Can You “Unplug” This Lent?

Can you settle down for just one minute?  Seriously, how long can you go without feeling like you need to do some sort of activity?  I don’t know about you, but I feel like I always have to do something.  I feel anxious if I’m “unplugged” and not checking email, Facebook, and news feeds.  I become bored easily without my cell phone, computer, magazines, books, and television.  Fortunately, I have access to all sorts of media almost 24/7.  But is that a good thing?  The Catholic News Agency reported Pope Benedict’s words during a general audience of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square:

“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word,” and yet, “our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation,” the Pope said March 7. On the contrary, “it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days.”

John Longanecker talking on a phone after eati...

The Pope’s words make so much sense to me particularly during this season of Lent.  We tend to fill our lives consuming so much media and information that we do develop a fear of detachment from our technology.  We feel lost without our gadgets.  And while we don’t truly believe that our gadgets replace God, we sure sometimes act like they do.  We get so worked up over an almost-dead cell phone battery or the internet acting sluggish.  We can all probably think of times when we felt angry over missing a favorite TV show.  And yet many times we don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety over the sins we commit or not regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We often have no worries about overlooking routine prayer and meditating on our relationship with the Lord.  We spend so much time staying up to date with what our friends are up to and what goes on in the world, but often don’t take the time to check our status with God through reflection and contemplation.

The pope’s words remind me of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary.  Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our guide on our journey to God’s heavenly kingdom.  In asking for silence and meditation, the Pope echos Mary’s call to fasting and prayer.  Fasting from food is a physical reminder that true happiness does not come from just satisfying our earthly needs.  When we fast, we show ourselves that it’s not what the world offers that will ultimately make us happy.  We push aside, even for just a little while, satisfying our physical desires so that we can concentrate on satisfying our spiritual needs.  But we can fast from things other than food.  We can fast from whatever prevents us from meditating and focusing on our relationship with God.  As you probably guessed already, perhaps we need to fast from our computers, cell phones, and televisions.  Lent may be half over, but we can all still find a little time to “unplug” as the Pope suggests.

pope and me
pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)

In this time of Lent, really challenge yourself to ask what separates you from fully receiving God’s grace.  Conduct an examination of conscience and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But avoiding sin and receiving absolution only gets you half way there.  Think about an athlete in training.  An athlete needs to do more than just avoid a bad diet.  He needs to focus on physical conditioning and perfecting his technique.  Likewise, we need to be more than “not bad people.”  We should take some time this Lent to focus and concentrate on how to best live as one of Jesus’ disciples and show the power and glory of God in this world.  Lets take up the Pope’s challenge to unplug and focus on how we can best serve the Lord.  Because now, more than ever, the world needs to see God’s love and glory by us living our faith.  We need to prioritize and show the world that our faith is more important than TV and the internet.

And yes, I understand the irony of me posting an article on the internet discussing how we need to unplug ourselves from the internet.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Enjoy the Silence

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general auditionThere are so many events in the news that I could write about in today’s post.  I could continue talking about the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, Proposition 8 being ruled unconstitutional in California, or the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s flip-flop on sending money to Planned Parenthood.  It seems like everywhere I turn, whether it be the internet, television, or radio there is someone talking about these issues and other assaults on religious freedoms.  I feel like it’s a full-time job consuming all this information, signing and promoting petitions, and writing emails and comments.  It is so easy to get lost in the daily “noise” of living in the digital age where we are often “plugged in” 24/7.  But it is important to remember to unplug for a little while to hear what God is saying to us and learn how He wants us to live.

Pope Benedict released his theme for World Communications Day titled “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.”  Here is what the Pope had to say in an article from Vatican Radio:

In silence – Benedict explains – we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself. We avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas. In this way,- the Pope points out – space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible.

