What is a Black Mass?

Unfortunately, the media has been reporting so much bad news lately that many Catholics may have missed this one among the headlines about Ferguson or ISIS.  A group of satanists were going to hold a black mass using a stolen Eucharist in Oklahoma City.  The bishop successfully sued them for theft and the satanists returned the blessed host.  They will still hold their black mass as is their Constitutional right but without the Eucharist.  For those who don’t know, a black mass is one that follows the same routine as a Catholic Mass, but in honor of Satan.  In other words, they make a mockery of Catholic Church to please the devil.

Believe it or not, this was the only depiction of a black mass that didn’t involve nudity.

When I heard about the black mass using a stolen host I wasn’t too shocked or appalled.  After all, the holy Eucharist often falls into the hands of people undeserving to receive it.  At Mass every Sunday, I see nearly everyone in the church receiving communion.  But how many of them are really deserving to receive it by having no mortal sins on their souls and having fasted appropriately beforehand?  I’m not making judgements on anyone, but the numbers just don’t add up.  I once heard a priest remark, “Isn’t it interesting how short the lines to confession are on Saturday and how long the lines for communion are on Sunday?  Either we live among a huge number of saints or some people are receiving the Eucharist who should not.”  So in that light, if so many people within the Catholic Church aren’t showing the Eucharist the respect it deserves, why should I be upset about a group of satanists getting their hands on it?  

But then what did appal me was the fact that I wasn’t too appalled by the satanists’ theft and intention to use it in their black mass.  My lack of shock and sadness reminded me of just how weak my faith is at times.  After all, the Eucharist is the true presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  A consecrated host is no different than Jesus being present in bodily form.  It is one of the cornerstones of the Catholic faith and is one of the main differences between Catholics and protestants.  And yet my apathy towards this instance in Oklahoma City does reveal the gaps in my faith.

The good news is that we can work towards bridging that faith gap.  I start where I always start — the rosary.  Particularly, in this case, I focus on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Instantiation of the Eucharist.  I meditate on how faith isn’t something that just happens instantaneously, but something that requires work and an open heart.  Think about the apostles at the Last Supper.  They witnessed the first Eucharist from Jesus himself and yet their faith was shaken in the proceeding days of Jesus’ crucifixion.  They betrayed him, abandoned him, and denied that they knew him.  Bridging that faith gap was something they all needed to work on just like we do today.  And all of the apostles, with the exception of Judas, earned their way into sainthood.  That should give all of us hope that no matter how weak or shaken our faith may be, all of us have an opportunity to improve it through prayer, the sacraments, fasting, good works, and God’s grace.

3rd quarter of 16th century
3rd quarter of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another rosary mystery that comes to mind when I think about the black mass and the stolen Eucharist is the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion.  The Romans put Jesus to death in the most horrific way possible and yet that couldn’t break Jesus’ resolve.  Nor could they suppress his message that was spread throughout the world by his followers fueled by the Holy Spirit.  Like the Eucharist, the cross became a cornerstone of the Christian faith and there is nothing the world can do that will stop God’s truth from being heard.  There is nothing that will break the spirit of God’s Church.  And so I see these satanists in a similar light as the Romans.  There is nothing they can do in a black mass, even if they had the stolen Eucharist, that will have any effect on God and His Church.  The world has tried numerous times to crush Christianity going all the way back to Jesus’ crucifixion.  Satanists and their black masses just continue that fruitless tradition.  Should we feel saddened by their actions and pray for their conversion?  You bet.  Should we feel scared that their actions weaken God or His Church?  Not in the least.

Politicians: They Know Not What They Do

In my last article I discussed how the state of American political discourse has descended into a war of bill branding and news soundbites rather than discussion on Constitutional principles.  Specifically, I noted that large negative response many liberal politicians had on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.  Now it’s time to separate RosaryMeds from your run of the mill “this is what’s wrong with the world” blog.  While others report and complain about politics, I’m going to offer a solution — a prayer.  Specifically, let’s look at a mystery of the rosary for guidance in these worrisome times.

English: A cropped version of Antonio Ciseri's...

When I read about just how zealously many politicians elevate the role of abortion in our society I think of the Third Sorrowful Mystery — The Crowning of Thorns.  I think about how the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus in such a cavalier and dismissive manner.  Although they weren’t Jews, they must have known about the countless miracles Jesus performed which should have ringed warning bells that this wasn’t some mere criminal they were scourging and mocking.  The soldiers, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and everyone else involved in crucifying Jesus must have had some inclination that they were playing with fire by so brashly mocking the Son of God.

