Rosary SEAL: The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”

This is a very well known Navy SEAL motto.  If it sounds familiar, it’s because the book written by the SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden was titled No Easy Day which echos the same sentiment.  There are multiple meanings behind this Navy SEAL motto. In training, it means that each day will be more challenging than the previous one. This is due to increased expectations from the instructors, greater scrutiny because of the increasingly smaller class, the elevated competition because those left in training are able to perform at a high level of intensity, and that the drills become more difficult as recruits get more fatigued.

English: CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Aug. 14, 2008...

The physicality of SEAL training is one aspect behind that motto. But it also points to the state of mind a Navy SEAL brings with him, not only in training but throughout his career. It’s a state of mind that is always focused on tackling the challenges at hand and always pushing yourself to do your job better. A SEAL never thinks that the worst is behind him and that it is clear sailing after a certain point. To a SEAL, there is no such thing as resting on your laurels.  Even when things are going well the SEAL always searches for ways he can do better.

SEALS must adopt this motto because their lives, and the lives of others, depend on it. They must approach each mission with the utmost focus and intensity to succeed and stay alive another day. And while a SEAL may conduct a certain type of mission, such as a rescue operation, dozens of times, it is the first and only mission for these SEALS from the point of view of those being rescued. They put themselves and the people around them in great danger if these soldiers treated any operation as something they could just coast through because they’ve done it a dozen times before.

Like a SEAL approaching a mission, we must also treat each time we pray the rosary with a fresh and focused mind.  We cannot get lulled into a state where we just “coast” or go on “automatic pilot” with our prayers.  What’s the point of praying if we just race through the words without any thought?  Is that pushing ourselves to get the most out of each rosary?  This Navy SEAL motto fits in well with my previous post, almost from the military, about always setting higher standards each day.  Otherwise we stop growing our spirituality and could even lose a bit of our faith through complacency.

The rosary isn’t a magical chant or incantation like a spell.  In other words, it’s not the quantity of prayers that matter rather it’s the quality.  This is why the rosary doesn’t fall into the category of “mindless repetition” that Jesus warns us about in the Gospel (Matthew 6:7).

Saint Francis in Meditation

What is a good quality rosary prayer?  It’s focused prayer backed up with specific intentions that is said slowly and deliberately.  To focus on the rosary means to consciously block out all those other thoughts that may distract us.  You first have to acknowledge when you are distracted and then stop, take a few deep breaths, and resume.  If you go through an entire decade without even realizing what mystery you were praying, back up and start that decade over again.  Mary will be more pleased with one decade said with focus than an entire month’s worth of hollow prayers.

We can achieve better focus by turning our distractions into intentions.  Do you have worries about members of your family?  Offer those worries to Jesus in your rosary prayers.  Perhaps the best way to do this is to actually say out loud your concern and that it will be your intention for the decade.  And while it may seem silly to vocalizing your intentions, especially if you are praying alone, it really does help bring focus to your prayers.

As you practice on more focused rosary prayer, always try to push yourself.  Remember the SEAL motto that the only easy day was yesterday.  It’s not just that the situation a SEAL finds himself in gets more difficult, but they expect more from themselves over time.  They look forward to that next challenge because they want to prove to themselves that they have the strength of mind and body to overcome it.  Similarly, we should be pushing ourselves to get more out of the rosary each time we pray it.  While at first it may be enough to remember to pray a rosary every day, later we need to push ourselves to deeper meditative states and really open our hearts to what God is trying to tell us through the rosary.

Pray like you’ve never prayed before.  It’s go time Rosary SEAL!

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Have Better Rosary Meditation by Preparing for a Confrontation

The other day I took a short break at work and went for a walk to clear my head. It was a bright, sunny day so I took a path that followed a small inlet of water from the San Francisco Bay. While I usually listen to an audiobook on my walks (remember, I’m still trying to get through the entire Catechism this year) I discovered that I forgot my headphones. Instead I took my rosary out of my pocket and began to pray it.

