Hard Work: Mary’s Rosary Promise #14

Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

I think about one of the companies I worked for which had a very intense, deadline-driven atmosphere.  This was in the feature film industry where you can’t just partially finish a shot in a movie or half-deliver a commercial.  There are no beta releases or patch fixes you can deliver later if you fall behind schedule or miss an important detail.  There is tremendous pressure to finish complex shots on schedule and get every detail perfect.

People new to the industry get weeded out fairly quickly because many of them realize that the 7-day work weeks, the every increasing standards, and constant pressure isn’t the career for them.  Initially, fellow coworkers don’t exactly embrace new employees with open arms because they don’t know if they will stick around for very long.  But if you can weather that culture shock and survive a few projects then the company and your fellow co-workers start to accept you more as a teammate.  You showed that you have what it takes to survive and thrive in the industry and you aren’t just some flash-in-the-pan employee who thought movie production was all fun and games.

Feeling fulfilled yet?

Many careers have this type of path where you have to pay your dues.  Lawyers often work their tails off before making partner.  Investment bankers leave their jackets over their chairs at night so their boss won’t think they slacked off and left work early.  Software engineers often bring a sleeping bag to work and snooze under their desk or in an empty office when facing a large project deadline.  There are very few careers where you start out at the top.  And even in the ones where you do start with an elevated title, you still have to work hard to earn the trust and respect of your coworkers.

While many people understand that getting the most out of their careers, marriage, family, and friendships takes hard work, it doesn’t seem like they have a similar understanding when it comes to faith.  They often believe that getting the most out of their religion is almost entirely God‘s responsibility, not theirs.  For many people, their faith is nothing more than showing up to Mass on Sunday and that’s it.  And I’m sure of that group many of them wonder why God feels so distant to them.  But that’s like an employee of a company putting in the bare minimum of effort and then wondering why they don’t move up in the company or find their career fulfilling.  God is always willing to bring you in close in His grace, but you have to make the effort to actually want to be in His grace.

Mary not only says that you can forge a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, she promises it!  She even lays out exactly how to truly be one of Jesus’ disciples.  It’s not some mystery that only a chosen few are called to.  Mary says pray the rosary faithfully and she promises it will create a deeper relationship with her and her son.  That is something any one of us can do.

Pray the rosary, go to Mass, learn the faith, avoid sin.  Those are the keys to feeling that love, hope, and compassion of Jesus.  I know I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating.  He’s always there doling out the love and grace but you have to put yourself in the right mode to accept it.  You have to tear down those walls of sin and pride to let Jesus into your heart.  But tearing down those walls is not quick and easy.  And our human frailty is always trying to erect new walls that block God from our souls.

Feel the peace.

When you do come up with a solid plan to routinely tear down those walls of sin, the payoff is huge.  It’s one thing moving up the corporate ladder and feel invested in a company.  But that pales in comparison to feeling that deep sense of peace and comfort that comes from embracing a life of discipleship and commitment to the Catholic faith.  And there is nothing better than realizing in a way that you can’t logically comprehend or explain that Jesus Christ knows you as one of His own and loves you.

I may have misspoke earlier when I said it’s no mystery on how to get closer to Jesus Christ.  It’s actually 20 mysteries… 20 rosary mysteries that is!

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Are You Feeding Your Soul Junk Food?

Summer is here which means it’s county fair season. For me the county fair bring two treats — watching my son see farm animals that he has only seen in picture books and indulging in some fattening foods. This year I tried a fried Twinkie for the first time. For those who don’t know, it’s a Twinkie (actually, an off-brand imitation since Hostess has not restarted production yet) dipped in batter, fried, and then covered in powdered sugar. It was like eating a freshly made donut with warm cream filling only it’s the size of a corndog. And as good as it tasted at the time, my body paid for it later. First, it sat like a brick in my stomach and I just felt sluggish and tired.  Later I experienced a total sugar crash followed by the guilt that I really didn’t do my body any favors partaking in that temporary culinary indulgence.

A Real Deep-fried Twinkie
Fried Twinkies… so bad and yet soooo good.

My fried Twinkie experience reminded me that God designed the human body to expect a certain type of food for energy. He didn’t design the body to gracefully process mountains of fat, sugar, and chemicals that is certainly present in foods like my fried Twinkie. Eating unhealthy food is actually a double-whammy health-wise because you are not only dealing with the insurgence of fat and sugar, but you’re also missing an opportunity to give your body something beneficial. When you treat your body in a way contrary to how God intended for you to use it, you (sugar) crash and burn.