When I think of the Patty Murrays, Nancy Pelosis, and Harry Reids of our government, I wonder how many of them deep down in their consciences know that they promoting a great evil by backing the pro-abortion lobbies.  Like the Roman soldiers that mocked Jesus, do they have some inclination of the seriousness of their actions?  If their promotion of abortion isn’t born out of pure ignorance, do they know they are playing with fire by acting contrary to their faiths and natural law?  Like the soldiers who got caught up in the moment of mocking Jesus, are some politicians so caught up in scoring political points with their base and lobbyists that they never stop and consider the ramifications of what they are doing?

When you pray the rosary, especially the Third Sorrowful Mystery, pray for those who so brazenly mock Jesus’ teachings for worldly gain.  Pray for their conversion and an awakening to the damage their behavior creates both to themselves and others.  Pray that you personally always remember Jesus’ teachings and not get caught up in behavior that runs counter to it.  It can be so easy to casually mock Jesus through seemingly little sins.  But those little sins can really add up and over time derail you from the path God sets before you.  Be aware of your behavior and find the courage to ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever you act contrary to your faith.

Our Prayer

Forgive those Lord who misrepresent Your teachings and hide Your truth in darkness.  We pray for their conversion much like how You touched the heart and mind of your servant, St. Paul on the road to Damascus.  May those who harm so many in their blindness of earthly ambition end up saving 100 times as many souls in their conversion.  We also pray that we may never take Your truth for granted and casually ignore it.  Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary, please give us the strength to honor our Lord Jesus Christ with a crown of good works, love, and charity and avoid crowning Him with the thorns of sin.

Expecting the Unexpected — How God Answers Our Prayers

Lately I have contemplated prayers, intentions, and how God answers our requests for help.  On the Catholic Answers forums, I see so many people angry or saddened because they feel so distant from God and they wonder if He isn’t hearing their prayers.  I understand how easy it is to feel discouraged when the news headlines are filled with stories of violent crimes, wars, and civil unrest not to mention the unreported hardships we all face about our jobs, family, finances, relationships, etc.  You look at all the problems in this world and it is easy to conclude that God just doesn’t care.  However, what I think happens more often is that we fixate on a specific solution and completely miss how God actually answers our prayers.

Here’s an example of God answering prayers in unexpected ways taken from my own experiences.  Like many people, I pray in a general sense that I may be stronger in the seven virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.  But how do I know God hears me and answers my requests to be a better person?  After all, nothing really seems to change in my day-to-day life that indicates that I’m stronger in any of those areas.  I don’t wake up and say, “Thanks God!  I feel more diligent today!”  So how does God answer my prayers?

I remember all the days and nights I spend with my 1.5 year old son.  I play with him when I come home from work although I’m tired and just want to relax in front of the television.  I try to read his favorite books to him for the hundredth time with the same excitement as the first time.  It’s exhausting work at times.  But then it hits me.  All those times when I pulled out a little more energy to be there for my family, I was demonstrating acts of patience, kindness, and charity.  I asked God for strength and He answered by giving me an opportunity to exercise virtue.

I would say that one can only dream babies acted liked angels, but that assumes a parent could ever get some sleep.

Next, let’s look at a story that made the news rounds lately.  There is a picture circulating around the internet of a wife carrying her double-amputee husband on her back.  Jesse Cottle lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while serving in the Marines in Afghanistan.  In rehab, he met his wife, Kelly.  In an interview on Good Morning America, Jesse said that he wouldn’t change anything that happened to him because if he hadn’t lost his legs to that IED, he never would have met the love of his life.

God always answers our prayers but not always in ways we expect.

I’m not sure whether Jesse is an overtly praying man, but I’m sure he must have had some very low moments after his injury and asked God to somehow improve his situation.  But God just didn’t miraculously grow Jesse’s legs back or change the IED blast so he didn’t lose them in the first place.  I’m sure many of us in Jesse’s situation would look for those specific answers from God if we were in that situation.  And we would probably be saddened when God didn’t physical heal us.  But God often answers prayers in unexpected, but better ways.  Sure, God could have physically healed Jesse.  But then Jesse never would have met Kelly in rehab.  While what happened to Jesse was tragic, God brought about a greater good by touching the hearts of two people, instead of healing the legs of one.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

