Get Up and Make the Most of Lent

My wife turned to me the other day and said, “I really don’t feel like it’s Lent right now.” I replied that I felt the same way. As parents, every day of our lives feels a bit “Lentish.” We continuously sacrifice our time, money, sleep, and freedom to raise our boys the best we can. For 365 days a year parents have to sacrifice those little luxuries that others just put off for 40 days.

But before I give myself a Purple Heart for the sacrifices I’ve made in the parenting line of duty, I have to recall the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary — Jesus Carrying the Cross. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jesus endured and sacrificed a lot during His ministry and particularly during His Passion. No one would have been too critical of Jesus if He never got up from one of His falls under the weight of the cross. After all, He was in a human body that could only take so much punishment. And yet, He dug down deep, got up, and kept moving knowing that His earthly life was only going to get worse.  Why?  Because His love of God and doing His Father’s will outweighed all the pain and suffering.

Icon of Jesus being led to Golgotha, 16th cent...
Icon of Jesus being led to Golgotha, 16th century, Theophanes the Cretan (Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We should follow Jesus’ example in His Passion and dig down deep and find that extra spiritual energy during Lent. It’s not like we have a sacrificial quota and those who make sacrifices all year are exempt or can take it easy during Lent. It’s actually just the opposite. God calls the spiritually fit and conditioned to push themselves even further.  Jesus was the most spiritually fit person to walk the earth and He pushed Himself through the Passion and ultimately Crucifixion.  God asked that of His son so surely we can do whatever small things God asks of us this Lent.

Even if you pray, fast, and live a Catholic life all year around, Lent is the time to go that extra mile.  Like Jesus getting up after a fall and carrying His cross, we can all do a little more to better connect with a God who loves us and we should love in return. It doesn’t matter whether practicing your faith begins and ends one hour every Sunday or if you are Pope Francis, there is always a little something more you can do during Lent that you don’t do other times of the year.

To help, I found this article on Catholic Exchange about making the most of Lent. It’s still early in the Lenten season so if you’re off to a slow start (I’ve accidentally forgot that I gave up snacking twice already), give this a read and hopefully it will jumpstart your Lent.

For the impatient, here’s the article’s outline:

  1. Prayer
  2. Reconciliation and Peace
  3. Penance
  4. The Bible,The Word of God
  5. Almsgiving
  6. The Three T’s
  7. Joy
  8. Daily Mass and Communion
  9. Conquer Your Own Devil
  10. Mary and Lent

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The Catechism — The Catholic Church’s Silmarillion

Welcome to 2015!  I’m really excited about my new year’s resolution.  I know, I know.  I previously wrote about how new year’s resolutions are bad because labelling them as a resolution almost guarantees that you won’t actually follow through.  But this year, with the help of a little technology, I think I will be able to meet my goal — reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

CCCCBut why?  Isn’t it a bit dry and the spiritual equivalent of reading up on tax law?  Or, isn’t the Catechism more like a reference book that you search through when you have a specific question and not something you read end to end?  To answer that, we’ll need to learn a little literary history.

Let’s go to 19th century France.  The man is Victor Hugo and the book is Les Misérables.  This is a looooong book clocking in at nearly 1,500 pages for a standard sized paperback version.  The reason why it’s so long is because Hugo went to great lengths to provide a historical context for the events in the book.  He dedicates chapters describing the battle of Waterloo, the Parisian sewer system, life in a nunnery, Parisian street slang, 19th century manufacturing processes, etc.  These aren’t little Wikipedia like descriptions either but are the size and scope of small books onto themselves.  These tangents paint a richer world for the events of the book to take place in.  The characters in Les Misérables don’t exist in a vacuum, but live in a bigger world that we can relate to or at least understand because Hugo provides seemingly endless background information.

