Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom

With the conclusion of the Easter season and now well into the Octave of Pentecost, I want to explore the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they relate to various Rosary mysteries. As you know, I love making connections between various pillars of the Catholic Faith and the Rosary. The Rosary, after all, embodies all aspects of our faith which is why it’s such an important prayer and tool to embrace. Let’s dive into the first gift of the Holy Spirit — wisdom.

I’ll start with a scene from Star Wars, Episode II that explains the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Wisdom is more than the acquisition and recitation of facts. You could memorize and quote every verse from the Bible. While that certainly makes you smart, it doesn’t make you wise. It won’t necessarily deepen your relationship with God. Knowledge is a matter of brain chemistry, focus, and perseverance. Given enough time and attention, many people could memorize pages in a textbook. But wisdom goes beyond the ability to store data in our brains.

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, wisdom is both the knowledge of and judgment about “divine things” and the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth (I/I.1.6; I/II.69.3; II/II.8.6; II/II.45.1–5). I think the keyword is truth. Wisdom is about applying your knowledge to discover truth. Specifically, it’s about understanding the source of truth — God. Furthermore, wisdom forms the foundation of these gifts of the Holy Spirit. Because it’s through wisdom we learn about divine truths, our faith, and eventually God. Without wisdom, there can be no understanding of God’s Will and all the gifts and virtues He gives us.

Wisdom in the Rosary

We’ll first take a look at the Fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation. In the Gospel, we are introduced to Simeon and Anna, both prophets. They tell Mary and Joseph about Jesus’ destiny. They are speakers of truth because they have devoted themselves to following God’s Will. They sought out God in their lives through prayer and obtained the gift of wisdom that they could impart to others.

How about you? How devoted are you to follow God’s Will like Simeon and Anna? How much time and energy do you dedicate to learning about God? Are you devoted to prayer and forming a deep relationship with God like Simeon and Anna? Or is your focus solely on acquiring earthly knowledge without the desire to use it to discover God’s truth?

I also like what the Fourth Glorious Mystery has to teach us about wisdom. God assumed Mary into Heaven because He had a special role for her to play in our lives. She’s our guide who desires us to be in communion with God. To be in communion with God, we need wisdom to exercise correct judgment in learning God’s Will. That is no easy task. But God gives us Mary and the saints to help guide us. We aren’t left alone to our feeble minds and will to discover God’s truth like some sort of million-piece jigsaw puzzle. Mary offers us her assistance to acquire this wisdom of divine truth.

Finally, we look at the Third Glorious Mystery which is Pentecost. The fruit of this mystery is wisdom. When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, he endowed them with wisdom. That wisdom transformed them from scared, confused individuals to brave, determined leaders of the early Church. They received a huge helping of truth at Pentecost which changed the course of human history. We too can tap into the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives as a gift to us to go out and bravely live according to God’s Will.

Wisdom Makes Saints

What makes a saint a saint is that wisdom or understanding of God’s truth. Because when you understand the truth about God, why would you have the desire to do anything the runs against it? We fall into sin because we do not fully possess this wisdom. If we truly understood God’s divine truth as the saints do, we wouldn’t refuse to live according to God’s Will. When we pray the Rosary, let’s ask the Holy Spirit that we open our hearts and minds to the gift of wisdom. This way, we remain in God’s grace which is a powerful defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.

Prayer Sets Us Free

I think by now many of us are coming down with cabin fever. You can only binge-watch so many series on Netflix and Disney+. You can only play video games and read books for so long. Even getting out and taking a walk is starting to feel a bit repetitive. I feel anything but free.

And yet, Pope Francis teaches us that freedom is exactly what the Holy Spirit provides us. In a homily on April 20, Pope Francis said: “The definition of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives here is interesting … unconstrained. A person who gets carried from both sides by the Holy Spirit: this is the freedom of the Spirit. And a person who does this is docile, and here we talk about docility to the Holy Spirit.”

I like this idea of being docile. We are flexible and open to new ideas. When we listen to the Holy Spirit through prayer, we need to be open to how he guides us. Just choosing prayer over TV, video games, and other media shows the beginnings of openness. You are choosing to block out distractions to try to listen to the Holy Spirit. That’s a great start.

