Patience is the Key to a Happy Life

I know this is going to make me sound like that stereotypical “old person” who just complains about “kids these days!” But this is actually a post about the importance of patience and why it’s so important to a meaningful life. It’s a virtue, a fruit of the Rosary, and implied in one of Mary’s Rosary promises.

The Coarsening of Society

I can’t be the only one noticing the “coarsening of society.” People seem to lose all self-control and dignity over the most trivial inconveniences. We’ve all seen people melt down or get abusive over a messed-up food order or a late delivery. What about that driver who is tailgating you, honking, and then passing you at 60 mph in a residential area? Have you ever had someone get angry at you when you were driving and almost hit him although he was the one lazily jaywalking across a busy road? Yeah, people seem to fly off the handle over anything these days.

I said low-fat almond milk, not non-fat soy!

Today, more than ever, we need to exercise patience. We need to exercise it in two ways. First, we need patience to deal with this impatient world. We don’t do ourselves or society any favors returning impatience with more impatience. It also pulls us down into a cycle of unhappiness because we find an excuse to make any occasion an unhappy one. Instead, we need to choose civility and calmness if we are to find happiness in our lives.

More importantly, exercising patience also prepares us for those difficult times in our lives — the BIG things. If we can’t handle that incorrect food order, how are we going to handle that cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or that fight with a spouse? Showing patience in the small things helps build up our resolve and perseverance for the big ones. We have to think of patience like daily exercise — it helps keep us spiritually fit.

Patience as a Virtue

Patience is an important element of faith. That is why it’s one of the seven capital virtues. It allows us to bear suffering without being overwhelmed by sorrow or abandoning virtuous living. It gives us the strength to imitate Christ even when our passions want to lash out over a situation we deem unfair or unwarranted. It’s what keeps us returning to God even when it seems pointless. Patience is intertwined with virtues such as charity, temperance, diligence, and humility.

Patience in the Rosary

The fruit of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is patience. Picture Jesus, unfairly condemned to death and constantly falling under the weight of his cross. Jesus didn’t complain or lash out about his situation. He quietly endured it knowing it was what God asked of him. Often, we need to show patience for what God asks of us. God’s plan may not be an easy one, but through the Rosary, we cultivate virtues like patience to see us through challenges on our road to Heaven.

Patience is what allows us to overcome life’s challenges. This is why Mary’s sixth promise to those who pray the Rosary is “Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune.” It’s not that you will avoid misfortune, but you will have virtues such as patience to endure them. Like Jesus carrying his cross, you will endure and ultimately triumph when you embrace the Rosary.

Do yourself and the world a favor, make an effort to exercise patience every day. Maybe that means leaving some criticism of a loved one unsaid. Maybe that means taking a few extra seconds to think before acting. Before lashing out, picture Jesus standing behind you (because he’s always with us). Does a profanity-laced tirade seem like a good idea? I hope not! Pray the Rosary and ask for Mary’s help in cultivating patience in your life. You and everyone around you will be happier as a result.

“It is Finished”

On Good Friday my parish meditates on the last words of Jesus before he died on the cross. There are seven phrases that Jesus proclaimed from the cross. What happens is that a parishioner presents a meditation on each phrase. This year, I’m leading the meditation on “It is finished” (John 19:30). Here it is below. I hope you all have a powerful Triduem and a joyful Easter!

The phrase, “it is finished,” is so short and yet profound.  It marks the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Jesus did not end with a lengthy testimonial or a summary of all that he accomplished or making sure that people understood his teachings.  To those standing at the foot of the cross, these words may have sounded like words of defeat.  That despite his best efforts, the pharases and Romans had won in ridding the world of someone they considered a nuisance.

Instead, Jesus’ words highlight the comfort and peace that comes from doing God’s Will.  By earthly accounts, Jesus did not have much to show for his life.  He made plenty of enemies, was betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, and died on the cross.  And yet, he found comfort and peace knowing that he did what God asked of him.  His mission was not to reach a certain number of conversions, healings, and miracles.  His ministry was not about keeping score.  It was simply doing God’s Will.  It was about giving all he had in service to God.

We too may sometimes feel like we don’t have much to show for all our efforts.  Each day may feel the same – wake up, work, relax, repeat.  Maybe we have difficulties with our health, family, job, or other situations that make us think, “Why me?”  Or, where’s my reward that’s due to me?  But we need to look at Jesus on the cross.  Did he complain about how unfairly he was treated?  Or did he regret how much more he could have done if given more time?  After all, there were so many more people he could have reached out to and healed and converted.  But no, he had done all that God asked of him and he knew that his mission was finished.

