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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How the Rosary Removes the “Beams” from our Eyes

The Gospel reading from this past Monday, June 26, 2017, was from Matthew 7:1-15 about the well-known analogy about judging others hypocritically.  This lesson could also be about not letting the actions of others blind you to your abilities of living God‘s will.  First, the actual text:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

By now we all know we shouldn’t judge others considering that we all have our own flaws. I think many of us understand Jesus’ teaching and work hard to avoid judging others.  Note, this does not mean we don’t care for others and help them become better people living in God’s grace.  But we must do so caringly knowing that we also must work out many of the same sins on our own souls.

Let’s take a different look at this passage. Perhaps Jesus was also instructing his disciples to understand the greater influence one’s personal actions can have over the actions of others. What if the “beam” is not someone’s faults, but rather the amount of influence we give others for our situation in life? We are, in a way, judging others according to their perceived effect on our lives.  And many times, we place that judgment in a disproportionate way. So many of us tend to look at others as the main source of frustration or disappointment in life, even when they have a minuscule amount of influence, while overlooking the much larger effects of our own actions.

Just look at how much time and energy we place on the influence of politicians, companies, media outlets, etc. Many of us consume news and show more concern over what President Trump tweeted than who needs help, attention, and kindness in our own family or circle of friends. We give politics so much attention even when the day-to-day soap opera of government has actually relatively little effect on our happiness.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in politics and not hold our government responsible for their actions.  But we need to find a balance and not tip towards government and news being EVERYTHING to us.  That diminishes our own ability to find peace and happiness in our lives.  It becomes our “beam” that prevents us from helping others.

How can you live happily if all you focus on is politics?

I think the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, The Visitation, communicates this idea of not letting others blind you to your ability to control your well being.  Mary had every reason to dwell on how others might perceive her pregnancy outside of marriage.  It could have consumed her to the point of inaction out of fear and embarrassment.  After all, things weren’t really going the way she had planned.  But instead of dwelling on the thoughts and actions of others, she went out and did God’s will which, at the time, was being with her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary was able to remove any “beams” in her eyes which would have prevented her from clearly seeing God’s plan for her and acting accordingly.

When we pray the rosary, let us ask God to clear our minds of the fear, hatred, and overall energy spent on the people and events that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of our lives.  We need to ask God to block out the noise that can distract us from doing His will (turning off the TV is a good place to start).  We should ask Mary through our rosary prayers for the strength to imitate her and remain focused on serving God instead of living in fear of the influence others have on our overall happiness.  When we take out the distractions which act as the “beams” in our eyes we can then see more clearly and help others better see how God is calling them to receive His grace.

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What the Gospel and Rosary Teach Us About Good Works

This upcoming Sunday’s Gospel is from Matthew.  I’m only including the part I’m going to reflect on in this article.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

In this Gospel passage, John the Baptist makes a distinction between piety and good works.  The Pharisees and Sadducees considered themselves good people because they followed the Mosaic law to the letter.  But John implies in his comparison to a tree not bearing good fruit that just following rules or having a certain status does not lead to salvation.  One must follow up with good works, charity, and compassion.

Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees
Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good works, charity, and compassion were the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry.  He came into this world, not as someone of status and authority, but as a servant who ministered to those people society had excluded.  Jesus repeatedly taught that what matters most to God is what someone does, not what their title is.  Whether it was teaching the golden rule or telling the parable of the poor woman who gave all she had to charity, Jesus’ ministry centered around instilling the value of good works and sacrifice.  Inversely, those who only followed rules and sought status and honor He routinely called hypocrites.

This past Thursday’s Gospel from Matthew echoes a very similar message:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Notice how Jesus is saying that just accepting Him as the Savior is not enough.  You have to follow up with action what you proclaim in your words.  To put it in more modern terms (but now maybe ridiculously outdated), you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

When you hear and read this Gospel, meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary, The Visitation.  Think about Mary in this mystery, someone who recently learned that she was to be the mother to the Massiah.  What does she do?  Does she flaunt the fact that an angel visited her?  Does she go about looking for an elevated stature in the community?  No.  Instead, she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth and helps her through her pregnancy although she herself was pregnant.  Mary’s initial action after the Annunciation was one of charity.

