How the Rosary Helps Us Overcome Obstacles

I don’t watch a lot of television.  However, when I find a few minutes and don’t feel like doing anything serious, I enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior.  It’s a show where athletes run through an obstacle course trying to complete increasingly more rigorous feats.  Most people fail to complete the entire course.  But those that do are ecstatic because they overcame the temptation to quit even when they were fatigued and were entertaining thoughts that they didn’t have the ability to complete the course.

The same conflict between completing a goal or giving up because the obstacles seem too great appears in many of our spiritual lives.  Many of us have a hard time mustering up enough energy to make it through an entire rosary chaplet or Bible reading.  We all want to do God’s will and form a deep relationship with Him through prayer.  And yet, despite all that we desire, we let trivial obstacles like a television show, website, or video game distract or derail us from doing what we know is good.

Saint Peter highlights what happens when we let obstacles overpower us and distract us from God’s will.  In the Gospel, St. Matthew wrote about Jesus walking on the water in a terrible storm.  Peter also tried walking on the water and was initially successful but then was overcome by fear and doubt and sank (Matthew 14:22-36).

Does Saint Peter’s story sound a lot like yours when it comes to prayer and doing God‘s Will?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “This time I’m going to stick to a rigid prayer schedule.”  Or I read a book about the importance and benefits of prayer and get all excited initially only to be overcome by distractions.  Like Saint Peter walking on water, instead of staying focused on my relationship with Jesus Christ I get distracted by the world around me.

But when we make an effort to pray and act according to God’s will, we actually act in a way that is doubly pleasing to God.  Rev. P.J. Michel explains in his book, Temptations:

On this principle, when you observe the law of God and do His will in a way that is displeasing to nature, you acquire a double claim to reward: first, you have obeyed, and secondly, you have obeyed with difficulty and against resistance and combat. The sac­rifice you have made of the natural inclination that solicited and impelled you is rewarded here by new graces and hereafter by an increase of eternal glory and happiness.

Temptations

What does the rosary teach us about praying through distractions and temptations?  You can probably pick any of the Sorrowful Mysteries and see Jesus’ example of doing God’s will despite the pain and suffering.  But that’s too easy of an example for regular RosaryMeds readers!  I want to look at the First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation.  Here we have Mary being asked to be the Mother of God.  At first, she focuses on all the earthly limitations of such a request.  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked (Luke 1:34).  But Mary didn’t let all those concerns distract her from accepting the burden and the honor God wanted to bestow on her.

Now jump to the Fifth Glorious Mystery, Mary’s Coronation in Heaven.  Going back to the passage from Temptations, when you do God’s will in the face of difficulty, you increase your eternal glory and happiness.  What better example is there than seeing Mary crowned Queen of Heaven?  She followed God’s will even when that meant seeing her son rejected and crucified.

When you don’t feel like you have the time or energy to pray the rosary, look to Mary’s example of the grace God gives you when you make the effort to pray and do God’s will despite the difficulty.  It may be hard, but the reward dwarfs the inconvenience.

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God Must Come First!

Love
Love (Photo credits: PB Teen)

What’s more important, serving God or serving each other?   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

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Urgent Moral Turnaround Needed!

Last week Obama declared that all health care providers must cover contraception regardless of their moral objections.  That’s it, no discussion, no conscience clauses, nothing except a token stay of execution.  Laws that reflect and respect morality are on life support and the government is looking to euthanize them.  I wish I could say that we’ve hit a crescendo on the assault of religious freedom, but unfortunately I think we are still in the initial salvos.  It’s contraception coverage today, tomorrow its mandated abortion coverage, then on to mandated abortions and who knows what else.

Is this the new face of morality?

Remember that laws reflect the morality of a civilization.  If morality played a more important role in peoples’ lives there is no way a law like this would even be considered.  For me, one of the largest problems with this contraception mandate is not that it’s a law, but that the general public doesn’t recognize or care that evil is becoming rooted in our laws.  Any civilization that makes intrinsic evils the cornerstone of its laws cannot thrive or even survive.  I’ve heard the saying, “Satan’s greatest weapon is making people believe he does not exist.”  That saying has never been more true than when intrinsic evils become the law of the land in the land of the free.

