The Rosary is a Means, Not an End

No matter who you are, your goal in life is probably to maximize the quantity and quality of personal happiness. This goal unites nearly all of humanity whether you are an American suburbanite, a nomad in Mongolia, or even a terrorist fighting in Syria.  We all seek to be happy although our means and justifications may differ.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen provided these three simple rules for finding happiness. The TLDR; summary is:

  1. If you are ever to have a good time, you cannot plan your life to include nothing but good times
  2. Pleasure is deepened and enhanced when it has survived a moment of tedium or pain: this law helps us to make our prized pleasure last for whole lifetime.
  3. Pleasure is a by-product, not a goal.
Fulton J. Sheen, Roman Catholic Bishop and ear...
Fulton J. Sheen, Roman Catholic Bishop and early television preacher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe these happiness principles also apply to prayer, particularly rosary prayer. I think too many times we view rosary prayer as the goal, not the means to something greater. I’m in no way exempt from this way of thinking.  I often tell myself that I’m going to pray the rosary every day but forget to remind myself WHY I want to pray the rosary every day.

Let me be clear.  There is nothing wrong with motivating yourself to pray the rosary regularly as long as you are mindful that praying the rosary is a means, not an end in itself. When rosary prayer is treated as the goal it often becomes rushed and unfocused since we tend to treat it as a check box on our daily todo list.

Rosary prayer requires focus and patience if you want to maximize its benefits.  Let’s be honest, praying the rosary is not always fun and pleasurable.  But as Ven. Fulton J. Sheen said, when you endure a little bit of pain and hardship, it makes the fruits of that hardship that much more prized and treasured.  Keep that in mind the next time you don’t feel like praying the rosary or just want to rush through it.  Mary understands the difficulty and appreciates your desire to reach out to her son, Jesus Christ, in the face of such hardship.

The million dollar question becomes, what benefit am I hoping to maximize by praying the rosary?  What do you hope to gain from it?  Everyone will have a different answer. Here’s mine.  I pray it as a means of deepening my relationship with God. I pray the rosary because my Mother Mary tells me it is the most effective way of living in God’s grace. She promises me 15 benefits if I pray the rosary devoutly.  I believe it also gives me perspective on all the events of my life and seeing what’s truly important and what is not. In short, I want to grow in happiness by living as God asks me to. Those are my true goals that praying the rosary helps me move ever closer to.

Generally available Marian image created in th...
Generally available Marian image created in the 1880s. The white circular text in the halo reads: “Je suis l’Immaculée Conception” (French for “I am the Immaculate Conception”). From Jtdirl’s collection. Copyright long expired. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How about you? What’s your idea of happiness? Are you trying to be happy by living as Ven. Fulton J. Sheen suggests? What do you hope to gain from prayer? Are you treating prayer as a means to happiness by looking for God’s grace or an end in itself?

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What the Rosary Gives You The World Cannot Take Away

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.  My last few posts where political in nature and that is an area I try not to spend too much time writing about.  There are much better sources for political news and commentary.  And honestly, writing about current events through a Catholic lens is flat out depressing because it seems like everything our world holds dear is an attack on Catholic values.  So let’s get back to something more hopeful — spiritual fitness through rosary prayer!

I saved this article and filed it under “I should write a RosaryMeds article on this some day.”  The article is almost a year old, but it’s still very relevant.  This short video talks about the health benefits of meditation, something I’ve written about before.  I very much consider praying, particularly praying the rosary, a form of meditation.  In fact, I think you aren’t getting the most out of the rosary unless you are treating it as a form of meditation.  Otherwise, you may fall into auto pilot mode or what the Bible calls meaningless repetition (Matthew 6:7).  It looks like medicine and psychology are verifying what people who practice their faith have known for a long time — your body benefits from meditation.  I’m going to go one step further and say that your body and soul needs prayer!

I’ve attended happiness seminars that echo the same sentiment as this video.  Your situation partly determines your health and overall happiness.  But a lot of your well being comes down to you making the choice to strive to be happy and healthy regardless of the situation.  I know many people who say they would only be happy if [insert some event or condition].  In other words, they’re saying “I’ll be happy when my world is perfect.”  The problem with that type of thought is that you are moving happiness from something you control to circumstances you cannot control.  And unfortunately, our world has a lousy track record of producing an environment that fosters happiness.