I believe the Pope’s words are particularly relevant to our relationship with God and His Church.  How many times do we set aside time in our busy lives to talk to God?  More importantly, amongst our prayers and petitions how often do we calm our hearts and minds to listen to God’s response?  I know many times I rush through my prayers and don’t allow any time to actually listen to God.  It’s like I’m conversing with God but I keep cutting Him off when He wants to respond.  How rude of me!  Not listening to God isn’t good because, as the Pope says, we tie ourselves to our own words and ideas.  When we don’t pray or pray hastily, we don’t open our heart to the Holy Spirit‘s influence and learn how God calls us to live.  Instead, we just focus inwardly on how we want to live which may not be in accordance with God’s plan for us.

I echo several of the themes the Pope expressed on my website and in my book on the rosary.  I see the value of silence and praying the rosary as being linked closely together.  I would say 20 minutes is a good average for praying five rosary decades.  That is a perfect amount of time to let your mind settle down and focus on your relationship with God and contemplate who you are.  You can’t have a productive dialog with God if you don’t put enough time into prayer.  Rushing prayer is like trying to take shortcuts in exercise.  You don’t get any stronger if you just periodically do one push up.  You must allow yourself time to get into “the zone.”  In the end, it isn’t God who needs prayers.  His power and glory does not depend on the quantity of prayers He receives.  To think about it another way, God doesn’t need 53 “Hail Marys” and 6 “Our Fathers” from the rosary.  Those prayers are for our benefit.  We need them because they allow sufficient time to warm up, find that meditative state, and become attentive to how God calls us to live in His grace.

I have little doubt that we live in a troubled world where people of faith are finding themselves constantly under attack.  And I’m all for taking proper actions whether it is donating money to legal funds to fight these attacks or signing petitions.  But we must set aside time to listen to God and learn how He wants us to act.  Fighting all these assaults on religious liberty without prayer is like someone rushing on to the field of battle without adequate armor and weapons.  We must first know God’s truth through prayer before we can fight to defend it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s the Little Things that Count

Maybe it’s the software engineer in me, but this article from the Catholic News Agency really strikes a chord.  When I’m writing code I have to follow a lot of programming standards and pay close attention to my logic.  Even the smallest error could cause my program to fail.  And it may not fail immediately, but that bug in my code still exists and will usually show up at the worst time.  I think Pope Benedict has a similar approach to the Mass.  In the article, he said that “attention to these details is important in order for the Mass to be a true conversation with the Lord.”  I think this is a great thing to hear in a world full of, “do whatever you feel like; it’s the intention that counts, the details aren’t that important.”  The Pope shows that all those details add up to a huge show of faith.  Inversely, all those little faults add up to a breakdown of reverence for the Mass and for Jesus Christ.

You can see this breakdown in just about any Mass in America.  You walk in only to see people sitting in the pews talking to each other.  Throughout the Mass you might hear people whispering to one another (whispering if you’re lucky; talking in almost normal volume if you’re not).  Some priests use their homilies as if they were practicing a stand up comedy routine.  Sometimes the band or choir treat the Mass like a concert.  And many times people clap at the end of Mass.  Each one of these “details” is small and inconsequential.  None of them are heresies. And yet, when put together the Mass quickly breaks down from a sacred conversation with the Lord to just another social gathering.  This is what Pope Benedict warns us about and why he is so fond of preserving all the details of the Mass.

Now picture a church before Mass that is silent.  People come in, kneel, say a small prayer, and meditate before Mass starts.  The priest processes into the church and up to the altar and gives a solemn bow in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  His homily touches on serious issues of Heaven, Hell, sin, etc.  People approach the Body of Christ during Communion by either bowing or kneeling.  And at the end of Mass, people leave quietly so as not to disturb the people who are still praying.  Now in which Mass would one probably have a more constructive conversation with Jesus Christ.  What Mass was more focused on honoring Him?  It is true that Jesus is present in both Masses.  That’s not the question.  The real question is in what setting are you truly present and listening to Him?  Details matter.