As I was taking my prayer walk, I suddenly got a sinking feeling in my stomach. What would happen if someone saw me and was offended by my public display of religion? How would I respond if someone told me to put those beads away? As outrageous as that may sound, remember that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was very possible to come across an atheist with the ACLU on speed dial in my neck of the woods.

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“How dare you pray in public! What if a child saw you?”

I then got my wits together and thought of a more realistic scenario. What if someone saw me walking with my rosary and curiously asked what it was? What if someone asked me to describe rosary prayer or describe the mysteries I was meditating on? That got my mind racing on how I would explain the rosary to a casual passerby.

I rehearsed talking about how I meditate on not being so materialistic when I pray the First Glorious Mystery. I ran a through a small monologue in my head about living a clean life of good works when praying the Second Glorious Mystery. I pictured myself saying how I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me when I pray the Third Glorious Mystery. And so on…

And while I didn’t know it at the time, when constructing my defense for a possible confrontation I was in fact meditating and thinking about the themes and lessons of each rosary mystery. I wasn’t thinking about work. I wasn’t thinking about a movie, tv show, or news article. I wasn’t thinking about any of those topics that usually distract me and put me on prayer “autopilot.” Like a student furiously cramming for a test, I was focused of all the reasons I pray the rosary and what lessons it teaches me.  In short, I was praying the rosary correctly.

I was never cornered by atheist. I didn’t have anyone come up and ask questions. I didn’t get any odd stares from people I passed. But by preparing for the worst I did experience one of my deeper, least interrupted rosary meditations.

Are you prepared to explain what you’re meditating on if someone asks?  Suppose you had an apparition of the Virgin Mary while you were praying.  Sound crazy?  Remember, you don’t pray the rosary in a vacuum.  Who do you think you’re asking to intercede for you when you pray the rosary?  What if Mary vocally responded as she’s done to a select few throughout history.  What if Our Lady first thanked you for praying the rosary and then quizzed you on what exactly you were praying for.  Would you be ready to answer or scrambling because you zoned out?

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The Catechism: Teaching What Is Right, Not What Is Easy

I came across this article over at the National Catholic Register about how “real men pray.”  It’s a commentary on Cardinal Burke’s comments that men have lost their sense of purpose within the Catholic Church.  He points to the confusing and often conflicting messages presented by popular culture and the Church and how the Church is often silent addressing what it means to be a moral man.

I keyed in on this part of Cardinal Burke’s comments (I encourage you to read the full article at the National Catholic Register):

The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Prayer isn’t just for little, old ladies

I found Cardinal Burke’s comments timely because I made my new year’s resolution to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is going well; I’m on verse 167 of 2865).  I want to be better catechized particularly in this world of “soft Catholicism.”  I liken myself to a patient wanting the doctor to give me the hard truth about my condition and the prescription for leading a spiritually healthy life.  And I’m not looking for what is easy, but what is best for my mind, body, and soul.

Going back to Cardinal Burke’s comment, why do we have such a collapse of catechesis in the Church?  I find it interesting that when we learn math, we learn about rules and formulas.  When we learn science, we learn about rules and formulas.  Economics — rules and formulas.  Engineering — yep, rules and formulas.  Languages, again with the rules and formulas.  But for some reason, many people shy away from educating about the rules and dogmas of the Catholic faith out of a fear that it might upset someone or it may not be politically correct.

This fear of Church dogma wasn’t always the case.  My mom told me that growing up the Baltimore Catechism was basically her text book for religious education.  But over the years we’ve infantilized religious education to simple platitudes like “God loves you” and “Jesus wants us to be nice to each other.”  Yes, it’s good to learn about a loving and merciful God.  But that’s the starting point.  We can’t stop there.  If we want deepen our faith and our relationship with God we need to deepen our understanding of what our faith is.  Furthermore, we can’t ignore or disregard the truth we learn because we don’t like it or it’s hard to follow.  That’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity or 1+1=3.

One of the goals of RosaryMeds is to motivate you to really take the next steps, whatever that may be, to increase your understanding and love of your faith in Jesus’ church.  When you pray the rosary, ask God to show you what those next steps are.  Maybe it’s to pray more earnestly.  Maybe its to read the Bible or the Catechism.  Maybe it’s to read more RosaryMeds articles (hint, hint).  Whatever form it may take, try hard to move your understanding of the Catholic Faith forward.  We have an infinitely complex God so trust me, there is always something new to learn.

