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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Level Up! — Mary’s Rosary Promise #4

The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

I used to play a lot of video games when I was younger.  Even to this day I enjoy taking a five-minute break to play a quick arcade game.  There is something called a “score multiplier” in many classic video games.  What these do is increase your score the longer you do something good or difficult.  For example, you may start to achieve a higher score in a racing game the longer you go without crashing.  Or in the famous puzzle game Tetris you are awarded more points if you clear multiple rows at once rather than individually. Well, in life the rosary acts as our virtue and good works multiplier.

Screenshot of the official NES version of Tetris.
Screenshot of the official NES version of Tetris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more you pray the rosary, the more benefits your good works will have.  For starters, you will be more likely to perform more good works because you are listening to God through rosary prayer and responding to His call.  Secondly, your desire to live virtuously and do good works will be genuine and more likely to rub off on others.  You won’t have to force people into praying and living virtuously.  Rather, others will sense some sort of internal peace or happiness in you and subconsciously want to imitate you.  They might turn to rosary prayer and focus on their faith and become that catalyst for someone else.  You praying the rosary and living a virtuously may start a chain of influence on others to do the same.  From one person, many good works can flourish.

Mary promises that the rosary will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies.  We all make mistakes in life and commit sins.  But not only will the rosary put you into a state where you commit fewer sins, you also receive abundant mercy for those sins you do commit.  Are you off the hook completely?  No.  The rosary isn’t a magical “get out of jail free” prayer.  But those who pray the rosary are more likely to understand the importance of divine mercy and ask God for it.  And He’ll be more than happy to give it to those who ask.

Result of a serious automobile accident
The rosary is like crash insurance for your soul.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like that the rosary draws my heart away from worldly pursuits and keeps me focused on eternal things.  I find it so easy to get caught up in the here and now that without regular rosary meditation I would neglect my spiritual needs.  I think the rosary is similar to some sort of worldly detox treatment.  We fill our hearts, minds, and souls with so much junk.  It may be sin and vice (lust, drugs, greed, envy, etc.) but also benign or even good things (work, relationships, hobbies, etc.).  But when we fill our hearts with all these worldly pursuits we too often leave no room for God’s grace.  Mary promises that those who pray the rosary will find it easier to make room for God in their lives.

The best example I have about clearing my soul of “junk” was cutting back on TV.  There were many television shows that I used to follow closely.  I would be sure to tune in every week to watch Law and Order, CSI, Amazing Race, Next Iron Chef, and many others.  But in a way they also weighed me down because I felt obligated to watch them out of a fear I might miss something important.  But then I got busy with work, family, RosaryMeds articles, etc. and missed a few episodes.  I had them recorded on my DVR but I just stopped caring about watching those missed episodes to catch up.  Eventually, those shows that I watched religiously just fell off my radar and it didn’t bother me in the least.

Phasing out television reminds me of how the rosary affects our worldly wants and desires.  After praying the rosary routinely, those things you thought you couldn’t live without suddenly don’t seem too important.  You start to see them as the distractions they are and learn not to let the hustle and bustle of this life worry you too much.  There really is nothing worldly that is so important that it needs to to be prioritized ahead of our spiritual needs.  In other words, Mary promises us that rosary prayer will give perspective on what’s really important.  It’s not wanting things you can buy on Black Friday, but the eternal happiness of Heaven.

English: A child watching TV.
Don’t be a zombie!  Free yourself through the rosary.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that we are in Advent, take some time to pray the rosary every day.  I think we need to have faith in this rosary promise especially because Christmas is a time where we need to have perspective, virtue, and good works.  The 2nd reading from the first Sunday of Advent ties in well to this promise.  If you forgot it or didn’t pay attention to it, read it below and think about how the rosary will help you rise above “works of darkness” and “desires of the flesh” and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #3

The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.

I find it interesting that Mary uses military terminology in many of her promises.  Her promise illuminates the very dark and evil reality of Satan and Hell that we cannot ignore or wish away.  Whether we like it or not, from the instant of our conception God enlisted us to fight in an epic war of good vs. evil.  As I said in my explanation of Mary’s first rosary promise, there is a war going on every day for the souls of humanity.  And Satan isn’t messing around but is playing for keeps.  If you die in a state of mortal sin, that’s it, fin, the end!  Satan will have won another battle in this great spiritual war.

St Michael the archangel, dressed somewhat lik...

