Spiritual Drivers’ Ed. — Mary’s Rosary Promise #5

Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.

I feel this is one of the more vaguely worded rosary promises and is subject to a lot of misunderstanding. To perish means to die, typically in a sudden or untimely way. What is Mary telling us exactly? She can’t mean that those who pray the rosary will never die. If that were the case, I would see thousand-year old women walking around the mall. And Mary can’t really mean sudden or untimely either. I’m sure there are plenty of people who prayed the rosary regularly who died in a car accident or sudden illness. Even St. Pope John Paul II (I feel we’re close enough to call him a saint) died an untimely death due to Parkinson’s and he was a great promoter of the rosary. Is Mary lying to us when she promises that those who pray the rosary will not perish?

Pope John Paul II
Certainly a saint could not have perished. What’s Mary talking about?

The key to the promise is understanding that Mary isn’t talking about the physical body not perishing. She means one’s eternal soul not perishing. Those who pray the rosary will not face a sudden or untimely death of their souls. But that raises another question. What does it mean to have your soul die? After all, how can something that is immortal die? It’s true that your soul never stops existing. When Mary talks about you perishing, she means that your soul spends eternity in Hell instead of in Heaven. And you decide to go to Hell (yes, you decide!) when you die in the state of mortal sin which is:

  1. A sin of grave matter.
  2. You have full knowledge of the gravely sinful nature of the action.
  3. You freely choose to commit the sin in light of that full understanding.

I summarized the Catechism’s three criteria for mortal sin deliberately because there is a lot of misunderstanding of it. Many people think that committing a mortal sin is like getting caught in a spiritual speed trap via a divine traffic camera.  The perception is that God surprises good people with a list of mortal sins when they die so that He can send them to Hell.  But mortal sin isn’t something that just creeps up on you any more than a person can accidentally drive 120 mph on the wrong side of the road. The driver racing like a maniac is not doing it by accident unlike someone who may be driving 5 mph faster than he should.  In the later case, the driver is still doing something wrong but is not committing a gravely serious infraction.  On the other hand, the crazy driver understands that what he is doing is against the law and seriously reckless when he puts the pedal to the metal and takes off like a rocket. Likewise, you can’t accidentally commit a mortal sin because, by definition, you need full knowledge of the grave matter and consciously choose to commit it.

Photowalk 2010-11-11 032
God doesn’t want to “nail you” committing a mortal sin.  (Photo credit: Rob-Wei)

Does that mean you should try to learn as little about what the Catholic Church teaches so that you can commit as many grave sins as you want without them being mortal sins? Sorry, but morality doesn’t work that way. The person driving at triple-digit speeds can’t say he didn’t know he was breaking the law as he passed by and ignored many speed limit signs. Similarly, Catholics are called to attend Mass every week, receive the sacraments (most of which involve some instruction on Church teachings), and learn their faith. The Catholic Church puts down many moral “speed limit signs” to alert people of what is right and what is wrong.

Back to the driver, even in the unlikely event that there was no speed limit posting, he should know that driving that fast is incredibly unsafe. And, even in the absence of understanding a specific Church teaching, humans have a sense of the natural law of what is good and evil and are called to abide by it.

What does all this mean in the context of Mary’s rosary promise that those who pray the rosary will not perish? Those who pray the rosary will be more in tune with the natural law, develop a well-formed conscience, be more motivated to learn Catholic teachings, and be more receptive to God’s Will. Regular rosary prayer will steer someone away from mortal sin so that he will not perish in the fires of Hell. Mary isn’t giving you a clean slate through the rosary (that is what the Sacrament of Confession is for), but she is giving you a tool to avoid committing mortal sin in the first place. That is the heart of the promise. You won’t perish despite your mortal sins, but instead you won’t perish because you will have no mortal sins on your soul.