Fast forward to the 20th century and look at J.R.R. Tolkien.  You know his seminal works — The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  What you may not know is that there is a lot of auxiliary writings which describe Middle Earth, the land where the events of those books take place.  Tolkien wrote extensively about the culture of hobbits, dwarfs, elves, etc.  He wrote a book called The Silmarillion which describes the universe of Eä which contains Middle Earth as well as other lands.  Like Victor Hugo, Tolkien wrote the background of the places and characters in his books to provide a much richer reading experience because the events happen within a known context.  The Lord of the Rings isn’t a small book or movie because Middle Earth is not a small place.  Elves, dwarves, hobbits, humans, and orcs all act the way they do in the books and movies because Tolkien gave them a detailed history.  Without that history and culture being spelled out, I bet The Lord of the Rings would not have been the complex, layered, and rich book/movie it turned out to be.

By now it should become increasingly obvious why I want to read the CCC.  I want to become more knowledgeable about the Catholic faith so that I can have a richer experience living that faith.  When I pray the rosary or listen to a homily I want to have what I learned reading the CCC in the back of my mind to make new mental and spiritual connections.  I hope that  reading the CCC will generate a whole new level of intentions and meditations when I pray the rosary.  I hope that the increased understanding of the Catholic faith will seep into my writings in my future books (fingers crossed) and on RosaryMeds.

Think of it like this.  Your average Catholic who hasn’t read the CCC is like someone who has only seen the Les Misérables musical or The Lord of the Rings movies.  They have a good understanding of the material and appreciate it but they don’t know the whole picture as envisioned by Hugo and Tolkien respectively.  But the person who has read more church documents like the CCC is like the person who has read Les Misérables or The Silmarillion and understands the greater context and all the little details that are left out of the more popular works.

New year’s resolutions fail because many people only define a goal, not a process for achieving that goal.  I’m a software engineer and I’m all about defining processes for achieving goals.  So here’s how I will achieve my goal of reading the Catechism.  Last year I finally bit the bullet and bought my first smartphone.  It has opened up a whole new world of productivity, especially during my commute.  I spend roughly six hours a week on the road.  Thanks to an app called @Voice Aloud Reader I can turn any text into an audio book.  Combined with my Catholic prayer app, Laudate, I can listen to the entire Catechism on my commutes.  I know I won’t have Doctor of the Church level retention of the information, but I will pick up the major themes and a general understanding.

Here’s wishing you all the best of luck in this new year!

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Hell is for Real, aka The Fatima Prayer

There is a best selling book titled Heaven is for Real about a young child’s glimpse of Heaven.  You may have heard of it since it was also made into a movie.  But have you heard about the much darker prequel, Hell is for Real?  Okay, it’s not really a prequel and it doesn’t go by that title.  I’m talking about the first secret of Fatima when in 1917 Mary showed three Portuguese children a glimpse of Hell.  Since November is dedicated to praying for souls, I want to focus on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and how the Fatima Prayer in the rosary is a great tool for praying for souls in need.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - The Madonna of Car...
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – The Madonna of Carmel and the Souls of the Purgatory – WGA22270 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, what is the Fatima Prayer?

While not part of the original tradition of the Rosary or in the original text of the vulgate, many Roman Catholics choose to add it after the Glory Be to the Father after the Blessed Virgin Mary was said to have requested its use during her apparition at Fátima, a miracle deemed “worthy of belief” by the Church. The following text of the prayer appears first in Latin and then in English.

Domine Iesu, dimitte nobis debita nostra, libera nos ab igne inferiori, perduc in caelum omnes animas, praesertim eas, quae misericordiae tuae maxime indigent. Amen.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Wikipedia

And now a flashback to my childhood.  In my grade school I remember we had “rosary afternoons” in May where we broke up into small groups to pray the rosary.  The groups were led by an eighth grader who explained how the rosary worked and led a group of seven other students, one from each grade 1st through 7th, through five decades.  When I think back to those childhood rosary days I now recall one prayer being noticeably absent — the Fatima Prayer.