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The Rosary — The (Not So) Secret to Happiness

Last week at work I had the privilege of attending a class on the science of happiness.  I find topics about brain and neuroscience fascinating probably because I haven’t studied it to death.  A two hour seminar from a former software developer fits nicely into my mosaic of brian knowledge formed from Ray Kurzweil books and Wired magazine articles.

Why would my company want me to learn about the science of happiness?  According to various studies and polls, happy people are about 12 to 25% more productive in their work.  Furthermore, much of what makes people happy revolves around them choosing actions that lead towards happiness.  Therefore, a company has a vested interest in its employees choosing routines that lead to happiness and hence, more productivity.

I’m going to spare you the details of the seminar.  If you want to learn more, just go to HappyBrainScience.com.  I bring up this seminar for one reason — readers of RosaryMeds already know many of the choices that lead to happiness.  For example, in the class we learned about the value of meditation as a way to combat the negative effects of stress.  Guess what?  Many of us who pray the rosary regularly already experience the positive effects rosary meditation has on combating the stress of everyday life.  I’ve mentioned a study in a previous post about the cardiovascular benefits of rosary prayer.  I’ve also talked about how people are happiest when they find “flow” or are “in the zone.”  Many people who pray the rosary regularly find it comforting because they can more easily get in the zone of deep meditation and prayer.

Going back to my happiness seminar, I also learned how we all have a bias towards focusing on the negative.  I think we all know how difficult it is to concentrate or be happy in a group of people if you find even just one person in that group annoying.  Instead of focusing on the people whose company we enjoy or the good situations around us, we too often dwell on what’s wrong and foment a bitterness, if not an outright hatred, of those people who we don’t get along with for some reason or another.  Similarly, we also tend to dwell on our weaknesses more than our strengths.  “I’m overweight.”  “I’m not smart enough.”  “I work too slowly.”  “I don’t have enough patience.”  “I don’t have enough energy.”  Sound familiar?

When I heard about our negative bias and some of the tricks to combat it (you can get a taste of it from the HappyBrainScience blog), I immediately thought this all sounded vaguely familiar.  I then remembered the introduction to my rosary book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, where I explained the main benefit I get from rosary prayer — perspective.  Praying the rosary helps me understand that all the negative things in life we often dwell on aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture.  By praying the rosary every day, I manage to keep all my problems, stresses, and worries in perspective.  Rosary prayer also reminds me of God’s awesome power to forgive me for all my mistakes, no matter how big.  Rosary prayer reminds me that the Holy Spirit is present and always trying to lead me on the path of true happiness.  Rosary prayer reminds me that no matter how terrible the world appears, there is hope for a better tomorrow.

A rosary crucifix.
This can bring more happiness than winning any lottery.

Not all of us can attend a happiness seminar.  But you don’t have to attend one or buy a “secret of life” type book to start choosing a lifestyle that yields increased happiness.  Want to be happier?  Turn off the TV and computer, silence your phone, pick up a rosary, and pray!  Oh, and reading my rosary book and telling others about this website wouldn’t hurt ;-).

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My Concealed Sidearm

I always leave the house armed. In this world I think you are naive, if not a little crazy, if you don’t carry some sort of personal protection. Of course, given that I live in the Bay Area, I don’t carry my sidearm openly. It’s usually concealed but I’m ready and willing to use it if the situation calls for it. Don’t worry, I have plenty of practice using it. I’ve gone with a standard, white model. It isn’t very fancy, but it packs a punch with a 60 round capacity.

Wait, what? Take a look… yes, you’re still on RosaryMeds and not the NRA website.  And no, I’m not delirious from a lack of sleep.  But I am talking about weaponry in this post; very powerful weapons that pack more punch than what any Colt or Gloc could possibly deliver. If you haven’t guessed, my weapon of choice is the rosary. Of course, the 60 rounds should have been the give away (5*10 Hail Marys + 5 Our Fathers + 3 Hail Marys + 1 Our Father + 1 Crucifix = 60). For the last 8 years, since I started praying the rosary seriously and routinely, my rosary has been in my pocket wherever I go.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...
My sidearm, always ready for action.