What rosary mystery doesn’t involve God working in some unexpected way?  The whole New Testament is the account of Jesus saying and doing unexpected things.  Sometimes He did the unexpected to great fanfare like performing miracles.  And other times Jesus’ unexpected nature upset people, especially the scribes and pharisees when He challenged their practices and authority.  When you pray the rosary, meditate that God’s ways aren’t always our ways.  When it comes to God, expect the unexpected.  For example:

  • The Annunciation (First Joyful Mystery): God chose an unwed teenager to be the Mother of God.  Mary may have been physically poor, but God raised her up to be rich in spirit.
  • The Nativity (Third Joyful Mystery): The King of Kings was born in a stable.  Like His ministry, Jesus’ birth was marked not by earthly power, but by humility.
  • The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven (Third Luminous Mystery): When Jesus proclaimed that He was the Word made flesh, people chased him out of town.  How many times do we get upset when God shows Himself in unexpected ways in our lives?
  • The Crucifixion (Fifth Sorrowful Mystery): Jesus died and redeemed us all.  People challenged Him by saying that if He was really the Son of God, He could save himself.  But Jesus knew that it was far more important to save our souls than save His body.
The Annunciation, by Francesco Albani. "H...
The Annunciation, by Francesco Albani. “How can this be, for I know not man?”, Luke 1:34 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember, God’s ways are not our ways.  But that should be a reason to rejoice, not for disappointment.  God sees the big picture.  So shouldn’t we rejoice that someone who sees and knows everything is looking out for us?   Do you have any stories to tell of how God answered your prayers in unexpected, but ultimately better ways?  Leave a comment.

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A World on Fire

There has been so much happening at the intersection of politics and religion lately (it’s a block down the road from the intersection of crazy and truth).  We have the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, abortion standoffs, international issues in the Middle East, Obamacare’s HHS mandate, scandal after scandal, and immigration reform debates.  Political developments seem to come in so fast that if I took the time to write in depth about any one issue, a dozen more would come to the forefront before I could publish it.  So I will leave it to the political news sites to report on the details of these stories.  They have the resources and the audience to go into much more detail than I ever can.  I will stick with what I know — rosary prayer and meditation.

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Overwhelmed by all the bad news lately?

I think it is so easy to read the current headlines and get discouraged.  One would think that the world is on the brink of falling apart completely.  What is wrong or evil are considered virtues.  What was once thought of as good and decent are now seen as hateful and intolerant.  Common sense seems to be in rare supply.  Humanity appears to be in a tailspin from which there is no recovery.  But that type of thinking assumes that the current state of the world is somehow drastically different from the past.  It assumes that there was a time when all was good and peaceful in the world and that recent conflicts are the exception to history.  But can you think of a time in human history when everything was fine?  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the world has always been a violent, hostile, and illogical place, especially towards truth, values, and faith.

If you want to see how cruel this world can be to those of faith, you don’t need to look any further than the mysteries of the rosary.  First start with the easy ones — the Sorrowful Mysteries.  Each mystery shows how humanity treats the source of truth and love, Jesus Christ.  He’s betrayed in the First Sorrowful Mystery, scourged in the Second, crowned with thorns in the Third, carries a cross in the Fourth, and is crucified in the Fifth.  Not exactly a pleasant view of how humanity treats people of faith is it?  You can look at other mysteries too if you want to see how hard it has been to live morally.  When you pray the First Joyful Mystery, imagine how difficult it must have been for Mary, an unwed teenager, to learn that God called her to bear His Son.  Meditate on the Third Glorious Mystery and picture the apostles locked in a room out of fear of being found and killed by those who crucified Jesus.  History shows that following God’s plan often presents more challenges and defeats than victories.

End the end, we win!
How does it end? We win!

So what are we, as people of faith, to do?  Do we cast off our religious values and embrace the trends society embraces?  Do we hide our faith so that we don’t offend anyone?  Do we go on the offensive and use every dirty trick in the book to force a better world?  Again, we only need to look as far as the rosary.  When confronted with the difficult challenge of God choosing Mary to bear His son, she humbly puts her faith in His plan.  The apostles, when confronted by a hostile world, found strength in the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s Word.  And Jesus, in the Sorrowful Mysteries, endured the torture and insults the world flung at Him.  Even at His lowest moment in His Passion, Jesus never stopped loving and forgiving.  Jesus practiced what He preached even in His most difficult moments.  And so God calls us to act like Mary and say yes to His plan even when in conflicts with the social norms of our society.  We must remember, like the apostles, the Holy Spirit empowers us to proclaim God’s Word.  And Jesus calls us to imitate Him and live according to His truth despite the suffering the world will heap upon us for doing so.

