After years of work, my new book is finally complete and available now on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us is a follow up to my original book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us. In this new book, I provide ideas for meditation per bead of the rosary. Combine that with the more holistic view in my original book and you have two terrific resources for smarter and deeper Rosary prayer. Pick up your copy today!
Have you ever heard the term, the patience of a saint? Like many virtues, patience is a hard one to demonstrate as that quality seems to be reserved for the select few. Lent is a great opportunity to reflect on and practice the virtue of patience.
One of the most obvious ways of practicing patience is sticking to your promise to fast and give up something pleasurable. I know it can be hard, but keep in mind that you will get back in 40 days whatever you give up during Lent. You aren’t giving up sweets, alcohol, or Facebook permanently. You just have to be patient. Lent is the perfect time to push yourself and say, “I know this is hard but exercising patience in small things will help me be patient in the large things.”
What do I mean by patience in large things? Look at last Sunday’s Gospel about the leper. My parish priest gave a great homily about how there are many lepers around us. They may not have the physical disease of leprosy but we cast them out all the same. These lepers are the friends and family that we hold grudges against. They are the poor and helpless that we ignore. And they are the people who we are short-tempered with and don’t show much patience. We quickly snap at them because they inconvenience or annoy us. Maybe we are even impatient with ourselves and are too quick to beat ourselves up over the smallest imperfection.
By showing patience by giving up something small for Lent, we establish a base that we can build up to show patience with others, especially the lepers in our lives. If we can go 40 days without a particular treat, we show ourselves that we can handle certain challenges and inconveniences in doing God’s Will. And that shows us that we are capable of pushing ourselves and opening our heats up to what God really wants of us — to love and be patient with each other. Because ultimately, the purpose of Lent isn’t about giving up treats. Lent is not some sort of Church mandated diet plan. It’s about opening ourselves up to what God is asking of us by clearing our hearts and mind of earthly pleasures and showing patience for the Holy Spirit to work through us. By practicing patience in the small, we can work our way up to the true level of patience God asks us to demonstrate.
Your Rosary Meds
We can turn to the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and see Saint Simeon‘s demonstration of patience. He prayed and waited in the temple because God promised him he would see the Chosen One. It couldn’t have been easy for Saint Simeon waiting and preparing to see the baby Jesus. Did he have other plans for his life that didn’t include spending much of his time in the temple praying? Did he ever grow frustrated as the days passed without seeing the Chosen One? Do we grow impatient when God’s plans for us aren’t immediately obvious?
We can also meditate on Saint Joseph and Mother Mary in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Both of them seemed to have been planning for a normal life together before God upended those plans in the Annunciation. Joseph even had doubts about God’s plan when he tried to divorce Mary (Matthew 1:19). But ultimately, he showed patience and great faith by protecting Mary and Jesus even if he didn’t completely understand God’s ways.
So often we are impatient: When things don’t go our way, we complain. But, step back for a moment, think about the patience of God the Father, embrace patience, as Jesus did. Patience is a beautiful virtue. Let us ask the Lord for it.
Often times I find it easy to read the Bible and think, “well isn’t that obvious!” I am amazed at how foolish Saint Peter acts in Jesus’ presence or how arrogant the Pharisees are when they doubt Jesus’ divinity. We so often forget just how radical Jesus was and the fact that He was the Son of God was not taken for granted. Even Jesus’ own parents were confused by His actions. And while we may scoff at their unbelief, are we any better?
When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
I find it hard to believe that Mary did not understand Jesus’ behavior and why she was confused when He referred to the temple as “His Father’s house.” This is the same boy who was miraculously conceived, whose birth was heralded by angels, who wise men searched for with gifts, and Saint Simeon said was the Chosen One at His presentation in the Temple. I’m confused by Mary and Joseph’s bewilderment. How do they not understand that Jesus is special? How do they not understand the many signs that He is the Messiah?
