Making Every Rosary Prayer Count

I’m a fan of the Catholic Answers Forums.  For those who have never visited it, CAF is a huge forum of questions, updates, and news regarding Catholicism.  If you read it long enough, you will start to see patterns emerge in the type of posts submitted.  You will see posts of the type “Is this a mortal sin…?”,  “Please pray for…”, “Why does God allow…?”, etc.  I frequently see this one — “Does rosary prayer count if I…?”  It ends with “was watching TV?”, “thinking of something else?”, “was listening to it on the radio?”, etc.

I find this way of approaching rosary prayer interesting since I believe it misses the point of why we pray.  What does it mean for a prayer to “count?”  For me, that conjures up images of our Mother Mary sporting a visor, whistle, and holding a clipboard like a junior high school gym teacher.  And she’s marking down how many “valid” prayers you’ve said as if you were taking a pushup test.  “Bad form Brent!”  “You missed a word!”  “Hands not folded in approved fashion.”  And in the end, “Not bad; in that chaplet you said 33 decent Hail Marys; you pass!”

“Don’t think I can’t see those knees bending Jimmy.”

I believe many people approach their faith in this binary fashion; that the things you do are scored and count towards getting into Heaven or against it.  You’re in Heaven if you rack up a high enough score by the time you die.  And who knows, maybe certain aspects of our faith are a little like that like attending Mass on Sunday — if you miss it for no valid reason then you’ve broken a Commandment.  Definitely points off.

But I don’t think the rosary breaks down into a nice little checkbox on whether it counts or not.  It’s not a pass/fail activity.  You have to approach the rosary more like a conversation.  Are you talking and listening to God through prayer?  Are you concentrating and meditating on each mystery and really trying to communicate with God or are you just going through the motions with your heart and mind are somewhere else?  Furthermore, what do your thoughts and actions say about the quality of your prayers?  Does prayer actually motivate you to lead a life of conversion towards Jesus’ teachings or does it not really affect you in any meaningful way?  Are you just tuning out God?

“That’s whatever you’re talking about for ya…”

Maybe we can think of rosary prayer like exercise.  No, I’m not going back to the junior high gym class type of exercise that is highly quantitative and you either pass or fail.  I’m talking about general exercise.  You can go to the gym and idly walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  And that is better than nothing.  But did you actually push yourself and stress your heart and muscles to make them stronger?  Do you follow up workouts with healthy meals or do you down that slice of cheesecake?

Rosary prayer is similar to the exercise experience except instead of stressing physical muscles, you’re stressing spiritual ones.  Is the rosary helping you develop a closer relationship with God?  Is it motivating you to desire God’s grace and His Kingdom of Heaven?  Are you trying to follow up rosary prayer with virtuous behavior while avoiding sin?

Overall, the rosary only “counts” as much as you make it count.  It’s not evaluated by some external, quantifiable criteria.  I know many of us take comfort in absolutes and it can be frustrating and even a little scary in the absence of it.  But the rosary requires faith to accept that there won’t necessarily be a straight and immediate answer to your prayers.  But don’t worry, it’s a prayer worth learning and becoming comfortable with even if it doesn’t produce the absolute answers you’re looking for.  Because the answers it does provide go far beyond what is observable and quantifiable.  Our faith and God’s grace cannot be limited to rules, regulations, and items on a checklist.

Want the rosary to count?  That’s entirely up to you.  Look at your relationship with God and your faith in His plan.  Has praying the rosary given you more faith and a closer relationship with God?  If not, maybe it’s time to look at how you can get more out of the rosary by investing more time and concentration to it.

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What the Rosary Teaches Us About Spiritual Persistence

As a father of two boys, I can sympathize with those who face the never ending battle of trying to keep a clean house.  No sooner have I vacuumed the floor that one of my boys starts jumping on the sofa and knocks down a leftover bowl of cereal.  Or I just finish cleaning a room and they dump a bin of legos on the floor and start building.  On Catholic Exchange, Sam Guzman relates the experience of keeping a clean house to keeping a clean soul in his article:

At any rate, I’ve noticed that, just as a clean house quickly descends into disorder and must be constantly cleaned, so also our souls need constant care and upkeep. We must always be beginning to put them in order again.

There are days when our children have made such a mess of things that cleaning up seems a hopeless task. My wife and I look at each other and don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Yet, we begin again.

In this life, holiness is found in beginning again and again. It is constant examination and conversion and regeneration of heart. Holiness if found in repentance. And repentance is not merely feeling sorry that you sinned. It is rather a re-turning to God—a thousand times a day if necessary.

