How the Rosary Improves Your Soul’s Health

I know I’ve talked about living a spiritually healthy lifestyle in previous posts.  It looks like I’m not the only one who believes in the importance of practicing good spiritual hygiene.  I came across a post on spiritual healthy living on Catholic Exchange the other day which espouses many of the same themes I’ve pushed on my site.  The TL;DR summary of living a spiritually healthy lifestyle is:

  1. Avoid gossip and gossipers
  2. Dress properly
  3. Avoid bad company
  4. Avoid impure images
  5. Think before you act
  6. Consume electronic media responsibly
  7. Don’t be a couch potato
  8. Constantly exercise your mind
  9. Avoid gluttony
  10. Avoid contrary views of Mary

I find it interesting how much time and energy people generally spend on their physical health.  After all, collectively we spend billions on diets, rare and exotic “superfoods,” supplements, and all sorts of workout programs to obtain those six-pack abs.  We also spend a lot of time exercising our minds (see #8) with all sorts of creative hobbies, DIY projects, reading books and articles, and watching informative videos.  And while we muster up the energy to power through our daily workouts and gulp down kale smoothies, we begrudging go to Mass once a week and fly through our daily prayers.  We so often see the value of eating well and exercising our mind and body but fail to see the much greater value of exercising our soul.

Hey Hulk, maybe it’s time you cut back on the kale and spinich and pick up a rosary.

My go-to Rosary mystery that reminds me to live a spiritually healthy lifestyle is the Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  It reminds us how easily we can forget about Jesus in our lives and the state of our relationship with him.  Mary and Joseph incorrectly assumed he was with the caravan leaving Jerusalem.  And so we often have a tendency to assume we have a close relationship with Jesus even when we don’t actively work on it.  And while Jesus will always be there to “share the yoke” (see last Sunday’s Gospel), he also is patient and doesn’t force his assistance on us.  We have to make the effort to work on our relationship with Jesus.

Let’s look at this another way.  I’m sure many of us have co-workers, friends, spouses, or family members we occasionally take for granted.  Yes, we may value them or love them, but maybe we don’t let them know how important they are to us.  We just assume they will always be there filling the role we’ve come to expect and depend on.  It’s not until they get tired and get upset with us that we realize how we’ve taken our relationship with them for granted.  Maybe a kind word or small token of appreciation was all that was needed to maintain that valued relationship.

“Just one kind word! That’s all I ask.”

Our relationship with Jesus is similar to our relationship with people.  We can so often just take our faith for granted that we do not make any effort to improve upon it.  Jesus actually asks relatively little of us compared to what he is willing to offer.  But we have to remember that we are in a reciprocal relationship with Jesus and want to maintain that relationship if we are to get any benefit from it.

Looking at the ten tips for living a spiritually healthy lifestyle from Catholic Exchange is a good place to start.  Many of us maintain todo lists, either physical or mental, of exercises to perform, daily tasks to complete, and foods to eat and avoid.  But perhaps it would be wise to keep a list of the daily spiritual tasks and goals we need to consciously work on.  If you’ve been coasting spiritually then perhaps it is time to take a more active interest in your soul’s health.  Maybe you’ll find that you’re already quite fit or maybe you’ll find that you’re really on spiritual life support.  Either way, you’ll never improve your relationship with Jesus unless you analyze it periodically and correct those weak spots.

Take a look at that list.  What dimensions of your soul’s health do you need to work on?   When you pray the rosary (hopefully daily), ask Mary to help you work out those weak spots in your spiritual health.  She’ll be more than happy to help.

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The Value of Fasting

I am an avid reader of science and technology articles. I read Wired and Popular Science cover to cover within days of the magazine arriving in my mailbox and I read articles from numerous websites. I get super excited when I notice a link between my two passions — science and technology and prayer and spirituality.

I came across such an article that dived into the science behind fasting. A researcher has a theory that fasting obstructs a hormone responsible for cell growth and makes people more sensitive to insulin. He thinks that periodic fasting could reduce one’s chances of developing diabetes or cancer. The technical details are beyond the scope of this article but it’s an interesting read.

The article mentions that those who fast often feel sharper mentally because of a process called ketosis. It has something to do with a difference in body chemistry when you’re burning fat instead of carbohydrates. But that got me thinking about why the Church recommends fasting in addition to prayer. If fasting sharpens the mind and makes you physically healthier, could it also make you spiritually healthier as well?