Also, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary when you reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel.  Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our intermediary to her son, Jesus Christ.  Even when bestowed the title Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery), she has never stopped actively guiding us through the minefield of life.  She protects us from evil, helps those who ask for her assistance, and has continually appeared to many delivering a message similar to John the Baptist in the Gospel — Jesus loves you and wants you close to him, but you must make the effort to love Him through good works, charity, and compassion.

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God Must Come First!

Love
Love (Photo credits: PB Teen)

What’s more important, serving God or serving each other?   points out in his article on The Remnant that over the last few decades the Church’s focus has shifted from loving God first to primarily loving our fellow brothers and sisters.  It’s not that we have to choose one or the other.  We are called to do both.  But it is a matter of priority and focus.  If you accept the premise that Catholic Church has shifted its priorities in the last few generations, ask yourself whether that has strengthened or weakened the Church.  Have we veered from what Jesus taught and what has made the Church strong over the centuries?  Patrick Archbold thinks so and believes much of the weakness of faith within the Church has to do with this shift.  I encourage you to read his article in full.  The focus of this article will be on the rosary (naturally).  Let’s look at what some of the rosary mysteries teach us about loving God vs. loving our fellow humans.

Look at the order of the first and second Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.  In the Annunciation, we see Mary putting God first by accepting his plan for her.  We then see in the Visitation Mary going out and helping her cousin Elizabeth.  Notice the order?  Okay, there is the fact that chronologically, the Annunciation did precede the Visitation.  But there is also a spiritual significance in the order as well.  When we pray the rosary we meditate first on the love of God as seen in the Annunciation and then the love for our fellow brothers and sisters as represented in the Visitation.  In putting our love for God first, we receive his grace and can therefore more fully serve each other just as Mary does in the Joyful Mysteries.

On to the First Sorrowful Mystery.  Jesus fears his upcoming arrest and crucifixion.  But he prays to God asking God to first find another way he could redeem the world but also submits to God’s Will.  Jesus shows his primary love for God by acknowledging God’s authority and humbly submitting to his plan.  Later, when he’s arrested, Jesus tells his apostles, who were ready to defend him, to stand down.  While Jesus loved his apostles and his apostles loved him, Jesus puts his life not in their hands, but into God’s hands.  Again, we see the model Jesus asks us to follow — serve according to God’s Will first.

Finally, take a look at the Third Luminous Mystery.  Jesus preaches that we should all convert our ways to God’s ways.  We are called to live first for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Note that Jesus did not tell us to solely live for the Kingdom of Heaven and forsake our responsibilities and others in this world.  But it is a matter of priority — desiring God’s kingdom must come first.  And from that desire, not only for ourselves but for others, we better help our fellow brothers and sisters to also come to live in God’s grace.

I will leave you with a quotation from the Council of Trent that Patrick Archbold cites in his article as I think it sums up nicely why the love of God needs to come before our love for our fellow humans.

“Moreover, no honor, no piety, no devotion can be rendered to God sufficiently worthy of Him, since love of Him admits of infinite increase. Hence our charity should become every day more fervent towards Him, who commands us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and with all our strength. The love of our neighbor, on the contrary, has its limits, for the Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To outstep these limits by loving our neighbor as we love God would be an enormous crime.” —Catechism of Trent, Part 3, Chapter 5, Question 5

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5 Ways the Rosary Prepares Your Soul During Advent

It’s that time of year again.  My house is all lit up like a homing beacon for lost aircraft, my browser history is 99% Amazon.com, and Santa is watching my boys’ every move.  It’s Christmas time!  But it is also New Years.  I’m not talking about January 1st.  I’m talking about a new liturgical year that kicked off with Advent this past Sunday.  It’s a time to not only prepare your traditional Christmas cookies, but also time to prepare a place in your heart and mind for Jesus.  Let’s look at the five Joyful Mysteries of the rosary for ideas on how you can supersize your Advent.