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Level Up! — Mary’s Rosary Promise #4

The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

I used to play a lot of video games when I was younger.  Even to this day I enjoy taking a five-minute break to play a quick arcade game.  There is something called a “score multiplier” in many classic video games.  What these do is increase your score the longer you do something good or difficult.  For example, you may start to achieve a higher score in a racing game the longer you go without crashing.  Or in the famous puzzle game Tetris you are awarded more points if you clear multiple rows at once rather than individually. Well, in life the rosary acts as our virtue and good works multiplier.

Screenshot of the official NES version of Tetris.
Screenshot of the official NES version of Tetris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more you pray the rosary, the more benefits your good works will have.  For starters, you will be more likely to perform more good works because you are listening to God through rosary prayer and responding to His call.  Secondly, your desire to live virtuously and do good works will be genuine and more likely to rub off on others.  You won’t have to force people into praying and living virtuously.  Rather, others will sense some sort of internal peace or happiness in you and subconsciously want to imitate you.  They might turn to rosary prayer and focus on their faith and become that catalyst for someone else.  You praying the rosary and living a virtuously may start a chain of influence on others to do the same.  From one person, many good works can flourish.

Mary promises that the rosary will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies.  We all make mistakes in life and commit sins.  But not only will the rosary put you into a state where you commit fewer sins, you also receive abundant mercy for those sins you do commit.  Are you off the hook completely?  No.  The rosary isn’t a magical “get out of jail free” prayer.  But those who pray the rosary are more likely to understand the importance of divine mercy and ask God for it.  And He’ll be more than happy to give it to those who ask.

Result of a serious automobile accident
The rosary is like crash insurance for your soul.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like that the rosary draws my heart away from worldly pursuits and keeps me focused on eternal things.  I find it so easy to get caught up in the here and now that without regular rosary meditation I would neglect my spiritual needs.  I think the rosary is similar to some sort of worldly detox treatment.  We fill our hearts, minds, and souls with so much junk.  It may be sin and vice (lust, drugs, greed, envy, etc.) but also benign or even good things (work, relationships, hobbies, etc.).  But when we fill our hearts with all these worldly pursuits we too often leave no room for God’s grace.  Mary promises that those who pray the rosary will find it easier to make room for God in their lives.

The best example I have about clearing my soul of “junk” was cutting back on TV.  There were many television shows that I used to follow closely.  I would be sure to tune in every week to watch Law and Order, CSI, Amazing Race, Next Iron Chef, and many others.  But in a way they also weighed me down because I felt obligated to watch them out of a fear I might miss something important.  But then I got busy with work, family, RosaryMeds articles, etc. and missed a few episodes.  I had them recorded on my DVR but I just stopped caring about watching those missed episodes to catch up.  Eventually, those shows that I watched religiously just fell off my radar and it didn’t bother me in the least.

Phasing out television reminds me of how the rosary affects our worldly wants and desires.  After praying the rosary routinely, those things you thought you couldn’t live without suddenly don’t seem too important.  You start to see them as the distractions they are and learn not to let the hustle and bustle of this life worry you too much.  There really is nothing worldly that is so important that it needs to to be prioritized ahead of our spiritual needs.  In other words, Mary promises us that rosary prayer will give perspective on what’s really important.  It’s not wanting things you can buy on Black Friday, but the eternal happiness of Heaven.

English: A child watching TV.
Don’t be a zombie!  Free yourself through the rosary.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that we are in Advent, take some time to pray the rosary every day.  I think we need to have faith in this rosary promise especially because Christmas is a time where we need to have perspective, virtue, and good works.  The 2nd reading from the first Sunday of Advent ties in well to this promise.  If you forgot it or didn’t pay attention to it, read it below and think about how the rosary will help you rise above “works of darkness” and “desires of the flesh” and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #3

The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.

