prototype. Personally, every good idea I have usually stems from five bad ones — some being immediately dismissed while others I worked on a bit before realizing they weren’t a good fit for what I was trying to accomplish.
I see a lot of parallels between my experience in writing software and the recent Synod on the Family. A lot of commentary and fuss has been made over the midterm report. It shows a process where it may appear bishops are make statements and decisions contrary to Church doctrine in topics like divorce and homosexuality. We have to remember that this report isn’t the finished product nor a definitive statement upholding or changing Church doctrine.
The synod is like a piece of code in progress. Sometimes I just have to write a few lines of code to steer my thinking in the right direction. Similarly, I think the bishops have to bring up topics and lines of thought, not with the intent of those thoughts becoming the final word. Rather, it steers the dialog in different directions to find the right path — the truth of Jesus Christ.
While I’m a little uneasy about the statements being reported, I’m also glad that they are at least being mentioned. It wouldn’t be much of a synod if the bishops sat down and just regurgitated Church teaching, patted each other on the back for their rote knowledge, and went home. Again, in the software world I would be highly skeptical of a code’s quality that was completed quickly with no revisions. How do we know that the developer took into account all the scenarios and details? Why didn’t he integrate any feedback from his colleagues? Similarly, the mentioning of ideas that run counter to the Church’s teachings shouldn’t be seen as a challenge to the doctrine but as part of the exploration of these broad and complex topics. I want my bishops to leave no stone unturned in their search for truth.
One of the great mysteries enshrined in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is that Christ speaks through the rather messy and unpredictable process of ecclesiastical argument. The Holy Spirit guides the process of course, but he doesn’t undermine or circumvent it. It is precisely in the long, laborious sifting of ideas across time and through disciplined conversation that the truth that God wants to communicate gradually emerges.
The interim report on the Synod represents a very early stage of the sausage-making process and, unsurprisingly, it isn’t pretty. Two more weeks of discussion will follow; then a full year during which the findings of the Synod will be further refined, argued about, and clarified; then the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place (the one going on now is the Extraordinary Synod), and many more arguments and counter-arguments will be made; finally, some months, perhaps even a year or so, after that, the Pope will write a post-Synodal exhortation summing up the entire process and offering a definitive take on the matter. At that point, I would suggest, something resembling edible sausage will be available for our consumption; until then, we should all be patient and refrain from bloviating.
Now, I would also be naive to think that there aren’t some bishops guided more by politics than the Holy Spirit in this process. I think that’s part of the reason why this interim report was released to the public — so that some bishops could score some political points with the Church’s critics. It’s their way of getting some political cover by implying, “You see! I did try to represent your viewpoints but the magisterium didn’t listen.” Unfortunately, I think some bishops are aiming more to increase the Church’s likability by bending her teachings to the whims of society and not through explaining her truths.
I don’t think there will be a radical rewriting of Church doctrine when this is all over and many of the bishops know that. So those who may have ulterior motives other than fostering dialog may want their viewpoints made public so that they can become a talking point or be used in a counter argument in future debates. Unfortunately, our society (the media in particular) has an uncanny way of turning “this was mentioned in the synod” into “this is what the Catholic Church believes.” And over time, the context certain statements were made in will be completely lost and all you’re left with is a soundbite from Nancy Pelosi quoting the interim synod report and misrepresenting Church doctrine.
The media’s “goto” person for Catholic teaching.
Like St. Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary, we must show patience for this process. St. Simeon had faith that he would one day see God’s Chosen One. We too must have faith that the truth of Jesus Christ will not only reveal itself, but will burn more brightly when held up against weaker ideas. We pray for patience with the Church, both personally and for a patience from the greater society to not misrepresent the Church’s teachings. We also need to pray for the bishops and all those taking part in the synod that they let the Holy Spirit guide their thoughts and actions. And we must pray especially for those bishops who may treat their vocation as a political office rather than spiritual shepherds.
Want to know the secret to a long and healthy life? I’ll give you a clue, it doesn’t come from some pill derived from a Far Eastern plant root. It doesn’t come from a self-help book containing “ancient” wisdom kept secret by the Masons. It doesn’t come from going to the gym five days a week or sticking to a paleo diet. It comes from… people! And no, I’m not talking about Soylent Green. I’m talking about marriage, family, community, and prayer. The Catholic San Francisco ran this interesting little piece last week where they talk about how marriage and religiosity are important factors in living a long life.
