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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Two Different Responses to God’s Unbelievable Plan

The Bible is full of parallels.  It may be parallel themes between Old and New Testament readings or accounts of different people having similar encounters with God.  We see one such parallel between the story of Mary in the Annunciation and that of Zechariah, husband of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.  We pray and meditate on these readings, which make up the first two Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, all this week leading up to Christmas.

Cappella tornabuoni frescoes in Florence. Annu...
Cappella tornabuoni frescoes in Florence. Annuncio dell’angelo a San Zaccaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In both accounts, the angel Gabriel comes with news of a pregnancy.  Mary is told she will give birth to a son through the Holy Spirit and Zechariah is told that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist.  Furthermore, the announcement is initially met by disbelief.  Mary’s amazement comes because she is not married and Zechariah’s stems from Elizabeth’s old age.

The difference in these two accounts comes next.  In Mary’s case, she praises God and humbles herself saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  But in Zechariah’s case, the angel Gabriel takes away his ability to speak because of his disbelief.

What confused me about these two accounts was that according to the text, it appears as if Mary and Zechariah both show a very similar reaction, one of amazement and disbelief.  Why was Zechariah punished and not Mary?  I think the key is understanding Gabriel’s ability to see into someone’s heart and not just hear their words.

Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, by Muril...
Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, by Murillo, c. 1655 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Mary was confused initially, in her heart she truly believed and accepted God’s Will for her.  But I think that Gabriel must have sensed that Zechariah did not fully believe the news he had just heard.  To put it another way, Mary’s initial reaction may have been out of shock and quickly passed while Zechariah harbored a real sense of disbelief.  Maybe, while he was in the holy sanctuary, Zechariah was going through the motions of prayer but not fully open to God’s grace.  It is fitting that he was punished with speechlessness as a sign that maybe he was giving more lip service to his faith rather than truly internalizing it.

As we prepare in these final days of Advent, let us remember to have an open heart like Mary and not a closed one like Zechariah.  Pray that you don’t go through the motions of spirituality by treating Christmas Mass like a mere formality before the real celebration can begin.  Mass is the real celebration!  I know many of you have large dinners to attend, guests to entertain, and presents to open.  And while you may say you believe and celebrate Jesus’ birth, how much of your heart is centered around Him?  God knows what is in our hearts and you can’t fool him.

This Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  The best birthday present you can give Him is an honestly open heart.  Don’t go through the motions of prayer and practicing your faith but earnestly make room in your heart for God’s grace manifested in His son, Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas!

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What the Gospel and Rosary Teach Us About Good Works

This upcoming Sunday’s Gospel is from Matthew.  I’m only including the part I’m going to reflect on in this article.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

In this Gospel passage, John the Baptist makes a distinction between piety and good works.  The Pharisees and Sadducees considered themselves good people because they followed the Mosaic law to the letter.  But John implies in his comparison to a tree not bearing good fruit that just following rules or having a certain status does not lead to salvation.  One must follow up with good works, charity, and compassion.

Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees
Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good works, charity, and compassion were the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry.  He came into this world, not as someone of status and authority, but as a servant who ministered to those people society had excluded.  Jesus repeatedly taught that what matters most to God is what someone does, not what their title is.  Whether it was teaching the golden rule or telling the parable of the poor woman who gave all she had to charity, Jesus’ ministry centered around instilling the value of good works and sacrifice.  Inversely, those who only followed rules and sought status and honor He routinely called hypocrites.

This past Thursday’s Gospel from Matthew echoes a very similar message:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Notice how Jesus is saying that just accepting Him as the Savior is not enough.  You have to follow up with action what you proclaim in your words.  To put it in more modern terms (but now maybe ridiculously outdated), you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

When you hear and read this Gospel, meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary, The Visitation.  Think about Mary in this mystery, someone who recently learned that she was to be the mother to the Massiah.  What does she do?  Does she flaunt the fact that an angel visited her?  Does she go about looking for an elevated stature in the community?  No.  Instead, she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth and helps her through her pregnancy although she herself was pregnant.  Mary’s initial action after the Annunciation was one of charity.

Also, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary when you reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel.  Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our intermediary to her son, Jesus Christ.  Even when bestowed the title Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery), she has never stopped actively guiding us through the minefield of life.  She protects us from evil, helps those who ask for her assistance, and has continually appeared to many delivering a message similar to John the Baptist in the Gospel — Jesus loves you and wants you close to him, but you must make the effort to love Him through good works, charity, and compassion.

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God Must Come First!

