As a joke, a comedian named Kurt Braunohler ran a KickStarter campaign to fund writing a funny message in the sky. I think anyone who saw “How do I land?” written in the sky that day got a good chuckle (as well as the millions who saw it on the internet). And while this was obviously a joke, this little stunt did get me thinking about how often we say and do things without considering the consequences. How often do we “fly” through life not thinking about the “landing” when we’ll need to account for our actions in front of God?
We too often act like a pilot who takes off with no plan on how to land. We just move from one moment to the next without really contemplating the moral trajectory of our lives. Many of us tend to ignore the fact that some day we’ll need to account for all actions in front of God. We just assume that somehow everything will just work out. We tend to block out of our minds the eventual conclusion to life which is death, judgement, and either eternal happiness or eternal damnation. We cannot put off this eventuality any more than a pilot can ignore that one way or another, any plane that is in the air must eventually come down. Ask yourself, how are you going to “land” in life? When you die, will it be a smooth landing into God’s heavenly kingdom or will you crash and, quite literally, burn?
Living without considering the long-term consequences of your actions is more than just ignorance; it’s selfishness. You not only disregard the effect your actions have on the people around you, but you also disregard the gifts, talents, and intellect God gave you. God gave you a mind, heart, and soul so that you could use it to know Him and live according to His Will. Pope Francis talked about the destructive nature of selfishness in his May 15 homily where he used Judas as an example:
Pope Francis noted that Judas was “off in his solitude” and that his “attitude of selfishness developed into the betrayal of Jesus. Those who give their life for love are never alone and are always in the community and in the family,” Pope Francis said. “On the other hand, he who isolates his conscience in selfishness, loses it in the end,” he stated.
Judas is the perfect example of someone who didn’t think about the long-term consequences of his actions but lived from one isolated moment to the next. All he saw was 30 pieces of silver for leading the authorities to Jesus. Did he consider what would happen to Jesus after that? Did he consider how he would feel? Maybe not. Maybe he was so self absorbed that he never looked past the financial windfall. A pilot who doesn’t know how to land a plane will eventually run out of fuel and crash. And that is exactly what happened to Judas — when the reality of his actions finally kicked in, he mentally and spiritually crashed and then took his own life as the ultimate selfish action.
We have a problem as a society in that we are becoming more isolated and self absorbed. I mentioned in a previous article how we are losing that moral foundation that helps regulate our actions and consider the long term consequences. This is why it is so important to attend Mass every Sunday and pray regularly. These actions give us time to reflect on the consequences of our actions and how they may affect us and others. When we don’t attend Mass, when we don’t adhere to any doctrine, or pray regularly, we will find ourselves in a similar situation as the pilot who does not know how to land a plane — flying high one moment but always moving closer to an inevitable crash.
Meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary– The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Think about how Mary and Joseph turned around from their caravan and searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple. Of course someone who loses their child will search relentlessly until they find him. That is what any loving parent would do. What is not so obvious is that many of us often go through our lives unaware of how far we are from Jesus. Do we “turn around” and start looking for Him? For some, that may mean returning back to the Church after being away for a long time. For others, it might mean realizing the sinful nature of their lives and committing to a life of conversion. And for most of us, it probably means making small reflections in routine prayer and making small life course corrections through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God wants a smooth landing into His kingdom for all of us. The question is, are you thinking about how to land?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love movies. We are now entering the summer blockbuster season and there are many films that look promising. I think the movie I’m most looking forward to is the next Superman movie titled Man of Steel. Here’s the trailer for the movie that I’m going to reference in this article. Note the biblical undertones.
The latest Superman movie, Man of Steel, puts a spin on the iconic super hero. Other movies in the franchise show a Superman who jumps at every opportunity to use his powers in service of helping humanity. He is essentially a boy scout with super powers. This new movie asks, what if Superman doesn’t want to be Superman but instead chooses a life as an anonymous human being? The trailer presents two possible outcomes if he reveals his super human nature. He might be rejected, feared, and made an outcast because he doesn’t fit in (he is an alien after all). Or he will be seen as a role model that humanity strives to imitate. From the trailer, it looks like he initially believes the former idea and tries his best to hide his super nature by living off the grid as a fisherman.
