Abstaining from Communion: How the Rosary Teaches Humility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rome Sweet Home

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

51ag-eecuol-_sx326_bo1204203200_
Want the book? Click on the image for purchasing options.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

God the Parent

Labor Day weekend came and went here in the US. For many, it’s an extended weekend full of fun and relaxation. For me, it was also an extra day of family time which was exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my family. But I have a quota of how many times I can tell my boys “no!” and “stop!” and still keep up my cheerful disposition. As any parent knows, it is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining to fight the same battles day after day over eating, sleeping, sharing, and teaching general manners to kids.

No matter how many times I have to say “no” or “stop!” or “wait,” I of course will always love my family. Yes, I wish one of my boys would sit at the table for breakfast and eat without me constantly reminding him to take a bite (I also think he would love to actually experience his food warm for a change). I would also love my other son to not cry when my wife has to put him down so I could give her a break now and then. But my love for them overwhelmingly dwarfs the day-to-day challenges they present.

That just about sums up how my youngest son sees me.

My experience as a husband and father teaches me a lot about God’s nature. God must be like a parent who at times is frustrated with our lack of cooperation.  He is constantly repeating himself in trying to raise us well.  He teaches the same lessons of love and compassion through Scripture, Mary, the saints, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.  But because of our human nature, we often just don’t get it and repeatedly commit the same sins.  Spiritually, many of us our like toddlers who just don’t see the big picture as God sees it.  But God is the always patient father who understands that our hearts and minds aren’t mature enough to fully grasp the goodness he has prepared for us.  But he always waits, calmly repeats himself, and gives us many chances to “get it.”

I often tell my older son not to play too rough with his younger brother, not because I want to kill his fun, but because I know that my older son doesn’t yet have the maturity to understand that he can hurt his brother.  Likewise, God tries to set some ground rules through his Church by identifying what is sinful and evil and what is good.  He doesn’t do this to prevent us from having any fun, but instead he knows what will bring true happiness and what will bring ultimate despair.  Like a toddler, without developing our spiritual maturity, we often cannot understand why God does what he does and become frustrated with him.  But it is through regular prayer that we develop that level of understanding and faith.  We may not understand God’s reasons for his laws, but we take it on faith that following them will bring about the greatest good.

The Rosary Connection

Speaking of faith, let’s turn to the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist.  I think one of the greatest acts of faith Catholics show is accepting that Jesus is present in the Eucharist.  I think this is pretty hard to swallow at times.  After all, the Eucharist looks and tastes like bread and wine.  You wouldn’t be able to identify a consecrated host from a non consecrated host in a blind taste test.  But the Eucharist is the cornerstone of the Catholic faith.  Hence faith, the unquestioning belief in truth, needs to be a fundamental part of our spirituality.  We must accept that God’s laws cannot be fully quantized and explained; that there will always be aspects of his nature that our beyond our understanding.  We also must take it on faith that the Church’s rules and teachings will lead us to everlasting joy.

The other part of faith is humility.  I don’t think you can have true faith without also showing humbleness.  Because you must humble yourself to accept that there are truths beyond your understanding.  We pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery for those who do not show humility and hence cannot fully form their faith.  We also pray for those times when we have shown pride and not humility and closed ourselves off from receiving God’s grace.  But remember, even when we are stubborn, prideful, and close ourselves off to God, he will be the always patient parent waiting for us and sending small hints to help us come around.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pope Asks Catholics to be “Annoying”

I took a lot of acting classes and performed in many plays throughout high school and college. Looking back on my teenage and early adult years, acting was one of the greatest experiences of my life. One skill that was difficult to learn initially was leaving the familiar and comfortable to take chances discovering the character. In order to be successful on stage I had to embrace my character and all his quirks, mannerisms, and eccentricities and push aside any sense of self-consciousness or embarrassment.  My best performances resulted from breaking out of my comfort zone and doing things I would never regularly do but my character would.

Performance
Actors must give it everything they got for truly remarkable performances

Much like how I had to leave my comfort zone in acting, Pope Francis challenges all Catholics to leave their comfort zone in their spiritual life. The Catholic News Agency reported that in a homily, Pope Francis said:

“We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church,” he said at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives.

The Pope preached on today’s first reading from Acts 22 and contrasted “backseat Christians” with those who have apostolic zeal.

“There are those who are well-mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal,” he stated.

The pontiff said apostolic zeal “implies an element of madness,” which he labeled as “healthy” and “spiritual.”

He added that it “can only be understood in an atmosphere of love” and that it is not an “enthusiasm for power and possession.”

