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.
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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Four Bad Ways to Spread the Catholic Faith

I was going to take a little time off from writing RosaryMeds articles and focus on some other projects. However, after listening to this past Sunday’s readings, an Immaculate Heart radio broadcast, and reflecting on my earlier article, the same theme kept leaping out at me — Catholics are called to be annoying. Actually, that is a bit misleading. We are called to boldly and publicly live our faith and teach the truth of Jesus Christ to those around us. We must do this in our words, thoughts, and actions. However, there are right ways to be an “annoying” Catholic and wrong ways. Below are four wrong ways to act as an annoying Catholic or how to respond to someone annoying you about your faith and Church teachings.

#1 The Bad Timer

The Scenario: You’re watching a football game with a group of family and friends. The chips and beer are out and everyone is enjoying the game. The referees make a horrible call and everyone bursts out yelling at the television. That’s when you decide it’s a great time for a little religious conversation and you make the smooth transition with a comment like, “So, anyone read the latest encyclical from pope about the evils of abortion?”

Probably not the best time to pull at your catechism

Religion and apologetics is a lot of like comedy — it’s all in the timing. And if you pick the wrong time to bring out theology, you not only bring resentment and annoyance about the Church’s teaching at that moment, but you may also burn bridges to discuss religion earnestly in the future. You have to be able to know your audience and the situation. Are the people around you already talking about politics or religion and does your insight add to the conversation? Are people expressing and receiving different opinions in a calm and respectful way? If not, it might be best to tuck away your spiritual, theological, and political insights for another day.

#2 Clueless About Context

The Scenario: You’re eating dinner with a group of family or friends. Your relative, who isn’t always aware of the political and religious leanings of the people around him (or just doesn’t care) starts attacking Catholicism or a teaching of the Catholic Church.

Maybe it’s because I live in a very liberal area of this planet, but it seems like a lot of people I know start topics of conversation assuming everyone else around them sees the world the same way they do. They will just start blasting the Church on some issue whether it be gay marriage, abortion, or the male-only priesthood without even considering that someone listening to them dares to have a different opinion. So what are you as a Catholic supposed to do? Sit silently? Nod in fake agreement? That’s not exactly being an annoying Catholic now is it? Perhaps you can politely remind the person that others may have different opinions on particular issues and maybe not everyone shares his particular opinion. Depending on the context, it may not be the best time to go head to head with that person and dive into a debate. But just letting people know that others might have different and valid opinions on an issue is a good start for possible future encounters. If anything, maybe that person will think twice about his audience before going off on the Church in the future.

#3 The Debater

The Scenario: You’re enjoying a conversation with some family or friends. Someone in the group just finished reading an article about the evils of the Catholic Church on their favorite internet site. With that article fresh in their mind, they look for the nearest Catholic to start a debate. You are now placed in that uncomfortable position of having to speak for the magisterium of the Catholic Church and anything short of Jesus Himself walking into the room to pronounce a winner discredits the Church’s position on an issue.

“Provide scientific proof that the Transfiguration really took place in 30 seconds or less”

We’ve all been there. You may know the general principles of the Catholic faith, but not an expert on every detail. And you’re certainly not the pope when it comes to theology. In these cases, I think you can state what you know and then politely tell the person you would need to look up more details if he wants to continue the conversation. Or remind your would-be debater that the issue is quite complicated and you would need more time to fully explain the Church’s position. Remind him that you’re a Catholic, but not a theologian, so you would prefer to continue the conversation after you look up a few facts. But this is why it is also a good idea to always learn as much as you can about Catholic teachings and dogma so you always have a few facts in your back pocket for such encounters.

#4 The Hedger

The Scenario: You’re enjoying some time with your family and friends. Some contentious religious issue comes up. Wanting to keep the peace you start hedging your thoughts on Catholic dogma. You might say something like, “I know I’m supposed to go to Mass every Sunday, but it would be nice if the Church lightened up on that rule a little.” Or, “I think Confession is a good thing, but I think it should be optional if you don’t feel comfortable with it.”

