5 Ways to Keep the Cross in Christianity

I came across this article on Catholic Exchange about how there are many in the Church who want to free Christianity from the cross. And yet, this article makes a good point about how you can’t separate the cross from Christianity because you can’t separate Jesus from the cross. Or, as the article puts it, “There simply cannot be a joyful Easter without there first being a Good Friday.”

The article says that the Church faces a lot of enemies within:

Sadly, at the very highest levels of the Church, there are men who are opposed to the Gospel of Christ. They despise the cross and they want a Christianity free from it. They want a Catholicism sanitized of sacrifice, of repentance, of dying to self, of carrying one’s cross to follow Christ. They want an easy religion—a religion that accommodates us in our sin, that pats us on the back and assures us that everything will be ok, a faith that requires nothing of us.

To create this crossless religion, they believe they must change the Church and her immutable teachings. All their thought is bent upon it, and they are currently using every machination in their power to accomplish their aim. Perhaps their chief method is to question what is settled—to whisper like the serpent of old, “Did God really mean what he said?”

This article seems timely given that the Synod on the Family is taking place. I know that Pope Francis has asked everyone not to politicize the Synod. But I still can’t help but wonder who is more passionate at this point in history — those who want to remove the cross or those who seek to preserve it? I know that preserving the cross won’t make you the most popular. But neither are needles and scalpels and you don’t see doctors giving those up.

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“Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”

The article ends with 4 ways we can keep the cross, and hence our salvation, alive and not be deceived by those who wish to remove it. Here is the summary:

  1. Learn and embrace the teachings and traditions of the Church
  2. Receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
  3. Stay close to Mary in prayer
  4. Pray and sacrifice

When looking at this list, I can’t help but think about the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. As I wrote about in The Rosary for the Rest of Us, God set aside a special place for Mary, not just in her earthly lifetime but in ours as well. She has appeared throughout the ages giving us advice and tools with the promise of eternal joy to those who use them.  I think Mary’s guidance can be summed up in some simply, yet important, tasks which mirror what was offered in the Catholic Exchange article:

  1. Pray — How can you have a close relationship with Jesus if you don’t take the time to talk to him?
  2. Read the Bible and other Church teachings — How can you love and embrace your faith if you don’t take the time to learn it?
  3. Fast — How can you love God with your whole being if that being is constantly attached to earthly pleasures?
  4. Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation — How can you remain close to God with a barrier of sin between you two?
  5. Receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist — How can you love and embrace the Catholic Church without receiving her cornerstone sacrament?

English: The statue of the Assumption venerate...

When you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, remember to integrate these five tasks into your routine. Doing so will not only remind you about the importance of the cross but also embrace it. As Jesus commanded, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus didn’t make the cross optional. It’s as fundamental to our spiritual life as air and water are to our physical one. Following these routines will remind you of the cross’ importance and not let you be deceived by those who wish to whitewash it out of Christianity.

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How the Rosary Helps Control Anger

I read this article on the Catholic News Agency about just how toxic anger can be in a marriage.  It starts:

Of the countless Catholic couples who have come through Father T.G. Morrow’s office in Washington D.C. for marriage counseling, two remain imprinted in the priest’s mind even today.

In many ways, these two Catholic couples were the ideal; they were open to life, they formed their children in the faith and they frequented the sacraments.

But both of these marriages fell apart. The culprit? Anger.

“Anger is a poison,” Fr. Morrow, a moral theologian and author of “Overcoming Sinful Anger” (Sophia Press, 2014) told CNA. “If a husband and a wife are angry with each other a lot, it destroys the relationship. It makes it so painful that people want to get out of that relationship.”

I’m going to broaden the conversation to not only talk about anger, but general self-imposed unhappiness.  I think a lot of anger stems from losing sight of what’s really important.  When we put a little perspective on our lives it’s almost humorous in hindsight what we get so upset about.  We get all tied up in knots over traffic, a late flight, a sink of dirty dishes, a slow loading web page, no cell signal, etc.  And why?  How is stewing over all these little annoyances going to make life any better?  How is lashing out at someone over a pet peeve going to foster the good in that relationship?