If a deacon participates, he reads the Gospel....
Is your Mass like this?

 

 

Rock concert.JPG
Or does it feel more like this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These details also appear in the rosary.  What makes the rosary so great is that it provides a structured means of communicating with Jesus Christ.  It has those mysteries and prayers for a reason.  Each one draws attention to a certain aspect of our faith.  Praying the rosary is a journey through the entire Gospel.  We reflect on Jesus’ teachings, sufferings, and His ultimate glory.  Like the Mass, the rosary just doesn’t work very well when we don’t focus on the details.  We don’t get much out of the rosary when we pray it on auto-pilot.  I’m sure God appreciates that you at least took the effort to pray, but you are capable of receiving so much more from the rosary with a little more effort.

As an end note, I encourage everyone to read the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM).  See where your parish may be lacking in following these details and respectfully notify the pastor.  Priests probably do forget those details over the years but they might appreciate knowing that it means a lot to people in their parishes if they follow them.  Tell him how you read on some terrific little rosary web site how the Pope calls us all to follow the details of the Mass.
 Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Do You See God’s Gifts?

Previously I said how articles on RosaryMeds would tie together news and current events with the rosary.  I talked about the Pope meeting with young seminarians, a recent announcement from English bishops reminding people to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and some tips for people going to college.  However, not all news is neutral and light hearted.  It is the difficult cases that teach us the most about our faith and the power of the rosary.

Take this story for example.  A jury awarded a Florida couple 4.5 million dollars because their child was born without arms and one leg.  And while that is unfortunate, the real tragedy was their reason for suing the doctor.  According to the Palm Beach Post (bold by me):

During a roughly two-week-long trial that ended Wednesday, Mejia and Santana claimed they would have never have brought Bryan into the world had they known about his horrific disabilities. Had Morel and technicians at OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches and Perinatal Specialists of the Palm Beaches properly administered two ultrasounds and seen he was missing three limbs, the West Palm Beach couple said they would have terminated the pregnancy.

I’m going to skip the social, political, moral, and ethical commentary since, as a pro-life Catholic, I think what’s wrong with their argument is very clear (plenty of other articles dive into those discussions).  Instead, I want to focus on what we can learn from this story.  What does the rosary teach us about difficult cases like this one?  If we look at the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation, we see Mary sharing the joy of her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth.  Luke’s Gospel talks about how John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting and how Mary felt blessed.  Mary goes on to say how her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and how God did great things to her.  We learn from this encounter that all life, in whatever form, is a gift from God.  All human life, while not perfect, is valuable because God infused us with souls meant to live with Him in Heaven forever.

Mary
Image by andy castro via Flickr

Compare Mary’s story with the Santana’s.  Mary also faced hardships first by being pregnant and unmarried (which would have been quite the scandal) and later seeing Jesus suffer in the Crucifixion.  But through all those challenges she saw God’s ultimate glory and her role in bringing joy and happiness to the world.  Both Mary and the Santana’s stories show that life is not without its hardships.  Some people face larger obstacles in life than others.  But God does not give us any challenge we cannot ultimately handle.  Unfortunately, all the Santanas saw was the hardship and not God’s gift to them.  Instead of finding strength through God as Mary did, they wanted a “do over” because they saw their son as a gift with “strings attached.”  And while many of us may not face such large challenges as the Santana family, we often want God to pave over all the challenges or hardships we might encounter through life.  We tend to blame God for any inconvenience or think He does not hear our prayers just because we do not receive the answers we want.

When we meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery we should remember that all life is precious no matter what form it comes in.  Even the “lost souls” in this world, whether they be criminals, addicts of all kinds, or just plain “evil” persons, are special and precious in God’s eyes.  All those living in mortal sin have an opportunity for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and can return to the same level of grace as the greatest saints.  In short, we all have an intrinsic value despite the terrible acts we may commit or our physical/mental limitations.  We pray that we have the strength to see past the hardships and challenges in life and see God’s imprint on everyone as Mary does.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

No Cross Too Heavy with God’s Love

Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, B...