With the stakes so high, we need all the protection and armor we can get.  Mary promises that armor through the rosary.  She promises us protection.  She is Queen of Angels which makes her something of a general in this great war of souls and the angels of Heaven are her soldiers.  Our guardian angels exist to protect us and make sure that our souls end up where they are supposed to be — in Heaven praising God forever.  Praying the rosary is like calling for reinforcements.  When Satan steps up his attacks through sin and temptation, you can call on the host of heavenly angels to help you fight back.   As Padre Pio once said, the rosary is a powerful weapon against Satan.  Because you don’t have to fight evil alone.  Through the rosary you are reinforced with the strength of Heaven.

When we rid ourselves of vice and sin we strengthen our spiritual armor.  The worse part about sin is that often we aren’t aware of how weak and vulnerable it makes us.  We may have insufficient armor against the forces of Hell and not even know it.  It would be nice if the health of your soul was something you could see like the fuel gauge in a car.  Or wouldn’t it be nice if you showed symptoms like a physical illness so you could take some medicine or see a doctor.

That spiritual “fuel gauge” or subtle symptom is exactly what the rosary offers you.  Those who pray the rosary have strong armor against Hell, sin, and vice because those who pray the rosary are also checking the health of their soul routinely.  The two go hand in hand.  When you are constantly monitoring and maintaining something, it stays healthy and strong.  When you ignore and neglect something, it becomes weak.

The last part of the promise interests me the most.  Mary promises that praying the rosary will dispel heresy.  I think this is such an important gift Mary offers us through rosary prayer.  Heresy has taken a much more subtle tone in the last few decades which makes it all the more dangerous because it is easier to fall victim to it.  The Catholic Church isn’t as quick to identify heretical teachings as they used to be nor do local priests tend to speak out about heresy in homilies.  So that makes protecting yourself from heresy a personal responsibility.

Nancy Pelosi
It’s a trap!

We have to be careful because heresy is everywhere.  We need to be on “high alert” and make sure we understand Catholic teachings and not fall victim to people who claim to speak for the Church when they are really speaking for themselves, an organization, a special interest, or political party.  The latter is the most dangerous because many politicians will say and do anything to get your support even if that means twisting certain Christian teachings so people find it easier to disobey their conscience and their religion.  Having good spiritual armor is important but so is being able to identify the enemy and not be fooled by their clever speeches.

Praying the rosary will help you spot the fakes and not fall for their lies.  People who routinely pray the rosary probably also get a good helping of Mass, the sacraments, the bible, and grace.  The rosary never acts alone.  Think about it.  Have you ever met someone who just prays the rosary regularly but doesn’t participate in Mass or the sacraments?  That is why Mary’s promise that rosary prayer acts as armor against Hell is so effective because it acts in union with the sacraments and God’s grace.  The rosary isn’t an end in itself, but one of many links in the chain of your spiritual armor.

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Mary’s Rosary Promise #2

Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some signal grace.

I find signal graces one of the most fascinating and beneficial effects of rosary meditation. The reason why they are so fascinating to me is because the Catholic Church doesn’t really have an official definition for them. They aren’t mentioned by name in the Catechism and yet most people believe in them. A signal grace is a sign from God in response to your prayers. Often signal graces seem like coincidences. But as you will read, signal graces go beyond mere observable signs since they can have a profound effect on your life.

A rosary crucifix.

Many people associate a signal grace as a physical sign from God in response to one’s prayers. For example, someone may pray whether to accept a new job, get married, or start a family. He prays the rosary for God’s guidance. He might even make a decision but still has anxiety whether he made the correct one. But then he sees something — a bumper sticker on a car that says “Have Faith” or a new billboard for the company with whom he just accepted the job offer. Many people take these as signs that God heard them and is letting them know they are on the right track. Rosary meditation heightens one’s awareness to the small signs of God’s presence in our lives.

If seeing a rare bird, a billboard, a bumper sticker, or any other physical sign from God works for you then use them to increase your spirituality. But I think people often place too much energy looking for overt signs to the point where they aren’t experiencing signal graces, but looking for justifications. If you have a big, life-changing decision then it’s only natural to look for any sign that you are making the right choice. I think signal graces manifest themselves as a more internal and almost intangible feeling and not something external. In my experience, a signal grace is more of a sense of peace or confidence that comes when you allow God to help you make the right choice. It is such a subtle feeling that I can’t even begin to describe it with my clumsy prose. But that subtlety also highlights the importance of rosary meditation because without that heightened sense of awareness of God’s influence in your life, you may not notice it through the “noise” of daily life.

Generally available Marian image created in th...