Angry Talk (Comic Style)
Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I wrote in the introduction to The Rosary for the Rest of Us, one of the main benefits of praying the rosary is that it offers me the proper perspective on life.  The rosary reminds me that our world isn’t perfect, but that’s okay because this world is only temporary.  We are meant to spend eternity in the joy of God’s heavenly kingdom.  Rosary prayer is all about focusing on that glorious kingdom to come, not dwelling on the imperfect worldly kingdom that is.

I picture our Mother Mary in Heaven shaking her head in disbelief when she sees what we get so upset about.  She must think what I think when one of my kids melts down over nothing.  The other day my three-year old son had a fit because I dared serve him a waffle cut in half instead of whole.  My explanation that the waffle would taste the same didn’t comfort him.  All I could think was, “Really?  All this unhappiness over a cut up waffle?”  I think Mary must be sitting in Heaven also asking herself, “Really?” Because from her perspective, we must come across like little three-year olds — bringing so much unhappiness on ourselves over ultimately trivial problems.  Even the “big” problems in life such as finances and health are as significant in the heavenly perspective as a waffle cut in half.

Mary Queen of Heaven
Mary Queen of Heaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s look at the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  When we meditate on Mary crowned Queen of Heaven, let’s ask for her intercession, especially when it comes to controlling anger and gaining a more heavenly perspective.  She wants nothing more than for us to live for her son, Jesus Christ.  And when we humbly ask for her help, she will gladly offer it.  But the key is that we have to understand what holds us back from truly living for Heaven.  We must realize that when we’re angry about the trivial aspects of this world, we really don’t have a heavenly perspective because we are worrying too much about the here and now.

I’m not saying that keeping a heavenly perspective is easy.  If it was then there really wouldn’t be much need to regularly pray the rosary.  But because living for God’s kingdom is difficult, we have the rosary, our gift from Mary Queen of Heaven, to help manage our anger and keep us focused on what’s really important.

I’ll leave you with this last piece of advice from the Catholic News Agency article.  If the Golden Rule is about treating others as you want to be treated, then I believe this should be the Silver Rule:

“People get angry about little, trifling things,” Father T.G. Morrow said. “You have to say “Is this worth getting angry about?” If not, then you have to let it go. Just forget it.

Want more help controlling anger and living happier?  My free e-book of rosary intentions can help.

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Introducing my New Book! The 44th Rose

It’s here! After many months of development I’m proud to announce my latest offering on RosaryMeds — my new booklet, The 44th Rose: Rosary Intentions for Today’s Busy Person. Think of this as an addition to The Rosary for the Rest of us. While The Rosary for the Rest of Us provides commentary of the general themes of each rosary mystery, The 44th Rose offers ten specific intentions/meditations for each mystery. Naturally, I chose ten intentions so that you can have one for each Hail Mary.

The 44th Rose

I jumped back and forth whether to put this book on Amazon.  On one hand, a book on Amazon has the potential to reach a greater audience.  But on the other hand, you have to charge something to make a book available for the Kindle ($1 minimum).  And I know for me, I pass on many things that aren’t free (books, apps, supporting developers of free software I use) even when the price is trivially small.

I’m making The 44th Rose free for download in multiple formats — epub, pdf, online, and even as PowerPoint slides.  Not only can you download this book for free, but feel free to share it with others.  In fact, consider sharing this book as your way of paying for it.  I get so much joy knowing that I’m helping others get the most out of their rosary prayer and introducing new people to the rosary meditation.  Share the link, send a file, print some copies for friends — it’s all good with me.

Please go to the Intentions page listed at the top of RosaryMeds and download your free ebook today.

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This article contained references to the Mormon practice of abstaining from caffeine and alcohol, the Muslim practice of abstaining from pork, and the Jewish practice of abstaining from shell fish. Since the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, pork, and shell fish are legal under United States law, any practice that discourages their use has been flagged as bigoted and hateful and has no place in public discourse.  Furthermore, the article encouraged actively engaging in prayer outside a house of worship which is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State.

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We’ve contacted the operator of this website and have informed him that we are not taking any legal action against him at this time because this is his first infraction. We have also informed him that he may be using outdated religious materials that are not updated to comply with the latest US laws. He has 30 days to update all articles on this website to confirm to teachings as stated in the The New American Bible, Supreme Court Edition, v2015.06. After 30 days, he will be subject to a $100 fine per article per day that does not conform to the NABSCE 2015.06.