I often complain that one of the hardest things about sheltering in place is the constant noise. Someone is always talking. Of, if you have kids, someone is always shouting or running around. The constant movement and volume is tiring. That is why it’s important to deliberately carve time for prayer. Otherwise, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit gets drowned out by the daily noise in our lives. And that’s how we feel trapped. We can no longer feel the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge to break us out of our suffocating routines.

If you’re looking for something new, try praying the Rosary. If you already pray the Rosary, try adding more to it like meditations or scriptural passages. Think about the Third Glorious Mystery and how the Holy Spirit came down and inspired the Apostles. Think of how couped up they must have felt hiding after Jesus’ death and resurrection out of fear of the Jews. They were the definition of confinement. And what was it that set them free? The Holy Spirit! What released them from their bondage of fear? The Holy Spirit! And what guided them across the known world teaching in Jesus’ name? The Holy Spirit! In the words of Pope Francis, “With this freedom of the Holy Spirit, you will never know where you will end up.”

https://www.rosarymeds.com/intentions/the-glorious-mysteries/third-glorious-mystery/

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?

How the Rosary Helps Us Avoid “Everlasting Sin”

 

“’Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.’”

This passage from the Gospel of Mark confused me until recently.  We talk about an all loving and merciful God so how can there be an unforgivable sin?  How can the God that created everything from nothing not have the capacity to forgive everything?  When I was younger, I asked myself, “what if I already committed this unforgivable sin and not know it?  Is the rest of my life pointless because God has already told St. Peter to not allow me into Heaven?”

Fortunately, the unforgivable sin doesn’t work like that.  This isn’t some sort of gotcha or fine print in Catholic doctrine that God will use to keep you out of Heaven.  It’s simply a way of restating that a sin will remain unforgiven if you never ask for forgiveness.  This Catholic Exchange article does a good job of breaking down the unforgivable sin into six aspects:

  1. despair
  2. presumption
  3. impenitence
  4. obstinacy
  5. resisting truth
  6. spiritual welfare

Do you notice a common theme in these?  As the CE article states:

In every case analyzed above, we can determine that the only way any sin is truly unpardonable is if the person remains unrepentant. The reasons, as we have sorted through, vary from envy to despair. Each is caused by a hardness of heart, which is directly opposed to meekness. Meekness is that beatitude that mollifies and softens what has become calloused by deep, unhealed wounds. Our models for meekness, of course, are Jesus and Mary.

How does the Rosary teach us about meekness and avoiding behaviors that lead to an unforgiven sin?  Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery and the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days after losing Him in the caravan.  They did whatever they needed to do to find Jesus.  We too must do whatever it takes to find Jesus when we lose Him by sinning.  We can’t have a hardened heart or the presumption that Jesus is okay with our behavior.  We must acknowledge our wrongdoings and come back to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Think about the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary and Jesus’ miracle at Cana.  We see Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and turn potential disaster (a wedding without booze, oh no!) into overflowing joy.  That miracle is a great metaphor for what happens to our souls in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  God, through the Holy Spirit, takes our broken, damaged soul and miraculously transforms it into a pure one filled with hope, joy, and grace.  Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle at Cana.  And, whenever we enter that confessional, we ask Him to perform a miracle too.

Next we turn to the Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary — the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Why is a hardened heart such a grave offense?  Remember, the Holy Spirit is one part of the Holy Trinity.  So rejecting the power and authority of the Holy Spirit is rejecting God.  And what’s mortal sin but the total rejection of God?  By thinking that God can’t or won’t forgive us, we reject His supremacy over His creation.  We are saying that we, the created, are capable of actions that are beyond God’s control.  When we pray this Rosary mystery, let’s not only think of the Holy Spirit as our guide but also remember that He’s also God as part of the Holy Trinity.

Finally, the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crucifixion.  There’s actually two things to consider.  First, Jesus is so willing to forgive that He asked God to forgive the ones who crucified Him.  For most of us, our sins will probably never be as grave as murdering God’s begotten Son.  If God can forgive that, He can forgive anything we do.

Also, the criminal crucified next to Jesus simply asked Jesus to remember him.  And Jesus proclaimed that the criminal would be with Him in paradise.  Again, ask Jesus anything with a meek and humble heart and Jesus will respond.

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I’ll end on a more light-hearted note.  Here’s a clip from The Simpsons about the limits of God’s power.

