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!
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!
My question is about my desire and satisfaction in spiritual discipline and worship. I prefer entertainment to time with God. That’s the honest truth. Time with God feels like labor. Entertainment is the passive place I go to get away from work for a while. But I am also terrified for my soul, because my past tells me I’m just not trying hard enough, and I will regret this in the future.
I can absolutely relate. Actively building a relationship with God is hard work. I know I have given into my lazy tendencies and decided to watch TV over praying my Rosary. I tell myself that I’ll watch a quick YouTube clip and then I’ll start praying. Then it’s one quick article in a magazine, then right after I brush my teeth and get dressed, then… I know that I’m kidding myself when I say I’ll pray the Rosary right after something else. But it’s easier to believe the lie than to admit that sometimes I’m just not feeling strong enough to pray the Rosary.
I think the hardest part about Rosary prayer is that there is not immediate gratification from it like watching TV. You usually do not feel any holier after praying the Rosary. In fact, you may feel more worn out or feel sad after contemplating all the times you have fallen short living the faith. You cannot pin down the small, incremental gains you make each time you pray the Rosary. It is that lack of immediate feedback that drives many people away from their rosaries and into the warm embrace of a TV or smartphone screen.
Let me ask you this. If you are married or in a relationship, can you pinpoint the exact moment you went from liking spouse to loving him/her? Can you say, it was December 22nd and 9:13 pm that your relationship went from admiration to love? Most likely, you can’t pinpoint the exact time when your feelings for your spouse took a large leap forward (and no, changing your status on Facebook doesn’t count). After a lot of time and effort, relationships deepen but the change is imperceivable at any given moment in time.
The same idea goes for the Rosary. You probably will not know the exact moment when Rosary prayer turns from chore or burden to necessity and comfort. But there is one thing for certain. It will remain a chore if you never work up the energy to start praying it. Our relationship with Jesus is similar to any other relationship — it takes work and effort and isn’t always very fun. You need to look past the momentary inconvenience of Rosary prayer and see how you are building one of the most important relationships of your life — your relationship with Jesus. With the proper perspective, the graces your receive through the Rosary dwarf the pain you feel praying it.
Joy is an elusive feeling missing in many of our lives. Perhaps many of us are not joyful because we do not make finding it a priority. We tend think joy is something that just happens to some and not to others. But joy is something that requires our active participation in many small but often challenging ways. Joy starts within the home. Father Ed Broom wrote an article about 10 ways to vitalize the Catholic family which I think has a lot to do with finding joy. The TL;DR summary of a joyful family is:
- Family prayer
- The father as head of the family
- Saying “I’m sorry”
- Servant attitude
- Take a break from gadgets
- Marian Consecration
When I look at these ten points as a whole, I get the idea that a vitalized family is a joyous family. It is one centered around building each other up, acknowledging when we mess up, forgiving, and moving on.
We all know the saying that money does not buy happiness. But that does not stop many of us from trying. I’m not just talking about extravagant or needless purchases either. We all want what’s best for our spouse and our children and often plunk down a lot of money trying to achieve that. We spend a lot for organized sports and activities, days out having fulfilling experiences, and nice family meals out. But all that stuff and activities can also drown out true quality time that produces joy.
True family happiness is not something that comes through a Disney cruise or Hawaiian vacation. It comes from much smaller but probably more costly actions. It means taking the time to listen to your kid stumble through a joke he heard at school. It means having some silly time with a toddler even when there is housework to be done. It means just stopping and asking how your kids’ day went. It means setting aside time to listen to your spouse talk about the day.
Life is busy. And we so often get bogged down in doing what is immediately necessary. We need to wake the kids up, we need to finish breakfast, we need to get to school, we need to drive to baseball practice, we need to get started on homework, we need to clean the house, we need to… And so our days become a checklist of tasks where the joy and happiness are jettisoned for the sake of efficiency. We may not even feel unhappy because everything runs so smoothly. But we miss out on that feeling of joy because we are so busy running our families like a business that we don’t take the time enjoying being a family.
Joy is an important aspect of the Catholic faith and yet is one that is too often forgotten. We forget about the joy amongst the talk of fasting, penance, sin, and dogma. What we fail to understand is that the rules, fasting, and penance make way for joy because they tear down our natural human resistance to God’s grace and pave the way to ultimate joy in His Kingdom of Heaven. You cannot experience joy with a soul burdened by sin. Like someone shedding weight and feeling better through intense exercise, we need to shed the weight of sin through prayer and fasting to truly feel that joy that God intends for us.
