My Concealed Sidearm

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.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...
My sidearm, always ready for action.

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.

Prepared for every situation.
Prepared for every situation.

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.

Why the Rosary?


Monday, October 7, is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I would be amiss and greatly derelict in my duties as a rosary blog writer if I didn’t write something about it.  The Catholic San Francisco, asked its readers, “Why do you pray the rosary?” I provided some of my thoughts (this should look familiar to anyone who read The Rosary for the Rest of Us):

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?”

Generally available Marian image created in th...

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.

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Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?

Young protester at the Occupy Wall Street prot...
Image by Caroline Schiff Photography via Flickr

The “Occupy Wall Street” protests occupy a lot of news headlines.  Society appears to be split on the morality of the movement.  Is it a protest to give a voice to the little guy or is it a leftist, socialist power grab?  Is it a fight against corporate greed or a fight for larger government control?  One question that keeps popping up is, “What would Jesus think of Occupy Wall Street?”  There are several articles that ponder that question.  Personally, I think many people are just playing the “Jesus card” to drum up support from religious groups by showing their cause has God’s “seal of approval.”  But let’s suppose that this question was asked in all seriousness.  What would Jesus say about the Wall Street protests?

Trying to play the “Jesus card” to support political views is as old as Jesus Himself.  The first people to ask, “What would Jesus do?” were the pharisees and they had the privilege of asking Jesus directly.  But much like our modern day politicians and special interest groups, the pharisees were not looking to learn from what Jesus had to say but merely wanted something they could twist around to suit their already-established views.  They played the original “gotcha politics.”  In the Gospel of Matthew, the pharisees tried to trap Jesus on the topic of taxes (some things never change).  They asked:

Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away.  (Matthew 22:17-22)

In exchanges like this throughout the Bible, Jesus made it quite clear He did not come into this world to settle age-old political and social questions.  As much as the Jews wanted their Messiah to be a political and social leader, Jesus’ teachings and goals transcended people’s squabbles about government and finances.  His goal was to show people the true path to eternal happiness, not to reform Jewish law or fight the Romans.  That path resides in individuals following Jesus’ teachings and making an effort to live in God’s grace.  The laws will always be imperfect and cannot cover the complete moral spectrum because they are made by humans who are inherently imperfect.  We will never achieve perfection through the law alone.  Jesus knew that and that is why He focused on showing how we, as individuals, can find true happiness with Him in Heaven.  In other words, Jesus taught that salvation is not gained by trying to perfect our laws, rather it is gained in trying to perfect our souls.

the Gospel of Matthew
Image by humberpike via Flickr

There are many people in this world who think we can legislate our way into a perfect world.  If we can just enforce the right set of rules then everyone will have just the right amount of happiness.  Would Jesus be in favor of this type of legislative chemistry?  Again, look at the Bible and all the Jewish laws Jesus and His disciples broke.  He healed people (aka worked) on the Sabbath, did not fast, and did not wash His hands before eating.  Jesus did this to point out the incompleteness of the law.  He wanted to show people that it was far more important to act out of a love for God than just blindly following rules.  Jesus came to teach us to understand what is good and what is wrong and choose to do good on our own free will instead of coerced by the fear of breaking laws we don’t understand.

I think Jesus would be saddened by today’s world that tries to legislate morality blindly instead of teaching and instilling a sense of morality in people’s hearts.  To put it another way, why do we need rallies and protests demanding legislation to prevent people from lying, stealing, and cheating?  Why don’t people understand that lying and stealing are wrong and naturally try their best to avoid such behaviors?  Unfortunately, we live in a world where something is wrong because there is a law against it, instead of a world where we have laws because we know some behaviors are inherently wrong.

So imagine if Jesus was here in this world in human form today.  Like the pharisees in the Bible, people would ask Him about his views on Occupy Wall Street, Obama Care, illegal immigration, and any number of social issues.  Do you think His answers would be any different from the ones He gave nearly 2000 years ago?  My guess is that many people would walk away disappointed because Jesus probably wouldn’t weigh in on these questions or provide answers that would make great sound bites on the evening news.  Jesus would probably say that in the grand scheme of things, we don’t go to Heaven because we pass good laws.  We go to Heaven because we strive to love Jesus by being good people and avoiding evil.

That brings us to the rosary, particularly The Nativity in the Third Joyful Mystery.  Jesus came into this world in the humblest way possible.  He was not born in a royal court nor did He grow up to be a worldly leader as many thought He would.  From His birth, Jesus showed that His ways were not the world’s ways.  When we pray the Third Joyful Mystery we must remember to accept Jesus and His message for what it is and not what we want it to be.  We must remember to not act like the pharisees and try to twist Jesus’ teachings to suit our wants and desires.  We pray for Jesus’ guidance to live according to His will.  We pray that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in making just and moral laws but we don’t look to the law alone to find true happiness.

