Would You Pray for a Million Dollars? The Value of the Rosary Prayer

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.

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The Roadmap: Mary’s Rosary Promise #15

Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

My 2 year old son is at an age where he wants to act like a grownup.  One example is that he often refuses to drink out of a sealed “sippy” cup and wants just a plain glass.  Not only that, he doesn’t want anyone to help him hold it.  Whenever I try to offer a hand to make sure he doesn’t spill or drop the glass, he quickly waves me off.  He also wants to walk around with the glass of water to his play area and refuses to let me carry it for him.  I explain that I should carry it because he will most likely spill it.  In fact, spilling the water is almost a certainty.  But despite my warnings, my son chooses to carry the water glass himself and of course ends up spilling water as he bounces up and down walking.

I wanted to help my son carry and drink his water.  I wanted him to not spill the water on the floor or on himself (who likes being soaking wet?).   But despite all my reasoning, good intentions, and offer to help transport the glass of water safely to the other room, my son ignored my warnings and did it his own way.  And I knew spilled water would be the result, but I let him make his own decision to try something his own way even when I knew it wouldn’t produce the desired result.

“Fine, carry the water yourself.”

This brings us to the idea of predestination.  But what a minute!  Isn’t predestination a protestant belief that Catholics don’t believe in?  Well no.  Catholics also have a concept of predestination although it differs from the protestant belief.  To put it simply, some protestants (Calvinists particularly) believe that since God is all knowing and exists outside of time and space, He has already decided who will get into Heaven and who will end up in Hell.  And because of this knowledge, our destiny has already been decided and there is nothing we can do to change it.

The Catholic’s interpretation of predestination is rooted in the idea that God has a plan for all of us that predestines us to Heaven.  God calls every soul to live in His heavenly kingdom and He gives us the means to get there.  But this is where Catholics and Calvinists split.  For Catholics, God has not predestined anyone to Hell.  Instead, the damned willing reject God’s predestined plan for salvation.  In other words, God lays out the roadmap that leads to Heaven and some people freely choose not to follow it.

Sometimes its best to follow someone else’s plan

Going back to the scenario with my son and the water glass.  I knew that by freely rejecting my advice my son was going to spill the water glass.  But I did not will or cause the water to spill.  I just knew that was going to be the result based on my knowledge of my son’s motor skills and the laws of physics.  Similarly, when we reject God’s predestined plan for us, He knows the unfavorable result of that decision based on his divine knowledge of, well, everything.

What does the rosary have to do with predestination?  Mary promises that those who pray the rosary will have insights into God’s divine roadmap that leads to Heaven.  By praying the rosary, you get a better perspective on whether you are on the right track towards eternal salvation.  This really ties in nicely with many of Mary’s other rosary promises about living a holy life filled with signal graces and the sacraments of the Church.  It’s fitting that talking about predestination is her final promise because it essentially summarizes all the other rosary promises.  If you pray the rosary you put yourself in a position to better understand and follow God’s predestined plan to spend eternity in Heaven.

rosary
rosary (Photo credit: Muffet)

Keep in mind that praying the rosary doesn’t guarantee salvation.  It’s not like you can pray the rosary every day, sin to your heart’s content, and then expect to get into Heaven.  But if you are truly devoted to the rosary then you understand it isn’t a magic talisman but more of a means of making you better attuned to God’s Will.  And when you do have that understanding, the idea of doing anything counter to God’s Will and losing His grace will seem ludicrous.  Of course, we all have our human weaknesses that cause us to forget, ignore, or doubt this great heavenly goal every once in a while.  But God devised a great system, through the Catholic Church, the sacraments, the rosary, the saints, and the intercessions of our Mother Mary to get back on track.  May we take advantage of the many paths included in God’s predestined plan for us to enjoy the His heavenly kingdom.

Wow, all done with Mary’s 15 rosary promises!  What will I write about next?  Any ideas?

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Hard Work: Mary’s Rosary Promise #14

Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

I think about one of the companies I worked for which had a very intense, deadline-driven atmosphere.  This was in the feature film industry where you can’t just partially finish a shot in a movie or half-deliver a commercial.  There are no beta releases or patch fixes you can deliver later if you fall behind schedule or miss an important detail.  There is tremendous pressure to finish complex shots on schedule and get every detail perfect.

