How the Rosary Teaches Us Humility (Again)

Have you ever thought about all the ways the Catholic Church teaches us the value of humility?  I never really gave it much thought, but there is an intimate connection between faith and humility.  To have faith in the power of God you must first be humble enough to realize that there is a power greater than us.  If you don’t have humility then you wouldn’t acknowledge God’s awesome power.  And if you didn’t have faith or trust in God then you are exercising pride, not humility.

Despite what some may lead you to believe, the Catholic Church is based on faith and humility, not pride and judgment.  We aren’t people thinking we are so great while others are so bad.  We are people who acknowledge our sinful nature and work together to always do better.  Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, in his article on CatholicExchange, does a great job outlining the many ways the Church is built on the value of humility such as:

  1. The nature of the Church — we are humble enough to know that Jesus is the head of the Church.
  2. The Eucharist — we are humble enough to know that the bread and wine are Jesus’ bloody and body.
  3. The ordained priesthood  — we show humility to accept that there are a select few with the power to forgive sins and offer the Eucharist in Jesus’ name.
  4. The Church’s Magisterium — we acknowledge the role of the Pope and other leaders in helping us understand Christ’s teachings.
  5. Confession — we humble ourselves to confess our sins and have faith that God, through the priest, forgives us.
  6. Mary and the saints — we show humility asking others to pray for us and looking to them for guidance and inspiration.
  7. The mission of the Church — we are called to serve God by serving others.
  8. The Church’s liturgy and prayer — the humble soul continues to pray to God even in the absence of visible results.
  9. Suffering — the humble person acknowledges that God has a great plan, even if that means temporary suffering in this life.

I could probably pick any of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary and tell you how it teaches us about the value of humility.  I’ll focus on the Fourth Joyful MysteryThe Presentation in the Temple.  When I first started praying the Rosary, this mystery always confused me because I couldn’t find the lesson I was supposed to draw from it.  Jesus took part in many Jewish rituals throughout his life.  Why was this one important enough to make it into the Rosary?

You need to focus on Saint Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery.  The Holy Spirit promised him that he would see the Chosen One before he died.  And day after day he worshiped in the temple waiting for that day to come.  The pride-filled man would have given up after days, months, or even years of waiting for God to fulfill that promise.  But Saint Simeon showed the humility and patience to allow God’s plan to manifest itself which, as we know, it did when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple.

Let us all be like Saint Simeon and put aside our pride and show sincere humility.  We may not like the particular plan God lays out for us at times.  We may not like the pace of God’s plan.  We may be envious that others seem to have it so much easier.  But being one of Christ’s disciples means being humble enough to let go of what we want and have faith that what God wants for us is infinitely better.

I’ll end with the words of Saint John of Avila who I think sums up how a humble person approaches life’s challenges:

A single “Blessed be God!” when things go wrong is of more value than a thousand acts of thanksgiving when things are to your liking.

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Are You Ready for a Lenten Advent?

As we approach Advent, I’m sure most of us will focus more on what’s on sale on Amazon than on prayer and fasting. When it comes to seasons of preparation, Advent tends to take a back seat to Lent when it comes to people focusing on their spiritual needs. This Advent, I want to challenge you to devote more time and energy preparing what is in your heart in addition to what is under your Christmas tree.

True story. One time my wife and I met with a priest for a class on a weekday in Advent. The priest offered my wife a small brownie bite which she politely refused saying that she was abstaining from sweets during Advent. The priest surprisingly said that was the first time he’d ever heard of someone fasting during Advent. Lent? Of course. But you must be a special sort of crazy to fast during a time when stores, markets, homes, and offices are stocked wall-to-wall with Christmas candy and pastries.

eat as much as you can
It would be a Christmas miracle if I could abstain from eating from the office cookie dish.

I mention this not to show how strong-willed my wife is (okay, maybe I wanted to brag a little). I mention this because of the priests surprise that someone actually took a season of preparation to actually prepare for Christmas! I think many of us hear that word, preparation, but don’t actually internalize what it means. We decorate our homes, buy gifts, trim a tree, and do all sort of things to prepare for Christmas, the holiday. But we so often skip the preparation for Christmas, the Holy Day.

I encourage you to make a plan for Advent similar to what you do for Lent. Don’t just think about what you can give up. Advent is a good time to think about what you can add. Here are some ideas:

  1. Set up an advent wreath and pray around it every day with your family.
  2. Buy an Advent prayer book that you use daily.
  3. Make an effort to go to Eucharistic adoration and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  4. Consciously do extra good deeds.
  5. Pray the Rosary daily.