Much like how our physical bodies are designed to act a certain way, so are our souls. And when we move outside the limits of a healthy spiritual diet we also crash and burn by losing God’s grace. First of all, what is a healthy spiritual diet? I see it as a life centered around living key virtues such as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. We find the strength to live those virtues by centering our lives around prayer and meditation because those are the times we dialogue with God and learn His will. A healthy soul is one that lives according to the golden rule and is motivated to do good works out of a love for God and others.  A healthy soul needs periodic feeding through prayer and attending Mass.

Unfortunately, similar to how much of society suffers from a physical health epidemic, we also have a societal spiritual decay. Vices such as lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride fuel this spiritual decay. And we see these vices everywhere in society as we’ve normalized pre-marital sex, single parent households, pornography, cheating, stealing, killing, abortion, euthanasia, illegal drug use, excessive drinking, and just a general disregard for treating others respectfully and the dignity of the human person. Much like a donut occupying space that could otherwise be filled with vegetables, all these vices occupy space in our souls and leave no room for God’s grace. Many of us are consuming spiritual junk food that is destroying our soul’s health. And we aren’t eating our spiritual “vegetables” that keep our souls strong and healthy. Just look at the empty pews at Mass, the short lines at the confessional, and society’s general apathy and hostility towards anything spiritual. Like how fast food has replaced a balanced meal, vices have replaced virtues as a normal way of life for an increasing number of people.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

I have a feeling fighting the spiritual obesity epidemic will need prayer and meditation on all 20 mysteries of the rosary. The rosary walks through the Gospel and the Gospel is Jesus and Jesus’ love is what our souls crave. Praying any mystery and taking its message to heart is a step towards God’s grace and a step away from sin. You can’t be both sinning and living virtuously at the same time. So the more time you spend doing things that are virtuous, the less opportunity you have to sin. And what could be more virtuous than praying relentlessly and then letting those prayers manifest into good works?

Medjugorje : Confession as it should be.

But for those who really need a specific mystery to meditate on, try the First Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. We should remember two important aspects about the Sacrament of Baptism. First we should remember our baptismal vows that we periodically renew during Mass — to reject sin and to believe in the Holy Trinity. Acting virtuously and spiritually isn’t something reserved for priests and nuns, but something all Catholics profess and promise to live by. Secondly, baptism is about renewal and getting a clean start. No matter how badly and often we sin, we can always get a second chance through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Using the diet analogy, we sometimes fail to eat healthy foods and give into moments of weakness. After all, who can resist picking up a little treat at the market or a fried Twinkie at the fair? But just because you have those moments of weakness doesn’t lock you into a lifetime of eating nothing but junk food. You can always reset and refocus to live and eat healthier. The same goes for our faith. We may have moments of weakness and sin, but that doesn’t prevent us from confessing them, getting a clean slate, and trying to live more virtuously in the future.

So pray vigorously, avoid sin, and for Heaven’s sake share fried Twinkies with friends because they are just too much for any single person. Your soul and your body will thank you.

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Crisis of Faith

You have to love our German Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI.  Last week he traveled to Germany and delivered some great speeches and homilies.  What I like about the Pope is that he tells things as it is and teaches the Catholic faith even if it runs contrary to the norms of modern society.  And unlike many politicians, he doesn’t take on the victim mentality but instead challenges the faithful to really live as Jesus calls them regardless of the obstacles imposed by the outside world.  Like the manager of a sports team, he discusses our weaknesses so that we are aware of them and can aim to be better Catholics and better people.  In this day and age, that level of honesty mixed with compassion and motivation are rare.

Last Saturday, Pope Benedict met with Central Committee of German Catholics and discussed challenges the Church faces in developed, Western countries.  According to the Catholic News Agency, the Pope told them:

“We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit.  I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith.”  This is observed, said the Pope, “in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people’s lives and in an exaggerated individualism,” such that many people “no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others.”

Pope in Fatima
Image by Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Flickr

I understand what the Pope means in terms of the Western Church having structure but lacking faith.  I receive a Church bulletin every Sunday and there is no shortage of club meetings, events, and services.  There is also no shortage of people in the pews at Sunday Mass.  And yet, I do feel that something is missing in terms of spirituality.  Many people treat Sunday Mass as putting in one hour of work before they can socialize and enjoy donuts and coffee.  And yet, where are the large crowds to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, pray the rosary, and attend Adoration?  How many people attend Mass on Sunday almost like they are clocking in and out of work because it is an obligation?  And worse, how many children learn that “in and out” attitude regarding Mass from the adults’ example?

