Honor Mary by Asking for Her Help

In his article, Prayer takes Practice, Fr. Ed Broom lays out five ways to improve your prayer life.  For the TL;DR crowd, the summary is:

  1. Conviction — Have faith that prayer is actually important
  2. Confession — Mend your relationship with God whenever you sin
  3. Set a time and place to pray — Routine helps you pray consistently
  4. Mass and holy communion — Mass and the Eucharist are the greatest prayers in the world
  5. Seek our Lady of the RosaryPray the rosary to bring about peace

I want to focus on that last point — seeking out our Lady of the Rosary (naturally, this is a rosary prayer blog after all).  On Aug 22nd, we celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary which we pray in the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  When we pray the rosary we are in essence “crowning” our Heavenly Queen.  Mary wants nothing more than for us for to have a close relationship with her son, Jesus Christ.  We honor and crown her whenever we show faith and conviction that our relationship with Jesus matters to us.

But having conviction and faith is not easy.  Think about it.  You may brood for days over a friend’s disagreeable Facebook post.  You can get into a funk at work or at home when it seems like nothing is going smoothly.  Many of us get tied up in knots over our finances.  But how much time and energy do we devote to thinking about the state of our relationship with Jesus?  Do we put more energy into worrying about Facebook posts than finding time to go to Confession?  Do we spend hours on our hobbies and minutes in prayer?

If you feel like you are falling short in improving your prayer life, I suggest starting with the fifth point on that list.  Pick up a rosary and earnestly tell Mary that you need her help.  Tell her you need the courage to go to Confession.  Tell her you need help to be more engaged at Mass.  Tell her you need help praying on a more regular schedule.  Tell her you need more faith and conviction that prayer actually means something.  Praying the rosary will make all the other items on that list easier to accomplish.

 

You crown Mary through the rosary when you earnestly say, “I need your help!”  Speaking as a parent, I feel honored when my kids need my help no matter how trivial the matter.  I’m lucky that my kids are young because it will feel odd when the day comes when they no longer need my help.  Mary isn’t satisfied with the title of a queen but with nothing to do.  She wants us to come to her with all our worries and problems so she can help us.

And let’s face it, we all need Mary’s help because having a perfect relationship with Jesus is nearly impossible because of the active attempts by Satan to derail us and our own weakness towards sin.  But God knows this challenge and doesn’t leave us in a hopeless situation.  He gave us a Heavenly Queen in Mary and the means for her to help us through the rosary.  Honor Jesus by honoring Mary by asking for her help through rosary prayer.

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Replaying Our Faith Through the Eucharist

I’m in the process of digitizing old home movies originally recorded on videotape.  What I find so interesting is the amount of footage my parents recorded for each event.  I have tapes with two hours of footage of a school talent show where I or one of my siblings was on stage for only five minutes.  I guess my mom really wanted to capture the feeling of the event and not just have five minutes of footage in a vacuum with little or no context.

I think we can all understand my mom wanting to capture every detail of an event.  After all, people upload 300 hours of video to YouTube every minute!  Thousands of posts are made to Facebook every second.  And everyone is an instant shutterbug with their phones.  I bet much of this is to not only record the actual physical events in our lives but also try to capture the associated feelings.  And yet many times, these recordings fail to truly capture the true emotion of an event and upon replay they just come out flat.

But what about our faith?  Is it possible to capture our Catholic Faith in a manner that does not lose any of its fidelity when replayed?  In his homily on the Feast of Corpus Cristi, Pope Francis talked about how the Body and Blood of Christ is a remembrance of our faith.  The Catholic News Agency reported:

“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.”

Francis explained that when we receive the Eucharist, our hearts have the opportunity to become overwhelmed with the certainty of Christ’s love for us, the Eucharist giving us a memory that is grateful, free, and patient.

We can see the Eucharist as Jesus’ way of capturing the essence of the Catholic Faith to be replayed every time we celebrate it at Mass.  The Eucharist does what no camera and video recording can do, no matter how high the memory and resolution — it captures the entirety of God’s love for us.  When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he wasn’t just telling that to his apostles in the room.  Jesus was saying that all Christians, present and future, must remember that the Eucharist embodies all of his teachings and love.

