Catholicism: Benefits Outweigh the Burdens

I came across this article about how priests are held to higher moral standards than a layperson. Because a priest is Jesus’ representative here on Earth via his vocation, he needs to be held to a higher standard. But I want to take this one step further. Are Catholics in general held to a higher moral standard than a secular person? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Why would someone want to practice a faith that adds more burdens to his life?

The Catholic Exchange article, The Holiness of Priests Makes the Entire Church Holy, talks about how priests are in persona Christi—in the person of Christ. This grants them great power. But to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. A priest must be that much more devout because he’s a greater target for Satan and he’s responsible for the sins of his congregation.

St. Anthony Mary Claret said it would be better to leave a town without a priest than to have one who is unworthy. “If God does not send me men who are truly called, God himself will have to take care of the men and souls by means of his angels. A call is God’s gift. I must not bring the unworthy into the sheepfold to destroy it instead of tending it.”

When we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember to pray for priests. We promise to follow God when we’re baptized. But priests have a responsibility to guide us in our journey. They have an awesome responsibility to lead us in the right direction by teaching God’s Truth. A priest that doesn’t take that duty seriously or abuses his position not only harms himself but harms those he leads astray. Priests need our support and prayers.

What about laypeople? Do we also have more of a burden of holiness than a secular person? After all, we skip Sunday Mass and we’ve committed a sin. But someone of a different religion is not committing a sin when they don’t go to Mass if they were never taught that rule. Other religions can essentially follow God’s natural law while Catholics have to follow all these other additional rules. Doesn’t that seem a bit unfair?

This question over Church rules relates to my previous article about the “Nones” who reject traditional spiritually because they just see it as a collection of rules, burdens, and responsibilities. Why follow a religion that tells you that everything you want to do is wrong? Isn’t it better to find a religion (or create your own) that doesn’t punish someone for being who he wants to be?

What the Nones miss, either when talking about the additional responsibilities of a priestly vocation or being a practicing Catholic, are the tremendous benefits of Christianity. God bestows His grace on you. He lays out a path for you to eventually spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Everything about God is about finding joy. And that’s something that magic crystals, breathing exercises, and new-age spiritualism can’t match.

To find joy in any relationship, you have to follow some rules. You can’t have a meaningful relationship with a spouse if you’re selfish, uncaring, manipulative, or abusive. You have to put forth the effort to make the relationship flourish even if that means taking on some additional responsibilities. And the same goes for Catholicism. To have a meaningful relationship with God, you have to make an effort to make the relationship work. And that means committing yourself to follow God’s laws and understanding how they lead to eternal happiness.

When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember that Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom of Heaven. Finding joy in Heaven should be our main goal in life. We acknowledge that it will have its burdens and challenges but we ask our Heavenly Mother Mary for guidance and intercession. We pray the Rosary so that we may see how God’s grace is well worth any sacrifices we make or burdens we bare.

When you pray the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, remember that even Jesus was scared of doing God’s Will. He asked God to change the plan. But Jesus also understood that God’s plan would ultimately lead to joy, not just for Jesus in conquering death, but for all humanity. We have been redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and the gates of Heaven are open to us all. Jesus shows us how we must focus on God’s Will and not become discouraged by the relatively small burdens it places on us.

Holiness is the Goal

I read this article on Catholic Exchange about how we should never give up striving for holiness. The author, Constance T. Hull, echos many of the same thoughts as Matthew Kelly in his book that I reviewed, The Biggest Lie in Christianity. Essentially, both talk about how life is made up of moments where we decide either to act holy or sinfully. Of course, the goal is to decide to make each moment a holy moment. Mrs. Hull makes these fine points as we strive for holiness.