Okay, so we’re puzzled by the Mary, Joseph, and the apostles’ behavior in the presence of Jesus. We marvel at their unbelief and confusion. But now put yourself in the shoes of someone in Purgatory or Heaven. They see us sinning. They see us skipping our prayers, skipping Mass (or participating half-heartedly), and not following what Jesus taught. They must look at us with the same level of astonishment that we have towards those in Scripture. They must be frustrated and saddened thinking, “How do they not get it!!!?? If they know who Jesus is, why do they sin? Why do they not make more of an effort to live in His grace? Why are they not following His teachings?”
When you pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, try to flip your perspective to the saints in Heaven. Do you look foolish in their eyes by not making the most of your faith? Do you downplay or ignore the truths taught by the Church?
I really like how the account of the finding of Jesus in the temple ends. It says Mary TREASURED all these things in Her heart. That word “treasured” is really interesting. She didn’t fully understand Jesus’ nature at a cognitive level but she still treasured who He was. That is a great showing of faith. We may not understand all the teachings of the Catholic Church and struggle to appreciate Jesus’ true nature as God made man. And yet, we can still treasure the Church’s teachings and our relationship with Jesus even when it’s confusing. It is the truest measure of faith — treasuring that which we do not understand. Mary is Queen of Heaven because she embraced Jesus even amongst Her confusion.
When you pray and meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, ask God to help you accept and treasure what you don’t fully understand. Our human minds will never be capable of fully understanding Jesus. After all, the finite (our minds) cannot take in the infinite (God). But thankfully, faith is there to fill the void. When you pray, ask God to fill the void in understanding with faith. And then treasure the fact that your understanding of God is complete when you combine what you know with what you take on faith.
The focus at the end of January is on protecting the unborn. January 22nd is a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and it’s bookended by pro-life marches on both coasts of the United States and throughout the world. As I read news about pro-life rallies, the comment sections are usually littered with both support from pro-lifers and derision from the pro-abortion crowd. It’s easy to feel frustrated when pro-life marches get no attention while other, smaller marches plaster headlines. I want to try to explain the mindset of the pro-abortion lobby and tell you a way we can turn them around.
It seems pointless to try to argue or debate someone who is pro-abortion with scientific evidence or even basic ethics. For many of them, abortion rights will always be nothing more than a woman’s right issue. Don’t get me wrong, women’s health and rights are important. But the abortion issue covers so many other important issues of science, ethics, and morality. When human life is at stake, it’s disingenuous to ignore sound ethical and scientific arguments. Unfortunately, that is where we find ourselves because too many people are willing to accept and publicize the pro-abortion lobby’s limited scope of the issue.
For pro-aborts, the abortion debate does not and cannot go any further than women’s rights. If they entertained even the slightest idea that abortion goes far beyond a woman’s right issue, they would have to confront questions that they would not have adequate answers to. They avoid this reality by making the abortion issue as tightly scoped as possible. This way, any pro-life argument becomes nothing more than an attack on women’s’ health or rights. Any other argument is out of bounds and gets ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.
Think of the abortion debate like this. Imagine trying to describe the sport of snowboarding to people who have lived in a desert their entire lives and have never seen snow (let’s also assume no access to a television or internet). You can talk about the gear, the technology, the mechanics, and the fun of it all you want. They will just not understand you. They don’t have a frame of reference or any way to compare what they know from their experiences with what you’re describing. The same goes for the pro-life vs. pro-abortion crowds. The abortion supporter does not see the issue beyond “a woman’s right to choose.” A pro-lifer might as well speak a foreign language or be from another planet because a pro-abortion advocate looks at the issue completely differently.
This is where prayer comes in. When words fail, prayer succeeds. You may not be able to debate, argue, or reason with pro-abortion supporters, but you can pray for them. The Holy Spirit has a way of breaking through where words, reason, and logic fail. The Holy Spirit talks to the soul in a language that is beyond linguistics. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need to come up with a convincing argument or coerce people into agreeing with Him. This is going to sound odd, but because the Holy Spirit can work outside of human logic, He can open people up to logic. In short, the Holy Spirit can help someone who never thought of abortion as a life issue start to see it as one. And when that wall falls down and the scope broadens, the logic, reason, and morality of pro-life argument can begin to take hold.
