No matter how regularly and fervently we pray, most of us hit prayer blocks. Prayer block is similar to writer’s block — you just have a hard time finding the inspiration and motivation to pray. You know prayer is important but you just can’t get into it like you want to. It is those times where we need to look to others to give us a pep talk and remind us why we pray.
I have not yet read Champions of the Rosary, but it’s definitely on my reading list. It looks like just the book to have handy when I’m not feeling it when it comes to rosary prayer. Fr. Calloway reminds us that the rosary is the saint maker:
The Servant of God Frank Duff — founder of the Legion of Mary — once wondered if there has been a single saint since the 13th century who has not prayed the rosary. Without a doubt, the rosary has been the most frequently mentioned form of Marian devotion by the saints since the 13th century. It would be impossible to list all of these saints.
I’m looking forward to reading this book for sure. If you have a good book that motivates you to pray, contact me using the form below on this page or on Facebook. I’m sure many of my readers would love to have a few good books on prayer, especially the rosary, loaded up on their tablets ready to go for when their rosary prayer enthusiasm wanes.
Do you remember one of the early scenes in Million Dollar Baby where Client Eastwood’s character kneels in prayer next to his bed? He says something to the extent, “Lord, you know what I want, there’s no use in me repeating myself.” Boy, how often can I relate to that sentiment! I sometimes think to myself that God knows everything and definitely knows my intentions and my needs better than myself so why go through the exercise of formulating them in prayer? The Gospel reading from 10/6/16 addresses this dilemma.
Last Thursday’s Gospel reading included this popular verse from Luke:
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
The Regnum Christi website’s meditation on this Gospel reading talks about how we fall into the sin of pride when we don’t explicitly ask God for help through prayer. From their website:
When I Don’t Ask for What I Need, I Treat God as My Servant: When we expect God to give us all we need without asking, are we not placing the whole burden of our salvation on him and nothing on ourselves? Are we not in a sense being lazy? “You know what I need, Lord. Just give it to me, take care of it, while I focus on my own interests.” Not only is this laziness, it is pride, treating God like a servant whose role is to provide whatever I need. We forget he is God. Certainly God is generous and loving, willing to give us everything that is good for us; but he is still God, and he deserves our respect, adoration, and especially our gratitude.
The rosary connection to this Gospel reading is the Fifth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Coronation as Queen of Heaven. Traditionally, the mother of a king held tremendous prestige because while a king may have multiple wives, he only has one mother. The king’s mother was referred to as the gebira. It makes sense then that Christ, being King of Heaven, would coronate his mother Mary as Queen of Heaven.
The chief responsibility of the gebira was to act as a mediator and speak on behalf of the king. When we pray the rosary, we acknowledge Mary as our mediator of our needs and intentions to her son, Jesus Christ. But she can better mediate on our behalf when we consciously and humbly come to her and ask for her help in prayer.
Think of Mary like a doctor and you are the patient. Mary is here to help you and she will do whatever she can to cure the illness of sin and bring you into God’s grace. However, she will be better able to help you if you are forthright and honest with her by humbly stating your needs in prayer. The better the patient you are, the more effective Mary can be in her role as your Queen of Heaven. When you can formulate your intentions in prayer then you will be able to understand how God responds to your request.
If you know what ails you spiritually, speak up! Because if can’t form the request in your head, how will you recognize the heavenly response?
It’s October. For many of us, that means complaining about pumpkin flavored food and drinks being offered everywhere, acting surprised how early the Christmas season starts every year, gloomy weather, and Halloween. What I often forget is that October is the month of the holy rosary. That’s extremely embarrassing since I run a rosary website! May and October should be my rosaryplayoff season where I give 100% effort praying the rosary as well as writing about it.
I think it is important to understand why October is a month dedicated to the rosary because it highlights the power and importance of the rosary. You need to go back to October 7, 1571, to the Battle of Lepanto. This was a huge naval battle between the Christian European nations under the banner of the Holy League and Ottoman Turks that were advancing through the Middle East and across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
The Christian fleet was vastly outnumbered. Pope Pius V called on the faithful to pray the rosary publicly asking for the intercession of the Blessed Mother to halt the Turkish armies. Despite all odds, the European fleet defeated the Turkish one and the victory was attributed to Mary’s intercession through rosary prayer. Pope Pius established an annual commemoration to honor Our Lady of Victory, and his successor, Gregory XIII, decreed that the first Sunday in October would be the feast of the Holy Rosary. The Church then extended the celebration of the rosary throughout the entire month of October.
