Getting Mary’s Help in this New Year

Happy New Year!  Usually, my first post of the year is about how we should not make “praying more” a new year’s resolution because making something a new year’s resolution almost guarantees failure.  However, this year I’m going to take a different tone based on the homily I heard last Sunday on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary.

At my parish, Father Tony talked about the importance of asking Mary for help with all the challenges and concerns in our lives.  He iterated the Church’s teaching that Mary will clarify and amplify your intentions before her son, Jesus Christ, and act as your mediator.  You may only have a vague notion of what you want or need but Mary will help you better understand those needs and help you present them to Jesus.

That homily got me thinking about new year’s resolutions.  What if they don’t fail because they are often rather vague promises made on a somewhat arbitrary day on a calendar?  Instead, maybe new year’s resolutions do not stick because people try to accomplish them on their own without any help.  Maybe we should ask Mary for her assistance in trying to accomplish our resolution.  After all, she desperately wants to help all of us achieve true happiness by eventually living in God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

But how will Mary help me lose weight?  How will Mary help me earn $10k in the stock market?  Does she really care about helping you achieve any non-spiritual goals?  Probably not.  And maybe she wants us to take a hint.  If certain goals are not a priority to Mary, maybe they shouldn’t be a priority for us either.  Like I said earlier, part of Mary’s intercession is to clarify what we truly need.  Finding a meaningful resolution is just as important as following through on one.

Yes, but will it buy you true happiness?

In the spirit of including Mary in helping me throughout my life in all important matters, not just a single new years resolution, I’m going to try to remember to add the Memorare prayer to my daily routine.  I invite you to do the same.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but, in your mercy, hear and answer me.
Amen.

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Building Your Spiritual Emergency Fund One Prayer at a Time

2015 has started out rough for me.  I have a car that is failing its smog check (okay, that’s trivial but still annoying).  Our old water heater broke and flooded the walls, insulation, and floors of the surrounding rooms.  I am going through my annual January cold (seriously, I think the cold virus is pro-choice because it hits me every year around the Walk for Life).  And my parent company announced that they are shutting down my office as part of a downsizing effort.  That’s just my immediate family’s issues on top of the usual difficulties of raising children.  I then have to pile on the challenges various members of my extended family face as well.  And yet, while I would have every reason to freak out, I’m strangely at calm with my situation right now.  Why?

I think a lot of my calm and acceptance of my situation comes from me praying the rosary regularly.  I’m not saying this to brag or to somehow come across as being holier than others.  I’m saying this as a testament to the power of prayer.  You really have to think of routine prayer as building a spiritual “rainy day” fund.  Financial experts are always saying that you should save money in an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.  So prayer is the emergency fund for your soul.

I know many of us turn to prayer mostly when times get tough.  But that is like only starting to save money after the car broke down or the floors are already flooded.  Not having reserves makes a difficult situation even harder.  So if you don’t have those spiritual reserves to dip in to, turning to prayer for the first time in an emergency almost adds to the burden instead of relieves it.

First there’s the logistical hurdles.  Prayer is frustrating when you haven’t practiced it because it will be hard to get into that state of mind where you are calm and relaxed enough to have a truly open heart to the Holy Spirit.  You’ll be fumbling over words and thoughts instead of getting into the zone and being receptive to how God is leading you.  Second, spirituality accumulates like water in a well — the more you pray the deeper that well becomes.  Sometimes you really just need that large gulp of grace to get you through a difficult situation.  But if you haven’t prayed regularly, you are dipping into a shallow spiritual well that won’t give you the grace you need.

It’s never too late to start building your spiritual emergency fund.  All it takes is five free minutes and a rosary (or your fingers if you don’t have a rosary).  It starts with a single Our Father or Hail Mary or just a free form meditation.  In finance, there is the idea of compounding interest and exponential returns.  You can start with a very small amount of money and over time it can grow to a large amount through compounding.  The same goes with prayer.  Building your spiritual emergency fund can start with a small amount of prayer but if you regularly invest some time here and there, those small prayer moments start to add up to one large pool of grace.