When you start to make excuses for the Church what you are really doing is watering down and misrepresenting Church teachings. But you are also sending a message to those around you that you don’t truly believe in the power and glory of the Catholic faith. The people around you may think twice about a religion where its own members have a pretty low opinion about its core teachings. And if you’re looking to lead by example, who would ever want to follow someone who is wishy-washy in their beliefs? People respect confidence and someone truly embracing their faith even if they personally don’t espouse those same values. All it takes is a strong display of faith for the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of others.

Do you have any advice on how to be a good “annoying” Catholic or know strategies to avoid? Leave a comment.

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Pope Asks Catholics to be “Annoying”

I took a lot of acting classes and performed in many plays throughout high school and college. Looking back on my teenage and early adult years, acting was one of the greatest experiences of my life. One skill that was difficult to learn initially was leaving the familiar and comfortable to take chances discovering the character. In order to be successful on stage I had to embrace my character and all his quirks, mannerisms, and eccentricities and push aside any sense of self-consciousness or embarrassment.  My best performances resulted from breaking out of my comfort zone and doing things I would never regularly do but my character would.

Performance
Actors must give it everything they got for truly remarkable performances

Much like how I had to leave my comfort zone in acting, Pope Francis challenges all Catholics to leave their comfort zone in their spiritual life. The Catholic News Agency reported that in a homily, Pope Francis said:

“We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church,” he said at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives.

The Pope preached on today’s first reading from Acts 22 and contrasted “backseat Christians” with those who have apostolic zeal.

“There are those who are well-mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal,” he stated.

The pontiff said apostolic zeal “implies an element of madness,” which he labeled as “healthy” and “spiritual.”

He added that it “can only be understood in an atmosphere of love” and that it is not an “enthusiasm for power and possession.”

The pope’s reference to “well-mannered” and “backseat” Christians echoed my thoughts about how we too often do the bare minimum our faith requires. And looking at the dramatic drop off in Mass attendance between Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, many people aren’t even meeting the minimal requirements. I noted how great of a statement Catholics could make to the world if people driving by a church on Sunday saw it filled to the brim with faithful Christians. What if the billion+ Catholics in the world expressed a loving enthusiasm for our faith every day in everything we do?

And yet, many of us (myself included) fall back into our pattern of living as “well-mannered” Catholics. Sure, we may go to Mass on Sunday and pray regularly but it’s in a very detached way from our regular lives. We don’t want to stir up controversy by proclaiming our faith in public. Raise your hand if you read a really interesting online article expressing a Catholic viewpoint but didn’t post it on your Facebook profile out of fear of causing trouble. Do you remain silent in a conversation when someone starts spouting off falsehoods or exaggerations of Church doctrine because you want to avoid conflict? Come on, be honest. I know I do that all the time, even with my own RosaryMeds articles. I sometimes refrain from sharing my own RosaryMeds articles on my personal timeline because I don’t want the headaches of defending my faith.

We all need role models and examples who we can teach us how to break the mold of the “comfortable Catholic.” Who in my life is an example of “apostolic zeal?” My mother-in-law comes to mind. She does not have two lives — a public one and a spiritual one. They are the same for her. For example, when something bad or good happens in her life, her immediate instinct is to say a prayer. And she doesn’t wait to be alone and pray silently, but will ask others to pray with her when the situation calls for it. That’s the sort of apostolic zeal the pope wants in all of us — to have that immediate gut instinct to publicly live as people of faith. It doesn’t need to be loud or bossy. It just needs to be ever-present in everything you do.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Christ teaching in the Temple

When I meditate on the Third Luminous Mystery of the holy rosary — Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion, I often ponder my own personal conversion. I think about ways I can live as a better Catholic and more faithfully follow Jesus’ teachings. But Pope Francis’ homily on living with “apostolic zeal” provides another way to view this mystery. In addition to your personal conversion, how about focusing on converting others? How can you help bring others closer to God’s loving grace? For those “backseat” Christians, maybe you can give them that little “push” whether it be inviting them to Mass (and not letting them hide in the back of the church), saying grace with them before meals, and just working in a little Catholic catechesis in conversations. It might be something as simple as, “I read this interesting article on RosaryMeds today that said…”