Rosary prayer and asking for Mary’s intercession helped the European navy to overcome overwhelming odds at the Battle of Lepanto. But the answer to those prayers didn’t come in the form of legions of angels visibility descending from Heaven or God sending a huge title wave swallowing the Turkish fleet. The rosary did the seemingly impossible by transforming the hearts of minds of those involved in the battle.
Remember, the Turkish ships were mostly powered on the backs of captured Christian slaves. Many accounts speak of these slaves sacrificing their own lives by intentionally moving and orienting the Turkish vessels in ways that gave the European fleet clear shots and other advantages. I believe it was rosary prayer and dedication to Mary that gave these slaves and soldiers the courage to sacrifice their lives for the greater good.
God’s answers to our prayers are not always what we expect. In fact, the answer may not be something that is even easy or pleasant. The victory at Lepanto was achieved through the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers and slaves. Our redemption was achieved through the sacrifice of God’s only son Jesus Christ. If you find yourself doubting the effectiveness of prayer, commit yourself to praying the rosary this month asking God for both faith and peace in his divine plan for you. If rosary prayer changed the course of history at the Battle of Lepanto, surely it can achieve the even more difficult goal of increasing our faith and turning our hearts towards God.
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus’ teachings in this Gospel confuse me. Why is he telling us to turn against our parents? After all, Jesus loved Mary, his mother. He was obedient to his parents as a young boy. And what does hating your parents have to do with the analogy of laying down the foundation of a tower, preparing for battle, or renouncing all your possessions? I can just picture the confusion and even doubt the people listening to Jesus speak these words must have had.
I think that when you look at this teaching in the context of all of Jesus’ other teachings it is obvious that he is not telling us to literally hate our parents. Rather, he instructs us to let go of all worldly attachment especially if they lead us away from God‘s grace. And in some extreme cases, that may mean letting go of our relationships with certain people, possessions, and habits if they are toxic to our relationship with God.
Each one of us needs to make a conscious decision on what kingdom we are going to live for. Will it be this worldly kingdom or God’s heavenly one? Remember, shortly after this teaching in Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13).
The Gospel reading moves in a unique direction with the parable of building the tower and preparing for war. As my Sunday readings workbook points out, Jesus is telling us that living our faith is something we need to consciously think about and commit ourselves to. Many of us cradle Catholics (myself included) often take the Church‘s teachings for granted and do not put a lot of serious thought into them. We may call ourselves Catholics but Jesus challenges us to reflect on what exactly we are committing ourselves to. Have we taken the time to learn the Church’s teachings? Are we ready to live and defend them? Do we pray regularly to build a strong spiritual foundation if/when our faith is challenged?
The Gospel reflects the central theme of the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ Call to Conversion. Conversion implies that one is making a very conscious and deliberate choice. It is not something one does passively. When you reflect on this rosary mystery, ask yourself if you are seriously looking for ways you are not living up to the standard Jesus puts before you. Where are you out of step with the Church’s teachings on topics such as abortion, chastity, immigration, social welfare, etc? What are you going to do to convert from your focus on our worldly kingdom to God’s heavenly one?
It is easy to procrastinate and delay taking a hard look at your life and taking steps to convert. But just like the builder who didn’t plan or the general that didn’t strategize, Jesus warns us about how foolish such action is because delaying actively living a truly Catholic faith puts you at risk for great catastrophe. And there is no greater catastrophe than losing God’s kingdom of Heaven especially when he asks relatively so little of us to accept it.
I’m a lector at my parish. One of the perks of serving as a lector is that my parish provides me with a workbook for the readings that contain explanations and commentary. Reading this book during the week helps me obtain a deeper understanding of the readings at Sunday Mass. I want to start providing you insight into the Sunday Gospels and how they relate to the rosary. This way, when you pray the rosary, you can integrate the Sunday readings into your meditation as well. Think of this as doing your Sunday Mass homework.