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Crisis of Faith

You have to love our German Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI.  Last week he traveled to Germany and delivered some great speeches and homilies.  What I like about the Pope is that he tells things as it is and teaches the Catholic faith even if it runs contrary to the norms of modern society.  And unlike many politicians, he doesn’t take on the victim mentality but instead challenges the faithful to really live as Jesus calls them regardless of the obstacles imposed by the outside world.  Like the manager of a sports team, he discusses our weaknesses so that we are aware of them and can aim to be better Catholics and better people.  In this day and age, that level of honesty mixed with compassion and motivation are rare.

Last Saturday, Pope Benedict met with Central Committee of German Catholics and discussed challenges the Church faces in developed, Western countries.  According to the Catholic News Agency, the Pope told them:

“We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit.  I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith.”  This is observed, said the Pope, “in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people’s lives and in an exaggerated individualism,” such that many people “no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others.”

Pope in Fatima
Image by Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Flickr

I understand what the Pope means in terms of the Western Church having structure but lacking faith.  I receive a Church bulletin every Sunday and there is no shortage of club meetings, events, and services.  There is also no shortage of people in the pews at Sunday Mass.  And yet, I do feel that something is missing in terms of spirituality.  Many people treat Sunday Mass as putting in one hour of work before they can socialize and enjoy donuts and coffee.  And yet, where are the large crowds to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, pray the rosary, and attend Adoration?  How many people attend Mass on Sunday almost like they are clocking in and out of work because it is an obligation?  And worse, how many children learn that “in and out” attitude regarding Mass from the adults’ example?

Contrast the modern day American parish with that of a small village in some unknown part of the world.  I’ve seen other parts of the globe where someone’s life and faith are basically one.  They pray regularly for long periods of time, dedicate and offer fasting and abstinence for intentions, attend Mass multiple times a week, and receive the Sacraments.  But there is more to their faith than just these outward acts.  It’s hard to explain, but you just get the sense that their faith is just part of who they are and means so much to them.  When you compare these two groups you realize that Pope Benedict is right when he noted that the Western Church has plenty of structure and not enough of the Holy Spirit.

When praying the rosary, meditate on this crisis of faith on the Fourth Glorious Mystery — The Assumption of Mary.  Remember, God assumed Mary, body and soul, into Heaven.  And she is now our guide in all things spiritual.  We pray for her guidance that we live our faith fully every day, in every word, every action, and every thought.  We pray especially that we can muster the strength to imitate Mary and not take the great gift of faith for granted or reduce the Church to a weekend social club.  Mary begs us to follow her advice because she knows the great joy that awaits us in Heaven and she does not wish for that joy to be delayed (Purgatory) or lost (Hell).

We must remember that we are Catholics, not just for an hour at Mass on Sunday, but 24/7.  And nearly all of us fall short of living our faith in its entirety.  And that is why we pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

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Do You See God’s Gifts?

Previously I said how articles on RosaryMeds would tie together news and current events with the rosary.  I talked about the Pope meeting with young seminarians, a recent announcement from English bishops reminding people to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and some tips for people going to college.  However, not all news is neutral and light hearted.  It is the difficult cases that teach us the most about our faith and the power of the rosary.

Take this story for example.  A jury awarded a Florida couple 4.5 million dollars because their child was born without arms and one leg.  And while that is unfortunate, the real tragedy was their reason for suing the doctor.  According to the Palm Beach Post (bold by me):

During a roughly two-week-long trial that ended Wednesday, Mejia and Santana claimed they would have never have brought Bryan into the world had they known about his horrific disabilities. Had Morel and technicians at OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches and Perinatal Specialists of the Palm Beaches properly administered two ultrasounds and seen he was missing three limbs, the West Palm Beach couple said they would have terminated the pregnancy.

I’m going to skip the social, political, moral, and ethical commentary since, as a pro-life Catholic, I think what’s wrong with their argument is very clear (plenty of other articles dive into those discussions).  Instead, I want to focus on what we can learn from this story.  What does the rosary teach us about difficult cases like this one?  If we look at the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation, we see Mary sharing the joy of her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth.  Luke’s Gospel talks about how John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting and how Mary felt blessed.  Mary goes on to say how her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and how God did great things to her.  We learn from this encounter that all life, in whatever form, is a gift from God.  All human life, while not perfect, is valuable because God infused us with souls meant to live with Him in Heaven forever.