This leads me to the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary, Mary’s Coronation as Queen of Heaven.  She’s the one that compounds our prayers into something more substantial.  There is a reason why Mary is known as the Mediatrix of Grace.  She’s takes our prayers and intentions and places them before her son, Jesus Christ, after she’s cleaned them up and clarified them.  Remember, Mary has a particularly interesting role as being both human like us and going through the human experience but also being singled out as a purified vessel for the Son of God.  So it makes sense that she has the unique role in Heaven of hearing our intentions and, in a way, translating them and amplifying them to God.  Like a good mother, she understands all our little faults of being human.  It doesn’t matter how ineloquent or small your request is, Mary Queen of Heaven will act as your intermediary, your advocate, and your broker in Heaven.

Crowning of the Virgin by Rubens, early 17th c...
Crowning of the Virgin by Rubens, early 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, no matter how small your spiritual emergency fund may be, start building it up with a prayer here and a prayer there.  When you pray the rosary, don’t think of it as a daunting task of 53 Hail Marys, 6 Our Fathers, and a several other prayers.  Just focus on one prayer at a time for however much time you have.  Mary and the Holy Spirit will take it from there.  And over time, you will have that deep well of faith to dip into when times get tough or to give to others who need it in their time of need.

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The Rosary — The (Not So) Secret to Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

A rosary crucifix.
This can bring more happiness than winning any lottery.

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

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Politicians: They Know Not What They Do

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

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

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

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

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

Our Prayer

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

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A Rosary SEAL Never Quits

“Just ring the bell and this will all be over.”  That must be a common phrase many potential Navy SEALs either hear or think in their initial phase of training called BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL).  This is the stage that whittles down hundreds of candidates to only a select few who can tolerate weeks of physical and mental exhaustion.  While some are cut from the program for underperformance, many voluntarily quit when they ring a brass bell mounted in the barracks three times (hence the term “ringing out”).  When doing hundreds of pushups at night as freezing ocean waves crash overhead, many SEAL recruits question whether the pain and misery is really worth it.

English: Coronado, Calif. (Aug. 23, 2005) &nda...
“Someone remind me why I volunteered for this?”

When I read Saint Louis de Montfort‘s book, The Secret of the Rosary, many chapters really rang true about the mental exhaustion and tediousness of praying the rosary.  I think nearly all of us at some point in our spiritual life begin to feel like a beaten down SEAL recruit and ask, “Why should I continue?”  I know in theory we all love and see value in rosary prayer and meditation.  Many of us set some rosary praying goal whether that is five mysteries a day or all 20 mysteries every week.  We may even start with an abundance of energy.  But over time that initial enthusiasm wears off.  We start to skip a day here and a day there.  We begin to race through rosary decades without even realizing the mystery they represent.  And after a while, whether consciously or unconsciously, we “ring out” and just give up rosary prayer.

When a SEAL recruit quits, he doesn’t quit the armed services.  Quitting BUD/S doesn’t mean one is a bad soldier or isn’t committed to serving this nation.  He just couldn’t find that anchor reason in his heart to keep going through the pain.  And similarly, people aren’t giving up the Catholic faith when they give up the rosary.  They aren’t bad Catholics because they find the rosary repetitive or exhausting.  They are human.  Being human means you probably want a calm, happy, and gratifying life that you don’t immediately feel by reciting 50 Hail Marys.  Fighting our earthly desire that finds the rosary repetitive and tedious and remembering all the benefits of it is a constant battle we all face.  I recall the verse from the Gospel where Jesus tells His apostles, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

But there is also something else at play besides our own human frailties that pushes people to give up rosary prayer.  St. Louis de Montfort clearly states in his writings that Satan is actively working to make people want to give up rosary prayer.  Satan hates the rosary because he knows just how powerful it defends our souls from his lies and influence.  But he’s very crafty when it comes to weaning people off the rosary.  He starts small and simple by implanting the desire to pray something a little less tedious like a little free-form meditation or read some psalms from the Bible.  Those aren’t bad prayer habits in themselves but they do plant a little seed of doubt about keeping a rosary routine.  It’s that little seed that, much like a SEAL recruit first contemplating quitting, Satan hopes will spread throughout your thoughts.

St. Louis de Montfort says it best:

Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod—but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin he makes us feel bored, distracted or exhausted—and when we have started praying he oppresses us from all sides. And when, after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us: “What you have just said is worthless. It’s useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It’s only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you’re saying; half an hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow when you’re not feeling so sluggish you’ll pray better; don’t finish your Rosary until tomorrow.”