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 God Enables Greatness in Us All

When Jesus ascended into Heaven, the apostles must have felt incredibly scared.  This wasn’t the fear they felt when Jesus was arrested and crucified.  That fear had passed since experiencing the truth and glory of His resurrection.  But they must have been scared knowing that the Church was now in their hands.  The apostles were no longer followers, but leaders.  They were commissioned to go out and spread Jesus’ teachings to the whole world.  But there was a hitch — they weren’t Jesus!  They were fishermen, tradesmen, and even a tax collector.  They only had two years of on-the-job training with Jesus and they were confused most of the time.  How were they going to lead God’s Church as effectively as Jesus?

That’s where the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost comes into play.  On Pentecost, we see God’s plan coming together for the post Jesus-as-human world.  The apostles weren’t left to their own devices but had the Holy Spirit to guide them.  I’ve often talked about how one of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage.  I’m now realizing that part of that boost in courage must come from the reduction in anxiety.  When the Holy Spirit came and the apostles were able to speak in any language, that must have been a great confidence builder for them.  At Pentecost, the apostles must have realized that it was possible for them to go out and do the seemingly impossible — spread Jesus’ teachings.

Icon of the Pentecost
Icon of the Pentecost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about us?  Are we any different from the apostles?  They were common people who were able to do uncommon things because they allowed the Holy Spirit to guide them.  They weren’t Pharisees, scribes, or other learned people.  We, the laity, aren’t priests.  But Jesus does not want us to be passive consumers of the Catholic faith and leave the heavy lifting to the priests and nuns.  We are called to the same service as the apostles and we have the exact same strength and courage through the Holy Spirit as they had.  In other words, we are just as capable of leading God’s Church as the original apostles.

We have to remember that compared to the power of God, all humans are roughly the same.  Comparing the greatest saint to the lowest sinner and then comparing them to God is like asking what grain of sand is mightier compared to a mountain.  The original apostles did great things, but not because they were superhuman.  They would have failed if they were left solely to their own abilities.  The apostles succeeded because they had the help of the Holy Spirit.  They contributed all their power and ability, and God provided them with the rest (which was probably 99.9% of the overall power needed to spread His Word).

Pope Francis’ May intention is all the more relevant in the light of Pentecost.  He asks that the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today. The pope echoes what Jesus asked of His apostles in the Ascension — do not be passive consumers of the faith. Do not hoard your faith by not sharing it with others.  We each have a mission which requires active participation.  Be champions of the faith.  Embrace it.  Listen to the Holy Spirit, and don’t be afraid to follow Him.

 

5 Ways the Rosary Offers Relief from Today’s Headlines

Meditation ideas on the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary for dealing with all the troubling news the world is encountering right now.

Lately there has been a lot of news that has many people thinking the world is falling apart. We hear of people suffering from natural disasters across the globe, atrocities committed by groups like ISIS across the Middle East, silly presidential election news (Trump?  Hillary Clinton’s favorite ice cream flavor?), and troubling social/political news about Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and ObamaCare. Basically, if you’re looking to get worried and upset about something, you don’t have to look much further than your Facebook news feed to grow a few gray hairs.

To me, praying the rosary is all about gaining perspective. And I think everyone could use a little perspective right now. I try to remember that the world has never been a perfect place and has been marked by problems both natural and man made. However, we live in a time when news has never been more accessible which means we get more bad news at an accelerated pace. Or we get a distorted view of the scope of outrage or support on any given issue. But thinking society is falling apart isn’t new.  Mankind has always had its share of problems.

Picture back to the time Jesus lived. If Facebook existed then people’s walls would have been filled with complaints about cheating tax collectors, Roman occupation, and corrupt pharisees. Furthermore, people were probably praying for the same types of solutions we pray for today.  Something to the tune of “Please God, make all our problems go away.”

Jesus did not come into this world to magically change the world with a wave of his hand.  He didn’t make all the Jews’ problems go away. But he did answer the people’s prayers. He did that not by making things easier but by challenging people to look beyond the troubled state of the world and their immediate, physical needs. He wanted them to concentrate more on the state of their souls rather than the actions of Cesar.  For example, he told the rich man to look beyond earthly wealth and to gain riches in Heaven by being charitable (Mark 10:17-31).  He said that those who are persecuted in this world will find glory in Heaven (Matthew 5:10).  He said that we all have to take up our crosses in this life so that we may find comfort in the next (Matthew 16:24-27).