I find it interesting that Mary uses military terminology in many of her promises.  Her promise illuminates the very dark and evil reality of Satan and Hell that we cannot ignore or wish away.  Whether we like it or not, from the instant of our conception God enlisted us to fight in an epic war of good vs. evil.  As I said in my explanation of Mary’s first rosary promise, there is a war going on every day for the souls of humanity.  And Satan isn’t messing around but is playing for keeps.  If you die in a state of mortal sin, that’s it, fin, the end!  Satan will have won another battle in this great spiritual war.

St Michael the archangel, dressed somewhat lik...

With the stakes so high, we need all the protection and armor we can get.  Mary promises that armor through the rosary.  She promises us protection.  She is Queen of Angels which makes her something of a general in this great war of souls and the angels of Heaven are her soldiers.  Our guardian angels exist to protect us and make sure that our souls end up where they are supposed to be — in Heaven praising God forever.  Praying the rosary is like calling for reinforcements.  When Satan steps up his attacks through sin and temptation, you can call on the host of heavenly angels to help you fight back.   As Padre Pio once said, the rosary is a powerful weapon against Satan.  Because you don’t have to fight evil alone.  Through the rosary you are reinforced with the strength of Heaven.

When we rid ourselves of vice and sin we strengthen our spiritual armor.  The worse part about sin is that often we aren’t aware of how weak and vulnerable it makes us.  We may have insufficient armor against the forces of Hell and not even know it.  It would be nice if the health of your soul was something you could see like the fuel gauge in a car.  Or wouldn’t it be nice if you showed symptoms like a physical illness so you could take some medicine or see a doctor.

That spiritual “fuel gauge” or subtle symptom is exactly what the rosary offers you.  Those who pray the rosary have strong armor against Hell, sin, and vice because those who pray the rosary are also checking the health of their soul routinely.  The two go hand in hand.  When you are constantly monitoring and maintaining something, it stays healthy and strong.  When you ignore and neglect something, it becomes weak.

The last part of the promise interests me the most.  Mary promises that praying the rosary will dispel heresy.  I think this is such an important gift Mary offers us through rosary prayer.  Heresy has taken a much more subtle tone in the last few decades which makes it all the more dangerous because it is easier to fall victim to it.  The Catholic Church isn’t as quick to identify heretical teachings as they used to be nor do local priests tend to speak out about heresy in homilies.  So that makes protecting yourself from heresy a personal responsibility.

Nancy Pelosi
It’s a trap!

We have to be careful because heresy is everywhere.  We need to be on “high alert” and make sure we understand Catholic teachings and not fall victim to people who claim to speak for the Church when they are really speaking for themselves, an organization, a special interest, or political party.  The latter is the most dangerous because many politicians will say and do anything to get your support even if that means twisting certain Christian teachings so people find it easier to disobey their conscience and their religion.  Having good spiritual armor is important but so is being able to identify the enemy and not be fooled by their clever speeches.

Praying the rosary will help you spot the fakes and not fall for their lies.  People who routinely pray the rosary probably also get a good helping of Mass, the sacraments, the bible, and grace.  The rosary never acts alone.  Think about it.  Have you ever met someone who just prays the rosary regularly but doesn’t participate in Mass or the sacraments?  That is why Mary’s promise that rosary prayer acts as armor against Hell is so effective because it acts in union with the sacraments and God’s grace.  The rosary isn’t an end in itself, but one of many links in the chain of your spiritual armor.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #2

Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some signal grace.

I find signal graces one of the most fascinating and beneficial effects of rosary meditation. The reason why they are so fascinating to me is because the Catholic Church doesn’t really have an official definition for them. They aren’t mentioned by name in the Catechism and yet most people believe in them. A signal grace is a sign from God in response to your prayers. Often signal graces seem like coincidences. But as you will read, signal graces go beyond mere observable signs since they can have a profound effect on your life.

A rosary crucifix.