A signal grace isn’t something only observed or felt after making a decision. It’s not like God is some game show host who tells you whether you’ve answered the question correctly. A signal grace also guides you when you are making important decisions. When you consider taking an easy way out of a difficult situation by doing something not in accordance with God’s Will, signal graces gently push you back to following God’s path. For example, have you ever not felt like attending Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation but something pushed you to go anyway? Thank signal graces. Ever thought about committing some sin and then, at the last moment, realized that you better not? Thank signal graces. Have you ever felt tired and didn’t want to pray or meditate but something just pushed you that bit to say them anyway? Yep, those are signal graces at work. And the more you pray the rosary the more God can influence you through His signal graces.

The key to recognizing signal graces is perseverance in praying the rosary. Persevere is an interesting choice of words in Mary’s promise. It means “to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty.” Mary’s promise implies that praying the rosary won’t always be easy or the benefits of it won’t be immediate. You have to think of praying the rosary and recognizing signal graces like mastering any skill. It takes time and hard work to really become tuned to the nuances of a craft. Great athletes develop an intuitive sense of the game after years of intense practice and experience. A master artist knows how to take an image in his head and paint it on a canvas but only after many years of studying and practice. A doctor must perform many surgeries under the guidance of mentors to gain the muscle memory needed for delicate operations. Rosary prayer is very similar. At first it’s all mechanics with seemingly little benefits. But when you persevere with rosary meditation your heart, mind, and soul become better tuned to the subtle ways God speaks to you.

God is always trying to guide us. But have you taken the steps to hear what He has to say? Boost your spiritual antenna through rosary meditation.

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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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15 Promises of Rosary Prayer

file0002075421420I am starting a new series on RosaryMeds titled “The 15 Promises of the Rosary.” Each article will focus on one of Mary’s rosary promises. Wait, what? Never heard of the 15 promises of the rosary? Don’t be surprised. Unfortunately, these promises seldom come up when people explain the rosary. Everyone explains the mechanics of rosary meditation but don’t go into the benefits. And that is unfortunate and a terrible marketing blunder. It’s like someone trying to pitch an exercise video series without showing you the “after” pictures of strong and fit people. Or it’s like someone advertising a diet pill by showing you how to swallow it but not including testimonials from people who tried it. I think many people don’t stick with rosary prayer because everyone tells them the process but forget to mention the benefits. Of course, any RosaryMeds reader knows about the benefits of rosary meditation since that is all I write about. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to our Mother Mary.

St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de Rupe were instrumental in the revival and spread of rosary prayer in the 12th and 15th centuries. Both men spoke about 15 promises the Virgin Mary made to them about those who pray the rosary regularly. “Regularly” is a vague term but it is usually taken as praying all 20 mysteries each week. Here are the 15 promises mentioned on the Rosary Confraternities website:

FIFTEEN PROMISES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
TO CHRISTIANS WHO FAITHFULLY PRAY THE ROSARY

  1. To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.
  2. Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some special grace.
  3. The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.
  4. The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.
  6. Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.
  7. Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.
  9. I will deliver promptly from purgatory souls devoted to my Rosary.
  10. True children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in heaven.
  11. What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
  12. To those who propagate my Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Son that all the members of the Rosary Confraternity shall have as their intercessors, in life and in death, the entire celestial court.
  14. Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to my Rosary is a special sign of predestination.

Good stuff right? We’ll cover each one in detail in future articles. If you know friends or family who might find this interesting, please let them know about RosaryMeds so they can receive updates.

The Wide World of The Rosary

Given the frustrating news stories lately, I thought I would lighten things up a bit and give you a break from debt ceilings, shutdowns, healthcare, or some stupid statement a politician just made.  In many of my previous posts I compare rosary prayer to exercise.  In this post, I thought I would draw some relationships between certain roles people have in the exercise world and their rosary praying counterparts.  Read below and ask yourself what type of rosary person are you.

#1: The Sprinter

This person typically prays the rosary without taking a single breath.  He often confuses rosary prayer with Nascar racing and thinks the goal is to get through the entire rosary as fast as possible.  Or, at the very least, get through a decade before the end of commercial break.  He probably isn’t really thinking about the rosary mysteries, but has his mind on the television show or movie that is playing in the background.  What’s important to him is that he can check off “rosary” on his daily “todo” list.

World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...

#2: The Marathon Runner

This person typically prays all 20 mysteries of the rosary every day.  He possesses incredible patience, concentration, and free time.  While he tries to pray in a quiet, meditative environment, praying while also doing household chores or driving in the car will do in a pinch.  He has incredible confidence in the power of the rosary and prays so many mysteries, not because he thinks God will physically reward him for it, but because it brings him peace and strength to carry out God’s Will.

