The Rosary — The (Not So) Secret to Happiness

Last week at work I had the privilege of attending a class on the science of happiness.  I find topics about brain and neuroscience fascinating probably because I haven’t studied it to death.  A two hour seminar from a former software developer fits nicely into my mosaic of brian knowledge formed from Ray Kurzweil books and Wired magazine articles.

Why would my company want me to learn about the science of happiness?  According to various studies and polls, happy people are about 12 to 25% more productive in their work.  Furthermore, much of what makes people happy revolves around them choosing actions that lead towards happiness.  Therefore, a company has a vested interest in its employees choosing routines that lead to happiness and hence, more productivity.

I’m going to spare you the details of the seminar.  If you want to learn more, just go to HappyBrainScience.com.  I bring up this seminar for one reason — readers of RosaryMeds already know many of the choices that lead to happiness.  For example, in the class we learned about the value of meditation as a way to combat the negative effects of stress.  Guess what?  Many of us who pray the rosary regularly already experience the positive effects rosary meditation has on combating the stress of everyday life.  I’ve mentioned a study in a previous post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary prayer.  I’ve also talked about how people are happiest when they find “flow” or are “in the zone.”  Many people who pray the rosary regularly find it comforting because they can more easily get in the zone of deep meditation and prayer.

Going back to my happiness seminar, I also learned how we all have a bias towards focusing on the negative.  I think we all know how difficult it is to concentrate or be happy in a group of people if you find even just one person in that group annoying.  Instead of focusing on the people whose company we enjoy or the good situations around us, we too often dwell on what’s wrong and foment a bitterness, if not an outright hatred, of those people who we don’t get along with for some reason or another.  Similarly, we also tend to dwell on our weaknesses more than our strengths.  “I’m overweight.”  “I’m not smart enough.”  “I work too slowly.”  “I don’t have enough patience.”  “I don’t have enough energy.”  Sound familiar?

When I heard about our negative bias and some of the tricks to combat it (you can get a taste of it from the HappyBrainScience blog), I immediately thought this all sounded vaguely familiar.  I then remembered the introduction to my rosary book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, where I explained the main benefit I get from rosary prayer — perspective.  Praying the rosary helps me understand that all the negative things in life we often dwell on aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture.  By praying the rosary every day, I manage to keep all my problems, stresses, and worries in perspective.  Rosary prayer also reminds me of God’s awesome power to forgive me for all my mistakes, no matter how big.  Rosary prayer reminds me that the Holy Spirit is present and always trying to lead me on the path of true happiness.  Rosary prayer reminds me that no matter how terrible the world appears, there is hope for a better tomorrow.

A rosary crucifix.

This can bring more happiness than winning any lottery.

Not all of us can attend a happiness seminar.  But you don’t have to attend one or buy a “secret of life” type book to start choosing a lifestyle that yields increased happiness.  Want to be happier?  Turn off the TV and computer, silence your phone, pick up a rosary, and pray!  Oh, and reading my rosary book and telling others about this website wouldn’t hurt ;-).

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September 18 2014 | prayer and rosary | No Comments »

My Concealed Sidearm

I always leave the house armed. In this world I think you are naive, if not a little crazy, if you don’t carry some sort of personal protection. Of course, given that I live in the Bay Area, I don’t carry my sidearm openly. It’s usually concealed but I’m ready and willing to use it if the situation calls for it. Don’t worry, I have plenty of practice using it. I’ve gone with a standard, white model. It isn’t very fancy, but it packs a punch with a 60 round capacity.

Wait, what? Take a look… yes, you’re still on RosaryMeds and not the NRA website.  And no, I’m not delirious from a lack of sleep.  But I am talking about weaponry in this post; very powerful weapons that pack more punch than what any Colt or Gloc could possibly deliver. If you haven’t guessed, my weapon of choice is the rosary. Of course, the 60 rounds should have been the give away (5*10 Hail Marys + 5 Our Fathers + 3 Hail Marys + 1 Our Father + 1 Crucifix = 60). For the last 8 years, since I started praying the rosary seriously and routinely, my rosary has been in my pocket wherever I go.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...

My sidearm, always ready for action.