The common idea behind fasting is that we give up something physical (such as food) and replace it with something spiritually nourishing. But this isn’t a trade of equal value. The spiritual benefit will always outweigh the physical loss. Think about that for a second. You give up a dessert or your ritual cup of coffee so you can instead better listen to God and form a deeper relationship with Him. Talk about giving up so little to gain so much!  Seems like an easy deal right?

And yet, while we all know the tremendous benefit of fasting, it is probably one of the hardest disciplines to practice. I think many of us have no problem saying some extra prayers, reading the bible, or praying the rosary when we put our minds to it. But you might as well suggest amputating a limb at the idea of not having that slice of cheesecake, substituting that mouth watering bacon burger for soup, or cutting out that cup of afternoon coffee. But that’s the point isn’t it? The harder the sacrifice, the more you benefit. When you say, “Okay God, I’m giving this up for you!” the better you will be able to hear God respond with a “thank you” and His grace.

And on Saturday he ate 1 piece of chocolate cake, 1 ice cream cone, 1 pickle…

Fasting amplifies our prayers and our reception of God’s Word.  Compare fasting/prayer to diet/exercise.  Exercise is not as effective without a matching, healthy diet.  All that you gain working out for an hour can be undone with a single cheesecake slice.  Or your health can be further benefited by supplementing exercise with nutritious food.  The same can be said for prayer.  All the benefits of prayer can be undone by a moment of sin or it can be elevated when combined with fasting.  Obviously, if we pray and then turn around and sin we really haven’t let God’s grace into our hearts.  But when we pray and fast, we allow God more room in our hearts to truly transform us.  St. Augustine once said, “Those who sing pray twice.”  If that’s true then I say that those who fast must be praying five-fold.

Jesus in Pray
Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does fasting connect to the rosary?  Think about one of the themes of the Third Luminous Mystery.  Jesus calls us to focus on living for His Kingdom of Heaven.  That focus manifests itself by active conversion of our ways.  We change our earthly focus to a Heavenly one.  And that is exactly what fasting is all about.  We give up something worldly in exchange for something spiritual.  We intentionally choose the Kingdom of Heaven over delights in this earthly kingdom.  No one accidentally fasts.  Nor do we accidentally live for Heaven.  In the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus puts a choice before us.  Will you live for His kingdom and convert your ways or will you remain chained to the pleasures of this life?

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Easter Sunday — Joy

Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene
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The Easter Gospel is either from John 20:1-9 or Matthew 28:1-10.  Both talk about how Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty for He had risen.  Naturally this Gospel relates to the First Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Resurrection.  Realizing the sorrow of Jesus’s passion and death only makes His resurrection that much more joyful.  For while Jesus’ earthly life ended in great suffering and sorrow He rose to His eternal, heavenly life in glory.  We too should remember that in our greatest sorrows and suffering we are called to one day rise to new life in the eternal joy of God’s heavenly kingdom.

Everyone have a happy and blessed Easter!

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Our Lady’s Messages: October 2010

Statue Virgin Mary Medjugorje - Hotel Pansion ...
Image by gnuckx via Flickr

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on October 2, 2010:

Dear children, Today I call you to a humble, my children, humble devotion. Your hearts need to be just. May your crosses be your means in the battle against the sins of the present time. May your weapon be patience and boundless love – a love that knows to wait and which will make you capable of recognizing God’s signs – that your life, by humble love, may show the truth to all those who seek it in the darkness of lies. My children, my apostles, help me to open the paths to my Son. Once again I call you to pray for your shepherds. Alongside them, I will triumph. Thank you.

Mary talks about patience and love in Her message which is a central theme to The Fourth Joyful Mystery of the holy rosary — The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.  We recount the story of Simeon who waited and prayed in the temple his entire life before seeing the Anointed One, the baby Jesus.  Patience is a virtue that is often found lacking in today’s culture of instant gratification.  Whether it be new gadgets, a new home, a promotion at work, or a relationship many of us don’t have the patience to wait and build up something we will appreciate.  We often hear stories how people’s impulsiveness ends in misery when hasty marriages turn rough or they get in way over their head trying to live a lavash lifestyle.