I think my early experience with the rosary was typical for a lot of kids.  Someone thought it was best to shield us from the “scary prayer” that mentions the fires of Hell.  I don’t believe this was done out of a disbelief of the reality of Hell, but more out of a concern of not opening that door of fear or questions from the inquisitive youth.  I’m sure the school didn’t want to receive calls from angry parents about how their kid came home and said everyone is going to Hell or asked if Uncle Barney, who never went to church, was in Hell.

But the avoidance of talking about the afterlife, particularly Purgatory and Hell, didn’t end with the omission of the Fatima Prayer from my grade school’s rosary education.  To this day, it’s a topic that most priests don’t touch with a ten foot pole.  When was the last time you heard a homily about the eternal consequences of sin or the need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Over the decades, talking about sin and its consequences was unofficially deemed offensive speech.  A priest cannot teach about sinful behavior without being labeled intolerant, self righteous, and uncompassionate.  That is truly unfortunate because pretending that sin and Hell don’t exist does not make them any less real.  Instead of explaining these scary aspects of reality and providing people with the knowledge, prayers, and the will to confront them, we sweep them under the rug.  Instead of urging people to pray and help those “souls in most need of Thy mercy” we, as a Church in general, let people just dive into the fire because we’re afraid of offending someone.

Praying the rosary is a great way of meditating on the afterlife and praying for souls.  Because talking about sin and Hell may be a taboo topic we have to put extra emphasis on them in our rosary intentions.  After you pray each decade, that Fatima Prayer is that little reminder of Heaven, Hell, and even Purgatory (more on this in a bit).  It encompasses asking for the intercession of the saints in Heaven, praying for at risk souls on earth, and those souls in Purgatory.  Unfortunately, I too often race through the Fatima prayer.  I treat it more like a placeholder while I think about my intentions for the upcoming decade.  But slow down because there’s some heavy stuff in this prayer.

  • O my Jesus” — God sent his only son for our benefit.  He wants us to have a personal relationship with him.  You don’t say, “O Jesus.”  That “my” is in there for a reason.
  • Forgive us our sins” — We all sin and are in need of reconciliation.  There is nothing wrong acknowledging that we aren’t perfect and we screw up at times.  We are asking for Jesus’ mercy for all peoples’ sins, hence the word “our” and not “my.”
  • Save us from the fires of Hell” — Again, we are asking Jesus for his mercy on all souls.  The fact that this phrase comes after “forgive us our sins” highlights that connection between sin and Hell.  We implicitly acknowledge that sin is the cause of going to Hell.
  • Lead all souls to Heaven” — This is where we want to go!  Everything we do in life should be aimed towards one day living in God’s glory in Heaven.
  • Especially those in most need of Thy mercy” — There are many people on that edge of eternal damnation.  But there is still hope for them.  They need our prayers and the intercession of Mary, the saints, and the Holy Spirit.

Where does Purgatory factor into the Fatima Prayer?  There is a bit of a mistranslation of this prayer from Portuguese into English according to Br. Alexis Bugnolo:

I would point out that this English translation is not exactly correct; because the Portuguese does not say “souls”, but “little souls”, a term of endearment among Portuguese Catholics for the souls in Purgatory, equivalent to our phrase “poor souls”. The the context of the phrase refers to the deliverance of all souls from purgatory into heaven; and thus never signified universal salvation.

Remember, souls in Purgatory rely on your prayers to get into Heaven.  Imagine knowing that you are saved and you’re so close to entering God’s kingdom but there is nothing you can do unless people on earth pray for you.  That frustration alone must be part of the purification process in Purgatory for your sins.  But now you have a reason to remember those souls in Purgatory every time you pray the Fatima Prayer.  Time to pray it forward because hopefully someday we all may be in a position where we will need those prayers.

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Heaven is Other People

Want to know the secret to a long and healthy life?  I’ll give you a clue, it doesn’t come from some pill derived from a Far Eastern plant root.  It doesn’t come from a self-help book containing “ancient” wisdom kept secret by the Masons.  It doesn’t come from going to the gym five days a week or sticking to a paleo diet.  It comes from… people!  And no, I’m not talking about Soylent Green.  I’m talking about marriage, family, community, and prayer.  The Catholic San Francisco ran this interesting little piece last week where they talk about how marriage and religiosity are important factors in living a long life.