Where did August go?  Sorry for what seemed like a long vacation.  But trust me, I was hard at work writing my rosary guide which always seemed to need one more revision.  But the good news is that it looks like my summer surge is over and I now have some proof copies for what will hopefully be one, final round of editing.

As summer comes to an end it is time to once again get back to writing articles on RosaryMeds on a more regular basis.  This year I started tieing together the Sunday Gospel reading and a rosary mystery.  Now I want to take my articles in a different direction and tie the rosary mysteries to Catholic news and current events.  I want to show how we can tie the lessons taught in the rosary to things we witness every day.

I’m going to start with some words of wisdom Pope Benedict XVI gave to a group of new seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.  He told them not to be afraid to take up their crosses and follow Jesus’ path.  From the article on the Catholic News Agency:

“The Christian follows the Lord with love when he accepts his cross which in the eyes of the world appears as a defeat and a ‘loss of life’, while that man knows that he does not bear his alone but with Jesus, sharing the same path of self-giving,”  the Pope said.

I think this is an important observation on how the modern world views religious life.  Modern secularists look at the time Catholics spend praying, fasting, reading the Bible (ok, most of us probably come up a little short in this category), and receiving the sacraments and ask, “why?”  They see us living what they would consider a pointless life instead of going out and “having fun.”  Of course, questioning the path of Christ is hardly a new phenomenon.  In the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary we see Jesus’ Passion where He falls down and gets back up repeatedly only to face greater suffering.  We look at Christ’s actions and ask, “why?”  Why did Jesus keep getting back up knowing that his path was not getting any easier?  Why did He get up when the only thing facing him was crucifixion?

Jesus continued out of love for us and a resolve to follow the path God laid before Him.  While Jesus pleaded with God in the Garden of Gesthemene to find an easier route, Jesus also acknowledged that He would do whatever God deemed necessary.  God chose a difficult road for Jesus but ultimately one that Jesus not only endured, but triumphed as seen in the Resurrection.  Similarly, God sometimes lays down a difficult road for many of us.  It is one fraught with inconveniences at its best and persecution and martyrdom at its worst.  But all these roads, from the easiest to the hardest, lead to our salvation in God’s Kingdom of Heaven.  God’s glory is why Jesus continued carrying His cross and it is why we carry ours.

So when we pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary let us remember those who choose religious life whether they be seminarians, priests, brothers, nuns, deacons, and anyone who serves the Church.  Many of them choose to lead a hard life and one that is not appreciated by many in modern society who view religion as silly superstition.  People who choose a religious vocation see the ultimate joy that comes from living in God’s grace even if that means giving up some worldly luxuries.  They are an inspiration to us all as we should have that same goal of loving God with every word, thought, and action.

We should also pray for those who are staunch secularists or hate faiths like the Catholic Church.  They are the ones who fell under the weight of the cross this world offers them and only see misery in religion.  As the Pope told the seminarians:

“When the fulfillment of one’s life is only aimed towards social success, and physical and economic well-being, man is not thinking according to God but according to man.” Such an attempt to refuse God’s “project of love,” said the Pope, “almost prevents man from carrying out His masterly will.”

The modern secularist reminds me of an athlete who tells himself he cannot continue the long race.  He thinks he has no energy left and that he is too far behind to catch up.  All he sees is obstacles and cannot see that glorious finish line.  All they concentrate on is the heavy weight of their “crosses” in life and in their beaten state they do not see what Jesus has prepared for them in Heaven.  We should pray that they get their spiritual “second wind” and accept God’s “project of love” as the Pope puts it.  When we accept God’s road and truly acknowledge the greatness God has in store for us then there is no cross heavy enough to keep us down.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Remember the Rosary

October is Mary’s month and so the Catholic Church is particularly interested in spreading knowledge of the holy rosary. Since this is a Catholic blog site, I want to do my part and share with you some thoughts on the importance and power of the rosary. But why listen to me when you can read about the rosary from people who understand it infinitely better.