We pro-lifers need to perform these one-two punches. Reason, debates, and even 100,000+ people marches are not enough. Neither is retreating from the public square into the silence of prayer. It is prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to break down walls that will make the logic, debates, and marches that much more effective and ultimately triumphant.
And if you don’t believe me, just look at all the people who used to be pro-abortion supporters or Planned Parenthood employees who became pro-life advocates. I have a hard time believing that it was reason and debate alone that steered these people away from the abortion industry. The takeaway — no matter how fruitless the marches and prayers appear, they matter. Keep it up.
Did you read about what President Trump said? Did you see that meme about Nancy Pelosi? Did you know that the Russians are secretly colluding with the tobacco industry to put nicotine into flu vaccines because a Saudi billionaire is shorting the British pound which is closely tied to Big Pharma? Junk! All of it. It’s not informative or educational. It doesn’t really raise any awareness of anything substantial. We consume this junk every day and for what? Has social media and newsfeeds made us happier and more at peace? Are our lives better because of it?
Perhaps it is time to break out of the cycle of negative, vindictive, and manipulative newsfeeds and social media posts. I recommend subscribing to God’s social media feed and making that the first thing you read every morning. You won’t see any fake news, advertisements, memes, or cat videos. You’re not going to find Him on Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter. You don’t even need a computer or smartphone. God’s newsfeeds are scripture, rosary prayer, reflection, and meditation.
Facebook has become a medium for people to vent their frustrations, share their joys, and ask questions. God’s feed through prayer offers similar functionality but with more benefits. In prayer, you can vent your frustrations, share your joys, and receive feedback and assistance. Why vent all your frustrations to people who will just ignore you, argue with you, or give you generic responses when you can receive honest, sincere feedback from God? There is nothing you can tell Him that will cause Him to block, ban, or unfriend you. God is your ideal friend who will always listen as if you’re the only friend on His feed.
Not only is God’s feed informational, He also offers a lot of services. Okay, so Heaven doesn’t stream videos or offer two-day shipping. But God does offer us much greater gifts through the Sacraments. You can be instantly forgiven of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You can receive Jesus’s Body and Blood through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. You receive healing and graces through the Anointing of the Sick. These are exclusive to God and His Church. Amazon, Facebook, and Google will never be able to provide these services.
I have this suggestion for subscribing to God’s newsfeed. Every day, after you wake up, make talking to God the first thing you do. Make prayer, reading the daily scripture, a Rosary decade, or some moments of reflection the requirement for opening your email, Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter account. Focusing on God first thing in the morning is much better and positive than reading some reposted meme about why some public figure is the worst person since Hitler.
I think the Fourth Glorious Rosary Mystery, Mary’s Assumption, best exemplifies a Heavenly newsfeed. Mary has a special role in Heaven as our intercessor and guide. She calls us to love Her Son and follow His teachings. She has appeared to many people throughout history preaching the importance of prayer, fasting, and the sacraments. She has provided many “posts” throughout the last 2,000 years and has given us great tools for living in God’s grace. Namely, She gave us the Rosary prayer which is our best conduit for learning what God desires for us. The Rosary is God’s newsfeed. Are you subscribed and following Him?
Many of us, including myself, often think we are too busy to pray. We may understand the value of prayer and enjoy praying and yet we too often find ourselves bogged down in day-to-day responsibilities (and let’s be honest, leisure) that we don’t pray as much as we want or should. I know that my goal of a rosary chaplet and scripture reading every day often goes only partially filled.
One hour each day is necessary, a time for the Lord, to allow oneself to be encountered by Him and to grow in His friendship . . . The time that we dedicate to the Lord in prayer, in meditation, and in a personal encounter, is never lost time.” “On the contrary, the more generous we are with those times offered to God, the more we will be able to go to brothers with a pastor’s heart and as precious instruments of the Father’s tenderness.