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
When I initially read this Gospel passage, I felt like I was reading the biblical equivalent of an Amy Vanderbiltetiquette book on how to politely find your place at a banquet table. The reading confused me because it seemed like Jesus was giving his disciples a social hack for getting to a place of honor in a disingenuous way. Is it not false humility to sit at a lowly spot of the table expecting the host to come and fetch you and put you where you think you deserve to be? I can almost picture that fake humble person sitting next to the stereotypical “chatty lady,” not even listening to her but scanning the room making sure the host sees him so he can “rescue” him from the dregs.
The confusion lifted when I realized that Jesus asks us to behave as the guest and the host! Jesus talks about the host not looking for reciprocity or acknowledgment for his efforts. But that is also the same requirement for the guest who takes the lowest spot at the table. He should not be looking for the host to save him from his situation but rather, accept and enjoy his situation regardless of the outcome. After all, the guest should be thankful and grateful that he was invited to the feast at all. We too should be grateful for all the blessings God bestows on us even when it seems like others have it better.
The people who are truly humble and accepting of their situation are ultimately the happiest. They are not always looking for something better but find contentment with what they have. That is because they do not come with any preconceived notions of their importance but they just do what needs to be done. They do not worry about who notices them or if they will receive a certain level of reward. In a sense, the humble person is free from the burden of self-imposed expectations or entitlement. When you do not feel entitled to that place of honor, being elevated to it makes it that much more glorious.
Just about every mystery of the rosary teaches some aspect of humility and the glory that comes out of it. The rosary itself is bookended by these two traits by the First Joyful Mystery and the Fifth Glorious Mystery. In the Annunciation, Mary humbly accepts God‘s plan for her. She does not turn God down or try to reshape His request into something she would prefer. God is essentially upending Mary’s life but her humble reply is, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
When we walk and talk with Jesus through the rosary, we finish with Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven. Like the person sitting at the lowest spot of the banquet table only to be seated at the place of honor so was Mary glorified after her lifetime of humbly accepting God’s plan for her and the pain and sorrow that it entailed. She is our model for our ultimate elevation to a place of honor in Heaven when we live in earnest, humble service of God’s plan for us.
When you pray the First Joyful and Fifth Glorious mysteries of the rosary, pray and ask yourself:
Am I living a sincerely humble life or showing a fake sense of humility as a means to more selfish ends?
Am I content and satisfied with all God has given me or am I expecting something better?
Am I looking to Mary as an example of humility?
Am I showing humility by putting my trust in God’s plan or am I trying to avoid or amend it?
As a supervisor managing a software engineering team, schedules are my life. If a meeting or a task is not scheduled, it does not really exist. I’ve learned, sometimes painfully, that thinking, “I don’t need to write that down; of course I’ll remember it” is a recipe for dropping tasks and missing meetings.
The same idea of scheduling that applies to work can also apply to rosary prayer. If praying the rosary is not part of your daily routine it will very often be skipped. Even when you say, “it’s important, I’ll find the time,” without a clear plan you’ll just fill the time with any number of other important tasks.
I’m not saying that you need to have a block of time listed on your calendar and alarms on your smartphone for rosary prayer time. Although, if that level of specificity works for you then, by all means, use it. But you do need to have some plan for integrating the rosary in your daily routine. It may be waking up earlier, replacing TV/internet/Pokemon Go time with it, or praying it on your commute.
My daily rosary praying routine looks something like this. I pray the initial prayers (Apostles’ Creed, Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be) before I leave the house for work in the morning. I try to pray two decades on my morning commute. If I go to the gym, I’ll pray another decade on my walk over and then on my walk back. I’ll complete the remaining decades and closing prayers on my commute home from work. What I’ve done is create rosary prayer insertion points throughout my day. This creates some flexibility in my schedule where if I cannot pray the rosary at a specific time I know there will be other opportunities throughout the day.
If you want to pray the rosary regularly but are having a hard time finding the time, start to identify insertion points in your daily routine to pray a decade or two. Create as many opportunities as possible so that if you miss one you will still have more than enough time slots to make it up. If you a struggling praying the rosary and do not have a plan for it, try making one today. As I learned in software engineering, if it’s important enough to do then it’s important enough to plan.