I could vent and rant about this topic for a thousand more words and look at it from a variety of angles.  I could dive into how the systematic dismantling of morality has led to a breakdown in all aspects of society whether it be education, economics, medicine, or crime.  But I’m going to leave that to other articles.  I want to focus on the central theme of RosaryMeds — discussing the need for prayer and the rosary.

Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the image ...
I prefer his moral guidance

Look at the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption into HeavenGod assumed Mary into Heaven and gave her a special role — bring us closer to her son, Jesus Christ.  Over centuries, she has appeared to many people with many messages.  She asks us to have a strong faith.  In order to have a strong faith, we need to be well versed in the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church.  How else are we to love God and do His will if we never learn His will?  How do we know right from wrong if we never study it and then meditate on it?  Part of the reason laws like the contraception mandate pass is in part due to Catholics not taking a true interest in learning and then defending their faith.

I also think we should turn to the Second Joyful Mystery — The Visitation.  Prayer is good and I truly believe it has the power to change the world.  But part of its effectiveness is that we must act on what God gives us through prayer.  Mary didn’t sit on the grace God gave her in the Annunciation, but she went out into the hostile world and shared that grace with her cousin Elizabeth.  And her son, Jesus, didn’t spend all His time in meditation but instead went out in the world and converted people.  His life was a living prayer since all His actions reflected God’s power and glory.  And so, He calls us to also go out into the world, powered by the guidance of the Holy Spirit from our prayers, to convert souls.

Finally, think about the Fifth Joyful Mystery — the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Mary and Joseph travelled for three days before realizing Jesus was not with them.  And when they did realize He was missing, they searched in sorrow before finding Him.  I believe we are in a world that has gone very far and still hasn’t realized that Jesus is missing in it.  Hopefully, one day soon, we will realize that Jesus is missing and have the courage to turn around and find Him.  Like Mary and Joseph searching for Jesus “in sorrow,” our return to God’s grace and the rebuilding of morality will not be easy.  There will be setbacks.  There will be those who will stand in our way every chance they get.  But we must have the conviction to endure and continue our arduous mission to bring Jesus’ love into this world.

It’s simple physics.  The world will stay on its course unless opposed by an opposite counter action.  It’s not like one day laws will suddenly appear that will magically turn the world into a moral place.  If we want to change the laws, we have to first start by converting souls.  It takes people like you and me, fueled by prayer, to influence others and change this world for the better.  Without moral people speaking up, this world will continue on its course.  And if you think things are bad now, just wait and see where we go if we sit on our hands.  That’s all I can say for now or else my blood pressure will shoot through the roof.  But believe me, I will revisit this topic and do what I can to fight the further legalization of intrinsic evils.

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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.

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Our Lady’s Messages: March 2011

Message of March 02, 2011

Dear children; My motherly heart suffers tremendously as I look at my children who persistently put what is human before what is of God; at my children who, despite everything that surrounds them and despite all the signs that are sent to them, think that they can walk without my Son. They cannot! They are walking to eternal perdition. That is why I am gathering you, who are ready to open your heart to me, you who are ready to be apostles of my love, to help me; so that by living God’s love you may be an example to those who do not know it. May fasting and prayer give you strength in that and I bless you with motherly blessing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Thank you.

St.Michael parish church in Mondsee ( Upper Au...
Image via Wikipedia

Mary’s message fits right in with the March 27, 2011 Gospel reading.  I discussed how in that reading Jesus contrasts our worldly needs and wants against our spiritual needs.  And here Mary tells us how she suffers tremendously when she sees us put our human wants in front of God.  None of us want to upset our earthly mothers by behaving badly.  Similarly, we don’t want to disappoint our Heavenly mother, Mary, by not living for the kingdom of Heaven.  We should remember her words when we pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary that Mary is our Heavenly mother who is there to help us find God’s grace.  We need to listen to our mother by praying and fasting like she asks.

The Annual Apparition of Our Lady to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo on March 18, 2011

Dear children! I am with you in the name of the greatest Love, in the name of dear God, who has come close to you through my Son and has shown you real love. I desire to lead you on the way of God. I desire to teach you real love so that others may see it in you, that you may see it in others, that you may be a brother to them and that others may see a merciful brother in you. My children, do not be afraid to open your hearts to me. With motherly love, I will show you what I expect of each of you, what I expect of my apostles. Set out with me. Thank you.

