One Trick to Start Your Day Right

Now that my son has started kindergarten, my family’s leisurely mornings are a thing of the past.  We now have to wake up early and help get our son fed, dressed, packed, and out the door before the opening school bell.  Like race horses at the starting gate, when that alarm clock rings in the morning we need to be off at a full gallop to get everything done.

My week day routine is not unique.  Many people start their day ten steps behind and are in a constant rush.  And among the snooze alarm pushing and coffee chugging, something very important is often missed.  And this one action might determine whether you have a good or bad day.  Here’s a clue, it’s not checking your Facebook and Twitter feeds the instant you get up.  Long time RosaryMeds readers can probably already guess where I’m going.  Morning prayer may be the difference between a good day or an off day.

When we skip morning prayer, we so often go through our day not realizing that we are fighting a battle with our hands tied behind our back.  We are like soldiers going off to battle with no weapon and no protection wondering why everything is so hard and miserable. This is because we did not include Jesus in our day by praying to Him or asking our Holy Mother or the saints for their help and intercession.

In his book,  Live Today Well, Fr. Thomas Dailey writes about the importance and benefits of starting your day focused on God from the instant you open your eyes.

Beyond an existential awareness, the practice of directing our minds to God corresponds to and fa­cilitates a positive psychology. Experience shows that the mood with which we begin the day tends to color the entire day. What Francis de Sales understood is that start­ing the day with God in mind leads to keeping God in mind throughout the day.

All of this is intended to turn our morning routine into a sacred one. Routines play a key role in human life. Able to be done without our giving them much thought, they are comfort­able, and often comforting, acts. Psychologically, even if not consciously, they represent a way of exercising a modicum of control over the chaos of our surroundings. Our habits lead us to do the same thing over and over again each morning; were we to deviate from this habitual routine, we would probably think something was “off ” or just not right.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary (The Finding of Jesus in the Temple) exemplifies this common human weakness to leave God out of our everyday lives. In this rosary mystery, Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was with them in the caravan leaving Jerusalem. When they finally discovered that he was missing, they started to panic and searched for Jesus for three days in sorrow.

How does this rosary mystery explain our daily routine? Mary and Joseph’s assumption and lack of attention led to three days of worry, anxiety, and sorrow. I feel like many of us do this as well when we fail to start our day in prayer. When we don’t actively keep Jesus visible in our lives, from the moment we wake up to the moment we close our eyes, we bring unneeded anxiety and sorrow because we take our attention away from the one who can help us find true happiness.  Jesus wants nothing more than to help us and carry some of our burdens.  But we have to come to Him and ask.  Rember Luke’s Gospel:

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Luke 10:28-30).

 

Here’s my challenge to you.  Get up 10 minutes earlier than normal.  Spend that 10 minutes in prayer.  You don’t have to get out of bed but I do encourage you to sit up to avoid falling back asleep.  I bet your body can handle 10 minutes less sleep and your mind and soul will benefit from an extra 10 minutes of prayer.

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How the Rosary Improves Your Soul’s Health

I know I’ve talked about living a spiritually healthy lifestyle in previous posts.  It looks like I’m not the only one who believes in the importance of practicing good spiritual hygiene.  I came across a post on spiritual healthy living on Catholic Exchange the other day which espouses many of the same themes I’ve pushed on my site.  The TL;DR summary of living a spiritually healthy lifestyle is:

  1. Avoid gossip and gossipers
  2. Dress properly
  3. Avoid bad company
  4. Avoid impure images
  5. Think before you act
  6. Consume electronic media responsibly
  7. Don’t be a couch potato
  8. Constantly exercise your mind
  9. Avoid gluttony
  10. Avoid contrary views of Mary

I find it interesting how much time and energy people generally spend on their physical health.  After all, collectively we spend billions on diets, rare and exotic “superfoods,” supplements, and all sorts of workout programs to obtain those six-pack abs.  We also spend a lot of time exercising our minds (see #8) with all sorts of creative hobbies, DIY projects, reading books and articles, and watching informative videos.  And while we muster up the energy to power through our daily workouts and gulp down kale smoothies, we begrudging go to Mass once a week and fly through our daily prayers.  We so often see the value of eating well and exercising our mind and body but fail to see the much greater value of exercising our soul.

Hey Hulk, maybe it’s time you cut back on the kale and spinich and pick up a rosary.