Let’s look past the obvious biblical references in the trailer such as the voiceover saying how Superman will be like a god to humans, how he is seen as a “guardian angel”, or that he chooses to work as a fisherman. I want to focus on Superman’s choice to hide his powers and try to live a “regular” life. Can you blame him? After all, look at the other Superman movies where the world expects him to protect humanity from ourselves. He becomes responsible for stopping anything bad from happening whether it be bank robberies, car brake failures, plane crashes, or nuclear armageddon. Would you want to be the person the world relies on to prevent all misfortune 24/7?
We, as Catholics, are very much like this new Superman. We too are given tremendous gifts and powers. Okay, we cannot fly, have x-ray vision, or outrun a train. But we do have other powers that transcend mere physical capabilities. We have power from the Holy Spirit and God’s grace. That manifests itself in the knowledge to know good from evil and the strength to choose the good even when evil seems easier or more attractive. We have the power to keep going, to keep trying, to keep forgiving, and to keep loving regardless of how hard life tries to knock us down.
We also have the super powers of hope and faith. We have hope that we will one day find eternal happiness in Heaven by living in God’s grace here on earth. We have faith that there is more to our lives that what we experience in this world and it’s worth enduring trials and hardship since we will find comfort in Heaven. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us strength to live for God‘s kingdom. Superman may have limitless physical abilities. But Christians have limitless spiritual abilities.
Much like Superman hiding his physical power in Man of Steel, we often want to hide our spiritual gifts and just “fit in” with everyone else. Because using those gifts to live as people of God will often make us outcasts in society. For example, when we use our knowledge of good and evil to call attention to the evils of abortion, the world condemns us as hate-filled, uncompassionate, and tyrannical. Or we have a gift of knowledge that tells us that cheating, lying, stealing, being greedy, or lustful are evils that should be avoided. But we so often want to pretend that we do not have that gift of knowledge so that we can do whatever we want. Like Superman, we don’t want to stand out because we are afraid that with great power comes great responsibility (I know that quotation is from Spiderman, not Superman, but it fits well).
When we pray the rosary, think of the Third Glorious Mystery, The Coming of the Holy Spirit, as Christianity’s superhero origin story. It was the Holy Spirit that transformed the apostles from scared deniers of Christ into evangelists who would lay down their lives to spread Jesus’ teachings. Pray for an openness to the incredible power the Holy Spirit gives us to live according to God’s Will and Jesus’ teachings. Jesus taught that a lamp isn’t meant to be hidden under a basket, but put out on the table to illuminate the world around it. And superheroes aren’t meant to keep their abilities bottled up. We are spiritual superheros! And so we are called to be that shining example of God’s love to the world. We pray for the strength to live according to God’s Will especially when it seems easier not to. Because deep down we know that following the path God lays before us will always lead somewhere good. Maybe we won’t find that goodness in this life, but we will certainly find it in God’s heavenly kingdom.
We also should meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation in the Temple. Remember, Simeon is a perfect example of how our faith is a type of spiritual super power. He waited and prayed in the temple his entire life on faith because the Holy Spirity told him that he would one day cast his eyes on the Savior. And when Jesus came for His presentation in the temple, that promise was fulfilled. I like to think that it wasn’t Simeon’s own abilities that gave him the will to come to the temple every day for many fruitless years. Instead, it was his faith and openness to God’s grace that allowed him to persistently look and wait for Jesus. When we earnestly pray for that same strength, God will surely give it to us. All we have to do is ask. Of course, God may also throw some challenges our way too just to show us that we do, in fact, have the strength to overcome life’s obstacles. After all, what good are super powers if we don’t have super challenges to test them?
One lesson life has taught me is that often the thoughts and ideas of a group often produce better outcomes than what my individual mind can accomplish. And that is why I’m looking to you, the RosaryMeds community, for rosary meditations. I want to collect all your great insights about the rosary so that I can display them in my articles and possibly compile a community-contributed rosary prayer guide. I have a grand vision but to realize it I will need your help.
It’s quite simple. I know you are thinking about many ideas and intentions as you pray the rosary. All I would like is for you to provide me some of those ideas. I’m not looking for personal intentions like, “Pray for my aunt’s knee surgery.” But more like a few short sentences on what certain rosary mysteries mean to you and what you think about when you pray them. I know that there are so many great ideas floating around in the rosary prayer world. Now here’s your chance to help provide great meditation ideas to others!