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

But much like a forgotten videotape in a cardboard moving box in a warehouse, what good is the Eucharist if we don’t receive it?  You never give yourself the opportunity to replay and feel the essence of Jesus’ teachings or God’s love for you.  Don’t get me wrong, you can learn these things at a cerebral level by reading the Bible and listening to homilies.  But that’s not the type of memory you recall when you receive the Eucharist.  The memories replayed through the Eucharist are often only understood by your soul in a way you can’t easily describe because God’s love is beyond the human capacity to describe it.  But just because you can’t describe it doesn’t mean you don’t receive its benefits.

To fully receive the memories of faith in the Eucharist your soul must be in a worthy state.  That means receiving it with no mortal sins, having prepared by fasting, and appreciating the solemnity of the Eucharistic feast.  Otherwise, you are like a broken video player unable to replay the captured memories.  Or at best, it comes out so distorted and degraded that your soul can’t understand it.

When you pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember how powerful a gift the Eucharist is.  It is not something to be received lightly but it is something we should be receiving regularly.  We need to slow down and remember that our faith is built on the Eucharist.  If we don’t slow down, what good is the Eucharist having on our soul?  As Pope Francis reminded us:

Our lives are such a whirl of people and events that we no longer retain memories. But this leaves us at risk of only living on the surface of things and never going deeper, he said, “without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going.”

“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.”

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How Rosary Prayer Teaches Us About Complete Faith in God

Hopefully, you can take a break from all the election related news and meditate on this Sunday’s Gospel.  It’s a long one so I’m just pasting the part I want to focus on in this post.

“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

This Gospel reading focuses on the importance of having faith by putting your life entirely in God’s hands.  We all too often think that we can manage our lives on own without help from anyone, including God.  When faced with challenges, many of us have a tendency to try to fight it on our own because we would think of ourselves as weak by admitting that we need help.  Or we will think that we somehow cheated by receiving assistance.

Illustration for Cheating Français : Illustrat...
“No fair! You got help from God!”

Jesus tells us not to be foolish.  God offers us not only His assistance but is willing to take the entire burden if only we let Him.  Jesus told his disciples to not prepare a defense for He would provide wisdom.  That promise is not just true for times of persecution, but for all our challenges, big and small, we encounter daily.

So many of us only tentatively accept God’s help and usually only on our terms.  We tend to treat God’s help as a last resort.  We come to Him in prayer when all else seems to have failed.  This creates a manager/employee relationship where we falsely take the role of manager and God exists to take direction from us.  The Gospel tells us that we need to put God 100% in control of our lives.  Any other amount shows arrogance on our part believing that we can manage our lives any better than God can.

When I think about the power of faith, the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the rosary comes to mind.  Jesus asks us to have incredible faith in His presence in the Eucharist.  He asks us to put away that idea that what we see, smell, feel, and taste is not a piece of bread but is entirely Him!  That is a tall order and similar to the amount of faith He asked of His disciples to let Him guide them when faced with challenges and persecution.

English: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, t...
English: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. The Eucharist is held in a modern monstrance, flanked by candles. We gaze over the shoulders of altar servers who are kneeling in adoration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we should remember that all things good come from God.  A reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us of that fact:

For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?

If God wants nothing but the best for you, do you have enough faith to yield to His Will 100%?  Or are you holding anything back?  Jesus tells us he will take care of us.  Is your faith strong enough that you believe Him?

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How Rosary Prayer Teaches Us About Discernment

Here is the Gospel for this Sunday, 9/4/16 from LK 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus’ teachings in this Gospel confuse me.  Why is he telling us to turn against our parents?  After all, Jesus loved Mary, his mother.  He was obedient to his parents as a young boy.  And what does hating your parents have to do with the analogy of laying down the foundation of a tower, preparing for battle, or renouncing all your possessions?  I can just picture the confusion and even doubt the people listening to Jesus speak these words must have had.

I think that when you look at this teaching in the context of all of Jesus’ other teachings it is obvious that he is not telling us to literally hate our parents.  Rather, he instructs us to let go of all worldly attachment especially if they lead us away from God‘s grace.  And in some extreme cases, that may mean letting go of our relationships with certain people, possessions, and habits if they are toxic to our relationship with God.