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Attorney General of the United States of America,

Loretta E. Lynch

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5 Ways the Rosary Offers Relief from Today’s Headlines

Meditation ideas on the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary for dealing with all the troubling news the world is encountering right now.

Lately there has been a lot of news that has many people thinking the world is falling apart. We hear of people suffering from natural disasters across the globe, atrocities committed by groups like ISIS across the Middle East, silly presidential election news (Trump?  Hillary Clinton’s favorite ice cream flavor?), and troubling social/political news about Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and ObamaCare. Basically, if you’re looking to get worried and upset about something, you don’t have to look much further than your Facebook news feed to grow a few gray hairs.

To me, praying the rosary is all about gaining perspective. And I think everyone could use a little perspective right now. I try to remember that the world has never been a perfect place and has been marked by problems both natural and man made. However, we live in a time when news has never been more accessible which means we get more bad news at an accelerated pace. Or we get a distorted view of the scope of outrage or support on any given issue. But thinking society is falling apart isn’t new.  Mankind has always had its share of problems.

Picture back to the time Jesus lived. If Facebook existed then people’s walls would have been filled with complaints about cheating tax collectors, Roman occupation, and corrupt pharisees. Furthermore, people were probably praying for the same types of solutions we pray for today.  Something to the tune of “Please God, make all our problems go away.”

Jesus did not come into this world to magically change the world with a wave of his hand.  He didn’t make all the Jews’ problems go away. But he did answer the people’s prayers. He did that not by making things easier but by challenging people to look beyond the troubled state of the world and their immediate, physical needs. He wanted them to concentrate more on the state of their souls rather than the actions of Cesar.  For example, he told the rich man to look beyond earthly wealth and to gain riches in Heaven by being charitable (Mark 10:17-31).  He said that those who are persecuted in this world will find glory in Heaven (Matthew 5:10).  He said that we all have to take up our crosses in this life so that we may find comfort in the next (Matthew 16:24-27).

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Glorious mysteries of the rosary and meditate on gaining a more heavenly perspective instead of dwelling so much on the today’s troubling issues.

#1. Live for something more than this earthly world

The First Glorious Mystery is about Jesus rising from the dead.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that our earthly death is not an end.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death was only a transition from his earthly life to his true, heavenly one.  Jesus’ rising proved that there is so much more to us than the physical realities of this world.

When we think about all the injustice, death, and suffering in this world we should remember that none of it will persist after our earthly death as we rise to new life in Jesus’ kingdom.  And while a lifetime of pain and suffering may seem like an awfully huge cross to carry, it isn’t even a measurable instant of time compared to the eternal joy and happiness Jesus prepared for us in Heaven through his resurrection.

#2. Pray for those have fallen

The Second Glorious Mystery is about Jesus ascending into Heaven.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and will judge the living and the dead.  This is important to understand because we need to pray for the repentance and conversion of those who live in sin and cause so much scandal, misery, and unhappiness.  It may seem easy to complain and become stressed over others’ misdeeds.  It’s also easy to ignore them and focus only at our own salvation.  But we do need to pray for them and always be an example to the world of Jesus’ Truth.  Because everyone, including those who live in sin, will one day stand before the Lord with their sins in plain view.  Since we are called to love one another, we should do whatever is possible so that everyone, saint and sinner alike, will enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.

#3. Let the Holy Spirit guide you

The Third Glorious Mystery is about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension.  We live in a difficult world but we can look to the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and courage to persevere and maybe even change the hearts of others.  I don’t think any of the apostles would have thought that they were going to change the world when Jesus first called them to put down their nets and become fishers of men.  But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit they did just that by boldly venturing out and spreading Jesus’ truth.

We too may not think that there is much we can do when we see what appears to be impossible situations to fix or the deep seated hatred in people’s hearts.  But the Holy Spirit does give us the power to live according to Jesus’ truth and to lovingly bring people into God’s grace.  Like when Jesus was here in this world, he did not provide a quick fix to humanity’s problems.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit won’t give us a quick fix either.  But if we have faith and let the Holy Spirit guide us, we can personally thrive and bring others to know Jesus Christ.