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Glorious mysteries of the rosary and meditate on gaining a more heavenly perspective instead of dwelling so much on the today’s troubling issues.

#1. Live for something more than this earthly world

The First Glorious Mystery is about Jesus rising from the dead.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that our earthly death is not an end.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death was only a transition from his earthly life to his true, heavenly one.  Jesus’ rising proved that there is so much more to us than the physical realities of this world.

When we think about all the injustice, death, and suffering in this world we should remember that none of it will persist after our earthly death as we rise to new life in Jesus’ kingdom.  And while a lifetime of pain and suffering may seem like an awfully huge cross to carry, it isn’t even a measurable instant of time compared to the eternal joy and happiness Jesus prepared for us in Heaven through his resurrection.

#2. Pray for those have fallen

The Second Glorious Mystery is about Jesus ascending into Heaven.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and will judge the living and the dead.  This is important to understand because we need to pray for the repentance and conversion of those who live in sin and cause so much scandal, misery, and unhappiness.  It may seem easy to complain and become stressed over others’ misdeeds.  It’s also easy to ignore them and focus only at our own salvation.  But we do need to pray for them and always be an example to the world of Jesus’ Truth.  Because everyone, including those who live in sin, will one day stand before the Lord with their sins in plain view.  Since we are called to love one another, we should do whatever is possible so that everyone, saint and sinner alike, will enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.

#3. Let the Holy Spirit guide you

The Third Glorious Mystery is about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension.  We live in a difficult world but we can look to the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and courage to persevere and maybe even change the hearts of others.  I don’t think any of the apostles would have thought that they were going to change the world when Jesus first called them to put down their nets and become fishers of men.  But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit they did just that by boldly venturing out and spreading Jesus’ truth.

We too may not think that there is much we can do when we see what appears to be impossible situations to fix or the deep seated hatred in people’s hearts.  But the Holy Spirit does give us the power to live according to Jesus’ truth and to lovingly bring people into God’s grace.  Like when Jesus was here in this world, he did not provide a quick fix to humanity’s problems.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit won’t give us a quick fix either.  But if we have faith and let the Holy Spirit guide us, we can personally thrive and bring others to know Jesus Christ.

#4. Follow our mother Mary’s roadmap for happiness

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is about Mary’s assumption into Heaven.  God had a very special plan for Mary and her assumption shows just how revered and elevated she is.  She was not only set aside to be the vessel through which God would manifest himself in human form, but she was also set aside to be our guide and mediatrix after her earthly death.  Like with the Third Glorious Mystery, the perspective we should gain from this mystery is that Mary is always there to help guide us closer to her son’s love.  She has appeared many times with a message of hope, love, and a call to action for conversion.  Over the generations, she has laid out a roadmap of prayer, fasting, and repentance which we should follow.  While it’s easy to get down and think nothing we do can do that will make much difference, Mary says otherwise.  And we should all listen to our mother.

#5. Remember that you are protected

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is Mary’s coronation in Heaven.  We have to understand that there are evil force at work.  And Satan and his minions are playing the long game where they want you to focus all your energy on this world in the hopes that you will be led astray and become his slave for eternity.  He wants you to “go with the crowd” even if what is popular in modern society goes against God’s plan.  Or he wants you to fall into despair, blame God for all that is wrong with the world, and turn away from your faith. But Mary is a powerful queen who reigns in Heaven.  When we accept and live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom then we fall under Mary’s protection against evil and Satan’s influence.  No matter what transpires in our world we know that we will have protection for what matters most — our eternal soul.

Have Better Rosary Meditation by Preparing for a Confrontation

The other day I took a short break at work and went for a walk to clear my head. It was a bright, sunny day so I took a path that followed a small inlet of water from the San Francisco Bay. While I usually listen to an audiobook on my walks (remember, I’m still trying to get through the entire Catechism this year) I discovered that I forgot my headphones. Instead I took my rosary out of my pocket and began to pray it.

As I was taking my prayer walk, I suddenly got a sinking feeling in my stomach. What would happen if someone saw me and was offended by my public display of religion? How would I respond if someone told me to put those beads away? As outrageous as that may sound, remember that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was very possible to come across an atheist with the ACLU on speed dial in my neck of the woods.