My kids’ room 5 minutes after cleaning it

I call this never ending practice of conversion spiritual persistence.  Spiritual persistence is continuing to pray and have faith in God’s plan even when it seems fruitless.  When I pray the rosary and ask God for help building my spiritual persistence I meditate on Jesus carrying the cross in The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.  Jesus was literally beaten down carrying the cross with no hope for relief.  Each time he fell down and got back up, he only had more cruelty and torture to look forward to.  And yet, Jesus got back up and began walking again towards his crucifixion.

I think we all have moments when we ask ourselves, “what’s the point?”  Why should I suffer for doing the right thing instead of taking ethical or moral shortcuts?  Why should I fast?  Why should I go to Sunday Mass?  Why should I go to Confession?  What good will these do since I’ll just go about sinning again in the future anyway?

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( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we can see our faith more as a cross than a blessing.  We too often focus on what we give up or the effort required and not the benefits.  Part of the challenge is that the sacrifice we feel immediately while the joy and grace are often delayed or is so subtle we don’t feel it.  As an analogy to keeping a clean house, we so often tend to dread the steps needed to make a house clean that it often overshadows the joy of having a clean house.

This is where meditating on the fourth sorrowful mystery of the rosary becomes important.  It puts all these perceived inconveniences into perspective.  Jesus endured far worse doing his father’s will.  If Jesus saw the importance of his Passion, we should ask God to help us see the importance of trying to live a spiritually healthy lifestyle.  We may not always like housework, but we understand the importance of maintaining a clean house.  And we may not always enjoy the obligations our faith puts on us, but we pray the rosary to understand why it is so important that we follow God’s plan.

As we near the end of Lent, many of us probably feel beaten down and tired.  We may be tired of fasting, abstaining from meat, the increased prayer, etc.  But instead of focusing on pain, let’s ask God to help us see the joy that comes from these Lenten practices.  The joy that comes from letting go of some of our worldly pleasures and replacing them with God’s grace.  The joy in understanding that we will one day find true happiness in Heaven due to our spiritual persistence in this lifetime.

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What the Rosary Teaches Us about Spiritual Complacency

Last Sunday’s Gospel was the Transfiguration of Christ which is also the theme of the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the rosary.  This mystery has always been one of the more difficult ones for me to meditate on.  I think I have a hard time relating to it because I have a tendency to reduce it to just another one of Jesus’ miracles.

The impact of the Transfiguration is softened partly because it sits in the shadow of the even more miraculous events of Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as nearly 2000 years of Church teaching.  In a way, modern day Christians are like people watching a movie they’ve already seen a dozen times and already know the ending.  We read about Jesus in the Bible and his disciples and we know who will betray him, who will deny him, who will convert, who will become saints, etc.  Because we already start from the understanding that Jesus is God made man, all the events of the Bible come across almost normal or at least expected.

“Ugh, another rerun of that ‘Jesus Show.'”

When we meditate on the Transfiguration in the Fourth Luminous Mystery, we have to put ourselves into the role of St. Peter as he witnessed these events for the first time.  It is then that we truly start to appreciate the revolutionary nature of the Transfiguration.  I think we have to assume that the apostles still didn’t fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ truly divine nature as they traveled with Him.  Sure, they said they believed Jesus was the Messiah, but as their actions during Jesus’ death showed, they didn’t truly internalize it.

The Old Testament prophets did many miraculous deeds.  In a way, Jesus’ actions seemed to fall in line with earlier prophets.  In fact, many people believed that Jesus was one of the older prophets reborn.  The Transfiguration showed that Jesus was no mere prophet of human origin but was God’s own son.  Imagine the shock Peter, John, and James must have felt realizing that they had been in God’s presence the entire time they were with Jesus.

It’s not surprising then that Peter wants to erect tents to honor Jesus.  Like a star-struck fan, Peter probably couldn’t think of anything else to say or do.   I would imagine he might even have felt embarrassed knowing all the times he had acted foolishly in front of God’s son.

“Just be cool, don’t think about that dopey pun you made about ’12 Monkeys.'”

Now, Peter and the apostles could plead ignorance for not truly understanding Jesus’ true nature.  But what’s our excuse?  We’ve read and have been told the history of Jesus’ teachings dozens of times.  We have the benefit of thousands of years of theologians and the Magisterium interpreting and explaining Jesus to us in utmost detail.  And yet, we all so often casually ignore Jesus and take His teachings for granted.  Much like the disciples thousands of years ago, we sometimes think of Jesus more as a philosopher with some good advice and not as God.  Lent is our time to change that lackadaisical attitude.