My go-to Rosary mystery that reminds me to live a spiritually healthy lifestyle is the Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  It reminds us how easily we can forget about Jesus in our lives and the state of our relationship with him.  Mary and Joseph incorrectly assumed he was with the caravan leaving Jerusalem.  And so we often have a tendency to assume we have a close relationship with Jesus even when we don’t actively work on it.  And while Jesus will always be there to “share the yoke” (see last Sunday’s Gospel), he also is patient and doesn’t force his assistance on us.  We have to make the effort to work on our relationship with Jesus.

Let’s look at this another way.  I’m sure many of us have co-workers, friends, spouses, or family members we occasionally take for granted.  Yes, we may value them or love them, but maybe we don’t let them know how important they are to us.  We just assume they will always be there filling the role we’ve come to expect and depend on.  It’s not until they get tired and get upset with us that we realize how we’ve taken our relationship with them for granted.  Maybe a kind word or small token of appreciation was all that was needed to maintain that valued relationship.

“Just one kind word! That’s all I ask.”

Our relationship with Jesus is similar to our relationship with people.  We can so often just take our faith for granted that we do not make any effort to improve upon it.  Jesus actually asks relatively little of us compared to what he is willing to offer.  But we have to remember that we are in a reciprocal relationship with Jesus and want to maintain that relationship if we are to get any benefit from it.

Looking at the ten tips for living a spiritually healthy lifestyle from Catholic Exchange is a good place to start.  Many of us maintain todo lists, either physical or mental, of exercises to perform, daily tasks to complete, and foods to eat and avoid.  But perhaps it would be wise to keep a list of the daily spiritual tasks and goals we need to consciously work on.  If you’ve been coasting spiritually then perhaps it is time to take a more active interest in your soul’s health.  Maybe you’ll find that you’re already quite fit or maybe you’ll find that you’re really on spiritual life support.  Either way, you’ll never improve your relationship with Jesus unless you analyze it periodically and correct those weak spots.

Take a look at that list.  What dimensions of your soul’s health do you need to work on?   When you pray the rosary (hopefully daily), ask Mary to help you work out those weak spots in your spiritual health.  She’ll be more than happy to help.

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Saint Joseph — Our Model for Perseverance

Poor Saint Joseph. Even on his feast day, which we celebrated earlier this week, the news was all about Mary and Jesus. The Gospel reading was either the story of Joseph almost divorcing Mary or the Finding of Jesus in the Temple which is the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary. He’s not exactly cast in the best light in either story. It would be like your friends coming to celebrate your birthday by telling everyone that story about the time when you almost left your wife over some marital problems or that time when you left your child in a large city coming back from a vacation.

Flash forward to the Nativity which we celebrate when we pray the Third Joyful Mystery of the rosary. Again, Joseph is a side character in those events. While he makes up 1/3 of the Holy Family, in most accounts he’s a background character.

But God teaches us a valuable lesson in the person of Saint Joseph. There is the lesson of remaining faithful even when life does not turn out exactly how you envision. I’m sure Saint Joseph did not anticipate telling people a story that stretched credibility about how his wife-to-be become pregnant. Nor did he probably want his son born in a stable so far away from his home. And he probably wasn’t too happy learning that they needed to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod‘s wrath. I’m sure, like many of us, Saint Joseph probably wanted a “normal” life but it just never seemed to be in the cards for him.

And yet, Saint Joseph did whatever he was asked to do or what needed to be done given the circumstances. He did not question, complain, or rebel. He is the example of following God’s Will no matter where it may take you because of the intrinsic happiness that comes from serving God. At many times, Saint Joseph could have acted in a way that would have made his life easier and happier.  He could have divorced Mary and found himself a more normal life as a carpenter. But that would have been a shallow, temporary happiness because nothing outside of God’s grace can be anything but that.

We too often find ourselves in a situation that is far different than what we expect or want.  Maybe we have a hard time finding a job or hate the job we have.  Maybe we dream about and desire a lot of nice things that we cannot afford.  Maybe our family life is challenging or feels unfilling.  Maybe we have illnesses or limitations that prevent us from leading a “normal” life.  But all of us, no matter who we are or what are circumstances may be, have one ability we can exercise if we choose — to follow God’s plan for us.  It may not lead to the easiest life or the one you have always envisioned, but it’s the one most aligned with God’s Will.  And ultimately, that’s the best life to lead.