The pope’s reference to “well-mannered” and “backseat” Christians echoed my thoughts about how we too often do the bare minimum our faith requires. And looking at the dramatic drop off in Mass attendance between Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, many people aren’t even meeting the minimal requirements. I noted how great of a statement Catholics could make to the world if people driving by a church on Sunday saw it filled to the brim with faithful Christians. What if the billion+ Catholics in the world expressed a loving enthusiasm for our faith every day in everything we do?

And yet, many of us (myself included) fall back into our pattern of living as “well-mannered” Catholics. Sure, we may go to Mass on Sunday and pray regularly but it’s in a very detached way from our regular lives. We don’t want to stir up controversy by proclaiming our faith in public. Raise your hand if you read a really interesting online article expressing a Catholic viewpoint but didn’t post it on your Facebook profile out of fear of causing trouble. Do you remain silent in a conversation when someone starts spouting off falsehoods or exaggerations of Church doctrine because you want to avoid conflict? Come on, be honest. I know I do that all the time, even with my own RosaryMeds articles. I sometimes refrain from sharing my own RosaryMeds articles on my personal timeline because I don’t want the headaches of defending my faith.

We all need role models and examples who we can teach us how to break the mold of the “comfortable Catholic.” Who in my life is an example of “apostolic zeal?” My mother-in-law comes to mind. She does not have two lives — a public one and a spiritual one. They are the same for her. For example, when something bad or good happens in her life, her immediate instinct is to say a prayer. And she doesn’t wait to be alone and pray silently, but will ask others to pray with her when the situation calls for it. That’s the sort of apostolic zeal the pope wants in all of us — to have that immediate gut instinct to publicly live as people of faith. It doesn’t need to be loud or bossy. It just needs to be ever-present in everything you do.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Christ teaching in the Temple

When I meditate on the Third Luminous Mystery of the holy rosary — Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion, I often ponder my own personal conversion. I think about ways I can live as a better Catholic and more faithfully follow Jesus’ teachings. But Pope Francis’ homily on living with “apostolic zeal” provides another way to view this mystery. In addition to your personal conversion, how about focusing on converting others? How can you help bring others closer to God’s loving grace? For those “backseat” Christians, maybe you can give them that little “push” whether it be inviting them to Mass (and not letting them hide in the back of the church), saying grace with them before meals, and just working in a little Catholic catechesis in conversations. It might be something as simple as, “I read this interesting article on RosaryMeds today that said…”

As for dealing with those openly hostile to the Catholic Faith, I understand that we all can’t be like St. Paul and stir up riots proclaiming God’s Word. But as I said before, pray for those who hate the Church. You will probably not be able to convert someone’s heart and mind through idle conversation regardless of how many facts or well-reasoned arguments you present. But the Holy Spirit can work miracles and touch people in ways words cannot. But you need to condition yourself to pray for people like this because praying for those who hate you doesn’t come naturally to many of us.

I will leave you with this to ponder.  If you think the Catholic Church and this world is perfect as-is, then there is no need for us behave differently.  But if you think this would could use a little improvement then it needs to start with each one of us making little changes in our lives.  Are you ready to break out of your spiritual comfort zone to make those changes a reality?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Being Catholic Means More than Just Showing Up

Athletes need to do a lot more than just show up to a match. A soccer player cannot pat himself on the back after the game because he only managed to keep the ball in bounds. A football player cannot claim success just because he didn’t draw a penalty. No track runner will stand on the medal podium for simply finishing the race. In all sports, athletes need to excel and contribute to their team’s victory. They need to pay attention to their coaches, follow the rules, and respond to the always changing situations on the field.

Coach encourages young athlete
Coach encourages young athlete

Yet, as Catholics, we often live as if we are just showing up to the match instead of focusing on excelling and contributing to build up God‘s church. We often fall into a pattern where we believe just following the rules is good enough. We tend to think that just fulfilling our Sunday obligation of attending Mass also fulfills our life’s obligation of being Catholic. We might even think that being a good Catholic means only avoiding mortal sin. But showing up at Mass and avoiding mortal sin is like the football player just managing not to run out of bounds or draw a penalty. That is the bare minimum that our faith requires. We are called to listen to God and His Church and respond by publicly living our faith in an often challenging world.

Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Bergoglio put it best when he explained the story of the prophet, Jonah. In a 2007 interview in the magazine, 30 Days, and reprinted in the Catholic San Francisco, the pope said this about Jonah:

Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what he wants, on who was faithful to the covenant and who instead was outside the covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God was there and waiting, to heal them with his forgiveness and nourish them with his tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarshish.

What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into his plans. God had come once … ‘and I’ll see to the rest’: That’s what Jonah told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his pre-ordained methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer knew that God leads his people with the heart of a father.

