Scripture and the Rosary: Being Prepared

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.

“Why am I here? Oh right… the sins”

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.

Don’t Envy Those Who Didn’t Work All Day

Jesus told the parable of the laborers in the field in last Sunday’s Gospel. In the parable, an owner of a vineyard paid his workers the same wage regardless of how long they worked. Some worked all day while others worked a single hour. And while people often question the fairness of how God pours out His grace, this parable fills me with hope and comfort.  Here’s why.

One of the lessons I take away from the parable of the vineyard laborers is that it does not matter how late you come into God’s grace when it comes to earning a place in Heaven. A life of sin can be wiped clean by the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the final moments of someone’s life. This fills me with hope because I know that no matter how badly I mess up in life, there is always the opportunity for salvation as long as I come before God with a humble heart.  And not just me, but when I see or hear about all the lost souls around me I know there is also hope for them to turn around their lives and receive all of God’s grace.

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what about the ones that did work all day in the field? How could they not feel cheated? I can’t help but feel sorry for those who worked all day only to learn that they could have received the same pay for a lot less work. There are a few ways to look at this scenario. Yes, some people only worked an hour. But on the flip side, they were only an hour away from not being hired at all and would have received nothing. Those who were hired in the morning, assuming that they worked hard throughout the day, guaranteed their reward.

The same can be said about earning our spot in Heaven. Yes, there are those who come late to God’s grace. But there are also those who run out of time and do not come into God’s grace at all and miss eternal salvation. Given how little God really asks of us to receive His grace, we need to pray for those who continue to live in sin that they don’t wait to receive God’s mercy and possibly lose out entirely.

If we follow the parable, those who are working in the field all day can be compared to those who faithfully follow the teachings of the Catholic Church throughout their lives. We should feel comforted knowing that God promised us the gift of Heaven for dutifully following His Will.  Is it always easy?  No, work is often challenging.  But it’s rewarding.  And I’m not just talking about the final reward of Heaven either.  In doing God’s Will, you also have a sense of security knowing that God will look after and help those who follow Him much like an employer making sure his employees are safe and taken care of.  By working for God, you stay focused on that goal of Heaven and won’t be as easily tempted to sin.  Remember, idle hands are the Devil’s playthings.  If you’re too busy working for God, you leave Satan little opportunity to influence you.

Think about this parable when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  Jesus told us that Heaven is open to everyone and provided a roadmap to get there.  He said to love your neighbor.  Is that hard?  You bet!  Loving some of the people around you may be the hardest job many people will ever have.  And don’t envy those who may have started working on following Jesus’ teachings late in life.  You never know how much more challenging their lives were before working towards God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

Rosary intentions

  • We pray for those who live in sin; for their conversion.
  • We pray that we don’t envy those who start following God’s Will late in life.
  • We pray for God’s mercy on those who died in a state of sin.
  • We pray for those who believe living for God’s kingdom is too hard.
  • We pray that those who do live for God’s kingdom reamin faithful and not become tempted by Satan’s lies.

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One Trick to Start Your Day Right

Now that my son has started kindergarten, my family’s leisurely mornings are a thing of the past.  We now have to wake up early and help get our son fed, dressed, packed, and out the door before the opening school bell.  Like race horses at the starting gate, when that alarm clock rings in the morning we need to be off at a full gallop to get everything done.

My week day routine is not unique.  Many people start their day ten steps behind and are in a constant rush.  And among the snooze alarm pushing and coffee chugging, something very important is often missed.  And this one action might determine whether you have a good or bad day.  Here’s a clue, it’s not checking your Facebook and Twitter feeds the instant you get up.  Long time RosaryMeds readers can probably already guess where I’m going.  Morning prayer may be the difference between a good day or an off day.

When we skip morning prayer, we so often go through our day not realizing that we are fighting a battle with our hands tied behind our back.  We are like soldiers going off to battle with no weapon and no protection wondering why everything is so hard and miserable. This is because we did not include Jesus in our day by praying to Him or asking our Holy Mother or the saints for their help and intercession.

In his book,  Live Today Well, Fr. Thomas Dailey writes about the importance and benefits of starting your day focused on God from the instant you open your eyes.

Beyond an existential awareness, the practice of directing our minds to God corresponds to and fa­cilitates a positive psychology. Experience shows that the mood with which we begin the day tends to color the entire day. What Francis de Sales understood is that start­ing the day with God in mind leads to keeping God in mind throughout the day.