#4. Follow our mother Mary’s roadmap for happiness

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is about Mary’s assumption into Heaven.  God had a very special plan for Mary and her assumption shows just how revered and elevated she is.  She was not only set aside to be the vessel through which God would manifest himself in human form, but she was also set aside to be our guide and mediatrix after her earthly death.  Like with the Third Glorious Mystery, the perspective we should gain from this mystery is that Mary is always there to help guide us closer to her son’s love.  She has appeared many times with a message of hope, love, and a call to action for conversion.  Over the generations, she has laid out a roadmap of prayer, fasting, and repentance which we should follow.  While it’s easy to get down and think nothing we do can do that will make much difference, Mary says otherwise.  And we should all listen to our mother.

#5. Remember that you are protected

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is Mary’s coronation in Heaven.  We have to understand that there are evil force at work.  And Satan and his minions are playing the long game where they want you to focus all your energy on this world in the hopes that you will be led astray and become his slave for eternity.  He wants you to “go with the crowd” even if what is popular in modern society goes against God’s plan.  Or he wants you to fall into despair, blame God for all that is wrong with the world, and turn away from your faith. But Mary is a powerful queen who reigns in Heaven.  When we accept and live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom then we fall under Mary’s protection against evil and Satan’s influence.  No matter what transpires in our world we know that we will have protection for what matters most — our eternal soul.

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Rosary SEAL: The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”

This is a very well known Navy SEAL motto.  If it sounds familiar, it’s because the book written by the SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden was titled No Easy Day which echos the same sentiment.  There are multiple meanings behind this Navy SEAL motto. In training, it means that each day will be more challenging than the previous one. This is due to increased expectations from the instructors, greater scrutiny because of the increasingly smaller class, the elevated competition because those left in training are able to perform at a high level of intensity, and that the drills become more difficult as recruits get more fatigued.

English: CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Aug. 14, 2008...

The physicality of SEAL training is one aspect behind that motto. But it also points to the state of mind a Navy SEAL brings with him, not only in training but throughout his career. It’s a state of mind that is always focused on tackling the challenges at hand and always pushing yourself to do your job better. A SEAL never thinks that the worst is behind him and that it is clear sailing after a certain point. To a SEAL, there is no such thing as resting on your laurels.  Even when things are going well the SEAL always searches for ways he can do better.

SEALS must adopt this motto because their lives, and the lives of others, depend on it. They must approach each mission with the utmost focus and intensity to succeed and stay alive another day. And while a SEAL may conduct a certain type of mission, such as a rescue operation, dozens of times, it is the first and only mission for these SEALS from the point of view of those being rescued. They put themselves and the people around them in great danger if these soldiers treated any operation as something they could just coast through because they’ve done it a dozen times before.

Like a SEAL approaching a mission, we must also treat each time we pray the rosary with a fresh and focused mind.  We cannot get lulled into a state where we just “coast” or go on “automatic pilot” with our prayers.  What’s the point of praying if we just race through the words without any thought?  Is that pushing ourselves to get the most out of each rosary?  This Navy SEAL motto fits in well with my previous post, almost from the military, about always setting higher standards each day.  Otherwise we stop growing our spirituality and could even lose a bit of our faith through complacency.

The rosary isn’t a magical chant or incantation like a spell.  In other words, it’s not the quantity of prayers that matter rather it’s the quality.  This is why the rosary doesn’t fall into the category of “mindless repetition” that Jesus warns us about in the Gospel (Matthew 6:7).

Saint Francis in Meditation

What is a good quality rosary prayer?  It’s focused prayer backed up with specific intentions that is said slowly and deliberately.  To focus on the rosary means to consciously block out all those other thoughts that may distract us.  You first have to acknowledge when you are distracted and then stop, take a few deep breaths, and resume.  If you go through an entire decade without even realizing what mystery you were praying, back up and start that decade over again.  Mary will be more pleased with one decade said with focus than an entire month’s worth of hollow prayers.

We can achieve better focus by turning our distractions into intentions.  Do you have worries about members of your family?  Offer those worries to Jesus in your rosary prayers.  Perhaps the best way to do this is to actually say out loud your concern and that it will be your intention for the decade.  And while it may seem silly to vocalizing your intentions, especially if you are praying alone, it really does help bring focus to your prayers.

As you practice on more focused rosary prayer, always try to push yourself.  Remember the SEAL motto that the only easy day was yesterday.  It’s not just that the situation a SEAL finds himself in gets more difficult, but they expect more from themselves over time.  They look forward to that next challenge because they want to prove to themselves that they have the strength of mind and body to overcome it.  Similarly, we should be pushing ourselves to get more out of the rosary each time we pray it.  While at first it may be enough to remember to pray a rosary every day, later we need to push ourselves to deeper meditative states and really open our hearts to what God is trying to tell us through the rosary.