#1. In the Annunciation, Mary accepts God’s plan for her.  She said, maybe still afraid and confused, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  This Advent, meditate on what God is asking of you.  You never know what God may ask of you or when.  Advent is a great time to prepare a spot for Jesus Christ in your heart so that you’ll be able to show the same courage Mary showed when God comes knocking on your door.

#2. In the Visitation, Mary exercises God’s grace by helping her older cousin Elizabeth in her pregnancy.  Advent is a time when we can prepare ourselves to best receive God’s grace through good works of kindness and charity.  Remember that in helping others, we are recognizing Jesus in our brothers and sisters.  When we comfort those less fortunate, we are comforting Jesus.  In this season of preparation, make room for Jesus in this world and provide him the comfort, respect, and honor he deserves by providing others comfort, respect, and honor.

Second Advent Week
Second Advent Week (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#3. In the Nativity, we see shepherds leaving their posts to give homage to the baby Jesus.  Later, the wise men traveled far to honor him.  Both these stories show that people were willing to drop everything and go through some hardship to see Jesus.  In Advent, consider adding a few spiritual challenges like making sacrifices and fasting, receiving the sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and trying to attend extra Masses.  The Christmas season is a fun time, but remember that is is also a spiritual time.  Imagine how much more joyous Christmas will be if you not only prepared your house and completed your shopping list, but also kept a space for Jesus in your heart and mind by making small sacrifices for him.

#4. In the Presentation in the Temple, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph become one family in the eyes of God.  This mimics how we have a physical birth but also a spiritual one through the Sacrament of Baptism.  Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, but the Holy Family was unified under God in the Presentation of Jesus.  Advent is a good time to prepare a place in your heart for your family.  I know many of us have strained relationships with our families, either immediate or extended.  Maybe a family member has hurt you or you have hurt them.  Make Advent a time for family unity and peace.  Pray and meditate on how to best tear down any walls that separate you from your family.  Not only will it bring peace to your soul, but it will make Christmas dinner so much less awkward.

#5. In the Finding of Jesus of the Temple, Mary and Joseph traveled for many days just assuming Jesus was with them we he really was not.  This reminds me of the modern mindset that assumes we are close to Jesus no matter what we do.  In preparing for Christmas this Advent, stop assuming and start examining.  How central is Jesus in your life?  Have you done anything that has moved you away from God’s grace that requires the healing power of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Even if you don’t have any mortal sins on your conscience, ask yourself what you have done to honor Jesus.  Advent is the start of a new liturgical year.  So like a New Year’s resolution, Advent is a time to analyze where you are in your faith and make a spiritual resolution to improve it.

Need a little more help getting into the right spiritual mood this Advent?  Try downloading my free rosary guide.  Or purchase my rosary meditations book on Amazon.com.  Heck, maybe all you need is a little coffee to wake you up.  I have you covered.

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Morality Clauses and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

In my last post I talked about how Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco was battling opponents over his additions to the high school teachers’ hand book about leading a Catholic example while on the job.  He wrote a fantastic clarification about why he added the new clauses and what he hopes to accomplish.  You can read the full letter at Catholic Minority Report.  I know that for many of you who don’t live in the archdiocese of San Francisco, or even the USA, the details of this battle may not hold much interest.  But like many things in life, this controversy does tie back to the rosary (and hence the RosaryMeds website) and provides some thoughts for meditation.  Let’s take a look at the Joyful Mysteries.