We too need to look at our lives and ask how much of it is given to God and how much of it is given to our wants and desires.  Can we say, “It is finished” with the same amount of peace as Jesus knowing that we faithfully served God and his Church?  Or are we holding something back?  Are we clinging too tightly to our concerns, doubts, and fears as we fight against what God wants of us?  Are we afraid that if we open ourselves to God’s Will, he will lead us to places we don’t want to go?

When I look around at the world today, I see so much anxiety, depression, and unhappiness.  I think much of that has to do with a lack of meaningful purpose.  We can get so caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities that we don’t make time for that higher calling.  In my own life, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or unaccomplished I need to ask myself, “Am I doing God’s Will or trying to fulfill a list of worldly accomplishments?”  Am I too focused on the day-to-day of work, my kids, my family, or my hobbies that I’m not listening to God and what he wants of me?

Doing God’s Will isn’t easy.  No one will say that Jesus led an easy life or a peaceful death.  But he could triumphantly proclaim that his earthly life had reached a satisfying conclusion having done God’s Will.  We tend to make our lives so complicated and we suffer as a result.  Maybe now is a good time to reduce and simplify and ask, “I am doing God’s Will?  Am I placing this day, my fears, my anxieties, and my insecurities into God’s hands?”  Because that’s the only way we will find that peace that Jesus had on the cross.  It’s the only way we will hear, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master!”

Avoid Sin by Making Temptation Difficult

Playing with Fire

Vice and temptation are omnipresent in today’s world, making it all too simple to succumb to one or the other. Sadly, it often appears that humanity instinctively opts for sin, as it instantly satisfies our desires. However, it requires continuous vigilance and determination to pursue virtue, the more challenging yet ultimately more rewarding path. A recent episode of the Daily Rosary Meditation podcast discussed this topic, highlighting how we frequently “play with fire” by lingering near our temptations.

The segment of the Rosary podcast that resonated with me highlighted the concept that a wise person does not deliberately place themselves in situations ripe for sin and temptation. It’s a common oversight that we can actually take proactive steps to sidestep sin. We don’t need to face temptation daily just to demonstrate our resilience. For those battling addictions, it’s crucial to anticipate and obstruct the ease of giving into those addictions. As mentioned in the podcast, an alcoholic striving to avoid temptation wouldn’t carry a flask of whiskey with them.

Temptation in our Pockets

The smartphone is a burden many of us bear. It opens the door to a myriad of fascinations. Take, for instance, I am composing this post on my phone at this very moment. It’s quite convenient to simply pull out my phone and begin writing whenever inspiration strikes. However, I often catch myself reaching for my phone aimlessly, merely to alleviate boredom and kill time. Even though I don’t engage in anything particularly harmful on my phone, it does distract me from engaging in more meaningful activities.

Many individuals find it challenging to control their social media cravings, which often leads to time squandered. Indeed, it’s pleasant to view photos and celebrate the accomplishments of friends and family. However, the reality is that many people turn to social media to vent, express anger, or exacerbate their anxieties. Social media is paradoxical; we’re aware it doesn’t bring us joy, yet we continue to indulge in it. Even if our actions on social media aren’t inherently wrong, one must wonder if deliberately fostering anxiety or depression is beneficial in any manner.

Rosary to the Rescue

When I think about battling my temptations, I meditate on the Fourth Luminous Mystery — The Transfiguration.  The fruit of this mystery is a desire for holiness.  And that is what we are confronted with every day — choosing what is holy or sinful.  When we pray the Rosary, especially this mystery, we remind ourselves that we have a choice on how we spend our time.  We can choose to make falling into sin more difficult by not indulging our temptations.  We can engage in virtuous activities that lead to increased communion with God. If anything, those activities will put us in a better mood.

As we enter Holy Week and Easter, many of us find that we have some extra time.  We may have time off from school or work.  It is easy to fill that free time with smartphone screens or parties. But try this experiment. Try restricting or eliminating aimless screen time. That may mean (gulp) sitting in silent contemplation for a while.  I encourage you to use this time of Holy Week and Easter to deliberately increase in holiness.  Time spent praying in an empty church or Adoration is time well spent.

