English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the United States, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It is a time to give thanks for all that God has given us. And yet for many, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of be thankful about. Family, financial, spiritual, work, and global worries are in abundant supply. But for one day out of the year, we manage to push those aside and focus on our good graces. But that’s one day. What about the other 364? Here’s five ways the rosary can help you be thankful every day.
For thousands of years and hundreds of generations, people’s notion of God was one of a supreme being that was very distant and often very angry. The God as the Israelites knew him was a god of rules, laws, and punishments. But we have the grace to have what millions of people never had — God made man through the being of Jesus Christ. When we pray this mystery, give thanks that we have the opportunity to know God as someone who walked with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and died for us. Unlike millions of people who lived before Jesus’ birth, we have a face to put on God. And while we may be removed from Jesus by nearly 2000 years, we should rejoice that we have the benefit of coming 2000 years after Jesus’ birth, not before.
The Fourth Luminous Mystery
Following a similar theme from the birth of Jesus Christ, how lucky are we that God humbled himself and took on a human form so that we can come to know him more intimately? As we see with Jesus’ clothes turning dazzling white and God’s voice telling the apostles to listen to his son, we get an idea of the majesty in Christ. Jesus could have come into this world floating down from Heaven in dazzling glory as witnessed in the Transfiguration. But he didn’t. And we should be ever thankful about that. Jesus, the human, wasn’t “God Lite” who wasn’t any less approachable or mysterious as God himself. No, he was a human like all of us who we could relate with and listen to his teachings in plain, not intimidating speech. Of all the ways God chose to manifest himself, we should give thanks that he chose the person of Jesus Christ.
The Fifth Joyful Mystery
I always associate the Finding of Jesus in the Temple with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Mary and Joseph’s searching for Jesus and then finding him in his father’s house is a nice analogy to how we rediscover God’s grace, which we lose through sin, through Confession. But where does thanksgiving come into this mystery? I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that every day is a day to live in God’s grace but also another opportunity to rediscover that grace through Confession if I’ve lost it (either in part through venial sin or whole through mortal sin). Once you die, you no longer have that ability to seek forgiveness. Be thankful that no matter how deep in sin or despair you are, as long as you can draw breath you have an opportunity to rediscover God’s grace and achieve the same glory in Heaven as the saints.
The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery
How can we not be eternally thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice for our sake? Through his crucifixion, Jesus redeemed all of mankind for the disobedience of Adam and Eve — the original sin. We are thankful that through his sacrifice, Jesus made Heaven a possibility for all humanity, something that wasn’t open to us before. Humans failed God through Adam and Eve and we continue to fail through sin. And we would live in despair if there was no way to set things right. And that is exactly what Jesus’ crucifixion was — setting things right that were once broken.
How fortunate we are that God set aside Mary to serve a special role, not just in her earthly life, but in her heavenly one too. She was assumed into Heaven and acts as our mediatrix to her son, Jesus. But what do we mean by mediatrix? That’s just a special way of saying that Mary is our spiritual lawyer (but with a heart). Like how a legal lawyer helps us navigate the often confusing laws and regulations, Mary helps us navigate the often difficult spiritual waters. She helps us understand what is not understandable — God. We should be thankful that God, knowing that we need some help understanding his truth, set aside Mary to act as our guide.
“The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God, while still high compared with other advanced industrial countries, slipped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study. The percentage of Americans who pray every day, attend religious services regularly and consider religion important in their lives are down by small, but statistically significant measures, the survey found.”
Other headlines also found on Drudge:
Fatal rush-hour shooting near Penn Station
ZombiCon shooting leaves one dead
COPS: Thief stole operating room table from hospital!