On July 6, 2016, the St. Thomas More Society of Orange County, CA invited me to speak at their monthly meeting. It is an organization dedicated to strengthening the faith of Catholic lawyers. I naturally talked about the importance and benefits of daily rosary prayer by walking them through Mary’s 15 rosary promises as well as providing hints and tips that have helped me make the most of rosary prayer.
I’ve published a video recording of my presentation for you to watch when convenient. I know I’m violating some sort of universal law of the internet by publishing a video that is longer than three minutes but I do encourage you to watch the entire presentation even if you have to break it up into multiple viewings. I think it ties together a lot of the themes I’ve been trying to communicate on RosaryMeds over the last few years. Also, for those of you who live in California (especially the Bay Area), please get in touch with me about speaking at your school, parish, or organization if you like what you see. Or if you have connections at EWTN or Immaculate Heart Radio, consider this my demo reel.
Perseverance is not a word exactly tied to pleasant thoughts. The definition is “steadypersistenceinacourseofaction,apurpose,astate,etc., especiallyinspiteofdifficulties,obstacles,ordespair.” One does not persevere unless there is an element of unpleasantness. Take physical exercise for example. You gain strength only by working through pain and fatigue. Or think about a healthy diet. You have to deny yourself the temporary pleasures of cookies, cakes, and other sweets to achieve the more long term goal of staying fit and avoiding diseases. What about our spirituality? Does perseverance play a role in praying the rosary?
I’m not going to get all kumbaya on you. Yes, I know that the rosary is a great prayer and I’ve spoken about its benefits for the last six years. But that doesn’t mean the rosary is an easy prayer or very relaxing for that matter. It is a prayer where we must demonstrate perseverance. And as time goes on, it seems like persevering through rosary prayer becomes an even larger challenge than in past generations. We live in an age where attention spans are narrowing. If a three minute YouTube video is considered long, then 20 minutes of rosary prayer is an eternity. The rosary can become repetitive and boring when compared to the instant gratification most of us have at our fingertips via our smartphones, computers, and televisions.
Now before you start saying that I’m a rosary hater, keep in mind that I’m echoing the same sentiment as St. Louis de Montfort in The Secret of the Rosary. He writes in his 43rd rose about how we have to fight distractions and persevere through the rosary to strengthen our faith:
Even if you have to fight distractions all through your whole Rosary be sure to fight well, arms in hand: that is to say, do not stop saying your Rosary even if it is hard to say and you have absolutely no sensible devotion. It is a terrible battle, I know, but one that is profitable to the faithful soul. If you put down your arms, that is, if you give up the Rosary, you will be admitting defeat and then, having won, the devil will leave you alone. But at the Day of Judgment he will taunt you because of your faithlessness and lack of courage. “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater.” He who fights even the smallest distractions faithfully when he says even the very smallest prayer he will also be faithful in great things. We can be absolutely certain of this because the Holy Spirit has told us so.
I’ve said it before, rosary prayer is a spiritual exercise. Much like running that extra mile even when you’re tired, praying the rosary devoutly in the face of the seemingly boring repetition will strengthen you spiritually. Perseverance isn’t the act of enduring one large hardship. Many of us can muster the strength to face one large challenge. It’s the act of overcoming a series of hardships, both large and small, over a long period of time. But if you can persevere in praying the rosary devoutly day in and day out, then you’ve proved to yourself that you have the ability to persevere in resisting sin and temptation as well. Like exercise, rosary prayer’s little gains start to show incremental, if not exponential, returns in the long run.
Not only is praying the rosary itself an exercise in perseverance, the mysteries also teach us that perseverance brings us closer to God’s grace. The most obvious one is the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus taking up his cross. Three of the stations of the cross explicitly call out Jesus falling and getting back up. Jesus endured the pain and hardship because he understood the importance of doing God’s Will. Similarly, we are called to live God’s Will even when it proves difficult or the rationale is incomprehensible. When life gets difficult, many of us give up and become angry with God because the suffering makes no sense to us. But the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery teaches us to instead put our trust in God’s plan even when we cannot understand it.