Contrast the modern day American parish with that of a small village in some unknown part of the world.  I’ve seen other parts of the globe where someone’s life and faith are basically one.  They pray regularly for long periods of time, dedicate and offer fasting and abstinence for intentions, attend Mass multiple times a week, and receive the Sacraments.  But there is more to their faith than just these outward acts.  It’s hard to explain, but you just get the sense that their faith is just part of who they are and means so much to them.  When you compare these two groups you realize that Pope Benedict is right when he noted that the Western Church has plenty of structure and not enough of the Holy Spirit.

When praying the rosary, meditate on this crisis of faith on the Fourth Glorious Mystery — The Assumption of Mary.  Remember, God assumed Mary, body and soul, into Heaven.  And she is now our guide in all things spiritual.  We pray for her guidance that we live our faith fully every day, in every word, every action, and every thought.  We pray especially that we can muster the strength to imitate Mary and not take the great gift of faith for granted or reduce the Church to a weekend social club.  Mary begs us to follow her advice because she knows the great joy that awaits us in Heaven and she does not wish for that joy to be delayed (Purgatory) or lost (Hell).

We must remember that we are Catholics, not just for an hour at Mass on Sunday, but 24/7.  And nearly all of us fall short of living our faith in its entirety.  And that is why we pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

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Knowing Your Facts

Read this article, “Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should!).” There is some pretty interesting (although heated at times) debate in the article’s comments. This article reminds me of something I said in a previous article on Lent that to succeed in our endeavours (sports, business, personal faith, etc.) you need to understand the rules of the game. Enjoy!

Holy Mass
Image via Wikipedia

I read this story on Catholic Exchange and then heard an interview on ETWN radio by the author, Gary Zimak.  Gary was a “Mass once a week only” Catholic before he had some medical difficulties.  That was a turning point in his life where he decided to learn more about the Catholic faith and educate others.  He’s not a priest and does not hold a theology degree.  He is just someone who got really excited about learning and teaching the faith.  Wanting to explore my faith and share it with others was one of the main reasons why I started rosaryMeds.  So Gary’s story really hit home.  Maybe one of these days EWTN will interview me about rosaryMeds!

Read his article, “Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should!).”  Also, there is some pretty interesting (although heated at times) debate in the article’s comments.  This article reminds me of something I said in a previous article on Lent that to succeed in our endeavours (sports, business, personal faith, etc.) you need to understand the rules of the game.  Enjoy!

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Rosary Meditation — Fifth Joyful Mystery, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Remembering the True Gift of Christmas

I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas! All through human existence people have been searching for meaning; to make sense of everything in this world. In other words, we have been searching for God and trying to know His ways. On Christmas, God answered that eternal question through the birth of Jesus Christ.

img_2639I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas!  All through human existence people have been searching for meaning; to make sense of everything in this world.  In other words, we have been searching for God and trying to know His ways.  On Christmas, God answered that eternal question through the birth of Jesus Christ.  He became flesh so that we could try to comprehend His incomprehensible nature.  And we find that God is not distant, petty, or power-hungry like the false gods people worshiped in ages past, but is as innocent and humble as a newborn baby.  May we embrace this great gift from God by increasing our faith and love for Jesus.

On the practical side, let us remember to take advantage of Christmas Mass whether that be on Christmas eve, midnight, or Christmas day.  I know all too often Christmas Mass is seen as something to “get out of the way” if we even go at all.  And often we spend our time at Mass thinking, “I wonder what is in that big box under the tree?”  Or, “I need to get home and start on that turkey!”  I know sometimes I just “zone out” and start scanning the congregation for friends I have not seen in a long time.  I just want to remind you that the Mass is the high point of this holiday.  As I mentioned in my Third Joyful Mystery Meditation, let us not be consumed by the “trappings” of Christmas even if it can only be for that one hour during Mass (hey, it’s a start).  Really take in the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament and reflect on the greatest gift humanity has ever received — a personal and loving relationship with God.

Merry Christmas!