CITY OF HATE: Breast-feeding mom mugged in Manhattan park…
COPS: Man killed for grabbing last piece of chicken at dinner
Anyone else making a connection here? I’m not saying that correlation equals causation and that a loss of religion directly contributes to a raise in tragedies. After all, the world has never really been a pleasant place. However, I don’t know about you but I feel like the world is really falling apart at an accelerated pace. I’m not just talking about large world powers colliding in global conflicts either. I’m thinking more on a micro scale to individuals. People seem to be much angrier and unhappy. Everyone seems to fly into a blind rage at the slightest offense or inconvenience. Or people are retreating into their own little worlds where they just don’t give much thought about their actions and who they may affect. And this isn’t just me observing this. Studies are showing a rise in death rates among middle aged, white Americans due to suicide and substance abuse.
While the decline in religion may not have a direct causation to the world’s problems, I bet that a return to religion would help alleviate some of them. In these dark times we need to pray for those who do not practice their faith whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. Or we need to pray for those who have twisted their faith into something that it is not. We do live in dark times globally, but for many, individually as well. And so we can look at Jesus’ example in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary for how we can approach these dark hours.
First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden
When the world or our individual lives feel like it’s in a downward spiral, we need to follow Jesus’ example and turn to God in earnest prayer like he did in the Garden of Gethsemane. We ask God for the strength to endure whatever is ahead. Keep in mind that Jesus was still arrested and crucified despite his prayers. Those prayers didn’t result in God removing hardship but helped Jesus find strength. Maybe he found comfort and courage talking to God in prayer, like a child holding a parent’s hand when they are scared or upset. And so we can also find comfort talking to God in prayer in a world hostile to hearing and living the truth.
Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
When I think of all the anger and misery in the world, I wonder how much of it is self inflicted because people have turned away from their faith. How many people find themselves unhappy for reasons they can’t explain because they stopping listening to the source of truth for true happiness, Jesus Christ? We pray for those who suffer because they have turned away from their faith. May they find that practicing their faith can provide the answer to their unhappiness and suffering.
Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns
The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus because they did not understand him or his teachings. And so we find ourselves in a world that mocks Jesus and his truth because they do not know him. Fewer people are taking the time to know Jesus through living their faith and turn to practices that dishonor him such as premarital sex, pornography, substance abuse, lying, cheating, stealing, cursing, and greed (to name a very small few). We pray for a realization of the effects our actions have on others and a conversion of heart to Jesus’ truth.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
How hard must it have been for Jesus to carry his cross among a crowd of people, many who supported him and many who had turned against him. As we journey through this world, let’s not be discouraged by those who are mean to us, attack our values, or wish us harm. Rather, may we find strength in those who want us to keep fighting the good fight, get up when we fall, and continue living our faith. While it may seem like the Church is beaten down and her critics are winning, so did it seem like the Romans and pharisees had their victory the many times Jesus fell under his cross. But we all know that in the end, Jesus found strength in his weakness and those who tried to hurt him ultimately failed.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
So many people stood before Jesus at the cross mocking him. Today, so many people stand in front of his Church and mock her by living contrary to the truth. But when the centurion, a Roman, at the cross witnessed Jesus’ death, he exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Jesus, at his death and supposed victory of the pharisees over him, showed a glimmer of the victory that was yet to come by converting the heart of an unbeliever. And so we hope that through our tireless example of living for Jesus we too can turn even the most hardened skeptics into believers.
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Czech Wikipedia for th week, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As any regular reader of RosaryMeds can see, I like motivating people to pray the rosary. All too often I go to other rosary websites that just list rosary commentary and meditations. Don’t get me wrong, rosary meditation ideas are very important as I have written twobooks on them. But we also need to find motivation and the will to pray the rosary. Otherwise, the rosary will just collect dust like that exercise equipment everyone tends to have in the back of their closets.
The rosary gives us strength to conquer seemingly impossible challenges
Now I’m going to talk to all of you who already pray the rosary regularly. Look at those ten reasons to pray the rosary. The rosary isn’t something we should keep to ourselves. I’m sure all of us know someone who needs the receive the benefits of rosary prayer. When you pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary ask Mary, Queen of the Rosary, to motivate that specific person in your life to pick up and pray the rosary. Even if you think the person you have in mind will never turn to the rosary, it never hurts to ask. What do you have to lose?