Perseverance, whether it’s praying the rosary routinely or continuing to love God in times of great hardship is the ultimate form of faith. You tell God, “I may not understand why you asking me to endure these hardships, but I will because I love you and I know they will ultimately bring me closer to you and your kingdom of Heaven.” That is the essential nature of faith — loving God even when he asks you to persevere through hardship.
I read this article about the value of reading the Bible slowly and contemplatively. The author, David Mathis, compared meditating on the Bible to enjoying a well crafted meal as opposed to trying to scarf it down quickly like you’re in a hot dog eating contest. This article got me thinking that the same principle of meditative bible reading applies to rosary prayer and relates to what I wrote in my last post about finding happiness.
World-class eaters would never stuff themselves at top speed at every meal, but many of us are prone to come to Bible intake like we’re scarfing cheap hot dogs. When morning devotions are simply our first to-do of the day, and we set out simply to read a chapter, check a box, and complete the task, we end up putting ourselves through something more like a hot dog eating contest than an enjoyable, nourishing, life-giving meal.
You can basically replace the word “Bible” in the article with “rosary” and the overall message remains the same. This echoes what I said about how not understanding the why behind rosary prayer reduces it to a check box on your daily to-do list.
What I’m going to do going forward is really take my time praying the rosary and emphasize quality over quantity. I don’t think Mary sits all day on a cloud in Heaven with a clip board making notes on how many rosaries I complete. The rosary isn’t an all or nothing proposition where it doesn’t count if you don’t complete the entire rosary. After all, what does a complete rosary even mean? Five mysteries in a 24 hour period? Five mysteries in a single sitting? All 20 mysteries? The 15 original mysteries? The meaning of a whole rosary can vary greatly depending on the individual. So why race through a rosary to met some arbitrary standard?
I’m not saying that you should just give up praying the rosary or not set a goal of praying it. What I am asking is that you don’t water down your rosary praying by racing through it in order to meet that goal. I think Mary appreciates a single decade prayed earnestly over five decades prayed hastily. Some days you may manage a single decade. Other days you may have the energy and concentration for all 20 mysteries. The idea is to not go through the motions to reach a goal but also don’t stop just because you prayed a certain number of mysteries. It’s not like you or Mary are trying to meet some sort of monthly rosary quota. In short, use your rosary prayer time to its fullest by making the most of each prayer.
Did you just rattle off 10 Hail Marys while thinking about last night’s hockey game? Stop! Do it again. Did you just completely forget what mystery you were praying? Stop! Take a break and come back when you have more focus. Where is the downside to acknowledging that you actually weren’t praying for the last five minutes and trying again? There is no downside if the purpose of your rosary prayer is to pray it earnestly, not to complete the loop.
Despite the wealth of ideas for rosary prayer and meditation, we all hit a prayer block sometimes. Prayer block is like writer’s block when you cannot come up with any good themes to meditate on or intentions. There are plenty of books and websites with rosary meditation ideas (I know two great books off the top of my head… hinthint) and the rosary is a dynamic prayer because we bring new life situations (and hence new intentions and thanksgivings) every time we pray the rosary. And yet, we sometimes hit a rough patch where our rosary prayers turn into mindless repetition.
I’m going to share a tip that you all must start doing now. It will dramatically improve your rosary praying experience. READ THE DAILY BIBLE READINGS BEFORE PRAYING THE ROSARY MYSTERIES. That’s it! How does reading some bible verses improve rosary prayer? I found that, without exception, I always can make a connection between the daily readings and the mysteries I’m praying. And that makes sense. After all, the rosary is rooted in the bible and guides you through the Gospels. The mysteries of the rosary touch on all of the main themes of the Gospel. The great part is, because the readings change every day, you will make different connections with the rosary mysteries each time you practice this. You avoid the dreaded auto-pilot praying mode.
Want to make even more connections between the Gospel and the rosary? Try reading commentary and meditations on the daily readings. Often, those meditations highlight certain truths of the readings that you may otherwise overlook.
Don’t have time to read, why not listen instead? There are plenty of audio recordings and podcasts for daily scriptural reading and meditation. My favorite Android app for listening to the daily Gospel and meditations is Laudate, specifically the Regnum Christi Daily Meditations podcast.
Lent just stared. Give this strategy a try for the next 40 days and see for yourself how much more you get out of your rosary prayer.