I mention this in the wake of the gruesome execution of James Foley at the hands of Islamic radicals.  One of the lesser known facts about James Foley was his devotion to rosary prayer and how it helped in through his captivity in Libya in 2011.  In a letter to Marquette University (his alma mater) after his Libyan release, Foley wrote:

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.  Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

And this is why I think carrying a rosary is so important.  You never know what life is going to throw at you when you will need to respond with the power of prayer.  Granted, most of us won’t be captured by radicals, imprisoned, or martyred.  But we don’t have to go to those extremes to understand the importance of carrying a rosary.  How many times have you received bad news about a friend, family, your job, your city, your neighbors, your country, your parish, or anything that is important to you?  How many times have you faced a difficult challenge in your life?  Or what about the times when something great has happened?  Those are all perfect opportunities to reflect and meditate on some rosary mysteries.  I think we come across opportunities on a daily basis for praying the rosary but maybe we miss them because we aren’t physically carrying one that we can whip out when we need to.

Prepared for every situation.

Prepared for every situation.

I’m not saying that you can’t pray the rosary unless you are physically carrying beads.  James Foley prayed the rosary counting on his knuckles.  When I can’t physically hold a rosary (usually because I’m rocking an infant to sleep) I will often look for something in the room that is in a group of five or ten so I  can keep track of where I am within a decade.  Maybe there is a flower pattern on the rug with five petals that I can stare at.  Maybe the door or window has 10 sections that I can focus on.  But I do find that actually carrying a rosary is a great reminder of the importance of integrating prayer into my daily routine.  I take my phone, keys, and wallet with me because they will be useful tools throughout my day.  The same can be said about my rosary.

Try this.  Add a rosary to your other daily essentials that your carry in your pocket or purse.  Or attach a rosary ring to your keychain.  More importantly, instead of reaching for your smartphone when you have five minutes to burn, reach for that rosary and pray.

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September 03 2014 | rosary | Comments Off

What is a Black Mass?

Unfortunately, the media has been reporting so much bad news lately that many Catholics may have missed this one among the headlines about Ferguson or ISIS.  A group of satanists were going to hold a black mass using a stolen Eucharist in Oklahoma City.  The bishop successfully sued them for theft and the satanists returned the blessed host.  They will still hold their black mass as is their Constitutional right but without the Eucharist.  For those who don’t know, a black mass is one that follows the same routine as a Catholic Mass, but in honor of Satan.  In other words, they make a mockery of Catholic Church to please the devil.

Believe it or not, this was the only depiction of a black mass that didn’t involve nudity.

When I heard about the black mass using a stolen host I wasn’t too shocked or appalled.  After all, the holy Eucharist often falls into the hands of people undeserving to receive it.  At Mass every Sunday, I see nearly everyone in the church receiving communion.  But how many of them are really deserving to receive it by having no mortal sins on their souls and having fasted appropriately beforehand?  I’m not making judgements on anyone, but the numbers just don’t add up.  I once heard a priest remark, “Isn’t it interesting how short the lines to confession are on Saturday and how long the lines for communion are on Sunday?  Either we live among a huge number of saints or some people are receiving the Eucharist who should not.”  So in that light, if so many people within the Catholic Church aren’t showing the Eucharist the respect it deserves, why should I be upset about a group of satanists getting their hands on it?  

But then what did appal me was the fact that I wasn’t too appalled by the satanists’ theft and intention to use it in their black mass.  My lack of shock and sadness reminded me of just how weak my faith is at times.  After all, the Eucharist is the true presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  A consecrated host is no different than Jesus being present in bodily form.  It is one of the cornerstones of the Catholic faith and is one of the main differences between Catholics and protestants.  And yet my apathy towards this instance in Oklahoma City does reveal the gaps in my faith.

The good news is that we can work towards bridging that faith gap.  I start where I always start — the rosary.  Particularly, in this case, I focus on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Instantiation of the Eucharist.  I meditate on how faith isn’t something that just happens instantaneously, but something that requires work and an open heart.  Think about the apostles at the Last Supper.  They witnessed the first Eucharist from Jesus himself and yet their faith was shaken in the proceeding days of Jesus’ crucifixion.  They betrayed him, abandoned him, and denied that they knew him.  Bridging that faith gap was something they all needed to work on just like we do today.  And all of the apostles, with the exception of Judas, earned their way into sainthood.  That should give all of us hope that no matter how weak or shaken our faith may be, all of us have an opportunity to improve it through prayer, the sacraments, fasting, good works, and God’s grace.