Evenings in my household are busy. We have a kitchen to clean, toys to pick up, books to read, pajamas to put on, teeth to brush, prayers to say, milk to warm up, and boys to put to bed who don’t always go quietly into the night. So it’s no doubt that my wife and our savor the time between when the house is finally settled and we fall asleep. And how to we savor it? By sitting in bed with both of us staring at our smartphones. And then we complain that there just isn’t any time to relax and talk.
Evidently we’re not the only ones substituting conversation for screen time. I came across this article, 5 reasons why Americans are unhappy, that really hit a nerve. Americans live in the most prosperous country in what is probably the easiest time in the history of the world. And yet many of us find ourselves constantly unhappy. Here is what some financial experts have to say are the causes.
We are zoning out with gadgets — This lowers our emotional cognition and our ability to relate with one another.
50% of people feel stressed — We stress about the wrong things — missing a green light, less than ideal weather, or someone’s post on Facebook.
Lifestyles of the rich and famous — We get a constant stream through TV and social networks of others living glamorous lives making us depressed and jealous.
There are no siestas in the U.S. — We just work long hours without many vacations.
Many Americans are unhealthy — This is almost a result of the previously mentioned unhappiness causes. We just aren’t eating healthy because we are tired, stressed, and depressed.
Looking at the list above one thing becomes quite clear to me. This unhappiness is something we bring upon ourselves. It is a self-inflicted wound that we make worse either by trying to ignore it or by inflicting more wounds in different ways. Fortunately, there are ways to counter these habits which lead to unhappiness. And yes, this is where the rosary comes into play.
Don’t zone out on gadgets. Smartphones are great tools, but they aren’t everything. It’s fine to watch a movie or read an article when you’re waiting alone for a train. But the movie can wait when you have an opportunity to actually talk to a human being like a parent, spouse, sibling, or friend. Or better yet, squeeze in a rosary decade or two to center yourself.
Feeling stressed? Try prayer and rosary meditation. There are so many studies showing the benefits of rest and meditation on the brain. And as I’ve said many times, praying the rosary helps keeps life’s challenges in perspective. Pray regularly and you’ll start to see some of the triggers of unhappiness as being rather silly.
Acknowledge that what you mostly see on TV and social media is a heavily edited highlight reel of people’s lives. While you may see a new vacation picture from a friend every day, keep in mind that most of your friends are just doing “normal” things like you — work, kids, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. You just aren’t seeing that. Does your Facebook feed still get you down? Turn it off. Trust me, the world won’t come to a crashing halt because you didn’t like someone’s posted picture.
Need a break? You may not have the luxury of going on vacation or reducing your work hours. You may not get much of a break from family and household chores. But that just means you need to make the most of the down time you do have. Again, try spending some of that time praying and meditating. It does help put your life and priorities in perspective. And maybe this is the software engineer in me, but also look to optimize, automate, and schedule. Auto pay bills, set up email filters, and try to minimize the time needed on routine chores (visit Lifehacker as they have great ideas). One thing that makes people stressed is that they focus on the work that is yet to be done. Guess what? THERE IS ALWAYS WORK TO BE DONE! Don’t try to aim your happiness metric at a life free of work. Instead, plan and schedule your work and spread it out.
Eating healthier is a matter of education and self control. But it’s also a result of working on other aspects of your health like sleep, workload, and stress. I don’t think you can achieve a healthy diet if you don’t address these other aspects. But also approach eating like you approach exercise. The goal of exercise is to push yourself — one more push up, just another quarter mile, an extra rep. Food can be treated the same way — another hour without a snack, an apple instead of a cookie, going for a walk outside instead of walking to the breakroom. One way I combat unhealthy eating choices is to say a small prayer when I’m hungry and see an unhealthy snack. I tell God that instead of satisfying my hunger with a guilty pleasure, I’m going to satisfy my soul with His grace.