I mention this in the wake of the gruesome execution of James Foley at the hands of Islamic radicals.  One of the lesser known facts about James Foley was his devotion to rosary prayer and how it helped in through his captivity in Libya in 2011.  In a letter to Marquette University (his alma mater) after his Libyan release, Foley wrote:

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.  Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

And this is why I think carrying a rosary is so important.  You never know what life is going to throw at you when you will need to respond with the power of prayer.  Granted, most of us won’t be captured by radicals, imprisoned, or martyred.  But we don’t have to go to those extremes to understand the importance of carrying a rosary.  How many times have you received bad news about a friend, family, your job, your city, your neighbors, your country, your parish, or anything that is important to you?  How many times have you faced a difficult challenge in your life?  Or what about the times when something great has happened?  Those are all perfect opportunities to reflect and meditate on some rosary mysteries.  I think we come across opportunities on a daily basis for praying the rosary but maybe we miss them because we aren’t physically carrying one that we can whip out when we need to.

Prepared for every situation.
Prepared for every situation.

I’m not saying that you can’t pray the rosary unless you are physically carrying beads.  James Foley prayed the rosary counting on his knuckles.  When I can’t physically hold a rosary (usually because I’m rocking an infant to sleep) I will often look for something in the room that is in a group of five or ten so I  can keep track of where I am within a decade.  Maybe there is a flower pattern on the rug with five petals that I can stare at.  Maybe the door or window has 10 sections that I can focus on.  But I do find that actually carrying a rosary is a great reminder of the importance of integrating prayer into my daily routine.  I take my phone, keys, and wallet with me because they will be useful tools throughout my day.  The same can be said about my rosary.

Try this.  Add a rosary to your other daily essentials that your carry in your pocket or purse.  Or attach a rosary ring to your keychain.  More importantly, instead of reaching for your smartphone when you have five minutes to burn, reach for that rosary and pray.

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Obama’s Failed Poker Bluff

It has been a big two weeks for both the pro-life and religious freedom causes.  We saw the Supreme Court rule unanimously that the 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in Massachusetts violated the pro-life advocates and sidewalk counselors right to free speech.  And this week we saw the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 “Hobby Lobby” decision, rule that the government cannot force private employers to provide health plans that include coverage for operations, procedures, and medications that run counter to their personal religious beliefs.

U.S. Supreme Court building.
U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really liked what Creative Minority Report wrote about the unintentional consequences of Obama‘s efforts to limit the role religion plays in the public square.  It’s a short article that reads:

The great irony of Obama’s unrelenting assault on religious freedom may have had the unintended effect of strengthening religious freedom.

When the Obama administration went to the mattresses on arguments such as declaring that religious schools do not have the right to hire and fire for mission they got unanimously smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, the Administration is red-faced again with the high court ruling that it doesn’t have the power to force “closely held companies” to provide contraceptive coverage. That’s a big deal.

It would be ironic if the overall effect of the Obama administration on religious liberty is a strengthening rather than a deleterious one.

Politics is a lot like a giant poker game.  I enjoy playing poker.  Sometimes I win, but more often I lose.  I lose when I try to force every hand into a big win.  Even when I don’t have a good hand I think to myself that I can bluff my way into winning.  I essentially get impatient and just want to take every pot which is not a smart way to play.  When I take that impatient, “go big all the time” strategy I will usually be the first one to bust out.  I win (or at least stay in the game longer) when I play strategically and take small losses when I’m in an unfavorable situation and moderate gains when I  can.

Like a game of poker, the pro-choice and big government crowds have been playing a very strategic game the last few decades.  It wasn’t overnight that a majority of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion rather than birth.  It wasn’t overnight that Planned Parenthood started receiving millions of dollars in federal funding and built massive clinics in every city in the US.  The pro-abortion crowd has built up their “winnings” by taking small wins here and there and never trying to force a win under unfavorable conditions.  It also helped them by staying away from imposing large, sweeping changes all at once.  That would be like broadcasting to the poker table that you have a straight flush by putting in too much money too quickly.

