Exercising Spiritually

I am going to take a short divergence from my rosary meditation to offer up some thoughts on WHY I think prayer is such an important part of life.  Thank you for reading my meditations on the mysteries of the rosary and there will certainly be more to come.  However, I know that there are many out there that ask, “why should I pray the rosary at all?”  While there are more reasons to pray it than you and I can possible know (and definitely more than what I can put into one article) I want to try to explain the importance of the rosary by comparing it to exercise.

First of all, why do we exercise physically?  It is hard, sometimes painful, takes time, and often we do not see any immediate, tangible results for our hard effort.  However, many of us exercise because we understand that it has many benefits:

  • Keeps us in good health and decreases the chances of illness.
  • Increases our strength and endurance for those times when we need it (like sports or work).
  • Improves our physical appearance.
  • Relieves stress.

Many of us, no matter how busy we are, make the time to exercise because we know that it is an important part of healthy living.  Not only is exercise important enough to schedule into our daily routines, but it is also important enough to spend our hard-earned money on gym memberships, equipment, clothing, and diet foods and supplements.

It is amazing how much time, money, and effort we put into physical exercise and how little we put into spiritual exercise.  Many of us somehow find an hour of our day to “hit the gym” but we cannot find one hour a week to go to church, 20 minutes to pray a rosary mystery or even 30 seconds to say a short prayer of thanks before a meal.  If the exercise analogy does not work for you, then replace that with work or a hobby (and go for a walk).  How much time do you spend browsing the Internet or playing video games compared to how much time you spend in prayer and mediation?

It is important to work out our spiritual muscles just as much as our physical ones.  When you build up your spiritual muscle you will be much more prepared when you are challenged.  Whether the challenge comes as a problem of faith or just handling day-to-day complications, you can better handle any challenge when you pray regularly.  Trying to handle difficult life challenges without a deep faith is like trying to run a marathon with only minimal training.  Sure, you may finish the race but it will be more difficult and painful than if you were adequately prepared.  But more likely, we tend to just give up when the going gets tough because we have not conditioned our heart, mind, and soul to work through life’s obstacles. 

Like exercise, you only need to put in small, but constant effort praying in order to feel results over time.  It takes 20 minutes to pray a mystery of the rosary which is shorter than the time it takes to watch a sitcom.  You most likely will not feel like a saint after a week of prayer (or a month or even longer) but it will start to change you over time.  It will change the way you see the world and your life and really puts into perspective what is really important.  I have a hard time explaining how praying the rosary has changed me.  Unlike exercise I cannot point to a certain metric that tracks my progress.  Unfortunately there is not a faith ranking I can improve.  But I know the rosary has affected me positively as seen in the way I interact with others and in just my overall outlook on life.  It has also brought me closer to my Catholic faith by making it a priority in my life.  Now my faith is every bit as important as my physical health, my finances, my family, and my career.

I could draw out the exercise/rosary analogy longer (since I love analogies) but hopefully you get the idea.  I hope these words might encourage some of you to give rosary meditation a try. 

And like many exercise programs advertised on television (like this one), I’m going to end with my prayer sales pitch:

You can change your life in just 20 minutes a day!  Increase your faith and spiritual health for no money!  That’s right, you can start living a better life and it will not cost you a thing!  Millions of people have tried this program and have seen remarkable results.  So what are you waiting for?  Go and pray the rosary today!

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Rosary Meditation: The Third Joyful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation is the Third Joyful Mystery — The Nativity.  We reflect and pray on Jesus’ humble birth in a stable.  This is an important mystery to focus on, not just during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.  The nature of Jesus’ birth sets the stage for how He lived His life and provides a foundation for His teachings.  The Nativity provides us a clear picture on how Jesus calls us to live.

When I think of this mystery the first word that comes to my mind is “humility.”  Jesus came into this world in the humblest of surroundings.  Hundreds of miles away from Rome, the seat of power in this world, the true king of kings was born.  He was born without money, riches, or any earthly power.  He was born surrounded by peasant shepherds, not a royal court.  This humble birth was no accident as it showed from the very beginning that Jesus’ ways were not the world’s ways.  His mission was not one of earthly conquest and accumulation of power nor was it to bring the Jews out of the submission of the Romans.  Instead, He showed us the living a humble and meek life was His way and the only path to His Heavenly kingdom.