Love
Love (Photo credits: PB Teen)

What’s more important, serving God or serving each other?   points out in his article on The Remnant that over the last few decades the Church’s focus has shifted from loving God first to primarily loving our fellow brothers and sisters.  It’s not that we have to choose one or the other.  We are called to do both.  But it is a matter of priority and focus.  If you accept the premise that Catholic Church has shifted its priorities in the last few generations, ask yourself whether that has strengthened or weakened the Church.  Have we veered from what Jesus taught and what has made the Church strong over the centuries?  Patrick Archbold thinks so and believes much of the weakness of faith within the Church has to do with this shift.  I encourage you to read his article in full.  The focus of this article will be on the rosary (naturally).  Let’s look at what some of the rosary mysteries teach us about loving God vs. loving our fellow humans.

Look at the order of the first and second Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.  In the Annunciation, we see Mary putting God first by accepting his plan for her.  We then see in the Visitation Mary going out and helping her cousin Elizabeth.  Notice the order?  Okay, there is the fact that chronologically, the Annunciation did precede the Visitation.  But there is also a spiritual significance in the order as well.  When we pray the rosary we meditate first on the love of God as seen in the Annunciation and then the love for our fellow brothers and sisters as represented in the Visitation.  In putting our love for God first, we receive his grace and can therefore more fully serve each other just as Mary does in the Joyful Mysteries.

On to the First Sorrowful Mystery.  Jesus fears his upcoming arrest and crucifixion.  But he prays to God asking God to first find another way he could redeem the world but also submits to God’s Will.  Jesus shows his primary love for God by acknowledging God’s authority and humbly submitting to his plan.  Later, when he’s arrested, Jesus tells his apostles, who were ready to defend him, to stand down.  While Jesus loved his apostles and his apostles loved him, Jesus puts his life not in their hands, but into God’s hands.  Again, we see the model Jesus asks us to follow — serve according to God’s Will first.

Finally, take a look at the Third Luminous Mystery.  Jesus preaches that we should all convert our ways to God’s ways.  We are called to live first for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Note that Jesus did not tell us to solely live for the Kingdom of Heaven and forsake our responsibilities and others in this world.  But it is a matter of priority — desiring God’s kingdom must come first.  And from that desire, not only for ourselves but for others, we better help our fellow brothers and sisters to also come to live in God’s grace.

I will leave you with a quotation from the Council of Trent that Patrick Archbold cites in his article as I think it sums up nicely why the love of God needs to come before our love for our fellow humans.

“Moreover, no honor, no piety, no devotion can be rendered to God sufficiently worthy of Him, since love of Him admits of infinite increase. Hence our charity should become every day more fervent towards Him, who commands us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and with all our strength. The love of our neighbor, on the contrary, has its limits, for the Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To outstep these limits by loving our neighbor as we love God would be an enormous crime.” —Catechism of Trent, Part 3, Chapter 5, Question 5

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Praying for Those Who Hate the Prayerful

God Isn’t Fixing This! (Article title from the New York Daily News)
I do not want to hear one more politician say that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their family.  For the love of God. Do Something (Facebook post from The Coffee Party USA)
“Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again” (Tweet from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.)

We witnessed something new in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack and that is an attack on people who resort to prayer. It is an almost knee jerk reaction that many people have to offer “thoughts and prayers” in the face of tragedy. Whether it was the terrorist attacks in Paris, Fort Hood, World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, tragedy seems to bring out people’s deep rooted, and often suppressed, spiritual side. And for as long as I can remember, offering your thoughts and prayers was as natural and inoffensive as saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes.

But with the San Bernardino attack, I saw the automatic “thoughts and prayers” sentiment immediately shamed by both the media and politicians.  I find it amazing that changing your Facebook profile picture to the Eiffel Tower or the French flag or liking posts is seen as supportive but don’t you dare pray for the victims! As if that wasn’t shocking enough, I was also surprised how quickly that movement got started. To me, it felt like people already had their talking points ready to go and just needed a catalyst to roll it out. Like they say in politics, “never let a crisis go to waste.” And in this case, the San Bernardino tragedy seemed to provide the right setting to attack the idea of finding comfort through faith and spirituality.

When you look at the overall theme of these attacks, they do fall apart and make little sense with even minimal scrutiny. The premise is that we can’t stand around praying but we need to act. The assumption is that prayer and action are mutually exclusive and we aren’t capable of doing both. I have repeatedly said, especially in my meditations on the Second Joyful Mystery, how prayer is not always an end in itself.  Rather, it puts us in the state of mind and heart to more readily receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act in a way in accordance with God’s plan for us.  In this light, prayer and action actually go hand in hand.  We pray before we act so that we can act justly.