If there was ever a patron saint of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” it would be Saint Joseph. When you find yourself in difficult times or if your life just hasn’t worked out the way you thought it would, pray to Saint Joseph for strength and guidance.  Think of him as your spiritual drinking buddy who can sympathize with your problems and can give you advice even if it’s just, “be strong, stay the course.”

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What Rosary Prayer Teaches us about the Redemptive Power of Charity

Sunday’s Gospel is a long one from Luke 16:1-13:

Jesus said to his disciples,
“A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’
The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
“For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

I always found this parable of the disgraced steward confusing.  I could not wrap my brain around how lowering the amount each debtor owed the steward’s master would bring praise and not further disdain.  I always thought the master would be more upset that his steward was essentially letting debtors off the hook for no good reason and hence, cutting into his master’s wealth.

Maybe the debtors all read this book?
Maybe the debtors all read this book?

I then read commentary that made this parable all make sense.  What if the steward had been overcharging the debtors and pocketing the difference for himself?  For example, suppose the debtor who supposedly owed 100 measures of olive oil really only owed 50.  When the steward reduced the debt he actually cut out the inflated portion he was keeping for himself.  By cutting out his underserved share of the debt he was no longer serving his selfish wants, but the true business of his master.  And now Jesus’ warning at the end of the Gospel makes a lot more sense.  At first, the steward served only mammon (money).  But he then gives that up to serve the will of his master who represents God in the parable.

When I think about this Gospel passage, my mind keeps coming back to the Fifth Joyful MysteryThe Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  I think about how Mary and Joseph had to search for Jesus for three long days in sorrow before eventually finding him.  I liken that to the redemptive suffering many must undertake to reform their wayward and sinful ways and align with God’s Will.  The steward in the Gospel was also faced with a painful situation — being dismissed from his position with few options to earn a living.  He also had to undergo a form of redemptive suffering by letting go of the money he was keeping for himself.  But in doing so, he redeemed himself in the eyes of his master.

“Do you have any idea what you put us through?!!!”

When we pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery, maybe we should be mindful of our attachment to our earthly possessions.  Do we need to undergo a form of redemptive suffering by parting with our money and giving it to the less fortunate?  Do we have faith that in giving more to the poor we actually receive something much greater — God grace?  The steward didn’t know that his master would look favorably upon his actions.  Mary and Joseph did not know if they would find Jesus.  But we have an advantage in this aspect because we know how God will look at us when we give to the poor instead of holding it for ourselves.  Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospel how we will be rewarded in Heaven.  The question for you is, do you have the faith to believe in that promise?

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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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Plan B: Pray for Those Who Hate You

A few weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that pharmacies must provide the emergency contraceptive pill, known as Plan B, over the counter to women of all ages. Upon reading this story online, I immediately expressed my outrage and concern in the comments section of the article. Big mistake. No sooner had I posted my comment that I got back several snarky replies about how I was misinformed and I should do more research before making comments. Receiving such a backlash stung my ego a little. But instead of feeling down because a bunch of people who don’t know me didn’t like what I had to say, I asked myself, “what do I do now?”

English: emergency contraception

Let’s back up a bit. What was the Plan B ruling? Plan B is emergency contraception that until recently, was available over the counter to women age 17 or older (but you still had to get it directly from the pharmacist’s counter like certain allergy medications). It was prescription only for women under 17 years old. The Food and Drug Administration, after reviewing an application from Teva, who manufactures Plan B, recommended that it be made available over the counter for women under 17 years old. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, overruled the FDA’s decision. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman then ruled that Sebelius’ actions were “unreasonable, capricious, and arbitrary” (if only someone would rule the same regarding her contraception mandate) and overturned her overrule.

My comment was two-pronged. First I argued that contraceptive drugs like Plan B aren’t safe for over the counter use like vitamins since they contain some very powerful chemicals that have a side effects list as long as a Victor Hugo novel. I know many people in the medical community that share the sentiment that there are very good reasons why birth control pills should require a doctor’s prescription. I went on to say that judges or politicians should not be the ones deciding drugs’ availability, but those decisions should be left in the hands of the medical community. That second comment is where people tore me apart because they said that the medical establishment via the FDA already ruled that Plan B was safe for OTC release to women of all ages. I just want to point out that the FDA, is also a political organization that doesn’t always make policy based on science, but on agendas and ideology.