Rosary
Image via Wikipedia

October is Mary’s month and so the Catholic Church is particularly interested in spreading knowledge of the holy rosary.  Since this is a Catholic blog site, I want to do my part and share with you some thoughts on the importance and power of the rosary.  But why listen to me when you can read about the rosary from people who understand it infinitely better.

On October 6, Pope Benedict, in his general audience, said that the rosary was a “simple but efficient prayer” and “a spiritual weapon for each of us.”  Upon reading this I couldn’t help but think of my article on the Hail Mary as our spiritual push up.  Like the push up, the rosary is an incredibly simple prayer in its design.  However, its simplicity is what makes it so powerful in that anyone can pray it.  Since anyone can pray it, anyone can communicate with God and receive His graces.

The rosary is also a weapon in that praying it defends us and others from the evils of satan.  Think about it.  When you are praying the rosary earnestly, you are communicating with God and not engaging in any sinful behavior even if it is just for a short time.  For many, it is about as close to God as we can possibly get throughout the day as we are distracted or busy in so many other ways (work, home, family, friends, etc.).  But even a precious few minutes spent praying the rosary can give you enough strength to resist evil and live according to God’s plan for us.

On October 8, Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis, Argentina praised rosary prayer because  of its “repetitive rhythm of praise and supplication, like a sort of spiritual breathing.”  This really drives home the idea that praying the rosary gets us into a spiritual state similar to how an athletes “get into the zone” and enter a deeper state of focus and concentration.  Breathing is something we do without thinking — it is just something that comes naturally to us.  Similarly, once we really dive into praying the rosary regularly, living in a constant state of prayer, like the Good Samaritan, becomes second nature to us.  It takes practice to get the most out of the rosary.  You may not feel its benefits the first few times you pray it, but every saint in Heaven will tell you just how powerful the rosary is and how it can help bring you into God’s grace.

The bishop went on to say, “God gives us an immense aid. In order to be able to recognize and receive His gifts, He teaches us to practice praise and supplication.”  Let’s take the bishop’s words to heart and take advantage of this great tool.  We have about half of October left.  If you haven’t done so already, give daily rosary prayer a try.  Priests, bishops, popes, and saints all say that it is one of our best tools in achieving holiness.  How many other endorsements do you need?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Pope Says Mary is a Source of Strength

On his visit to Palermo, Sicily, Pope Benedict and 30,000 others prayed to the Virgin Mary for strength and support. The Catholic News Agency followed the story: He asked Our Lady to give people “courage in trials, hope in difficulties and renewed impetus to do good.”

palermo sicily
Image by AndrewEick via Flickr

On his visit to Palermo, Sicily, Pope Benedict and 30,000 others prayed to the Virgin Mary for strength and support.  The Catholic News Agency followed the story:

He asked Our Lady to give people “courage in trials, hope in difficulties and renewed impetus to do good.”

I find the Pope’s use of the word “trial” interesting given Mary’s September message at Medjugorje.  In the September 2 message She offers Her assistance in our trials in life.  We should all be mindful that Mary and the saints’ greatest desire is for us to live in God’s grace and eventually in His kingdom of Heaven.  All we have to do is have the courage to ask for their help and the will to follow it.

Pope Benedict also mentioned Anna Maria Adorni and her devotion to praying the holy Catholic rosary and called us to remember that October is Mary’s month:

The Holy Father prayed that the “daily meditation of the mysteries of Christ in union with Mary, the ‘praying Virgin’, might fortify us all in faith, hope and charity.”

In the spirit of Mary’s month, try to make it priority to pray the rosary every day.  Even if you cannot pray an entire mystery, try to set aside five minutes to pray a decade.  When our eternal souls are at stake, is five minutes too much to set aside for God?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Jesus Does Not Need Straw Polls!