When you meditate on the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the rosary this Lent, try to capture that sense of awe the three apostles must have felt at the Transfiguration.  Try to look at your faith with fresh eyes, ears, and heart to truly take in the majesty and power of God’s grace.  Ask God to renew your conviction in following God’s command to listen to His son.  In other words, try to throw out any complacency you may have developed with your faith.  This will make the miracle and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter grander and more meaningful.

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Don’t Buy Satan’s Lies: How to Persist with the Bible and Rosary Prayer

I read an article on why it is so hard to get into the routine of Bible reading.  I know from personal experience that reading the Bible is a love-hate experience.  Part of me dreads it because I know I won’t understand much of it and probably won’t be any more intellectually enlightened by it.  But at the same time, I do value reading the Bible in a way my intellect cannot explain because it fuels my rosary prayers which in turn fuels my life.

 on the blog, Desiring God, talks about this love-hate relationship with reading the Bible.  At the root of why people dread reading it is Satan; specifically, his lies.

The first [lie] is that our time in God’s word was worthless. Our reading plan gave us half-an-hour’s worth of “So-and-so was an evil king. He fought with these people. He died. And his son became king in his place. . . .” Entertaining, maybe, but if that’s all we’re after in Bible reading, we’ll do better turning on Netflix instead.

I couldn’t help but recall the words of St. Louis de Montfort where he says something similar about Satan’s lies and the rosary in the 43rd Rose of The Secret of the Rosary.

Being human, we easily become tired and slipshod, but the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin, he makes us feel bored, distracted, or exhausted; and when we have started praying, he oppresses us from all sides, and when after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us, “What you have just said is worthless. It is useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It is only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you are saying; half-an-hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow, when you are not feeling so sluggish, you’ll pray better; leave the rest of your Rosary till then.” By tricks of this kind the devil gets us to give up the Rosary altogether or to say it less often, and we keep putting it off or change to some other devotion.

As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  If Satan so despises Bible reading and rosary prayer, that should be enough inspiration for all of us to double our efforts on those endeavors.  But how do we go about reading the Bible and praying the rosary in a way where we won’t get overwhelmed and quit?

English: Personal bible study Português: Estud...
English: Personal bible study Português: Estudo pessoal da bíblia Italiano: Lo studio personale della bibbia Deutsch: Persönliches Bibelstudium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s my advice.  Don’t tackle the Bible starting from page one and try to read the whole book like it’s a novel.  You will get confused, frustrated, and succumb to Satan’s lies to give up.  Instead, I encourage you to start with reading only the daily scriptural readings followed up with reading meditations and reflections.

It is the meditation and reflections that will sustain your Bible reading and help you push through the confusion.  The reflections should explain and clarify the readings and help burst through the often confusing prose to uncover a meaning behind the words.  The really good meditations not only explain but also show the relationship between the words and our lives.

My personal favorite Gospel meditation is the Regnum Christi podcast which I listen to every day.  They are short, around 5 minutes, but provide such great insights into the Gospel reading.  If you don’t have any Gospel meditations, this is a great place to start.

This daily, bite-sized consumption of the Bible builds up an intellectual and spiritual foundation for praying and living.  I find that the Bible readings and related meditations add so much more depth to my rosary prayers.  Rosary meditation ideas spring from the themes presented in the Bible so that I always find a new dimension to the rosary mysteries.  Rosary prayer never gets stale because each day is a new Bible reading with new meditations for me to incorporate.

Very few of us will ever be Biblical scholars.  But try reading and meditating on the daily scripture passages to give God an opportunity to work with you.  Like a skilled surgeon, God doesn’t need much of an opening to work miracles.  It’s amazing what he can do with a few scriptural passages if you only give Him that chance.

PS: Sorry for my long absence from updating RosaryMeds.  Seems like Satan is throwing anything he can find my way to keep me busy and away from my website.

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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 #1

To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.

What does it mean to pray the rosary devoutly? There is two aspects to rosary devotion. First, there’s quantity. Praying the rosary means saying all the prayers. Many people look at a rosary and see a lot of redundancy to it. Why do I need to pray 10 Hail Marys per decade and not just one? What do I get out of reciting the same prayer repeatedly? To answer that, we should look at physical examples. Is one push up the same as ten push ups? Does your body get the same amount of exercise taking one step forward or running a mile? In diets, do you need to eat one healthy meal or multiple healthy meals? Quantity counts! And so you get more out of the rosary, spiritually speaking, when you spend time with it and recite all the prayers. God doesn’t need the prayers, but you do to get into that spiritual “zone” where you will be most receptive to God’s guidance.