We do not make our faith journey alone.  In her message, Mary says that she is with us every step of the way.  She has the desire to lead us into God’s graces.  We not only have her help, but also the help of the Holy Spirit, angels, saints, and the entire Church.  We have a tremendous amount assistance in our corner.  But what they cannot give us is that desire to live in God’s love.  Each of us has to make that decision to want to have a relationship with God.  From that spark, Mary, the angels, and saints of Heaven can turn that spark into a fire of grace, joy, and happiness.  Let us remember Mary, Queen of Heaven, is there for us when we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary.

 

Message, 25. March 2011

Dear children! In a special way today I desire to call you to conversion. As of today, may new life begin in your heart. Children, I desire to see your ‘yes’, and may your life be a joyful living of God’s will at every moment of your life. In a special way today, I bless you with my motherly blessing of peace, love and unity in my heart and in the heart of my Son Jesus. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Rubens Annunciation 1628 Antwerp
Image via Wikipedia

What does Mary mean by having a desire to see our yes?  Remember, March 25 is the feast day of the Annunciation which we remember when we pray the First Joyful Mystery of the rosary.  That was when Mary said yes to God to being the mother of Jesus Christ.  The Annunciation marks the start of Jesus’ church on earth with a woman having the courage to say yes to God’s incredible request.  And so it is fitting that Mary asks us to commit to conversion.  She wants us to step out of our worldly comfort zone and take a chance living for Jesus’ heavenly kingdom.  As she says in her other messages, Mary will be there to guide us and comfort us when we do commit to living as God asks.  Mary received the ultimate blessing in the Annunciation when she said yes to God.  All she desires is to see us receive God’s grace by making the same decision.

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Imitate Mary and Say “Yes” to God

On Sunday, August 16, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Angelus reflections to Our Lady. Speaking to 4,000 people gathered in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo’s apostolic palace, he explained that, like Mary, Catholics are called to say yes to God. His reflection touches on themes found in various rosary mysteries such as the Annunciation, the Assumption, and the Institution of the Eucharist. We should ask ourselves, do we have the faith to say yes to God as Mary did and the strength to carry out His will?



The icon of Annunciation from the Church of St...
Image via Wikipedia

On Sunday, August 16, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Angelus reflections to Our Lady. Speaking to 4,000 people gathered in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo’s apostolic palace, he explained that, like Mary, Catholics are called to say yes to God.  His reflection touches on themes found in various rosary mysteries such as the Annunciation, the Assumption, and the Institution of the Eucharist.  We should ask ourselves, do we have the faith to say yes to God as Mary did and the strength to carry out His will?

Here is what Pope Benedict said as reported on the Catholic News Agency:

“What happened to Mary is also valid for every man and woman,” he expounded. “God asks each of us to welcome him, to make available to him our hearts, our bodies, our entire existence, so that he can dwell in the world. He calls us to join ourselves to him in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, to form the Church together…by the very nature of our yes, that mysterious exchange also happens to and in us. We are assumed in the divinity of he who assumed our humanity.”

I like this idea that Mary not only said yes to God’s will, but also welcomed Him and made Him available to her heart.  I think often, even when we do God’s will, we do it begrudgingly and without a lot of joy.  We tend to think of God’s will as a burden, not a gift.  Of course going to Mass, receiving the sacraments, and following God’ laws are good things and something we should always strive to do.  But we should also remember than when we do say yes to God we receive a gift of grace which should fill our hearts with joy.  Who doesn’t find it even a little bit exciting that God lives within us when we accept His will?  With that prospect of God working through us, we should not only say yes to Him, but we should also jump at the opportunity with passion and vigor.

I think Mary had a very good understanding of the benefits and joy that come out of saying yes to God.  Did following God’s will make her life easier?  Of course not.  She was burdened with the scandle of an unwed pregnancy and then the sorrow of seeing her son crucified.  But I think she understood that these earthly burdens were minimal when compared to the eternal rewards of living in God’s grace.  I think we often forget about the infinite treasures of heaven amongst our daily struggles.  Because this heavenly reward is something beyond our understanding, we tend to lose sight of it and settle for meager substitutes.  We fall into sin doing things that make us temporarily happy now instead of taking that harder road that will ultimately lead to eternal happiness.  So let us listen to Pope Benedict and be like Mary.  Let us not only say yes to God, but say yes with the joy of knowing that following His plan for us will lead to a happiness greater than anything we can imagine.  And let us pray for everyone who has lost sight of that goal and have said no to God either through their words, thoughts, or actions.

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