Please take a few minutes to provide a rosary meditation (or several).
A few weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that pharmacies must provide the emergency contraceptive pill, known as Plan B, over the counter to women of all ages. Upon reading this story online, I immediately expressed my outrage and concern in the comments section of the article. Big mistake. No sooner had I posted my comment that I got back several snarky replies about how I was misinformed and I should do more research before making comments. Receiving such a backlash stung my ego a little. But instead of feeling down because a bunch of people who don’t know me didn’t like what I had to say, I asked myself, “what do I do now?”
Let’s back up a bit. What was the Plan B ruling? Plan B is emergency contraception that until recently, was available over the counter to women age 17 or older (but you still had to get it directly from the pharmacist’s counter like certain allergy medications). It was prescription only for women under 17 years old. The Food and Drug Administration, after reviewing an application from Teva, who manufactures Plan B, recommended that it be made available over the counter for women under 17 years old. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, overruled the FDA’s decision. U.S. District Court JudgeEdward Korman then ruled that Sebelius’ actions were “unreasonable, capricious, and arbitrary” (if only someone would rule the same regarding her contraception mandate) and overturned her overrule.
My comment was two-pronged. First I argued that contraceptive drugs like Plan B aren’t safe for over the counter use like vitamins since they contain some very powerful chemicals that have a side effects list as long as a Victor Hugo novel. I know many people in the medical community that share the sentiment that there are very good reasons why birth control pills should require a doctor’s prescription. I went on to say that judges or politicians should not be the ones deciding drugs’ availability, but those decisions should be left in the hands of the medical community. That second comment is where people tore me apart because they said that the medical establishment via the FDA already ruled that Plan B was safe for OTC release to women of all ages. I just want to point out that the FDA, is also a political organization that doesn’t always make policy based on science, but on agendas and ideology.
This message board encounter was a bit of a revelation to me. I always knew that Catholic teaching was at odds with popular culture. But I often forget just how wide that divide really is. Try this and see for yourself. Go to an article on a main stream media website and voice a Catholic opinion as a comment. Just don’t take the wave of verbal assaults personally.
I didn’t respond to my critics in those comment threads because I realized just how futile arguing would have been. Our worldviews are so different we might as well have spoken different languages. I couldn’t explain the Catholic Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, the gift and responsibilities of sexual intimacy, the science that life begins at conception, that Plan B can act as an abortifacient, and a whole litany of other topics that one has to understand before having a reasonable dialog about Judge Korman’s Plan B ruling. They don’t understand how I can practice a faith that, in their eyes, is homophobic, anti-women, anti-science, and corrupt. That understanding gap is just too wide to bridge in an online article’s comments section.
Prayer! That is the prescription for this condition where two sides just don’t have the same moral viewpoint. After all, Jesus asks us all to pray for each other, especially our enemies and those who hate us. I think a good dose of meditating on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, is appropriate in these cases. Joseph and Mary travelled far before realizing Jesus was no longer with them. Similarly, many people today have wandered far from Jesus’ teachings and His call to conversion. We pray for those who are lost and confused in the moral wasteland of modern society. And we pray that we all have an awareness of God’s Word and how well we live by it. Because whether we are close or far from His grace, we can always make that journey to reunite with Him. We pray for the patience that one day the Holy Spirit will touch the lost souls’ hearts at just the right time and place where they will be most open to Jesus’ call to conversion to His Truth. We need to have faith that our prayers will have much more impact than arguing in the comments section of an online news article. You cannot argue some into conversion, but perhaps prayer will touch them in a way words will not. It is only through prayer that we can come together on the solid foundation of God’s Word and discuss laws and policies based on truth, compassion, and dare I say, facts!
Special little RosaryMeds teaser. I’m creating something that will require all the great prayers and meditations from the rosary-praying community. It will be your opportunity to help others get more out of their rosary prayers. Stay tuned!
I listen to Michael Savage on the radio on my drive home from work. This past week he called attention to a federal court case where the government sentenced a group of Amish people to prison terms ranging from 2 to 15 years for forcibly cutting the hair and beards of others in the community. And while sometimes Savage has a “the sky is falling!” attitude (hey, it gets him high ratings), he warned that Catholics in the United States shouldn’t ignore the implications of this case. If the federal government can sentence the Amish to 15 years for hair cutting, what’s to stop them from sentencing Catholics for praying in front of abortion clinics or speaking out in defense of traditional marriage?