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Living Catholic

There was an interesting article on ETWN discussing the results of a Gallup poll of Catholics on various moral issues. The article breaks down the opinions between churchgoing and non-churchgoing Catholics. The results are as you would expect — churchgoing Catholics agree more with Catholic dogma than their non-churchgoing counterparts. However, I wasn’t so much interested in the results as I was in the notion of a non-churchgoing Catholic.

Church

There was an interesting article on ETWN discussing the results of a Gallup poll of Catholics on various moral issues.  The article breaks down the opinions between churchgoing and non-churchgoing Catholics.  The results are as you would expect — churchgoing Catholics agree more with Catholic teaching than their non-churchgoing counterparts.  However, I wasn’t so much interested in the results as I was in the notion of a non-churchgoing Catholic.

To me, a non-churchgoing Catholic is a contradiction in terms.  It is like saying you are a non-cooking chef.  Would you want to go to a doctor who was self-taught because he or she did not feel that medical school was necessary for his or her profession?  Do you think an athlete who never takes time to practice will make it into the Olympics?

Like sports, hobbies, or a vocation, one’s faith requires time and dedication to have a greater meaning.  To get the most from your Catholic faith, you have to listen to what the Church teaches either by reading Her official documents, listening to your parish priest, or listening to the Holy Spirit in prayer.  In all cases, being a member of the Church requires active participation.  Participation is so important that Mass attendance is a precept of the Catholic faith.  A precept means that it is one of the minimum requirements of being Catholic.  Other precepts can be found here.  Note that a precept is something that is actionable, not a belief.  The reason why actions and participation are so important to the Catholic faith is because they allow you to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ whose life’s work was publicly spreading the Word of God.  Thinking of it another way, no one ever became a saint by hiding their faith.  Being Catholic means living it publicly in our words, thoughts, and actions.

Our faith is rooted in celebrating Mass dating back to the secret meetings of early Christians during the rule of the Roman Empire.  The Catholic faith was always meant to be something lived instead of a mere thought exercise.  This is evidenced by people who have risked their lives throughout history by actively displaying their Catholic faith.  While I’m not saying we should all become martyrs, the fact that so many people have risked their freedom and lives should put in perspective our flimsy excuses for not praying, fasting, or attending Mass.

Ask yourself, what do you DO that makes you a Catholic as opposed to someone of another faith or no faith at all?  To me, that is a very difficult question to answer because 99.9% of my life is spent no differently than anyone else.  While I believe in the major truths of the Catholic Church, do I live out these beliefs daily or are they merely phrases I recite mindlessly in prayers?  Do my actions reflect my Catholic faith or defy them?

As we enter Holy Week, all Catholics, churchgoing and non-churchgoing, should take inventory of their faith.  I know that I mentioned this in earlier posts about making room for God in our hearts and learning about the Catholic faith.  Sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves and reflect on whether we are doing all we can to imitate Jesus.  What positions of the Catholic Church do you agree with and which ones do you not?  Regardless of what side you fall on, do you understand the reasoning and logic behind the Church’s position on many moral issues?  After all, we don’t want to be blind followers of Church doctrine nor mindless detractors of issues we have not approached from all sides.  On the issues where you and the Church disagree, do you stick to your beliefs because you have a fully-informed conscience or is it because it makes your life easier or you more popular?

It is no wonder why that Gallup poll shows that churchgoing Catholics are more in tune with the Church’s teachings.  To look at it from the other end, it is not surprising that people who do not dedicate time to practice their faith stray from the Church’s teachings.  It’s not that one side is brainwashed or the other side is more “progressive” and open to new ideas.  It’s not that one group is good and the other is bad.  We all have our shortcomings and sins that we need to correct.  Looking at the precepts, I’m sure all of us have occasionally failed to live up to them.  This is why we need the Mass so we can orient our “moral compass” and imitate the path of Jesus Christ.  In addition to the graces given in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Mass provides us an opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith.  While technically we can reflect on our faith anywhere, the Mass sets aside time in our chaotic lives to really focus and listen to how God calls us to live.

Let us pray that we make time in our lives for God.  We should pray for those who have rejected God’s Word either outright through their actions or have just lost hope because practicing their faith didn’t produce the results they hoped it would.  Let us pray that we all have the courage and endurance to follow God’s truths even when they seem counter to our lifestyle or more difficult than we would like.  Let us pray that in the holiest week of the year, as we accept many new people to the Catholic faith, that we remember just what a gift it is to have Jesus Christ in our lives.

It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.

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