3rd quarter of 16th century

3rd quarter of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another rosary mystery that comes to mind when I think about the black mass and the stolen Eucharist is the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion.  The Romans put Jesus to death in the most horrific way possible and yet that couldn’t break Jesus’ resolve.  Nor could they suppress his message that was spread throughout the world by his followers fueled by the Holy Spirit.  Like the Eucharist, the cross became a cornerstone of the Christian faith and there is nothing the world can do that will stop God’s truth from being heard.  There is nothing that will break the spirit of God’s Church.  And so I see these satanists in a similar light as the Romans.  There is nothing they can do in a black mass, even if they had the stolen Eucharist, that will have any effect on God and His Church.  The world has tried numerous times to crush Christianity going all the way back to Jesus’ crucifixion.  Satanists and their black masses just continue that fruitless tradition.  Should we feel saddened by their actions and pray for their conversion?  You bet.  Should we feel scared that their actions weaken God or His Church?  Not in the least.

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August 25 2014 | Fifth Luminous Mystery and Fifth Sorrowful Mystery | Comments Off

Helping Iraq’s (Forgotten) Christians

I know many readers are probably put off by now about my recent political commentary even if you sit on the same side of the political aisle as I do.  But like I said in previous posts, we live in the real world and rosary prayer and meditation need to play a part in it.  Rosary prayer cannot be something detached and isolated from the other parts of our lives.  It is meant to fuel us and guide us through our our lives, especially the hard parts.

We should turn our prayers toward what is happening in Iraq right now.  Since January, 1.2 million people have been displaced by ISIS and other radical groups.  One group that was already being actively persecuted in the region before January, but are now targeted to a heightened degree is the region’s Christian communities.  Rev. Andrew Write, an Anglican pasture in Baghdad, said “It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares.  The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten.”

The ultimatum imposed by militants for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed has passed with the collapse of communities that have existed for millennia

Iraq is just one of many places where Christians have been driven from their homes with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  In some places, they are beheaded or even crucified!  Over the last few years churches that have stood for hundreds of years were shut down, vandalized, or destroyed throughout Syria, Egypt, Libya, and other countries.  By some measures, Christians are now the most persecuted group in the world, but as Rev. Write said, nobody cares.

I’m really not qualified to give a detailed analysis of international politics and why there isn’t a more vocal outrage over the world’s besieged Christians.  But here are some of my thoughts.  In the developed world, when we think of Christians we have the image of nicely dressed people attending a suburban church and then going to a nearby coffee house for pancakes and omelets.  Or we think of the majesty of St. Peter’s Square.  Some stereotypical images of the Spanish inquisition, European witch hunts, or the Crusades might come to mind.  Throw all these perceptions together and it forms a picture of a group of people who don’t need any help at best, or are getting what they deserve at worst.

But in much of the world, the Christian communities are no different from the non-Christian communities around them.  It’s not like Christians in Iraq are some wealthy, powerful group that are being toppled by a desperate underclass.  They are farmers, shopkeepers, employees in some business, mothers, fathers, and children just like everyone else.  Their day to day lives are no different from those around them except maybe they have different diets and worship habits.  They don’t have a direct connection to the politics or history of Christianity.  And yet, in their moment of need, many in the international community are silent because of their perception of who Christians are.

This Iraqi Christian should consider himself lucky.  He was only driven from his home and wasn’t beheaded.

Jesus challenges us to help one another personally.  One of my readers commented about my previous article on how Jesus offered a place for those who were left out of the normal hierarchy.  Jesus didn’t espouse politics nor catered to a specific group of people.  Yes, he taught mostly amongst the Jews, but His message was for everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, time, or place.  We look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the courage to go out and teach Jesus’ message to all the world.  And while they preached the Word to religious and political leaders (since they would have the most influence) they also taught to the masses and spread the Word as individuals to individuals.

St. Paul teaching the masses about Jesus Christ

Individuals helping individuals is the core of Jesus’ ministry.  Yes, we still must lean on our governments and religious leaders to help.  After all, it’s religious and government institutions that have the best infrastructure to deliver aid effectively.  And yes, we must pray for those who are feeling so alone and abandoned as forces of evil drive them from their homes and kill them.  But prayer is not the end of our role in helping those in need, it’s the beginning.  Jesus didn’t want people to pray and then wait for governments and religious leaders to officially adopt His Word before living the Gospel.