People new to the industry get weeded out fairly quickly because many of them realize that the 7-day work weeks, the every increasing standards, and constant pressure isn’t the career for them.  Initially, fellow coworkers don’t exactly embrace new employees with open arms because they don’t know if they will stick around for very long.  But if you can weather that culture shock and survive a few projects then the company and your fellow co-workers start to accept you more as a teammate.  You showed that you have what it takes to survive and thrive in the industry and you aren’t just some flash-in-the-pan employee who thought movie production was all fun and games.

Feeling fulfilled yet?

Many careers have this type of path where you have to pay your dues.  Lawyers often work their tails off before making partner.  Investment bankers leave their jackets over their chairs at night so their boss won’t think they slacked off and left work early.  Software engineers often bring a sleeping bag to work and snooze under their desk or in an empty office when facing a large project deadline.  There are very few careers where you start out at the top.  And even in the ones where you do start with an elevated title, you still have to work hard to earn the trust and respect of your coworkers.

While many people understand that getting the most out of their careers, marriage, family, and friendships takes hard work, it doesn’t seem like they have a similar understanding when it comes to faith.  They often believe that getting the most out of their religion is almost entirely God‘s responsibility, not theirs.  For many people, their faith is nothing more than showing up to Mass on Sunday and that’s it.  And I’m sure of that group many of them wonder why God feels so distant to them.  But that’s like an employee of a company putting in the bare minimum of effort and then wondering why they don’t move up in the company or find their career fulfilling.  God is always willing to bring you in close in His grace, but you have to make the effort to actually want to be in His grace.

Mary not only says that you can forge a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, she promises it!  She even lays out exactly how to truly be one of Jesus’ disciples.  It’s not some mystery that only a chosen few are called to.  Mary says pray the rosary faithfully and she promises it will create a deeper relationship with her and her son.  That is something any one of us can do.

Pray the rosary, go to Mass, learn the faith, avoid sin.  Those are the keys to feeling that love, hope, and compassion of Jesus.  I know I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating.  He’s always there doling out the love and grace but you have to put yourself in the right mode to accept it.  You have to tear down those walls of sin and pride to let Jesus into your heart.  But tearing down those walls is not quick and easy.  And our human frailty is always trying to erect new walls that block God from our souls.

Feel the peace.

When you do come up with a solid plan to routinely tear down those walls of sin, the payoff is huge.  It’s one thing moving up the corporate ladder and feel invested in a company.  But that pales in comparison to feeling that deep sense of peace and comfort that comes from embracing a life of discipleship and commitment to the Catholic faith.  And there is nothing better than realizing in a way that you can’t logically comprehend or explain that Jesus Christ knows you as one of His own and loves you.

I may have misspoke earlier when I said it’s no mystery on how to get closer to Jesus Christ.  It’s actually 20 mysteries… 20 rosary mysteries that is!

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #13

I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire Celestial Court during their life and at the hour of death.

Imagine that a little 9 year old child walked up and asked you to teach him some basic mathematics.  You excitedly run to the bookshelf and pick up your linear algebra book from college.  You figure that solving a few matrix equations should be a good introduction to math.  You start running through some sample problems when the child’s eyes just glaze over because he has no idea what you’re talking about.  You slow down and really step him through the process.  You even start taking out pieces of paper to explain the intersection of planes.  But no matter how slow you go and what you do, the 9 year old is just lost, confused, and frustrated.

English: This is a diagram describing the line...
Uh, run that by me one more time?

It’s not really your fault or the child’s fault that he could not pick up basic math concepts from linear algebra.  It was just a mismatch in the child’s understanding of math and what is required to understand a complex topic like linear algebra.  The little child did not have adequate prerequisite knowledge to comprehend linear algebra.  He may be incredibly bright for his age but he still can’t instantly conjure up 10 years worth of math concepts no matter how hard either of you try.

Trying to understand God is much like a little child trying to comprehend linear algebra.  No matter how hard we may try, God’s nature is just something beyond our comprehension.  In fact, our gap in understanding God’s nature is infinitely greater than the child’s gap in understanding complex mathematical concepts.  Mathematics may be a large field, but at least it’s something possibly within the realm of understanding given enough time and practice.  God’s nature, on the other hand, is something that is infinite and beyond human comprehension regardless of how much time and effort you put into it.

