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.
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.
What’s more important, serving God or serving each other? Patrick Archbold points out in his article on The Remnant that over the last few decades the Church’s focus has shifted from loving God first to primarily loving our fellow brothers and sisters. It’s not that we have to choose one or the other. We are called to do both. But it is a matter of priority and focus. If you accept the premise that Catholic Church has shifted its priorities in the last few generations, ask yourself whether that has strengthened or weakened the Church. Have we veered from what Jesus taught and what has made the Church strong over the centuries? Patrick Archbold thinks so and believes much of the weakness of faith within the Church has to do with this shift. I encourage you to read his article in full. The focus of this article will be on the rosary (naturally). Let’s look at what some of the rosary mysteries teach us about loving God vs. loving our fellow humans.
Look at the order of the first and second Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. In the Annunciation, we see Mary putting God first by accepting his plan for her. We then see in the Visitation Mary going out and helping her cousin Elizabeth. Notice the order? Okay, there is the fact that chronologically, the Annunciation did precede the Visitation. But there is also a spiritual significance in the order as well. When we pray the rosary we meditate first on the love of God as seen in the Annunciation and then the love for our fellow brothers and sisters as represented in the Visitation. In putting our love for God first, we receive his grace and can therefore more fully serve each other just as Mary does in the Joyful Mysteries.
On to the First Sorrowful Mystery. Jesus fears his upcoming arrest and crucifixion. But he prays to God asking God to first find another way he could redeem the world but also submits to God’s Will. Jesus shows his primary love for God by acknowledging God’s authority and humbly submitting to his plan. Later, when he’s arrested, Jesus tells his apostles, who were ready to defend him, to stand down. While Jesus loved his apostles and his apostles loved him, Jesus puts his life not in their hands, but into God’s hands. Again, we see the model Jesus asks us to follow — serve according to God’s Will first.
Finally, take a look at the Third Luminous Mystery. Jesus preaches that we should all convert our ways to God’s ways. We are called to live first for the Kingdom of Heaven. Note that Jesus did not tell us to solely live for the Kingdom of Heaven and forsake our responsibilities and others in this world. But it is a matter of priority — desiring God’s kingdom must come first. And from that desire, not only for ourselves but for others, we better help our fellow brothers and sisters to also come to live in God’s grace.
I will leave you with a quotation from the Council of Trent that Patrick Archbold cites in his article as I think it sums up nicely why the love of God needs to come before our love for our fellow humans.
“Moreover, no honor, no piety, no devotion can be rendered to God sufficiently worthy of Him, since love of Him admits of infinite increase. Hence our charity should become every day more fervent towards Him, who commands us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and with all our strength. The love of our neighbor, on the contrary, has its limits, for the Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To outstep these limits by loving our neighbor as we love God would be an enormous crime.” —Catechism of Trent, Part 3, Chapter 5, Question 5
I’m going to forgive the “mom centric” tone of this article considering that the source is a website called CatholicMom.com. But her advice on squeezing the rosary into your daily routine was just too good that I felt like I had to post and comment on it. Of course, long time RosaryMeds readers will probably find her advice very similar to what I’ve been saying. In short, 5 ways to squeeze the rosary into your life are:
The best part of the article for me was when she said, “Rather than the laundry, the dishes, or checking Facebook, make a decade of the Rosary your first priority when you have a moment to breathe.” How many times do we make the rosary a priority in our lives on par with our work, our home, and our families? I know most of us can’t stand that pile of dirty dishes in the sink, the crumbs on the floor, the dust on the tables, or the toys on the floor. It haunts us until we do something about it. But how many of us feel that same sense that something is out of place when we haven’t prayed all day long?
There are many correct ways to pray the rosary and not too many wrong ways. The main point of the CatholicMom article was that God cherishes your effort to pray even if the quality is less than ideal. So stop waiting for the perfect time, place, and inspiration to rattle off a few Hail Marys when you find the time. Much like getting that quick bite to eat for physical energy to get through the day, the rosary can serve as your quick spiritual recharge. And often you will find that a spiritual renewal drives a renewed sense of physical energy and motivation.
When’s the perfect time to pray the rosary? Anytime. Where’s the perfect place? Anywhere. What’s the correct length of time for the rosary? However much you can find. Stop finding excuses, start finding Jesus. Start right now before moving on to the next email, website, or Facebook post with one Hail Mary. Need help? There’s a free guide for rosary prayer.
This is a very well known Navy SEAL motto. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the book written by the SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden was titled No Easy Day which echos the same sentiment. There are multiple meanings behind this Navy SEAL motto. In training, it means that each day will be more challenging than the previous one. This is due to increased expectations from the instructors, greater scrutiny because of the increasingly smaller class, the elevated competition because those left in training are able to perform at a high level of intensity, and that the drills become more difficult as recruits get more fatigued.