Now it’s not like we can jump on the nearest plane to Iraq and drive from the airport to the area where Christians have fled.  But we can still help on a personal level.  Please consider donating to the Catholic Relief Services as they do have the means of reaching out to those undergoing hardships that we will (hopefully) never know.

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August 12 2014 | news and Third Glorious Mystery | Comments Off

The Strategy Behind Banning Public Religiousness

Here are the results of a poll that I’m sure will ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the political and church isle.  A recently released Gallop poll found that one’s “religiousness” is a great predictor of his political affiliation.  It found that those who practices their faith regularly are more likely to lean conservative while someone who is secular leans more liberal.  According to the story on the Blaze:

Among the survey’s findings: Forty-nine percent of very religious people support the GOP, compared to only 29 percent of nonreligious people who do.  Just 36 percent of very religious people support the Democrats, while 52 percent of nonreligious people support the party.

This is where the anecdotal evidence comes out where someone says the poll isn’t true because their sainted grandmother also votes Democrat.  Or their non church-going uncle is an avid Republican.  Of course there will be exceptions to every poll which is why they are reported in percentages to reveal general trends.  It won’t always reflect someone’s personal experience.  Polls also reveal correlations, but not necessarily causation.  We can’t say with any degree of certainty why nonreligious skew towards voting Democrat while religious lean towards voting Republican.

Check your religion at the door!

Now that we have the legal disclaimer out of the way, let’s explore political strategy.  If this poll is true then it explains a lot about our current political climate.  If Democratic policies and their vision for American society appeal more to nonreligious, then the Democratic party will have a vested interest in making society as secular as possible.  A more secular population equals more Democrat votes.  You don’t have to look very hard to see various tactics at play towards that goal:

  • The HHS mandate and rhetoric that one’s faith cannot play any role in how they run their business.
  • The vitriol many liberals show to any pro-life groups or any organization wishing to place any limits, no matter how reasonable, on abortion.
  • The attempt to redefine our Constitutional freedom of religion to freedom of “worship.”
  • Freaking out at any open display of anything even vaguely religious like a piece of twisted metal shaped like a cross at the Ground Zero museum.
  • Openly rigid enforcement of the “separation of church and state” (although that phrase does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution).

My point isn’t to just merely bash Democratic strategy.  I’m sure many of my readers could probably come up with an equally long list of Republicans promoting religion to gain votes and influence.  I just want to point out that we need to tread carefully and explore possible underlying motives whenever a politician either promotes or tries to curb the role of religion in public life.  Call me jaded, but I don’t think many politicians actually act on religious issues from deeply held beliefs, but because it will land their party more votes.

Teach children religion for a better community...

Teach children religion for a better community — religion means reverence – obedience – order, irreligion means chaos – crime – social collapse, parents, wake up! American Legion (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The Rosary Connection

When I think of religious vs. nonreligious and Democrat vs. Republican, the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary comes to mind.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left His mission to build His Church in the hands of His disciples.  Very early in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples decree that Jesus’ Church wasn’t exclusive to the Jews but open to everyone.  We also must remember, as Jesus’ disciples today, that we must invite all to experience Jesus’ love and saving grace whether they be religious or nonreligious, Democrat or Republican, Dodger fan or Giants fan, etc.  Some groups may put up more of a fight than others to Jesus’ message and our tactics may need to change based on the situation.  But in the end, the mission hasn’t changed since the disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven centuries ago — share His love with everyone.  Jesus didn’t discriminate nor fear the response to the truth.  Neither will we.

Our Prayer

Oh Lord, may we follow in Jesus’ early disciples footsteps and find the energy to promote His truth.  May we not be afraid to promote that truth with anyone regardless of their political affiliation, nationality, gender, or personality.  May we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the right tactics so that Your love best shines forth to all of those who need to hear it.  May we not forget Your charge to the early Church when you ascended into Heaven — spread My Word to the world.

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August 05 2014 | politics and Second Glorious Mystery | Comments Off

Politicians: They Know Not What They Do

In my last article I discussed how the state of American political discourse has descended into a war of bill branding and news soundbites rather than discussion on Constitutional principles.  Specifically, I noted that large negative response many liberal politicians had on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.  Now it’s time to separate RosaryMeds from your run of the mill “this is what’s wrong with the world” blog.  While others report and complain about politics, I’m going to offer a solution — a prayer.  Specifically, let’s look at a mystery of the rosary for guidance in these worrisome times.