First Joyful Mystery

I said in my previous post that teaching at a Catholic school is as much of a vocation as it is a career.  I do think God calls people to use their talents specifically at a Catholic school instead of a secular or public school.  The First Joyful Mystery is all about vocations and reflecting on how God calls us to follow the path He sets before us.  We may have our doubts about God’s plan, similar to Mary questioning the angel Gabriel about how she could become the mother of God since she was an unwed virgin.  But like Mary, when we put our faith in God’s plan for us, no matter how outrageous it may seem, He will bestow upon us the graces to triumph.  We pray that we all reflect on our vocation and do what God asks of us even if we have our doubts.

Second Joyful Mystery

To me, the Visitation is primarily about ministry.  I’ve said in many past articles how Mary had every right to feel like she was a queen to be pampered and honored because she was to become the Mother of God.  But instead she headed off to the countryside proclaiming how she is the handmaiden of the Lord.  Her initial instinct was to go out proclaiming the glory of God when bestowed with God’s grace.  Similarly, Catholic schools are a ministry as well.  They are a place where young minds come to learn, not just reading, science, and mathematics, but also about what it means to be Catholic.  We pray that we remember to show what the Catholic faith professes through our words and actions in a direct, unambiguous way.

Third Joyful Mystery

The birth of Jesus revolves around the theme of humility.  God humbled himself by not only taking shape in the imperfect human form, but also as a lowly peasant.  And yet, through this unexpected person came God’s perfect revelation as taught by Jesus.  I think the archbishop is asking teachers and also the entire Catholic community in the archdiocese to show a lot of humility for the Church’s teachings as revealed by Jesus Christ and handed down over the years by the Magisterium.  It is difficult to accept and promote teachings that you may personally disagree with or are contrary to societal norms.  I’m not just talking about high school teachers either.  We all probably have a hard time accepting some of the Church’s teachings.  When we pray this mystery of the rosary, we should ask God for the humility to accept His perfect teachings although we may have an imperfect understanding of them.

Fourth Joyful Mystery

Jesus’ presentation in the temple focuses on adherence and obedience to the law.  Mary and Joseph waited the prescribed forty days before taking Jesus to the temple.  They also offered a sacrifice of turtledoves as was the custom.  Later, Jesus insists that John baptizes him although Jesus needed no purification.  When I think about many of the objections over the additions to the faculty handbook, I see an absence of the respect of an ancient institution.  The Church hasn’t been secretive about her teachings over the last few millennia nor has it dramatically changed them.  And yet so many people complain about the archbishop’s request to honor the sacred traditions of the Catholic Church in a Catholic school.

When we pray this mystery, we should remember that the Church is an institution that teaches what it teaches for a reason.  Church Scholars have pondered and written brilliant defenses for the Church’s teachings and its rituals over the years.  These “rules” and doctrine of the Church are not arbitrary but are insights into the natural law imprinted on our hearts.  By following those rituals and taking them seriously we follow in Jesus’ footsteps when he, who is the Law, also respected the Law.

Fifth Joyful Mystery

When I think about Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the temple I recall Jesus’ words about needing to be in his father’s house.  What is amazing to me was Mary’s reaction of not understanding what Jesus meant.  What!??  An angel came to Mary and told her she would be the Virgin Mother of God!  Angels proclaimed his birth.  Wise men followed a star and paid homage to him.  What part of Jesus being special does Mary not yet understand?

This painting is on display at the Kunsthistor...
This painting is on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) in Vienna, Austria (site). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I think about those protesting the archbishop’s words I also wonder what part of teaching Catholicism at a Catholic school are they not understanding?  Through all the prayers, Masses, retreats, and religion classes, how are the archbishop’s words, which are essentially the Apostles’ Creed, something new and shocking?

Like the other mysteries, I pray this one for an understanding and acceptance of the Church’s teachings.  I also pray that I see those teachings even in the most unlikely of places.  The scholars were amazed by the knowledge of Jesus Christ as a young boy.  It goes to show that God tries to teach us in many different ways.  We should look for God’s Truth not just in the readings on Sunday, but everywhere around us.  Even a letter of clarification from the archbishop may hold wisdom and offer new insights.