“The health benefits of marriage are so strong that a married man with heart disease can be expected to live, on average, 1,400 days (nearly four years) longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart,” said Dr. Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“This longer life expectancy is even longer for a married man who has cancer or is 20 pounds overweight compared to his healthy but unmarried counterpart,” Haltzman added. “The advantages for women are similar.”
Couples with higher levels of religiosity “tend to enjoy greater marital satisfaction, fidelity and stability, with less likelihood of domestic violence,” according to a compilation of studies by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.
Right now I’m taking this research on faith since I’m a father of two boys that are sending me on the express lane to gray hair. I’m not quite sure how being a human jungle gym and getting no sleep will exactly extend my life expectancy. Then again, maybe chasing after my toddler and rocking my infant to sleep does have a healthy workout aspect to it so maybe there is a grain of truth to the health benefits of married and family life.
These studies showing the countless benefits of marriage, family, and prayer make intuitive sense to me. When you feel like you are part of a community, whether it be the small family circle or a large parish, you belong to a group of people who mutually reinforce and support each other. In other words, you don’t face life’s struggles alone and you don’t don’t live solely for yourself and your desires. We need that occasional second opinion that pushes us to try harder or put the brakes on our impulses. Personally, I know that I act differently now that I’m a husband and a father then when I was single because I know there is a lot more depending on me to be my very best.
This is also why the rosary is such a powerful prayer for both your physical and spiritual health. When you pray the rosary and meditate on its mysteries, you hopefully arrive at an understanding that you are also part of a larger community — the community of Christ. You are connected to our Mother Mary, the saints, angels, and the departed in Heaven. You are also connected to all the other people united in prayer. I truly believe that the rosary helps you realize that there is so much more to your life than just your immediate needs and desires. You not only understand that there are others looking out for you, but you also realize that there are opportunities for you to help someone else.
For example, when I pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus taking his cross, my initial intentions revolve around asking the Lord for strength to do his will even when my crosses weigh me down. But then I remember that I have the ability to help others carry their crosses and lighten their burden. I ask God to give me an awareness of how I can help others in my life. My rosary prayer may start with asking God to help me but they often end with me thinking how I can help others. To put it another way, my rosary prayers usually start with an inward focus but end with me thinking outwardly about my role in the greater community of humanity. And when millions of people do the same in their prayers, we become a huge community of individuals helping each other and bringing out the very best in each other.
For those of you who visit RosaryMeds regularly, there is a link on the left-hand side you may have overlooked. The site is called “Come, Pray the Rosary” and is a 24/7 rosary prayer that you can join in at any time and also post intentions. When I first came across it, the site maybe had a dozen people praying together at any given time but now it always well over 100 (140 at the time of this writing). It really drives home that the rosary is a community prayer. Plus I love the almost hypnotic quality of the website’s intro music.
In a previous post I wrote about how a group of satanists were going to hold a “black mass” in Oklahoma City. The day came and went and the black mass drew a crowd of 1,600 people! Oh wait, that was the number of potesters and people coming to pray and bear witness to the Christian faith. Only 42 people (0f the 88 tickets sold) actually attended the black mass. To put that in perspective, 42 people probably fills the first two or three rows of a large church. Not too many at all.
About 1,600 Roman Catholics gathered Sunday afternoon to bear witness to their Christian faith in the face of “dark forces targeting Oklahoma City, the site of a satanic “black mass” to be held Sunday night.
About 1,200 people crowded into the sanctuary, gym and a cafeteria area at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church for a holy hour prayer service called by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley.
Another estimated 400 people gathered outside the church at 1901 NW 18 to listen to the service blaring through speakers set up outdoors. In his homily, Coakley thanked the faithful for joining together on the eve of the satanic event.
“Your presence here today is a powerful witness of your faith in the midst of a challenging time for our community,” Coakley said.
Coakley, spiritual leader for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, then shared the reason for the afternoon gathering — a war being waged against the devil.
“Our city has been targeted by dark forces,” he told the crowd.
Coakley said as Christians “we know that Christ conquered Satan. The war has been won, Christ has conquered though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes to reign forever.”