Christian Entertaiment is Not Catholic Education

Changing Jesus

I came across this rather scathing critique of the popular epic series, The Chosen. As a disclaimer, I enjoy watching The Chosen but I also think Crisis magazine raises some good points cautioning us to not confuse entertainment for dogma. The article does lay it on a bit thick making The Chosen seem like a tool of Satan. This shows how you need to educate yourself and discern all forms of entertainment and information whether it be Crisis Magazine or Angel Studios.

I love watching The Chosen and I think this Crisis Magazine article is being a bit unfair, especially when it targets the production company as being anti-Catholic because they are protestant. There are many inspiring movies and shows created by non-Catholics. Ultimately, we need to remember that this is a form of entertainment. It’s not meant to replace the Mass and the Sacraments. It’s also not meant to replace prayer and catechesis.

It is a dangerous spiritual game for moderns to start dreaming up new, fun, and strangely contemporary scenarios to “humanize” Him for our emotional desires… Catholics forget that the devil is exponentially more intelligent than we are. If we do not adhere strictly to Catholic truth, especially regarding Our Lord and Christology, we will be lost.

Leila Miller (The False Christ of The Chosen – Crisis Magazine)

Understanding The Chosen is Entertainment

The Crisis article sets up a false choice – you either entirely accept or reject the characterization of Jesus and the apostles in The Chosen. I think you can watch The Chosen and be inspired by it similar to watching The Passion of the Christ, The 10 Commandments, Ben Hur, and many other religious movies. None of these movies follow the Bible nor Church teaching to the letter. They all take some creative license because they are movies after all.

This is why it’s so important to learn the Catholic faith. You need to be able to enjoy movies like The Chosen realizing that it’s not doctrine. You can’t watch The Chosen and claim to have studied Scripture. It’s not a substitute for encountering Jesus in prayer. You can’t watch Law and Order thinking you know criminal law. You don’t watch CSI (is that show even still on?) and expect to handle real forensic science. So don’t watch The Chosen believing you have built a strong relationship with God.

Entertaining Theology

If you’re looking to branch out from The Chosen, I suggest watching Life Is Worth Living by Bishop Fulton Sheen. You have to remember that this show was on prime-time TV enjoyed by millions in the 1950’s and 60’s. Imagine ABC broadcasting a show like that now! I watched a few episodes, and his lessons are as relevant today as they were back then. He’s teaching real and deep Catholic theology; not some artistic portrayal of Jesus and the apostles.

Mary’s Prescription to Building Deeper Faith

Finally, I encourage you to meditate on the Fourth Glorious MysteryMary’s Assumption into Heaven. I like to think about how Mary is in Heaven acting as our guide. She offers this prescription for forging a deeper relationship with God:

  1. Prayer
  2. Fasting
  3. Reading the Bible
  4. Confession
  5. Eucharist

Item #3 is what I’m driving at in this article. You need to learn your faith through the Bible and other Church documents to learn who Jesus is and how he is calling you. If you stop at The Chosen and don’t continue your faith journey as Mary prescribes, you aren’t actually forming a relationship with Jesus. Instead, you’re merely a patron of Angel Studios.

Becoming Extraordinary, Not Ordinary

I’m following up on my previous article about recasting God to fit our lives. I read this article about Bishop Robert Barron’s thoughts of an Anglican church holding a Lenten rave party claiming “it’s always joyous to see them [the youth] discover this incredible place anew and on their own terms.” He went on to say that Church and Lent isn’t about experiencing God on our terms, but His.

The Golden Calf Revisited

This is the golden calf incident from Exodus all over again. This church wanted to serve God on its own terms. Instead of the church experience being something not of this world, they reduced it to a nightclub. They metaphorically melted down the holy space and recast it into something ordinary.

Once you understand that the gold calf wasn’t about the Israelites rejecting God, but recasting Him, you can’t unsee it all around you in the modern Mass. We see it in the contemporary music we select. It’s in priests trying to make their homilies into comedy routines. It’s in the casualness of people chatting in the pews before and after Mass. It’s reflected in the jeans, t-shirts, and Starbucks coffee cups people bring. The Mass, meant to be this extraordinary experience, has become ordinary.

Is this a Catholic church or Ikea showroom?