English: Marathon runner for the Feria de Pina...

#3: The Daily Walker

This person tries to fit in 5 mysteries every day.  He usually has a routine he likes to follow such as praying the rosary at the same time and in the same place each day.  He doesn’t usually fret over skipping his regularly scheduled rosary praying time.  If he does miss it, he’ll just resume the next day.  The quality of his prayers can fluctuate from day to day.  Sometimes he is as focused as a laser beam like the Marathon Runner and other times he races through it like the Sprinter.  He knows he should take his time with the rosary like the Marathon Runner and he may start out with a the goal of a high quality rosary workout.  But somewhere along the way he gets distracted and just races to the end.

walk the dog on rhe beach

#4: The Gear Junkie

This person thinks of the rosary like a good luck charm or magic incantation.  He thinks that by praying the rosary nothing bad, challenging, or inconvenient should happen to him.  He often won’t actually pray the rosary, but just hangs it up on the car’s rear view mirror or carries it around with him like a lucky rabbit’s foot.  He is like the runner that spends a lot of money on a running suite, shoes, and biometric gear but never actually goes out and runs.  Or he runs halfheartedly.  The gear junkie prayer person, much like his running counterpart, thinks of the rosary as an item, not a tool.  And when he doesn’t get the results he expects, he quickly gives up and finds something else he thinks will solve all his problems.  And, like the P90X workout DVDs, the rosary will just sit in a drawer and collect dust.

Marathon Preparedness

#5: The Researcher

In exercise, the researcher wants to learn everything he can about an exercise or eating routine before getting started.  He will spend his nights reading all he can about a no-carb diet while scarfing down a muffin and energy drink because he tells himself the new diet starts “tomorrow.”  Or he won’t do a single pushup until he buys that gym membership and signs up for a class.  The rosary researcher won’t pray a single bead until he finishes reading his book on the importance of the rosary or has all his questions answered about the rosary on the Catholic Answers forums.  Or he won’t get started praying until the house is clean, the car is washed, the grass is mowed, and the bills are paid.  He is always finding a reason to delay rosary prayer until he feels “ready” for it.

English: A researcher at The National Archives...

#6: The Cross Fit

Not just content with running five miles, he will stop and do twenty pushups every two minutes.  The cross fit exerciser really pushes himself to the limit and is always finding ways to combine different exercises into a single workout.  The cross fit rosary prayer also pushes himself by not only praying the rosary, but also reading scriptural passages and offering specific intentions.  He won’t  just rattle off the words of each prayer, but really concentrates on meditating on each mystery.  He likes to compete with the marathon rosary person for who has the most rosary meditation endurance.

Heavy liftin’

 

The truth is, there is a little bit of each of these rosary people in all of us.  Sometimes we’re the Sprinter, sometimes the Daily Walker, and sometimes (if we’re lucky), the Cross Fit or Marathon rosary praying person.  But regardless of how well you pray on any given day, don’t give it up!  Just keep trying to be a little better at it.  God will appreciate the effort.

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Why the Rosary?

Rosary

Monday, October 7, is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I would be amiss and greatly derelict in my duties as a rosary blog writer if I didn’t write something about it.  The Catholic San Francisco, asked its readers, “Why do you pray the rosary?” I provided some of my thoughts (this should look familiar to anyone who read The Rosary for the Rest of Us):

Praying the rosary hasn’t made me rich. Praying the rosary hasn’t made me famous. Praying the rosary hasn’t given me a promotion at work. So why do I pray the rosary? Praying the rosary regularly gives me perspective. I start to see things the way God wants me to see them. I don’t obsess over the little things in this world that aren’t important to my eternal salvation. Praying the rosary helps me focus on what is truly important – my relationship with God. It hasn’t made my problems go away, but it has given me the strength to endure and overcome them just as Jesus Christ did in the sorrowful mysteries.”

I actually had a difficult time answering why I pray the rosary. It’s not that I don’t like or believe in the power of the rosary, but it is difficult to put its value into words. The rosary is a divine gift from God. And coming from God, who is outside our human understanding, makes explaining the rosary hard to capture in words. But at the same time, it is important to occasionally ask, “why?”

Generally available Marian image created in th...