Similarly, we are often impatient with God’s plan for us.  We want God to answer all our prayers instantly to get us out of difficult situations.  When we don’t get that instant response we believe God is not listening or does not care.  But perhaps God does answer our prayers and we just do not see it.  Perhaps we become so fixated on a single solution that we do not see the alternative and better path God provides.  And that is why Mary asks us to be patient so that we will notice the signs God lays before us on how to live in His grace and one day enter His heavenly kingdom.  Remember, Simeon was graced with seeing the Anointed One before his death.  Simeon had faith that God would reveal Himself at the appropriate time.  Mary asks us to show that similar faith and patient love.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on October 25, 2010:

Dear children! May this time be a time of prayer for you. My call, little children, desires to be for you a call to decide to follow the way of conversion; therefore, pray and seek the intercession of all the saints. May they be for you an example, an incentive and a joy towards eternal life. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary asks us to follow the way of conversion which is the message of The Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  Notice how She uses the word “decide.”  Ultimately, it is our choice whether we want to convert our ways to God’s ways and build a meaningful relationship with Him.  Living in God’s grace requires effort and is not something that happens by accident.  No one ever became a saint by accident.  All the saints made a conscious decision to follow God.  Similar to Mary’s first message, deciding to follow God also means showing faith and patience to follow the path He lays before us.  It may not be an easy road or one that we would have chosen ourselves.  But it is the road that ultimately leads to His kingdom.  But no one can walk that road for you.  You have to decide whether you will follow that road wherever it takes you.  Ask yourself, “did you decide to follow God today?”

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Perfect Prayer

I came across this article on Catholic Exchange. It discusses the idea of “perfect prayer” and how the Holy Spirit guides us in our spiritual life. It also dives into the idea of how reciting prayers, like the “Hail Mary” repetitively in the Catholic rosary, is different from the mindless incantations that Jesus warns us against in the Gospel. Many of the ideas put forth by the article’s author, Mark Shea, run along similar lines as many of my articles so I thought this was worth further commentary.



A dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, who is be...
Image via Wikipedia

I came across this article on Catholic Exchange.  It discusses the idea of “perfect prayer” and how the Holy Spirit guides us in our spiritual life.  It also dives into the idea of how reciting prayers, like the “Hail Mary” repeatedly in the Catholic rosary, is different from the mindless incantations that Jesus warns us against in the Gospel.  Many of the ideas put forth by the article’s author, Mark Shea, run along similar lines as many of my articles so I thought this was worth further commentary.

The article starts by explaining to us the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer:

Because we don’t know what we are doing when we pray, God sends us help. The principal help he gives is the Spirit who, if you will, prays through us and in union with us.

Naturally, this calls to mind the Third Glorious Mystery, the Coming of the Holy Spirit.  This same gift given to the apostles is also available to us to help guide us through life.  Remember, the purpose of prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not to erase all of life’s problems.  The world will always be an imperfect place where there is sadness, sickness, cruelty, war, and suffering.  The world moves like raging, white water rapids where it is so easy to lose control and smash upon the rocks.  But the Holy Spirit helps us navigate those rapids so that we make it through intact.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t make the rapids go away but gives us the strength and knowledge to survive and even thrive among the chaos of this world.

The article moves on to discuss repetitive prayer and cites Jesus in Matthew 6:7:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

I always found this warning against “empty phrases” interesting because people always ask this about praying the rosary.  Many people feel like repeating the Hail Mary ten times for each decade is just the recitation of empty phrases.  And surely, it can become that if we say them without any focus or conviction.  But Mark Shea makes a good point that we do not recite the Hail Mary or the Our Father as if it is some sort of magic spell and hence reduce God to a genie who grants us wishes.  Instead, reciting these prayers repeatedly moves us into a more meditative and receptive state to hear God’s will.  And this brings us back to the earlier part about letting the Holy Spirit guide us.  By praying and meditating we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  In a way, its not the words of the prayer that are important.  Rather, it’s the frame of mind that prayer puts us in since it shows an effort to really have a closer relationship with God.

Reciting the Hail Mary as a form of rosary meditation is our spiritual exercise.  In a past article, I liken rosary prayer to doing push ups.  You don’t get in shape physically by doing a single push up periodically.  Similarly, you don’t get spiritually healthy by praying a single Hail Mary once in a while.  So what some see as mindless incantations in praying the rosary, I see as a healthy spiritual workout regiment.  Very few of us can get “in the zone” with a few seconds of praying.  It takes time to organize our thoughts and present them to the Lord.  And that is why God designed the rosary the way it is.  It allows us to take our time, warm up a little, and really focus on trying to build our relationship with the Lord.