The physicality of SEAL training is one aspect behind that motto. But it also points to the state of mind a Navy SEAL brings with him, not only in training but throughout his career. It’s a state of mind that is always focused on tackling the challenges at hand and always pushing yourself to do your job better. A SEAL never thinks that the worst is behind him and that it is clear sailing after a certain point. To a SEAL, there is no such thing as resting on your laurels. Even when things are going well the SEAL always searches for ways he can do better.
SEALS must adopt this motto because their lives, and the lives of others, depend on it. They must approach each mission with the utmost focus and intensity to succeed and stay alive another day. And while a SEAL may conduct a certain type of mission, such as a rescue operation, dozens of times, it is the first and only mission for these SEALS from the point of view of those being rescued. They put themselves and the people around them in great danger if these soldiers treated any operation as something they could just coast through because they’ve done it a dozen times before.
Like a SEAL approaching a mission, we must also treat each time we pray the rosary with a fresh and focused mind. We cannot get lulled into a state where we just “coast” or go on “automatic pilot” with our prayers. What’s the point of praying if we just race through the words without any thought? Is that pushing ourselves to get the most out of each rosary? This Navy SEAL motto fits in well with my previous post, almost from the military, about always setting higher standards each day. Otherwise we stop growing our spirituality and could even lose a bit of our faith through complacency.
The rosary isn’t a magical chant or incantation like a spell. In other words, it’s not the quantity of prayers that matter rather it’s the quality. This is why the rosary doesn’t fall into the category of “mindless repetition” that Jesus warns us about in the Gospel (Matthew 6:7).
What is a good quality rosary prayer? It’s focused prayer backed up with specific intentions that is said slowly and deliberately. To focus on the rosary means to consciously block out all those other thoughts that may distract us. You first have to acknowledge when you are distracted and then stop, take a few deep breaths, and resume. If you go through an entire decade without even realizing what mystery you were praying, back up and start that decade over again. Mary will be more pleased with one decade said with focus than an entire month’s worth of hollow prayers.
We can achieve better focus by turning our distractions into intentions. Do you have worries about members of your family? Offer those worries to Jesus in your rosary prayers. Perhaps the best way to do this is to actually say out loud your concern and that it will be your intention for the decade. And while it may seem silly to vocalizing your intentions, especially if you are praying alone, it really does help bring focus to your prayers.
As you practice on more focused rosary prayer, always try to push yourself. Remember the SEAL motto that the only easy day was yesterday. It’s not just that the situation a SEAL finds himself in gets more difficult, but they expect more from themselves over time. They look forward to that next challenge because they want to prove to themselves that they have the strength of mind and body to overcome it. Similarly, we should be pushing ourselves to get more out of the rosary each time we pray it. While at first it may be enough to remember to pray a rosary every day, later we need to push ourselves to deeper meditative states and really open our hearts to what God is trying to tell us through the rosary.
Pray like you’ve never prayed before. It’s go time Rosary SEAL!
As many of you know, I’m a software engineer. My career revolves around analyzing the business needs of my employer and designing and implementing a software solution. Although my job title has the word engineer in it and my degree is in a science, the software development world can be an undisciplined, unscientific mess. Someone who doesn’t understand software development might be a little uneasy with the number of bugs that are introduced in the process, the amount of code that gets thrown out or rewritten, and how different a final product will look from the initial concept or prototype. Personally, every good idea I have usually stems from five bad ones — some being immediately dismissed while others I worked on a bit before realizing they weren’t a good fit for what I was trying to accomplish.
I see a lot of parallels between my experience in writing software and the recent Synod on the Family. A lot of commentary and fuss has been made over the midterm report. It shows a process where it may appear bishops are make statements and decisions contrary to Church doctrine in topics like divorce and homosexuality. We have to remember that this report isn’t the finished product nor a definitive statement upholding or changing Church doctrine.
The synod is like a piece of code in progress. Sometimes I just have to write a few lines of code to steer my thinking in the right direction. Similarly, I think the bishops have to bring up topics and lines of thought, not with the intent of those thoughts becoming the final word. Rather, it steers the dialog in different directions to find the right path — the truth of Jesus Christ.
While I’m a little uneasy about the statements being reported, I’m also glad that they are at least being mentioned. It wouldn’t be much of a synod if the bishops sat down and just regurgitated Church teaching, patted each other on the back for their rote knowledge, and went home. Again, in the software world I would be highly skeptical of a code’s quality that was completed quickly with no revisions. How do we know that the developer took into account all the scenarios and details? Why didn’t he integrate any feedback from his colleagues? Similarly, the mentioning of ideas that run counter to the Church’s teachings shouldn’t be seen as a challenge to the doctrine but as part of the exploration of these broad and complex topics. I want my bishops to leave no stone unturned in their search for truth.