All of this is intended to turn our morning routine into a sacred one. Routines play a key role in human life. Able to be done without our giving them much thought, they are comfort­able, and often comforting, acts. Psychologically, even if not consciously, they represent a way of exercising a modicum of control over the chaos of our surroundings. Our habits lead us to do the same thing over and over again each morning; were we to deviate from this habitual routine, we would probably think something was “off ” or just not right.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary (The Finding of Jesus in the Temple) exemplifies this common human weakness to leave God out of our everyday lives. In this rosary mystery, Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was with them in the caravan leaving Jerusalem. When they finally discovered that he was missing, they started to panic and searched for Jesus for three days in sorrow.

How does this rosary mystery explain our daily routine? Mary and Joseph’s assumption and lack of attention led to three days of worry, anxiety, and sorrow. I feel like many of us do this as well when we fail to start our day in prayer. When we don’t actively keep Jesus visible in our lives, from the moment we wake up to the moment we close our eyes, we bring unneeded anxiety and sorrow because we take our attention away from the one who can help us find true happiness.  Jesus wants nothing more than to help us and carry some of our burdens.  But we have to come to Him and ask.  Rember Luke’s Gospel:

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Luke 10:28-30).

 

Here’s my challenge to you.  Get up 10 minutes earlier than normal.  Spend that 10 minutes in prayer.  You don’t have to get out of bed but I do encourage you to sit up to avoid falling back asleep.  I bet your body can handle 10 minutes less sleep and your mind and soul will benefit from an extra 10 minutes of prayer.

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The Power of Regular Rosary Prayer

In my work as a software developer, I often run into “walls” when trying to solve difficult problems. Most of the time I get through these blockages by just writing snippets of code no matter how ugly they may seem. But it helps me see the problem and the solution more clearly and provides me something I can shape into a beautiful, optimized solution. Getting to the desired solution is not a straight shot where I code everything perfectly the first time. It is a series of making wrong decisions and correcting them. I call it thinking with my keyboard.

Remember, no one sees your first draft (unless you started the day before the deadline)

Our happiness in life is a lot like the challenges I face when writing software. It’s not always easy to find happiness. It almost seems like life is a rigged game where being happy is something that is always just out of reach at best and an impossibility at worst.  In his article, When you Can’t Hear God, Keep Talking to Him, Dave Zuleger sums up the futility we often feel when we try to find happiness:

We know that our trials will produce a faith that is tested, refined, and full of glorified joy (1 Peter 1:6–7). We know deep realities that can create deep hope beneath even the deepest pain. Except sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we preach these truths to ourselves and our hearts aren’t moved at all. We groan, and wish that life was so different than it is (Romans 8:23). We pray and pray and pray, and things only seem to get more overwhelming and more difficult. Sometimes our hearts simply ache with the pain of broken dreams, broken relationships, broken bodies, and broken sinfulness.

Have you had that experience? Hope doesn’t come. Happiness doesn’t flood your heart. The clouds of depression don’t blow away. Overwhelming struggles simply overwhelm you more. Relationships are not restored.

He concludes that we need to continue to pray and lay out concerns and worries in front of God.  It is in continual prayer that we often hear God.  Like a software engineer needing to just write code to figure out the solution, we often need to just pray and meditate on different things to eventually hear what God is trying to tell us.

This is why praying rosary mysteries daily is such a great form of meditation.  Every day is an opportunity to reflect on the life of Jesus and the Catholic faith through the rosary mysteries and ask for Mary’s help in making sense of it all.  We have to explore our faith through prayer so that we can better understand God’s response.

It may seem doubly painful to dwell on our problems in prayer.  After all, who wants to recall their pain and suffering on a regular basis?  But through the rosary mysteries, we can see that pain through the lens of our faith, not through the lens of our secular world which offers very little in terms of answers and solutions.  You can’t find the true solution to your problems by avoiding laying them before God in prayer.

Look at Jesus in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary in the garden of Gesthemene.  He was going through immense agony over his upcoming arrest and crucifixion.  But Jesus did not hide that pain away in an attempt to appear tough or unphased.  He had no issue bringing his concerns and fears before God in prayer saying “Father if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  The agony in the garden of Gesthemene perfectly highlights what we are to do when life has is down — pray, pray, pray, and pray some more!

Jesus in Pray
Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To end on a lighter note, here’s a quotation attributed to St. Francis de Sales for you to you think about.  You could easily substitute the word busy with sad, worried, or any other word that describes your situation:

Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.