It takes discipline to pray the rosary and stay focused and receptive to the Holy Spirit.  Anyone who has meditated deeply will tell you it is anything but the recitation of easy, mindless phrases.

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Medjugorje Messages for July 2010

Mary’s July Medjugorje messages focus on the idea of “surrendering” to God. There are many rosary mysteries that center around putting our faith in the Lord and His divine plan for each of us.



Rubens Annunciation 1628 Antwerp
Image via Wikipedia

Mary’s July Medjugorje messages focus on the idea of “surrendering” to God.  There are many rosary mysteries that center around putting our faith in the Lord and His divine plan for each of us.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on July 2, 2010:

Dear children, my motherly call, which I direct to you today, is a call of truth and life. My Son, who is Life, loves you and knows you in truth. To come to know and to love yourself, you must come to know my Son; to come to know and to love others, you must see my Son in them. Therefore, my children, pray, pray, that you may comprehend and surrender with a spirit that is free, be completely transformed and, in this way, may have the Kingdom of Heaven in your heart on earth. Thank you!

Mary says that we must have the Kingdom of Heaven in our hearts here on earth.  Her statement reminds me of the Third Luminous Mystery where Jesus proclaims His Kingdom and calls us all to conversion.  Mary, in Her message, and Jesus, in that rosary mystery, both say that we need to convert or “transform” our lives by orienting them towards God.  How do we do that?  Mary says that we must pray and surrender ourselves to God’s will.  When we pray and make our hearts open to God we mimic the Apostles in the Third Glorious Mystery when the Holy Spirit came to them.  The Holy Spirit guides us and empowers us to do God’s will.  However, in order for us to be truly transformed, we have to silence all those earthly distractions so we can hear and see God in our lives.  Those distractions include earthly pursuits of money, power, lust, greed, and anything else that orients us to live solely for this world.  Mary challenges us to give up our earthly desires since they blind us from the truth of Jesus Christ.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on July 25, 2010:

Dear children! Anew I call you to follow me with joy. I desire to lead all of you to my Son, your Savior. You are not aware that without Him you do not have joy and peace, nor a future or eternal life. Therefore, little children, make good use of this time of joyful prayer and surrender. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Again, Mary uses the word “surrender” like She did in the July 2nd message.  She does not ask us to surrender in the traditional sense of the word as in surrendering because we are beaten down and defeated.  Instead she asks us to surrender to God by saying to him through our actions, “thy will be done.”  Much like Mary in the Annunciation, surrendering to God means opening ourselves to lead the life He plans for each one of us.  Instead of fighting God’s plan by falsely believing that we know better, we acknowledge that true happiness is only found though God.  Mary and the saints know this and all they desire is that we come to know this simple fact as well.  This type of surrender isn’t meant to beat us down and make us slaves.  On the contrary, this surrender actually lifts us up into a state of grace because we forge a closer relationship with the Lord.  All we need to do is put our faith and trust in God to follow the path He lays before us knowing that it will ultimately lead us to eternal life in Heaven.

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Medjugorje Messages for June 2010

I discuss Mary’s two messages at Medjugorje for June, 2010.



Virgin Mary
Image via Wikipedia

I discuss Mary‘s two messages at Medjugorje for June, 2010.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on June 2, 2010:

Dear Children, Today I call you with prayer and fasting to clear the path in which my Son will enter into your hearts. Accept me as a mother and a messenger of God‘s love and His desire for your salvation. Free yourself of everything from the past which burdens you, that gives you a sense of guilt, that which previously led you astray in error and darkness. Accept the light. Be born anew in the righteousness of my Son. Thank you.

Mary explains Her role as Queen of Heaven when she asks us to accept Her as a “mother and a messenger of God’s love.”  We must remember that Mary and all the saints want to guide us into God’s kingdom.  The saints are eternally in God’s love and their greatest desire is for all of us to one day feel that indescribable closeness with Him.  We can ask Mary and the saints to help us through our struggles in this life and stay in a state of grace.

Why not just pray directly to God?  If He hears our prayers then why pray to a saint who was a human just like you or me?  Why pray to people who had sins, struggles, and all those human imperfections when you can just pray directly to the one who can grant you eternal grace and happiness?  The fact is, we still do pray to God when we pray through the saints.  Think of the saints as our interface to God.  Because God’s nature is so indescribable, the saints offer us a model of the different aspects of God in a way we can comprehend.  They are simpler examples of God’s love, charity, mercy, knowledge, power, strength.  They show us the path to Heaven in a way we understand.  This is why God was made man through Jesus Christ.  And this is why Jesus established the Church which provides us with the collective wisdom of Mary and the saints.  All of this was done so that we may come to know God.