It’s the ordinariness that drives people away from the Church, not draws them to it. If the Mass is no different than a social event and the Church is like a gym membership (something we have but don’t use unless we’re feeling guilty) then no wonder Church participation is shrinking. Why should I spend an hour at Mass on Sunday when it feels no different than spending an hour watching a show at home? Why celebrate the Eucharist if it’s reduced to a cracker?

Combatting the Ordinary

Now that we’re sufficiently depressed or angry, what do we do about it? Well, like other challenges, we start with prayer. Meditate on the First Joyful Mystery. We witness an extraordinary event of Mary accepting the responsibility of bringing God into this world. She accepted God’s Will instead of fighting it. She didn’t ask God to find someone else because she wanted a normal life. She didn’t request God to change His plan so she could marry Joseph and have kids normally. Like Mary, God calls us into something extraordinary. Let’s not recast God’s plan for us into something ordinary.

That’s more like it!

After prayer, then what? We can’t change the parish or the Church if we aren’t oriented towards God. This season of Lent is a great time to ask yourself if you’re letting the extraordinary into your life. Are you breaking out of the ordinary routines by finding time for more prayer or fasting? Are you making your experience at Mass a sacred one? Are you inviting friends and family to celebrate with you (I know, that’s a hard one that I grapple with)?

The Israelites are God’s chosen people. He led them through the desert as a ray of light. He brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land after performing countless miracles. And yet, they often reduced God to someone ordinary or turned away to man-made idols. Let’s not do the same with our Church and how we approach Jesus at Mass. Let the extraordinary sink in.

Beware of Creating “Golden Calves”

As I go through Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Bible in a Year” podcast, I come across some readings that help fuel my Rosary prayer. This is what I’ve been trying to communicate through RosaryMeds — so many of our life experiences can supercharge our Rosary experience. Conversely, great encounters with the Rosary then lead to a more meaningful lifestyle. When we surround our days with Scripture, Rosary, prayer, and the Sacraments we plant the seeds for a fulfilling life. Let’s take a look at the Book of Exodus and about what it tells us about our relationship with God.

Reshaping God

The Israelites in the Old Testament started their covenant with God on the wrong foot. Immediately after escaping Egypt, they started worshiping a golden calf when Moses didn’t return from Mount Sinai. They grew impatient waiting for Moses but felt the urgent need to honor something for bringing them out of Egypt. Fr. Mike Schmitz pointed out that they did not reject God for an idol. Rather, they re-attributed God to the golden calf. They proclaimed, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4) They reduced God to a statue that they crafted with a narrative they could control.

The Israelites did with the golden calf what we do all the time — reduce God to work on our terms. Often, we happily follow Catholic teaching when it’s convenient. But we are full of excuses and justifications when it becomes inconvenient or confusing. We tell ourselves, “God will understand if I miss Mass this once. After all, my kid’s baseball game is at the same time and is in another city.” Or, “I’ve been so good, why can’t I loosen up this once and go on a bender with my friends?” But where in scripture or Church tradition is it taught that God is okay with sin? Where does that perception of God come from? We aren’t that much different from the Israelites reshaping God to fit our actions rather than shaping our actions to serve God’s Will. We reduce God to being our buddy who’s cool and chill with how we want to live and won’t be too preachy or judgmental.

Looking in All the Wrong Places

Remember that the Israelites thought they were justified in turning to an idol. After all, think about how confused they must have felt. Moses led them out of Egypt, a civilization they called home for generations, into the wilderness only to leave them stranded at the base of a mountain. We may sympathize with them seeking answers about their situation. Since Moses had disappeared and God was silent, they were left to their own devices. Being impatient and scared, they found comfort by re-attributing God as a golden calf.

We also want answers but often aren’t patient enough to wait for God to answer us in our prayers. So we turn to simplified solutions from whoever has a justifiable answer. Our “golden calf” may be a friend, politician, TV personality, or just our justifications telling us we can support abortion, artificial contraception, and divorce. Or that holy days of obligation, fasting, abstinence, and prayer aren’t necessary. We proclaim, “I’m following God and his Church!” although it’s a fictional god of our own design.

Learning What God Wants

How do we prevent ourselves from reducing God to fit our desires? First, we have learn who God is and what he asks of us. We do this by reading Scripture, learning from the teachings and examples of the saints, and learning about our faith. Of course, we also need to receive the sacraments. Many people believe that the only way to learn about the faith is from a priest’s homily on Sunday. But the Mass is more than the homily. That is why you need to be reverently present in the Mass allowing God to speak to you.