As for dealing with those openly hostile to the Catholic Faith, I understand that we all can’t be like St. Paul and stir up riots proclaiming God’s Word. But as I said before, pray for those who hate the Church. You will probably not be able to convert someone’s heart and mind through idle conversation regardless of how many facts or well-reasoned arguments you present. But the Holy Spirit can work miracles and touch people in ways words cannot. But you need to condition yourself to pray for people like this because praying for those who hate you doesn’t come naturally to many of us.

I will leave you with this to ponder.  If you think the Catholic Church and this world is perfect as-is, then there is no need for us behave differently.  But if you think this would could use a little improvement then it needs to start with each one of us making little changes in our lives.  Are you ready to break out of your spiritual comfort zone to make those changes a reality?

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How Will You Land?

As a joke, a comedian named Kurt Braunohler ran a KickStarter campaign to fund writing a funny message in the sky. I think anyone who saw “How do I land?” written in the sky that day got a good chuckle (as well as the millions who saw it on the internet).  And while this was obviously a joke, this little stunt did get me thinking about how often we say and do things without considering the consequences.  How often do we “fly” through life not thinking about the “landing” when we’ll need to account for our actions in front of God?

We too often act like a pilot who takes off with no plan on how to land. We just move from one moment to the next without really contemplating the moral trajectory of our lives. Many of us tend to ignore the fact that some day we’ll need to account for all actions in front of God.  We just assume that somehow everything will just work out. We tend to block out of our minds the eventual conclusion to life which is death, judgement, and either eternal happiness or eternal damnation.  We cannot put off this eventuality any more than a pilot can ignore that one way or another, any plane that is in the air must eventually come down.  Ask yourself, how are you going to “land” in life?  When you die, will it be a smooth landing into God’s heavenly kingdom or will you crash and, quite literally, burn?

Living without considering the long-term consequences of your actions is more than just ignorance; it’s selfishness.  You not only disregard the effect your actions have on the people around you, but you also disregard the gifts, talents, and intellect God gave you.  God gave you a mind, heart, and soul so that you could use it to know Him and live according to His Will. Pope Francis talked about the destructive nature of selfishness in his May 15 homily where he used Judas as an example:

Pope Francis noted that Judas was “off in his solitude” and that his “attitude of selfishness developed into the betrayal of Jesus.  Those who give their life for love are never alone and are always in the community and in the family,” Pope Francis said.  “On the other hand, he who isolates his conscience in selfishness, loses it in the end,” he stated.

Judas is the perfect example of someone who didn’t think about the long-term consequences of his actions but lived from one isolated moment to the next. All he saw was 30 pieces of silver for leading the authorities to Jesus. Did he consider what would happen to Jesus after that?  Did he consider how he would feel? Maybe not. Maybe he was so self absorbed that he never looked past the financial windfall. A pilot who doesn’t know how to land a plane will eventually run out of fuel and crash. And that is exactly what happened to Judas — when the reality of his actions finally kicked in, he mentally and spiritually crashed and then took his own life as the ultimate selfish action.

Judas küsst Jesus (Fresko in der Capella degli...

We have a problem as a society in that we are becoming more isolated and self absorbed. I mentioned in a previous article how we are losing that moral foundation that helps regulate our actions and consider the long term consequences. This is why it is so important to attend Mass every Sunday and pray regularly. These actions give us time to reflect on the consequences of our actions and how they may affect us and others.  When we don’t attend Mass, when we don’t adhere to any doctrine, or pray regularly, we will find ourselves in a similar situation as the pilot who does not know how to land a plane — flying high one moment but always moving closer to an inevitable crash.

Meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary– The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Think about how Mary and Joseph turned around from their caravan and searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple.  Of course someone who loses their child will search relentlessly until they find him.  That is what any loving parent would do.  What is not so obvious is that many of us often go through our lives unaware of how far we are from Jesus.  Do we “turn around” and start looking for Him?  For some, that may mean returning back to the Church after being away for a long time.  For others, it might mean realizing the sinful nature of their lives and committing to a life of conversion.  And for most of us, it probably means making small reflections in routine prayer and making small life course corrections through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  God wants a smooth landing into His kingdom for all of us.  The question is, are you thinking about how to land?

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Catholics, Souls of Steel

Anyone who knows me knows that I love movies. We are now entering the summer blockbuster season and there are many films that look promising. I think the movie I’m most looking forward to is the next Superman movie titled Man of Steel. Here’s the trailer for the movie that I’m going to reference in this article. Note the biblical undertones.

The latest Superman movie, Man of Steel, puts a spin on the iconic super hero. Other movies in the franchise show a Superman who jumps at every opportunity to use his powers in service of helping humanity. He is essentially a boy scout with super powers. This new movie asks, what if Superman doesn’t want to be Superman but instead chooses a life as an anonymous human being? The trailer presents two possible outcomes if he reveals his super human nature. He might be rejected, feared, and made an outcast because he doesn’t fit in (he is an alien after all). Or he will be seen as a role model that humanity strives to imitate. From the trailer, it looks like he initially believes the former idea and tries his best to hide his super nature by living off the grid as a fisherman.

Let’s look past the obvious biblical references in the trailer such as the voiceover saying how Superman will be like a god to humans, how he is seen as a “guardian angel”, or that he chooses to work as a fisherman. I want to focus on Superman’s choice to hide his powers and try to live a “regular” life. Can you blame him? After all, look at the other Superman movies where the world expects him to protect humanity from ourselves. He becomes responsible for stopping anything bad from happening whether it be bank robberies, car brake failures, plane crashes, or nuclear armageddon. Would you want to be the person the world relies on to prevent all misfortune 24/7?

Holy Spirit painting

We, as Catholics, are very much like this new Superman. We too are given tremendous gifts and powers. Okay, we cannot fly, have x-ray vision, or outrun a train. But we do have other powers that transcend mere physical capabilities. We have power from the Holy Spirit and God’s grace. That manifests itself in the knowledge to know good from evil and the strength to choose the good even when evil seems easier or more attractive. We have the power to keep going, to keep trying, to keep forgiving, and to keep loving regardless of how hard life tries to knock us down.

We also have the super powers of hope and faith. We have hope that we will one day find eternal happiness in Heaven by living in God’s grace here on earth. We have faith that there is more to our lives that what we experience in this world and it’s worth enduring trials and hardship since we will find comfort in Heaven. It’s the Holy Spirit that gives us strength to live for God‘s kingdom. Superman may have limitless physical abilities. But Christians have limitless spiritual abilities.

Much like Superman hiding his physical power in Man of Steel, we often want to hide our spiritual gifts and just “fit in” with everyone else. Because using those gifts to live as people of God will often make us outcasts in society. For example, when we use our knowledge of good and evil to call attention to the evils of abortion, the world condemns us as hate-filled, uncompassionate, and tyrannical. Or we have a gift of knowledge that tells us that cheating, lying, stealing, being greedy, or lustful are evils that should be avoided. But we so often want to pretend that we do not have that gift of knowledge so that we can do whatever we want. Like Superman, we don’t want to stand out because we are afraid that with great power comes great responsibility (I know that quotation is from Spiderman, not Superman, but it fits well).

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Jesus is my Super Hero

When we pray the rosary, think of the Third Glorious Mystery, The Coming of the Holy Spirit, as Christianity’s superhero origin story. It was the Holy Spirit that transformed the apostles from scared deniers of Christ into evangelists who would lay down their lives to spread Jesus’ teachings. Pray for an openness to the incredible power the Holy Spirit gives us to live according to God’s Will and Jesus’ teachings. Jesus taught that a lamp isn’t meant to be hidden under a basket, but put out on the table to illuminate the world around it.  And superheroes aren’t meant to keep their abilities bottled up.  We are spiritual superheros!  And so we are called to be that shining example of God’s love to the world. We pray for the strength to live according to God’s Will especially when it seems easier not to. Because deep down we know that following the path God lays before us will always lead somewhere good. Maybe we won’t find that goodness in this life, but we will certainly find it in God’s heavenly kingdom.