This story reminds me very much about how we often live our faith. We live it according to a set of pre-defined rules and regulations thinking that is all God wants of us. I know I certainly fall into that trap where I just go to Mass, go to Confession, abstain from meat on Fridays, avoid mortal sin, and pray the rosary. I can check all those tasks off my spiritual “to-do” list so I’m done with my Catholic obligations right? Wrong! God, like a coach, says, “Good for you, now that you’re warmed up let’s get to work.” That’s right, all those “tasks” that we do are just the warm up to living as a true person of faith. The fasting, the prayers, and going to Mass are almost meaningless if they aren’t followed by an openness to the Holy Spirit to live the faith. Following the Church’s rules is the “practice” that prepares us for the “main event” which is responding to God’s call to be a living example of His love.

Prophet Jonah (Michelangelo)
Prophet Jonah (Michelangelo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What RosaryMeds do I Need?

Almost all Catholics periodically suffer from a case of itsgoodenoughitis. Symptoms include:

  • Just thinking about your faith once a week (or less) at Mass
  • Just saying quick prayers without putting much thought into them
  • Living in ways and holding beliefs that are contrary to what the Church teaches
  • Just not giving a lot of thought on what being a good Christian really means

This will require a double dose of rosary mysteries. When you meditate on the rosary, pay particular attention to the First Luminous Mystery and the Fourth Luminous Mystery. In both Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration, God spoke directly to the disciples and said “Listen to My Son!” But we are often like Jonah and ignore what God is actually telling us and want to do things our own way. When Jesus challenges us to put in a little extra effort in living our faith, we can’t just fall back on solely following the rules. Like a good athlete, we need to listen to God, our coach and mentor, and alter our strategy based on His guidance. God knows what we are capable of and won’t ask us to take up a challenge we cannot handle. He is always there on the sidelines saying, “Trust Me. You can do this!” We need to listen to God and have faith that following His Will will lead us to victory — the victory of living in His heavenly kingdom for all eternity.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Imitating the Saints

Upon being elevated to the cardinalate on Feb 18 in Rome, Cardinal Dolan of New York said he has a long way to go spiritually.  He said to reporters:

As grateful as I am for being a Cardinal, I really want to be a saint.  I mean that, and I’ve got a long way to go but it is all about holiness, it is all about friendship with Jesus and it is all about being a saint. And that’s what I want to be.

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 18:  Newly ap...

We could learn a lot from Cardinal Dolan’s remarks.  Here is someone who has ascended to one of the highest ranks in the Catholic hierarchy and yet is humble enough to know that he still has a long way to go.  He understands that it’s not his rank that brings him into God’s grace, but his actions.  Cardinal Dolan shows us that we are all called to live as saints whether you are the pope, a priest, a nun, or the average lay person.  If we truly believe in our faith and that living in God’s grace leads to internal happiness in Heaven, then striving to imitate saint-like behavior should be our top priority.

The good news is that anyone can become a saint.  Just look at history.  Saints came from all walks of life whether it be a mother, father, peasant, king, priest, soldier, slave, or repentant sinner.  St. Peter denied he even knew Jesus before becoming the cornerstone of the Catholic Church as our first pope.  St. Paul actively persecuted Christians before reforming his ways, preaching the message of Jesus Christ, and writing letters that became the bulk of the New Testament.  If people like that became saints then realistically there is nothing preventing any one of us from becoming a saint.  The question is, do we have the will and desire to at least try to imitate the saints’ behavior?

Unfortunately, society does not make imitating the saints an easy task.  Many became saints through martyrdom.  Many more had to abandon their lives of material comfort.  But in addition to the physical sacrifices needed to be a saint, there is also a sociological barrier one must overcome.  Society conditions people to believe that saint-like behavior is old-fashioned, goes against normal human behavior, and in some cases, is deeply wrong and immoral.

Various sins have become so commonplace that you are lead to believe it is OK to commit them.  Don’t go to Mass on Sunday?  Don’t worry, you’re in the majority of Catholics.  Don’t regularly receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Who cares, most people don’t receive it anymore.  Why not “live a little” and go on that drunken bender at a strip club with your buddies?  It’s not like you’re a priest or something.  Trying to defend the life of the unborn?  You monster!  And there is the current infantile excuse du jour — artificial contraception is fine since 98% of Catholics use it.  Sometimes I think the early saints got off easy being arrested and fed to lions.  When faced with a monumental challenge like possible martyrdom, people often find the spiritual resolve to endure.  But in today’s world we must navigate a moral minefield as we are constantly bombarded with all these sins disguised as normal human behavior.  The threats are so subtle that we often let down our defenses and fall into sinful patterns of behavior.