I’m going to forgive the “mom centric” tone of this article considering that the source is a website called CatholicMom.com. But her advice on squeezing the rosary into your daily routine was just too good that I felt like I had to post and comment on it. Of course, long time RosaryMeds readers will probably find her advice very similar to what I’ve been saying. In short, 5 ways to squeeze the rosary into your life are:
The best part of the article for me was when she said, “Rather than the laundry, the dishes, or checking Facebook, make a decade of the Rosary your first priority when you have a moment to breathe.” How many times do we make the rosary a priority in our lives on par with our work, our home, and our families? I know most of us can’t stand that pile of dirty dishes in the sink, the crumbs on the floor, the dust on the tables, or the toys on the floor. It haunts us until we do something about it. But how many of us feel that same sense that something is out of place when we haven’t prayed all day long?
English: A rosary found on board the carrack Mary Rose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are many correct ways to pray the rosary and not too many wrong ways. The main point of the CatholicMom article was that God cherishes your effort to pray even if the quality is less than ideal. So stop waiting for the perfect time, place, and inspiration to rattle off a few Hail Marys when you find the time. Much like getting that quick bite to eat for physical energy to get through the day, the rosary can serve as your quick spiritual recharge. And often you will find that a spiritual renewal drives a renewed sense of physical energy and motivation.
When’s the perfect time to pray the rosary? Anytime. Where’s the perfect place? Anywhere. What’s the correct length of time for the rosary? However much you can find. Stop finding excuses, start finding Jesus. Start right now before moving on to the next email, website, or Facebook post with one Hail Mary. Need help? There’s a free guide for rosary prayer.
I came across this article on Catholic Exchange about how there are many in the Church who want to free Christianity from the cross. And yet, this article makes a good point about how you can’t separate the cross from Christianity because you can’t separate Jesus from the cross. Or, as the article puts it, “There simply cannot be a joyful Easter without there first being a Good Friday.”
The article says that the Church faces a lot of enemies within:
Sadly, at the very highest levels of the Church, there are men who are opposed to the Gospel of Christ. They despise the cross and they want a Christianity free from it. They want a Catholicism sanitized of sacrifice, of repentance, of dying to self, of carrying one’s cross to follow Christ. They want an easy religion—a religion that accommodates us in our sin, that pats us on the back and assures us that everything will be ok, a faith that requires nothing of us.
To create this crossless religion, they believe they must change the Church and her immutable teachings. All their thought is bent upon it, and they are currently using every machination in their power to accomplish their aim. Perhaps their chief method is to question what is settled—to whisper like the serpent of old, “Did God really mean what he said?”
This article seems timely given that the Synod on the Family is taking place. I know that Pope Francis has asked everyone not to politicize the Synod. But I still can’t help but wonder who is more passionate at this point in history — those who want to remove the cross or those who seek to preserve it? I know that preserving the cross won’t make you the most popular. But neither are needles and scalpels and you don’t see doctors giving those up.
“Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”
The article ends with 4 ways we can keep the cross, and hence our salvation, alive and not be deceived by those who wish to remove it. Here is the summary:
Learn and embrace the teachings and traditions of the Church
Receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
Stay close to Mary in prayer
Pray and sacrifice
When looking at this list, I can’t help but think about the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. As I wrote about in The Rosary for the Rest of Us, God set aside a special place for Mary, not just in her earthly lifetime but in ours as well. She has appeared throughout the ages giving us advice and tools with the promise of eternal joy to those who use them. I think Mary’s guidance can be summed up in some simply, yet important, tasks which mirror what was offered in the Catholic Exchange article:
Pray — How can you have a close relationship with Jesus if you don’t take the time to talk to him?
Read the Bible and other Church teachings — How can you love and embrace your faith if you don’t take the time to learn it?
Fast — How can you love God with your whole being if that being is constantly attached to earthly pleasures?
Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation — How can you remain close to God with a barrier of sin between you two?
Receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist — How can you love and embrace the Catholic Church without receiving her cornerstone sacrament?