Many people associate a signal grace as a physical sign from God in response to one’s prayers. For example, someone may pray whether to accept a new job, get married, or start a family. He prays the rosary for God’s guidance. He might even make a decision but still has anxiety whether he made the correct one. But then he sees something — a bumper sticker on a car that says “Have Faith” or a new billboard for the company with whom he just accepted the job offer. Many people take these as signs that God heard them and is letting them know they are on the right track. Rosary meditation heightens one’s awareness to the small signs of God’s presence in our lives.

If seeing a rare bird, a billboard, a bumper sticker, or any other physical sign from God works for you then use them to increase your spirituality. But I think people often place too much energy looking for overt signs to the point where they aren’t experiencing signal graces, but looking for justifications. If you have a big, life-changing decision then it’s only natural to look for any sign that you are making the right choice. I think signal graces manifest themselves as a more internal and almost intangible feeling and not something external. In my experience, a signal grace is more of a sense of peace or confidence that comes when you allow God to help you make the right choice. It is such a subtle feeling that I can’t even begin to describe it with my clumsy prose. But that subtlety also highlights the importance of rosary meditation because without that heightened sense of awareness of God’s influence in your life, you may not notice it through the “noise” of daily life.

Generally available Marian image created in th...

A signal grace isn’t something only observed or felt after making a decision. It’s not like God is some game show host who tells you whether you’ve answered the question correctly. A signal grace also guides you when you are making important decisions. When you consider taking an easy way out of a difficult situation by doing something not in accordance with God’s Will, signal graces gently push you back to following God’s path. For example, have you ever not felt like attending Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation but something pushed you to go anyway? Thank signal graces. Ever thought about committing some sin and then, at the last moment, realized that you better not? Thank signal graces. Have you ever felt tired and didn’t want to pray or meditate but something just pushed you that bit to say them anyway? Yep, those are signal graces at work. And the more you pray the rosary the more God can influence you through His signal graces.

The key to recognizing signal graces is perseverance in praying the rosary. Persevere is an interesting choice of words in Mary’s promise. It means “to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty.” Mary’s promise implies that praying the rosary won’t always be easy or the benefits of it won’t be immediate. You have to think of praying the rosary and recognizing signal graces like mastering any skill. It takes time and hard work to really become tuned to the nuances of a craft. Great athletes develop an intuitive sense of the game after years of intense practice and experience. A master artist knows how to take an image in his head and paint it on a canvas but only after many years of studying and practice. A doctor must perform many surgeries under the guidance of mentors to gain the muscle memory needed for delicate operations. Rosary prayer is very similar. At first it’s all mechanics with seemingly little benefits. But when you persevere with rosary meditation your heart, mind, and soul become better tuned to the subtle ways God speaks to you.

God is always trying to guide us. But have you taken the steps to hear what He has to say? Boost your spiritual antenna through rosary meditation.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #1

To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.

What does it mean to pray the rosary devoutly? There is two aspects to rosary devotion. First, there’s quantity. Praying the rosary means saying all the prayers. Many people look at a rosary and see a lot of redundancy to it. Why do I need to pray 10 Hail Marys per decade and not just one? What do I get out of reciting the same prayer repeatedly? To answer that, we should look at physical examples. Is one push up the same as ten push ups? Does your body get the same amount of exercise taking one step forward or running a mile? In diets, do you need to eat one healthy meal or multiple healthy meals? Quantity counts! And so you get more out of the rosary, spiritually speaking, when you spend time with it and recite all the prayers. God doesn’t need the prayers, but you do to get into that spiritual “zone” where you will be most receptive to God’s guidance.

Generally available Marian image created in th...

There is also a quality aspect to praying the rosary devoutly. Can you really say you are praying the rosary if you are saying the words but thinking about something else? Are you really getting anything out of it at that point? The rosary isn’t a magic chant where the power is in the words. The power of the rosary is directly related to the amount of earnest effort you put into it. Going back to physical exercise, do you get a better workout walking on a treadmill reading a magazine or really concentrating and pushing yourself to get the most out of the experience? The same goes for prayer — you get as much out of it as you put into it.