Think about Simeon and Anna in the Fourth Joyful Mystery. They prayed constantly at the temple doing God’s Will. They didn’t look for a way out of the life God called them to. They didn’t justify a different life telling themselves, “Maybe this is what God was actually asking of me?” No, they chose the hard life because they knew that’s what God wanted from them. Remember, God rewarded their sacrifices by allowing them to be among the first to recognize Jesus as the Christ.

We can often become scared and confused like the Israelites and start redefining Church teachings to justify our behavior. But we become like the Israelites worshipping a false god. This is why it’s so important to embrace a life of prayer and continuously learn about the Catholic faith. It is in the silence of prayer that we see that God is always with us. And when we know He hasn’t abandoned us, we won’t go seeking comfort in a god of our own creation.

How to Break out of Complacency Loops

The Hell of Monotony

My family just watched the 90’s comedy, Groundhog Day. It’s about a man, Phil Connors, who lives February 2nd repeatedly. Whenever he falls asleep or dies, he wakes up at 6 AM, Feb. 2nd and relives that day. As entertaining as the movie is (one of Bill Murray’s best), I’m not the first person to notice religious undertones it contains. You can read commentary about how the movie hints at philosophies found in Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. 

Phil relives the same day for nearly 34 years given all the knowledge and skills he obtains. He knows practically everyone in the town, learns how to play the piano at a professional level, French poetry, and ice sculpting, just to name a few. But reliving the same day that many times is someone’s personal Hell. Like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back, Phil is condemned to live each day only to start over and never knowing how to break out of it.

Stunted Spiritual Growth

While many of us don’t relive the exact same day as depicted in the movie, we can fall into routines where each day just feels the same. We enter loops of monotony. We wake up, go to work, listen to the same news stories, eat the same foods, watch the same shows, play the same games, sleep, and repeat. Like Phil, we feel like there isn’t a point to our day as it seems like we’re doomed to do the same things repeatedly.

It’s not that our days need to be bad or challenging to experience our own Groundhog Day. We may like our jobs, have good health, and not have any real problems. But are we growing spiritually? Are we striving to be a better person? Often, we get stuck in the loop of the status quo never challenging ourselves to do better. We may start to withdraw from others in an attempt to isolate ourselves from the inconveniences associated with personal growth — the schedules, the commitments, and dealing with different personalities.

Opportunities to Improve

Phil broke out his loop by putting together the perfect day. He stopped trying to manufacture a day where he got what he wanted and instead focused on what others needed. He caught a boy falling out of a tree, bought insurance from an annoying salesperson, gave the Heimlich to someone choking, and fixed a flat tire for some senior citizens. He even tried to help an elderly homeless man whom he ignored in his first dozen years. Now the critic in me has to point out that all these nice deeds were to ultimately impress a woman. Groundhog’s Day is a romantic comedy at heart after all. But strip out that predictable plot point and you are left with a man who breaks out of his hell by serving others.

The skeptic may also note that Phil could act selflessly because he knew exactly where to be when needed. He had lived the day so many times, he memorized who needed help and when. We don’t have that gift of foresight. However, while our days may not be the same, we can also learn how to be at the right place at the right time. Every day is an opportunity to improve ourselves. We can reflect each night on what we did well and where we fell short. Who are we ignoring who desperately needs our help? As long as there is a tomorrow, we can strive to put together that ideal day and break out of any loops we may have in our lives.

Because Phil was stuck reliving the same day, he also had to interact with the same people. One particular annoying person was an insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson. At first, Phil tried to avoid him or punch him. But he later learned to just act nicely to him and make his day by purchasing insurance. We often can’t change who we interact with. We may have annoying coworkers, family members, and sometimes friends. But we can change how we interact with them. God may be putting us in difficult situations so that we can learn how to deal with others as he wants us to.

How the Rosary Helps us Break Monotony

Let’s look at the apostles in the First Sorrowful Mystery. By the time Jesus was arrested, the apostles probably had fallen into a comfortable routine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had stopped being amazed by Jesus after years of traveling with him. They had gotten comfortable with the lifestyle of traveling from village to village as part of Jesus’ entourage. But then they didn’t know what to do when Jesus was arrested. Maybe they had grown so comfortable in their routines that they stopped trying to grow spiritually. They were asleep in the garden; their physical state possibly reflecting their motivational state.