When you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, remember to integrate these five tasks into your routine. Doing so will not only remind you about the importance of the cross but also embrace it. As Jesus commanded, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus didn’t make the cross optional. It’s as fundamental to our spiritual life as air and water are to our physical one. Following these routines will remind you of the cross’ importance and not let you be deceived by those who wish to whitewash it out of Christianity.
A while back ago I was out grocery shopping with my wife. We went to a small produce store that had a lot of its fruits and vegetables just outside the main doors along the sidewalk. As I was shopping, I noticed a man walk by who started riffling through a pile of plums before finding one that he liked. But instead of putting it in a bag or walking inside to pay for it he just continued walking along his way eating it as if he had just grabbed something from his home refrigerator.
I usually give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he owned the store. Maybe he was a close friend of the owners. Maybe he had previously bought a bad plum and the store said he could pick a different one. But the most likely answer was that he just felt like eating a plum and they were right there on the sidewalk for the taking. The chances of getting caught were slim so why not right?
God saw that!
Today I read this article titled There is such a thing as a free lunch in the San Francisco Chronicle about how stores are looking the other way when it comes to shoplifting. They don’t want to confront a shoplifter because the liability and legal costs of a confrontation usually outweighs the cost of whatever is being stolen. I can’t really fault the businesses for wanting to protect themselves from thousands of dollars in legal fees or lawsuits over a $5 sandwich.
But what about the people doing the shoplifting? I don’t think these are cases like some modern-day John Valjean where someone is stealing to feed their family. As I saw at the produce store, that plum was stolen by someone who looked like they had the means to pay for it. The same goes for the people observed in the Chronicle article. If you have designer clothing or a smartphone I’m sure you can pay for a sandwich.
The Chronicle article reminded me of an article I wrote about a while ago about the declining influence of religion in the United States. A growing segment of the society doesn’t practice any religion nor does religion and spirituality play a role in their lives (referred to as the Nones). When we have people openly shoplifting we are seeing the result of the grow influence of the Nones. By stamping out religion, governments create a moral void that can only be filled by rules, laws, and punishments. While people used to self regulate their behaviors according to an upbringing of learning what is right and wrong, we now have a population that believes something is okay if there are no immediate consequences. Because without religion, what else is there to worry about except the here and now?
But this also raises an interesting question about personal ethics. It’s becoming increasingly challenging to live morally when there are no consequences for living immorally. The problem is that the idea that there are no consequences is actually a lie. There are consequences both in this life and the next. We so often forget that God sees all and that we will one day have to account for our actions. Even if we receive mercy and forgiveness we will still need to atone for our sins in Purgatory. But there are also consequences in this world. When we don’t get in trouble for doing wrong, we tend to do more wrong. And this becomes a slippery slope that can have dire consequences if we go too far down the wrong path. When we pray the rosary, let’s ask God for the wisdom to understand the temporal and eternal consequences of our actions and the strength to always do the right thing.
Let’s now look at the rosary, particularly the Glorious Mysteries. I’m going to try something a little different. Instead of diving deep into a particular mystery, I’m going to give you some ideas for rosary prayer intentions that you can meditate on. My goal is that you’ll be able to better integrate what you read on RosaryMeds into your rosary prayer routine.
The Resurrection: Jesus rose to new life proving that there is more to our existence than this world. We pray for the changing of heart and behavior of those who live only for the here and now.
The Ascension: Jesus ascended into Heaven and sits at the right of God as our final judge. We pray for mercy on those who live in sin that they may change their ways and seek forgiveness before standing before Jesus Christ.
Pentecost: The Holy Spirit infused the apostles with strength to preach the truth in a world that didn’t want to hear it. We pray that we let the Holy Spirit guide us in living morally and according to the truth regardless of the norms of society.
The Assumption: God assumed Mary into Heaven because He had a special plan for her — to act as our guide and bring us closer to her son Jesus Christ. May we listen to Mary’s messages that call us to pray, fast, and receive the sacraments because they will lead us to true happiness.
Mary’s Coronation: Mary sits as Queen of Heaven. We ask for her intercession, especially for those in most need of God’s mercy.