Each one of us needs to make a conscious decision on what kingdom we are going to live for.  Will it be this worldly kingdom or God’s heavenly one?  Remember, shortly after this teaching in Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13).

Attachment to a worldly possession didn't work out too well for Smeagol
Attachment to a worldly possession didn’t work out too well for Smeagol (see Lord of the Rings)

The Gospel reading moves in a unique direction with the parable of building the tower and preparing for war.  As my Sunday readings workbook points out, Jesus is telling us that living our faith is something we need to consciously think about and commit ourselves to.  Many of us cradle Catholics (myself included) often take the Church‘s teachings for granted and do not put a lot of serious thought into them.  We may call ourselves Catholics but Jesus challenges us to reflect on what exactly we are committing ourselves to.  Have we taken the time to learn the Church’s teachings?  Are we ready to live and defend them?  Do we pray regularly to build a strong spiritual foundation if/when our faith is challenged?

The Gospel reflects the central theme of the Third Luminous MysteryThe Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ Call to Conversion.  Conversion implies that one is making a very conscious and deliberate choice.  It is not something one does passively.  When you reflect on this rosary mystery, ask yourself if you are seriously looking for ways you are not living up to the standard Jesus puts before you.  Where are you out of step with the Church’s teachings on topics such as abortion, chastity, immigration, social welfare, etc?  What are you going to do to convert from your focus on our worldly kingdom to God’s heavenly one?

It is easy to procrastinate and delay taking a hard look at your life and taking steps to convert.  But just like the builder who didn’t plan or the general that didn’t strategize, Jesus warns us about how foolish such action is because delaying actively living a truly Catholic faith puts you at risk for great catastrophe.  And there is no greater catastrophe than losing God’s kingdom of Heaven especially when he asks relatively so little of us to accept it.

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Abstaining from Communion: How the Rosary Teaches Humility

I really wanted to get this out Monday night but at least I’m publishing an article within the same week of the Gospel passage I’m referencing.  This is from Tuesday’s Gospel:

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

I’m going to tie this reading to the concept of humility which is one of the themes of the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. I think it is important to realize that when you receive the Eucharist, you are encountering Jesus as if he was present in human form. This is not a gift to be received lightly and yet so many of us (myself included) often receive this gift on auto-pilot without the sincere awe, thought, and gratitude Jesus deserves.

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

I once heard a priest on EWTN radio remark on how short the lines to Confession are on Saturday and how long they are for Communion on Sunday. We either live in an age of saints or many of us are not showing the humility to abstain from receiving the Eucharist when we are not in a worthy state.  We have to remember that receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is not some sort given when you go to Mass but is something that you should put some thought into on whether to receive Him or not.

For those who need a refresher on the requirements to receive Communion, EWTN summarizes the Catechism nicely:

The prerequisites for the reception of Holy Communion are 1) being in the state of grace, 2) having fasted for one hour (for the sick 15 minutes if possible, no fast if fasting is not possible), and 3) devotion and attention.

I think a lot of people feel obliged to get into the Communion line because they feel like people will judge them and assume they did something horrible to fall out of a state of grace.  But that is only one condition for not receiving Communion.  You could just as easily abstain from Communion for non-grave reasons like not fasting or because you came late to Mass and just do not feel like you are in that spiritual zone.  But here’s the point many people miss when they feel like everyone will assume the worst for not receiving Communion.  NO ONE CARES!  I think the number of people that are observing who is not receiving Communion is so incredibly small.  And are they people who you even care what they think about you?  Is it really worth offending God to please a handful of Communion ombudsmen?

I suggest praying the Fifth Luminous Mystery during the presentation of the gifts and really examine your conscience about receiving Communion.  Really, it is okay to occasionally abstain as long as you also make an effort to correct the underlying reasons why you need to abstain from Communion in a timely manner.  Go to Confession, remember to fast, etc.  In short, be humble enough to know when you are not worthy to receive the Eucharist and motivated enough to do everything in your power to return to a state of grace.