The apostles broke out of their loops when Jesus ascended into Heaven and they needed to go out at evangelize Jesus’ message. God may not be calling us to such dramatic changes. But we can work at making each day count. Every morning is a new opportunity to work towards spiritual growth. We can work harder at avoiding sin and temptation. We can work harder at more devotional prayer and spiritual formation. And we can work harder at being there for the people who need us. If you feel like you’re stuck in a loop, treat each day as an opportunity to break out of it by striving to live according to God’s divine plan.

Fighting Superficiality in our Lives

We all act superficially at times

Here’s a follow-up post on a topic similar to sloth. This time, I’m talking about superficiality, a close relative to sloth and gluttony. By superficial, I mean lacking depth or substance and focusing on surface-level qualities. We often have that stereotypical, “bimbo blond” idea of superficiality which leads us to believe superficiality doesn’t apply to us. However, while we may not be a superficial person, we can act superficially at times.

One way many of us tend to act superficially is by spending too much time on activities that aren’t meaningful. There are those obvious ones like spending too much time in front of screens either binge-watching shows and movies or spending time on social media trying to craft this artificial projection of ourselves. We often chase “likes” and “thumbs up” on our online persona trying to impress faceless (and often non-human) masses.

Superficiality in the news

But there’s another way we trick ourselves into superficiality. And that’s how we consume news. Many of us follow the 24-7 cable news cycle, not as a means of education, but as a means of entertainment. We follow our politicians like a sports team; cheering when they succeed and jeering when the “other side” wins. Instead of reporting facts and educating the public, most news outlets know they can increase advertising revenue by appealing to our baser tribal instincts of “us vs. them.” Often, the news is really no more substantial than episodes of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Not only is much of the media superficial, but it deprives us of worthwhile activities and dispositions. One of the ways media makes money is by scaring us. They present the improbable as likely making everyone believe that the “other side” is going to destroy us all. That leads to persistent feelings of dread and despair. When we replace our faith in God with superficial mass media, we replace hope with hopelessness. We tend to see everything through a lens of superficiality. We start to believe that our world is such a mess that not even God is powerful enough to fix it.

Following superficial news applies to news about the Church. Many of us follow scandals in the Vatican like soap operas. Worse, we often mistake following Church news for practicing our faith. We think because we know what Pope Francis said or how some bishops responded, we’re better connected to Jesus. Reading or watching homilies is a good start, but it isn’t the same as receiving the sacraments. 

How to fight superficiality

How do we combat this superficiality? It’s quite simple actually. TURN OFF THE TV! I’m not saying you need to cut yourself off from world events. Like any appetite, you need to show restraint and control. Gluttony isn’t just about overindulging in food; it’s overindulging any appetite whether it be food, entertainment, or news. When you overindulge or consume things of low value, you don’t leave any room for God in your life.

Make time in your life for meaningful activities. Like a diet of proteins, fats, and carbs, you need to find a balance of spirituality, work, and leisure. Make time for prayer such as the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, and reading Scripture. Put in an honest effort on your work. And relax with some exercise, reading a good book, and spending time with friends and family. Find the superficial in your life and replace it with the meaningful.

When you pray the Rosary, meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery, The Scourging at the Pillar, whose fruit is Mortification or Purity. Think about what superficial practices in your life you need to purge. Like Jesus being scourged, showing discipline over our baser instincts can be painful. It’s hard to let go of easy comforts. But in that suffering, we learn how to overcome the temptation of a comfortable, but shallow, life so we can grow in holiness. Similar to how whips tore away Jesus’ flesh, we need to tear away the superficial “skin” in our lives that prevents us from experiencing deeper connections with our brothers and sisters in Christ and God himself.

How the Rosary Helps us Avoid Sloth

Previously, I wrote about the Daily Rosary Meditation Podcast and how it can improve your rosary prayer. I even have a link to it on RosaryMeds. I recently listened to this great episode on examining your conscience for the seven deadly sins. I especially liked the meditation on sloth. Let’s explore sloth deeper and how the Rosary can combat it.

Boredom with Spiritual Life

Sloth is a sorrow or boredom with the spiritual life. It’s being bored with the things of God which results in a spiritual apathy or complacency. This is when you don’t like spiritual things like prayer, rooting out vice and practicing virtue and talking about God and ultimate things like heaven – basically of everything that matters most. And it results in the effort escape the invitation to become god-like through busyness, workaholism, entertainment, news, sports, drunkenness, drug use, pornography, or sex.