Need more rosary prayer ideas? Download my free ebook.
Labor Day weekend came and went here in the US. For many, it’s an extended weekend full of fun and relaxation. For me, it was also an extra day of family time which was exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my family. But I have a quota of how many times I can tell my boys “no!” and “stop!” and still keep up my cheerful disposition. As any parent knows, it is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining to fight the same battles day after day over eating, sleeping, sharing, and teaching general manners to kids.
No matter how many times I have to say “no” or “stop!” or “wait,” I of course will always love my family. Yes, I wish one of my boys would sit at the table for breakfast and eat without me constantly reminding him to take a bite (I also think he would love to actually experience his food warm for a change). I would also love my other son to not cry when my wife has to put him down so I could give her a break now and then. But my love for them overwhelmingly dwarfs the day-to-day challenges they present.
That just about sums up how my youngest son sees me.
My experience as a husband and father teaches me a lot about God’s nature. God must be like a parent who at times is frustrated with our lack of cooperation. He is constantly repeating himself in trying to raise us well. He teaches the same lessons of love and compassion through Scripture, Mary, the saints, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. But because of our human nature, we often just don’t get it and repeatedly commit the same sins. Spiritually, many of us our like toddlers who just don’t see the big picture as God sees it. But God is the always patient father who understands that our hearts and minds aren’t mature enough to fully grasp the goodness he has prepared for us. But he always waits, calmly repeats himself, and gives us many chances to “get it.”
I often tell my older son not to play too rough with his younger brother, not because I want to kill his fun, but because I know that my older son doesn’t yet have the maturity to understand that he can hurt his brother. Likewise, God tries to set some ground rules through his Church by identifying what is sinful and evil and what is good. He doesn’t do this to prevent us from having any fun, but instead he knows what will bring true happiness and what will bring ultimate despair. Like a toddler, without developing our spiritual maturity, we often cannot understand why God does what he does and become frustrated with him. But it is through regular prayer that we develop that level of understanding and faith. We may not understand God’s reasons for his laws, but we take it on faith that following them will bring about the greatest good.
The Rosary Connection
Speaking of faith, let’s turn to the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. I think one of the greatest acts of faith Catholics show is accepting that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. I think this is pretty hard to swallow at times. After all, the Eucharist looks and tastes like bread and wine. You wouldn’t be able to identify a consecrated host from a non consecrated host in a blind taste test. But the Eucharist is the cornerstone of the Catholic faith. Hence faith, the unquestioning belief in truth, needs to be a fundamental part of our spirituality. We must accept that God’s laws cannot be fully quantized and explained; that there will always be aspects of his nature that our beyond our understanding. We also must take it on faith that the Church’s rules and teachings will lead us to everlasting joy.
The other part of faith is humility. I don’t think you can have true faith without also showing humbleness. Because you must humble yourself to accept that there are truths beyond your understanding. We pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery for those who do not show humility and hence cannot fully form their faith. We also pray for those times when we have shown pride and not humility and closed ourselves off from receiving God’s grace. But remember, even when we are stubborn, prideful, and close ourselves off to God, he will be the always patient parent waiting for us and sending small hints to help us come around.
I almost feel like I need to start a What Pope Francis Means is… section on RosaryMeds. It’s not that I think what Pope Francis says is wrong. In fact, both Pope Benedict and Saint John Paul II also said many things that, without looking through a well formed theological lens, one could interpret as going against Catholic doctrine. But because of Pope Francis’ off the cuff style, he opens more doors than his predecessors for incorrect justifications of uncatholic behavior for those who wish to take it.
“We all know in our communities, in our parishes, in our neighborhoods how much hurt they do the church, and give scandal, those persons that call themselves ‘Very Catholic,'” the pontiff said Sunday.
Francis was speaking Sunday in an off-the-cuff moment during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, which focused on one of Jesus’ teachings about the role of the proscribed laws of the faith of his time.