Saint Louis de Montfort (2013-03-10). The Secret of the Rosary (p. 89). Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Like a recruit in some sort of spiritual BUD/S training, we have to ignore that little voice and not let Satan’s little pestering derail us.  Satan wants us to “ring out” of rosary prayer by falsing promising us an easier and more gratifying life.  And, depending on our mood, his lies about the rosary being a waste of time might sound tempting.  But we have to keep our guard up and not let momentary inconveniences dominate our thoughts or overshadow our prayers.

Vincent Vidal (1811-1887): Young lady saying t...
A rosary SEAL (Soul Enthusiastically Approaching the Lord)

Much like an elite Navy SEAL, we do have to dig down deep to overcome that urge to quit or take a more casual approach.  Mary gave us 15 great reasons to pray the rosary continuously.  Saint Louis de Montfort gave us many reasons more.  We know deep down how great the rosary is for our spiritual well being.  So treat Satan like that little gnat that he is and just swat his little nagging voice out of your mind when you pray the rosary.

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Blessed are the Students…

Grinnell College Gates Tower
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For many of us, September means the start of a new school year.  And perhaps one of the largest transitions students face is going off to college.  I know this is “so last month” for those on the semester system, but I was a quarter system guy when I was in school.  Regardless of whether you are just moving in for orientation or are a few short months away from graduation, I want to share this article I came across in the Catholic San Francisco and how it relates to the First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary.

The article is the Beatitudes for College Students and it outlines eight smart tips for thriving in college.  Some of them like staying away from drugs and going to class are just part of being a good student and a responsible adult.  But other ones like making sure you attend Mass, pray regularly, and keep in touch with family are often swept aside in pursuit of higher education.  While many people may do well on the academic, social, and career fronts, some often stumble spiritually during their college years.  For those who do fall away, hopefully it is just a temporary bump in the road.  But unfortunately, many become spiritually derailed in college.  We should pray for all of those in college as many schools (even Catholic ones) have become extremely hostile environments for practicing religion and spirituality.

One of the college student beatitudes is “Blessed are students who pray about and think through important decisions.”  People make very important decisions during their college years.  They must decide what to study, how to support themselves after graduation, where to live, how to manage finances, who will be their friends (or possibly spouse), and just how manage life as a responsible adult.  Furthermore, college is often a time to decide how much of a priority you will make living according to your faith and values.  For example, as many students find themselves living away from home for the first time, the question arises on whether to continue praying or attending Mass.  Often, we come to these decisions after consulting with friends, professors, family, and counselors.  We read articles, attend lectures, and try to research these life-altering decisions as best we can.  And yet we often forget to ask God for guidance by praying.  This not only applies to college students, but all of us.  Do you pray earnestly and listen to God before making large decisions?

We should remember the First Sorrowful Mystery where Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prayed so hard to God on the eve of His death that He started sweating blood.  He begged God to find another way to redeem us other than crucifixion.  Ultimately, crucifixion was God’s will and Jesus followed it faithfully.  But Jesus’ prayers were answered in that God gave Him strength to endure crucifixion and peace knowing that through His death and resurrection He would ultimately open the gates of Heaven and give us the opportunity for eternal joy and happiness.

And so college students can learn a lot from Jesus’ example of praying earnestly when facing big decisions.  God does have a plan for each one of us but we have to listen carefully through prayer.  We must be particularly vigilant in those times when it seems like God does not answer our prayers.  Perhaps He did but in a different way than what we were expecting.  Sometimes, instead of removing obstacles in our lives, God gives us the strength to overcome them.

College saddles students with many questions and decisions.  For those starting college, take time to reflect on what people are of good quality and what activities will ultimately make you a better person (hint: it’s not drinking and partying).  For those in the middle of their college years, ask God for guidance before declaring a major.  And for those in the final years of school, consider praying for insight on how you will spend the rest of you life after you get that diploma.  And important decisions don’t end after graduation.  Your will need to make decisions your entire life whether it be about work, family, finances, and politics.  You will have challenges but don’t think you’re alone in facing them.  God is always one prayer away and will always lead you in making the right decision if you listen to Him.

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What’s Your Request?

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter ...
Image via Wikipedia

The first reading for Sunday, 7/24/11, was the story about how Solomon the Wise actually became, well, wise.  In a dream, God came to Solomon, ruler of Israelites, and granted him one request.  Instead of earthly wealth and power, Solomon asked for the gift of wisdom.  God granted Solomon his request because of its unselfish nature.  Likewise, God gives us special gifts for praying the rosary if our requests are to help further our relationship with Him.