Poker Night
Poker Night (Photo credit: IanMurphy)

But in recent years, the pro-choice crowd flipped and started playing more of the “go big or go home” strategy to their disadvantage.  Maybe they felt emboldened by their earlier victories that they felt like they could make some big plays to really solidify their position in US law.  Maybe they thought that their opposition was so weak that they could continue to push their agenda even further without anyone putting up fight.  Fortunately for the pro-life cause, Obama went “all in” with the HHS contraception mandate and lost.  He looked at his two pair and thought that would be enough to win the hand.  Unfortunately for him, the US Constitution was sitting at the table with a full house and didn’t fold.

But this isn’t the beginning of the end of the debates over abortion, life, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.  Rather, it’s the end of the beginning.  Although the pro-life battle has been going on for decades, the millions of lives lost to abortion have really hinged on a few court cases and laws.  And our basic freedoms of speech and religion have only been tested a few dozen times in the high courts.  And while sometimes the legal precedent generates a unanimous 9-0 decision like in the Massachusetts case, other times it really comes down to a single justice’s interpretation of the law.

Given just how fragile and how quickly the pro-life cause and our freedoms can change, it is doubly important to maintain those prayers.  Much like how the Hobby Lobby decision came down to a single justice (I have no idea why it wasn’t a 9-0 decision), these cases may also come down to a single prayer.  We should never think that our prayers don’t matter or influence our world.  Our mother Mary has repeatedly said that prayer is the greatest tool we have to further God’s kingdom and bring His grace to others.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s your rosary prayer and intentions for our government officials that might tip the scale in the next important policy decision.  It may be our prayers that plant a seed in a judge’s heart to look at a case one more time and possibly have a change of heart.

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Lenten Postmortem

I’m a software engineer.  Part of my job is participating in what are commonly called technical postmortems.  In postmortems, my team recalls what went right and what went wrong with a recently completed project.  The idea is that by learning what we did right and wrong we can correct our bad practices while continuing our good ones in future projects.  An important part of engineering is always refining our processes and behaviors.

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I figure, why not do a postmortem on Lent the same way I do with an engineering project?  This way, I can reflect on what I did right this year and what I need to improve upon for next year.  Like other aspects of our life, we need to sometimes assess our spiritual behavior.  If we don’t, then how will we know what to improve?  What goals can we set for the next day, week, month, year, etc.?  In the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus calls us to a life of conversion.  But to convert our ways, we first have to analyze them.

Of course, in this case we really can’t call it a postmortem since Jesus is alive and well (that is the main idea behind Easter after all).  So, I’m going to coin a new term and call this a post-risen or post-lenten.

What went wrong

  1. Didn’t go to Ash Wednesday Mass
  2. Initial Lenten sacrifice was too easy
  3. Took a few “cheat” days on Lenten sacrifice
  4. Only went to one bible study class out of an entire series of classes
  5. Didn’t go to any extra Lenten events (Stations of the Cross, weekday Mass, etc.)
  6. Didn’t acknowledge Good Friday noon-3pm hours with prayers, silent reflection, etc.

What went right

  1. Went to a Good Friday Mass service in the evening
  2. Followed through with my Lenten sacrifice (once I made it)
  3. I said a short prayer whenever I was tempted to break my sacrifice
  4. Contributed to a charitable cause
  5. Attended a bible study class in my parish
  6. Received the Sacrament of Confession

Lent Logo 2008

What I need to do next year is plan my Lenten sacrifice much better.  This year I started out with a “no dessert after lunch” sacrifice which turned out to be too easy since not having desserts was something I was already doing for the most part.  About half way through I changed it to giving up all sweets during the day.  Now that was much more challenging but something I was able to do.  And whenever I felt tempted to have a piece of candy or a cookie, I said a small prayer instead.  So my sacrifice led to more prayer throughout the day.  That was what I learned.  How about you?  Can you think of ways you can improve your spiritual habits from this past Lent?