We also should meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation in the Temple. Remember, Simeon is a perfect example of how our faith is a type of spiritual super power.  He waited and prayed in the temple his entire life on faith  because the Holy Spirity told him that he would one day cast his eyes on the Savior. And when Jesus came for His presentation in the temple, that promise was fulfilled. I like to think that it wasn’t Simeon’s own abilities that gave him the will to come to the temple every day for many fruitless years. Instead, it was his faith and openness to God’s grace that allowed him to persistently look and wait for Jesus. When we earnestly pray for that same strength, God will surely give it to us. All we have to do is ask. Of course, God may also throw some challenges our way too just to show us that we do, in fact, have the strength to overcome life’s obstacles. After all, what good are super powers if we don’t have super challenges to test them?

Still Looking for those Rosary Meditations

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Being Catholic Means More than Just Showing Up

Athletes need to do a lot more than just show up to a match. A soccer player cannot pat himself on the back after the game because he only managed to keep the ball in bounds. A football player cannot claim success just because he didn’t draw a penalty. No track runner will stand on the medal podium for simply finishing the race. In all sports, athletes need to excel and contribute to their team’s victory. They need to pay attention to their coaches, follow the rules, and respond to the always changing situations on the field.

Coach encourages young athlete
Coach encourages young athlete

Yet, as Catholics, we often live as if we are just showing up to the match instead of focusing on excelling and contributing to build up God‘s church. We often fall into a pattern where we believe just following the rules is good enough. We tend to think that just fulfilling our Sunday obligation of attending Mass also fulfills our life’s obligation of being Catholic. We might even think that being a good Catholic means only avoiding mortal sin. But showing up at Mass and avoiding mortal sin is like the football player just managing not to run out of bounds or draw a penalty. That is the bare minimum that our faith requires. We are called to listen to God and His Church and respond by publicly living our faith in an often challenging world.

Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Bergoglio put it best when he explained the story of the prophet, Jonah. In a 2007 interview in the magazine, 30 Days, and reprinted in the Catholic San Francisco, the pope said this about Jonah:

Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what he wants, on who was faithful to the covenant and who instead was outside the covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God was there and waiting, to heal them with his forgiveness and nourish them with his tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarshish.

What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into his plans. God had come once … ‘and I’ll see to the rest’: That’s what Jonah told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his pre-ordained methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer knew that God leads his people with the heart of a father.

This story reminds me very much about how we often live our faith. We live it according to a set of pre-defined rules and regulations thinking that is all God wants of us. I know I certainly fall into that trap where I just go to Mass, go to Confession, abstain from meat on Fridays, avoid mortal sin, and pray the rosary. I can check all those tasks off my spiritual “to-do” list so I’m done with my Catholic obligations right? Wrong! God, like a coach, says, “Good for you, now that you’re warmed up let’s get to work.” That’s right, all those “tasks” that we do are just the warm up to living as a true person of faith. The fasting, the prayers, and going to Mass are almost meaningless if they aren’t followed by an openness to the Holy Spirit to live the faith. Following the Church’s rules is the “practice” that prepares us for the “main event” which is responding to God’s call to be a living example of His love.

Prophet Jonah (Michelangelo)
Prophet Jonah (Michelangelo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What RosaryMeds do I Need?