Image by andy castro via Flickr

Compare Mary’s story with the Santana’s.  Mary also faced hardships first by being pregnant and unmarried (which would have been quite the scandal) and later seeing Jesus suffer in the Crucifixion.  But through all those challenges she saw God’s ultimate glory and her role in bringing joy and happiness to the world.  Both Mary and the Santana’s stories show that life is not without its hardships.  Some people face larger obstacles in life than others.  But God does not give us any challenge we cannot ultimately handle.  Unfortunately, all the Santanas saw was the hardship and not God’s gift to them.  Instead of finding strength through God as Mary did, they wanted a “do over” because they saw their son as a gift with “strings attached.”  And while many of us may not face such large challenges as the Santana family, we often want God to pave over all the challenges or hardships we might encounter through life.  We tend to blame God for any inconvenience or think He does not hear our prayers just because we do not receive the answers we want.

When we meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery we should remember that all life is precious no matter what form it comes in.  Even the “lost souls” in this world, whether they be criminals, addicts of all kinds, or just plain “evil” persons, are special and precious in God’s eyes.  All those living in mortal sin have an opportunity for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and can return to the same level of grace as the greatest saints.  In short, we all have an intrinsic value despite the terrible acts we may commit or our physical/mental limitations.  We pray that we have the strength to see past the hardships and challenges in life and see God’s imprint on everyone as Mary does.

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Blessed are the Students…

Grinnell College Gates Tower
Image via Wikipedia

For many of us, September means the start of a new school year.  And perhaps one of the largest transitions students face is going off to college.  I know this is “so last month” for those on the semester system, but I was a quarter system guy when I was in school.  Regardless of whether you are just moving in for orientation or are a few short months away from graduation, I want to share this article I came across in the Catholic San Francisco and how it relates to the First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary.

The article is the Beatitudes for College Students and it outlines eight smart tips for thriving in college.  Some of them like staying away from drugs and going to class are just part of being a good student and a responsible adult.  But other ones like making sure you attend Mass, pray regularly, and keep in touch with family are often swept aside in pursuit of higher education.  While many people may do well on the academic, social, and career fronts, some often stumble spiritually during their college years.  For those who do fall away, hopefully it is just a temporary bump in the road.  But unfortunately, many become spiritually derailed in college.  We should pray for all of those in college as many schools (even Catholic ones) have become extremely hostile environments for practicing religion and spirituality.

One of the college student beatitudes is “Blessed are students who pray about and think through important decisions.”  People make very important decisions during their college years.  They must decide what to study, how to support themselves after graduation, where to live, how to manage finances, who will be their friends (or possibly spouse), and just how manage life as a responsible adult.  Furthermore, college is often a time to decide how much of a priority you will make living according to your faith and values.  For example, as many students find themselves living away from home for the first time, the question arises on whether to continue praying or attending Mass.  Often, we come to these decisions after consulting with friends, professors, family, and counselors.  We read articles, attend lectures, and try to research these life-altering decisions as best we can.  And yet we often forget to ask God for guidance by praying.  This not only applies to college students, but all of us.  Do you pray earnestly and listen to God before making large decisions?

We should remember the First Sorrowful Mystery where Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prayed so hard to God on the eve of His death that He started sweating blood.  He begged God to find another way to redeem us other than crucifixion.  Ultimately, crucifixion was God’s will and Jesus followed it faithfully.  But Jesus’ prayers were answered in that God gave Him strength to endure crucifixion and peace knowing that through His death and resurrection He would ultimately open the gates of Heaven and give us the opportunity for eternal joy and happiness.

And so college students can learn a lot from Jesus’ example of praying earnestly when facing big decisions.  God does have a plan for each one of us but we have to listen carefully through prayer.  We must be particularly vigilant in those times when it seems like God does not answer our prayers.  Perhaps He did but in a different way than what we were expecting.  Sometimes, instead of removing obstacles in our lives, God gives us the strength to overcome them.

College saddles students with many questions and decisions.  For those starting college, take time to reflect on what people are of good quality and what activities will ultimately make you a better person (hint: it’s not drinking and partying).  For those in the middle of their college years, ask God for guidance before declaring a major.  And for those in the final years of school, consider praying for insight on how you will spend the rest of you life after you get that diploma.  And important decisions don’t end after graduation.  Your will need to make decisions your entire life whether it be about work, family, finances, and politics.  You will have challenges but don’t think you’re alone in facing them.  God is always one prayer away and will always lead you in making the right decision if you listen to Him.

Have You Friended Jesus?