And yet, I think many of us do see prayer as lost time. It may not be consciously, but what we put ahead of prayer does reveal the priority we put on it. For example, what was I doing right before writing this article? I was watching clips from The Simpsons on Youtube. And while downtime after a busy day is important, was rewatching a Tree House of Horror episode really more important than Rosary prayer or Bible reading? If actions speak louder than words, then my actions are saying that I don’t always put a high value on prayer.
Also, note that Cardinal Beniamino Stella is talking specifically about meditative prayer. Not all of us have time to sit quietly for an hour and meditate. However, there are other ways to integrate prayer into your day. For example, look at St. Therese’s Little Way as a means of incorporating God and reflecting on your relationship with Him in everything you do:
Catholics would do well to imitate St. Therese’s Little Way if they want to be happy in this life, as well as happy in the next. That “Little Way” consists of simplicity in life, prayer from the heart to Jesus, total trust in God as our Loving Father (not a stern judge), being a true child of God our Father rather than doing our own thing, seeking God’s will in our everyday activities, doing everything for the love of Jesus with humility, being kind to people we can’t stand, and a sincere desire to be with Jesus forever rather than to be in this world.
Let’s look at the Rosary and what it says about prayer. Prayer was obviously important to Jesus. In the First Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus turned to God at His darkest hour to find strength. What did the disciples do after witnessing Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven? They went to the temple and praised God (Luke 24:53). Look at Saint Simeon and Anna in the Fourth Joyful Mystery who spent their time in the temple praying and praising God. Prayer surrounds Jesus in these Rosary mysteries and hence we need to surround ourselves in prayer if we are to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God.
As we start a new year, many of us make resolutions. You know the ones — lose weight, make more money or get out of debt, spend more time with the family, etc. And most of us will abandon these resolutions by February. Maybe we need to take a look at something more solid and lasting. Let’s look at scripture and see what inspiration we can draw from it about how to lead a better life in this new year. At DisiringGod.org, senior writer Tony Reinke writes about Saint Paul’s many “don’t be” statements in his letters like:
- Don’t be conformed to this age; be transformed by the renewing of your mind to know God’s will
- Don’t be arrogant around others; associate with the lowly
- Don’t be deceived about sexual sin; immorality damns souls
- Don’t be deceived about the influence your friends have on you; circle yourself with wise friends
There’s actually 30 of them mentioned in the article that paint a good picture of the type of person God wants us NOT to be. I usually try to avoid the “don’t do this and don’t do that” posts because I think it perpetuates the myth that the Catholic Church is only a set of rules limiting one’s personal freedom. This article shows you just how free you can be but you have to read between the lines. More specifically, you need to recognize the opposite person in what Saint Paul is telling you not to be — a saint.
What Saint Paul describes reminds me of a master sculptor starting with a piece of rough, unfinished stone. While others see a piece of rock, the sculptor sees the final and complete work that he just needs to liberate. He chips away at the rock discarding parts that don’t reveal his vision. These discarded pieces are like the “don’ts” in Saint Paul’s writings. They are the habits and attitudes that obscure God’s masterpiece in us that must be chipped away. God’s full vision is realized when all the worldly imperfections are removed revealing the perfection that was in God’s plan for you.
When I think about stripping away our worldly selves to reveal our saintly selves, the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary comes to mind. In this mystery, Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of Heaven and calls us all to a life of conversion. And what is conversion but the stripping away of the worldly behaviors Saint Paul outlines in his many letters in the New Testament?
Some clarification is needed between the theme of conversion in the Third Luminous Mystery and my analogy of the sculpture. You might infer that we are merely passive pieces of rock and that it’s God’s responsibility to chip away at us until we are saints. But we do have a very active part to play. We must be open to God’s influence and act on what God tells us through prayer. In other words, we must become like stone suitable for sculpting if God’s vision is to ever be realized. Otherwise, His plan for us will go unfulfilled. When we are open to the Holy Spirit and work hard to lead a life of conversion, we allow God to more easily work His miracles in transforming us into saints.