  1. We cannot do it alone. It is only through Christ that we achieve holiness. In other words, apart from Christ holiness is not possible and it doesn’t even make sense. How can you be holy without dedicating the moment to Jesus Christ?
  2. We will fall daily. There will be times when we choose not to act saintly. It’s important to realize when we fall so we can analyze why we made that decision and how to not repeat it in the future.
  3. We must get back up. We can’t dwell on our sins. When Jesus forgives us through Reconciliation, He puts our sins behind Him. And we must put them behind us too and not let them lead us into despair.
  4. Seek forgiveness immediately. Part of putting our sins behind us to make forgiveness a priority. This means prioritizing the Sacrament of Reconciliation and setting things right with the people we’ve hurt through our sins.
  5. Holiness is the goal. It’s not just priests and nuns that must live holy lives. We are all called to be saints and we all have the ability to live as saints. But that doesn’t happen by accident. We have to make it a priority.

Enter the Rosary

The mysteries of the Rosary help us lead holy lives. I could pick any of the twenty mysteries and discuss how they touch on one of the aspects of holiness mentioned by Matthew Kelly or Constance Hull. Let’s look at a few. Think about how God calls you to holiness when you meditate on these mysteries.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple, always reminds me of our quest for holiness. This mystery is a story of loss, agony, and ultimately finding Jesus. And that’s what life is — a continuous cycle of losing Jesus through sin, suffering, and ultimately coming back and finding Jesus in His father’s house, aka the Church and Her sacraments.

I also can’t help but think of the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of Heaven and His call to conversion, and meditate on our call to holiness. Matthew Kelly explores this a lot more, but a central theme of holiness is allowing God to totally transform you. It’s not a minor change here, and a tweak there. Jesus asks us to dedicate our lives to conversion. That means changing from one thing to something completely different. We can’t be both saintly and worldly. We have to choose what we want to be and actively convert our actions from worldly ones to holy ones. Remember Mrs. Hull’s words — conversion to holiness is the goal for all us.

Lastly, let’s look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost. Mrs. Hull said we cannot become holy on our own. And that is why we have the Holy Spirit to guide us on our quest towards holiness. We need to be conscious of how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives as it will often be subtle. It won’t be through a burning bush, a booming voice in the sky, or an apparition. The Holy Spirit acts by providing opportunities to act holy, or implanting a quick thought on doing something nice, or providing a sense of peace and thankfulness towards God. We have to be open to the small ways the Holy Spirit nudges us towards holiness.

God gives us all of the opportunity and many tools to becomes saints. Are you taking advantage of all of them?

Defeating Pride With The Rosary

The next of the seven deadly sins we’re looking at is pride.  Many consider pride the worst of the seven deadly sins and also the foundation of the other sins.  Pride means putting your wants and importance before anyone else’s authority.  And what is a sin?  It’s putting your desires in front of what God wants.  When we sin, we knowingly act without regard to the consequences because we don’t accept any other law beyond our own.  According to C.S. Lewis, it’s pride that leads to every other type of sin because it’s the anti-God state of mind.

Pride is so deadly because, by its very nature, it remains hidden.  As Fr Dwight Longenecker puts it in his article on Catholic Exchange:

This is why pride is so deadly, because it is the one sin that hides itself so effectively. The proud person, by very definition, does not realize he is proud. If he realized he was proud he would repent, but it is pride which keeps him from seeing that he is wrong or sinful in any way. Pride is a very difficult sin to do anything about because the proud person will even go so far as to admit that he is proud, and that makes him even more “right” than he was before!

The Scriptural Connection

Look at how blinded the Pharisees were by their own pride that they could not accept Jesus’ teachings.  They dwelled on their own self-importance and their understanding of God and the Law that they couldn’t accept the teachings of a poor carpenter from Nazareth.  They criticized everything Jesus and His apostles did from breaking certain Mosaic laws to ministering to sinners; acts their pride did not allow them to do.  So indebted to their pride that the Pharisees didn’t even come to believe after witnessing Jesus’ countless miracles.

We turn next to Saint Paul, or rather Saul before his conversion.  Saul was a Roman Jew who persecuted the early Christians.  He was so blinded by pride that he refused to accept the teachings of the apostles to the point of killing them (poor Saint Stephen).  Saul justified what he was doing by claiming it was God’s work.  In reality, he was just keeping the status quo where the power of the Law was taught and enforced by those who believed they were important and holy enough to wield it.  Ironically, God physically blinded Saul on the road to Damascus to humble him.  That event led to his conversion.  Once a humble servant of God, Paul was able to preach God’s Word throughout the world because he could let go of his own self-importance.  He teaches to this very day through his various letters in the New Testament.