English: A cropped version of Antonio Ciseri's...

When I read about just how zealously many politicians elevate the role of abortion in our society I think of the Third Sorrowful Mystery — The Crowning of Thorns.  I think about how the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus in such a cavalier and dismissive manner.  Although they weren’t Jews, they must have known about the countless miracles Jesus performed which should have ringed warning bells that this wasn’t some mere criminal they were scourging and mocking.  The soldiers, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and everyone else involved in crucifying Jesus must have had some inclination that they were playing with fire by so brashly mocking the Son of God.

When I think of the Patty Murrays, Nancy Pelosis, and Harry Reids of our government, I wonder how many of them deep down in their consciences know that they promoting a great evil by backing the pro-abortion lobbies.  Like the Roman soldiers that mocked Jesus, do they have some inclination of the seriousness of their actions?  If their promotion of abortion isn’t born out of pure ignorance, do they know they are playing with fire by acting contrary to their faiths and natural law?  Like the soldiers who got caught up in the moment of mocking Jesus, are some politicians so caught up in scoring political points with their base and lobbyists that they never stop and consider the ramifications of what they are doing?

When you pray the rosary, especially the Third Sorrowful Mystery, pray for those who so brazenly mock Jesus’ teachings for worldly gain.  Pray for their conversion and an awakening to the damage their behavior creates both to themselves and others.  Pray that you personally always remember Jesus’ teachings and not get caught up in behavior that runs counter to it.  It can be so easy to casually mock Jesus through seemingly little sins.  But those little sins can really add up and over time derail you from the path God sets before you.  Be aware of your behavior and find the courage to ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever you act contrary to your faith.

Our Prayer

Forgive those Lord who misrepresent Your teachings and hide Your truth in darkness.  We pray for their conversion much like how You touched the heart and mind of your servant, St. Paul on the road to Damascus.  May those who harm so many in their blindness of earthly ambition end up saving 100 times as many souls in their conversion.  We also pray that we may never take Your truth for granted and casually ignore it.  Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary, please give us the strength to honor our Lord Jesus Christ with a crown of good works, love, and charity and avoid crowning Him with the thorns of sin.

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July 27 2014 | politics and prayer and Third Sorrowful Mystery | Comments Off

Passing a Bill By It’s Cover — The State of American Politics

Yep, I’m getting political.  But please keep reading!  This does related to rosary prayer and meditation.  I know many people like to visit my blog to read little, witty observations and my analogies of rosary meditation to exercise, military mottos, movies, etc.  But we also have to remember that we practice our faith in the real world which produces real challenges.  I don’t want my articles to just become useless platitudes that don’t have any connection to the real world.  God calls us to live our faith publicly even in the face of hostility.  Fortunately, He gave us the rosary through his sacred vessel, our Mother Mary, to help us overcome the legions that stand against truth and love.

English: President Barack Obama shakes hands w...What has gotten my dander up recently is the response certain politicians had to the Supreme Court’sHobby Lobby” decision.  The high court ruled that the government cannot compel a private company to provide services that run counter to the owners’ religious beliefs.  It was a classic upholding of the Bill of Rights although it narrowly passed on a 5-4 ruling.  But this ruling set many politicians into a conniption fit especially Senator Patty Murray who introduced a bill named the Women’s Health Protection Act.”  However, a more apt name would have been the “Let’s Dynamite the Constitution and the Judicial Branch of Government Act.”  This bill aimed to not only reverse the Supreme Court’s decision but also eliminate the states’ right to legislate on matters regarding abortion.  Fortunately, the bill came up four votes short in the senate to move forward. Matthew Archbold at Creative Minority Report correctly called out this bill for what it was:

This push for the Women’s Health Protection Act is a p.r. stunt. It’s a meme push. The War on Women is coming to get you!!!!! Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Obama administration have been such absolute failures that they believe their only hope is to scare women into believing that the GOP intends to drag women back to the stone age or worse yet, the 1950’s. This legislation has zero chance of even being introduced in the House of Representatives. So the Democrats will attempt to argue that Republicans voted against something as benign as the “Women’s Health Protection Act.”