Mary promises us special protection. That raises the question, “protection from what?” Satan and his minions of course! Just as there are angels and saints in the spiritual realm, there are also demons. Every day those two sides are at war over our souls. If you just read that last sentence and think I’m exaggerating or lying then that just shows how powerful of an adversary Satan is. His best weapon is for people to think there isn’t a war being waged over our souls. That way, we drop our defenses and become more susceptible to Satan’s influence to turn away from God through sin.

Praying the rosary has two advantages to protect us against sin. First, through prayer we keep our defenses up. When we realize the persistent threat against us, we take whatever steps we need to fight against it. Rosary meditation provides us an opportunity to analyze how well we are defending our souls against Satan’s great attack. Have we created gaps in our spiritual armor by committing sins or just not making our relationship with God a priority in our life? When we acknowledge our weaknesses we can then work on fortifying those weak spots. Otherwise, we are just walking through the battlefield with little protection and become easy targets for Satan.

In addition to greater awareness of the spiritual dangers around us, Mary offers her special protection as well. And in a war for our eternal souls, we probably want as much help and protection as possible. And Mary is a great protector from evil. She is our Heavenly Mother. And like our earthly mothers, she has the special task of trying to keep her children safe. She promises that fervent protection to those who pray the rosary.

Does that mean she only cares and protects those who pray the rosary devoutly? No, of course not. She loves each one of us just as her son, Jesus Christ, taught us. But when we pray the rosary we make Mary’s job to help and protect us that much easier. She can take our willingness to accept her help and multiply it to build a greater defense against evil. Think of her like a doctor trying to help a sick person. The doctor can better diagnose and cure a disease if the patient is helpful, commutative, and trusting. The doctor, despite his good intentions, will have a much harder time helping someone who is combative or just not very accepting of any assistance.

Help Mary help you. Have faith in her promise that she will protect you and give you God’s grace if you earnestly pray the rosary.

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15 Promises of Rosary Prayer

file0002075421420I am starting a new series on RosaryMeds titled “The 15 Promises of the Rosary.” Each article will focus on one of Mary’s rosary promises. Wait, what? Never heard of the 15 promises of the rosary? Don’t be surprised. Unfortunately, these promises seldom come up when people explain the rosary. Everyone explains the mechanics of rosary meditation but don’t go into the benefits. And that is unfortunate and a terrible marketing blunder. It’s like someone trying to pitch an exercise video series without showing you the “after” pictures of strong and fit people. Or it’s like someone advertising a diet pill by showing you how to swallow it but not including testimonials from people who tried it. I think many people don’t stick with rosary prayer because everyone tells them the process but forget to mention the benefits. Of course, any RosaryMeds reader knows about the benefits of rosary meditation since that is all I write about. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to our Mother Mary.

St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de Rupe were instrumental in the revival and spread of rosary prayer in the 12th and 15th centuries. Both men spoke about 15 promises the Virgin Mary made to them about those who pray the rosary regularly. “Regularly” is a vague term but it is usually taken as praying all 20 mysteries each week. Here are the 15 promises mentioned on the Rosary Confraternities website:

FIFTEEN PROMISES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
TO CHRISTIANS WHO FAITHFULLY PRAY THE ROSARY

  1. To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.
  2. Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some special grace.
  3. The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.
  4. The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.
  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.
  7. Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  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.
  9. I will deliver promptly from purgatory souls devoted to my Rosary.
  10. True children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in heaven.
  11. What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
  12. To those who propagate my Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Son that all the members of the Rosary Confraternity shall have as their intercessors, in life and in death, the entire celestial court.
  14. Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to my Rosary is a special sign of predestination.

Good stuff right? We’ll cover each one in detail in future articles. If you know friends or family who might find this interesting, please let them know about RosaryMeds so they can receive updates.

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