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“How dare you pray in public! What if a child saw you?”

I then got my wits together and thought of a more realistic scenario. What if someone saw me walking with my rosary and curiously asked what it was? What if someone asked me to describe rosary prayer or describe the mysteries I was meditating on? That got my mind racing on how I would explain the rosary to a casual passerby.

I rehearsed talking about how I meditate on not being so materialistic when I pray the First Glorious Mystery. I ran a through a small monologue in my head about living a clean life of good works when praying the Second Glorious Mystery. I pictured myself saying how I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me when I pray the Third Glorious Mystery. And so on…

And while I didn’t know it at the time, when constructing my defense for a possible confrontation I was in fact meditating and thinking about the themes and lessons of each rosary mystery. I wasn’t thinking about work. I wasn’t thinking about a movie, tv show, or news article. I wasn’t thinking about any of those topics that usually distract me and put me on prayer “autopilot.” Like a student furiously cramming for a test, I was focused of all the reasons I pray the rosary and what lessons it teaches me.  In short, I was praying the rosary correctly.

I was never cornered by atheist. I didn’t have anyone come up and ask questions. I didn’t get any odd stares from people I passed. But by preparing for the worst I did experience one of my deeper, least interrupted rosary meditations.

Are you prepared to explain what you’re meditating on if someone asks?  Suppose you had an apparition of the Virgin Mary while you were praying.  Sound crazy?  Remember, you don’t pray the rosary in a vacuum.  Who do you think you’re asking to intercede for you when you pray the rosary?  What if Mary vocally responded as she’s done to a select few throughout history.  What if Our Lady first thanked you for praying the rosary and then quizzed you on what exactly you were praying for.  Would you be ready to answer or scrambling because you zoned out?

Easter is the Beginning, Not the End

Easter Sunday has come and gone which means life can get back to normal right? No more Lenten sacrifices so the donuts, chocolate, and beers can come out of the hiding spots. No more meatless Fridays. No more long Gospel readings. No more stations of the cross, rosaries, and being hounded to go to Confession.  Time to shelve that piety until Advent yes?

Don’t start making plans for that vice-filled weekend quite yet.  Lent was a time of preparation. But preparation for what? What happened on Easter Sunday that required 40 days of training? Surely Lent wasn’t about fine tuning your egg finding abilities or expanding your sugar tolerance. In terms of process, the Easter Mass wasn’t any different than other Sunday Masses.  There really wasn’t anything different on Easter Sunday than any other Sunday. What was all the preparation for?

Technically, Easter isn’t a day but a whole season.  It lasts 50 days starting with Easter Sunday and ending at Pentecost.  Did we spend 40 days of Lent preparing for 50 days of Easter?  Do we just have to practice our faith extra hard for three months and then we don’t have to think about it until Christmas?  Of course not.  In fact, there is no end date or time limit to what we profess during Easter.

When we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, we acknowledge the truth of his ministry. Jesus said that he would die and rise again and we celebrate the reality of that claim on Easter. But it’s not just about celebrating that single promise, but all of his promises. Easter is a celebration of the entire Gospel where we rejoice in all the promises and teachings Jesus gave us.  If Jesus was right about the outlandish claim of raising from the dead then he was right about everything else he preached. And we celebrate and give honor to Jesus’ resurrection by promising to go out and live according to his teachings.  Jesus asked us to go out and love our neighbors and our enemies.  He asked us to show compassion to the suffering and less fortunate.  He asked us to forgive those who wronged us.  He asked us to turn away from sin.  He promised eternal joy in Heaven.  He fulfilled that promise on Easter by rising from the dead and opening those gates for all of us.

Jesus Resurrection 1778
Jesus Resurrection 1778 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s spring so I’m going to use a baseball analogy.  Think of Lent as the pre-season.  We exercise and got into spiritual shape through fasting and prayer.  It was a time where we worked extra hard to shed those bad habits that crept in over the past year.  But if Lent is pre-season, Easter Sunday is opening day.  Yes, it’s a grand event filled with joy, hope, and optimism.  But it’s one day of many. And it is one Easter season of many.  Following Jesus’ teachings doesn’t end on Easter Sunday any more than the baseball season ends after the first game.  Instead, it is a time of hope and renewal as we look towards living out the Gospel in its entirety for the rest of our lives.