Mary’s message on June 25, 2010:

Dear children! With joy, I call you all to live my messages with joy; only in this way, little children, will you be able to be closer to my Son. I desire to lead you all only to Him, and in Him you will find true peace and the joy of your heart. I bless you all and love you with immeasurable love. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Again, Mary asks us to accept Her guidance to Jesus so that we may find true peace and joy.  Mary, the saints, your guardian angel, the souls in purgatory, and the Holy Spirit constantly try to guide us into Heaven.  Each one of us has an entire divine team that wants to put us on the right track to eternal happiness.  But are we listening?  Have we silenced our hearts of earthly desires to hear these messages?  I’m going to assume that no one who made it into Heaven was ever disappointed in what they found.  So why are we so often reluctant to follow the guidance of those who just want us to feel what they feel for all eternity?  We should pray that we make room in our hearts and minds for those offering us their help.

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Medjugorje Message — February 25, 2010

Dear children! In this time of grace, when nature also prepares to give the most beautiful colors of the year, I call you, little children, to open your hearts to God the Creator for Him to transform and mould you in His image, so that all the good which has fallen asleep in your hearts may awaken to a new life and a longing towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call.



Medjugorje
Image by StephYo via Flickr

Dear children! In this time of grace, when nature also prepares to give the most beautiful colors of the year, I call you, little children, to open your hearts to God the Creator for Him to transform and mould you in His image, so that all the good which has fallen asleep in your hearts may awaken to a new life and a longing towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call.

I really like the phrase, “so that all the good which has fallen asleep in your hearts may awaken to new life.”  That pretty much sums up the meaning behind Lent.  It is a time where we do not concentrate so much on what this world has to offer, but what what we have waiting for us in Heaven.  Ask yourself, do you long for Heaven and work towards one day being there?  Or is God’s kingdom an afterthought, an annoyance, or hindrance in your life?  Like I asked in the Third Sorrowful Mystery meditation, “whose kingdom do you serve?”

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Lent — Winning Spiritual Gold

We are entering a very special time of the year. People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit. People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose. It will be difficult and require many sacrifices. But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant. Are you ready for… Lent?



Nancy Johnson with her Olympic gold medal
Image via Wikipedia

We are entering a very special time of the year.  People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit.  People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose.  It will be difficult and require many sacrifices.  But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant.  Are you ready for… the Olympics Lent?

Much like the Olympic games, Lent and Easter are not ordinary times of the year.  It is a special time where we set aside our usual routine and really focus on becoming stronger in our faith.  It is a time to really push ourselves spiritually so that we may win that eternal “gold medal” — God’s grace and a place in His heavenly kingdom.  Athletes train for years in preparation for the Olympics.  Similarly, we must train and build our spiritual muscles in order to get the most out of this holy season.  Similar to last year’s Lenten article, here are some things you can do to earn that “Lenten Gold”