Asking ourselves why we pray the rosary forces us to evaluate the role it plays in our lives. Do we just pray it out of habit or routine without understanding why? Do you mistake it for some magical chant? Do we pray the rosary because someone told us to? The rosary isn’t a prayer we should take for granted. When we know why we should pray the rosary, we become that much more motivated to want to pray it. My “ah-ha!” moment with the rosary came on my pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I felt this peace come over me as if God was tell me, “It’s going to be okay… I got you.” Ever since then the rosary has provided me an oasis of peace in my busy, tiring, and hectic life.

The rosary is much like an uncut and unpolished gem. To the unobservant, it just looks like a rock. To those who take the time to dig deeper, they will find something of great value. On this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, ask yourself, “why?” And when you do find an answer, please leave a comment. You never know if your insight might provide a spark for others to discover a greater value in rosary prayer.

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The Pope Said What Now?

Update: This article is not about the pope’s recent statements in America magazine and commented on in the Huffington Post and New York Times.  It is about something he wrote in an Italian newspaper a few weeks ago.  But don’t worry, I’ll discuss the America magazine article in an upcoming post.

A few days ago, Pope Francis wrote a lengthy article responding to some questions proposed by Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder of the newspaper La Repubblica and an atheist. First of all, I find it amazing that the pope can even find the time to read an editorial in a local newspaper, let alone respond to it. I think it shows just how well Pope Francis understands modern tactics of evangelization. He knows that encyclicals are great for diving deep into questions of the Catholic Faith, but if you really want to connect with people you need to communicate in a more casual way using popular media. He might have done more good and educated more people about the Catholic faith in his letter to Mr. Scalfari than what he would have done in ten encyclicals.

The main purpose of Pope Francis’ letter was to address how the Church views atheists regarding their salvation and entrance into Heaven. The pope wrote:

First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that – and this is fundamental – God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

Now the popular media jumped all over this statement essentially declaring the pope said something like “all atheists go to Heaven” or that He reversed some doctrine; neither which is true. This isn’t the first time the media completely misreported the pope’s comments and certainly won’t be the last. The pope did not unveil a new doctrine, but only reiterated what the Church has taught for generations. The fact that this seems new to everyone, including many Catholics, shows just how little we understand about the Catholic faith.

The Church has always taught that there is no way any of us here on Earth know who will go to Heaven and who will end up in Hell. Yes, we have a lot of guidelines, teachings, and commandments passed on from God through the prophets, His son Jesus Christ, and Church tradition. But there is always that unknown factor that the pope mentions — God’s infinite mercy. We just cannot know who God forgives and why.

Remember, the Church teaches that non-Catholics can go to Heaven if they’ve never had an opportunity to know God’s Church but live according to the natural laws of morality. When we think about this scenario, we often think of some isolated tribe out on a tropical island somewhere who have never seen a bible. But what about the person who never went to Mass growing up? What about the person who is surrounded by people who actively hate the Church or just don’t place any value on organized religion? What about the person whose view of the Church comes solely from sources that misreport the Church’s teachings? What about the fallen away Catholic who just went to Sunday Mass out of obligation but never really participated? Aren’t these also people who never really “knew” God’s Church? The Catholic faith has always taught that these people, including atheists, are also able to find mercy and forgiveness just like the stereotypical “isolated native” that has never seen a church or opened a bible.

Whenever I think about our ultimate fate, I’m reminded of the Second Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Ascension. When I pray and meditate on that rosary mystery, I remember that Jesus took His rightful place in Heaven at the right hand of God and acts as our final judge. We know that our actions, combined with God’s mercy, will decide whether we spend eternity in God’s kingdom or Hell. We should be thankful that God is infinitely merciful and that whether we end up in Heaven isn’t an in/out, true/false, on/off proposition. Because if it were, I dare say that most people would probably fall short of meeting the requirements to enter Heaven. We all have our failings, but it’s God’s mercy, both through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and at our final judgement, that allow us to live for eternity in His kingdom.

But why must we understand and live by the Catholic teachings when the pope said anyone, including atheists, can go to Heaven? Are devout Catholics just suckers wasting their time going to Mass and receiving the sacraments? Far from it. Remember, the pope said that God’s mercy is infinite, but not automatic. Ask yourself, do you want to rely solely on God’s mercy to enter into His kingdom? Or would you like to actually increase your odds, as it were, by following His Word? Let’s put it another way. Suppose there was a way to learn the winning numbers in the lottery ahead of time. But to learn those numbers, you have to put in years of hard work. Would you do it? After all, you could always avoid the work and just leave it up to chance. Maybe you will get lucky and guess the right numbers. The same goes for salvation, but the stakes are much higher since it’s dealing with our eternal souls. Are you going to leave such an important decision solely on God’s mercy or do you want to put forth the effort now to really earn your place in God’s kingdom?