The Rosary Solution

Humility is the heavenly virtue that counters pride.  The humble heart thinks of others and understands and appreciates others’ talents and strengths.  It also allows us to put our faith in God by recognizing His authority over us.  The humble heart accepts Gods law while the prideful one fights and rebels against it.

Humility is the fruit of the First Joyful MysteryThe Annunciation.  Mary proclaims, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) when hearing God’s plan for her.  She doesn’t consider herself high and mighty as a prideful person would.  She doesn’t see God choosing her as some sort of award or even something to brag about.  Instead, she sees herself as the humble servant called to do God’s Will.  She doesn’t complain about God messing up her life’s plans.  Instead, she realizes that God’s plan is the best plan even if it’s unconventional.

Humility also shows itself in the Third Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crowning of Thorns.  It is a time when Jesus is mocked or tortured.  At that time, He could have proven Himself as the Son of God by performing any number of signs.  Jesus could have said that He didn’t have to take any more abuse from lowly humans since He was the Messiah.  But Jesus humbly lived out God’s Will by enduring mockery and torture.  Humility sometimes means suffering in doing what is right instead of constantly asking “Why me?  Am too good for this type of treatment.”  We should take Jesus’ example in the Third Sorrowful Mystery and always accept God’s plan for us even when it’s difficult or doesn’t make sense.

Ask yourself, are you humbly accepting God’s plan for you or is your pride causing you to rebel against Him?  Are you depressed or saddened because you have a hard time accepting God’s Will?  Ask yourself, is that your pride talking?  Humility isn’t something to fear.  It means greater freedom and comfort knowing that you are putting your life in the hands of some greater authority.  And what better authority to place your life than our loving God and His Church?

Lepanto and The Feast of the Rosary

On October 7th, the Church celebrates Our Lady of the Rosary.  The reason why we celebrate the Rosary on this date is that it is the anniversary of the Holy League’s victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.  This battle was a massive naval battle between the Catholic countries of Europe and Turkish invaders.  This victory’s importance was that it weakened the Turkish incursions into Europe who had their sights set on conquering Rome and turning it into a Muslim state.

The greatest weapon the Catholic military deployed at the Battle of Lepanto wasn’t a new type of galley ship, sword, or cannon.  It was the Rosary.  It played an integral role in the Holy League’s victory over the Turks.  It is why we celebrate the Rosary on the anniversary of this battle.  Days before the battle, the sailors fasted, confessed, and prayed the Rosary relentlessly.  The spiritual preparation was so intense that women were not allowed near the ships so the men wouldn’t be tempted to indulge in any sinful thoughts or actions.  All around Catholic Europe, people prayed the Rosary asking our Mother Mary for victory.  And despite the odds not being in Europe’s favor, we attribute the sincere devotion to the Rosary as the changing factor in this battle.

What can we learn from the Holy League’s victory at Lepanto?  Many of us may feel conflicted over the idea that we celebrate the Rosary’s connection to a military victory where thousands of men died horrifically.  And while it’s unfortunate that humanity fights wars in the first place, we don’t celebrate the Battle of Lepanto because of the death and suffering in that battle.  We celebrate God’s hand, through our intercessor Mary and the faithfulness of the Church, in protecting Christianity in Europe.  Those were different times for sure.  And while we may not be faced with massive military invasions now, we all engage in combat every day.

Most of us have some sort of challenge or hardship in our lives.  Maybe it’s a strained or broken relationship with someone.  Maybe we have financial worries.  Perhaps we have a job we don’t find fulfilling, co-workers we can’t stand, or no job at all.  Many of us battle various physical and mental illnesses.  Some of us battle addictions.  It’s easy to see life as just one large, depressing slog with no hope of it getting any better.  And that is when we can look at the Feast of the Rosary and its military roots at Lepanto.  Militarily, there was little hope of a Holy League victory against the much larger Turkish fleet.  The Turks had stormed across much of Europe and won many battles.  They were expecting this to be yet another victory in their campaign to conquer Europe, particularly Rome itself.