  • Fast: This can be the toughest form of meditation and prayer.  Fast by consuming only one full meal during the day (two smaller meals are allowed to maintain strength).  While most people are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, become a Lenten Olympian by fasting more often.  Try fasting once or twice a week during Lent.  Not ready for that gold medal?  Just try skipping desserts and avoiding snacks.  God sees every small sacrifice.
  • Pray: Allow extra time for prayer.  Wake up five minutes earlier and spend that time in silent meditation.  Remain conscious of Lent by praying throughout the day.  Leaving work?  Coming back from lunch?  Running an errand?  Say a small prayer at any of these times as a reminder of your faith.  Want to go for the gold?  Check with your parish for Stations of the Cross, Adoration, and other Lenten events.
  • Sacrifice:  In the Olympics, earning your place on the podium takes hard work and sacrifice.  You have to constantly adhere to a strict training regiment and never “slack off” or become lazy.  Likewise, making the most of Lent requires making sacrifices.  Give up something difficult like watching television or browsing the internet.  Give up snacking.  Give up alcohol.  Replace your “guilty little pleasures” with prayer and build those spiritual muscles.
  • Know the Rules:  Olympic athletes need to understand the rules of their sport in order to win.  Skiers must know the twists and turns of a hill so that they can stay on the best path and achieve a winning time.  Hockey players need to know what actions result in a penalty and avoid making them.  How do you expect to be a Lenten superstar if you do not understand the rules of the game?  Read Bible passages.  Read a few pages of the Catechism every night.  Learn apologetics.  If you are feeling really ambitious, read one of the Holy Father’s encyclicals.  Knowing your faith will keep you on that winning path.
  • Confession: Even Olympic athletes have bad days.  Sometimes a ski jumper gets out of position and doesn’t get as much distance as he should.  Sometimes a figure skater falls while trying to land after a difficult leap.  But what do they all do?  They get back up, learn from their mistakes, move on, and try to do better the next time.  To be a Lenten athlete we also need to learn from our mistakes, get up, and move on.  Go to Confession.  Purge yourself of your sins, listen to the priest giving you absolution, do your penance, and move on and live in God’s graces.  Want to go for the gold?  Try to convince a loved one who hasn’t received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a long time to go during Lent.
  • Have a Plan: Olympic athletes set goals.  Skiers have a target time they have to beat in order to win a medal.  Figure skaters have a list of moves they need to complete in their routines.  They just don’t go out there without a strategy and hope that it all comes together.  Likewise, have a plan for Lent.  Make a list of all the spiritual goals you want to accomplish before Easter.  Start now and continually add to the list as you think of new ways to make this Lent an extra special time of prayer.

The holiest time of the year begins in a few days.  Are you prepared?  Are you ready to win that spiritual gold medal?  Please share in the comments any other ways we can all become Lenten superstars.

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Pace Your Prayer Life

One of the main themes of my website is that prayer can be likened to exercise. Any good fitness instructor will tell you that you need to rest periodically so you can regain energy and avoid injury. Likewise, make sure your prayer routine includes time to rest so that you don’t experience spiritual burnout.



brush drawing on blue primed paper

One of the main themes of my website is that prayer can be likened to exercise.  Like physical exercise, prayer requires an earnest and consistent effort for noticeable results.  In physical exercise, you will never get into good shape if you only do one push-up.  Likewise, throwing out a “Hail Mary” once a month really won’t get you very connected to your faith.  However, you also want to be careful not to go to the other extreme and wear yourself out.  Any good fitness instructor will tell you that you need to rest periodically so you can regain energy and avoid injury.  Likewise, make sure your prayer routine includes time to rest so that you don’t experience spiritual burnout.

When I say you should take prayer rests that does not mean that you can go and sin your heart out or stop prayer entirely.  Much like how an athlete shouldn’t devour an entire cheesecake on a rest day, taking a break from your usual prayer routine does not give you license to sin.  When I say rest, I mean changing or lightening your prayer routine in order to restore spiritual energy and gain new perspective.  There are many ways to add variety to your prayers to break you out of your routine.  For example, try reading the Bible, praying the rosary,  listening to Catholic radio, saying different prayers, or just setting aside some personal “quiet” time for reflection and meditation.  Maybe there is a friend or family member who is going through a hard time whom you should call or visit.

My aim is to pray two rosary mysteries every day during my commute to and from work.  I started out trying to pray all four mysteries, but I found that I just do not have the focus and attention for that at this point in my life.  Instead of praying earnestly, I ended up just repeating words while think about other things.  Even two mysteries can be a stretch at times as my mind has a tendency to wonder.  When I’m not up to giving the rosary a 100% effort, I turn my attention to other activities like listening to ETWN or reading Catholic news websites.  Often, when I resume my usual routine after a one-day break I’m more focused and can meditate on each mystery from a new perspective.  Maybe I read or heard something on my rest day that I then integrate into my meditations.  By taking a little rest, I get much more out of subsequent prayers.

Let’s remember that life is a long journey and we should pace ourselves in all aspects of our lives.  You can’t win a marathon by trying to sprint 26 miles.  Doing so would lead to exhaustion, injury, and discouragement.  Not only would you not win, chances are you won’t even cross the finish line.  Likewise, you should pace your spiritual life and build up your spiritual “muscle.”  There are times for intense prayer and meditation and there are times for lighter reflection and learning.  How do you know the appropriate mix?  Just listen to your spiritual fitness instructors — Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the saints, and the choir of angels in Heaven.  They will let you know when it is time to step up your efforts or take a breather.

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