This message board encounter was a bit of a revelation to me. I always knew that Catholic teaching was at odds with popular culture. But I often forget just how wide that divide really is. Try this and see for yourself. Go to an article on a main stream media website and voice a Catholic opinion as a comment. Just don’t take the wave of verbal assaults personally.

I didn’t respond to my critics in those comment threads because I realized just how futile arguing would have been. Our worldviews are so different we might as well have spoken different languages. I couldn’t explain the Catholic Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, the gift and responsibilities of sexual intimacy, the science that life begins at conception, that Plan B can act as an abortifacient, and a whole litany of other topics that one has to understand before having a reasonable dialog about Judge Korman’s Plan B ruling. They don’t understand how I can practice a faith that, in their eyes, is homophobic, anti-women, anti-science, and corrupt. That understanding gap is just too wide to bridge in an online article’s comments section.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple by Wi...

Prayer! That is the prescription for this condition where two sides just don’t have the same moral viewpoint. After all, Jesus asks us all to pray for each other, especially our enemies and those who hate us. I think a good dose of meditating on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, is appropriate in these cases. Joseph and Mary travelled far before realizing Jesus was no longer with them. Similarly, many people today have wandered far from Jesus’ teachings and His call to conversion. We pray for those who are lost and confused in the moral wasteland of modern society. And we pray that we all have an awareness of God’s Word and how well we live by it. Because whether we are close or far from His grace, we can always make that journey to reunite with Him. We pray for the patience that one day the Holy Spirit will touch the lost souls’ hearts at just the right time and place where they will be most open to Jesus’ call to conversion to His Truth. We need to have faith that our prayers will have much more impact than arguing in the comments section of an online news article. You cannot argue some into conversion, but perhaps prayer will touch them in a way words will not. It is only through prayer that we can come together on the solid foundation of God’s Word and discuss laws and policies based on truth, compassion, and dare I say, facts!

Special little RosaryMeds teaser.  I’m creating something that will require all the great prayers and meditations from the rosary-praying community.  It will be your opportunity to help others get more out of their rosary prayers.  Stay tuned!

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Remembering Family Unity in the New Year

Today’s gospel reading is the story of the finding of Jesus in the temple which is also the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary. We pray for family unity and peace. Like Mary and Joseph, who had lost Jesus and hence had an incomplete family, many families today are also missing Jesus, our Lord, in day to day life. May we try to make our families “whole” by including Jesus in it.

Maybe you need to mend divisions in your life with other family members. Maybe you need to make more time for prayer whether it be grace before dinner or starting a family rosary night. Maybe you need to make more time to learn the teachings of the Catholic Church so that you can incorporate them in your daily life. No matter where your family life may be, we can always look to the Holy Family as a model on how we can make it stronger.

Holy Family by Raphael, 1506.
Holy Family by Raphael, 1506. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I encourage you to read more about the Fifth Joyful Mystery.  I  think it speaks to all of us as we all know people who have wondered far from God’s grace and need our prayers.

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The Battle Over Religious Freedom Intensifies

Prayer warriors, consider this article as your declaration of war and your rosaries as your draft card. Now that the election is over the government’s battle on religious freedom will turn from covert, guerrilla warfare to an all out, open attack. I wrote a few articles about the attacks on religious freedom such as the Health and Human Services Contraception Mandate and liberal Catholics marginalizing authentic Catholic teachings. But these issues are just the “opening shots” in the war against religion and morality (particularly against the Catholic Church). It’s a test of what type of defence the faithful will put up when attacked. The answer so far — not a very good one. And now the anti-religion lobby will feel all the more powerful to lay down a political blitzkrieg on the United States of America.

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957There were many wasted opportunities for the people of the United States to show that we would not stand for an assault on religious freedom. When the Obama administration announced the HHS Mandate, it was still questionable whether Obamacare was going to stand in the Supreme Court. But it did. It was then questionable whether Obama was going to win re-election. He dodged both of those hurdles with relative ease. But the HHS contraception mandate is really just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I think the HHS mandate isn’t so much about contraception as it is about the Obama administration testing to see the effects of attacking a pillar of American democracy — the freedom of religion. Unfortunately, the Obama administration learned that they can get away with their attacks on religion since nothing he did stopped the American people (even 50% of the voting Catholics) from re-electing him. If Obama can force employers to pay for contraception or force states to fund Planned Parenthood and still get support from the American people, what’s to stop him from pushing the assault on the faithful even further?