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Honor Mary by Asking for Her Help

In his article, Prayer takes Practice, Fr. Ed Broom lays out five ways to improve your prayer life.  For the TL;DR crowd, the summary is:

  1. Conviction — Have faith that prayer is actually important
  2. Confession — Mend your relationship with God whenever you sin
  3. Set a time and place to pray — Routine helps you pray consistently
  4. Mass and holy communion — Mass and the Eucharist are the greatest prayers in the world
  5. Seek our Lady of the RosaryPray the rosary to bring about peace

I want to focus on that last point — seeking out our Lady of the Rosary (naturally, this is a rosary prayer blog after all).  On Aug 22nd, we celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary which we pray in the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  When we pray the rosary we are in essence “crowning” our Heavenly Queen.  Mary wants nothing more than for us for to have a close relationship with her son, Jesus Christ.  We honor and crown her whenever we show faith and conviction that our relationship with Jesus matters to us.

But having conviction and faith is not easy.  Think about it.  You may brood for days over a friend’s disagreeable Facebook post.  You can get into a funk at work or at home when it seems like nothing is going smoothly.  Many of us get tied up in knots over our finances.  But how much time and energy do we devote to thinking about the state of our relationship with Jesus?  Do we put more energy into worrying about Facebook posts than finding time to go to Confession?  Do we spend hours on our hobbies and minutes in prayer?

If you feel like you are falling short in improving your prayer life, I suggest starting with the fifth point on that list.  Pick up a rosary and earnestly tell Mary that you need her help.  Tell her you need the courage to go to Confession.  Tell her you need help to be more engaged at Mass.  Tell her you need help praying on a more regular schedule.  Tell her you need more faith and conviction that prayer actually means something.  Praying the rosary will make all the other items on that list easier to accomplish.

 

You crown Mary through the rosary when you earnestly say, “I need your help!”  Speaking as a parent, I feel honored when my kids need my help no matter how trivial the matter.  I’m lucky that my kids are young because it will feel odd when the day comes when they no longer need my help.  Mary isn’t satisfied with the title of a queen but with nothing to do.  She wants us to come to her with all our worries and problems so she can help us.

And let’s face it, we all need Mary’s help because having a perfect relationship with Jesus is nearly impossible because of the active attempts by Satan to derail us and our own weakness towards sin.  But God knows this challenge and doesn’t leave us in a hopeless situation.  He gave us a Heavenly Queen in Mary and the means for her to help us through the rosary.  Honor Jesus by honoring Mary by asking for her help through rosary prayer.

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How the Rosary Helps Us Overcome Obstacles

I don’t watch a lot of television.  However, when I find a few minutes and don’t feel like doing anything serious, I enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior.  It’s a show where athletes run through an obstacle course trying to complete increasingly more rigorous feats.  Most people fail to complete the entire course.  But those that do are ecstatic because they overcame the temptation to quit even when they were fatigued and were entertaining thoughts that they didn’t have the ability to complete the course.

The same conflict between completing a goal or giving up because the obstacles seem too great appears in many of our spiritual lives.  Many of us have a hard time mustering up enough energy to make it through an entire rosary chaplet or Bible reading.  We all want to do God’s will and form a deep relationship with Him through prayer.  And yet, despite all that we desire, we let trivial obstacles like a television show, website, or video game distract or derail us from doing what we know is good.

Saint Peter highlights what happens when we let obstacles overpower us and distract us from God’s will.  In the Gospel, St. Matthew wrote about Jesus walking on the water in a terrible storm.  Peter also tried walking on the water and was initially successful but then was overcome by fear and doubt and sank (Matthew 14:22-36).

Does Saint Peter’s story sound a lot like yours when it comes to prayer and doing God‘s Will?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “This time I’m going to stick to a rigid prayer schedule.”  Or I read a book about the importance and benefits of prayer and get all excited initially only to be overcome by distractions.  Like Saint Peter walking on water, instead of staying focused on my relationship with Jesus Christ I get distracted by the world around me.

But when we make an effort to pray and act according to God’s will, we actually act in a way that is doubly pleasing to God.  Rev. P.J. Michel explains in his book, Temptations:

On this principle, when you observe the law of God and do His will in a way that is displeasing to nature, you acquire a double claim to reward: first, you have obeyed, and secondly, you have obeyed with difficulty and against resistance and combat. The sac­rifice you have made of the natural inclination that solicited and impelled you is rewarded here by new graces and hereafter by an increase of eternal glory and happiness.