Take someone who is quite well catechized like Pope Francis.  His understanding of God may be 100x greater than the average Catholic.  But if God’s nature was represented as grains of sand on the entire planet, the pope’s knowledge of God would still just be one or two grains of sand worth (and that’s being generous).  There’s a reason why God is the Alpha and Omega.  His nature is infinite and beyond what are finite minds can possibly comprehend.

But that is where the celestial court comes in to help us better understand God.  A more common term to describe the celestial court is the communion of saints.  You profess your belief in it every Sunday when you pray the Nicene creed when you say “I believe in the communion of saints.”  The communion of saints are so important in the Catholic Church partly because they help us better understand what God wants of us.  Each saint was a living manifestation of an aspect of God’s nature.  When we look at the saints and what they did in their lives, we get a mosaic of who God is.  Granted, it’s still a very rough picture of God, but it’s better than nothing.  We may be like children when it comes to understanding God, but the saints’ examples give us the basic lessons for understanding how God wants us to live.

A detail from John Nava's tapestry of the comm...
A detail from John Nava’s tapestry of the communion of saints. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, St. Francis demonstrated humility and charity by giving up a life of comfort and wealth for a life of poverty and service to the poor.  St. Faustina shows us the virtues of mercy and compassion.  St. Maria Goretti showed us forgiveness.  St. Madeleine Sophie Barat showed us unconditional love.  Soon-to-be-saint John Paul II shows us that we all have the inner strength to follow God despite our worldly situation.  All of these are virtues God wants all of us to exhibit.  But again, we have no way of fully comprehending God’s Will directly from Him.  But we can understand aspects of God’s Will by looking at the saints.

Like Mary’s other promises, she promises us intercession.  Mary offers us her personal intercession in previous promises and now she includes help from the communion of saints.  We need all the prayers we can get and we should rejoice that we belong to a faith that promises so much help from people living in God’s grace.  I know I take comfort that I don’t face life’s challenges alone but have the help of the saints in Heaven.  I also have them as role models for how I can achieve eternal salvation no matter where I am in life.  I remember this saying I once heard on the radio — every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.  In other words, not all the saints lived very saintly at some point in their lives but they were able to “wise up” and commit themselves to living God’s Will.  Hopefully we can follow in their footsteps and do the same.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #12

All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

Remember when I said in my previous post about Mary’s rosary promises seeming like a spiritual infomercial?  Well, I take that back.  This promise proves that the rosary is more like an affiliate marketing campaign.  In affiliate marketing, someone gets a small bonus when they convince someone to sign up for a certain service or buy a specific product.  Mary seems to offer us a sort of spiritual affiliate benefit when we spread the joy of rosary meditation to others.  It’s great to pray the rosary for your own good.  But spreading the rosary has an exponentially greater affect both for you own personal salvation and the Catholic Church as a whole.

Where is your rosary?

Imagine if you were able to convince two other people to start praying the rosary regularly.  Now picture those two people each finding two more to pray the rosary and those people went out and got two more and so on.  It doesn’t take to many levels of propagation before hundreds, maybe thousands, and heck, even millions of people turn to rosary prayer starting from your initial passion for it!  Now can you image a Church fueled by rosary prayer and receiving the graces Mary promises us?  That would be one joyful and sincerely happy world-wide community of believers with the strength to truly change all the ills of this world.  And all because you took one leap of faith to pray the rosary routinely and another leap to share your passion with others.

Your personal rosary prayer will yield much more fruit when you propagate rosary prayer to a wider audience.  But this isn’t because you earn more spiritual points that upgrade you to some higher Catholic membership.  It’s not like Mary sits in Heaven with a clipboard with your personal rosary score.  I don’t think she’s saying, “Well let’s see here.  Brent has convinced 10 people to start praying the rosary, he tries to pray it every weekday, but it looks like he missed some days.  So he’s a silver rosary rewards member which means he gets 3 intercessions a year.”  Not quite.

Like Mary’s other promises, the benefits of this one is more of a logical consequence of praying the rosary devoutly.  When you truly enjoy something or find something valuable, are you more likely to share it with others or keep it hidden?  As Facebook clearly shows, when you are passionate about something you have a tendency to share it with others.  People share their opinions and promote television shows, sports, music, movies, and books all the time (just look at the large number of reviews for any given product on Amazon).  Why would prayer be any different? It is logical that those who are passionate about rosary prayer will also want to share it with others.  If you truly believe in the benefits of rosary prayer and it’s something that gives you great comfort facing life’s challenges, why wouldn’t you want to share it with your friends and family?