Many people and groups are really starting to ratchet up the pressure to compromise on issues of morality and religious freedom. Right after the election, the president of Planned Parenthood called on the GOP to drop their pro-life base. Basically, she said that the Republicans tried that whole pro-life message and failed to beat Obama. So they should give up that “extreme” position to win the women’s vote. Similarly, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal called on conservatives to “tone down the abortion extremism.” How dare people pray in front of abortion clinics! Evangelical writer Jim Wallis said that ” it appears that a strategy of citing a “war on religion”— and doubling down on the long-failed strategy of citing abortion and traditional marriage as the two “non-negotiable” religious issues — once again failed.” And the Department of Justice said that you give up your freedom of religion when you go into business.

In my opinion, the people who want to curb religion’s influence on society are striking while the iron is hot after a large Obama victory. They want to plant those seeds of doubt on organized religion, morality, and natural law now so that later restrictions on religious freedom might become codified in the law. If they continue to present this narrative that traditional values and morality just don’t work in today’s world, people will start to buy into it making it easier for government to curb religious liberty even further. And why would government want to do that? Morality based on a natural law is something that the government cannot control. It means that they have to accept that a higher power than government guides peoples’ views. But if government and the groups that heavily depend on the government (I’m looking at you Planned Parenthood) can lead people to believe that natural law and Church teachings are wrong or short-sighted, then the government can control morality through the law. The country becomes a place where right and wrong are defined by the law (and hence political campaigns, lobbyists, and other influential sources), and not the other way around where the law recognizes and enforces what is intrinsically good or bad.

What Does the Rosary Teach Us?

When looking at the challenges religious liberty in the United States faces, it’s important to meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery — the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. There are several analogies between this mystery and current events. First, look at how Mary and Joseph, when travelling away from Jerusalem, didn’t realize that Jesus was not with them. I think this symbolizes the state of many Catholics today who have drifted away from the core teachings of their faith and don’t even realize it. Because they don’t make understanding the authentic Catholic faith a priority in their lives, politicians’ passionate speeches that tug at the heartstrings but might run contrary to Church teachings lure people away. The Fifth Joyful Mystery reminds us how important it is to keep Jesus “in our sights.” It’s important to do routine spiritual “gut checks” through prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, learning the Church’s teachings, attending Mass, and receiving the sacraments. When we make an effort to embrace our faith, we will have a better awareness when people are trying to influence us to act contrary to that faith.

The other important aspect of the Fifth Joyful Mystery is that Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him. In this politically charged environment, it is so easy to become depressed when you see your deeply held beliefs torn down by the institutions that are supposed to protect them. Much like how Mary and Joseph’s search was fruitless for several days, so it may seem like our efforts of praying and living the faith do not lead us or this world to a better place. But our faith tells us that our efforts will bear fruit one day if we just keep searching for Jesus in our lives. If we are lucky, maybe there will be an awakening of conscience and a call from the people for our leaders to protect our religious freedom, not attack it. But even if the world spirals permanently downward we can take comfort that we will find eternal joy and perfection in Heaven. And in the end, isn’t that what truly matters? The politicians may strip religion from our laws but they can never strip the reality of morality, God, and Heaven from our souls.

Fight the good fight and live to pray another day!

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Rosary Meditation — Fifth Joyful Mystery, Part 2

Last Sunday was the feast of the Holy Family. The Gospel reading was the Fifth Joyful Mystery about finding Jesus in the temple. I wrote a rosary meditation on this mystery earlier, but I had another thought as I was listening to it at Mass that I wanted to share.

Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and child Jesus
Image via Wikipedia

Last Sunday was the feast of the Holy Family.  The Gospel reading was the Fifth Joyful Mystery about finding Jesus in the temple.  I wrote a rosary meditation on this mystery earlier, but I had another thought as I was listening to the Gospel at Mass that I wanted to share.