“The health benefits of marriage are so strong that a married man with heart disease can be expected to live, on average, 1,400 days (nearly four years) longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart,” said Dr. Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“This longer life expectancy is even longer for a married man who has cancer or is 20 pounds overweight compared to his healthy but unmarried counterpart,” Haltzman added. “The advantages for women are similar.”

Couples with higher levels of religiosity “tend to enjoy greater marital satisfaction, fidelity and stability, with less likelihood of domestic violence,” according to a compilation of studies by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

Right now I’m taking this research on faith since I’m a father of two boys that are sending me on the express lane to gray hair.  I’m not quite sure how being a human jungle gym and getting no sleep will exactly extend my life expectancy.  Then again, maybe chasing after my toddler and rocking my infant to sleep does have a healthy workout aspect to it so maybe there is a grain of truth to the health benefits of married and family life.

These studies showing the countless benefits of marriage, family, and prayer make intuitive sense to me.  When you feel like you are part of a community, whether it be the small family circle or a large parish, you belong to a group of people who mutually reinforce and support each other.  In other words, you don’t face life’s struggles alone and you don’t don’t live solely for yourself and your desires.  We need that occasional second opinion that pushes us to try harder or put the brakes on our impulses.  Personally, I know that I act differently now that I’m a husband and a father then when I was single because I know there is a lot more depending on me to be my very best.

This is also why the rosary is such a powerful prayer for both your physical and spiritual health.  When you pray the rosary and meditate on its mysteries, you hopefully arrive at an understanding that you are also part of a larger community — the community of Christ.  You are connected to our Mother Mary, the saints, angels, and the departed in Heaven.  You are also connected to all the other people united in prayer.  I truly believe that the rosary helps you realize that there is so much more to your life than just your immediate needs and desires.  You not only understand that there are others looking out for you, but you also realize that there are opportunities for you to help someone else.

For example, when I pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus taking his cross, my initial intentions revolve around asking the Lord for strength to do his will even when my crosses weigh me down.  But then I remember that I have the ability to help others carry their crosses and lighten their burden.  I ask God to give me an awareness of how I can help others in my life.  My rosary prayer may start with asking God to help me but they often end with me thinking how I can help others.  To put it another way, my rosary prayers usually start with an inward focus but end with me thinking outwardly about my role in the greater community of humanity.  And when millions of people do the same in their prayers, we become a huge community of individuals helping each other and bringing out the very best in each other.

For those of you who visit RosaryMeds regularly, there is a link on the left-hand side you may have overlooked.  The site is called “Come, Pray the Rosary” and is a 24/7 rosary prayer that you can join in at any time and also post intentions.  When I first came across it, the site maybe had a dozen people praying together at any given time but now it always well over 100 (140 at the time of this writing).  It really drives home that the rosary is a community prayer.  Plus I love the almost hypnotic quality of the website’s intro music.

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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.

Mary’s Rosary Promise #7

Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

Phew, that was close!  I thought I painted myself into a corner after reading Mary’s 7th rosary promise.  I initially thought that this promise basically rephrased her earlier promise about not dying an unprovided death and I would have nothing to say about this one.  The two promises do share a similar theme revolving around one’s final minutes in this life.  The important difference between these two promises is that the earlier promise focuses solely on receiving God’s mercy for one’s sins.  This promise goes one step further and implies one will receive graces through the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  In other words, those devoted to the rosary not only avoid damnation but really “seal the deal” to receive eternal salvation.