Generally available Marian image created in th...

There is also a quality aspect to praying the rosary devoutly. Can you really say you are praying the rosary if you are saying the words but thinking about something else? Are you really getting anything out of it at that point? The rosary isn’t a magic chant where the power is in the words. The power of the rosary is directly related to the amount of earnest effort you put into it. Going back to physical exercise, do you get a better workout walking on a treadmill reading a magazine or really concentrating and pushing yourself to get the most out of the experience? The same goes for prayer — you get as much out of it as you put into it.

Mary promises us special protection. That raises the question, “protection from what?” Satan and his minions of course! Just as there are angels and saints in the spiritual realm, there are also demons. Every day those two sides are at war over our souls. If you just read that last sentence and think I’m exaggerating or lying then that just shows how powerful of an adversary Satan is. His best weapon is for people to think there isn’t a war being waged over our souls. That way, we drop our defenses and become more susceptible to Satan’s influence to turn away from God through sin.

Praying the rosary has two advantages to protect us against sin. First, through prayer we keep our defenses up. When we realize the persistent threat against us, we take whatever steps we need to fight against it. Rosary meditation provides us an opportunity to analyze how well we are defending our souls against Satan’s great attack. Have we created gaps in our spiritual armor by committing sins or just not making our relationship with God a priority in our life? When we acknowledge our weaknesses we can then work on fortifying those weak spots. Otherwise, we are just walking through the battlefield with little protection and become easy targets for Satan.

In addition to greater awareness of the spiritual dangers around us, Mary offers her special protection as well. And in a war for our eternal souls, we probably want as much help and protection as possible. And Mary is a great protector from evil. She is our Heavenly Mother. And like our earthly mothers, she has the special task of trying to keep her children safe. She promises that fervent protection to those who pray the rosary.

Does that mean she only cares and protects those who pray the rosary devoutly? No, of course not. She loves each one of us just as her son, Jesus Christ, taught us. But when we pray the rosary we make Mary’s job to help and protect us that much easier. She can take our willingness to accept her help and multiply it to build a greater defense against evil. Think of her like a doctor trying to help a sick person. The doctor can better diagnose and cure a disease if the patient is helpful, commutative, and trusting. The doctor, despite his good intentions, will have a much harder time helping someone who is combative or just not very accepting of any assistance.

Help Mary help you. Have faith in her promise that she will protect you and give you God’s grace if you earnestly pray the rosary.

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Sticky: The Rosary for the Rest of Us

It’s here!  After a year of careful assembly, I’m proud to announce my first-ever, self-published book, “The Rosary for the Rest of Us: A Practical Guide to Our Most Powerful Prayer.”  Inspired by the articles on RosaryMeds, this book should help you get so much more out of your rosary prayers.  Full of meditations, intentions, and illustrations on all 20 mysteries, this book has a little something to boost everyone’s rosary prayers.  This will make the perfect companion to anyone who prays the rosary (or wants to start praying the rosary).  On sale now!

I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who helped make my goal of becoming a published author a reality.  I could not have done this without my editors — Barbara, Linda, Rebecca, Voytek, and Zofia.  Thanks for taking the time to read the book and provide feedback.  I also want to thank Jakub.  Originally, I was going to turn my rosary postings on this site into a pdf file and just distribute it as an ebook through the RosaryMeds website.  It was Jakub who urged me to publish it “for real” and make it available to a wider audience.  And so, now this book is available on Amazon in paperback and will hopefully be on the Kindle soon.

I really don’t know what to expect from this book now that’s its gone live.  Sometimes the delusional side of me envisions interviews on EWTN Catholic radio or the Catholic San Francisco newspaper writing a review on my book.  I would love to be at Mass and see someone with the book tucked under their arm or hear that rosary prayer groups are using it.  More realistically, it would be nice if enough people bought the book to cover operating costs of RosaryMeds.  But honestly, I will be enthused if this book motivates someone to pray the rosary who otherwise would not.  I truly hope that my efforts will bring at least one new person into the world of the rosary.

Just in time for Christmas.  Here are just a few ideas for purchasing “The Rosary for the Rest of Us”:

  • Stocking stuffer for someone on your gift list
  • Combine it with the purchase of a rosary to create the ultimate rosary prayer kit
  • Us it to pad your Amazon order for free shipping

Order it now, either from the CreateSpace eStore or Amazon, to get it by Christmas.

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