Pray like you’ve never prayed before.  It’s go time Rosary SEAL!

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Have Better Rosary Meditation by Preparing for a Confrontation

The other day I took a short break at work and went for a walk to clear my head. It was a bright, sunny day so I took a path that followed a small inlet of water from the San Francisco Bay. While I usually listen to an audiobook on my walks (remember, I’m still trying to get through the entire Catechism this year) I discovered that I forgot my headphones. Instead I took my rosary out of my pocket and began to pray it.

As I was taking my prayer walk, I suddenly got a sinking feeling in my stomach. What would happen if someone saw me and was offended by my public display of religion? How would I respond if someone told me to put those beads away? As outrageous as that may sound, remember that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was very possible to come across an atheist with the ACLU on speed dial in my neck of the woods.

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“How dare you pray in public! What if a child saw you?”

I then got my wits together and thought of a more realistic scenario. What if someone saw me walking with my rosary and curiously asked what it was? What if someone asked me to describe rosary prayer or describe the mysteries I was meditating on? That got my mind racing on how I would explain the rosary to a casual passerby.

I rehearsed talking about how I meditate on not being so materialistic when I pray the First Glorious Mystery. I ran a through a small monologue in my head about living a clean life of good works when praying the Second Glorious Mystery. I pictured myself saying how I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me when I pray the Third Glorious Mystery. And so on…

And while I didn’t know it at the time, when constructing my defense for a possible confrontation I was in fact meditating and thinking about the themes and lessons of each rosary mystery. I wasn’t thinking about work. I wasn’t thinking about a movie, tv show, or news article. I wasn’t thinking about any of those topics that usually distract me and put me on prayer “autopilot.” Like a student furiously cramming for a test, I was focused of all the reasons I pray the rosary and what lessons it teaches me.  In short, I was praying the rosary correctly.

I was never cornered by atheist. I didn’t have anyone come up and ask questions. I didn’t get any odd stares from people I passed. But by preparing for the worst I did experience one of my deeper, least interrupted rosary meditations.

Are you prepared to explain what you’re meditating on if someone asks?  Suppose you had an apparition of the Virgin Mary while you were praying.  Sound crazy?  Remember, you don’t pray the rosary in a vacuum.  Who do you think you’re asking to intercede for you when you pray the rosary?  What if Mary vocally responded as she’s done to a select few throughout history.  What if Our Lady first thanked you for praying the rosary and then quizzed you on what exactly you were praying for.  Would you be ready to answer or scrambling because you zoned out?

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Conversion Through Rosary Meditation

Believe it or not, I do have other interests besides rosary prayer.  I enjoy watching movies, reading Wired and Popular Science, and learning about the stock market and personal finance.  And while every aspect of life does have some implicit connection to prayer, it brightens my day when I see someone write about the power of prayer and meditation in a non-religious blog.  In this case, I follow a personal finance blog called The Simple Dollar.  Trent Hamm wrote an interesting piece about the power of prayer and meditation when it comes to making financial decisions.  He writes:

Meditation and focused prayer provides us with an opportunity to mentally focus on what we need to change in our lives. Regardless of whether we’re focused on financial success or any other aspect of our life, both prayer and meditation give us a chance to mentally focus on those things.

Well said Mr. Hamm.  This is the idea I’ve always tried to get across in my RosaryMeds articles.  The rosary gives us an opportunity to meditate and inspect how we live and treat others and focus on how we can do better.  By meditating on the lives of Mary and Jesus in the rosary mysteries we see examples of perfection that we can strive to imitate.  The more we pray the rosary, the more we focus on those images of perfection and the more they will influence us.

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When I think about mental focus and change, the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary comes to mind.  The full title of this mystery is The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  I read so many rosary websites and guides that leave out the second part of the title about conversion.  That is unfortunate because I like that direct call to action.  God asks us to convert all our earthly ways into heavenly ways.  He wants us to look at all the ways we separate ourselves from his grace and to make an effort to remove those barriers.  But how can we lead a life of conversion if we don’t know what we need to convert?  As The Simple Dollar article points out, meditation helps us mentally focus on what we need to change in our lives.  Mary gave us the rosary for just that purpose — to focus on moving closer to her son, Jesus Christ.