“Extreme Unction”, part of The Seven Sacraments, by Rogier Van der Weyden (1445). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am going back to the auto insurance analogy to explain the difference between this rosary promise and the earlier one.  Promising that you won’t have an unprovided death is a little like having basic collision insurance.  It’s the bare minimum grace that helps you receive God‘s mercy instead of incurring solely His justice.  It’s better than nothing, but not great.  Dying with all the sacraments of the Church is like having full coverage.  You die with your soul in the best possible state to stand before God and quickly enter His kingdom (you still may need to go through Purgatory first).

What’s the difference between not dying an unprovided death and dying with the sacraments of the Church?  After all, won’t you end up in Heaven by either means?  And isn’t making it into Heaven all that really matters?  Ask yourself this.  Why would you only want to barely sneak into Heaven in the first place?  Why wouldn’t you want to be as close to God as possible throughout your entire life, let alone at the moment of your death?  It might say a lot about how you prioritize your relationship with God if you only want to be close enough to Him to not be damned to Hell.  All of us should be striving to not just have the bare minimum of graces to enter Heaven but to live as shining examples of God’s grace always up to the moment of our death.

And there lies the difference between the saints and regular people.  Many of the saints didn’t have any more insight about the Catholic faith than the normal lay person.  And many of them didn’t have any super natural powers that made it easier to act saintly.  What separates the saints from the lay person is that the saints chose to make living in God’s grace a priority in their life.  They made that difficult decision to resist the temptations of a comfortable, wealthy, or powerful life and instead tried their best to live for God’s kingdom of Heaven.  And as impossible as it may seem, we all have the ability to become saints by embracing a life of living prayer and receiving the sacraments.

I infer from this promise that those devoted to the rosary will not only die with the sacraments of the Church, but that they will also want to live with those sacraments as well.  Those who pray the rosary understand how important their relationship with God is and are always striving to live deep in His grace by fully embracing the Catholic Church’s sacraments.  When we think about Mary’s promise, let us remember that the sacraments aren’t graces reserved for the dying, but for all of us.  May we take advantage of those sacraments as much as possible throughout our lives whether it be going to Confession regularly or really embracing the true meaning of the Eucharist.  We should rejoice that we have so many chances to have God touch our souls.  May the rosary kindle our passion for receiving the sacraments.

And to think that I initially couldn’t come up with anything to say about this promise!  Thank you Holy Spirit, Mary, and the saints for the guidance.

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Coming Soon: Free Kindle Edition of my Rosary Guide

51Jfa8esBjL._BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-clickTopRight35-76_AA278_PIkin4BottomRight-6422_AA300_SH20_OU01_Did you promise to pray more, be better about practicing your faith, or resolve to start connecting with your spiritual side? As some of you know from previous RosaryMeds articles, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions as they are usually just promises no one actually keeps. But at the same time, I know that people do make them and if your New Year’s resolution involves improving your prayer life, I want to help.

Next week I’m going to offer the Kindle edition of my rosary guide, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, for free. For three days only (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) you will be able to download it to your tablet, Kindle reader, or computer and it won’t cost you a dime. Already have the book? This the perfect opportunity to tell your friends, family, and fellow parishioners about it so they can pick up a great praying resource at no cost.

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The Wide World of The Rosary

Given the frustrating news stories lately, I thought I would lighten things up a bit and give you a break from debt ceilings, shutdowns, healthcare, or some stupid statement a politician just made.  In many of my previous posts I compare rosary prayer to exercise.  In this post, I thought I would draw some relationships between certain roles people have in the exercise world and their rosary praying counterparts.  Read below and ask yourself what type of rosary person are you.

#1: The Sprinter

This person typically prays the rosary without taking a single breath.  He often confuses rosary prayer with Nascar racing and thinks the goal is to get through the entire rosary as fast as possible.  Or, at the very least, get through a decade before the end of commercial break.  He probably isn’t really thinking about the rosary mysteries, but has his mind on the television show or movie that is playing in the background.  What’s important to him is that he can check off “rosary” on his daily “todo” list.

World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...