One of the great mysteries enshrined in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is that Christ speaks through the rather messy and unpredictable process of ecclesiastical argument. The Holy Spirit guides the process of course, but he doesn’t undermine or circumvent it. It is precisely in the long, laborious sifting of ideas across time and through disciplined conversation that the truth that God wants to communicate gradually emerges.
The interim report on the Synod represents a very early stage of the sausage-making process and, unsurprisingly, it isn’t pretty. Two more weeks of discussion will follow; then a full year during which the findings of the Synod will be further refined, argued about, and clarified; then the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place (the one going on now is the Extraordinary Synod), and many more arguments and counter-arguments will be made; finally, some months, perhaps even a year or so, after that, the Pope will write a post-Synodal exhortation summing up the entire process and offering a definitive take on the matter. At that point, I would suggest, something resembling edible sausage will be available for our consumption; until then, we should all be patient and refrain from bloviating.
Now, I would also be naive to think that there aren’t some bishops guided more by politics than the Holy Spirit in this process. I think that’s part of the reason why this interim report was released to the public — so that some bishops could score some political points with the Church’s critics. It’s their way of getting some political cover by implying, “You see! I did try to represent your viewpoints but the magisterium didn’t listen.” Unfortunately, I think some bishops are aiming more to increase the Church’s likability by bending her teachings to the whims of society and not through explaining her truths.
I don’t think there will be a radical rewriting of Church doctrine when this is all over and many of the bishops know that. So those who may have ulterior motives other than fostering dialog may want their viewpoints made public so that they can become a talking point or be used in a counter argument in future debates. Unfortunately, our society (the media in particular) has an uncanny way of turning “this was mentioned in the synod” into “this is what the Catholic Church believes.” And over time, the context certain statements were made in will be completely lost and all you’re left with is a soundbite from Nancy Pelosi quoting the interim synod report and misrepresenting Church doctrine.
Like St. Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary, we must show patience for this process. St. Simeon had faith that he would one day see God’s Chosen One. We too must have faith that the truth of Jesus Christ will not only reveal itself, but will burn more brightly when held up against weaker ideas. We pray for patience with the Church, both personally and for a patience from the greater society to not misrepresent the Church’s teachings. We also need to pray for the bishops and all those taking part in the synod that they let the Holy Spirit guide their thoughts and actions. And we must pray especially for those bishops who may treat their vocation as a political office rather than spiritual shepherds.
Last week at work I had the privilege of attending a class on the science of happiness. I find topics about brain and neuroscience fascinating probably because I haven’t studied it to death. A two hour seminar from a former software developer fits nicely into my mosaic of brian knowledge formed from Ray Kurzweil books and Wired magazine articles.
Why would my company want me to learn about the science of happiness? According to various studies and polls, happy people are about 12 to 25% more productive in their work. Furthermore, much of what makes people happy revolves around them choosing actions that lead towards happiness. Therefore, a company has a vested interest in its employees choosing routines that lead to happiness and hence, more productivity.
I’m going to spare you the details of the seminar. If you want to learn more, just go to HappyBrainScience.com. I bring up this seminar for one reason — readers of RosaryMeds already know many of the choices that lead to happiness. For example, in the class we learned about the value of meditation as a way to combat the negative effects of stress. Guess what? Many of us who pray the rosary regularly already experience the positive effects rosary meditation has on combating the stress of everyday life. I’ve mentioned a study in a previous post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary prayer. I’ve also talked about how people are happiest when they find “flow” or are “in the zone.” Many people who pray the rosary regularly find it comforting because they can more easily get in the zone of deep meditation and prayer.
Going back to my happiness seminar, I also learned how we all have a bias towards focusing on the negative. I think we all know how difficult it is to concentrate or be happy in a group of people if you find even just one person in that group annoying. Instead of focusing on the people whose company we enjoy or the good situations around us, we too often dwell on what’s wrong and foment a bitterness, if not an outright hatred, of those people who we don’t get along with for some reason or another. Similarly, we also tend to dwell on our weaknesses more than our strengths. “I’m overweight.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I work too slowly.” “I don’t have enough patience.” “I don’t have enough energy.” Sound familiar?
When I heard about our negative bias and some of the tricks to combat it (you can get a taste of it from the HappyBrainScience blog), I immediately thought this all sounded vaguely familiar. I then remembered the introduction to my rosary book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, where I explained the main benefit I get from rosary prayer — perspective. Praying the rosary helps me understand that all the negative things in life we often dwell on aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture. By praying the rosary every day, I manage to keep all my problems, stresses, and worries in perspective. Rosary prayer also reminds me of God’s awesome power to forgive me for all my mistakes, no matter how big. Rosary prayer reminds me that the Holy Spirit is present and always trying to lead me on the path of true happiness. Rosary prayer reminds me that no matter how terrible the world appears, there is hope for a better tomorrow.