If you are sharing the joy of rosary prayer and meditation then chances are you are already praying it regularly and devoutly.  After all, why would you promote something that doesn’t interest you or doesn’t provide you any value?  As I said in previous articles, those who do pray the rosary devoutly will be better tuned into how Mary is trying to aid them.  She is always trying to reach out to us but it is those who are really trying to listen to her through the rosary who will receive more aid in their necessities.  But it’s not from Mary giving more aid to some than others.  Rather, it’s some people making more of an effort to receive Mary’s aid by making time to listen to her through rosary meditation and being receptive to how she wants to help you.

Now here’s the hard part.  It’s easy for me to write this article and have a few dozen (hopefully hundreds of) people read this.  It is easy for you all to forward an email or share this post (please do that).  We can all sit back and think we did our part in propagating the rosary.  And yes, we did.  But I think that’s putting the quantity of rosary propagation over the quality.  Maybe we should instead make an effort to personally invite a friend or family member to pray the rosary with us.  It may not be the easiest way to propagate rosary prayer, but I think there is value in actually getting a single soul praying the rosary rather than telling hundreds of people who can easily ignore you.  Are you ready to take that challenge?

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #11

You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the Rosary.

Mary‘s 11th rosary promise is one of my favorites probably because it is so easily misunderstood (thus providing me with lots to write about). What does Mary mean when she says you will obtain all that you ask through the rosary? I’m sure many of us have prayed for a financial windfall. But how many of us have won the lottery? I’m sure we’ve prayed for good health for ourselves or a loved one. And yet we still get sick. It seems like we ask a lot from Mary through rosary meditation and yet so few of us seem to have our specific requests fulfilled. If Mary doesn’t keep this promise how can we trust her to keep the other 14 rosary promises?

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...
Unlike my last 10 requests, this one is REALLY, REALLY important.

I think the best way to jump into this promise is to retell a homily I heard many years ago. The priest emphasized how we tend to fixate on one specific answer to our prayers and we overlook how God actually answers them. The priest told a story of a man travelling home on foot after a long journey and had to cross a mountain range. Already tired and hungry, he prayed for God to level the mountain so that he could make it home safely and quickly. After waiting a few hours and seeing that God did not level the mountain, the man grumbled, carved a walking stick from a nearby tree branch, and started on his way.  After a rather uneventful trip, he made it over the mountains and back home.

The man was enraged because he thought God did not answer his prayer.  What the man failed to realize was that God provided a tree branch for the walking stick, good weather, and safe passage through the mountain range.  And ultimately, the man did make it over the mountains and back home safely which is why he prayed in the first place.  The man was so fixated on his one specific request that he did not notice two things.  First, he did not realize that he already had the ability to make it over the mountains without God performing a miracle.  Second, he didn’t see all the little things God provided to supplement his abilities.

I think many of us approach prayers and intentions like the man crossing over the mountains.  We ask God for help and wait for a very specific, often miraculous, response.  The response we want is usually an easy answer.  We get sick so we want God to cure us.  We have financial problems, we ask God for a windfall.  We have relationship issues, we ask God to set the other person straight.  We have problems at work, we ask God to make those problem disappear.  But asking God to “bail us out” shortchanges the abilities He already gave us.  God often does help us, not by making our problems go away, but by making us realize he already infused us with the strength, intellect, and abilities to overcome life’s challenges.

Man's face screaming/shouting. Stubbly wearing...
God, why won’t you answer me!!?

Mary’s promise reminds me of how the rosary is a lot like an amplified echo chamber.  You make your intentions through rosary prayer and Mary reminds you that God already gave you the strength to overcome whatever challenges you face.  But the rosary helps magnify Mary’s response so that you can hear it, internalize it, and put into action those gifts God has given you.  You ask for wellness and Mary reminds you that God gave you the strength to endure the sickness and use your physical weakness as an opportunity to offer up a sacrifice to God in reparation for your sins.  You ask for a fix to your financial problems, but Mary reminds you through rosary meditation that money doesn’t make you a better person nor gets you into Heaven.