In a nutshell, the government convicted the defendants of a federal hate crime when a group of people, lead by Amish bishop Samuel Mullet Sr., organized a series of attacks on religious enemies and non-conforming family members by cutting men’s beards and women’s hair. The hate statute came into effect because the prosecution argued that because hair has a spiritual significance to the Amish, forcibly cutting it off constituted attacks targeting people based on their religious ideology. And the reason it was a federal case and not a local one is because the attackers used scissors brought from out-of-state thus invoking the ever so broad Commerce Clause.
I’m not defending that what Mullet and his followers did was right. In fact, the local municipality should have convicted them and delivered whatever punishment anyone else would have received for those actions. I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds like some sort of misdemeanor assault charge to me. Their crime should have been the equivalent of someone forcibly cut someone’s hair as part of a college hazing ritual. That’s certainly not a federal case and definitely not worthy of a 15 year punishment!
Why should this case concern Catholics and other religious groups? If the federal government can involve itself in what should be a local case and start handing out 15 year prison sentences, then who is safe from the long arm of Washington D.C.? In a way, we can view this Amish case as a test for how the federal government can deal with groups that may oppose a particular agenda or piece of legislation. For example, if Catholics continue making more inroads in exposing the abortion industry and pushing for more pro-life legislation, maybe the federal government can round-up some people praying in front of abortion clinics and sentence them to federal prison time. Or what happens if someone who is very vocal about traditional marriage whips out a rosary in public? Maybe a little time in Club Fed will silence that person for a while and send a message to those who would say or do something similar. Do you see the dangerous territory we are heading in to when people in government (or influential lobbying groups) can turn anything into a federal hate crime case?
I think we need a good dose of meditation of the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, Jesus‘ Crucifixion. Remember, the Sanhedrin used the strong arm of the Roman empire to prosecute and crucify Jesus. And why? What heinous crime did Jesus commit? They put Jesus to death in order to silence a very outspoken critic who wasn’t following the pharisees’ agenda. Of course, their attempts failed when Jesus rose from the dead as we celebrate that event during this Easter season and when we pray the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary. Flash forward to early Christians who the Romans thought they could silence by feeding them to lions. That attempt also failed and Christianity not only survived, but flourished. Similarly, many who do not like the pro-life, pro-family views of today’s Catholics wish to “crucify” them in the media, social networks, and possibly using the strong arm of the federal government.
This Amish case and the Health and Human Services contraception mandate are the opening shots in a war to drive out religion from public consciousness. But Christians have a nearly 2000 year history of overcoming persecution. So even when it seems that we are beaten and at our weakest, like Jesus on the cross, we have more power in us than our persecutors. For their power is earthly. Our power is heavenly. And so we pray the rosary, meditate on mysteries like the Sorrowful Mysteries, and find that strength to not only endure what this world throws at us, but flourish.
A little over a week ago, my family went to Easter Sunday Mass. Because we have a small baby in tow, we usually don’t get to the church until right when Mass is about to begin. On most Sundays, that works just fine since we can usually find plenty of parking and seats in the pews. But on Easter we knew we had mistimed our arrival when we saw a full parish parking lot and the closest parking spot we found was many blocks away from the church. We still made it on time, but it was standing room only. There were so many people that many families stood out in the vestibule and outside the church during Mass.
Was this your church on Divine Mercy Sunday?
Flash forward a week. We arrived at Mass at the same time we did on Easter Sunday. But this time we did not have to park several blocks away and we had our choice of entire rows of pews upon entering the church. The church was actually abnormally sparse for a Sunday as if everyone suffered a post-Easter hangover. And while I liked parking close to the church and easily finding a seat, I do find the Divine Mercy Sunday attendance drop off both sad and concerning.
I try not to make too many assumptions about the drop in Mass attendance. Perhaps many people who attended morning Mass on Easter usually attend afternoon Mass on Sundays. But since there wasn’t any afternoon Masses, the morning ones had to accommodate more people than usual. Or maybe many people from other parishes attended our Mass with their extended families. But I’m pretty confident that many people were C&E Catholics (Christmas and Easter) and won’t step foot into a church for another eight months.