Almost all Catholics periodically suffer from a case of itsgoodenoughitis. Symptoms include:

  • Just thinking about your faith once a week (or less) at Mass
  • Just saying quick prayers without putting much thought into them
  • Living in ways and holding beliefs that are contrary to what the Church teaches
  • Just not giving a lot of thought on what being a good Christian really means

This will require a double dose of rosary mysteries. When you meditate on the rosary, pay particular attention to the First Luminous Mystery and the Fourth Luminous Mystery. In both Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration, God spoke directly to the disciples and said “Listen to My Son!” But we are often like Jonah and ignore what God is actually telling us and want to do things our own way. When Jesus challenges us to put in a little extra effort in living our faith, we can’t just fall back on solely following the rules. Like a good athlete, we need to listen to God, our coach and mentor, and alter our strategy based on His guidance. God knows what we are capable of and won’t ask us to take up a challenge we cannot handle. He is always there on the sidelines saying, “Trust Me. You can do this!” We need to listen to God and have faith that following His Will will lead us to victory — the victory of living in His heavenly kingdom for all eternity.

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We Adopted!

When I heard about adoptacardinal.org on EWTN radio and received two emails from family members about it all on the same day, I knew it was probably a sign from above to mention it on RosaryMeds. The “Adopt a Cardinal” website will randomly assign a Catholic cardinal to you whom you will support through prayer and fasting during the conclave and three days after they elect the new pope. My wife and I are praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Guadalajara, Mexico.

In my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, I stress how important it is to offer specific intentions in your prayers.

In the rosary, you may have a specific intention each time you pray the Hail Mary. Or you may have a single intention for the entire mystery or even the entire rosary. It is up to you how many intentions you want to present. But it is important to have intentions, thanksgivings, and remorse even if they are just generic ones (for the poor or homeless, for peace, health, etc.). Without intentions you may just go into “auto-pilot” and just say the words without actually praying for anything.

Remember, you are conversing with God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints when you pray the rosary. You have their undivided attention. Don’t you want to have something meaningful to say? While we may speak the the same words as everyone else who prays the rosary, your intentions are uniquely yours. The rosary is your time with Jesus. Make the most of it. He’s listening. The question is, are you actually talking to Him?

la piedad michoacan
My adopted cardinal

I pray specifically for my adopted cardinal on the first Our Father right after the Apostles’ Creed. I usually reserve that Our Father for the pope’s intentions. Given that the Church currently does not have an active pope, I think it makes perfect sense to pray for one of the cardinals who will play a role in selecting the next pope.

Just don’t say the rosary, but pray the rosary. Make it yours. And adopt and support the cardinals who will choose St. Peter‘s successor.

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Amateur Night: How the Media Covers the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the image ...

In my article about Pope Benedict renouncing his papal authority I told you to be cautious of the media’s coverage of the upcoming conclave. While I expected their reporting to be high on conjecture and low on facts, I can’t believe just how far out in left field some of these “news reports” and editorials are. If you were to piece together comments from various anchors, you would think that the Catholic Church is a horrible institution for not seriously considering a pro-contraception, pro-abortion, married woman as pope. The reporting is almost so ridiculous that even the best writers of all time for Saturday Night Live wouldn’t be able to come up with a parody of the coverage since the coverage is already a parody on shoddy news reporting.

I present the contenders for “worst recent news coverage of the Catholic Church.”  Thank you Creative Minority Report for doing the legwork of collecting these gems.  I would find them hilarious if they were meant as satire.  But unfortunately, they’re serious and are probably highly influential on people’s opinions and perceptions of the Catholic faith.

  1. ABC News:The Catholic Church not in touch with modern society
  2. MSNBC Panelist: Sotomayor for Pope
  3. E.J. Dionne — The best choice for pope? A nun
  4. Conclave & The Media: The Silly Season
  5. CNN vs The Catholic Church
  6. Hoping the Next Pope Isn’t Catholic

Many of these reports follow a similar template.  They automatically dismiss any of the Church’s doctrines that run counter to what is generally accepted in modern society regardless of their moral merit.  Actually, the reports are not only dismissive, but pretty much say the Church’s teachings are wrong and outdated and need to be changed with the next pope.  And not one of these reporters actually interview a priest who would explain why the Church holds certain teachings.  Instead, it is much easier to show anti-Catholics (or not well-catechized Catholics) voicing their frustrations with the Church under the cover of reporting on Pope Benedict‘s renouncement and the conclave.