#2: The Marathon Runner

This person typically prays all 20 mysteries of the rosary every day.  He possesses incredible patience, concentration, and free time.  While he tries to pray in a quiet, meditative environment, praying while also doing household chores or driving in the car will do in a pinch.  He has incredible confidence in the power of the rosary and prays so many mysteries, not because he thinks God will physically reward him for it, but because it brings him peace and strength to carry out God’s Will.

English: Marathon runner for the Feria de Pina...

#3: The Daily Walker

This person tries to fit in 5 mysteries every day.  He usually has a routine he likes to follow such as praying the rosary at the same time and in the same place each day.  He doesn’t usually fret over skipping his regularly scheduled rosary praying time.  If he does miss it, he’ll just resume the next day.  The quality of his prayers can fluctuate from day to day.  Sometimes he is as focused as a laser beam like the Marathon Runner and other times he races through it like the Sprinter.  He knows he should take his time with the rosary like the Marathon Runner and he may start out with a the goal of a high quality rosary workout.  But somewhere along the way he gets distracted and just races to the end.

walk the dog on rhe beach

#4: The Gear Junkie

This person thinks of the rosary like a good luck charm or magic incantation.  He thinks that by praying the rosary nothing bad, challenging, or inconvenient should happen to him.  He often won’t actually pray the rosary, but just hangs it up on the car’s rear view mirror or carries it around with him like a lucky rabbit’s foot.  He is like the runner that spends a lot of money on a running suite, shoes, and biometric gear but never actually goes out and runs.  Or he runs halfheartedly.  The gear junkie prayer person, much like his running counterpart, thinks of the rosary as an item, not a tool.  And when he doesn’t get the results he expects, he quickly gives up and finds something else he thinks will solve all his problems.  And, like the P90X workout DVDs, the rosary will just sit in a drawer and collect dust.

Marathon Preparedness

#5: The Researcher

In exercise, the researcher wants to learn everything he can about an exercise or eating routine before getting started.  He will spend his nights reading all he can about a no-carb diet while scarfing down a muffin and energy drink because he tells himself the new diet starts “tomorrow.”  Or he won’t do a single pushup until he buys that gym membership and signs up for a class.  The rosary researcher won’t pray a single bead until he finishes reading his book on the importance of the rosary or has all his questions answered about the rosary on the Catholic Answers forums.  Or he won’t get started praying until the house is clean, the car is washed, the grass is mowed, and the bills are paid.  He is always finding a reason to delay rosary prayer until he feels “ready” for it.

English: A researcher at The National Archives...

#6: The Cross Fit

Not just content with running five miles, he will stop and do twenty pushups every two minutes.  The cross fit exerciser really pushes himself to the limit and is always finding ways to combine different exercises into a single workout.  The cross fit rosary prayer also pushes himself by not only praying the rosary, but also reading scriptural passages and offering specific intentions.  He won’t  just rattle off the words of each prayer, but really concentrates on meditating on each mystery.  He likes to compete with the marathon rosary person for who has the most rosary meditation endurance.

Heavy liftin’

 

The truth is, there is a little bit of each of these rosary people in all of us.  Sometimes we’re the Sprinter, sometimes the Daily Walker, and sometimes (if we’re lucky), the Cross Fit or Marathon rosary praying person.  But regardless of how well you pray on any given day, don’t give it up!  Just keep trying to be a little better at it.  God will appreciate the effort.

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Four Bad Ways to Spread the Catholic Faith

I was going to take a little time off from writing RosaryMeds articles and focus on some other projects. However, after listening to this past Sunday’s readings, an Immaculate Heart radio broadcast, and reflecting on my earlier article, the same theme kept leaping out at me — Catholics are called to be annoying. Actually, that is a bit misleading. We are called to boldly and publicly live our faith and teach the truth of Jesus Christ to those around us. We must do this in our words, thoughts, and actions. However, there are right ways to be an “annoying” Catholic and wrong ways. Below are four wrong ways to act as an annoying Catholic or how to respond to someone annoying you about your faith and Church teachings.