Mary does hear and answer our prayers and acts as our mediatrix to God.  But we have to be open to the fact that the answer to our prayers isn’t always what we expect.  The rosary helps us not only hear God’s response but more importantly it helps us accept it even when it isn’t what we want to hear.

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The Feast — Mary’s Rosary Promise #10

The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of Glory in Heaven.

“But wait!  There’s more!”  If Mary’s rosary promises were an infomercial for rosary prayer and meditation, we are now entering all the bonus items.  Commercials for cookware may say, “act now and get two of our deluxe frying pans plus our specialized omelet pan!”  When it comes to our salvation and what Mary promises us through the rosary she’s already shown the graces someone will receive and the protection she will offer against Satan.  Those alone are great gifts that make rosary prayer a wise spiritual investment.  But now Mary adds even more bonuses to the deal and says that those who pray the rosary faithfully will get great glory in Heaven.

Great glory in Heaven?  But I thought that once you’re in, you’re in?  Is Mary telling us that those who pray the rosary will be exalted in Heaven over those who do not pray the rosary?  We never hear in Sunday homilies that there is some sort of spiritual “point system” for a Heaven that has different tiers where some people receive a higher stature.

“Hey you in front! How did you score the better seats?”

The Gospels seem to present different views of Heaven.  On one hand, Jesus told the parable of the workers where those who worked at the end of the day received the same pay as those who worked earlier.  That implies that everyone receives the same rewards in Heaven.  On the other hand, Jesus talks about building riches in Heaven and how the “first will be last and the last will be first.”  That points to an idea that some people will have more in Heaven; whatever having more means in an immaterial realm.  Whatever does Mary mean?

I then read this small story from St. Therese‘s The Story of a Soul

To this dearly loved sister I confided my most intimate thoughts; she cleared up all my doubts.  One day I expressed surprise that God does not give an equal amount of glory to all the elect in Heaven — I was afraid that they would not all be quite happy.

She sent me to fetch Papa’s big tumbler, and put it beside my tiny thimble, then, filling both with water, she asked me which seemed the fuller. I replied that one was as full as the other — it was impossible to pour more water into either of them, for they could not hold it. In this way Pauline made it clear to me that in Heaven the least of the Blessed does not envy the happiness of the greatest; and so, by bringing the highest mysteries down to the level of my understanding, she gave my soul the food it needed.

After reading St. Therese’s story, Mary’s rosary promise came into focus.  God’s glory is infinite and He will shower that glory upon everyone in Heaven.  Everyone in Heaven receives as much grace, peace, joy, and happiness that they can handle.  Some people will be able to handle more of God’s grace in Heaven than others because they had made more room for God in their hearts.

Here’s a small parable according to Brent that I think explains this rosary promise well.  God’s glory in Heaven is like food at a large banquet.  Everyone was invited to eat however much they wanted.  There were some who filled up on bread and crackers before attending the banquet.  Others fasted.  Those who fasted consumed more of the feast than those who ate prior to arriving.  Both groups enjoyed their share of the food and left the banquet satisfied.  But the group that fasted could enjoy more of the banquet’s offerings than those who didn’t.

The rosary teaches us to make room for God in our lives and not fill up on our worldly desires.  Through the rosary we open ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations, whether they be sinful or just worldly, and to crave what we cannot physically see, hear, or touch in this life — the glory of Heaven.  We pray the rosary for the faith and strength to hold out for something greater than what this world has to offer.  If we can do that then we will enjoy more of that Heavenly feast God has prepared.

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Bath Time! — Mary’s Rosary Promise #9

I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

Ah Purgatory!  After the high regard Catholics have for Mary, nothing seems more contentious than the existence and need for Purgatory.  It brings up debates between Catholics and protestants and questions like, “Where is Purgatory mentioned in the bible?”  Aside from the theological arguments whether Purgatory exists, there is just a general fear of it.  I think many people don’t really care all that much about the theological underpinnings of Purgatory.  Rather, many wish that it didn’t exist because they think it’s some sort of “Hell Lite.”

We need to frame Purgatory in the proper context — it is a level of existence between our earthly life and a heavenly one where we become purified and worthy of Heaven.  We cast off the last layers of our earthly selves — the sin, the shortcomings, the weakness to temptation, the pressure and anxieties, and everything else that prevents us from fully embracing God‘s love.  No matter how good any of us are, with the exception of the saints, most of us die tied down to worldly things in some way or another.  Purgatory is like that final, cleansing bath that washes away that worldly “grime” we accumulated throughout our lives.