I would like to think that many of the people who bought a ticket to the black mass but didn’t attend had their hearts swayed by the Holy Spirit invoked by those praying for these misguided souls. Perhaps some of the no-shows realized that they were playing with fire if they attended, even if they were only curious. Attending a black mass because you’re curious is like shooting yourself in the chest because you’re curious what a gunshot wound feels like. There are just some things you don’t need to personally experience to know that they aren’t good for you. I really feel like the Holy Spirit was able to reach a few souls and awakened them to the harm participating in a black mass would do to them.
I think this event is an interesting example of why God allows bad things to happen in our world. One of the popular answers to this vexing question is that God knows that it will bring about the greater good. Look at this case. 1,600 people assembled and prayed together on a Sunday afternoon because of this great evil taking place. These people (along with who knows how many more in spirit) took time out of their day to witness their faith when they otherwise might have been going about their lives running errands or watching football. That’s 38x as many people strengthening their faith as those putting their soul at risk. A definite win for the greater good!
“That’s it, we’re firing our agent!”
Now while 42 people attending the black mass is small, it’s still 42 souls at risk. Jesus and Mary are saddened by every soul that deliberately turns away from God. We need to pray for those souls that they open their hearts to the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary to the healing embrace of God’s grace. I remember the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, Jesus’ Crucifixion, where he prayed to God to forgive the people who crucified him saying, “they know not what they do.” I think knowing not what they do pretty accurately describes all those who attended the black mass. These are the people in most need of our prayers. When you take out your rosary today, pray not only these 42 wayward souls but for everyone who doesn’t really know the seriousness and eternal consequences of their actions.
Last week at work I had the privilege of attending a class on the science of happiness. I find topics about brain and neuroscience fascinating probably because I haven’t studied it to death. A two hour seminar from a former software developer fits nicely into my mosaic of brian knowledge formed from Ray Kurzweil books and Wired magazine articles.
Why would my company want me to learn about the science of happiness? According to various studies and polls, happy people are about 12 to 25% more productive in their work. Furthermore, much of what makes people happy revolves around them choosing actions that lead towards happiness. Therefore, a company has a vested interest in its employees choosing routines that lead to happiness and hence, more productivity.
I’m going to spare you the details of the seminar. If you want to learn more, just go to HappyBrainScience.com. I bring up this seminar for one reason — readers of RosaryMeds already know many of the choices that lead to happiness. For example, in the class we learned about the value of meditation as a way to combat the negative effects of stress. Guess what? Many of us who pray the rosary regularly already experience the positive effects rosary meditation has on combating the stress of everyday life. I’ve mentioned a study in a previous post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary prayer. I’ve also talked about how people are happiest when they find “flow” or are “in the zone.” Many people who pray the rosary regularly find it comforting because they can more easily get in the zone of deep meditation and prayer.
Going back to my happiness seminar, I also learned how we all have a bias towards focusing on the negative. I think we all know how difficult it is to concentrate or be happy in a group of people if you find even just one person in that group annoying. Instead of focusing on the people whose company we enjoy or the good situations around us, we too often dwell on what’s wrong and foment a bitterness, if not an outright hatred, of those people who we don’t get along with for some reason or another. Similarly, we also tend to dwell on our weaknesses more than our strengths. “I’m overweight.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I work too slowly.” “I don’t have enough patience.” “I don’t have enough energy.” Sound familiar?
When I heard about our negative bias and some of the tricks to combat it (you can get a taste of it from the HappyBrainScience blog), I immediately thought this all sounded vaguely familiar. I then remembered the introduction to my rosary book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, where I explained the main benefit I get from rosary prayer — perspective. Praying the rosary helps me understand that all the negative things in life we often dwell on aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture. By praying the rosary every day, I manage to keep all my problems, stresses, and worries in perspective. Rosary prayer also reminds me of God’s awesome power to forgive me for all my mistakes, no matter how big. Rosary prayer reminds me that the Holy Spirit is present and always trying to lead me on the path of true happiness. Rosary prayer reminds me that no matter how terrible the world appears, there is hope for a better tomorrow.
This can bring more happiness than winning any lottery.
Not all of us can attend a happiness seminar. But you don’t have to attend one or buy a “secret of life” type book to start choosing a lifestyle that yields increased happiness. Want to be happier? Turn off the TV and computer, silence your phone, pick up a rosary, and pray! Oh, and reading my rosary book and telling others about this website wouldn’t hurt ;-).