True or False?  As Catholics we should abstain from eating meat on Fridays.  I know a lot of people hear this and think this is an older tradition that no one really follows anymore.  Or this is only required during Lent.  However, the Bishops of England and Wales, to reunite people with their faith, are reminding people in their diocese to abstain from meat on Fridays.  From their press release:

The Bishops also wish to remind us that every Friday is set aside as a special day of penitence, as it is the day of the suffering and death of the Lord. They believe it is important that all the faithful again be united in a common, identifiable act of Friday penance because they recognise that the virtue of penitence is best acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness.

Demonstrating outward signs of our faith is something lost in modern society.  Many people go through the entire day without a saying a single prayer or having any thoughts about God.  We tend to live our day in a religious neutral zone of neither separating ourselves completely from God through mortal sin but not really making much effort to further our relationship with Him.  Basically God has become like that Facebook friend we mostly ignore but have not de-friended.  We just aren’t interested in sharing our life with Him.  The bishops remind us that there are many simple things we can do to make our relationship with God a more integral part of our lives.

The bishops’ words remind me of the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary.  Remember, in the Bible immediately after the Annunciation, Mary travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  After receiving such a tremendous gift from God the first thing Mary does is goes out and shares that joy with others.  Mary shows us that when you receive God’s grace the best thing to do is go out and share it with others.  Similarly, the bishops want us to live our faith publicly and share the joy of Jesus’ love with everyone.  When we weave little reminders of our faith into our daily routine, whether it be fasting, abstaining from meat on Fridays, or praying more regularly, we forge a more intimate relationship with God which will burn much brighter for all the world to see.

Let us pray for the resolve to live our faith publicly by consciously performing outward signs that remind us of God’s presence.  We should also pray for those who are persecuted for living their faith.  May they draw strength from the Holy Spirit to continue living as God calls them.  And finally, we should remember when we pray the Second Joyful Mystery all of those who have left the faith for whatever reason.  May our outward signs of the greatness of God’s loving grace bring them back to the Church’s welcoming arms.

Do you have any simple things people can add to their daily routine to remind them of their faith?  Please leave a comment below.

No Cross Too Heavy with God’s Love

Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, B...

Where did August go?  Sorry for what seemed like a long vacation.  But trust me, I was hard at work writing my rosary guide which always seemed to need one more revision.  But the good news is that it looks like my summer surge is over and I now have some proof copies for what will hopefully be one, final round of editing.

As summer comes to an end it is time to once again get back to writing articles on RosaryMeds on a more regular basis.  This year I started tieing together the Sunday Gospel reading and a rosary mystery.  Now I want to take my articles in a different direction and tie the rosary mysteries to Catholic news and current events.  I want to show how we can tie the lessons taught in the rosary to things we witness every day.

I’m going to start with some words of wisdom Pope Benedict XVI gave to a group of new seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.  He told them not to be afraid to take up their crosses and follow Jesus’ path.  From the article on the Catholic News Agency:

“The Christian follows the Lord with love when he accepts his cross which in the eyes of the world appears as a defeat and a ‘loss of life’, while that man knows that he does not bear his alone but with Jesus, sharing the same path of self-giving,”  the Pope said.

I think this is an important observation on how the modern world views religious life.  Modern secularists look at the time Catholics spend praying, fasting, reading the Bible (ok, most of us probably come up a little short in this category), and receiving the sacraments and ask, “why?”  They see us living what they would consider a pointless life instead of going out and “having fun.”  Of course, questioning the path of Christ is hardly a new phenomenon.  In the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary we see Jesus’ Passion where He falls down and gets back up repeatedly only to face greater suffering.  We look at Christ’s actions and ask, “why?”  Why did Jesus keep getting back up knowing that his path was not getting any easier?  Why did He get up when the only thing facing him was crucifixion?

Jesus continued out of love for us and a resolve to follow the path God laid before Him.  While Jesus pleaded with God in the Garden of Gesthemene to find an easier route, Jesus also acknowledged that He would do whatever God deemed necessary.  God chose a difficult road for Jesus but ultimately one that Jesus not only endured, but triumphed as seen in the Resurrection.  Similarly, God sometimes lays down a difficult road for many of us.  It is one fraught with inconveniences at its best and persecution and martyrdom at its worst.  But all these roads, from the easiest to the hardest, lead to our salvation in God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  God’s glory is why Jesus continued carrying His cross and it is why we carry ours.

So when we pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary let us remember those who choose religious life whether they be seminarians, priests, brothers, nuns, deacons, and anyone who serves the Church.  Many of them choose to lead a hard life and one that is not appreciated by many in modern society who view religion as silly superstition.  People who choose a religious vocation see the ultimate joy that comes from living in God’s grace even if that means giving up some worldly luxuries.  They are an inspiration to us all as we should have that same goal of loving God with every word, thought, and action.