But in the midst of despair, Mary heard the sincere call for Her intercession.  She guided the Holy League to victory at Lepanto despite the long odds.  We should remember that she will guide us to victory over our hardships when we sincerely ask for Her intercession.  There is nothing that can defeat a sincerely prayed Rosary.  The book, Champions of the Rosary, which I reviewed, mentions countless encounters where devotion to the Rosary brought about miraculous results.

The Rosary’s power is why we should pray it every day, particularly in the morning before we “do battle” for the day.  We need to prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually, and physically much like the Holy League did before the battle of Lepanto.  Even when our life is rolling along smoothly, we do have to defend ourselves against sin and temptation.  Satan’s army is so vast and deadly that it makes the massive Turkish fleet at Lepanto look like a parade of toy boats.  And the consequences of a defeat to Satan’s army is much greater.  In a military battle, the worst that can happen is that you lose your physical life.  But in a spiritual battle, you can lose your soul and cut yourself off from God’s heavenly kingdom forever.

In this month of October, celebrate the Rosary by praying it regularly.  Understand that we are at war every day against our own hardships and Satan’s minions.  But our Mother Mary is there to help and even do the impossible if we ask for Her intercession.  The Rosary isn’t some prayer that was useful hundreds of years ago.  It can work wonders today if you sincerely pray it.

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Coping with Controversy with the Rosary

These are unsettling times for the Catholic Church in the wake of abuses and cover-ups at the highest levels of the Church.  It’s hard to learn about such corruption by people who are supposed to be spiritual leaders in a Church that espouses such high moral values.  It can also shake your faith in an institution that is supposed to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

The cardinals and priests are spiritual leaders, but they are also human.  They carry the same weaknesses as you and I.  Those weaknesses include lust for power and the tendency to sin.  Unfortunately, people move up through the ranks in the Church the same way they do in business or politics.  They know what to do and what to say to move up the “corporate” ladder.  It’s a ladder that is ascended via politics, not neccessarily holiness and virtue.  While we hope that those who lead the Church focus on practicing a high level of virtuous behavior, increased power and authority often has the opposite effect.  Fortunately, our Catholic faith is made up of more than the collective virtue of those who lead it.

I’m not going to tell you to ignore what’s going on at the higher levels of the Church.  Ignoring the issues is what got us into this mess in the first place.  We, as a community of believers, must confront and address these issues.  But at the same time, we must remember that the cardinals, bishops, and even the pope, aren’t the center of the Church.  The Church is not solely a human institution.  It’s a divine institution with the Holy Trinity at its core.

When we pray, we don’t pray to the pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests.    We pray to God!  It’s an infallible and all-loving God that is the center of our faith.  The clergy are servants of God to guide us.  Our perfect God works through His imperfect vessels.  And no amount of human corruption can weaken God.  No amount of corruption can weaken His love for us and our desire to live in His grace.

Humans sin and we have to be accountable for our actions.  What I will call the political side of the Church will go through hard times in the near future.  But if you keep the right perspective, you will understand that the Church is far more than the sum total of virtue and sins of the clergy.  She hasn’t survived and flourished over the centuries because of clerical virtue.  She’s flourished because it’s God’s Church which can’t be destroyed by the inherent weakness of Her followers.

I think about the current difficulties the Church faces when I pray the Third Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — Jesus Crowned with Thorns.  I picture Jesus, battered and ridiculed.  I then think about our Church and how battered She is right now; ridiculed by the behavior of those who are supposed to honor Her.  Like the Romans paying fake homage to Jesus with a crown of thorns, we have clergy mocking Jesus by using His Church as a means to acquire riches and power and succumb to sinful weaknesses.

Christ Crowned with Thorns (Marten van Heemskerck)

But from the weakness, Jesus was ultimately triumphant.  There is an element of hope throughout the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  We know that Jesus’ Passion ends in joy and triumph in His Resurrection.  And we should know that the Church will ultimately be triumphant because that is what scripture and our faith tell us.  As we confront these dark times ahead, remember that the true center of the Church is Jesus Christ.  Our faith is built on Him, not on the imperfect, fallible humans who run it.