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #12

All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

Remember when I said in my previous post about Mary’s rosary promises seeming like a spiritual infomercial?  Well, I take that back.  This promise proves that the rosary is more like an affiliate marketing campaign.  In affiliate marketing, someone gets a small bonus when they convince someone to sign up for a certain service or buy a specific product.  Mary seems to offer us a sort of spiritual affiliate benefit when we spread the joy of rosary meditation to others.  It’s great to pray the rosary for your own good.  But spreading the rosary has an exponentially greater affect both for you own personal salvation and the Catholic Church as a whole.

Where is your rosary?

Imagine if you were able to convince two other people to start praying the rosary regularly.  Now picture those two people each finding two more to pray the rosary and those people went out and got two more and so on.  It doesn’t take to many levels of propagation before hundreds, maybe thousands, and heck, even millions of people turn to rosary prayer starting from your initial passion for it!  Now can you image a Church fueled by rosary prayer and receiving the graces Mary promises us?  That would be one joyful and sincerely happy world-wide community of believers with the strength to truly change all the ills of this world.  And all because you took one leap of faith to pray the rosary routinely and another leap to share your passion with others.

Your personal rosary prayer will yield much more fruit when you propagate rosary prayer to a wider audience.  But this isn’t because you earn more spiritual points that upgrade you to some higher Catholic membership.  It’s not like Mary sits in Heaven with a clipboard with your personal rosary score.  I don’t think she’s saying, “Well let’s see here.  Brent has convinced 10 people to start praying the rosary, he tries to pray it every weekday, but it looks like he missed some days.  So he’s a silver rosary rewards member which means he gets 3 intercessions a year.”  Not quite.

Like Mary’s other promises, the benefits of this one is more of a logical consequence of praying the rosary devoutly.  When you truly enjoy something or find something valuable, are you more likely to share it with others or keep it hidden?  As Facebook clearly shows, when you are passionate about something you have a tendency to share it with others.  People share their opinions and promote television shows, sports, music, movies, and books all the time (just look at the large number of reviews for any given product on Amazon).  Why would prayer be any different? It is logical that those who are passionate about rosary prayer will also want to share it with others.  If you truly believe in the benefits of rosary prayer and it’s something that gives you great comfort facing life’s challenges, why wouldn’t you want to share it with your friends and family?

If you are sharing the joy of rosary prayer and meditation then chances are you are already praying it regularly and devoutly.  After all, why would you promote something that doesn’t interest you or doesn’t provide you any value?  As I said in previous articles, those who do pray the rosary devoutly will be better tuned into how Mary is trying to aid them.  She is always trying to reach out to us but it is those who are really trying to listen to her through the rosary who will receive more aid in their necessities.  But it’s not from Mary giving more aid to some than others.  Rather, it’s some people making more of an effort to receive Mary’s aid by making time to listen to her through rosary meditation and being receptive to how she wants to help you.

Now here’s the hard part.  It’s easy for me to write this article and have a few dozen (hopefully hundreds of) people read this.  It is easy for you all to forward an email or share this post (please do that).  We can all sit back and think we did our part in propagating the rosary.  And yes, we did.  But I think that’s putting the quantity of rosary propagation over the quality.  Maybe we should instead make an effort to personally invite a friend or family member to pray the rosary with us.  It may not be the easiest way to propagate rosary prayer, but I think there is value in actually getting a single soul praying the rosary rather than telling hundreds of people who can easily ignore you.  Are you ready to take that challenge?

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #11

You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the Rosary.

Mary‘s 11th rosary promise is one of my favorites probably because it is so easily misunderstood (thus providing me with lots to write about). What does Mary mean when she says you will obtain all that you ask through the rosary? I’m sure many of us have prayed for a financial windfall. But how many of us have won the lottery? I’m sure we’ve prayed for good health for ourselves or a loved one. And yet we still get sick. It seems like we ask a lot from Mary through rosary meditation and yet so few of us seem to have our specific requests fulfilled. If Mary doesn’t keep this promise how can we trust her to keep the other 14 rosary promises?