Part of the reason why our world can’t make people truly happy is because our societies throughout history have focused more on trying to acquire happiness through physical means.  This may mean the acquisition of basic comforts to personal wealth and luxuries.  Many centuries ago it was just about staying alive where a good day was a day without a viking invasion.  Now it’s about having a home theater, a fast smartphone, and a reliable car.  Regardless of the time period, so much of that is determined by factors outside your control — where you’re born, what opportunities you’ve had, your genetic makeup, etc.  But not only that, but the happiness that is dictated by your circumstances is always fleeting because the world can (and probably will) change on you.

And that’s where we get back to rosary prayer and meditation.  The rosary isn’t about getting something temporary or something that can be taken away arbitrarily.  It is more about training your mind, body, and soul to realize everything you already have that God has given you.  God has freely given you many gifts through his grace but you have to slow down to take stock in what you have.  God has given you strength just as he gave Mary strength to be the Mother of God as seen in the First and Second Joyful Mysteries.  God provides you guidance as seen in the Third and Fourth Glorious Mysteries.  God has given you a sense of purpose and a mission as seen in the Second Glorious Mystery.  Pick any rosary mystery and you will see that God has already given you a tool for true and eternal happiness.

Saint Padre Pio stated:
Saint Padre Pio stated: “Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him”. The Rosary: A Path Into Prayer by Liz Kelly 2004 ISBN 082942024X pages 79 and 86 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stop looking for happiness in all the wrong places.  Stop waiting for your world to be perfect (or at least comfortable) to start working on being happy.  True happiness starts and ends with you forming a relationship with Jesus.  And rosary prayer is one of the best ways to foster and grow that relationship.

Need some help?  Try praying the rosary with the help of the free RosaryMeds ebook, The 44th Rose.

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The Rosary — The (Not So) Secret to Happiness

Last week at work I had the privilege of attending a class on the science of happiness.  I find topics about brain and neuroscience fascinating probably because I haven’t studied it to death.  A two hour seminar from a former software developer fits nicely into my mosaic of brian knowledge formed from Ray Kurzweil books and Wired magazine articles.

Why would my company want me to learn about the science of happiness?  According to various studies and polls, happy people are about 12 to 25% more productive in their work.  Furthermore, much of what makes people happy revolves around them choosing actions that lead towards happiness.  Therefore, a company has a vested interest in its employees choosing routines that lead to happiness and hence, more productivity.

I’m going to spare you the details of the seminar.  If you want to learn more, just go to HappyBrainScience.com.  I bring up this seminar for one reason — readers of RosaryMeds already know many of the choices that lead to happiness.  For example, in the class we learned about the value of meditation as a way to combat the negative effects of stress.  Guess what?  Many of us who pray the rosary regularly already experience the positive effects rosary meditation has on combating the stress of everyday life.  I’ve mentioned a study in a previous post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary prayer.  I’ve also talked about how people are happiest when they find “flow” or are “in the zone.”  Many people who pray the rosary regularly find it comforting because they can more easily get in the zone of deep meditation and prayer.

Going back to my happiness seminar, I also learned how we all have a bias towards focusing on the negative.  I think we all know how difficult it is to concentrate or be happy in a group of people if you find even just one person in that group annoying.  Instead of focusing on the people whose company we enjoy or the good situations around us, we too often dwell on what’s wrong and foment a bitterness, if not an outright hatred, of those people who we don’t get along with for some reason or another.  Similarly, we also tend to dwell on our weaknesses more than our strengths.  “I’m overweight.”  “I’m not smart enough.”  “I work too slowly.”  “I don’t have enough patience.”  “I don’t have enough energy.”  Sound familiar?

When I heard about our negative bias and some of the tricks to combat it (you can get a taste of it from the HappyBrainScience blog), I immediately thought this all sounded vaguely familiar.  I then remembered the introduction to my rosary book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, where I explained the main benefit I get from rosary prayer — perspective.  Praying the rosary helps me understand that all the negative things in life we often dwell on aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture.  By praying the rosary every day, I manage to keep all my problems, stresses, and worries in perspective.  Rosary prayer also reminds me of God’s awesome power to forgive me for all my mistakes, no matter how big.  Rosary prayer reminds me that the Holy Spirit is present and always trying to lead me on the path of true happiness.  Rosary prayer reminds me that no matter how terrible the world appears, there is hope for a better tomorrow.

A rosary crucifix.
This can bring more happiness than winning any lottery.

Not all of us can attend a happiness seminar.  But you don’t have to attend one or buy a “secret of life” type book to start choosing a lifestyle that yields increased happiness.  Want to be happier?  Turn off the TV and computer, silence your phone, pick up a rosary, and pray!  Oh, and reading my rosary book and telling others about this website wouldn’t hurt ;-).

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