The Pope’s June Intention: RESPECT

My wife and I spend a lot of time teaching our boys about respect; respecting adults as well as respecting each other. That usually means lessons about listening, responding, and following directions. When we don’t follow directions and do what is expected of us, we aren’t respecting others. We need to listen and acknowledge what people are saying and can’t ignore them. We need to understand that sometimes people have deadlines and multiple priorities and so we need to show respect by providing our full cooperation.

Pope Francis’ June intention is, “That social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects other for their differences.” The key word in the pope’s intention is respect. The easiest way to think about respect is to remember the Golden Rule — treat others as you want to be treated. Or, as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Respect isn’t only about loving those we see and interact with. We also need to respect Jesus and His Church. We need to listen to Him, talk to Him, and follow His instructions. We can’t say we follow and respect Jesus if we do the opposite of how He asks us to live. By sinning, we are showing disrespect. We are like little kids ignoring our father’s directions.

Even if we’re not committing confessable sins, we still may be disrespecting Jesus by ignoring Him and not responding to His call. Are we talking to Him in prayer? Are we listening to Him? Is our relationship with Jesus something important to us and something we work on maintaining? Respect implies that we acknowledge the importance and authority someone has. How can we call ourselves one of Jesus’ disciples if we don’t routinely and honestly acknowledge His importance to us?

Social Media

In the modern world, much of our communication is online whether it be Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, email, or even just the comments section of web pages. Now ask yourself, what if Jesus was one of your “friends” or “followers” on your social networks and He read your posts? Would you be proud of them? Are you fostering a respectful environment? Note that respectful doesn’t mean always being agreeable or a pushover. It doesn’t mean compromising your values and the values of the Church. But it does mean recognizing that how you treat others is also how you treat Jesus. So if you’re not respecting others online, you’re not respecting our Lord.

The Rosary

There are many rosary mysteries to consider and meditate on when it comes to respect. For example, think about the Descent of the Holy on Pentecost (Third Glorious Mystery) and the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. Are you showing God the proper respect by listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to guide you in life? Or are you ignoring Him like a disrespectful child? The same can be said about our Mother Mary who reigns as Queen of Heaven which we pray in the Fifth Glorious Mystery. Are we listening to the guidance of our Heavenly Mother and respecting Her authority?

What about respect for Jesus in the Eucharist which we meditate on in the Fifth Luminous Mystery? Are we receiving Him in a worthy state or are we showing him disrespect by receiving Him in a state of mortal sin? And are we truly appreciating the gift which is the Eucharist and thanking God for how lucky we are to receive Him? While we may not have any mortal sins on our soul, receiving the Eucharist without much thought of its preciousness is another sign of disrespect.

Of course, we all falter and sin. We all disrespect Jesus at some point in our lives. But the good news is that Jesus is willing to forgive us and start anew through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Think of Jesus on the cross in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Our Lord was willing to forgive those who killed Him. He will surely forgive us for the times we haven’t respected Him.

In this month of June, let the idea of respect, particularly how you conduct yourself online, be at the forefront of your mind. Show Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and your Heavenly Mother Mary the proper respect they deserve by listening to their guidance and following Jesus’ teachings. You may not always succeed in living how Jesus directs you, but He will be proud of you when you put in the effort.

How the Rosary Teaches Us Humility (Again)

Have you ever thought about all the ways the Catholic Church teaches us the value of humility?  I never really gave it much thought, but there is an intimate connection between faith and humility.  To have faith in the power of God you must first be humble enough to realize that there is a power greater than us.  If you don’t have humility then you wouldn’t acknowledge God’s awesome power.  And if you didn’t have faith or trust in God then you are exercising pride, not humility.