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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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The Declining Influence of Religion in the United States

I don’t want to spoil anyone’s Christmas cheer, but according to this study I would only be spoiling it for a shrinking number of Americans anyway since it seems like more people are celebrating, not Christmas, but “the holidays.”  Pew Research Center did some analysis of the presidential election and found that Obama captured over 70% of the “not religiously affiliated” vote that makes up 20% of the American electorate.  We are certainly seeing an increasing percentage of the population where traditional religion does not play a part in their lives.  Those numbers increase dramatically when you also take into account those who are affiliated with a particular religion, but aren’t practicing.  This is bad news for those who do take their faith traditions seriously and expect the government to protect the right to live according to the teachings and beliefs of their religion.

If society places less importance on the role religion plays in peoples’ lives then the government will take less interest in protecting our fundamental freedom of religion.  We saw how casually Obama rolled out the Health and Human Services contraception mandate followed by a few “accommodations” such as delaying the enforcement of the mandate for one year or allowing very narrow exceptions.  Instead of outrage, this mandate was met with apathy from the general public.  We shouldn’t be surprised if one in five people don’t belong to any particular religion and many that do aren’t even actively practicing it.  This puts people of faith in a really tight spot because an increasing number of people just don’t understand why having a particular faith and a certain moral code is so important to some of us.  This disconnect will only widen as those who practice their faith become more of the minority and the USA drifts further away from the guiding principles of the Constitution.

The Pew Research Center had this to say about the people who aren’t affiliated with a relgion (known as the “nones”):

He cautions, however, against conflating the “nones” with nonbelievers.

“Those two things are not the same,” Smith says. The “nones’ are certainly less religious than those who say they belong to a religious group, but many are also believers.

“The absence of a connection to an organized religion is not the same as the absence of a religious belief or practice,” he says.

Here’s the problem with “nones” who are supposedly “believers.”  What do they believe?  Are their beliefs just an arbitrary set of guidelines that they will follow or ignore at their convenience?  Are they in that “God loves me and I think He’s cool with how I choose to live my life” group?  Because that’s not belief.  That’s just finding justification for living however one pleases.  It’s a religious foundation built on sand where the slightest disturbance or challenge will knock it over.  Or less poetically, they are beliefs that will change as soon as someone declares them outdated, uncool, or not following the majority in society.  In my experience, not being connected to an organized religion is synonymous with not practicing any religion at all.

I usually don’t like to link to opinion sites like NPR.  But if you have the stomach for it, go read the comments section to this article.  Many of them are openly hostile towards organized religion and portray the faithful as ignorant fools.  It’s a sampling of what a growing portion of America thinks about religion and, by association, what they think about you.  Remember, this is a group that is growing larger and becoming courted by politicians seeking to remain in office.  These are the voices and opinions politicians will hear when they craft our laws.  Scared yet?

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Baptism of a child by affusion

Society has come down with an acute case of non-belief.  Symptoms include empty churches and places of worship, sins being accepted as virtues, and a general apathy towards assaults on religions freedom.  I recommend praying the First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  When we meditate on this mystery, we should remember our baptism when we were brought into God’s grace.  Remember what God asks of you when you renew your baptismal promises at Mass and are also stated in the Apostles’ Creed which is the first prayer of the rosary.  You have a better chance of remaining in God’s grace when your baptismal promises are always on your mind and reflected in your actions.  That is why it’s important to pray the rosary each day.  As an added dose of rosary medication, pray for those who are unbelievers, have left the Church, or are openly hostile to her when you meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Remember, God doesn’t care how far you stray in life and for how long.  Some of the greatest saints in the Church lived sinful lives before turning around and searching for God’s grace.  You can always come back and find Jesus in your life as Joseph and Mary did in this mystery.  All it takes is a truly repentant heart.  Especially in this season of Advent, pray for those who have strayed from God’s grace that they allow the Holy Spirit to guide them back home.