The article ends with a nice prayer about finances and faith that I will leave you with:

Dear God,

I ask that you remove my worries, anxieties, and fears about money, and replace them with faith.

I ask you to help me understand my purpose in life and to act on that purpose with courage and strength. I know that prosperity will come, in part, by doing work I love. Please help me use my skills and knowledge to be of service in the world.

I ask you for the strength I need to make difficult financial choices, to change my daily money decisions, and to get rid of my debts and build for my future.

I ask you to help me release all negative thoughts about money, and know that prosperity is my true state.

I know and trust that my debts will be paid and money will flow into my life. I have only to look to nature to see proof of the abundance you provide.

I commit to being grateful for all that I now have in my life.

Thank you, God.

Amen

Stop Rosary Prayer Procrastination Through Segmenting

English: Coronado, Calif. (Aug. 23, 2005) &nda...

I started listening to The School of Greatness podcasts which focus on self improvement.  In one episode, host Lewis Howes interviewed retired Navy SEALEric Greitens.  Greitens talked about resiliency and how to overcome monumental challenges.  As an example, he used his experience of SEAL training‘s “Hell Week” which is the toughest week of the toughest military training program.  Greitens said that the recruits who focused on the enormity of the challenges of Hell Week became overwhelmed and rang out (quit).  Those who survived focused on accomplishing smaller goals whether it be doing one more push up, running one more mile, or making it one more hour.  Greitens referred to this tactic as segmenting where you keep your focus on a small task you can accomplish rather than focusing and becoming overwhelmed by the big picture.

I really like the idea of segmenting especially when it comes to rosary prayer.  I think too often people avoid praying the rosary because praying five decades seems like a large task that will require too much time and energy.  How many times have you thought:

  • “I don’t have 20 minutes for prayer!”
  • “I’m just not in the right mood for prayer”
  • “I’ll pray later after I…”
  • “I don’t know how to pray the rosary correctly.”
  • “I’ll just pray something easier.”

Excuses like those definitely swirl in my mind whenever I have a few minutes and I haven’t prayed my daily rosary yet.  And it’s easy to let those thoughts consume me and prevent me from praying the rosary.  But if I commit to praying just one decade I find that I will actually pray another, then three, four, and eventually an entire set of mysteries.  Instead of telling myself that I need to pray a whole set of rosary mysteries, I tell myself I’m going to pray a few Hail Marys.  That segmenting mindset breaks that initial set of excuses and in a way allows the Holy Spirit room to work and help me pray the entire rosary.

Jesus teaches us a lot about segmenting in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary.  When he took up the cross, he had a long road to walk and fell multiple times.  In order to die so that he could rise again and redeem us all, he had to walk step by painful step under the cross.  As the First Sorrowful Mystery shows us, Jesus was scared of his coming crucifixion.  But he didn’t let that fear overwhelm him and prevent him from doing God’s will.  He endured the abuse one step at a time.

Jesus showed us that it’s okay to stumble and fall as he did three times under the cross.  But each time Jesus got back up and put one foot in front of the other.  Through his painful example, Jesus shows us how to approach life’s challenges.  While they can appear overwhelming when thought about in their entirety, we can endure by segmenting our fears, worries, and anxiety of the big picture into smaller, more achievable chunks.  Instead of giving up in despair, we just need to tell ourselves to first stand up, and then take one step, and another, and another just as Jesus did under the cross.

Jesus carrying cross
Jesus carrying cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Segmenting has positive results beyond rosary prayer and spirituality.  It’s a lifestyle choice.  Let’s face it, life can be overwhelming when you think about everything you need to do.  I constantly face pressures from large work projects and family life.  I’m often alone taking care of my two boys.  Initially, the prospect of feeding, changing, clothing, and playing with them is enough to turn my hair gray.  I can work myself up into a stressed state if I start thinking about all the things that could go wrong (or at least become difficult).  But when I focus on making it to lunch, or a nap, or the next bottle then before I know it I’ve managed to make it through the entire day.  It really all comes down to how we choose to perceive our world.  We can work ourselves up and turn any project or task into a monumental and unbeatable challenge.  Or we can choose to just tackle it in small chunks.  I’ve found that regular rosary prayer really helps keep all of life’s challenges in perspective and prevents me from stirring myself up to the point where I feel overwhelmed.