I told you that the media was going to treat the choosing of the next pope like a political election.  Just go back four months to the presidential race and you will see the same template.  Instead of reporting news and getting stories from multiple, credible sources, the media just airs their progressive wish list and demonize doctrine that has stood the test of time for almost 2000 years.  I think the media has been so relaxed in its duties of holding politicians responsible for their actions that they no longer understand what it means for someone to uphold their core doctrines and principles.  The media doesn’t care if politicians ignore the Constitution (or the equivalent documents in other countries) and so they can’t begin to understand why the Church doesn’t arbitrarily change her doctrines to be more popular.  They act like the pope can wave a magic wand and make artificial contraception no longer sinful behaviour which shows a serious lack of understanding of one of the largest religions on the planet.  This type of irresponsible reporting is scandalous because it leads astray Catholics who aren’t well catechized and turns public sentiment against the Church.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

The decent of the holy spirit by Tizian (1546)

Many Catholics have come down with an acute case of noncatechisisitis.  Symptoms include believing biased news reporting of the Catholic Church and not understanding core Church doctrine.  The remedy is to pray and meditate on the Third Glorious Mystery — The Decent of the Holy Spirit.  So many people need the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit right now, especially the cardinals as they choose the next pope.  But we also need the Holy Spirit to increase our faith in the moral correctness of the Catholic Church.  I’m not Pope Benedict or even a Fr. Robert Baron when it comes to completely understanding the theological foundation for Church doctrine on requirements like non-married priests or male-only priests.  But I pray that the Holy Spirit will open my heart and give me the faith to embrace these teachings.  In a way, the Holy Spirit has the ability to bypass our minds and let us know the deeper truths God imprinted on our souls.  We live in deliberately confusing times.  But the Holy Spirit will lead us through them if we only take the time and effort to listen to God with an open heart through prayer.

Have you encountered any anti-Catholic or just plain ignorant reports on the Chruch from supposedly credible news outlets?  Feel free to tell your story in the comments.

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Pope Benedict’s Retirement — A Transition, not An End

Like many people, Pope Benedict‘s announcement of his retirement came as quite a shock to me. I once attended Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and saw the pope from about ten feet away as he walked past me in a procession. And although I only caught a glimpse of him, I did feel this sense of God‘s glory radiating from him. It’s hard to explain, but I understood in that instant how carefully God chooses His shepherds to lead His people. And as shocking as this news is to me, I also understand that it’s also God at work when one of his shepherds knows he has run his course. We must keep Pope Benedict in our prayers as well as the Catholic Church because this unprecedented event is going to get a lot of attention, especially from sources that may not like or understand the Catholic faith.

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

We need to be careful where we receive our information regarding Pope Benedict’s retirement. When it comes to understanding the core principles and foundation of the Catholic faith, the mainstream media has a lot to learn. They deal mostly in the realm of politics and so they will treat the pope’s announcement like they would a politician resigning. And usually, a politician resigns only when he has something to hide or is trying to dodge responsibility for his actions. And so the media will be looking for any shred of circumstantial evidence to fit their narrative whether it be the priest abuse scandal, gay marriage, contraception, or any Catholic document that they can sensationalize and turn into a story to fill their 24/7 news cycle.  We live in a world where people in powerful positions tend to cling to that power to the bitter end (a few people in Washington D.C. come to mind).  The media will never understand why someone in such a powerful position would choose to voluntarily step down.

I believe the truth is much less sensational and extremely humbling. I won’t claim to be an expert on Pope Benedict, but I have read some of his writings and what people have written about him. He does seem to be a very humble servant of the Catholic faith and will do whatever is necessary to promote God’s glory through the Church. And if that means stepping aside to let someone who is more capable of leading the Church in this modern era so be it. It takes a lot of humility for him to conclude that he is not the pope the Church needs right now. I like Pope Benedict and wish he would stay since he is one of the great modern thinkers and defenders of traditional values. But as a Catholic I yield to the pope’s authority even when he decides to relinquish that authority.