This is my scary observation about the current American political climate — our politicians and the general voting public base discussion on very serious topics on the title of bills and evening news sound bites.  You no longer hear our politicians discuss the actual contents of a bill or whether it has a sound Constitutional foundation.  Instead, they do everything they can to push bills into laws regardless of their constitutionality because they know how hard it is to repeal it once it becomes law.  And so we see bills like the “Affordable Care Act“, “Women’s Health Protection Act”, “Patriot Act“, “Dream Act“, “No Child Left Behind”, “Security and Freedom Protection Act”, and so on.  George Orwell would have been pleased (maybe even a little shocked) how you can create a law to do almost anything as long as it has a catchy title that tugs at the heart strings.  After all, the media and political opponents can have a field day if they can label you as the person who stood against affordable health care, women’s health, or our nation’s security and freedom.  The fact that you may have very just and sound opposition matters not in the war of catch phrases.

A prayer please...

I said in my previous post that we need to continue to pray because so much of the freedom we enjoy often remains in place because of a few votes.  One justice made a difference in the Hobby Lobby decision.  If one of the five had swung and ruled against Hobby Lobby — puff!  Your freedom of religion would have been diminished that much more and it would set precedent for other cases to diminish it even further.  Think about what could have happened to your first amendment rights if one of the five judges who voted in favor of Hobby Lobby retired and replaced with someone who swung the other direction?

And remember Patty Murray’s bill that didn’t move forward because it was four votes short?  Do you know how easy it is to bribe four politicians?  They will keep trying to push something like that bill through in the future.  And that’s the problem — politicians only need to find that one opportune moment, one good sounding bill title, or that perfect soundbite (but never mind about the actual content of the bill) to put into place laws that will be nearly impossible to reverse.  Think about how long Roe vs. Wade has been law despite the growing scientific evidence that a fetus is a human being.  A politician or special interest only needs to get lucky once and political inertia takes hold.  Like a watchman in the night, we must continue to pray to prevent damaging bills from becoming law and never fall into hopelessness that our prayers don’t matter.

I have more to say on this topic, but I need to continue in a future article because this one is already growing long.  Please like and share this article with others.  Think of this article as a bill titled “The apple pie, fresh baked cookies, and grandma protection act.”  If you don’t “like” it then I will say that you stand against apple pie, cookies, and you grandmas.

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July 21 2014 | politics | Comments Off

Rosary SEAL: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

I previously wrote about how rosary prayer is a lot of Navy SEAL training.  The rosary can be a difficult prayer that is monotonous, time consuming, and requires a lot of concentration.  Not surprisingly, many people either ignore praying the rosary or substitute it with easier and shorter prayers.  I want to explore more in depth what we can learn from the Navy SEALS and apply it to rosary prayer and meditation.  Let’s take a look at one of the SEALS’ famous sayings.

“Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable”

Image of BUD/S trainees covered in mud during ...

Image of BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To say SEAL training and their missions are tough is an understatement.  They are pushed to their breaking point both physically and mentally in training so that they can remain focused in the field where their lives are on the line.  During training, they will wake up to a routine of lying in the extremely cold ocean to the point of hypothermia before starting whatever grueling challenge the instructors have planned for the day.  The instructors call it getting “wet and sandy” and whenever they say that, the recruits must run into the water and then roll on the sand until they are covered head to toe.  The idea is that a SEAL needs to be able to focus on the task at hand regardless of the situation.  They have to block out all distractions to get the job done.  When they accept that discomfort is just part of the job then that is one less thing that will occupy their thoughts.

What can we learn from this SEAL motto in regards to rosary prayer?  I think it’s important to accept that the rosary is a difficult prayer.  I know it’s almost taboo to admit that many times I don’t feel like praying the rosary.  It’s not that I don’t like the rosary, but I do find it challenging to get into the frame of mind where I can make the most of rosary prayer.  When I think about the fact that I will spend the next 20+ minutes saying the same prayer 50 times over, flipping on the television and flipping off my brain starts to sound very tempting.

When you accept that praying the rosary will be difficult then you will start to become more comfortable praying it.  In other words, while there are dozens of activities that are easier and maybe even more immediately gratifying than the rosary, mentally you just filter them out as an option.  Once you learn to commit to praying the rosary you never will look back at what other things you could be doing.  A SEAL in the freezing water has to push out of his mind how nice it would be to lay next to a warm fire with some hot food because that will just distract him.  Rosary SEALS (Souls Enthusiastically Approaching the Lord) also need to just move forward and completely commit to the rosary and not let the other easier options on how to spend our time become a distraction.