If you’re looking for a true resolution this year, remember Jesus’ call to conversion when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. Ask God for help to be open to His plans. Yes, giving up some worldly habits and ambitions may be difficult and painful. You just have to put your faith in God that what you gain is far greater than what you lose.
And to end on a total tangent. Did you know that two years of work had to be wiped clean when Mount Rushmore was created? They discovered that the stone on the part of the mountain they were working on was unsuitable for carving and “erased” Jefferson’s image with dynamite and shifted the sculptures over. The lesson is that good rock becomes a masterpiece while bad rock gets discarded. Whether you want to be good or bad rock for God to work with is entirely up to you.
“Satan is smart, he tells us that when we kick him out he will go, but then after a while, when you are distracted after a few years, he comes back, with seven companions worse than him. He is very polite, knocks at the door, rings the bell, comes in politely, and in the end he comes in with his friends. It’s important to be smart, to spot, and to have the ability to discern Satan’s lies.”
The heart of this RosaryMeds article is not what Pope Francis said in the interview, but the nature of the comments linked to the article. You may want to pop some Xanax before reading them because they are pretty much an organized religion hatefest. Ironically, all these comments about how silly Christians are for believing in evil confirms the Pope’s point — Satan is a master when it comes to deception. The people who think they are above what they consider silly superstition play right into Satan’s master plan.
What I find interesting in the comments is this misconception that Pope Francis wants everyone to live in perpetual fear of Satan and that is why he constantly brings him up in interviews. This seems part of the whole, the Catholic Church wants to control us so they can get more money and power conspiracy theory. But there’s a large difference between acknowledging someone’s existence and living in fear of him. The pope is trying to teach the former, not promote the latter.
I think of acknowledging Satan’s existence and not underestimating his abilities is quite sensible. It’s like driving a car. If you drive, you must acknowledge that there are bad/lazy/drunk drivers on the road. Does this mean that you need to fear driving down the street to run errands? No, we can’t suspend our lives because there is a possibility of getting hurt. Inversely, we can’t be lazy while driving and disregard safety rules because we don’t believe we’ll get into a collision. We have to acknowledge that there are dangers and take appropriate precautions but not let those dangers force us into a state of inaction or complacent.
The Catholic Church wants us to be public witnesses of Jesus’ love in this world. We don’t do that be shutting ourselves in because we fear Satan. If all the Catholics in the world withdrew from the world out of fear, then Satan gets what he desires — a world free of any awareness and opposition to his power.
The acknowledgment of evil and the consequences of trying to pretend that evil, temptation, and sin does not exist ties back to the Second Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary. In Jesus’ Ascension, He returned to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God to judge the living and the dead. We profess this every time we start praying the Rosary and at Mass. And yet, there are so many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, who do not believe in judgment because they don’t believe in sin, temptation, and Satan. In other words, if you don’t believe you can do anything objectively wrong, why should you believe there will be an assessment of your behavior?
When you pray the Rosary, particularly the Second Glorious Mystery, remember that Mary wants us to acknowledge that there is evil, Satan is real, sin is possible, and judgment is inevitable. But, one of the reasons why we pray the Rosary is to ask Mary and the saints for the strength to love Jesus by following His teachings despite Satan’s attempts to make us do otherwise. The Rosary is our spiritual seatbelt that protects us from the evil in the world that is constantly trying to cause us to swerve and crash from the path God desires for us.
Have you ever thought about all the ways the Catholic Church teaches us the value of humility? I never really gave it much thought, but there is an intimate connection between faith and humility. To have faith in the power of God you must first be humble enough to realize that there is a power greater than us. If you don’t have humility then you wouldn’t acknowledge God’s awesome power. And if you didn’t have faith or trust in God then you are exercising pride, not humility.
Despite what some may lead you to believe, the Catholic Church is based on faith and humility, not pride and judgment. We aren’t people thinking we are so great while others are so bad. We are people who acknowledge our sinful nature and work together to always do better. Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, in his article on CatholicExchange, does a great job outlining the many ways the Church is built on the value of humility such as:
- The nature of the Church — we are humble enough to know that Jesus is the head of the Church.