Connecting back to the Gospel reading, what is one trait many young children have?  Children are genuine.  They aren’t self-conscious or fake.  They do not have this need to keep up a certain facade to please others.  I’m always amazed how unfiltered small children can be at times.  And maybe that’s what Jesus asks of us adults; to tear down those walls of pride or vanity and do what is right regardless of how others may perceive it.  Another way to think about it is that God is our Father and we are His children.  He sets the rules and expectations and He does it for very good reasons.  And while we may not always like or agree with them, maybe like a child, we need to swallow our pride, accept God’s teachings, and have faith that what He asks is for our ultimate benefit.

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Rome Sweet Home

There is a saying that to truly understand a city you have to have lived in it for twenty years or two weeks. The two weeks part of that saying means that someone with a fresh set of eyes sees aspects of a city that locals have overlooked or just grown used to. I think the same idea applies to Catholicism. To truly understand the Catholic faith you have to have faithfully studied and practiced it for decades or be a recent convert. Recent converts usually see the beauty and understand the theological framework of the Church that cradle Catholics may overlook or take for granted.  For this article, I am going to write about a book I just finished which focuses on Catholicism through the eyes of recent converts.

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Want the book? Click on the image for purchasing options.

I just finished reading Rome Sweet Home which is the story of Scott and Kimberly Hahn.  Many of you may recognize those names because Scott often speaks on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) about he and his wife’s conversion to Catholicism.  The book is a good read that takes you through their lives at devout and well educated Presbyterians to Scott’s conversion (to Kimberly’s anguish), and then Kimberly’s conversion.  It’s a fascinating read where each chapter first tells Scott’s story and ends with Kimberly’s take on the same events.  It almost reads like a mystery where Scott’s story often ends with some sort of cliffhanger which is later filled in by Kimberly’s story.

There are two aspects of the book that I’m going to touch on briefly.  First, I was amazed by the intellectual honesty Scott and Kimberly showed in their conversion process.  When confronted with information about the Catholic Church’s teaching on various subjects, Scott couldn’t escape how well reasoned they were and how much he agreed with them.  It would have been very easy for Scott to turn a blind eye to the Church’s teachings and return to the comfort of his protestant lifestyle.  But instead he kept digging; wanting to find the truth regardless of where it led him.  The more he read and discussed Catholicism to find that large logic gap to disprove it, the more he fell in love with it.

You have to admire that dedication to the finding truth.  Scott and Kimberly’s story should serve as an inspiration to us all in this season of Lent as we fast, pray, and meditate on finding truth in our lives.  Are you dedicated to finding and then living the truth?  Or will you turn a blind eye to the Church’s teaching when it throws up challenges or conflicts with societal norms?  When you pray the rosary, meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries and think about the giant price Jesus paid by not bending to the expectations of others.  Ask yourself whether you have truly dedicated yourself to the truth and the way Jesus is asking you to live.  That’s okay if you do not meet that high bar.  It is why we pray in the first place — to ask God for the strength to seek out and live according to His Will, not ours.

The second aspect of the book which touched me was how deeply the Hahn’s longed for Eucharist after their conversation.  They appreciate the power of this great gift from God.  They were dismayed about how casually many Catholics receive Communion.  They reasoned that many people truly do not understand who they are receiving in the Eucharist.  Otherwise they would approach it with far more reverence and also a profound joy.  I guess it takes a lifetime as a protestant with the host being just a wafer to truly stand in awe of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

Girl receiving first Holy Communion, Sicily
Girl receiving first Holy Communion, Sicily (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we continue our Lenten prayers and fasting, meditate on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist.  Ask God for the faith to see the Eucharist like someone receiving Him for the first time.  Imagine being a recent convert where you have gone your entire life denying your soul of that spiritual banquet of the Eucharist and now you are finally able to celebrate.  So deep should our joy of the Eucharist be whether we have received it a few times or thousands of times.  We pray for those going through RCIA as we lead up to their full membership in the Catholic Church this Easter.  And finally, pray for those who receive communion without truly understanding what it is, especially if they receive it with mortal sins on their souls.

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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.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #8

Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.

What?  A third rosary promise about the time of our death!  How could Mary’s eighth promise possibly differ from promises #6 and #7?  Sometimes I think that Mary must have spoken incredibly fast and poor St. Dominic just tried to remember and write them down as best as he could.  How else can we explain why some promises seem like multiple, separate promises combined and with others it appears like Mary repeats the same promise?  Maybe Mary spoke in more of a monologue and St. Dominic distilled it into bullet points like a student taking notes during a lecture.  Even in Caravaggio’s painting below St. Dominic looks slightly confused about what Mary is saying.