I think Jesus’ humble birth contrasts nicely with another word usually associated with Christmas — “trappings.”  The dictionary defines that word as “outward decoration or dress; ornamental equipment.”  I see the trappings of Christmas all over in the amount of money spent on presents, decorations, clothes, and food.  But it’s not only Christmas were we seem to put a premium on the trappings of life.  Many of us tend to focus all year long on living in a nice home, driving a fancy car, and having that dream job.  While none of that is bad in itself, when we start to put the comforts of this world above the rewards of the next we move away from how Jesus lived His life and how He calls us to live ours.  The trappings of this life literally trap us into living only for this world which amount to absolutely nothing in Jesus’ Heavenly kingdom.

So let us pray that we have the strength to live as Jesus did — humbling and meekly.  Let us pray for the strength to not put our earthly desires ahead of our Heavenly needs.  In the end God will not judge us based on the cars we drive, the value of our stock portfolio, or what position we held at our jobs.  Those are just the trappings of this world, the ornamental decorations, while how well you followed Jesus’ path is the real substance.  Let us meditate and pray this mystery of the rosary that we can embrace Jesus’ ways as manifested in the Nativity.

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Rosary Meditation: The Second Luminous Mystery

Miracle at Cana
Image by Loci Lenar via Flickr

Today’s rosary meditation is the second Luminous Mystery — The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  At a wedding party, Jesus turned water into wine in His first public miracle.  This started his ministry of healing the sick, giving site to the blind, and mobility to the paralyzed.  There are two main threads that are common to all the Gospels and they are Jesus’ miracles and parables.  Why are Jesus’ miracles so critical to his ministry?  And, if He could perform all these miraculous deeds, why did He not eliminate everyone’s problems and hardships instantly?  Why do we still have sick, blind, and paralyzed people today if it is so easy for the Lord to heal someone?

In order for Jesus’ miracles to have any meaning you must understand the reason behind them.  They are not performed for the sole purpose of making peoples’ lives easier.  We cannot reduce Jesus to a mere genie who will grant us all our wishes.  They are performed in order to increase our faith and open us up to His word.  When Jesus gives sight to the blind He does a lot more than just heal one person.  The miraculous act is a sign of His divinity and power so that many more will come to recognize him as Christ our king and follow His path.  We are like children where His miracles are a way of getting our attention so that we will be more receptive to His message.  The miracles are not only for the one who is healed, but also for those who witness them so that our doubt will be transformed into unquestioning faithfulness.

However, Jesus’ asks a lot of those whom He heals.  They must make a firm commitment to transform their lives, follow Him, live according to His will, and have faith that He will guide them to His heavenly kingdom.  Luke’s Gospel talks of Jesus healing ten leapers.  Of that ten only one came back to thank and praise Him at which point Jesus said that his faith made him well.  The other nine eventually died, as we all do, so their physical healing was only temporary.  But the one who returned to the Lord received more than temporary, physical healing.  He received the gift of faith which is the true purpose of the miracle and more important than any physical healing we receive in this life.  Ask yourself, would you return and thank Him for His wonderful works?  If yes, then ask yourself how many times you have thanked our Lord for the great miracle of a new day?  For the miracle of friends?  For the miracle of family?  Many times we are the nine healed leapers who are given so much and yet we never return to thank the one who provides it all.

Do we pray for miracles for the right reasons?  Do we ask for them in order to grow in our relationship with our Lord or do we ask for them just so that our lives will be made easier?  We must remember that a miracle that only makes our lives easier is worldly and temporary and will eventually fade away and be replaced by different challenges.  Let us remember that God always hears us even when our request for a miracle goes unanswered.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that many of our requests only serve to make our present lives easier and would not bring us any closer to Him.  Like a good parent, He knows when to tell us “no.”  Jesus did not come to us to make our lives easier in this world, but rather He came so that we may be with Him for all eternity in our next life.  Let us pray this decade that Jesus’ miracles heal our soul, increase our faith, and lead us closer to His love.