Temptations

What does the rosary teach us about praying through distractions and temptations?  You can probably pick any of the Sorrowful Mysteries and see Jesus’ example of doing God’s will despite the pain and suffering.  But that’s too easy of an example for regular RosaryMeds readers!  I want to look at the First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation.  Here we have Mary being asked to be the Mother of God.  At first, she focuses on all the earthly limitations of such a request.  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked (Luke 1:34).  But Mary didn’t let all those concerns distract her from accepting the burden and the honor God wanted to bestow on her.

Now jump to the Fifth Glorious Mystery, Mary’s Coronation in Heaven.  Going back to the passage from Temptations, when you do God’s will in the face of difficulty, you increase your eternal glory and happiness.  What better example is there than seeing Mary crowned Queen of Heaven?  She followed God’s will even when that meant seeing her son rejected and crucified.

When you don’t feel like you have the time or energy to pray the rosary, look to Mary’s example of the grace God gives you when you make the effort to pray and do God’s will despite the difficulty.  It may be hard, but the reward dwarfs the inconvenience.

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How the Rosary Improves Your Soul’s Health

I know I’ve talked about living a spiritually healthy lifestyle in previous posts.  It looks like I’m not the only one who believes in the importance of practicing good spiritual hygiene.  I came across a post on spiritual healthy living on Catholic Exchange the other day which espouses many of the same themes I’ve pushed on my site.  The TL;DR summary of living a spiritually healthy lifestyle is:

  1. Avoid gossip and gossipers
  2. Dress properly
  3. Avoid bad company
  4. Avoid impure images
  5. Think before you act
  6. Consume electronic media responsibly
  7. Don’t be a couch potato
  8. Constantly exercise your mind
  9. Avoid gluttony
  10. Avoid contrary views of Mary

I find it interesting how much time and energy people generally spend on their physical health.  After all, collectively we spend billions on diets, rare and exotic “superfoods,” supplements, and all sorts of workout programs to obtain those six-pack abs.  We also spend a lot of time exercising our minds (see #8) with all sorts of creative hobbies, DIY projects, reading books and articles, and watching informative videos.  And while we muster up the energy to power through our daily workouts and gulp down kale smoothies, we begrudging go to Mass once a week and fly through our daily prayers.  We so often see the value of eating well and exercising our mind and body but fail to see the much greater value of exercising our soul.

Hey Hulk, maybe it’s time you cut back on the kale and spinich and pick up a rosary.

My go-to Rosary mystery that reminds me to live a spiritually healthy lifestyle is the Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  It reminds us how easily we can forget about Jesus in our lives and the state of our relationship with him.  Mary and Joseph incorrectly assumed he was with the caravan leaving Jerusalem.  And so we often have a tendency to assume we have a close relationship with Jesus even when we don’t actively work on it.  And while Jesus will always be there to “share the yoke” (see last Sunday’s Gospel), he also is patient and doesn’t force his assistance on us.  We have to make the effort to work on our relationship with Jesus.

Let’s look at this another way.  I’m sure many of us have co-workers, friends, spouses, or family members we occasionally take for granted.  Yes, we may value them or love them, but maybe we don’t let them know how important they are to us.  We just assume they will always be there filling the role we’ve come to expect and depend on.  It’s not until they get tired and get upset with us that we realize how we’ve taken our relationship with them for granted.  Maybe a kind word or small token of appreciation was all that was needed to maintain that valued relationship.

“Just one kind word! That’s all I ask.”

Our relationship with Jesus is similar to our relationship with people.  We can so often just take our faith for granted that we do not make any effort to improve upon it.  Jesus actually asks relatively little of us compared to what he is willing to offer.  But we have to remember that we are in a reciprocal relationship with Jesus and want to maintain that relationship if we are to get any benefit from it.

Looking at the ten tips for living a spiritually healthy lifestyle from Catholic Exchange is a good place to start.  Many of us maintain todo lists, either physical or mental, of exercises to perform, daily tasks to complete, and foods to eat and avoid.  But perhaps it would be wise to keep a list of the daily spiritual tasks and goals we need to consciously work on.  If you’ve been coasting spiritually then perhaps it is time to take a more active interest in your soul’s health.  Maybe you’ll find that you’re already quite fit or maybe you’ll find that you’re really on spiritual life support.  Either way, you’ll never improve your relationship with Jesus unless you analyze it periodically and correct those weak spots.

Take a look at that list.  What dimensions of your soul’s health do you need to work on?   When you pray the rosary (hopefully daily), ask Mary to help you work out those weak spots in your spiritual health.  She’ll be more than happy to help.