Not all of us can attend a happiness seminar. But you don’t have to attend one or buy a “secret of life” type book to start choosing a lifestyle that yields increased happiness. Want to be happier? Turn off the TV and computer, silence your phone, pick up a rosary, and pray! Oh, and reading my rosary book and telling others about this website wouldn’t hurt ;-).
I always leave the house armed. In this world I think you are naive, if not a little crazy, if you don’t carry some sort of personal protection. Of course, given that I live in the Bay Area, I don’t carry my sidearm openly. It’s usually concealed but I’m ready and willing to use it if the situation calls for it. Don’t worry, I have plenty of practice using it. I’ve gone with a standard, white model. It isn’t very fancy, but it packs a punch with a 60 round capacity.
Wait, what? Take a look… yes, you’re still on RosaryMeds and not the NRA website. And no, I’m not delirious from a lack of sleep. But I am talking about weaponry in this post; very powerful weapons that pack more punch than what any Colt or Gloc could possibly deliver. If you haven’t guessed, my weapon of choice is the rosary. Of course, the 60 rounds should have been the give away (5*10 Hail Marys + 5 Our Fathers + 3 Hail Marys + 1 Our Father + 1 Crucifix = 60). For the last 8 years, since I started praying the rosary seriously and routinely, my rosary has been in my pocket wherever I go.
I mention this in the wake of the gruesome execution of James Foley at the hands of Islamic radicals. One of the lesser known facts about James Foley was his devotion to rosary prayer and how it helped in through his captivity in Libya in 2011. In a letter to Marquette University (his alma mater) after his Libyan release, Foley wrote:
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused. Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.
And this is why I think carrying a rosary is so important. You never know what life is going to throw at you when you will need to respond with the power of prayer. Granted, most of us won’t be captured by radicals, imprisoned, or martyred. But we don’t have to go to those extremes to understand the importance of carrying a rosary. How many times have you received bad news about a friend, family, your job, your city, your neighbors, your country, your parish, or anything that is important to you? How many times have you faced a difficult challenge in your life? Or what about the times when something great has happened? Those are all perfect opportunities to reflect and meditate on some rosary mysteries. I think we come across opportunities on a daily basis for praying the rosary but maybe we miss them because we aren’t physically carrying one that we can whip out when we need to.
I’m not saying that you can’t pray the rosary unless you are physically carrying beads. James Foley prayed the rosary counting on his knuckles. When I can’t physically hold a rosary (usually because I’m rocking an infant to sleep) I will often look for something in the room that is in a group of five or ten so I can keep track of where I am within a decade. Maybe there is a flower pattern on the rug with five petals that I can stare at. Maybe the door or window has 10 sections that I can focus on. But I do find that actually carrying a rosary is a great reminder of the importance of integrating prayer into my daily routine. I take my phone, keys, and wallet with me because they will be useful tools throughout my day. The same can be said about my rosary.
Try this. Add a rosary to your other daily essentials that your carry in your pocket or purse. Or attach a rosary ring to your keychain. More importantly, instead of reaching for your smartphone when you have five minutes to burn, reach for that rosary and pray.
“Praying the rosary hasn’t made me rich. Praying the rosary hasn’t made me famous. Praying the rosary hasn’t given me a promotion at work. So why do I pray the rosary? Praying the rosary regularly gives me perspective. I start to see things the way God wants me to see them. I don’t obsess over the little things in this world that aren’t important to my eternal salvation. Praying the rosary helps me focus on what is truly important – my relationship with God. It hasn’t made my problems go away, but it has given me the strength to endure and overcome them just as Jesus Christ did in the sorrowful mysteries.”
I actually had a difficult time answering why I pray the rosary. It’s not that I don’t like or believe in the power of the rosary, but it is difficult to put its value into words. The rosary is a divine gift from God. And coming from God, who is outside our human understanding, makes explaining the rosary hard to capture in words. But at the same time, it is important to occasionally ask, “why?”
Asking ourselves why we pray the rosary forces us to evaluate the role it plays in our lives. Do we just pray it out of habit or routine without understanding why? Do you mistake it for some magical chant? Do we pray the rosary because someone told us to? The rosary isn’t a prayer we should take for granted. When we know why we should pray the rosary, we become that much more motivated to want to pray it. My “ah-ha!” moment with the rosary came on my pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I felt this peace come over me as if God was tell me, “It’s going to be okay… I got you.” Ever since then the rosary has provided me an oasis of peace in my busy, tiring, and hectic life.
The rosary is much like an uncut and unpolished gem. To the unobservant, it just looks like a rock. To those who take the time to dig deeper, they will find something of great value. On this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, ask yourself, “why?” And when you do find an answer, please leave a comment. You never know if your insight might provide a spark for others to discover a greater value in rosary prayer.