Português: Jesus é auxiliado por Simão Cireneu...

In order to keep up our defense against sin, we must turn to the rosary.  When we think about imitating the saints we should remember the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary — Jesus Carrying His Cross.  Jesus endured great hardship after being arrested, tried, scourged, and mocked.  Despite the torture of carrying the cross and falling down repeatedly, Jesus got up because He knew it was important to do God‘s will above all else.  And that is what many of the saints did as well — carried out God’s will even when society thought their actions were silly, unreasonable, and even dangerous.  And that is what God asks of us — to take up our crosses and follow Him even when society mocks us and encourages us to do the opposite.

We should also remember the Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary — Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and a Call for Conversion.  In this season of Lent, really examine your life.  Now look at the lives of the saints (Need help?  Try this book from Amazon).  What is your game plan to bridge that gap between where you are now and where you hopefully want to be?  What small conversions can you make this Lent to become more saintly?  I’m not saying that we will all be saints come Easter, but there is no better time to at least start the conversion process.  Every journey starts with an initial, small step.  What will yours be?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do You Ask for Holiness?

Do you ask for holiness?  Seriously, how many times do you pray and ask God to make you holier?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t ask nearly enough.  My prayers usually revolve around asking God for other things like, “help so-and-so with an illness,” “help so-and-so with his job,” “give me the strength to be a good person,” etc.  But it never really occurs to me to ask for more holiness.  And yet, being holy should be at the top of our list of things to ask from God when we pray since it is the root of all good things.

Mother Teresa
Morther Teresa isn't the only one called to be holy

Holiness isn’t something reserved exclusively for Jesus, the saints, priests and nuns.  And yet we often think that because we don’t receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we don’t have a calling to be holy.  We often set a high bar for priests to always do the right thing and never sin.  And yet we don’t apply those same standards to ourselves.  We sometimes rationalize that because we aren’t a priest or nun, it’s ok to commit “little” sins, avoid praying, and not follow Church doctrine.  However, God calls everyone to lead a holy life regardless of vocation.

At its core, holiness is the recognition that God has set us apart from the rest of His creation for a special purpose.  We are called to imitate God for He is good.  Hence, we are meant to be good.  We must understand that holiness is a cause, not an effect.  It is the root from which all good things flow.  For example, someone is not holy because he does works of charity.  He does works of charity because he is holy.  Notice that holiness is the cause and good works are the effect.  Someone is not holy because she prays.  She prays because she is holy.  Think of holiness as the seed God plants in all of us that enables us to live according to His will.  Without that seed, true good cannot flourish since we do not have that recognition of God in our life.

There are many mysteries of the rosary that refer to our call to live holy lives.  Think about the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ Call for Conversion.  Being holy means aligning our souls to be more in line with how God calls us.  And that is exactly what Jesus asks of us in this mystery — convert those aspects of your life that are not aligned with God to become more aligned with Him.  In other words, Jesus calls us to become holier.  This is challenging because how many people like to examine their lives, see what is wrong with it, and then resolve to change it?  Most of us would rather just continue living assuming we are holy enough and being any more holy would just cramp our lifestyle.  Being holy means that you also acknowledge that there is more you can do to imitate God’s ways.  When we pray the rosary, challenge yourself to examine those aspects of your life where you are not as holy as you could be and then ask God for more holiness.  I’m sure God will be more than happy to grant more holiness to those who sincerely ask for it.

If you still think holiness is not important, consider this study.  The Barna Group conducted a survey of church-going Christians.  Of those surveyed, 46% said that their lives were largely unchanged from going to church.  Furthermore, the study showed that Catholics felt less positive effects from Mass than Protestants.  This study points to what I said in a previous article — Mass is becoming more of a social gathering rather than an opportunity to connect with God (aka, become holier).  There is saying about exercise and athletics — You only get as much out of it as you put into it.  The same goes with Mass and prayer.  Do so many people get so little from their Mass experience because they aren’t putting much prayer into it?  Do they come to Mass with the intention of asking God for more holiness and how they can convert to live as God calls them?  Or do people put more thought into what they will eat after Mass is over?

Remember, holiness is the root of a spiritually healthy life.  Without holiness, truly good things cannot flourish.  And it will take more than a handful of holy priests, nuns, and saints for goodness to spread across this world.  It takes each and every one of us trying to be as holy as possible.  So the next time you pray and ask God to hear your intentions, make it a point to ask Him for the will and strength to be holier.

Did you find this article interesting?  Support RosaryMeds by buying my book.  Available now on Amazon.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,