“Don’t think of the thousands of other things I would rather be doing right now”

When we can push forward and get comfortable with the discomforts of the rosary, we can begin to grow spiritually.  By praying the rosary instead of giving into those distractions, you prove to yourself that you have the ability to push yourself and make the rosary and your faith a priority in your life.  When you accept those “discomforts” of prayer you will then have that much more room in your mind, heart, and soul to let the Holy Spirit guide you and discover even more what God has planned for you.  You just have to ignore Satan and his minions urging you to embrace the immediate, physical comforts of this world instead of getting “wet and sandy” in the rosary.

July 10 2014 | catholic | Comments Off

Obama’s Failed Poker Bluff

It has been a big two weeks for both the pro-life and religious freedom causes.  We saw the Supreme Court rule unanimously that the 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts violated the pro-life advocates and sidewalk counselors right to free speech.  And this week we saw the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 “Hobby Lobby” decision, rule that the government cannot force private employers to provide health plans that include coverage for operations, procedures, and medications that run counter to their personal religious beliefs.

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really liked what Creative Minority Report wrote about the unintentional consequences of Obama‘s efforts to limit the role religion plays in the public square.  It’s a short article that reads:

The great irony of Obama’s unrelenting assault on religious freedom may have had the unintended effect of strengthening religious freedom.

When the Obama administration went to the mattresses on arguments such as declaring that religious schools do not have the right to hire and fire for mission they got unanimously smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, the Administration is red-faced again with the high court ruling that it doesn’t have the power to force “closely held companies” to provide contraceptive coverage. That’s a big deal.

It would be ironic if the overall effect of the Obama administration on religious liberty is a strengthening rather than a deleterious one.

Politics is a lot like a giant poker game.  I enjoy playing poker.  Sometimes I win, but more often I lose.  I lose when I try to force every hand into a big win.  Even when I don’t have a good hand I think to myself that I can bluff my way into winning.  I essentially get impatient and just want to take every pot which is not a smart way to play.  When I take that impatient, “go big all the time” strategy I will usually be the first one to bust out.  I win (or at least stay in the game longer) when I play strategically and take small losses when I’m in an unfavorable situation and moderate gains when I  can.

Like a game of poker, the pro-choice and big government crowds have been playing a very strategic game the last few decades.  It wasn’t overnight that a majority of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion rather than birth.  It wasn’t overnight that Planned Parenthood started receiving millions of dollars in federal funding and built massive clinics in every city in the US.  The pro-abortion crowd has built up their “winnings” by taking small wins here and there and never trying to force a win under unfavorable conditions.  It also helped them by staying away from imposing large, sweeping changes all at once.  That would be like broadcasting to the poker table that you have a straight flush by putting in too much money too quickly.

Poker Night

Poker Night (Photo credit: IanMurphy)

But in recent years, the pro-choice crowd flipped and started playing more of the “go big or go home” strategy to their disadvantage.  Maybe they felt emboldened by their earlier victories that they felt like they could make some big plays to really solidify their position in US law.  Maybe they thought that their opposition was so weak that they could continue to push their agenda even further without anyone putting up fight.  Fortunately for the pro-life cause, Obama went “all in” with the HHS contraception mandate and lost.  He looked at his two pair and thought that would be enough to win the hand.  Unfortunately for him, the US Constitution was sitting at the table with a full house and didn’t fold.

But this isn’t the beginning of the end of the debates over abortion, life, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.  Rather, it’s the end of the beginning.  Although the pro-life battle has been going on for decades, the millions of lives lost to abortion have really hinged on a few court cases and laws.  And our basic freedoms of speech and religion have only been tested a few dozen times in the high courts.  And while sometimes the legal precedent generates a unanimous 9-0 decision like in the Massachusetts case, other times it really comes down to a single justice’s interpretation of the law.

Given just how fragile and how quickly the pro-life cause and our freedoms can change, it is doubly important to maintain those prayers.  Much like how the Hobby Lobby decision came down to a single justice (I have no idea why it wasn’t a 9-0 decision), these cases may also come down to a single prayer.  We should never think that our prayers don’t matter or influence our world.  Our mother Mary has repeatedly said that prayer is the greatest tool we have to further God’s kingdom and bring His grace to others.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s your rosary prayer and intentions for our government officials that might tip the scale in the next important policy decision.  It may be our prayers that plant a seed in a judge’s heart to look at a case one more time and possibly have a change of heart.