“The literal observance of the precepts is something sterile if it does not change the heart and is not translated into concrete attitudes,” he said, giving examples: “Opening yourself to the encounter with God and God’s word in prayer, searching for justice and peace, giving help to the poor, the weak and the oppressed.”
“The exterior attitudes are the consequence of what we have determined in the heart,” said the pope. “Not the opposite! With outside attitudes, if the heart does not change we are not true Christians.”
What Pope Francis Did NOT Say
Some people could take Pope Francis’ words to mean that it is okay to not embrace all the teachings of the Catholic Church. After all, you don’t want to be that goody-goody who is “very Catholic” or “too Catholic” as I’ve heard some refer to those who try to follow the precepts of the Church. Without proper reflection, the pope’s comments could be taken as an endorsement of “cafeteria Catholicism” where you can pick what part of the doctrine you want to follow. As long as you have a good heart or a just cause it’s alright to skip Mass on Sunday, support pro-choice causes, and not really buy into the “we are sinners in need of forgiveness” idea. After all, the pope says that being very Catholic can be a bad thing right?
Sorry Nancy, the pope isn’t saying those who are pro-life are bad Catholics
Of course Pope Francis is not saying that you can embrace uncatholic behaviors and still be a Catholic in God’s grace. Nor is he telling practicing Catholics to butt out of the lives of those who have fallen away from the Church. Unfortunately, for those looking for excuses for their behavior and shortcomings, you can easily pick and choose the pope’s words to support your actions.
What is Pope Francis Saying?
In my view, Pope Francis’ comments come down to a single word: PRIDE. It’s not that trying to be a very good Catholic is a bad thing, but you start getting into sinful territory when you start to believe that you’ve achieved some state of heavenly perfection in this lifetime because you follow all the rules. You give scandal when you try to lord that false perception of perfection over others. The very act of believing you are a better person than others because you follow the rules prevents you from being a fully realized Catholic because you fail to acknowledge your sinful act of pride.
My search for “pride” didn’t turn up any family friendly pictures. Here’s a cat instead.
There is an old saying that I’m going to paraphrase — being wise means understanding that there is a lot you do not know. I think that’s important to meditate on when thinking about how good of a Catholic you are. Someone who is truly very Catholic understands that they have a lot of sins and shortcomings that they need to work on. No one can achieve perfect Catholicism in this world (Mary and Jesus excluded of course). That is a state reserved for the souls in Heaven. Even the saints acknowledged that they were poor sinners who had to battle various imperfections throughout their lives. Even those who were the most holy among us like Saint Pope John Paul II went to confession weekly because he had the humility to know he could still be a better Catholic.
The Rosary Connection
The rosary relates to Pope Francis’ comments in two ways. First, we pray it so that we can more humbly approach our faith. When I meditate on the various mysteries and think about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, I understand the long road I have before me in areas of my life where I need to improve. I don’t think anyone who earnestly prays the rosary can believe they are very Catholic when compared to the lives of Mary and Jesus or even the martyrs, apostles, and saints. If I ever do start to feel prideful and that there isn’t any more I can do to be a great Catholic, meditating on the rosary brings me back to reality.
The rosary also helps me become very Catholic, but very Catholic in the right way. As Pope Francis said, we should focus on changing our hearts, not just our exterior attitudes. Think about the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary. Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of Heaven and calls us to a life of conversion. This conversion is a conversion of heart, not actions. Because when we do have a true conversion of heart and orient ourselves towards God, the actions will naturally follow.
Think of it like this, you aren’t very Catholic because you go to Mass on Sunday. You are very Catholic because you love God with all your heart and want to embrace Him by listening to His Word and celebrating the Eucharist at Mass. True conversion and becoming very Catholic starts from within with regular prayer and reflecting on what areas of your life need improvement. The rosary is a great tool that leads you to true Catholicism, not a false, prideful one.
Most people won’t have a “Road to Damascus” moment like St. Paul. Conversion is a lifelong process.
Need more help getting the most out of the rosary? Download my free ebook chock full of rosary intentions to meditate on.
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.”