Here’s a final thought coming from St. Francis (I think).  When someone asked him how to best work towards peace, St. Francis told him that closing the door softly would be a great start.  I don’t know if loud, slamming doors was an issue for St. Francis, but it’s a great lesson — if you want to accomplish large goals, start with small acts.

I stand with Archbishop Cordileone

Huzzah to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone!  For those of you who don’t live in the California Bay Area, the Archbishop has come under attack for clarifying specific teachings of the Catholic faith that high school faculty in the archdiocese must not publicly confuse or contradict.  You can read the full text of what will be included in the teachers’ handbook.  However, you might as well recite the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments because that’s basically what the archbishop is asking teachers to uphold in Catholic high schools.

This additional wording to the faculty handbook has caused quite a stir.  Archbishop Cordileone was already under attack from various groups because of his vocal stance on traditional marriage in the very liberal Bay Area.  Now many are upset because of his request that high school teachers not confuse or dilute the teachings of the Catholic Church in Catholic schools.  He’s not asking teachers to be saints or even practicing Catholics, but merely keep in mind who their employer is and what is expected of them in the workplace.  But in today’s world, asking Catholic schools to espouse Catholic teachings is considered controversial.

Crackers!

Let’s back up and look at other work environments.  Suppose I worked at a factory that made crackers.  I would have to follow the guidelines outlined by my employer and not do things that harm my company or consumers.  I couldn’t modify the cracker recipe to my liking.  I couldn’t tamper with the machinery.  I couldn’t sabotage or undermine the company because I personally don’t like the crackers being made or I prefer a different company’s crackers.   I would be fired for such things.  Most of us would be fired if our employers caught us saying anything nasty about them on social networks.

Now look at Catholic schools.  What is their product?  I would say it’s a Catholic education.  So employees (the teachers) have a duty to produce the best possible product for their employer.  Teaching personal opinions that are contrary to the Church’s teachings or watering them down sabotages that product and undermines the employer.  In other professions, such behavior would land you a pink slip.

I can sympathize on how difficult it must feel to work for an employer you may personally disagree with.  Or it may be tough to accept rules that have always been in place but never really clarified or enforced.  But no lay person has ever been forced to work at a Catholic school.  Working at a Catholic school truly is a vocation because teachers generally make less money and benefits than their public school counterparts.  And some people, who may be great teachers, just won’t flourish and be happy working under a Catholic employer.  Like with any form of employment, you have to ask yourself if it’s truly an environment you want to work in or if there is something else that would be a better fit.

My Story

I completely understand what Archbishop Cordileone wants to avoid.  I went to a Catholic high school with a very confusing Catholic identity.  It was a great school and didn’t do anything in open defiance to Catholic teaching.  But the focus on a truly Catholic education was missing. We had a one priest and one nun so there wasn’t an overt Catholic presence on campus. Furthermore, many masses on holy days of obligation were optional and held in the morning before classes started. Good luck getting a teenager to school on time, let alone an hour early. The masses that were held with the full student body were more like mandatory choir concerts as no one would be actively participating except those singing. High school students are just at that age where expressing faith isn’t very cool and doing so makes you about as popular as the student who sits in the front row of the class, raises his hand for all the questions, and gets A’s on all the tests.

I really wish there was a strong statement like the one delivered by the archbishop when I was in high school. I think a lot of students would have benefited from going to a Catholic school rather than a secular school (in practice) that had mandatory religion classes. Since espousing the Catholic faith wasn’t a priority at my high school I learned that it wasn’t something I should make as a priority in my life.  I basically bought into the idea that faith was something practiced in a church on Sundays and shouldn’t be made public out of the fear of offending someone. It took me a long time to realize the joy and freedom that comes with actively participating and celebrating the faith because of my experience attending a high school with a muddled Catholic identity.

I was in high school before the internet took off and no one had ever said the words social network.  Now we live in a world where there is a constant drumbeat of ideas that run counter to the Catholic Church’s.  I applaud Archbishop Cordileone for not allowing the Church’s core teachings to be drowned out by popular culture.  If the world is screaming and attacking the Church, the Church has every right, even duty, to shout back.

Do you stand with Archbishop Cordileone?  Take 30 seconds to sign this petition.

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