- The Eucharist — we are humble enough to know that the bread and wine are Jesus’ bloody and body.
- The ordained priesthood — we show humility to accept that there are a select few with the power to forgive sins and offer the Eucharist in Jesus’ name.
- The Church’s Magisterium — we acknowledge the role of the Pope and other leaders in helping us understand Christ’s teachings.
- Confession — we humble ourselves to confess our sins and have faith that God, through the priest, forgives us.
- Mary and the saints — we show humility asking others to pray for us and looking to them for guidance and inspiration.
- The mission of the Church — we are called to serve God by serving others.
- The Church’s liturgy and prayer — the humble soul continues to pray to God even in the absence of visible results.
- Suffering — the humble person acknowledges that God has a great plan, even if that means temporary suffering in this life.
I could probably pick any of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary and tell you how it teaches us about the value of humility. I’ll focus on the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple. When I first started praying the Rosary, this mystery always confused me because I couldn’t find the lesson I was supposed to draw from it. Jesus took part in many Jewish rituals throughout his life. Why was this one important enough to make it into the Rosary?
You need to focus on Saint Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery. The Holy Spirit promised him that he would see the Chosen One before he died. And day after day he worshiped in the temple waiting for that day to come. The pride-filled man would have given up after days, months, or even years of waiting for God to fulfill that promise. But Saint Simeon showed the humility and patience to allow God’s plan to manifest itself which, as we know, it did when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple.
Let us all be like Saint Simeon and put aside our pride and show sincere humility. We may not like the particular plan God lays out for us at times. We may not like the pace of God’s plan. We may be envious that others seem to have it so much easier. But being one of Christ’s disciples means being humble enough to let go of what we want and have faith that what God wants for us is infinitely better.
I’ll end with the words of Saint John of Avila who I think sums up how a humble person approaches life’s challenges:
A single “Blessed be God!” when things go wrong is of more value than a thousand acts of thanksgiving when things are to your liking.
As we approach Advent, I’m sure most of us will focus more on what’s on sale on Amazon than on prayer and fasting. When it comes to seasons of preparation, Advent tends to take a back seat to Lent when it comes to people focusing on their spiritual needs. This Advent, I want to challenge you to devote more time and energy preparing what is in your heart in addition to what is under your Christmas tree.
True story. One time my wife and I met with a priest for a class on a weekday in Advent. The priest offered my wife a small brownie bite which she politely refused saying that she was abstaining from sweets during Advent. The priest surprisingly said that was the first time he’d ever heard of someone fasting during Advent. Lent? Of course. But you must be a special sort of crazy to fast during a time when stores, markets, homes, and offices are stocked wall-to-wall with Christmas candy and pastries.
I mention this not to show how strong-willed my wife is (okay, maybe I wanted to brag a little). I mention this because of the priests surprise that someone actually took a season of preparation to actually prepare for Christmas! I think many of us hear that word, preparation, but don’t actually internalize what it means. We decorate our homes, buy gifts, trim a tree, and do all sort of things to prepare for Christmas, the holiday. But we so often skip the preparation for Christmas, the Holy Day.
I encourage you to make a plan for Advent similar to what you do for Lent. Don’t just think about what you can give up. Advent is a good time to think about what you can add. Here are some ideas:
- Set up an advent wreath and pray around it every day with your family.
- Buy an Advent prayer book that you use daily.
- Make an effort to go to Eucharistic adoration and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Consciously do extra good deeds.
- Pray the Rosary daily.
And on that last point, I have just the solution to help you pray the Rosary during Advent. After many long months, I’m happy to announce that my latest book, The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us, is now available in paperback on Amazon. Right in time for Advent and Christmas. This book continues what I started in The Rosary for the Rest of Us. But instead of taking a holistic approach to each Rosary mystery, this new book takes a tactical approach. It has scripture passages, intentions, and quotations of wisdom for each Rosary bead. Get an overall understanding from The Rosary for the Rest of Us but get focus for each prayer in The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us.
Remember, a Rosary a day keeps the Devil away!