I think we need to pray for the conclave of cardinals that will choose the next pope. As we live in a world that becomes more secular, events like the choosing of a new pope become that much more peculiar, misunderstood, and portrayed as being out of step with society. Non Catholics (and misinformed Catholics) will see the election of a new pope like the election of a political leader. They see a new pope as someone who can simply eliminate what they view as mistakes of a previous “administration.” You will hear the usual uninformed questions like, “Will the next pope be softer on contraception and divorce? Will he allow women ordination? Will he allow married priests?” Basically, we will hear the wish list of the secular world as they cover the choosing of the next pope.

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

This will be a difficult time for Catholics. The world is a lot more hostile towards organized religion, particularly Catholicism (and we haven’t done ourselves any favours recently with all the priest abuse cover ups). It has even changed drastically in the last eight years since Pope Benedict was chosen as pope since the world has become that much more connected but also more polarized.   We should pray and meditate on the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Coronation of Mary. We ask the Queen of Heaven for guidance, resolve, and the wisdom to see the glory of God’s Church through the distractions and obfuscations of the modern world.  God raised Mary up as a queen because she listened to God and obeyed His will.  We pray for the acceptance of Pope Benedict’s decision and the hope that it will bring about a greater good.  God gave us Pope Benedict and it’s not like He’s taking him away from us.  God is merely leading him to a new role where he will do the most good by giving him more time to think, write, and most importantly, pray.  And so we also pray that we show that same openness to God’s will and the humility to follow the road God puts before us as our mother Mary and Pope Benedict did.

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Four Years of RosaryMeds

On December 11, 2008 I started RosaryMeds with my first article.  And now here we are, four years and 177 articles later.  Let’s take a look at some notable statistics from 2012.  I’m not going to win any awards for web traffic, but thanks to all 2,186 of you who visited RosaryMeds this year and viewed a total of 4,575 pages. And a big thanks to all 641 of you who visited the site more than once! I hope you found much of the content inspiring, thought provoking, and relevant.  This year was busy for me since I’m a new dad, but I still managed to write 30 articles.  As many of you know, RosaryMeds is a hobby of mine and gives me the opportunity to really focus on my Catholic faith and the rosary.  Writing articles is like a form of meditation since I really have to think about my faith and how it relates to the events in my life.  In trying to make rosary prayer more accessible to you, it has also strengthened my knowledge and joy of prayer.  So thanks everyone for encouraging me to write articles about our shared faith in God.

Here are some other interesting metrics from 2012.  While it is no surprise that most visitors are from the US, do you know who rounds out the top five?  It’s the Philippines, Canada, United Kingdom, and India.  I never would have guessed those, especially India.  The fact that mainland Europe had so few visits highlights the changing demographics of the Catholic Church.  Drilling down even further, here are the top five cities that visited RosaryMeds — Hollywood, Manila, miscellaneous, Miami, and Makati.  Hollywood at #1?  I guess there are still a few Catholics in hiding somewhere off of Sunset Boulevard.  Thank you for all of you who came to RosaryMeds via Facebook and the Catholic Answers Forums.  Those two traffic sources made up nearly half of RosaryMed’s referral traffic (people who follow links to RosaryMeds from another site).

And this year I can thank all of you who bought my book which I published on Amazon December 10, 2011.  There are now 72 copies of The Rosary for the Rest of Us floating around in the world.  While it’s not going to be on the New York Times best seller list any time soon, I got just as much out of writing that book as I do writing articles on RosaryMeds.  And to celebrate four years of RosaryMeds, I’m making the Kindle edition of my book available for free this week through Friday (and Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library all year long).  Head on over to Amazon and download a copy to read on your smart phone, tablet, or PC.  Don’t be shy about leaving a review on Amazon or telling your friends either.  Also, it’s not too late to buy a copy as a stocking stuffer for the prayer warriors on your Christmas list.

Thanks for a good four years and I’m looking forward to year #5!

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