When I pray the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Resurrection, I remember that the Catholic Church is first and foremost a joyful Church. Without Jesus’ resurrection, the Church would be based on little more than a philosophy of a man who lived thousands of years ago. But with the resurrection, we celebrate with Jesus who conquered death as He said He would to His disciples. Jesus is alive and present in our lives today helping us achieve that joy of having a close relationship with God our Father. His resurrection proved that our lives do not end with the challenges and suffering of this world. It does not end at all because He desires all of us to find true joy in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Circling back to the original topic of joy and family. We should all try to make our family life an imitation of the joy we desire for ourselves in Heaven. Maybe, if we give others in our family a small taste of joy, they will desire that true joy that God gives that much more. And while our family life may never replicate Heaven, I think we can all agree that a pale imitation of Heaven is much better than an imitation of Hell. If you are looking to spread joy in this world, start with the people who share your roof.
When I glance at news headlines, I see a world that is going downhill at an ever-increasing pace. Hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, and fires are sweeping our planet. In addition to natural and man-made disasters, there is so much anger and division surrounding politics that has crept into everyone’s daily consciousness. And while I don’t think we’re living in the end times, seeing how quickly things can go from normal to chaotic makes me take stock of my life. Am I prepared for an emergency? Is my soul prepared in the event of an unexpected death? How does scripture and Rosary prayer prepare me for the unexpected?
Last Sunday’s Gospel speaks to our lack of preparation for something we all know is coming. The Gospel likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast to which everyone was invited. And yet, one of the people was not prepared for the wedding feast and did not have the proper attire. The king, who was hosting the party, threw the unprepared guest out.
Whenever I hear this Gospel I can’t help but feel sorry for the person who did not have the proper wedding attire. After all, he was not planning on going to a wedding banquet on that day. Why would he be walking down a road with his wedding attire in hand? Or even more curiously, why did everyone else have their wedding clothes at the ready? He was just going about his business, was told that there was a party and he was invited, and then the king humiliated him and threw him out. I sometimes feel like the lesson of this parable is that we should be cautious in accepting God’s offer of grace because it comes with strings attached. What is Jesus trying to tell us?
I don’t know much about Jewish customs in the first century AD so I may be making some very incorrect assumptions. But I like to think that maybe, upon receiving the invitation to the wedding feast, people had time to quickly go home and get dressed appropriately. But the one man who did not fetch his wedding garment maybe thought, “I’m sure the king will be okay if I just come as I am.” He may have thought that since the king was inviting everyone that he probably wouldn’t be very choosy about how the guests chose to conduct themselves.
In case you haven’t made the connection, the parable of the wedding feast is about our death and God’s judgment. Like the king inviting everyone to the wedding, God invites us all into His heavenly kingdom. But we do have to come prepared with a soul free of mortal sin. God will not accept us if our souls are not in the proper state. For many of us, that may mean time in Purgatory. For others, they will be turned out of the kingdom entirely. But unlike the travelers on the road who received a surprise invitation to the king’s banquet, we all know that God invites us to His heavenly banquet. We have plenty of time to get ready so that we can enter into His kingdom confidently because we adequately prepared.
When I pray the Rosary, I often meditate on my death and judgment on the Second Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. I recall the words of the Creed, “He ascended into Heaven and is seated next to God, the Father Almighty. He will come to judge the living and the dead.” It’s right there in the creed we profess every time we pray the Rosary and at Mass. Jesus will judge us and assess our worthiness to enter His Father’s house after our death. There’s no mystery, surprises, or ambiguity about that.
Yes, God is a God of love and mercy which is why He so readily forgives us when we ask for it through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But we have to show that we want to be with Him and His kingdom through our words, thoughts, and actions. We have to choose Heaven and work towards it and not assume God will be okay with our inappropriate choices we made in life. When we make the assumption that we can enter Heaven no matter how we chose to live, we are like the foolish man who had time to prepare and did not take advantage of it.
Lord, as I pray this second glorious mystery of the Rosary, may I remember that You have prepared a place for me in Your kingdom. May my every action, thought, and word be conducted with the knowledge of Your final judgment. May my love for you, Oh Lord, be so great that I avoid bad choices in life that would make me unprepared to enter into Your kingdom.