Despite what some may lead you to believe, the Catholic Church is based on faith and humility, not pride and judgment.  We aren’t people thinking we are so great while others are so bad.  We are people who acknowledge our sinful nature and work together to always do better.  Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, in his article on CatholicExchange, does a great job outlining the many ways the Church is built on the value of humility such as:

  1. The nature of the Church — we are humble enough to know that Jesus is the head of the Church.
  2. The Eucharist — we are humble enough to know that the bread and wine are Jesus’ bloody and body.
  3. The ordained priesthood  — we show humility to accept that there are a select few with the power to forgive sins and offer the Eucharist in Jesus’ name.
  4. The Church’s Magisterium — we acknowledge the role of the Pope and other leaders in helping us understand Christ’s teachings.
  5. Confession — we humble ourselves to confess our sins and have faith that God, through the priest, forgives us.
  6. Mary and the saints — we show humility asking others to pray for us and looking to them for guidance and inspiration.
  7. The mission of the Church — we are called to serve God by serving others.
  8. The Church’s liturgy and prayer — the humble soul continues to pray to God even in the absence of visible results.
  9. Suffering — the humble person acknowledges that God has a great plan, even if that means temporary suffering in this life.

I could probably pick any of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary and tell you how it teaches us about the value of humility.  I’ll focus on the Fourth Joyful MysteryThe Presentation in the Temple.  When I first started praying the Rosary, this mystery always confused me because I couldn’t find the lesson I was supposed to draw from it.  Jesus took part in many Jewish rituals throughout his life.  Why was this one important enough to make it into the Rosary?

You need to focus on Saint Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery.  The Holy Spirit promised him that he would see the Chosen One before he died.  And day after day he worshiped in the temple waiting for that day to come.  The pride-filled man would have given up after days, months, or even years of waiting for God to fulfill that promise.  But Saint Simeon showed the humility and patience to allow God’s plan to manifest itself which, as we know, it did when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple.

Let us all be like Saint Simeon and put aside our pride and show sincere humility.  We may not like the particular plan God lays out for us at times.  We may not like the pace of God’s plan.  We may be envious that others seem to have it so much easier.  But being one of Christ’s disciples means being humble enough to let go of what we want and have faith that what God wants for us is infinitely better.

I’ll end with the words of Saint John of Avila who I think sums up how a humble person approaches life’s challenges:

A single “Blessed be God!” when things go wrong is of more value than a thousand acts of thanksgiving when things are to your liking.

How the Rosary Helps Us Overcome Obstacles

I don’t watch a lot of television.  However, when I find a few minutes and don’t feel like doing anything serious, I enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior.  It’s a show where athletes run through an obstacle course trying to complete increasingly more rigorous feats.  Most people fail to complete the entire course.  But those that do are ecstatic because they overcame the temptation to quit even when they were fatigued and were entertaining thoughts that they didn’t have the ability to complete the course.

The same conflict between completing a goal or giving up because the obstacles seem too great appears in many of our spiritual lives.  Many of us have a hard time mustering up enough energy to make it through an entire rosary chaplet or Bible reading.  We all want to do God’s will and form a deep relationship with Him through prayer.  And yet, despite all that we desire, we let trivial obstacles like a television show, website, or video game distract or derail us from doing what we know is good.

Saint Peter highlights what happens when we let obstacles overpower us and distract us from God’s will.  In the Gospel, St. Matthew wrote about Jesus walking on the water in a terrible storm.  Peter also tried walking on the water and was initially successful but then was overcome by fear and doubt and sank (Matthew 14:22-36).

Does Saint Peter’s story sound a lot like yours when it comes to prayer and doing God‘s Will?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “This time I’m going to stick to a rigid prayer schedule.”  Or I read a book about the importance and benefits of prayer and get all excited initially only to be overcome by distractions.  Like Saint Peter walking on water, instead of staying focused on my relationship with Jesus Christ I get distracted by the world around me.

But when we make an effort to pray and act according to God’s will, we actually act in a way that is doubly pleasing to God.  Rev. P.J. Michel explains in his book, Temptations:

On this principle, when you observe the law of God and do His will in a way that is displeasing to nature, you acquire a double claim to reward: first, you have obeyed, and secondly, you have obeyed with difficulty and against resistance and combat. The sac­rifice you have made of the natural inclination that solicited and impelled you is rewarded here by new graces and hereafter by an increase of eternal glory and happiness.