Bath time
Splashy, splashy!  Time to get clean for God’s kingdom.

If we truly understood the majesty and beauty of what awaits us in Heaven, we would not only understand why we need Purgatory, but actually want to go to it.  I think that when we die and we get the full sense of who God is, we would not even consider entering His kingdom any other way but in a state of perfection.  Would you want to attend a wedding in your work clothes?  Would you walk through someone’s immaculately clean home in muddy shoes?  There are social situations in this life where we feel embarrassed if we arrive in a state not appropriate for the event.  Similarly, I think when we get a taste of just how awesome God is at our final judgement, we won’t give a stay in Purgatory a second thought.  The notion of entering His kingdom with any worldly blemishes will seem embarrassingly laughable.

This shows The Virgin and The Child being pres...

But just because we understand the need for Purgatory doesn’t make it any easier to endure.  But the suffering isn’t the type of suffering we encounter in Hell.  Rather, we suffer because we know just how close we are to the infinite joy and peace of Heaven.  We are like children on Christmas Eve that can’t wait for Christmas morning and open the presents under the tree.  Every minute is just agony as time just seems to slow to a stop and it seems like Christmas day will never come.  Likewise, every moment in Purgatory probably seems unbearable with the knowledge that we are so close to completing a long journey.  We want Mary to act as our advocate so our time waiting in Purgatory will be brief.

Like many of her other promises, I think Mary reveals more of a result of praying the rosary than something that she actively applies.  Those who are devoted to the rosary are less likely to commit sins which require a longer stay in Purgatory to clean.  Those who pray the rosary already have a better understanding of just how great Heaven must be and try extra hard to live in a way where they will most quickly arrive in Heaven after their death.  As I said in early articles, it’s not solely the act of praying the rosary itself that leads us to Heaven, but the wisdom and will to live in God’s grace that it helps implant in our souls.  Mary is here to help those who want her help and ask for it through rosary prayer.

Ask for Mary’s help to quickly pass through Purgatory.  Pick up a rosary and pray it today!

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #8

Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.

What?  A third rosary promise about the time of our death!  How could Mary’s eighth promise possibly differ from promises #6 and #7?  Sometimes I think that Mary must have spoken incredibly fast and poor St. Dominic just tried to remember and write them down as best as he could.  How else can we explain why some promises seem like multiple, separate promises combined and with others it appears like Mary repeats the same promise?  Maybe Mary spoke in more of a monologue and St. Dominic distilled it into bullet points like a student taking notes during a lecture.  Even in Caravaggio’s painting below St. Dominic looks slightly confused about what Mary is saying.

St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virg...
St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin Mary by Caravaggio, 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course I’m being sarcastic.  On the surface many of Mary’s promises may appear the same.  But when you dive deeper you will find that they are subtly promising different benefits.  And even if Mary repeats herself, so what?  In the case of promises six through eight, maybe Mary is trying to communicate the importance of having a prepared soul at the moment of your death.  Like an earthly mother repeatedly reminding her children the same lessons (eat your vegetables, cover your mouth when you sneeze, say “please” and “thank you,” etc.), our heavenly mother also needs to repeat herself about the moments that are of grave importance.  And no time is more important than the hour of someone’s death.  Because once you die, that’s it.  You no longer have an opportunity to confess and repent your sins nor do you have the power to pray for yourself.  Given the eternity that awaits you, Mary reminds us in her rosary promises just how important it is to always have a prepared soul.  And she gives us this great gift of preparation through the rosary.

Mary’s eighth promise ratchets up the state of holiness one’s soul is in at the moment of his death.  Promise #6 mentions not having an unprepared soul meaning that you will have one last chance to confess your sins.  Promise #7 goes one step further and adds the sacraments of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick into the mix.  But this promise goes even further and ensures someone a holy death beyond what is received through the sacraments.  When Mary says that you will share “in the merits of the blessed” she is saying that you will receive part of the similar graces the saints received.  No one on this planet were holier than the saints (which is why they were saints!).  We should rejoice that we have an opportunity to have a little taste of that grace that made the saints so holy.  It’s not holiness for the sake of holiness.  Rather, sharing in the merits of the blessed gives us a sense of spiritual maturity that gives us the ability to forge an even deeper relationship with god.