When you see the link between prayer and action I think it becomes clearer why the media and politicians want to shame those who turn to prayer in the face of tragedy.  If you are trying to push through an agenda the last thing you want to do is have people stop and meditate on it.  By saying that we need immediate action with no time for serious contemplation, politicians are actually saying, “Don’t think about it.  Don’t debate it.  Let’s just get this 1000 page bill signed into law.”  And then the politicians (and the special interests they are beholden to) can celebrate how they alone did something to address the problem without the help from that rule-laden man in the clouds.

“Sorry God, I issued an executive order overriding you”

Let’s suppose we could remove the link between prayer and right action.  Is there still value in praying in the wake of tragedy?  You bet!  Prayers open a dialog with God and makes you more open to his grace and comfort.  It doesn’t change what happened but it can provide an understanding deep in your heart (even if it’s one your mind can’t comprehend).  Think about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary).  His prayers did not stop the authorities from arresting and ultimately crucifying him.  But it did put Jesus into a state of mind and heart to endure the upcoming hardship.  And so when we are faced with tragedy, prayer can help us cope with the overwhelming sorrow.  And let’s also remember that tragedy usually involves the loss of life.  The recently departed need prayers too both for God’s mercy and to decrease their time in Purgatory.

It’s time to double down.  If you see someone mocking prayer, that should be your call to action.  You don’t have to engage them on social media since their little soundbite quip requires a larger response and dialog than what social media usually affords.  Instead, think of their comment as a cry for help.  Those who mock prayer are the ones who need it most.  Give them what they need.

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5 Ways the Rosary Prepares Your Soul During Advent

It’s that time of year again.  My house is all lit up like a homing beacon for lost aircraft, my browser history is 99% Amazon.com, and Santa is watching my boys’ every move.  It’s Christmas time!  But it is also New Years.  I’m not talking about January 1st.  I’m talking about a new liturgical year that kicked off with Advent this past Sunday.  It’s a time to not only prepare your traditional Christmas cookies, but also time to prepare a place in your heart and mind for Jesus.  Let’s look at the five Joyful Mysteries of the rosary for ideas on how you can supersize your Advent.

#1. In the Annunciation, Mary accepts God’s plan for her.  She said, maybe still afraid and confused, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  This Advent, meditate on what God is asking of you.  You never know what God may ask of you or when.  Advent is a great time to prepare a spot for Jesus Christ in your heart so that you’ll be able to show the same courage Mary showed when God comes knocking on your door.

#2. In the Visitation, Mary exercises God’s grace by helping her older cousin Elizabeth in her pregnancy.  Advent is a time when we can prepare ourselves to best receive God’s grace through good works of kindness and charity.  Remember that in helping others, we are recognizing Jesus in our brothers and sisters.  When we comfort those less fortunate, we are comforting Jesus.  In this season of preparation, make room for Jesus in this world and provide him the comfort, respect, and honor he deserves by providing others comfort, respect, and honor.

Second Advent Week
Second Advent Week (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#3. In the Nativity, we see shepherds leaving their posts to give homage to the baby Jesus.  Later, the wise men traveled far to honor him.  Both these stories show that people were willing to drop everything and go through some hardship to see Jesus.  In Advent, consider adding a few spiritual challenges like making sacrifices and fasting, receiving the sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and trying to attend extra Masses.  The Christmas season is a fun time, but remember that is is also a spiritual time.  Imagine how much more joyous Christmas will be if you not only prepared your house and completed your shopping list, but also kept a space for Jesus in your heart and mind by making small sacrifices for him.

#4. In the Presentation in the Temple, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph become one family in the eyes of God.  This mimics how we have a physical birth but also a spiritual one through the Sacrament of Baptism.  Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, but the Holy Family was unified under God in the Presentation of Jesus.  Advent is a good time to prepare a place in your heart for your family.  I know many of us have strained relationships with our families, either immediate or extended.  Maybe a family member has hurt you or you have hurt them.  Make Advent a time for family unity and peace.  Pray and meditate on how to best tear down any walls that separate you from your family.  Not only will it bring peace to your soul, but it will make Christmas dinner so much less awkward.