#1 The Bad Timer

The Scenario: You’re watching a football game with a group of family and friends. The chips and beer are out and everyone is enjoying the game. The referees make a horrible call and everyone bursts out yelling at the television. That’s when you decide it’s a great time for a little religious conversation and you make the smooth transition with a comment like, “So, anyone read the latest encyclical from pope about the evils of abortion?”

Probably not the best time to pull at your catechism

Religion and apologetics is a lot of like comedy — it’s all in the timing. And if you pick the wrong time to bring out theology, you not only bring resentment and annoyance about the Church’s teaching at that moment, but you may also burn bridges to discuss religion earnestly in the future. You have to be able to know your audience and the situation. Are the people around you already talking about politics or religion and does your insight add to the conversation? Are people expressing and receiving different opinions in a calm and respectful way? If not, it might be best to tuck away your spiritual, theological, and political insights for another day.

#2 Clueless About Context

The Scenario: You’re eating dinner with a group of family or friends. Your relative, who isn’t always aware of the political and religious leanings of the people around him (or just doesn’t care) starts attacking Catholicism or a teaching of the Catholic Church.

Maybe it’s because I live in a very liberal area of this planet, but it seems like a lot of people I know start topics of conversation assuming everyone else around them sees the world the same way they do. They will just start blasting the Church on some issue whether it be gay marriage, abortion, or the male-only priesthood without even considering that someone listening to them dares to have a different opinion. So what are you as a Catholic supposed to do? Sit silently? Nod in fake agreement? That’s not exactly being an annoying Catholic now is it? Perhaps you can politely remind the person that others may have different opinions on particular issues and maybe not everyone shares his particular opinion. Depending on the context, it may not be the best time to go head to head with that person and dive into a debate. But just letting people know that others might have different and valid opinions on an issue is a good start for possible future encounters. If anything, maybe that person will think twice about his audience before going off on the Church in the future.

#3 The Debater

The Scenario: You’re enjoying a conversation with some family or friends. Someone in the group just finished reading an article about the evils of the Catholic Church on their favorite internet site. With that article fresh in their mind, they look for the nearest Catholic to start a debate. You are now placed in that uncomfortable position of having to speak for the magisterium of the Catholic Church and anything short of Jesus Himself walking into the room to pronounce a winner discredits the Church’s position on an issue.

“Provide scientific proof that the Transfiguration really took place in 30 seconds or less”

We’ve all been there. You may know the general principles of the Catholic faith, but not an expert on every detail. And you’re certainly not the pope when it comes to theology. In these cases, I think you can state what you know and then politely tell the person you would need to look up more details if he wants to continue the conversation. Or remind your would-be debater that the issue is quite complicated and you would need more time to fully explain the Church’s position. Remind him that you’re a Catholic, but not a theologian, so you would prefer to continue the conversation after you look up a few facts. But this is why it is also a good idea to always learn as much as you can about Catholic teachings and dogma so you always have a few facts in your back pocket for such encounters.

#4 The Hedger

The Scenario: You’re enjoying some time with your family and friends. Some contentious religious issue comes up. Wanting to keep the peace you start hedging your thoughts on Catholic dogma. You might say something like, “I know I’m supposed to go to Mass every Sunday, but it would be nice if the Church lightened up on that rule a little.” Or, “I think Confession is a good thing, but I think it should be optional if you don’t feel comfortable with it.”

When you start to make excuses for the Church what you are really doing is watering down and misrepresenting Church teachings. But you are also sending a message to those around you that you don’t truly believe in the power and glory of the Catholic faith. The people around you may think twice about a religion where its own members have a pretty low opinion about its core teachings. And if you’re looking to lead by example, who would ever want to follow someone who is wishy-washy in their beliefs? People respect confidence and someone truly embracing their faith even if they personally don’t espouse those same values. All it takes is a strong display of faith for the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of others.

Do you have any advice on how to be a good “annoying” Catholic or know strategies to avoid? Leave a comment.