The Confraternity of the Rosary was started over 500 years ago by the Dominican order.  It is a Catholic association that promotes praying the rosary.  Over the years, the Virgin Mary made 15 promises of the benefits that come from praying the rosary.  They include gifts like:

  • What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
  • To those who propagate my Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
  • Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune.

Sound great?  If taken out of context one might think that praying the rosary will yield money, power, fame, and fortune.  If I ask for one million dollars I will receive it right?  I have a guarantee to find the love of my life or get that big promotion at work!  Of course, we know the rosary does not work like this.  So what does Mary mean in these promises?

We have to go back to Sunday’s reading and the story of Solomon.  God did have the power to grant Solomon whatever he wanted.  But God also reserved the right to turn down Solomon’s request if it was selfish or did not further His Heavenly kingdom.  The same goes with the promises of the rosary.  We will obtain whatever we ask as long as those requests are to deepen our relationship with God.  God will answer our prayers when we ask Him for what is truly important.  When Mary speaks of our necessities, she is not talking about our earthly ones.  Everything that happens in this life, good and bad, will one day pass away.  Our true necessities revolve around the state of our soul which will determine where we spend all eternity.  That is the aid we will receive praying the rosary.

Often we are like small children when we approach God in prayer.  To a child, a toy on the shelf at a store or a candy bar in the checkout counter feels like the most important thing in the world.  And children are devastated when they do not get what they want as we see when a parent drags their wailing child through the isles of a supermarket (poor parent).  And yet we often do the same thing in our prayers.  We ask God for things that we think are incredibly important because we lack the perspective to know that they are really quite inconsequential.  One of the benefits of the rosary is that we will not only receive our spiritual necessities, but we will gain a deeper understanding as to what those needs are.

So when we pray the rosary, let us remember to approach God humbly with our requests and intentions.  We should remember what is truly important which is the salvation of our soul and the souls of others.  Everything else, whether it be about work, finances, and relationships in this world are trivial when compared to receiving God’s grace.  And while it is fine to ask God for help in these areas we should remember to keep those requests in perspective.  Who knows?  Maybe one day God will come to you in a dream, as He did Solomon, and give you one request.  Will your heart be centered on God so that you will ask for what is truly important?

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Pray More Novenas

As Fat Tuesday winds down we now turn our focus towards Lent. If you are looking to do something special this Lenten Season, you might want to try praying a novena. This is a prayer for a specific devotion you say for nine days. You pray novenas for specific causes or intentions.

One of my readers sent me a link to the Pray More Novenas website. It is a really good catalogue of novenas and you can sign up to receive email reminders. I know that novenas only last nine days but it’s amazing how hard it can be to follow through praying them.  Reminders are helpful.

Here’s to making the most of Lent!

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Perfect Prayer

I came across this article on Catholic Exchange. It discusses the idea of “perfect prayer” and how the Holy Spirit guides us in our spiritual life. It also dives into the idea of how reciting prayers, like the “Hail Mary” repetitively in the Catholic rosary, is different from the mindless incantations that Jesus warns us against in the Gospel. Many of the ideas put forth by the article’s author, Mark Shea, run along similar lines as many of my articles so I thought this was worth further commentary.

A dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, who is be...
Image via Wikipedia

I came across this article on Catholic Exchange.  It discusses the idea of “perfect prayer” and how the Holy Spirit guides us in our spiritual life.  It also dives into the idea of how reciting prayers, like the “Hail Mary” repeatedly in the Catholic rosary, is different from the mindless incantations that Jesus warns us against in the Gospel.  Many of the ideas put forth by the article’s author, Mark Shea, run along similar lines as many of my articles so I thought this was worth further commentary.

The article starts by explaining to us the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer:

Because we don’t know what we are doing when we pray, God sends us help. The principal help he gives is the Spirit who, if you will, prays through us and in union with us.

Naturally, this calls to mind the Third Glorious Mystery, the Coming of the Holy Spirit.  This same gift given to the apostles is also available to us to help guide us through life.  Remember, the purpose of prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not to erase all of life’s problems.  The world will always be an imperfect place where there is sadness, sickness, cruelty, war, and suffering.  The world moves like raging, white water rapids where it is so easy to lose control and smash upon the rocks.  But the Holy Spirit helps us navigate those rapids so that we make it through intact.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t make the rapids go away but gives us the strength and knowledge to survive and even thrive among the chaos of this world.