Easter Sunday has come and gone.  The candy will disappear over the next few days.  The pastel decorations and colorful eggs will be takn down.  But the celebration continues and requires your active participation.  Continue praying the rosary.  Continue attending Mass.  Continue fasting (maybe after indulging a little on the things you gave up during Lent).  When you meditate on the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary, picture Jesus opening the gates of Heaven in his resurrection.  He showed us that there is so much more to our lives than just what we experience on earth.  We are eternal beings with souls destined for Heaven if we choose.  Our praying, fasting, penance, and charity doesn’t end on Easter.  It ends when the Lord welcomes us into his kingdom that he made available to us through his resurrection.  Keep your rosaries close and God even closer!

Helping Iraq’s (Forgotten) Christians

I know many readers are probably put off by now about my recent political commentary even if you sit on the same side of the political aisle as I do.  But like I said in previous posts, we live in the real world and rosary prayer and meditation need to play a part in it.  Rosary prayer cannot be something detached and isolated from the other parts of our lives.  It is meant to fuel us and guide us through our our lives, especially the hard parts.

We should turn our prayers toward what is happening in Iraq right now.  Since January, 1.2 million people have been displaced by ISIS and other radical groups.  One group that was already being actively persecuted in the region before January, but are now targeted to a heightened degree is the region’s Christian communities.  Rev. Andrew Write, an Anglican pasture in Baghdad, said “It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares.  The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten.”

The ultimatum imposed by militants for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed has passed with the collapse of communities that have existed for millennia

Iraq is just one of many places where Christians have been driven from their homes with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  In some places, they are beheaded or even crucified!  Over the last few years churches that have stood for hundreds of years were shut down, vandalized, or destroyed throughout Syria, Egypt, Libya, and other countries.  By some measures, Christians are now the most persecuted group in the world, but as Rev. Write said, nobody cares.

I’m really not qualified to give a detailed analysis of international politics and why there isn’t a more vocal outrage over the world’s besieged Christians.  But here are some of my thoughts.  In the developed world, when we think of Christians we have the image of nicely dressed people attending a suburban church and then going to a nearby coffee house for pancakes and omelets.  Or we think of the majesty of St. Peter’s Square.  Some stereotypical images of the Spanish inquisition, European witch hunts, or the Crusades might come to mind.  Throw all these perceptions together and it forms a picture of a group of people who don’t need any help at best, or are getting what they deserve at worst.

But in much of the world, the Christian communities are no different from the non-Christian communities around them.  It’s not like Christians in Iraq are some wealthy, powerful group that are being toppled by a desperate underclass.  They are farmers, shopkeepers, employees in some business, mothers, fathers, and children just like everyone else.  Their day to day lives are no different from those around them except maybe they have different diets and worship habits.  They don’t have a direct connection to the politics or history of Christianity.  And yet, in their moment of need, many in the international community are silent because of their perception of who Christians are.

This Iraqi Christian should consider himself lucky.  He was only driven from his home and wasn’t beheaded.

Jesus challenges us to help one another personally.  One of my readers commented about my previous article on how Jesus offered a place for those who were left out of the normal hierarchy.  Jesus didn’t espouse politics nor catered to a specific group of people.  Yes, he taught mostly amongst the Jews, but His message was for everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, time, or place.  We look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the courage to go out and teach Jesus’ message to all the world.  And while they preached the Word to religious and political leaders (since they would have the most influence) they also taught to the masses and spread the Word as individuals to individuals.

St. Paul teaching the masses about Jesus Christ

Individuals helping individuals is the core of Jesus’ ministry.  Yes, we still must lean on our governments and religious leaders to help.  After all, it’s religious and government institutions that have the best infrastructure to deliver aid effectively.  And yes, we must pray for those who are feeling so alone and abandoned as forces of evil drive them from their homes and kill them.  But prayer is not the end of our role in helping those in need, it’s the beginning.  Jesus didn’t want people to pray and then wait for governments and religious leaders to officially adopt His Word before living the Gospel.

Now it’s not like we can jump on the nearest plane to Iraq and drive from the airport to the area where Christians have fled.  But we can still help on a personal level.  Please consider donating to the Catholic Relief Services as they do have the means of reaching out to those undergoing hardships that we will (hopefully) never know.