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Immigration: Theology vs. Politics

I have been racked with anxiety deciding whether or not to write an article about the current comprehensive immigration bill that passed the senate.  The reason why I’ve been so hesitant is that I find myself at odds with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  They enthusiastically support the bill with almost the same fervor as a pro-life bill while I have many reservations about it.  While I see eye to eye with the bishops on many issues such as religious freedom, abortion, euthanasia, and even the death penalty, the current immigration reforms making its way through Congress concern me.  And what is even more concerning is the lack of skepticism and the blind faith many Church leaders seem to have regarding the federal government‘s intentions in this immigration bill.

Stamp of the U.S. Immigration (Old French pass...

Most of my skepticism isn’t aimed at the immigration bill itself but at the nature of big government.  When I hear about large “comprehensive” reforms like the immigration bill, what comes to mind is more laws, programs, earmarks, and regulations.  That also means more loopholes, exemptions, and bureaucracy.  In short, I think of a larger and more intrusive government.  In the hundreds of pages of legalese, what powers does this bill grant government or various agencies?  What politically connected groups will the federal government exempt from the law?  What provisions will they selectively enforce?  Maybe the immigration bill does have some good parts, or at least well-intentioned ones.  After all, immigration policy is actually a federal responsibility so it’s good that they are at least working on something inside their jurisdiction instead of taking over state’s responsibilities.  But at the end of the day it’s still a bill written by lobbyists, caters to special interests, and supported and voted by people who haven’t read it.

The last time we had a huge reform, the Catholic Church in the United States ended up being burned.  I remember when ObamaCare was winding its way through Congress.  Many Church leaders at various levels were in support of ObamaCare because of the hope that it would provide all people in the US health care.  It was advertised as a compassionate fix to our healthcare system and really pulled the heartstrings of many Catholics who wanted to make sure all people would receive the care they need.  But now the Church and christians throughout the country are faced with the reality of ObamaCare.  A lot of time and money is being spent fighting the HHS Contraception Mandate.  Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies are under attack because they cannot follow certain parts of the law in good conscience.  There are abortion and euthanasia issues in law just waiting to erupt.  And who knows what else lies in the thousands of pages of the law just waiting for the right time to make its appearance?  Unfortunately, all this time and money spent fighting various aspects of this “compassionate” and “fair” law could have gone towards charities and hospitals providing actual health care.  But when it was being discussed in Congress, too many people just assumed the bill would magically fix health care and didn’t question our legislators about the details.

What is the USCCB’s Stance on Immigration Reform?

Here is an FAQ about the USCCB’s stance on immigration reform.  In addition, they outline some specific demands of what they want to see in immigration reform.  They even want you to write to your member of Congress showing your support of immigration reform.  While their demands are generic in nature and they don’t specifically mention the current bill, given the current political context, it is pretty much an endorsement of the current senate bill.  After all, it’s not like there are any other serious immigration bills under consideration.

Headquarters of the other Catholics :-)

Will the immigration bill attack Catholic values and religious freedom the same way ObamaCare does?  When I think of the current situation, an ancient saying comes to mind, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  And that is my word of warning to the US Catholic bishops.  Don’t be pawns in the giant political power struggle.  The Church may not come under direct attack from the immigration bill the same way it does from ObamaCare.  But government power isn’t siloed to individual issues.  When we give the government more power to create larger programs in cases like immigration, that increased power and control will trickle to other issues like health care, abortion, etc.  I would hate to see the recent gains made in fighting abortion undone, or at least undermined, because an ever-growing federal government is allowed to increase their control a little more on each bill.

When dealing with specific bills and laws, the Church leadership needs to recognize the difference between theology and politics, generic desires and specific legal text, and between wishful thinking and reality.  Everyone from bishops down to parish priests need to think strategically or else they risk being used as pawns by politicians that really have no shame in getting what they want.

What RosaryMeds Do I need?

If you have a rosary mystery that you think fits well with this topic, please share in the comments.

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