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...
Unlike my last 10 requests, this one is REALLY, REALLY important.

I think the best way to jump into this promise is to retell a homily I heard many years ago. The priest emphasized how we tend to fixate on one specific answer to our prayers and we overlook how God actually answers them. The priest told a story of a man travelling home on foot after a long journey and had to cross a mountain range. Already tired and hungry, he prayed for God to level the mountain so that he could make it home safely and quickly. After waiting a few hours and seeing that God did not level the mountain, the man grumbled, carved a walking stick from a nearby tree branch, and started on his way.  After a rather uneventful trip, he made it over the mountains and back home.

The man was enraged because he thought God did not answer his prayer.  What the man failed to realize was that God provided a tree branch for the walking stick, good weather, and safe passage through the mountain range.  And ultimately, the man did make it over the mountains and back home safely which is why he prayed in the first place.  The man was so fixated on his one specific request that he did not notice two things.  First, he did not realize that he already had the ability to make it over the mountains without God performing a miracle.  Second, he didn’t see all the little things God provided to supplement his abilities.

I think many of us approach prayers and intentions like the man crossing over the mountains.  We ask God for help and wait for a very specific, often miraculous, response.  The response we want is usually an easy answer.  We get sick so we want God to cure us.  We have financial problems, we ask God for a windfall.  We have relationship issues, we ask God to set the other person straight.  We have problems at work, we ask God to make those problem disappear.  But asking God to “bail us out” shortchanges the abilities He already gave us.  God often does help us, not by making our problems go away, but by making us realize he already infused us with the strength, intellect, and abilities to overcome life’s challenges.

Man's face screaming/shouting. Stubbly wearing...
God, why won’t you answer me!!?

Mary’s promise reminds me of how the rosary is a lot like an amplified echo chamber.  You make your intentions through rosary prayer and Mary reminds you that God already gave you the strength to overcome whatever challenges you face.  But the rosary helps magnify Mary’s response so that you can hear it, internalize it, and put into action those gifts God has given you.  You ask for wellness and Mary reminds you that God gave you the strength to endure the sickness and use your physical weakness as an opportunity to offer up a sacrifice to God in reparation for your sins.  You ask for a fix to your financial problems, but Mary reminds you through rosary meditation that money doesn’t make you a better person nor gets you into Heaven.

Mary does hear and answer our prayers and acts as our mediatrix to God.  But we have to be open to the fact that the answer to our prayers isn’t always what we expect.  The rosary helps us not only hear God’s response but more importantly it helps us accept it even when it isn’t what we want to hear.

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Preparing for the Preparation

It’s that time of year again. Flowers start to grow, the grass turns green, trees get their leaves back, and we get ashes on our forehead. Yep, that’s right, on March 5th we kick off Lent with Ash Wednesday.

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...
English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian on Ash Wednesday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read a great article in the Catholic San Francisco about how to prepare for Easter this Lent. Sister Margie Lavonis says it best when she wrote in her article, Lent: An opportunity to grow, that we shouldn’t “let this be just another 40 days of the year.”  She talked about many of the same themes I routinely mention on RosaryMeds (has she been reading my work?).  She touches on how our relationship with God needs a commitment from us, through prayer, to grow:

No relationship can deepen and grow unless we are willing to listen and share ourselves with the other person. God is no exception. During Lent, if you don’t already, set aside at least fifteen minutes of your time each day to be with God. Go to a quiet place, if you can find one, slow down and let God love you. Read and reflect upon some scripture each day and get to know the one who loves you unconditionally and who has given you all you have. I suggest using the Mass readings for each day and reflect on what God is saying to you. In fact, it would be good to try to go to Mass more than just on Sunday if you can.

She also covers some ideas for fasting and alms giving. Remember, it’s not all about giving up desserts and writing checks. I know it may sound cliche, but I’m really going to try to remember that it’s Lent every one of these 40 days leading up to Easter whether that means praying more, offering small sacrifices to God, or giving a little more of my time and patience to those who need it.  How about you?  Are you prepared to get prepared?

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