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How the Rosary Removes the “Beams” from our Eyes

The Gospel reading from this past Monday, June 26, 2017, was from Matthew 7:1-15 about the well-known analogy about judging others hypocritically.  This lesson could also be about not letting the actions of others blind you to your abilities of living God‘s will.  First, the actual text:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

By now we all know we shouldn’t judge others considering that we all have our own flaws. I think many of us understand Jesus’ teaching and work hard to avoid judging others.  Note, this does not mean we don’t care for others and help them become better people living in God’s grace.  But we must do so caringly knowing that we also must work out many of the same sins on our own souls.

Let’s take a different look at this passage. Perhaps Jesus was also instructing his disciples to understand the greater influence one’s personal actions can have over the actions of others. What if the “beam” is not someone’s faults, but rather the amount of influence we give others for our situation in life? We are, in a way, judging others according to their perceived effect on our lives.  And many times, we place that judgment in a disproportionate way. So many of us tend to look at others as the main source of frustration or disappointment in life, even when they have a minuscule amount of influence, while overlooking the much larger effects of our own actions.

Just look at how much time and energy we place on the influence of politicians, companies, media outlets, etc. Many of us consume news and show more concern over what President Trump tweeted than who needs help, attention, and kindness in our own family or circle of friends. We give politics so much attention even when the day-to-day soap opera of government has actually relatively little effect on our happiness.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in politics and not hold our government responsible for their actions.  But we need to find a balance and not tip towards government and news being EVERYTHING to us.  That diminishes our own ability to find peace and happiness in our lives.  It becomes our “beam” that prevents us from helping others.

How can you live happily if all you focus on is politics?

I think the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, The Visitation, communicates this idea of not letting others blind you to your ability to control your well being.  Mary had every reason to dwell on how others might perceive her pregnancy outside of marriage.  It could have consumed her to the point of inaction out of fear and embarrassment.  After all, things weren’t really going the way she had planned.  But instead of dwelling on the thoughts and actions of others, she went out and did God’s will which, at the time, was being with her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary was able to remove any “beams” in her eyes which would have prevented her from clearly seeing God’s plan for her and acting accordingly.

When we pray the rosary, let us ask God to clear our minds of the fear, hatred, and overall energy spent on the people and events that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of our lives.  We need to ask God to block out the noise that can distract us from doing His will (turning off the TV is a good place to start).  We should ask Mary through our rosary prayers for the strength to imitate her and remain focused on serving God instead of living in fear of the influence others have on our overall happiness.  When we take out the distractions which act as the “beams” in our eyes we can then see more clearly and help others better see how God is calling them to receive His grace.

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Replaying Our Faith Through the Eucharist

I’m in the process of digitizing old home movies originally recorded on videotape.  What I find so interesting is the amount of footage my parents recorded for each event.  I have tapes with two hours of footage of a school talent show where I or one of my siblings was on stage for only five minutes.  I guess my mom really wanted to capture the feeling of the event and not just have five minutes of footage in a vacuum with little or no context.

I think we can all understand my mom wanting to capture every detail of an event.  After all, people upload 300 hours of video to YouTube every minute!  Thousands of posts are made to Facebook every second.  And everyone is an instant shutterbug with their phones.  I bet much of this is to not only record the actual physical events in our lives but also try to capture the associated feelings.  And yet many times, these recordings fail to truly capture the true emotion of an event and upon replay they just come out flat.

But what about our faith?  Is it possible to capture our Catholic Faith in a manner that does not lose any of its fidelity when replayed?  In his homily on the Feast of Corpus Cristi, Pope Francis talked about how the Body and Blood of Christ is a remembrance of our faith.  The Catholic News Agency reported:

“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.”

Francis explained that when we receive the Eucharist, our hearts have the opportunity to become overwhelmed with the certainty of Christ’s love for us, the Eucharist giving us a memory that is grateful, free, and patient.

We can see the Eucharist as Jesus’ way of capturing the essence of the Catholic Faith to be replayed every time we celebrate it at Mass.  The Eucharist does what no camera and video recording can do, no matter how high the memory and resolution — it captures the entirety of God’s love for us.  When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he wasn’t just telling that to his apostles in the room.  Jesus was saying that all Christians, present and future, must remember that the Eucharist embodies all of his teachings and love.