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What does the rosary teach us about praying through distractions and temptations?  You can probably pick any of the Sorrowful Mysteries and see Jesus’ example of doing God’s will despite the pain and suffering.  But that’s too easy of an example for regular RosaryMeds readers!  I want to look at the First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation.  Here we have Mary being asked to be the Mother of God.  At first, she focuses on all the earthly limitations of such a request.  “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked (Luke 1:34).  But Mary didn’t let all those concerns distract her from accepting the burden and the honor God wanted to bestow on her.

Now jump to the Fifth Glorious Mystery, Mary’s Coronation in Heaven.  Going back to the passage from Temptations, when you do God’s will in the face of difficulty, you increase your eternal glory and happiness.  What better example is there than seeing Mary crowned Queen of Heaven?  She followed God’s will even when that meant seeing her son rejected and crucified.

When you don’t feel like you have the time or energy to pray the rosary, look to Mary’s example of the grace God gives you when you make the effort to pray and do God’s will despite the difficulty.  It may be hard, but the reward dwarfs the inconvenience.

Honor Mary for What She Does, Not Just Who She Is

We just finished Mary’s month of May.  I hope it was a spiritually fruitful month for you.  I want to talk about the Catholic devotion to Mary and how that connects to rosary prayer.  This would have been a better article to publish at the start of May rather than in June so I apologize for the untimeliness.

Mary, Queen of Heaven
Mary, Queen of Heaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Catholic Exchange did a great job of distinguishing the devotion we give to God (latria), what we give to the saints (dulia), and what we give to Mary (hyperdulia).

Latria basically means adoration. Traditionally, it refers to the worship and homage that we give to God and God alone.

Now, Catholics believe that we should not only honor those who excel in the things of this world, but that we should also honor those who excel in the things of the spiritual world (for example, in their devotion to God, their obedience to his will, and their charity to others). That’s why we honor the saints — men and women who, during their earthly life, excelled in their pursuit of holiness. Honoring the saints does not detract from God any more than honoring athletes does. In fact, when we honor saints, we are honoring God, too, for it is by his gifts, and for his glory, that saints are able to excel in holiness in the first place.

And in recognition of Mary’s pre-eminent holiness, the special recognition we give to Mary is called hyperdulia: the greatest amount of honor we can give to any created person.

When we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, Mary Crowned Queen of Heaven, we acknowledge her deserving hyperdulia devotion.  She was not only exalted in her earthly life by being chosen as the Mother of God, but further exalted in Heaven by being crowned queen.  And this is only fitting given that her son is King of Heaven.

We shouldn’t get lost on the honor bestowed on Mary by both God and humanity.  We may think that God singling someone out, like he did Mary, would be like winning an award.  Some of us may picture it like receiving a certificate you can frame and hang on the wall to show off to your friends that you have God’s seal of approval.  But honoring Mary because God honors her misses an important fact.  We don’t honor Mary solely because something passively happened to her but we also honor her active response to God’s plan.

English: Diploma
If only we could have something so concrete to know if we’re in God’s Grace. Oh wait, there is! It’s called CONFESSION.

God singling out Mary for that very special role came at a price.  But because of her faith, it was a price Mary was more than willing to pay.  It’s not like Mary could lead a normal life after the Annunciation.  She led a life of perfect obedience to God’s plan even if that meant not understanding her son’s ways and eventually watching him die on the cross.

Mary lived a life of perpetual virtue which couldn’t have been easy.  While she was immaculately conceived and free from original sin, she was not divine like Jesus.  So living a life of perfect obedience and virtue had to have been challenging for Mary who possessed but overcame all the weaknesses inherent in being human.

When we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery, we should ask our Queen Mother for the strength to imitate her and live in obedience to God’s will.  When we give her hyperdulia devotion we should stand in awe of what she was able to do with her life and what we can do with her help and an active effort from us.  Praise Mary, not just because of her status in Heaven, but also because of the effort she put forth in her earthly life as a model of what God asks of all us.