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It Will Get Ugly in November

I have a feeling this year’s presidential election is going to get much uglier than in years past.  Politics has always been a dirty business, but lately everyone seems to act so much more “unhinged.”  People are expressing the slightest disagreements with such high levels of vitriol and anger.  Looking at some peoples’ reactions, supporting traditional marriage or Paul Ryan‘s budget proposal isn’t just a difference of opinion, but more akin to supporting a holocaust or war crime.  In case you forgot, here are some of the issues that will bring about an unprecedented level of conflict leading up to the November vote:

  • Class warfare (Occupy movement, the 99% vs 1%, taxing the rich, more entitlements, etc.)
  • Financial warfare (budgets, deficits, defaults, socialism vs. capitalism, etc.)
  • Armed conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, global terrorism, etc.)
  • Government expansion (Obamacare, HHS mandate, nanny laws, greater police surveillance, etc.)
  • Social issues (the poor, gay marriage, identity politics, etc.)
  • Religious freedom threats (HHS mandate, freedom of “worship”, abortion funding through Planned Parenthood, etc.)

And those are just some of the real issues.  We will also fight through accusations of racism, bigotry, and intolerance for any criticism of the Obama administration, media bias, and all the “fakeraversies” and “outrage du jour” that people cook up.  This election will be a perfect storm of important, country-changing issues mixed with just plain craziness.  If you remember back to Obama’s first months as president, the biggest controversy back then was him authorizing federal funds for embryonic stems cell research.  Compared to what is on the table this election, that ethical breach seems like small potatoes now.

I came across this article after hearing about it on Immaculate Heart Radio.  It’s titled “10 Ways Catholic Voters Will Be Misled” and is worth a glance.  It breaks down how the various political groups, the Obama administration, and the media will spin various issues to either tug at the Catholic voters’ heartstrings or attack and dismiss the Catholic position on certain topics.  For example, here is one way Catholic voters will be misled:

“Progressive” Catholic groups will produce polling that supposedly shows Catholics disagree with Church teaching on the sanctity of life and marriage, implying those who agree are in the minority and “behind the times.”

We hear this sentiment all the time whether it be from Nancy Pelosi, Katherine Sibelius, or the Georgetown University administration.  The attacks are only going to get stronger and more aggressive as we get closer to November.  And they won’t magically disappear regardless of the election’s outcome.  Unfortunately, Catholics are going to have to bunker down for a war we will probably fight for our entire lives.  We will experience some glorious wins and some agonizing defeats.  But it’s important that we keep up the fight for what is good, just, and right.

These political battles remind me of the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple.  Remember, St. Simeon waited and prayed in the temple his entire life before finally meeting the baby Jesus.  His life was probably full of frustration as people probably mocked him and what they saw as a sad waste of time.  But he endured and eventually had his victory when he laid his eyes on Jesus.  We should remember the strength and endurance St. Simeon showed when we feel crushed by political forces that seem unstoppable.  Defending our faith will eventually lead to happiness.  It may not be a happiness this world can offer and to many, it may look like we’re wasting our time living Catholic values.  But we will find happiness in God’s heavenly kingdom where we will find our true victory.

Catholic Cross Jesus

When thinking about defending the Catholic faith in the voting booths this November, I’m also reminded of the lessons from the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.  We must remember that Mary and the saints are our guides who help us navigate life’s obstacles by showing us the path God puts before us.  Mary has given many messages throughout history.  One theme she keeps repeating is the importance of knowing the faith.  After all, how can we live and defend the faith and love God if we do not know Him?  That is why it is so important to learn the Church’s teachings on various issues so you won’t be misled by those who try to use your faith for their poltical advantage.  Read the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Listen to Catholic radio.  And most importantly, open your heart and mind in prayer to listen to the guidance of Mary and the saints (need help?  Buy my book on Amazon).  Our battles will not end at the polls in November, but with the help of the Church and the power of our faith we can endure whatever craziness comes our way.

