Scripture and the Rosary: Being Prepared

When I glance at news headlines, I see a world that is going downhill at an ever-increasing pace.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, and fires are sweeping our planet.  In addition to natural and man-made disasters, there is so much anger and division surrounding politics that has crept into everyone’s daily consciousness.  And while I don’t think we’re living in the end times, seeing how quickly things can go from normal to chaotic makes me take stock of my life.  Am I prepared for an emergency?  Is my soul prepared in the event of an unexpected death?  How does scripture and Rosary prayer prepare me for the unexpected?

Last Sunday’s Gospel speaks to our lack of preparation for something we all know is coming.  The Gospel likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast to which everyone was invited.  And yet, one of the people was not prepared for the wedding feast and did not have the proper attire.  The king, who was hosting the party, threw the unprepared guest out.

Whenever I hear this Gospel I can’t help but feel sorry for the person who did not have the proper wedding attire.  After all, he was not planning on going to a wedding banquet on that day.  Why would he be walking down a road with his wedding attire in hand?  Or even more curiously, why did everyone else have their wedding clothes at the ready?  He was just going about his business, was told that there was a party and he was invited, and then the king humiliated him and threw him out.  I sometimes feel like the lesson of this parable is that we should be cautious in accepting God’s offer of grace because it comes with strings attached.  What is Jesus trying to tell us?

I don’t know much about Jewish customs in the first century AD so I may be making some very incorrect assumptions.  But I like to think that maybe, upon receiving the invitation to the wedding feast, people had time to quickly go home and get dressed appropriately.  But the one man who did not fetch his wedding garment maybe thought, “I’m sure the king will be okay if I just come as I am.”  He may have thought that since the king was inviting everyone that he probably wouldn’t be very choosy about how the guests chose to conduct themselves.

In case you haven’t made the connection, the parable of the wedding feast is about our death and God’s judgment.  Like the king inviting everyone to the wedding, God invites us all into His heavenly kingdom.  But we do have to come prepared with a soul free of mortal sin.  God will not accept us if our souls are not in the proper state.  For many of us, that may mean time in Purgatory.  For others, they will be turned out of the kingdom entirely.  But unlike the travelers on the road who received a surprise invitation to the king’s banquet, we all know that God invites us to His heavenly banquet.  We have plenty of time to get ready so that we can enter into His kingdom confidently because we adequately prepared.

When I pray the Rosary, I often meditate on my death and judgment on the Second Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.  I recall the words of the Creed, “He ascended into Heaven and is seated next to God, the Father Almighty.  He will come to judge the living and the dead.”  It’s right there in the creed we profess every time we pray the Rosary and at Mass.  Jesus will judge us and assess our worthiness to enter His Father’s house after our death.  There’s no mystery, surprises, or ambiguity about that.

“Why am I here? Oh right… the sins”

Yes, God is a God of love and mercy which is why He so readily forgives us when we ask for it through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But we have to show that we want to be with Him and His kingdom through our words, thoughts, and actions.  We have to choose Heaven and work towards it and not assume God will be okay with our inappropriate choices we made in life.  When we make the assumption that we can enter Heaven no matter how we chose to live, we are like the foolish man who had time to prepare and did not take advantage of it.

Lord, as I pray this second glorious mystery of the Rosary, may I remember that You have prepared a place for me in Your kingdom.  May my every action, thought, and word be conducted with the knowledge of Your final judgment.  May my love for you, Oh Lord, be so great that I avoid bad choices in life that would make me unprepared to enter into Your kingdom.

The Power of Regular Rosary Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Honor Mary by Asking for Her Help

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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How the Rosary Helps Us Overcome Obstacles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temptations

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

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

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

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How the Rosary Improves Your Soul’s Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How the Rosary Removes the “Beams” from our Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Rosary Meditation is the Best Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look, no hands!

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

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The Importance of Prioritizing Rosary Prayer

In my previous article, I talked about how we need to make every rosary prayer count by staying focused and engaged instead of just racing through it so that it can be checked off a spiritual to-do list. That naturally leads many people to ask this question, “Should I pray the rosary even when I’m not in the mood?” After all, when you’re sick, do you exercise heavily or get some rest? Is it better to skip rosary prayer if you believe you are just going to say the words on auto-pilot?

About a year ago I gave a lecture titled “Would you pray for a million dollars?” I put forth this theoretical situation. Suppose Pope Francis offered anyone who prayed the rosary every day for a month a million dollars. But you receive nothing if you miss just one day. How high would you prioritize rosary prayer amongst your other daily responsibilities? What would be so important that would cause you to skip a day and lose the big payout?

Do I get paid by the bead or by the chaplet?

For most of us, nothing short of the apocalypse would stand in our way of praying the rosary daily for a million dollars (bad example as I’m sure rosary prayer would increase during the Apocalypse).  But the kicker is that Mary’s 15 promises to those who pray the rosary are infinitely more valuable than any cash payout. And yet, we so quickly tend to find reasons to avoid praying the rosary and miss out on its benefits.

Back to the original question of this article — should you pray the rosary when you don’t feel like it? Is no rosary better than an unfocused rosary? I think this is actually asking the wrong question. In most cases, it’s not that you don’t feel up to praying the rosary. After all, I bet you would find the time and energy for a cash reward. It’s that we tend to de-prioritize the rosary because we don’t appreciate its value. If we did internalize the importance and benefits of rosary prayer then nothing short of death would keep us from praying it (another bad example since you will be more likely to pray the rosary at the hour of your death).

I don’t want to sound sanctimonious because I certainly have days when I talk myself out of praying the rosary for very weak reasons. We all probably have our moments of weakness that allow Satan to convince us to put away our rosaries and do something else.