This promise doesn’t just apply to the moment of death.  Notice that Mary says you will receive graces “during their life.”  In praying the rosary devoutly, you will receive the same graces the saints received.  Does that mean everyone who prays the rosary is a saint?  Well technically no.  Just praying the rosary won’t put you on the road towards canonization.  However, it will give you the “plenitude of His [God’s] graces” to become a saint if you choose to do so.  It’s important to realize that saintly behavior is a choice and not some predetermined path that only a select few are privy to.  If we do choose a saintly life then Mary promises that the rosary will help us achieve and maintain it.  The rosary will give us the insight and strength to choose God’s path over a more earthly one.  We all may not become saints like those officially canonized by the Church, but we can share the same graces and the same destiny of flourishing with them in the eternal happiness of Heaven if we choose to do so.

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Touchdown! — Mary’s Rosary Promise #6

Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.

What separates great athletes from good ones is their ability to overcome difficult challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds. When the game is a close nail-biter, they dig down deep and find a way to come through at key moments. Take the recent NFL playoff game of the Colts vs. Chiefs. The Chiefs had a 28 point lead at one time in the game and it seemed like the Colts season was coming to a disappointing end. The Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, was having one of his worse games in his NFL career. But the Colts rallied back fueled by Luck’s three passing touchdowns and recovering a fumble for the game winning touchdown. Luck didn’t let the terrible start overwhelm him and he was able to gather himself and mount one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

Touchdown
Andrew Luck scores the game-winning touchdown (CBS Philadelphia)

Mary tells us that when we pray the rosary devoutly we find the ability to dig down deep and not let life’s setbacks keep us down. Like a great athlete, we will have the ability to “muscle through” even when it seems like everything around us is falling apart. Notice that Mary does not say we will never encounter misfortune. Misfortune is an inevitability whether we like it or not. She says we won’t be overwhelmed by it. Now that doesn’t mean we will turn every bad situation into a positive one. Sometimes even great athletes can’t overcome a huge deficit and win every game. But it does mean that we’ll never let life’s difficulties separate us from God’s grace.  No matter what life throws at us, we will not let it break our faith. Even if we never overcome great misfortune in this life, if we truly believe in the power of the rosary we will find hope and comfort knowing that will will find peace and happiness in Heaven.  Even the greatest worldly misfortunes will seem laughably trivial compared to the glory of Heaven.

Mary says in the second part of her promise that those who pray the rosary devoutly will not perish by an unprovided death. What is an unprovided death? An unprovided death means that your soul isn’t in a prepared state for God’s judgement. You have sins on your soul which you have not confessed and are not forgiven. Think of it like defaulting on a loan. Sin is like a debt and it’s a debt you want fully paid off when you die. Otherwise you will face the anger and punishment from your loan provider. In this case God.

Christ as Judge
Christ as Judge (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

It’s important to understand a few things. An unprovided death and dying in a state of mortal sin are not the same. An unprovided death is not an automatic judgement to Hell. Remember, we cannot know the state of someone’s soul at the moment of death nor God’s infinite mercy. Even the unprepared soul can find mercy and eventually find its way into Heaven. Also, someone can have a prepared soul without necessarily going to Confession. There are plenty of cases where people die suddenly (car accident, heart attack, fatal accident) without being able to first confess to a priest. But we don’t know if in that instant before their death (the time when people say their life flashes before them) that they repent and prepare their soul for God.  I bring up these caveats because it’s important to understand the many ways someone may prepare their soul outside of the standard means of receiving the Sacrament of Confession.

It’s a pretty logical conclusion that those who recite the rosary devoutly will not have an unprovided death. I already discussed in previous rosary promises that those who pray the rosary earnestly will tend not to commit as many sins in the first place. And those who truly live according to the lessons of the rosary and the teachings of the Catholic Church will be ever mindful of the state of their soul. Someone who is truly converted by the rosary will always share his heart, mind, and life with God up through the moment of his death.

Mary doesn’t promise magic nor does she give people a free pass to live however they want through the rosary. This rosary promise, like all her other promises, simply spells out the logical conclusions for those who truly embrace the rosary.

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