St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virg...
St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin Mary by Caravaggio, 17th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course I’m being sarcastic.  On the surface many of Mary’s promises may appear the same.  But when you dive deeper you will find that they are subtly promising different benefits.  And even if Mary repeats herself, so what?  In the case of promises six through eight, maybe Mary is trying to communicate the importance of having a prepared soul at the moment of your death.  Like an earthly mother repeatedly reminding her children the same lessons (eat your vegetables, cover your mouth when you sneeze, say “please” and “thank you,” etc.), our heavenly mother also needs to repeat herself about the moments that are of grave importance.  And no time is more important than the hour of someone’s death.  Because once you die, that’s it.  You no longer have an opportunity to confess and repent your sins nor do you have the power to pray for yourself.  Given the eternity that awaits you, Mary reminds us in her rosary promises just how important it is to always have a prepared soul.  And she gives us this great gift of preparation through the rosary.

Mary’s eighth promise ratchets up the state of holiness one’s soul is in at the moment of his death.  Promise #6 mentions not having an unprepared soul meaning that you will have one last chance to confess your sins.  Promise #7 goes one step further and adds the sacraments of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick into the mix.  But this promise goes even further and ensures someone a holy death beyond what is received through the sacraments.  When Mary says that you will share “in the merits of the blessed” she is saying that you will receive part of the similar graces the saints received.  No one on this planet were holier than the saints (which is why they were saints!).  We should rejoice that we have an opportunity to have a little taste of that grace that made the saints so holy.  It’s not holiness for the sake of holiness.  Rather, sharing in the merits of the blessed gives us a sense of spiritual maturity that gives us the ability to forge an even deeper relationship with god.

This promise doesn’t just apply to the moment of death.  Notice that Mary says you will receive graces “during their life.”  In praying the rosary devoutly, you will receive the same graces the saints received.  Does that mean everyone who prays the rosary is a saint?  Well technically no.  Just praying the rosary won’t put you on the road towards canonization.  However, it will give you the “plenitude of His [God’s] graces” to become a saint if you choose to do so.  It’s important to realize that saintly behavior is a choice and not some predetermined path that only a select few are privy to.  If we do choose a saintly life then Mary promises that the rosary will help us achieve and maintain it.  The rosary will give us the insight and strength to choose God’s path over a more earthly one.  We all may not become saints like those officially canonized by the Church, but we can share the same graces and the same destiny of flourishing with them in the eternal happiness of Heaven if we choose to do so.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #7

Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

Phew, that was close!  I thought I painted myself into a corner after reading Mary’s 7th rosary promise.  I initially thought that this promise basically rephrased her earlier promise about not dying an unprovided death and I would have nothing to say about this one.  The two promises do share a similar theme revolving around one’s final minutes in this life.  The important difference between these two promises is that the earlier promise focuses solely on receiving God’s mercy for one’s sins.  This promise goes one step further and implies one will receive graces through the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.  In other words, those devoted to the rosary not only avoid damnation but really “seal the deal” to receive eternal salvation.

“Extreme Unction”, part of The Seven Sacraments, by Rogier Van der Weyden (1445). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am going back to the auto insurance analogy to explain the difference between this rosary promise and the earlier one.  Promising that you won’t have an unprovided death is a little like having basic collision insurance.  It’s the bare minimum grace that helps you receive God‘s mercy instead of incurring solely His justice.  It’s better than nothing, but not great.  Dying with all the sacraments of the Church is like having full coverage.  You die with your soul in the best possible state to stand before God and quickly enter His kingdom (you still may need to go through Purgatory first).

What’s the difference between not dying an unprovided death and dying with the sacraments of the Church?  After all, won’t you end up in Heaven by either means?  And isn’t making it into Heaven all that really matters?  Ask yourself this.  Why would you only want to barely sneak into Heaven in the first place?  Why wouldn’t you want to be as close to God as possible throughout your entire life, let alone at the moment of your death?  It might say a lot about how you prioritize your relationship with God if you only want to be close enough to Him to not be damned to Hell.  All of us should be striving to not just have the bare minimum of graces to enter Heaven but to live as shining examples of God’s grace always up to the moment of our death.