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July 01 2014 | news | Comments Off

The Dulling of Faith

We just remembered the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing on Normandy in WWII.  Operation Overlord, or D-Day, was a massive operation that forever changed the face of our world.  Thousands of men stormed the beaches and for many of them, the flashes of German gunfire from concrete bunkers was the last thing they would ever see and the deafening sounds of mortar shells was the last thing they would ever hear.

But like many historical events, even the big ones like D-Day, time erodes our memories and emotions of these events.  As the people who experienced these events pass away and all we’re left with are pictures and videos, these world changing moments start to feel less real and meaningful to us.  Washington D.C. burning to the ground in 1812, thousands of men dying at Gettysburg, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and one day, 9/11, almost start to have as much impact as a work of fiction as time goes on.

D-DAY IMAGE ...

D-DAY IMAGE … (Photo credit: mrbill78636)

I think we often suffer from time diminishing our faith.  Many of us read the Bible and listen to the Gospels at least once a week during Sunday Mass.  We may pray routinely.  We know what Jesus taught and what He expects of us.  We know the high bar He sets for us to get into His kingdom of Heaven.  And I bet, if Jesus walked into your room and repeated what He said in the Gospels, He would have your complete attention.  You would run out and change anything and everything in your life that didn’t line up with His teaching.

And yet, we often ignore, trivialize, or give lip service to Jesus’ message because He said it nearly 2000 years ago and we didn’t witness it firsthand.  We are like St. Thomas who doubted Jesus’ resurrection when the other disciples told him about it because he didn’t personally see Him.  But Jesus’ teachings are no different today than when He walked this earth.  His teachings are no different through the Gospel than if He came walking through your door right now.  And yet we too allow the trivialities of our present situation to overshadow the greater truths Jesus taught us.

English: Transfiguration of Jesus

I think about my lack of appreciation of Jesus’ truth most when I pray the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the rosary, The Transfiguration.  I think about how awe inspiring it must have been for the apostles to witness Jesus transform into a figure of dazzling light and to hear God say, “LISTEN TO HIM.”  If we truly believe in the authenticity of the Catholic faith, then we know the Transfiguration was a real event.  God didn’t just tell the apostles to listen to Jesus.  He told all of us!  But ask yourself, do you live with an awareness of that reality?  Or do you often ignore or trivialize the truths of the Catholic faith because you didn’t personally witness Jesus saying them?  Why does a difference of time and place have such a dramatic effect on our willingness to follow Jesus’ teachings?

Before you beat yourself up, remember that even the apostles failed to truly believe in Jesus’ teachings when confronted with the realities around them.  Judas betrayed Jesus.  Peter, who witnessed the Transfiguration, denied Him.  And all of them, except for John, went into hiding during Jesus’ crucifixion.  They didn’t even have the excuse of being separated from Jesus by thousands of years like we do.  Their cowardice shows just how powerful our human weaknesses are and how they can dominate over our desire to live for God’s eternal kingdom.

And while we may fail to truly believe in Jesus’ message like the apostles did, God came into our lives in yet another form — as the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gave the apostles that shot of courage and conviction to go out and live and preach the Jesus’ message.  While they may have been lukewarm in their faith while Jesus was alive, they were transformed into true believers on Pentecost.  Even in their fear, the Holy Spirit penetrated their souls and gave the apostles a needed spiritual “kick.”

The Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost by Ant...

The Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost by Anthony van Dyck, circa 1618. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us are in need of a spiritual kick.  We may not live in fear of practicing our faith (although more and more Christians are being persecuted and martyred throughout the world).  But many of us do suffer from a sense of passivity in our faith because we haven’t heard Jesus’ teachings directly from His mouth.  But the Holy Spirit, the same one that roused the scared apostles into action, rouses us into action as well.  We only have to provide that small bit of kindling in our souls for the fire of the Holy Spirit to erupt into a bright flame of faith.  That kindling is something as small and as easy as focused prayer, rosary meditation, participating at Mass, and receiving the sacraments.  It doesn’t matter that Jesus walked this earth nearly 2000 years ago.  His message is still the same and the Holy Spirit burns just as bright!

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June 10 2014 | easter and Fourth Luminous Mystery and Third Glorious Mystery | Comments Off

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