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

But much like a forgotten videotape in a cardboard moving box in a warehouse, what good is the Eucharist if we don’t receive it?  You never give yourself the opportunity to replay and feel the essence of Jesus’ teachings or God’s love for you.  Don’t get me wrong, you can learn these things at a cerebral level by reading the Bible and listening to homilies.  But that’s not the type of memory you recall when you receive the Eucharist.  The memories replayed through the Eucharist are often only understood by your soul in a way you can’t easily describe because God’s love is beyond the human capacity to describe it.  But just because you can’t describe it doesn’t mean you don’t receive its benefits.

To fully receive the memories of faith in the Eucharist your soul must be in a worthy state.  That means receiving it with no mortal sins, having prepared by fasting, and appreciating the solemnity of the Eucharistic feast.  Otherwise, you are like a broken video player unable to replay the captured memories.  Or at best, it comes out so distorted and degraded that your soul can’t understand it.

When you pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember how powerful a gift the Eucharist is.  It is not something to be received lightly but it is something we should be receiving regularly.  We need to slow down and remember that our faith is built on the Eucharist.  If we don’t slow down, what good is the Eucharist having on our soul?  As Pope Francis reminded us:

Our lives are such a whirl of people and events that we no longer retain memories. But this leaves us at risk of only living on the surface of things and never going deeper, he said, “without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going.”

“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.”

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Why Rosary Meditation is the Best Meditation

If you are a software developer like me then you probably hear this phrase at least once a week — This is how Google does it.  Google, the search engine giant, not only receive accolades for their products but also their development methodology and company culture.  They are the gold standard in just about every category of computing.  It seems like any study or new theory on workplace happiness or productivity must mention how it stacks up against Google’s workforce.

I was not surprised when I came across this Wired article on how Googlers avoid burnout and secretly boost creativity.  Did they discover the perfect work to rest ratio?  Did they find the perfect length of time projects should run?  Do all Googlers receive a therapy dog upon being hired?  It’s actually much simpler.  Google teaches its employees how to meditate.

Like this but probably on mats made of $100 bills.

For once, I can take pleasure knowing that I’ve been teaching you, my readers, something that has Google’s seal of approval.  I’ve previously discussed how rosary meditation has physical and mental benefits.  The science behind the creativity boost is that meditation allows you to switch off conscious thought which is very linear and boost subconscious thinking which taps more areas of the brain to piece together ideas and solutions.

But for once, Google cannot claim founder status on a great idea.  The Jews and the Catholic Church have preached the benefits of meditation and prayer from its earliest days.  And relatively more recently, Mary gave us the ultimate form of meditation through rosary prayer.

Prayerful meditation may not be trendy, but it’s effective.

Like many mysteries of the Catholic faith, the rosary is a paradox.  It is both restful and regenerative while at the same time focused and exhausting.  It’s both relaxing and a workout because it engages the conscious, subconscious, and what I’ll call “other conscious” aspects of our being.

The rosary engages our conscious parts of our brain in that we meditate on specific parts of Jesus’ teachings in the mysteries.  We recite, presumably with some focus and concentration, prayers.  We are recalling all the trials, sorrows, joys, and thanksgivings in our lives and putting them before Mary for her guidance and intercession.  Our brain is actively recalling memories and trying to make connections between our circumstances and what each rosary mystery is trying to teach us.

But in that conscious praying, there is also a lot of subconscious meditation occurring as well.  People talk about getting lost in the rosary where they get into a zone or flow making them much more receptive to how God is trying to direct them. It’s not that you are praying on auto-pilot.  It’s more that the amount of attention you put on thinking about the mysteries, intentions, and prayers gives way to a more subconscious experience where you can better feel God’s presence.

The subconscious meditation of rosary prayer is a lot like riding a bike.  Initially, you are aware of the mechanics of keeping your balance, not falling, and moving forward.  But once you get the hang of it, the mechanics of bike riding become automatic.  It’s not that the mechanics disappear.  They have just become so engrained in your muscle memory that they no longer require conscious focus.  The same can be said for rosary meditation.  The conscious effort of prayer can give way to the subconscious experience of being with God.

Look, no hands!

Finally, there is the other conscious experience of rosary meditation.  And this is what separates rosary meditation from the mindfulness meditation taught by the Googles of the world and is unique to this Catholic prayer.  In no other form of meditation do you have the opportunity to actually ask Mary and the saints for help and guidance and get a response through their intercessions.  The rosary is more than just a mental exercise of balancing conscious and subconscious areas of the brain because there is someone actually listening and responding to you.  Your rosary meditation doesn’t end at your brain’s gray matter but provides an actual opportunity for God to help shape and guide you.  Sorry Google, but the Catholic Church definitely has one-upped you there.

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