And on that last point, I have just the solution to help you pray the Rosary during Advent.  After many long months, I’m happy to announce that my latest book, The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us, is now available in paperback on Amazon.  Right in time for Advent and Christmas.  This book continues what I started in The Rosary for the Rest of Us.  But instead of taking a holistic approach to each Rosary mystery, this new book takes a tactical approach.  It has scripture passages, intentions, and quotations of wisdom for each Rosary bead.  Get an overall understanding from The Rosary for the Rest of Us but get focus for each prayer in The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us.

Remember, a Rosary a day keeps the Devil away!

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Building Your Relationship with Jesus Through Rosary Prayer

I came across this interesting article on DesiringGod about something I think many of us struggle with — balancing our love of leisure activities with our love of God.  In the article, a reader asks:

My question is about my desire and satisfaction in spiritual discipline and worship. I prefer entertainment to time with God. That’s the honest truth. Time with God feels like labor. Entertainment is the passive place I go to get away from work for a while. But I am also terrified for my soul, because my past tells me I’m just not trying hard enough, and I will regret this in the future.

I can absolutely relate.  Actively building a relationship with God is hard work.  I know I have given into my lazy tendencies and decided to watch TV over praying my Rosary.  I tell myself that I’ll watch a quick YouTube clip and then I’ll start praying.  Then it’s one quick article in a magazine, then right after I  brush my teeth and get dressed, then… I know that I’m kidding myself when I say I’ll pray the Rosary right after something else.  But it’s easier to believe the lie than to admit that sometimes I’m just not feeling strong enough to pray the Rosary.

I think the hardest part about Rosary prayer is that there is not immediate gratification from it like watching TV.  You usually do not feel any holier after praying the Rosary.  In fact, you may feel more worn out or feel sad after contemplating all the times you have fallen short living the faith.  You cannot pin down the small, incremental gains you make each time you pray the Rosary.  It is that lack of immediate feedback that drives many people away from their rosaries and into the warm embrace of a TV or smartphone screen.

Let me ask you this.  If you are married or in a relationship, can you pinpoint the exact moment you went from liking spouse to loving him/her?  Can you say, it was December 22nd and 9:13 pm that your relationship went from admiration to love?  Most likely, you can’t pinpoint the exact time when your feelings for your spouse took a large leap forward (and no, changing your status on Facebook doesn’t count).  After a lot of time and effort, relationships deepen but the change is imperceivable at any given moment in time.

Praying to the Madonna of the Rosary, by Carav...
Praying to the Madonna of the Rosary, by Caravaggio, 1606-1607 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The same idea goes for the Rosary.  You probably will not know the exact moment when Rosary prayer turns from chore or burden to necessity and comfort.  But there is one thing for certain.  It will remain a chore if you never work up the energy to start praying it.  Our relationship with Jesus is similar to any other relationship — it takes work and effort and isn’t always very fun.  You need to look past the momentary inconvenience of Rosary prayer and see how you are building one of the most important relationships of your life — your relationship with Jesus.  With the proper perspective, the graces your receive through the Rosary dwarf the pain you feel praying it.

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Imitating Heaven by Creating a Joyful Family Life

Joy is an elusive feeling missing in many of our lives.  Perhaps many of us are not joyful because we do not make finding it a priority.  We tend think joy is something that just happens to some and not to others.  But joy is something that requires our active participation in many small but often challenging ways.  Joy starts within the home.  Father Ed Broom wrote an article about 10 ways to vitalize the Catholic family which I think has a lot to do with finding joy.  The TL;DR summary of a joyful family is:

  1. Family prayer
  2. The father as head of the family
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Saying “I’m sorry”
  5. Servant attitude
  6. Gratitude
  7. Take a break from gadgets
  8. Listen
  9. Celebrate
  10. Marian Consecration

When I look at these ten points as a whole, I get the idea that a vitalized family is a joyous family.  It is one centered around building each other up, acknowledging when we mess up, forgiving, and moving on.

We all know the saying that money does not buy happiness.  But that does not stop many of us from trying.  I’m not just talking about extravagant or needless purchases either.  We all want what’s best for our spouse and our children and often plunk down a lot of money trying to achieve that.  We spend a lot for organized sports and activities, days out having fulfilling experiences, and nice family meals out.  But all that stuff and activities can also drown out true quality time that produces joy.

Modern “family time.” Where’s the joy emoji?

True family happiness is not something that comes through a Disney cruise or Hawaiian vacation.  It comes from much smaller but probably more costly actions.  It means taking the time to listen to your kid stumble through a joke he heard at school.  It means having some silly time with a toddler even when there is housework to be done.  It means just stopping and asking how your kids’ day went.  It means setting aside time to listen to your spouse talk about the day.