I always leave the house armed. In this world I think you are naive, if not a little crazy, if you don’t carry some sort of personal protection. Of course, given that I live in the Bay Area, I don’t carry my sidearm openly. It’s usually concealed but I’m ready and willing to use it if the situation calls for it. Don’t worry, I have plenty of practice using it. I’ve gone with a standard, white model. It isn’t very fancy, but it packs a punch with a 60 round capacity.
Wait, what? Take a look… yes, you’re still on RosaryMeds and not the NRA website. And no, I’m not delirious from a lack of sleep. But I am talking about weaponry in this post; very powerful weapons that pack more punch than what any Colt or Gloc could possibly deliver. If you haven’t guessed, my weapon of choice is the rosary. Of course, the 60 rounds should have been the give away (5*10 Hail Marys + 5 Our Fathers + 3 Hail Marys + 1 Our Father + 1 Crucifix = 60). For the last 8 years, since I started praying the rosary seriously and routinely, my rosary has been in my pocket wherever I go.
My sidearm, always ready for action.
I mention this in the wake of the gruesome execution of James Foley at the hands of Islamic radicals. One of the lesser known facts about James Foley was his devotion to rosary prayer and how it helped in through his captivity in Libya in 2011. In a letter to Marquette University (his alma mater) after his Libyan release, Foley wrote:
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused. Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.
And this is why I think carrying a rosary is so important. You never know what life is going to throw at you when you will need to respond with the power of prayer. Granted, most of us won’t be captured by radicals, imprisoned, or martyred. But we don’t have to go to those extremes to understand the importance of carrying a rosary. How many times have you received bad news about a friend, family, your job, your city, your neighbors, your country, your parish, or anything that is important to you? How many times have you faced a difficult challenge in your life? Or what about the times when something great has happened? Those are all perfect opportunities to reflect and meditate on some rosary mysteries. I think we come across opportunities on a daily basis for praying the rosary but maybe we miss them because we aren’t physically carrying one that we can whip out when we need to.
Prepared for every situation.
I’m not saying that you can’t pray the rosary unless you are physically carrying beads. James Foley prayed the rosary counting on his knuckles. When I can’t physically hold a rosary (usually because I’m rocking an infant to sleep) I will often look for something in the room that is in a group of five or ten so I can keep track of where I am within a decade. Maybe there is a flower pattern on the rug with five petals that I can stare at. Maybe the door or window has 10 sections that I can focus on. But I do find that actually carrying a rosary is a great reminder of the importance of integrating prayer into my daily routine. I take my phone, keys, and wallet with me because they will be useful tools throughout my day. The same can be said about my rosary.
Try this. Add a rosary to your other daily essentials that your carry in your pocket or purse. Or attach a rosary ring to your keychain. More importantly, instead of reaching for your smartphone when you have five minutes to burn, reach for that rosary and pray.
Unfortunately, the media has been reporting so much bad news lately that many Catholics may have missed this one among the headlines about Ferguson or ISIS. A group of satanists were going to hold a black mass using a stolen Eucharist in Oklahoma City. The bishop successfully sued them for theft and the satanists returned the blessed host. They will still hold their black mass as is their Constitutional right but without the Eucharist. For those who don’t know, a black mass is one that follows the same routine as a Catholic Mass, but in honor of Satan. In other words, they make a mockery of Catholic Church to please the devil.
Believe it or not, this was the only depiction of a black mass that didn’t involve nudity.
When I heard about the black mass using a stolen host I wasn’t too shocked or appalled. After all, the holy Eucharist often falls into the hands of people undeserving to receive it. At Mass every Sunday, I see nearly everyone in the church receiving communion. But how many of them are really deserving to receive it by having no mortal sins on their souls and having fasted appropriately beforehand? I’m not making judgements on anyone, but the numbers just don’t add up. I once heard a priest remark, “Isn’t it interesting how short the lines to confession are on Saturday and how long the lines for communion are on Sunday? Either we live among a huge number of saints or some people are receiving the Eucharist who should not.” So in that light, if so many people within the Catholic Church aren’t showing the Eucharist the respect it deserves, why should I be upset about a group of satanists getting their hands on it?
But then what did appal me was the fact that I wasn’t too appalled by the satanists’ theft and intention to use it in their black mass. My lack of shock and sadness reminded me of just how weak my faith is at times. After all, the Eucharist is the true presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ. A consecrated host is no different than Jesus being present in bodily form. It is one of the cornerstones of the Catholic faith and is one of the main differences between Catholics and protestants. And yet my apathy towards this instance in Oklahoma City does reveal the gaps in my faith.