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Rosary Meditation: The First Joyful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation is the first Joyful Mystery — The Annunciation.  This is when the angel Gabriel told Mary, a mere teenager, that she was to be the mother of God.  Now think about that for a while.  What would you do if you found out that God chose you to bring His son into this world?  Would you run outside rejoicing as if you just won the lottery?  Would you turn pale, pass out, and then hope that it was all just a dream?  Would you calmly tell the angel Gabriel that you are not ready and there are others who will be a much better choice?  I do not think becoming the Mother of God is something that any of us are exactly prepared for.

But God has only asked one person in the history of the world to be the mother of Jesus Christ so that is not something He will likely ask of us.  When compared to our Mother Mary, God asks so little of us in comparison to her great responsibility.  For many of us, just making it to Mass on time or taking a few minutes out of our day for prayer are responsibilities where we fall short.

Why are we not prepared for the times when God asks something of us?  After all, He asks something of us every day.  He asks us to be faithful, to follow His laws, and put Him first in our lives.  God speaks to us every day through the Pope, the Church, our priests, the Bible, saints, angels, and others to follow Him and to do His will.  Do we ignore all these messengers?  How many times have you not followed His will only to plead ignorance that you just did not know or that it is just too hard?  When He asks, do we tell Him that we do not think we are ready and He should ask us at a more convenient time?  Or do we tell Him, “YES!”, only to follow another road besides the one He lays out for us?  God asks us to follow Him more times than we think and we often tell Him “no” through our words, our thoughts, or our actions.

So let us recognize that God calls on us every day to follow Him.  Let us imitate our mother, Mary, and tell him “Thy will be done.”  Mary put her faith in God knowing that He never gives us more than we can handle.  Let us put our faith in Him that His plan for us is the best path and the only true path to eternal happiness.  Mary was made pure by the Holy Spirit to carry the heavy burden of bearing the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  We are strengthened by the same Holy Spirit to accept God’s will in our own lives.  With the Holy Spirit, the Church, and our Mother Mary as our guides we are more than prepared to follow His path.  Let us pray that when God asks us to follow Him we can confidently say, “Thy will be done.”

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The Miracle of Prayer

Hello and thank you for visiting my website.  Hopefully you are here because you are searching for a better way of getting more out of your prayers.  Perhaps you only pray a few minutes a day or give a quick prayer of thanks before meals.  Maybe you pray every day but are looking for new ways to meditate on it.  And it is quite possible that you have not thought about uttering a prayer since elementary school.  Regardless of your current prayer life, you’ve come to the right place.

This site will contain my prayer meditations.  In particular I focus on rosary meditation and I will share my thoughts for each decade.  I will also discuss the power and importance of prayer and the freedom that comes from trying to live a spiritual lifestyle.

First, let me introduce myself.  I am not a priest, nun, or pastor.  I am a software engineer living in San Francisco.  I enjoy watching television, browsing the internet, reading books, playing hockey, and discovering new technology.  Most people would consider me a pretty normal person.  About a year and a half ago I traded in my twenty-minute commute to work for a two-hour one when I changed jobs.  At first I tried to pass the time listening to the usual FM music, AM talk, and occasional audio book.  However, I always felt like I was wasting my time on my commute and there were other things I could do that would be more productive.

It was in my two-hour commutes that I started praying the rosary regularly.  I was already in the habit of praying the rosary but it was only about once a week.  With such infrequent prayer I could never seem to gain any momentum to dive deeper and truly contemplate the meanings behind my words.  Now I pray anywhere from one mystery to all four of them on my daily commute.  I have found that my rosary meditation centers me and gives me the strength to face my everyday challenges.  It has been my spiritual exercise and I’ve never felt more fit.

I hope I can share my enthusism over prayer, the rosary, meditation, and faith.  It has been a great, transforming factor in my life and I hope that it can be one in yours as well.

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