Life is busy.  And we so often get bogged down in doing what is immediately necessary.  We need to wake the kids up, we need to finish breakfast, we need to get to school, we need to drive to baseball practice, we need to get started on homework, we need to clean the house, we need to…  And so our days become a checklist of tasks where the joy and happiness are jettisoned for the sake of efficiency.  We may not even feel unhappy because everything runs so smoothly.  But we miss out on that feeling of joy because we are so busy running our families like a business that we don’t take the time enjoying being a family.

Joy is an important aspect of the Catholic faith and yet is one that is too often forgotten.  We forget about the joy amongst the talk of fasting, penance, sin, and dogma.  What we fail to understand is that the rules, fasting, and penance make way for joy because they tear down our natural human resistance to God’s grace and pave the way to ultimate joy in His Kingdom of Heaven.  You cannot experience joy with a soul burdened by sin.  Like someone shedding weight and feeling better through intense exercise, we need to shed the weight of sin through prayer and fasting to truly feel that joy that God intends for us.

When I pray the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Resurrection, I remember that the Catholic Church is first and foremost a joyful Church.  Without Jesus’ resurrection, the Church would be based on little more than a philosophy of a man who lived thousands of years ago.  But with the resurrection, we celebrate with Jesus who conquered death as He said He would to His disciples.  Jesus is alive and present in our lives today helping us achieve that joy of having a close relationship with God our Father.  His resurrection proved that our lives do not end with the challenges and suffering of this world.  It does not end at all because He desires all of us to find true joy in His Heavenly Kingdom.

Circling back to the original topic of joy and family.  We should all try to make our family life an imitation of the joy we desire for ourselves in Heaven.  Maybe, if we give others in our family a small taste of joy, they will desire that true joy that God gives that much more.  And while our family life may never replicate Heaven, I think we can all agree that a pale imitation of Heaven is much better than an imitation of Hell.  If you are looking to spread joy in this world, start with the people who share your roof.

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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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The Power of Regular Rosary Prayer

In my work as a software developer, I often run into “walls” when trying to solve difficult problems. Most of the time I get through these blockages by just writing snippets of code no matter how ugly they may seem. But it helps me see the problem and the solution more clearly and provides me something I can shape into a beautiful, optimized solution. Getting to the desired solution is not a straight shot where I code everything perfectly the first time. It is a series of making wrong decisions and correcting them. I call it thinking with my keyboard.

Remember, no one sees your first draft (unless you started the day before the deadline)

Our happiness in life is a lot like the challenges I face when writing software. It’s not always easy to find happiness. It almost seems like life is a rigged game where being happy is something that is always just out of reach at best and an impossibility at worst.  In his article, When you Can’t Hear God, Keep Talking to Him, Dave Zuleger sums up the futility we often feel when we try to find happiness:

We know that our trials will produce a faith that is tested, refined, and full of glorified joy (1 Peter 1:6–7). We know deep realities that can create deep hope beneath even the deepest pain. Except sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we preach these truths to ourselves and our hearts aren’t moved at all. We groan, and wish that life was so different than it is (Romans 8:23). We pray and pray and pray, and things only seem to get more overwhelming and more difficult. Sometimes our hearts simply ache with the pain of broken dreams, broken relationships, broken bodies, and broken sinfulness.

Have you had that experience? Hope doesn’t come. Happiness doesn’t flood your heart. The clouds of depression don’t blow away. Overwhelming struggles simply overwhelm you more. Relationships are not restored.

He concludes that we need to continue to pray and lay out concerns and worries in front of God.  It is in continual prayer that we often hear God.  Like a software engineer needing to just write code to figure out the solution, we often need to just pray and meditate on different things to eventually hear what God is trying to tell us.

This is why praying rosary mysteries daily is such a great form of meditation.  Every day is an opportunity to reflect on the life of Jesus and the Catholic faith through the rosary mysteries and ask for Mary’s help in making sense of it all.  We have to explore our faith through prayer so that we can better understand God’s response.

It may seem doubly painful to dwell on our problems in prayer.  After all, who wants to recall their pain and suffering on a regular basis?  But through the rosary mysteries, we can see that pain through the lens of our faith, not through the lens of our secular world which offers very little in terms of answers and solutions.  You can’t find the true solution to your problems by avoiding laying them before God in prayer.

Look at Jesus in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary in the garden of Gesthemene.  He was going through immense agony over his upcoming arrest and crucifixion.  But Jesus did not hide that pain away in an attempt to appear tough or unphased.  He had no issue bringing his concerns and fears before God in prayer saying “Father if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  The agony in the garden of Gesthemene perfectly highlights what we are to do when life has is down — pray, pray, pray, and pray some more!

Jesus in Pray
Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To end on a lighter note, here’s a quotation attributed to St. Francis de Sales for you to you think about.  You could easily substitute the word busy with sad, worried, or any other word that describes your situation:

Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.

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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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How the Rosary Helps Us Overcome Obstacles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temptations

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

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

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

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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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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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