#5. In the Finding of Jesus of the Temple, Mary and Joseph traveled for many days just assuming Jesus was with them we he really was not.  This reminds me of the modern mindset that assumes we are close to Jesus no matter what we do.  In preparing for Christmas this Advent, stop assuming and start examining.  How central is Jesus in your life?  Have you done anything that has moved you away from God’s grace that requires the healing power of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Even if you don’t have any mortal sins on your conscience, ask yourself what you have done to honor Jesus.  Advent is the start of a new liturgical year.  So like a New Year’s resolution, Advent is a time to analyze where you are in your faith and make a spiritual resolution to improve it.

Need a little more help getting into the right spiritual mood this Advent?  Try downloading my free rosary guide.  Or purchase my rosary meditations book on Amazon.com.  Heck, maybe all you need is a little coffee to wake you up.  I have you covered.

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Morality Clauses and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

In my last post I talked about how Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco was battling opponents over his additions to the high school teachers’ hand book about leading a Catholic example while on the job.  He wrote a fantastic clarification about why he added the new clauses and what he hopes to accomplish.  You can read the full letter at Catholic Minority Report.  I know that for many of you who don’t live in the archdiocese of San Francisco, or even the USA, the details of this battle may not hold much interest.  But like many things in life, this controversy does tie back to the rosary (and hence the RosaryMeds website) and provides some thoughts for meditation.  Let’s take a look at the Joyful Mysteries.

First Joyful Mystery

I said in my previous post that teaching at a Catholic school is as much of a vocation as it is a career.  I do think God calls people to use their talents specifically at a Catholic school instead of a secular or public school.  The First Joyful Mystery is all about vocations and reflecting on how God calls us to follow the path He sets before us.  We may have our doubts about God’s plan, similar to Mary questioning the angel Gabriel about how she could become the mother of God since she was an unwed virgin.  But like Mary, when we put our faith in God’s plan for us, no matter how outrageous it may seem, He will bestow upon us the graces to triumph.  We pray that we all reflect on our vocation and do what God asks of us even if we have our doubts.

Second Joyful Mystery

To me, the Visitation is primarily about ministry.  I’ve said in many past articles how Mary had every right to feel like she was a queen to be pampered and honored because she was to become the Mother of God.  But instead she headed off to the countryside proclaiming how she is the handmaiden of the Lord.  Her initial instinct was to go out proclaiming the glory of God when bestowed with God’s grace.  Similarly, Catholic schools are a ministry as well.  They are a place where young minds come to learn, not just reading, science, and mathematics, but also about what it means to be Catholic.  We pray that we remember to show what the Catholic faith professes through our words and actions in a direct, unambiguous way.

Third Joyful Mystery

The birth of Jesus revolves around the theme of humility.  God humbled himself by not only taking shape in the imperfect human form, but also as a lowly peasant.  And yet, through this unexpected person came God’s perfect revelation as taught by Jesus.  I think the archbishop is asking teachers and also the entire Catholic community in the archdiocese to show a lot of humility for the Church’s teachings as revealed by Jesus Christ and handed down over the years by the Magisterium.  It is difficult to accept and promote teachings that you may personally disagree with or are contrary to societal norms.  I’m not just talking about high school teachers either.  We all probably have a hard time accepting some of the Church’s teachings.  When we pray this mystery of the rosary, we should ask God for the humility to accept His perfect teachings although we may have an imperfect understanding of them.

Fourth Joyful Mystery

Jesus’ presentation in the temple focuses on adherence and obedience to the law.  Mary and Joseph waited the prescribed forty days before taking Jesus to the temple.  They also offered a sacrifice of turtledoves as was the custom.  Later, Jesus insists that John baptizes him although Jesus needed no purification.  When I think about many of the objections over the additions to the faculty handbook, I see an absence of the respect of an ancient institution.  The Church hasn’t been secretive about her teachings over the last few millennia nor has it dramatically changed them.  And yet so many people complain about the archbishop’s request to honor the sacred traditions of the Catholic Church in a Catholic school.

When we pray this mystery, we should remember that the Church is an institution that teaches what it teaches for a reason.  Church Scholars have pondered and written brilliant defenses for the Church’s teachings and its rituals over the years.  These “rules” and doctrine of the Church are not arbitrary but are insights into the natural law imprinted on our hearts.  By following those rituals and taking them seriously we follow in Jesus’ footsteps when he, who is the Law, also respected the Law.

Fifth Joyful Mystery

When I think about Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the temple I recall Jesus’ words about needing to be in his father’s house.  What is amazing to me was Mary’s reaction of not understanding what Jesus meant.  What!??  An angel came to Mary and told her she would be the Virgin Mother of God!  Angels proclaimed his birth.  Wise men followed a star and paid homage to him.  What part of Jesus being special does Mary not yet understand?