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Expecting the Unexpected — How God Answers Our Prayers

Lately I have contemplated prayers, intentions, and how God answers our requests for help.  On the Catholic Answers forums, I see so many people angry or saddened because they feel so distant from God and they wonder if He isn’t hearing their prayers.  I understand how easy it is to feel discouraged when the news headlines are filled with stories of violent crimes, wars, and civil unrest not to mention the unreported hardships we all face about our jobs, family, finances, relationships, etc.  You look at all the problems in this world and it is easy to conclude that God just doesn’t care.  However, what I think happens more often is that we fixate on a specific solution and completely miss how God actually answers our prayers.

Here’s an example of God answering prayers in unexpected ways taken from my own experiences.  Like many people, I pray in a general sense that I may be stronger in the seven virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.  But how do I know God hears me and answers my requests to be a better person?  After all, nothing really seems to change in my day-to-day life that indicates that I’m stronger in any of those areas.  I don’t wake up and say, “Thanks God!  I feel more diligent today!”  So how does God answer my prayers?

I remember all the days and nights I spend with my 1.5 year old son.  I play with him when I come home from work although I’m tired and just want to relax in front of the television.  I try to read his favorite books to him for the hundredth time with the same excitement as the first time.  It’s exhausting work at times.  But then it hits me.  All those times when I pulled out a little more energy to be there for my family, I was demonstrating acts of patience, kindness, and charity.  I asked God for strength and He answered by giving me an opportunity to exercise virtue.

I would say that one can only dream babies acted liked angels, but that assumes a parent could ever get some sleep.

Next, let’s look at a story that made the news rounds lately.  There is a picture circulating around the internet of a wife carrying her double-amputee husband on her back.  Jesse Cottle lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while serving in the Marines in Afghanistan.  In rehab, he met his wife, Kelly.  In an interview on Good Morning America, Jesse said that he wouldn’t change anything that happened to him because if he hadn’t lost his legs to that IED, he never would have met the love of his life.

God always answers our prayers but not always in ways we expect.

I’m not sure whether Jesse is an overtly praying man, but I’m sure he must have had some very low moments after his injury and asked God to somehow improve his situation.  But God just didn’t miraculously grow Jesse’s legs back or change the IED blast so he didn’t lose them in the first place.  I’m sure many of us in Jesse’s situation would look for those specific answers from God if we were in that situation.  And we would probably be saddened when God didn’t physical heal us.  But God often answers prayers in unexpected, but better ways.  Sure, God could have physically healed Jesse.  But then Jesse never would have met Kelly in rehab.  While what happened to Jesse was tragic, God brought about a greater good by touching the hearts of two people, instead of healing the legs of one.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

What rosary mystery doesn’t involve God working in some unexpected way?  The whole New Testament is the account of Jesus saying and doing unexpected things.  Sometimes He did the unexpected to great fanfare like performing miracles.  And other times Jesus’ unexpected nature upset people, especially the scribes and pharisees when He challenged their practices and authority.  When you pray the rosary, meditate that God’s ways aren’t always our ways.  When it comes to God, expect the unexpected.  For example:

  • The Annunciation (First Joyful Mystery): God chose an unwed teenager to be the Mother of God.  Mary may have been physically poor, but God raised her up to be rich in spirit.
  • The Nativity (Third Joyful Mystery): The King of Kings was born in a stable.  Like His ministry, Jesus’ birth was marked not by earthly power, but by humility.
  • The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven (Third Luminous Mystery): When Jesus proclaimed that He was the Word made flesh, people chased him out of town.  How many times do we get upset when God shows Himself in unexpected ways in our lives?
  • The Crucifixion (Fifth Sorrowful Mystery): Jesus died and redeemed us all.  People challenged Him by saying that if He was really the Son of God, He could save himself.  But Jesus knew that it was far more important to save our souls than save His body.
The Annunciation, by Francesco Albani. "H...
The Annunciation, by Francesco Albani. “How can this be, for I know not man?”, Luke 1:34 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember, God’s ways are not our ways.  But that should be a reason to rejoice, not for disappointment.  God sees the big picture.  So shouldn’t we rejoice that someone who sees and knows everything is looking out for us?   Do you have any stories to tell of how God answered your prayers in unexpected, but ultimately better ways?  Leave a comment.

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