I discuss my thoughts on an article I read regarding how many Catholic in France disagree with the Church’s teachings and feel that Pope Benedict should step down.

Notre Dame Cathedral

While I usually stay away from commenting on news and current events, I came across this article and felt that I should provide my thoughts.  After all, we pray and meditate on a much deeper and more meaningful level when we tie them into the struggles and concerns of everyday life.  We never pray in a vacuum, but instead thank God for His wondrous deeds and ask Him for guidance.  Remember, prayer is a dialog with God.  And like any conversation, we want to make sure we have something interesting to talk about.  Hopefully this post will give you a little something to think about.

I read this article today on the Catholic Exchange reporting how many Catholics in France are displeased with the Church’s position on many social issues as embodied in many recent statements of Pope Benedict.  The article read:

More than 80 percent of those polled said they want the Church to “modify its position” on contraception and abortion. Le Journal du Dimanche reported that “significant majorities” want the Church to change the teaching on remarriage after divorce as well as homosexuality.

The article goes on to discuss protests in front of Notre Dame cathedral and calls for Pope Benedict to “step down” as pontiff.  I think what a lot of people miss is that the Catholic Church does not arrive at Her stances on various social issues based on popularity polls.  Just because a large group of Catholics disagree with the Church does not make the Church’s views wrong or evil.  The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit who reveals God’s natural law that does not depend on the momentary whims of society.  The Church cannot take something that is a sin and rationalize it as a good just because a large population of society wants it that way.  That is like saying 2+2=5 because that is what many people believe.  No matter how many polls you take or how vocal that “2+2=5” crowd may be, the math will never add up.  Similarly, many brilliant saints and Doctors of the Church have crafted the Church’s doctrine after years of study, debate, and prayer.  You cannot throw their work out the window simply because you do not like their results.

Let’s look at this from a Biblical perspective.  Jesus never asked his apostles for a vote on what He should do.  Jesus did not change his messages and teachings in order to gain favor amongst the Roman and Jewish authorities.  Jesus did not take a poll on whether the adulterous woman should be stoned or not.  In His agony in the garden, Jesus never told God that he discussed the issue over with the apostles and they voted, 10-2 (Judas was absent for the vote), that Jesus should not be arrested.  Instead, Jesus said that He would do God’s will.  I am sure many people would argue that Jesus could have reached many more people if He had just “lightened up” a little and compromised.  But Jesus knew that the truth was something to be boldly proclaimed, not compromised in order to gain popularity.

Many of today’s Catholics lack that humility to put their faith in God and His Church and follow Her laws.  No doubt, the Church puts forth a mighty challenge.  And many of us would rather see the Church bend and preach an easier path than for us to step up and accept that challenge.  It is human nature to hate being wrong and we often like to blame the person who points out our weaknesses.  But we also must keep in mind that the Pope is merely a messenger of the Holy Spirit.  He does not arbitrarily make up rules and replacing him would not somehow reverse universal truths.  In the article, Damian Thompson, the editor of Britain’s Catholic Herald, had this to say about the Pope which I think sums up the Church’s position nicely:

In the spirit of martyrdom, the successor of St Peter chose not to take the easy path but to speak the truth boldly. At a time when he has been recently subjected to sustained assaults in the world’s media, his courage and determination are an inspiring example of genuine love for the suffering.

So let us pray this week to listen to God’s truth.  Instead of wishing that God’s ways were different, easier, and fit inside society’s current trends, let us strive to be the people God asks us to be.  It is not easy to live as Jesus calls us to live and the first step is usually admitting our failings through the Sacrament of Confession.  And let’s face it, when caught between God’s truth and society’s whims, who is going to win in the end?  I don’t see God or His Church bending because of the results of a straw poll.  So let us pray to imitate Jesus, God’s always-faithful servant, and accept His truth.

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

Technorati Tags: , , ,