The article moves on to discuss repetitive prayer and cites Jesus in Matthew 6:7:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

I always found this warning against “empty phrases” interesting because people always ask this about praying the rosary.  Many people feel like repeating the Hail Mary ten times for each decade is just the recitation of empty phrases.  And surely, it can become that if we say them without any focus or conviction.  But Mark Shea makes a good point that we do not recite the Hail Mary or the Our Father as if it is some sort of magic spell and hence reduce God to a genie who grants us wishes.  Instead, reciting these prayers repeatedly moves us into a more meditative and receptive state to hear God’s will.  And this brings us back to the earlier part about letting the Holy Spirit guide us.  By praying and meditating we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  In a way, its not the words of the prayer that are important.  Rather, it’s the frame of mind that prayer puts us in since it shows an effort to really have a closer relationship with God.

Reciting the Hail Mary as a form of rosary meditation is our spiritual exercise.  In a past article, I liken rosary prayer to doing push ups.  You don’t get in shape physically by doing a single push up periodically.  Similarly, you don’t get spiritually healthy by praying a single Hail Mary once in a while.  So what some see as mindless incantations in praying the rosary, I see as a healthy spiritual workout regiment.  Very few of us can get “in the zone” with a few seconds of praying.  It takes time to organize our thoughts and present them to the Lord.  And that is why God designed the rosary the way it is.  It allows us to take our time, warm up a little, and really focus on trying to build our relationship with the Lord.

It takes discipline to pray the rosary and stay focused and receptive to the Holy Spirit.  Anyone who has meditated deeply will tell you it is anything but the recitation of easy, mindless phrases.

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Prepare Yourself Spiritually

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the servants watching over their master’s house while he is away (Luke 12:32-48). There are two verses that really struck a chord with me and relate to many of my earlier articles and rosary meditations: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” These verses stress the importance of always being prepared. But it raises these interesting questions. For what do we prepare? And how do we prepare?

An etching by Jan Luken illustrating Luke 10:3...
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In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the servants watching over their master’s house while he is away (Luke 12:32-48).  There are two verses that really struck a chord with me and relate to many of my earlier articles and rosary meditations:

Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

These verses stress the importance of always being prepared.  But it raises these interesting questions.  For what do we prepare?  And how do we prepare?  I think the traditional reading of this Gospel is that we prepare for our final judgement once we die.  We are like the servants while Jesus is the master.  One day the master will return and we will have to account for what we have done.  The Second Glorious Mystery reminds us that Jesus ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God to judge the living and the dead.  Since we do not know when our final judgement will come, we better be in a constant state of readiness.  But while preparing for our final judgement is important, there are also other, more immediate reasons why we need to be prepared spiritually.

We should also prepare ourselves for the unexpected obstacles of this life.  Similar to how Jesus said that we do not know the hour of our judgement, we also do not know the time or circumstances of great hardship.  It may be the unexpected loss of a loved one, an illness, economic troubles, relationship issues, or just a sense of depression and despair.  Often we cannot prevent such events from occurring.  Since we cannot avoid hardship and trials in life it almost seems foolish to not prepare for them.  As Jesus implies in the Gospel, only a foolish person would not defend his house if he knows thieves are coming.  It is important to build a “reservoir of faith” so that we have the strength to endure the challenges life throws at us in the way Jesus expects from us.

We also prepare ourselves spiritually, not just to endure hardship, but also so we can do good when the opportunity arises.  Thinking back to the story of The Good Samaritan, living a life of constant prayer enables us to spot those opportunities when we can help those in need.  Personally, I know I sometimes live in my own little world and focus on my immediate needs.  We often live where we look after ourselves first and maybe, if we have a little energy left over, we help our loved ones.  And many of us have no energy or desire to help strangers or our enemies.  But when our hearts and minds are truly prepared and aligned with God’s will we gain the ability to look past our immediate needs and see the needs of others.

There are many ways to prepare for the trials of this life, the judgement in the next, and to help those in need.  I always talk about spiritual fitness in my posts.  That is just another way of explaining how to prepare our souls for life’s challenges.  Much like how push ups build physical muscle, prayer and the sacraments build spiritual muscle.  Meditation, reading the Bible, and (of course) praying the Holy Catholic rosary all help galvanize our defenses against sin and resist the false promises of satan.  Like exercise, the earlier we start praying and the more consistently we do it the stronger we will be in the long run.  We will have that extra energy to go that extra mile and help those who need it the most.  So ask yourself, are you prepared?

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