This painting is on display at the Kunsthistor...
This painting is on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) in Vienna, Austria (site). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I think about those protesting the archbishop’s words I also wonder what part of teaching Catholicism at a Catholic school are they not understanding?  Through all the prayers, Masses, retreats, and religion classes, how are the archbishop’s words, which are essentially the Apostles’ Creed, something new and shocking?

Like the other mysteries, I pray this one for an understanding and acceptance of the Church’s teachings.  I also pray that I see those teachings even in the most unlikely of places.  The scholars were amazed by the knowledge of Jesus Christ as a young boy.  It goes to show that God tries to teach us in many different ways.  We should look for God’s Truth not just in the readings on Sunday, but everywhere around us.  Even a letter of clarification from the archbishop may hold wisdom and offer new insights.

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Transforming the Rosary from Chore to Joy

“But I don’t want to clean my room!”
“Do I have to clean the dishes now?”
“But this show is almost over! I’ll take out the trash once it’s done.”
“But I’m not tired!”

I think nearly all parents hear excuses like these on a near daily basis. They engage in a constant struggle to instill a solid work ethic in their children and have them focus on others’ needs and not just what they want. But it is just as easy for adults to fall into periods of laziness when we don’t always choose what is best for us or for others. We cheat on our diets, we skip exercise, and we procrastinate on tasks like paying bills or conducting household maintenance in favour of watching television or browsing the internet. And I think we all have a tendency to skip or race through our prayers, especially the rosary. Although we may love the rosary generally, we are often no better than children when we find excuses to avoid praying it.

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

This past Lent I felt like I received a lot more value from my rosary meditations all thanks to a few simple tweaks to my prayer routine. The biggest change came from thinking of a specific intention for each “Hail Mary” I recite. Praying for a specific intention combated that tendency to go into mental “auto-pilot” and start reciting the words more as worthless incantations than focused prayer. This habit of offering specific intentions started in earnest when I adopted a Catholic cardinal for the papal conclave. While I was praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Mexico, I also offered intentions for family members, friends, and priests as well as presented my thanks for all that is good in my life and remorse for my sins.

Are you scared about the seemingly daunting prospect of coming up with an intention for each bead in a rosary? You would be surprised how easily one intention acts as a seed for many others. For example, when I pray the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I start by praying that all expectant mothers raise their children to know God’s love. That intention leads me to pray for the change of heart of all expectant mothers who are considering abortion. I then find myself praying for sidewalk counselors and those who pray in front of abortion clinics. That leads me to think about the change of heart of those working in the abortion industry. I follow with prayers that politicians (particularly Catholic ones) who publicly support the abortion industry let the Holy Spirit into their hardened hearts. Once I started attaching a few intentions to those “Hail Marys,” the rest came pouring in.

This Lent I also rekindled my love of rosary guides that contain scripture passages and commentary on each mystery. When I’m tired and feel like racing through the rosary, I often want to hide my rosary books in a drawer and forget they exist. I rationalize that I have already read them repeatedly and cannot derive much more use from them. Why do I need to reread the Bible verses of the Transfiguration or the Miracle at Cana? Why do I need to read commentary and meditations I’ve read a dozen times already?

Prayer

I am so glad when I do convince myself to read and integrate a guide into my rosary prayers because I discover something new every time. While the text stays the same, it speaks to me differently because I live through new experiences and the world at large changes every day. For example, I never would have thought back in January that I would now be praying for Pope Francis. Or maybe the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of Jesus carrying His cross will have a more personal significance to me after a difficult day at work. The same scriptural passages, commentaries, and meditations take on different meanings each time I read them. And these new ideas then manifest themselves as new intentions that I pray on each rosary bead which in turn makes me think of even more intentions, thanksgivings, and remorses. The rosary is no longer a static set of prayers, but is a dynamic dialog with Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

Looking for a good rosary prayer guide?  Try mine!

I believe that when people criticize rosary meditation, they envision someone mindlessly chanting the same phrases repeatedly. They invoke Matthew 6:7 — “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” What the critics do not understand is that the rosary is not “babble” when you put forth specific intentions, sorrows, and thanksgivings before our Mother Mary who then strengthens your prayers before her Son, Jesus Christ. When Mary gave humanity the rosary, she did not intend it to act as a medium for mindless incantations but instead she wants us to really make it our own. And when we pray the rosary as Mary intended, we no longer see it as a chore to avoid, but as a moment of peace and joy in our busy lives.

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