In Luke’s Gospel, after finding Jesus in the temple, Jesus said that He had to be in His Father’s house.  The Gospel then says that Mary and Joseph, “did not grasp what He said to them” (Luke 2:50).  I have a hard time understanding why Mary and Joseph were so confused by Jesus’ words.  After all, He was immaculately conceived.  An angel came to Mary saying that she was going to be the mother of God.  Choirs of angels sang at His birth.  Three wise men sought him out and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Those aren’t events that just happen to any regular human being.  So why were Mary and Joseph so confused despite the fact that they understood that Jesus was God made man?

I now realize that Mary and Joseph’s confusion is no different, in some respects, to our confusion of Jesus’ message today.  How many times does Jesus speak to us through the Mass, prayer, the Bible, and the teachings of the Church?  He may not physically appear to us, but that does not diminish His message of love, peace, and faith.  And yet, we still do not understand His teachings and struggle to live according to His will.  We still fall into temptation and sin.  We still choose to live for this earthly world and not His kingdom.  We even have the advantage of knowing of His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven and yet our actions reflect a confusion and sometimes a total lack of understanding of Jesus’ teachings.  So when the Gospel writers talk of Mary’s confusion of Jesus’ words, perhaps they are commenting more on our human condition of not understanding Jesus’ nature.

As we enter a new decade may we make a resolution to better understand Jesus’ teachings.   Let us also resolve to live and treat each other as Jesus tells us.  May we have the courage to let the Holy Spirit lead us through life’s difficult situations.  As Mary asks us repeatedly, may we make room in our hearts for Jesus through prayer, meditation, and fasting.  Finally, may this be a new decade of decades (rosary decades that is) as we resolve to pray the rosary more than ever.  Happy 2010 everyone!

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Rosary Meditation — The Fifth Joyful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation focuses on The Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. When returning from a festival in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus was not in the caravan. They went back to Jerusalem and searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple talking to the elders. When Mary said that she and Joseph had been searching for Him in sorrow, Jesus responded, “Why did you search for me? Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49).

The twelve-year-old child Jesus in the temple ...
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Today’s rosary meditation focuses on The Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  When returning from a festival in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus was not in the caravan.  They went back to Jerusalem and searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple talking to the elders.  When Mary said that she and Joseph had been searching for Him in sorrow, Jesus responded, “Why did you search for me?  Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49).

Mary and Joseph traveled for a day before noticing that Jesus was missing from the caravan.  They assumed He was somewhere else in the party.  How far do we sometimes travel in life before we notice that Jesus is missing?  How many days do we sometimes go without praying, reflecting on our sins, or thanking God for all the blessings He gives us?  How many people do you know who are moving away from God’s graces by sinning but just assume God is “cool” with everything they are doing?  Like Mary and Joseph assuming that Jesus was still in the caravan, many times we assume that we are much closer to the Lord than we really are.  Many times we willfully go against Church teaching and sin and yet still think we are in God’s graces.  It takes a lot of strength and courage to really examine ourselves, admit when we have moved away from the way God calls us to live, and then turn back and rediscover Jesus.  We reconnect with Jesus through the sacrament of Reconciliation, prayer, reading the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Basically, we find Jesus in His “Father’s house” when we act in accordance with His Church’s teachings.

Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him.  I think this is an important aspect of this mystery.  It shows us that sometimes, even when we commit ourselves to finding Jesus in our lives, it can still be a long and difficult journey.  We don’t always instantly feel God’s graces when we choose to reject sin and follow Jesus.  I’ve heard many times of people feeling frustrated, depressed, or angry with God because they do not feel His presence although they are constantly looking for Him through prayer, fasting, and not sinning.  But this mystery teaches us that we must not give up.  We must constantly be looking for Jesus like a parent would look for a lost child.  Mary and Joseph did not give up their search and neither should we.  The Gospel describes that Mary and Joseph searched “in sorrow.”  Our path to Jesus might not be easy and there will probably be setbacks, dead ends, relapses, and disappointment.  But this is one search that we must never call off because our very souls are at stake.

Let us meditate and pray for all of those who are moving away from God.  We should pray especially for those whose pride has blinded them to the truth of God’s Word.  We must pray for those who twist the Church’s teachings to try to justify sinful behavior.  And we ask God for the strength to always turn towards Him and return to His Father’s house when we stray.  For it doesn’t matter how far off track we are, either with a single sin or a lifetime of sinful behavior, we can always turn around and find God’s mercy.

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