It isn’t all suffering and defeat.  To end on a positive note, remember that this world and our lives are only temporary.  The entirety of human history is but a blink of an eye compared to the enormity of the afterlife.  The problems and turmoil of today, while they may seem large to us now, are nothing compared to the joy and happiness of Heaven.  That isn’t to say that we can turn a blind eye to this world and its problems.  But we must keep everything in perspective.  We fight the good fight but our goal is Heaven, not this world.  Remember, the crucifixion isn’t the last rosary mystery.  We have the entire Glorious Mysteries after that where Jesus conquered death and prepared a place for us in His kingdom.  Our end is not tied to a Supreme Court ruling or the HHS mandate.  Our end is not summed up by bills, laws, and elections.  Our final end is praising God forever in Heaven.  Keep that in mind the next time you read the Drudge Report and feel like throwing your chair out the window in despair.

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Transforming the Rosary from Chore to Joy

“But I don’t want to clean my room!”
“Do I have to clean the dishes now?”
“But this show is almost over! I’ll take out the trash once it’s done.”
“But I’m not tired!”

I think nearly all parents hear excuses like these on a near daily basis. They engage in a constant struggle to instill a solid work ethic in their children and have them focus on others’ needs and not just what they want. But it is just as easy for adults to fall into periods of laziness when we don’t always choose what is best for us or for others. We cheat on our diets, we skip exercise, and we procrastinate on tasks like paying bills or conducting household maintenance in favour of watching television or browsing the internet. And I think we all have a tendency to skip or race through our prayers, especially the rosary. Although we may love the rosary generally, we are often no better than children when we find excuses to avoid praying it.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...

This past Lent I felt like I received a lot more value from my rosary meditations all thanks to a few simple tweaks to my prayer routine. The biggest change came from thinking of a specific intention for each “Hail Mary” I recite. Praying for a specific intention combated that tendency to go into mental “auto-pilot” and start reciting the words more as worthless incantations than focused prayer. This habit of offering specific intentions started in earnest when I adopted a Catholic cardinal for the papal conclave. While I was praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Mexico, I also offered intentions for family members, friends, and priests as well as presented my thanks for all that is good in my life and remorse for my sins.

Are you scared about the seemingly daunting prospect of coming up with an intention for each bead in a rosary? You would be surprised how easily one intention acts as a seed for many others. For example, when I pray the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I start by praying that all expectant mothers raise their children to know God’s love. That intention leads me to pray for the change of heart of all expectant mothers who are considering abortion. I then find myself praying for sidewalk counselors and those who pray in front of abortion clinics. That leads me to think about the change of heart of those working in the abortion industry. I follow with prayers that politicians (particularly Catholic ones) who publicly support the abortion industry let the Holy Spirit into their hardened hearts. Once I started attaching a few intentions to those “Hail Marys,” the rest came pouring in.

This Lent I also rekindled my love of rosary guides that contain scripture passages and commentary on each mystery. When I’m tired and feel like racing through the rosary, I often want to hide my rosary books in a drawer and forget they exist. I rationalize that I have already read them repeatedly and cannot derive much more use from them. Why do I need to reread the Bible verses of the Transfiguration or the Miracle at Cana? Why do I need to read commentary and meditations I’ve read a dozen times already?

Prayer

I am so glad when I do convince myself to read and integrate a guide into my rosary prayers because I discover something new every time. While the text stays the same, it speaks to me differently because I live through new experiences and the world at large changes every day. For example, I never would have thought back in January that I would now be praying for Pope Francis. Or maybe the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of Jesus carrying His cross will have a more personal significance to me after a difficult day at work. The same scriptural passages, commentaries, and meditations take on different meanings each time I read them. And these new ideas then manifest themselves as new intentions that I pray on each rosary bead which in turn makes me think of even more intentions, thanksgivings, and remorses. The rosary is no longer a static set of prayers, but is a dynamic dialog with Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

Looking for a good rosary prayer guide?  Try mine!

I believe that when people criticize rosary meditation, they envision someone mindlessly chanting the same phrases repeatedly. They invoke Matthew 6:7 — “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” What the critics do not understand is that the rosary is not “babble” when you put forth specific intentions, sorrows, and thanksgivings before our Mother Mary who then strengthens your prayers before her Son, Jesus Christ. When Mary gave humanity the rosary, she did not intend it to act as a medium for mindless incantations but instead she wants us to really make it our own. And when we pray the rosary as Mary intended, we no longer see it as a chore to avoid, but as a moment of peace and joy in our busy lives.

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