Dr. Mike Scherschligt, Daily Rosary Meditation Podcast

I’ve never thought of sloth in this way — boredom with spiritual life. By that measure, I’ve certainly been guilty of sloth. How many times have I reached for my phone to watch mind-rotting videos instead of reaching for my rosary or litany of the hours? Or how many times have I consumed those cookies, candies, or spirits on days when I told myself I was fasting? Yeah, I’m guilty of trying to escape God’s call to spiritual greatness via earthly delights.

The middle panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”

How Sloth is Killing Us

Our society hinges around us embracing sloth. We spend all day working to afford the latest gadget that consumes the rest of our waking hours. We spend tons of money on streaming services, concerts, and sports. Even our hobbies, as good as they are, often provide an escape from living the more challenging, but fulfilling, spiritual lifestyle.

Sloth is killing parishes around the world. I’ve heard so many people say they no longer attend Mass because the priest’s homilies are boring and the Mass is so long and repetitive. Going back to Dr. Scherschligt’s definition, sloth starts with boredom. We, the Catholic faithful, haven’t been showing our slothful brothers and sisters the importance of the Mass and how it’s focused around Christ, not the priest or the music. If we only understood the importance of spiritual life, we would kick sloth to the curb.

How to Combat Sloth through the Rosary

To combat sloth, focus on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — The Presentation. Think about Simeon and Anna, two people who spent their days at the temple in prayer. They were hardly slothful. They did not get bored pursuing a spiritual life and doing what God asked of them. Ultimately, they both met God face-to-face in the baby Jesus. They received in their earthly lives what we hope to receive after we die — union with God.

I also meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery when I think about combatting sloth. I recall Joseph and Mary searching for Jesus in Jerusalem. Did Mary and Joseph get bored with their search? Of course not. They had to continue because they understood the importance of finding their lost son. We shouldn’t get distracted by all the good things of this world that we stop searching by giving up Mass, the sacraments, and prayer. When we give up those practices, sloth will fill the void and lead to other sins.

Bosch reminds us where sloth ultimately leads us

Disclaimer — sloth is not the same as leisure. We do need time for leisure; a break from work. Often, leisure can lead to increased spirituality because it refreshes and energizes us. Refreshing leisure activities include reading, listening to music, and spending time with people. It’s not binge-watching Netflix alone until 3 AM. Leisure compliments a spiritual life, sloth replaces it. 

The Eucharist Shows the Awesome Power of God

God Can Do Anything

I’ve been helping at my parish by leading a few of the OCIA classes (Order of Christian Initiation). They gave me a hugely important topic this week — the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. How do I fit the centerpiece of the Catholic faith, something that has been debated and philosophized about for centuries, into a thirty-minute question-and-answer session?

Most importantly, Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist. It’s not a symbol of an event that took place 2,000 years ago. It is Jesus fully present in the form of bread and wine. I heard a priest explain this phenomenon well. He said that if God can take the form of a human through Jesus Christ, he can take any form he desires and be fully present in that form. Who are we to understand or evaluate how God chooses to manifest himself? It’s his creation, his rules.

I then watched this short video on the Eucharist. The video mentions the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian. Millions of people wait for hours to see it for a minute or two. But in the end, it’s just a lump of shiny carbon. There is something infinitely more valuable in every tabernacle worldwide — Jesus Christ! You don’t have to wait in line or pay an admission fee to spend time with God.

We Can Talk to Jesus Anytime

Imagine if Jesus, in human form, came walking into a church and started reciting the Beatitudes. Everyone present would flip out, right? It would make news and headlines and converts. But is Jesus taking the form in a different arrangement of atoms as bread and wine really any different? Is the Word of God any different whether we hear it proclaimed by Jesus in his human form or from the priest at Mass? Does God hear us any differently when we pray to him versus him in human form hearing us via vibrating eardrums and brain pulses?

I know that the Real Presence in the Eucharist is a hard concept to wrap our heads around. But when I recall that God created everything out of nothing, I’m reminded that there is nothing beyond his capabilities. If we truly believe that, then it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe he is truly present in the form of bread and wine.

When we pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, we reflect and meditate on the fact that we have the faith and belief that we really do receive Jesus Christ through the Eucharist. We should show the Eucharist the same reverence and respect that we would show Jesus if He came to us in human form. This mystery goes to the core of the Catholic faith; that the bread and wine at Mass actually are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.