The good news is that we can work towards bridging that faith gap. I start where I always start — the rosary. Particularly, in this case, I focus on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Instantiation of the Eucharist. I meditate on how faith isn’t something that just happens instantaneously, but something that requires work and an open heart. Think about the apostles at the Last Supper. They witnessed the first Eucharist from Jesus himself and yet their faith was shaken in the proceeding days of Jesus’ crucifixion. They betrayed him, abandoned him, and denied that they knew him. Bridging that faith gap was something they all needed to work on just like we do today. And all of the apostles, with the exception of Judas, earned their way into sainthood. That should give all of us hope that no matter how weak or shaken our faith may be, all of us have an opportunity to improve it through prayer, the sacraments, fasting, good works, and God’s grace.
3rd quarter of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another rosary mystery that comes to mind when I think about the black mass and the stolen Eucharist is the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion. The Romans put Jesus to death in the most horrific way possible and yet that couldn’t break Jesus’ resolve. Nor could they suppress his message that was spread throughout the world by his followers fueled by the Holy Spirit. Like the Eucharist, the cross became a cornerstone of the Christian faith and there is nothing the world can do that will stop God’s truth from being heard. There is nothing that will break the spirit of God’s Church. And so I see these satanists in a similar light as the Romans. There is nothing they can do in a black mass, even if they had the stolen Eucharist, that will have any effect on God and His Church. The world has tried numerous times to crush Christianity going all the way back to Jesus’ crucifixion. Satanists and their black masses just continue that fruitless tradition. Should we feel saddened by their actions and pray for their conversion? You bet. Should we feel scared that their actions weaken God or His Church? Not in the least.
I know many readers are probably put off by now about my recent political commentary even if you sit on the same side of the political aisle as I do. But like I said in previous posts, we live in the real world and rosary prayer and meditation need to play a part in it. Rosary prayer cannot be something detached and isolated from the other parts of our lives. It is meant to fuel us and guide us through our our lives, especially the hard parts.
We should turn our prayers toward what is happening in Iraq right now. Since January, 1.2 million people have been displaced by ISIS and other radical groups. One group that was already being actively persecuted in the region before January, but are now targeted to a heightened degree is the region’s Christian communities. Rev. Andrew Write, an Anglican pasture in Baghdad, said “It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares. The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten.”
The ultimatum imposed by militants for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed has passed with the collapse of communities that have existed for millennia
Iraq is just one of many places where Christians have been driven from their homes with nothing but the shirts on their backs. In some places, they are beheaded or even crucified! Over the last few years churches that have stood for hundreds of years were shut down, vandalized, or destroyed throughout Syria, Egypt, Libya, and other countries. By some measures, Christians are now the most persecuted group in the world, but as Rev. Write said, nobody cares.
I’m really not qualified to give a detailed analysis of international politics and why there isn’t a more vocal outrage over the world’s besieged Christians. But here are some of my thoughts. In the developed world, when we think of Christians we have the image of nicely dressed people attending a suburban church and then going to a nearby coffee house for pancakes and omelets. Or we think of the majesty of St. Peter’s Square. Some stereotypical images of the Spanish inquisition, European witch hunts, or the Crusades might come to mind. Throw all these perceptions together and it forms a picture of a group of people who don’t need any help at best, or are getting what they deserve at worst.
But in much of the world, the Christian communities are no different from the non-Christian communities around them. It’s not like Christians in Iraq are some wealthy, powerful group that are being toppled by a desperate underclass. They are farmers, shopkeepers, employees in some business, mothers, fathers, and children just like everyone else. Their day to day lives are no different from those around them except maybe they have different diets and worship habits. They don’t have a direct connection to the politics or history of Christianity. And yet, in their moment of need, many in the international community are silent because of their perception of who Christians are.
This Iraqi Christian should consider himself lucky. He was only driven from his home and wasn’t beheaded.
Jesus challenges us to help one another personally. One of my readers commented about my previous article on how Jesus offered a place for those who were left out of the normal hierarchy. Jesus didn’t espouse politics nor catered to a specific group of people. Yes, he taught mostly amongst the Jews, but His message was for everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, time, or place. We look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the courage to go out and teach Jesus’ message to all the world. And while they preached the Word to religious and political leaders (since they would have the most influence) they also taught to the masses and spread the Word as individuals to individuals.