As much as I hated parking blocks away from the church and standing during Easter Mass, I really wish the church was as full every Sunday as it was on Easter. Imagine the beacon of God‘s glory the Catholic Church could be if the world saw overflowing churches every Sunday. Imagine how much love and happiness there would be in our world if more people got more regular doses of prayer, grace, instruction, and forgiveness through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Imagine the peace that would spread if more people heard the Word of God and homilies teaching the Truths of the Catholic faith on a weekly basis. I would gladly give up my close parking space and my seat (or just strive to arrive earlier) for that Catholic Church.
What RosaryMeds do I Need?
Are you hoarding sin?
Many Catholics have an acute case of sin hoarding. This is a particularly dangerous disease because most people aren’t even aware that they have it. They can go their entire lives thinking they are fine. And by all earthly accounts, they are fine. But they do not see the potentially unhealthy state of their soul that may be clogged up by unconfessed sins. And even if they don’t have any serious, mortal sins on their soul, they do not understand how much better they would feel if they did a little spiritual housecleaning. The C&E Catholics’ souls are like the homes you see on the television show, Hoarders. They just don’t recognize the disorderly state of their souls where they have left no room for God’s Word and love.
We need to reach out to these spiritual hoarders by praying the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion. Meditate on this rosary mystery and think about how Jesus came into this world and taught God’s Word. He taught the truth which many people ignored or criticised because they refused to make room in their hearts to take a deep look at themselves and align their ways with Christ’s. Similarly, many Catholics today may not like hearing that Jesus asks them to go to Mass every week, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and develop a humble heart open to the Word of God even when it may conflict with popular, cultural sentiment. Like physical hoarders, many times sin hoarders become very defensive, if not downright abusive, when you try to help them clean up their lives.
And I think that’s where the meditation on the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary comes in. Think of friends or family members who fall into the Christmas and Easter crowd. Or maybe they do attend Mass on Sunday, but only grudgingly and mostly just sit in silence and zone out for an hour. How can you help them convert and better live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom? Maybe you can buy them a book on Catholic teaching. Maybe you can invite them to attend Mass with you. Maybe you just need to let them know that it’s okay to say small prayers throughout the day. Pray the rosary for the right tactics to bring back those who have fallen away. The Holy Spirit will let you know how much spiritual force to use. Some people need a little push while others need to really be hit over the head (figuratively) regarding their spiritual situation.
Easter Sunday was just the beginning. The Easter season lasts 50 days and it’s a time to celebrate and rejoice. And like any good party, the more the merrier. Who do you know that may have left the party early and what will you do to bring them back?
I’m a software engineer and that means I look at a lot of computer code all day long. Often, I’m working with other engineers and look at their code and offer suggestions for improvement. I’m always telling other software engineers to not “reinvent the wheel.” That means don’t write your own code to solve a problem that someone else has already adequately solved. For example, if my application needs to send an email notification, it would be a waste of my time to write my own email routine instead of using one someone else has already written. Why should I go through all the effort to design, implement, debug, and test a piece of software when someone else, who probably knows a lot more about the details of email protocols, already made the effort and produced a tool that fits my needs?
St. Thomas Aquinas
I see parallels between code reuse in software engineering and theology. I often ponder why I believe what I believe. For example, I believe that abortion is an intrinsic evil. I know this because this is what the Catholic Church teaches. According to the mainstream media or popular culture, that makes me an ignorant lemming who does not think for himself. But quite the contrary, I’m not relying solely on my thoughts and emotions to arrive at the conclusion that abortion is evil. I refer to thousands of years of Catholic teaching built on the foundation of some of the greatest philosophical minds the world has ever known. Like the software engineer that builds an application using various tools and libraries others wrote, I build my moral foundation by integrating the deep insights of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
People should use their talents while relying on the talents of others in areas where they aren’t experts. I’m a software engineer, not a philosopher or theologian. When people need help with their computer, they call me. When I need moral guidance I call St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great, Blessed John Paul II, St. Augustine of Hippo, Pope Benedict XVI, and many other great minds of the Catholic Church. I would be foolish to “wing it” and rely solely on my own thoughts and emotions when facing a moral question because I’m not utilizing all the time-tested thoughts and teachings available to me. And whether it is a software engineer or someone looking for moral guidance, when you try to do everything yourself you will usually not produce as good of a solution as trusting those who have deep domain expertise.