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Urgent Moral Turnaround Needed!

Last week Obama declared that all health care providers must cover contraception regardless of their moral objections.  That’s it, no discussion, no conscience clauses, nothing except a token stay of execution.  Laws that reflect and respect morality are on life support and the government is looking to euthanize them.  I wish I could say that we’ve hit a crescendo on the assault of religious freedom, but unfortunately I think we are still in the initial salvos.  It’s contraception coverage today, tomorrow its mandated abortion coverage, then on to mandated abortions and who knows what else.

Is this the new face of morality?

Remember that laws reflect the morality of a civilization.  If morality played a more important role in peoples’ lives there is no way a law like this would even be considered.  For me, one of the largest problems with this contraception mandate is not that it’s a law, but that the general public doesn’t recognize or care that evil is becoming rooted in our laws.  Any civilization that makes intrinsic evils the cornerstone of its laws cannot thrive or even survive.  I’ve heard the saying, “Satan’s greatest weapon is making people believe he does not exist.”  That saying has never been more true than when intrinsic evils become the law of the land in the land of the free.

I could vent and rant about this topic for a thousand more words and look at it from a variety of angles.  I could dive into how the systematic dismantling of morality has led to a breakdown in all aspects of society whether it be education, economics, medicine, or crime.  But I’m going to leave that to other articles.  I want to focus on the central theme of RosaryMeds — discussing the need for prayer and the rosary.

Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the image ...
I prefer his moral guidance

Look at the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption into HeavenGod assumed Mary into Heaven and gave her a special role — bring us closer to her son, Jesus Christ.  Over centuries, she has appeared to many people with many messages.  She asks us to have a strong faith.  In order to have a strong faith, we need to be well versed in the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church.  How else are we to love God and do His will if we never learn His will?  How do we know right from wrong if we never study it and then meditate on it?  Part of the reason laws like the contraception mandate pass is in part due to Catholics not taking a true interest in learning and then defending their faith.

I also think we should turn to the Second Joyful Mystery — The Visitation.  Prayer is good and I truly believe it has the power to change the world.  But part of its effectiveness is that we must act on what God gives us through prayer.  Mary didn’t sit on the grace God gave her in the Annunciation, but she went out into the hostile world and shared that grace with her cousin Elizabeth.  And her son, Jesus, didn’t spend all His time in meditation but instead went out in the world and converted people.  His life was a living prayer since all His actions reflected God’s power and glory.  And so, He calls us to also go out into the world, powered by the guidance of the Holy Spirit from our prayers, to convert souls.

Finally, think about the Fifth Joyful Mystery — the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Mary and Joseph travelled for three days before realizing Jesus was not with them.  And when they did realize He was missing, they searched in sorrow before finding Him.  I believe we are in a world that has gone very far and still hasn’t realized that Jesus is missing in it.  Hopefully, one day soon, we will realize that Jesus is missing and have the courage to turn around and find Him.  Like Mary and Joseph searching for Jesus “in sorrow,” our return to God’s grace and the rebuilding of morality will not be easy.  There will be setbacks.  There will be those who will stand in our way every chance they get.  But we must have the conviction to endure and continue our arduous mission to bring Jesus’ love into this world.

It’s simple physics.  The world will stay on its course unless opposed by an opposite counter action.  It’s not like one day laws will suddenly appear that will magically turn the world into a moral place.  If we want to change the laws, we have to first start by converting souls.  It takes people like you and me, fueled by prayer, to influence others and change this world for the better.  Without moral people speaking up, this world will continue on its course.  And if you think things are bad now, just wait and see where we go if we sit on our hands.  That’s all I can say for now or else my blood pressure will shoot through the roof.  But believe me, I will revisit this topic and do what I can to fight the further legalization of intrinsic evils.

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