St. Paul teaching the masses about Jesus Christ
Individuals helping individuals is the core of Jesus’ ministry. Yes, we still must lean on our governments and religious leaders to help. After all, it’s religious and government institutions that have the best infrastructure to deliver aid effectively. And yes, we must pray for those who are feeling so alone and abandoned as forces of evil drive them from their homes and kill them. But prayer is not the end of our role in helping those in need, it’s the beginning. Jesus didn’t want people to pray and then wait for governments and religious leaders to officially adopt His Word before living the Gospel.
Now it’s not like we can jump on the nearest plane to Iraq and drive from the airport to the area where Christians have fled. But we can still help on a personal level. Please consider donating to the Catholic Relief Services as they do have the means of reaching out to those undergoing hardships that we will (hopefully) never know.
Here are the results of a poll that I’m sure will ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the political and church isle. A recently released Gallop poll found that one’s “religiousness” is a great predictor of his political affiliation. It found that those who practices their faith regularly are more likely to lean conservative while someone who is secular leans more liberal. According to the story on the Blaze:
Among the survey’s findings: Forty-nine percent of very religious people support the GOP, compared to only 29 percent of nonreligious people who do. Just 36 percent of very religious people support the Democrats, while 52 percent of nonreligious people support the party.
This is where the anecdotal evidence comes out where someone says the poll isn’t true because their sainted grandmother also votes Democrat. Or their non church-going uncle is an avid Republican. Of course there will be exceptions to every poll which is why they are reported in percentages to reveal general trends. It won’t always reflect someone’s personal experience. Polls also reveal correlations, but not necessarily causation. We can’t say with any degree of certainty why nonreligious skew towards voting Democrat while religious lean towards voting Republican.
Check your religion at the door!
Now that we have the legal disclaimer out of the way, let’s explore political strategy. If this poll is true then it explains a lot about our current political climate. If Democratic policies and their vision for American society appeal more to nonreligious, then the Democratic party will have a vested interest in making society as secular as possible. A more secular population equals more Democrat votes. You don’t have to look very hard to see various tactics at play towards that goal:
The HHS mandate and rhetoric that one’s faith cannot play any role in how they run their business.
The vitriol many liberals show to any pro-life groups or any organization wishing to place any limits, no matter how reasonable, on abortion.
The attempt to redefine our Constitutional freedom of religion to freedom of “worship.”
Freaking out at any open display of anything even vaguely religious like a piece of twisted metal shaped like a cross at the Ground Zero museum.
Openly rigid enforcement of the “separation of church and state” (although that phrase does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution).
My point isn’t to just merely bash Democratic strategy. I’m sure many of my readers could probably come up with an equally long list of Republicans promoting religion to gain votes and influence. I just want to point out that we need to tread carefully and explore possible underlying motives whenever a politician either promotes or tries to curb the role of religion in public life. Call me jaded, but I don’t think many politicians actually act on religious issues from deeply held beliefs, but because it will land their party more votes.
Teach children religion for a better community — religion means reverence – obedience – order, irreligion means chaos – crime – social collapse, parents, wake up! American Legion (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)
The Rosary Connection
When I think of religious vs. nonreligious and Democrat vs. Republican, the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary comes to mind. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left His mission to build His Church in the hands of His disciples. Very early in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples decree that Jesus’ Church wasn’t exclusive to the Jews but open to everyone. We also must remember, as Jesus’ disciples today, that we must invite all to experience Jesus’ love and saving grace whether they be religious or nonreligious, Democrat or Republican, Dodger fan or Giants fan, etc. Some groups may put up more of a fight than others to Jesus’ message and our tactics may need to change based on the situation. But in the end, the mission hasn’t changed since the disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven centuries ago — share His love with everyone. Jesus didn’t discriminate nor fear the response to the truth. Neither will we.
Oh Lord, may we follow in Jesus’ early disciples footsteps and find the energy to promote His truth. May we not be afraid to promote that truth with anyone regardless of their political affiliation, nationality, gender, or personality. May we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the right tactics so that Your love best shines forth to all of those who need to hear it. May we not forget Your charge to the early Church when you ascended into Heaven — spread My Word to the world.