No, watching a movie starring Jim Caviezel is not the same as praying the rosary.

Before canceling your rosary prayer for the day, ask yourself whether you prioritized it correctly.  Did you put it off all day to a time when you historically don’t focus well?  Did you replace rosary prayer with TV or some other leisurely activity?  In short, did you set yourself up for failing to pray by not giving it the proper priority in your day?  Remember that rosary prayer has incredible benefits that far outweigh any material gain.  Don’t casually convince yourself out of praying it regularly for weak reasons and miss out on all God offers you.

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Making Every Rosary Prayer Count

I’m a fan of the Catholic Answers Forums.  For those who have never visited it, CAF is a huge forum of questions, updates, and news regarding Catholicism.  If you read it long enough, you will start to see patterns emerge in the type of posts submitted.  You will see posts of the type “Is this a mortal sin…?”,  “Please pray for…”, “Why does God allow…?”, etc.  I frequently see this one — “Does rosary prayer count if I…?”  It ends with “was watching TV?”, “thinking of something else?”, “was listening to it on the radio?”, etc.

I find this way of approaching rosary prayer interesting since I believe it misses the point of why we pray.  What does it mean for a prayer to “count?”  For me, that conjures up images of our Mother Mary sporting a visor, whistle, and holding a clipboard like a junior high school gym teacher.  And she’s marking down how many “valid” prayers you’ve said as if you were taking a pushup test.  “Bad form Brent!”  “You missed a word!”  “Hands not folded in approved fashion.”  And in the end, “Not bad; in that chaplet you said 33 decent Hail Marys; you pass!”

“Don’t think I can’t see those knees bending Jimmy.”

I believe many people approach their faith in this binary fashion; that the things you do are scored and count towards getting into Heaven or against it.  You’re in Heaven if you rack up a high enough score by the time you die.  And who knows, maybe certain aspects of our faith are a little like that like attending Mass on Sunday — if you miss it for no valid reason then you’ve broken a Commandment.  Definitely points off.

But I don’t think the rosary breaks down into a nice little checkbox on whether it counts or not.  It’s not a pass/fail activity.  You have to approach the rosary more like a conversation.  Are you talking and listening to God through prayer?  Are you concentrating and meditating on each mystery and really trying to communicate with God or are you just going through the motions with your heart and mind are somewhere else?  Furthermore, what do your thoughts and actions say about the quality of your prayers?  Does prayer actually motivate you to lead a life of conversion towards Jesus’ teachings or does it not really affect you in any meaningful way?  Are you just tuning out God?

“That’s whatever you’re talking about for ya…”

Maybe we can think of rosary prayer like exercise.  No, I’m not going back to the junior high gym class type of exercise that is highly quantitative and you either pass or fail.  I’m talking about general exercise.  You can go to the gym and idly walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  And that is better than nothing.  But did you actually push yourself and stress your heart and muscles to make them stronger?  Do you follow up workouts with healthy meals or do you down that slice of cheesecake?

Rosary prayer is similar to the exercise experience except instead of stressing physical muscles, you’re stressing spiritual ones.  Is the rosary helping you develop a closer relationship with God?  Is it motivating you to desire God’s grace and His Kingdom of Heaven?  Are you trying to follow up rosary prayer with virtuous behavior while avoiding sin?

Overall, the rosary only “counts” as much as you make it count.  It’s not evaluated by some external, quantifiable criteria.  I know many of us take comfort in absolutes and it can be frustrating and even a little scary in the absence of it.  But the rosary requires faith to accept that there won’t necessarily be a straight and immediate answer to your prayers.  But don’t worry, it’s a prayer worth learning and becoming comfortable with even if it doesn’t produce the absolute answers you’re looking for.  Because the answers it does provide go far beyond what is observable and quantifiable.  Our faith and God’s grace cannot be limited to rules, regulations, and items on a checklist.

Want the rosary to count?  That’s entirely up to you.  Look at your relationship with God and your faith in His plan.  Has praying the rosary given you more faith and a closer relationship with God?  If not, maybe it’s time to look at how you can get more out of the rosary by investing more time and concentration to it.

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It’s May! Time to Get Out Those Rosaries

For Mary’s month of May, Pope Francis has recommended the “simple and effective” prayer of the rosary.

At his weekly General Audience this morning, May 3, 2017, Francis gave pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square this advice: “At the beginning of May, let us invoke the heavenly intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus.”

During his greetings to Polish pilgrims, the Pope invited the crowd to applaud the Virgin Mary “Queen of Poland” on the day of the national holiday.

While to young people, Francis urged, “learn to pray with the simple and effective prayer of the rosary,” to sick people, he encouraged, “may the Blessed Virgin be your support in the trial of suffering.”

May is Mary’s month and I can think of no better way to honor our Heavenly Mother than with earnest rosary prayer.  The word rosary comes from the Latin word rosa meaning rose.  So while you are busy buying physical flowers for Mother’s Day don’t forget to send Mary spiritual flowers through rosary prayer.

As an aside, I can picture some of you saying, “Wait, you’re saying May is the perfect time to pray the rosary.  Didn’t you just say that we should celebrate Easter by praying the rosary?  And before that, didn’t you say we should observe Lent by praying the rosary?  And before that didn’t you say we should celebrate a new year with rosary prayer?  And before that, didn’t you say to celebrate Christmas, Advent, October, etc. with rosary prayer?”

Naturally, my answer to all of those questions is yes!  The rosary is the perfect prayer for all occasions.  There is never a bad time to pray the rosary or start learning how to pray the rosary.  Need help?  Please browse RosaryMeds for videos, links, and other resources to help you pray the rosary.

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