And there lies the difference between the saints and regular people.  Many of the saints didn’t have any more insight about the Catholic faith than the normal lay person.  And many of them didn’t have any super natural powers that made it easier to act saintly.  What separates the saints from the lay person is that the saints chose to make living in God’s grace a priority in their life.  They made that difficult decision to resist the temptations of a comfortable, wealthy, or powerful life and instead tried their best to live for God’s kingdom of Heaven.  And as impossible as it may seem, we all have the ability to become saints by embracing a life of living prayer and receiving the sacraments.

I infer from this promise that those devoted to the rosary will not only die with the sacraments of the Church, but that they will also want to live with those sacraments as well.  Those who pray the rosary understand how important their relationship with God is and are always striving to live deep in His grace by fully embracing the Catholic Church’s sacraments.  When we think about Mary’s promise, let us remember that the sacraments aren’t graces reserved for the dying, but for all of us.  May we take advantage of those sacraments as much as possible throughout our lives whether it be going to Confession regularly or really embracing the true meaning of the Eucharist.  We should rejoice that we have so many chances to have God touch our souls.  May the rosary kindle our passion for receiving the sacraments.

And to think that I initially couldn’t come up with anything to say about this promise!  Thank you Holy Spirit, Mary, and the saints for the guidance.

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Do you Pray with Purpose?

The Magi Journeying

Do you have a plan when you pray the rosary and for incorporating what you learn from prayer in your life?  Do you pray with purpose?  I thought about how I  pray the rosary while thinking about the three magi honoring Jesus in the Epiphany.  The three wise men didn’t just set out into the desert without a plan.  They did not wander aimlessly and happen to come across Jesus by chance.  And it wasn’t by chance that they had gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh on their arrival.  They observed, prepared, and followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit by following the star.  And all their hard work paid off as they were among the first to honor Christ our King and Savior.

Do we show that same level of preparation and intent when we pray the rosary?  Often times we pray the rosary without a lot of intent or purpose.  We just think that if we recite all the Our Fathers and Hail Marys that something good will magically happen to us.  That isn’t prayer.  That is more akin to reciting incantations and spells.  We too should follow some sort of guidance and have a purpose to praying the rosary.  That guidance can come from the divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit or we can get ideas from a prayer-book (hint, hint).  We should lay before God our personal concerns, intentions, sorrows, and thanksgivings while praying.  Say the words to the standard prayers, but back them up with your personal thoughts.  That is what makes prayer meaningful and truly a personal conversation between you and God.  The three magi reached their goal by putting in the effort to follow the star God put before them.  We reach our spiritual goals when we intentionally follow the Holy Spirit in prayer, really concentrate and think about what God tells us, and let Him guide our actions.

And what results from our prayers?  Do we glorify God with love, good works, and avoiding sin?  Or do we offer God lip service in our prayers without any intention of truly living as He calls us?  Do we treat prayer as our license to commit sin?  Do we think we are good and holy people because we pray when our actions might paint a different story?  Imagine if the three wise men did not adequately prepare themselves for meeting Jesus and forgot their gifts or did not give any respect to the baby Jesus.  That would make all their hard work look like a waste of time.  And yet we often do this when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist with sins on our soul or our stubborn pride prevents us from admitting our faults and receiving absolution through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Let us not pray in vain by ignoring how God asks us to live.  Rather, take to heart God’s words so that only good will come from your actions.

We should remember to pray the rosary with a purpose.  Prayer is a means of helping us live as one of Jesus’ disciples and isn’t an end in itself.  We should recall the Fifth Luminous Mystery and remember that we should approach Jesus in the Eucharist only when our souls are cleansed of all mortal sin.  We should remember the Second Joyful Mystery and how Mary put God’s grace to work by visiting and helping her cousin Elizabeth.  And we should remember the Fifth Glorious Mystery and how Mary, Queen of Heaven, is there to guide us always closer to Her son, Jesus Christ.  She is our guiding star to God’s heavenly kingdom.  The question is, are we observant, prepared, and have the resolve to follow the path God lays before us like the three magi?

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