The real “lemmings” in our culture are many of the ones who accuse the faithful of not utilizing rational thought. While the Catholic faith built its foundation on people who really studied and thought about life’s great questions, many in society at large draw their beliefs from the words of politicians, special interest groups, celebrities, and talking heads on the news. And like fads, their moral foundation is constantly changing because it’s based mostly on emotion and news polling. How stable is that foundation if it is constantly in motion? Why should the Catholic Church “modernize” if that would mean replacing its strong moral foundation with one that has no deeper thought than a joke on The Daily Show? Do we really want to throw out the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas for the wisdom of Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden? Do we replace the influence of the Summa Theologica with the popular sentiment of “Everybody’s doing it. Don’t you want to be cool?”
What RosaryMeds Do I Need?
Purchase “The Seven Big Myths About The Catholic Church” from Ignatius Press.
Society has come down with a serious case of soundbiteitis. Symptoms include basing your morality on the words of celebrities and politicians and believing various myths and flat out lies about the Catholic Church and her principles. You are advised to meditate on the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. Mary has a special place in Heaven and she serves as our guide to bring us into God’s grace and eventually into His heavenly kingdom. Throughout generations she came to many people through apparitions with a message to turn towards prayer and to really attempt to understand Jesus’ Church. To understand the Church, you need to read its teachings found in the Bible as well as the writings of her saints and theologians. Mary knows just how great the fullness and joy of Heaven really is and she wants all of us to have an understanding of it too. Because if we did take the time to educate ourselves about the Church, and pray for the faith to even feel the slightest sense of what awaits us in Heaven, we would turn away from our sinful ways.
We all have a choice. Do we put base our morality on the sound bites of politicians and celebrities? Or do we put our faith in the teachings of the Catholic Church, its generations of scholars, and our Heavenly Mother Mary? Seems like a no brainer to me.
Athletes need to do a lot more than just show up to a match. A soccer player cannot pat himself on the back after the game because he only managed to keep the ball in bounds. A football player cannot claim success just because he didn’t draw a penalty. No track runner will stand on the medal podium for simply finishing the race. In all sports, athletes need to excel and contribute to their team’s victory. They need to pay attention to their coaches, follow the rules, and respond to the always changing situations on the field.
Coach encourages young athlete
Yet, as Catholics, we often live as if we are just showing up to the match instead of focusing on excelling and contributing to build up God‘s church. We often fall into a pattern where we believe just following the rules is good enough. We tend to think that just fulfilling our Sunday obligation of attending Mass also fulfills our life’s obligation of being Catholic. We might even think that being a good Catholic means only avoiding mortal sin. But showing up at Mass and avoiding mortal sin is like the football player just managing not to run out of bounds or draw a penalty. That is the bare minimum that our faith requires. We are called to listen to God and His Church and respond by publicly living our faith in an often challenging world.
Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Bergoglio put it best when he explained the story of the prophet, Jonah. In a 2007 interview in the magazine, 30 Days, and reprinted in the Catholic San Francisco, the pope said this about Jonah:
Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what he wants, on who was faithful to the covenant and who instead was outside the covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God was there and waiting, to heal them with his forgiveness and nourish them with his tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarshish.
What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into his plans. God had come once … ‘and I’ll see to the rest’: That’s what Jonah told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his pre-ordained methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer knew that God leads his people with the heart of a father.
This story reminds me very much about how we often live our faith. We live it according to a set of pre-defined rules and regulations thinking that is all God wants of us. I know I certainly fall into that trap where I just go to Mass, go to Confession, abstain from meat on Fridays, avoid mortal sin, and pray the rosary. I can check all those tasks off my spiritual “to-do” list so I’m done with my Catholic obligations right? Wrong! God, like a coach, says, “Good for you, now that you’re warmed up let’s get to work.” That’s right, all those “tasks” that we do are just the warm up to living as a true person of faith. The fasting, the prayers, and going to Mass are almost meaningless if they aren’t followed by an openness to the Holy Spirit to live the faith. Following the Church’s rules is the “practice” that prepares us for the “main event” which is responding to God’s call to be a living example of His love.