We should also pray for those who are staunch secularists or hate faiths like the Catholic Church.  They are the ones who fell under the weight of the cross this world offers them and only see misery in religion.  As the Pope told the seminarians:

“When the fulfillment of one’s life is only aimed towards social success, and physical and economic well-being, man is not thinking according to God but according to man.” Such an attempt to refuse God’s “project of love,” said the Pope, “almost prevents man from carrying out His masterly will.”

The modern secularist reminds me of an athlete who tells himself he cannot continue the long race.  He thinks he has no energy left and that he is too far behind to catch up.  All he sees is obstacles and cannot see that glorious finish line.  All they concentrate on is the heavy weight of their “crosses” in life and in their beaten state they do not see what Jesus has prepared for them in Heaven.  We should pray that they get their spiritual “second wind” and accept God’s “project of love” as the Pope puts it.  When we accept God’s road and truly acknowledge the greatness God has in store for us then there is no cross heavy enough to keep us down.

The Feast of the Assumption

The statue of the Assumption venerated at Ghax...
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With all the upheaval and uncertainty in this world — riots in England, financial markets slowing down, jobs disappearing, etc., maybe it is time to get back to basics and focus on what’s really important.  Monday, 8/15/11, was the feast of the Assumption which we pray in the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  In my meditation on that mystery, I talk about how Mary is our spiritual guide and offers us five easy habits we can use to get back in touch with God’s awesome grace.  I call them the 5 R’s — Recite (prayers), Read (the bible), Refrain (from indulgent eating), Repent (from your sins), and Receive (the Eucharist).  We should all take a little time out from all the worries of this world and focus on what is really important.  We should also pray particularly for all those who do not seem to have a spiritual compass and live in a world without hope or joy of something permanent such as God’s love.  We pray that they find the strength to orient themselves towards God’s truth and live in His grace.

What’s Your Request?

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter ...
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The first reading for Sunday, 7/24/11, was the story about how Solomon the Wise actually became, well, wise.  In a dream, God came to Solomon, ruler of Israelites, and granted him one request.  Instead of earthly wealth and power, Solomon asked for the gift of wisdom.  God granted Solomon his request because of its unselfish nature.  Likewise, God gives us special gifts for praying the rosary if our requests are to help further our relationship with Him.

The Confraternity of the Rosary was started over 500 years ago by the Dominican order.  It is a Catholic association that promotes praying the rosary.  Over the years, the Virgin Mary made 15 promises of the benefits that come from praying the rosary.  They include gifts like:

  • What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
  • To those who propagate my Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
  • Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune.

Sound great?  If taken out of context one might think that praying the rosary will yield money, power, fame, and fortune.  If I ask for one million dollars I will receive it right?  I have a guarantee to find the love of my life or get that big promotion at work!  Of course, we know the rosary does not work like this.  So what does Mary mean in these promises?

We have to go back to Sunday’s reading and the story of Solomon.  God did have the power to grant Solomon whatever he wanted.  But God also reserved the right to turn down Solomon’s request if it was selfish or did not further His Heavenly kingdom.  The same goes with the promises of the rosary.  We will obtain whatever we ask as long as those requests are to deepen our relationship with God.  God will answer our prayers when we ask Him for what is truly important.  When Mary speaks of our necessities, she is not talking about our earthly ones.  Everything that happens in this life, good and bad, will one day pass away.  Our true necessities revolve around the state of our soul which will determine where we spend all eternity.  That is the aid we will receive praying the rosary.

Often we are like small children when we approach God in prayer.  To a child, a toy on the shelf at a store or a candy bar in the checkout counter feels like the most important thing in the world.  And children are devastated when they do not get what they want as we see when a parent drags their wailing child through the isles of a supermarket (poor parent).  And yet we often do the same thing in our prayers.  We ask God for things that we think are incredibly important because we lack the perspective to know that they are really quite inconsequential.  One of the benefits of the rosary is that we will not only receive our spiritual necessities, but we will gain a deeper understanding as to what those needs are.

So when we pray the rosary, let us remember to approach God humbly with our requests and intentions.  We should remember what is truly important which is the salvation of our soul and the souls of others.  Everything else, whether it be about work, finances, and relationships in this world are trivial when compared to receiving God’s grace.  And while it is fine to ask God for help in these areas we should remember to keep those requests in perspective.  Who knows?  Maybe one day God will come to you in a dream, as He did Solomon, and give you one request.  Will your heart be centered on God so that you will ask for what is truly important?