Almost all Catholics periodically suffer from a case of itsgoodenoughitis. Symptoms include:
Just thinking about your faith once a week (or less) at Mass
Just saying quick prayers without putting much thought into them
Living in ways and holding beliefs that are contrary to what the Church teaches
Just not giving a lot of thought on what being a good Christian really means
This will require a double dose of rosary mysteries. When you meditate on the rosary, pay particular attention to the First Luminous Mystery and the Fourth Luminous Mystery. In both Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration, God spoke directly to the disciples and said “Listen to My Son!” But we are often like Jonah and ignore what God is actually telling us and want to do things our own way. When Jesus challenges us to put in a little extra effort in living our faith, we can’t just fall back on solely following the rules. Like a good athlete, we need to listen to God, our coach and mentor, and alter our strategy based on His guidance. God knows what we are capable of and won’t ask us to take up a challenge we cannot handle. He is always there on the sidelines saying, “Trust Me. You can do this!” We need to listen to God and have faith that following His Will will lead us to victory — the victory of living in His heavenly kingdom for all eternity.
The power of the rosary never ceases to amaze me. In my daily travels around the internet, I came across this post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary meditation. Any long time follower of RosaryMeds knows that I’ve touted the spiritual benefits of rosary prayer. Increasing one’s physical health should be a nice little extra to motivate you to whip out your rosary beads and get started on those Hail Marys.
Luciano Bernardi, associate professor of internal medicine at Pavia University, recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, recitation of the rosary, yoga mantras, and six minutes of controlled breathing.
Breathing was markedly more regular during the rosary and the mantra and was slowed to about six breaths a minute. The results mean yoga enhances ‘aspects’ of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, he said.
The benefits of breathing exercises in yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm, Professor Bernardi says in this week’s British Medical Journal.
It is important that you pray the rosary earnestly. If this is your first time praying the rosary regularly then please set aside some time so you can really concentrate. Going back to the exercise analogy, you cannot expect to get into great shape physically by working out half heartedly. You cannot do one poorly-formed pushup once a week and eat junk food and expect to be in super shape. Similarly, you need to develop good form for praying the rosary, especially in the beginning. Starting anything new and different can be a challenge initially. Think of praying the rosary as spiritual boot camp where you need to put in a lot of effort up front to give your spiritual life a jolt. But once you find your rhythm, the benefits of prayer really start to multiply. Once you are comfortable praying the rosary then it becomes much easier to integrate it throughout the day if you like.
So the benefits of rosary prayer is not just the seemingly random ramblings of this blog, but are backed up by the Church and the medical community. If you are thinking of buying some new workout gear this year or starting a new fitness plan, perhaps you should add a rosary and my book to your shopping list. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you.
When I heard about adoptacardinal.org on EWTN radio and received two emails from family members about it all on the same day, I knew it was probably a sign from above to mention it on RosaryMeds. The “Adopt a Cardinal” website will randomly assign a Catholic cardinal to you whom you will support through prayer and fasting during the conclave and three days after they elect the new pope. My wife and I are praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Guadalajara, Mexico.
In the rosary, you may have a specific intention each time you pray the Hail Mary. Or you may have a single intention for the entire mystery or even the entire rosary. It is up to you how many intentions you want to present. But it is important to have intentions, thanksgivings, and remorse even if they are just generic ones (for the poor or homeless, for peace, health, etc.). Without intentions you may just go into “auto-pilot” and just say the words without actually praying for anything.
Remember, you are conversing with God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints when you pray the rosary. You have their undivided attention. Don’t you want to have something meaningful to say? While we may speak the the same words as everyone else who prays the rosary, your intentions are uniquely yours. The rosary is your time with Jesus. Make the most of it. He’s listening. The question is, are you actually talking to Him?
My adopted cardinal
I pray specifically for my adopted cardinal on the first Our Father right after the Apostles’ Creed. I usually reserve that Our Father for the pope’s intentions. Given that the Church currently does not have an active pope, I think it makes perfect sense to pray for one of the cardinals who will play a role in selecting the next pope.
Just don’t say the rosary, but pray the rosary. Make it yours. And adopt and support the cardinals who will choose St. Peter‘s successor.