Today, March 25, 2023, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. This is the First Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary whose fruit is Humility. May we all imitate Mary and humbly say “YES!” to God’s plan for us.
Category: Joyful Mysteries
The Rosary is a Daily Five-Item “To Be” List
I’m a huge fan of lists, whether “to do”, bucket, thanksgiving, etc. The Rosary can be considered a new type of list, the “to-be” list. The beauty of the Rosary is that it serves as a daily reminder of the type of person God wants us to be. If you pray the Rosary daily, you have an opportunity to review at least five items in your “to-be” list.
When I read news and articles, particularly ones with a list of their own, I often connect them to Rosary mysteries. This way, I solidify the central meaning of the article every time I pray. For example, I read this article on the Five Traits of Resilient Fathers. That immediately got me thinking of how each trait maps to a Rosary mystery. Now I can reflect on each trait, and whether I’m practicing it, whenever I meditate on a particular mystery.
For those who didn’t read the article, here’s the rundown of the five traits parents, fathers in particular, must show. I’ll then show you the Rosary mysteries you can meditate on to remind you of each trait.
- CLOTHED IN VIRTUE
- READY TO FORGIVE
- RULED BY PEACE
- STEEPED IN SCRIPTURE
- ALWAYS THANKFUL
Clothed in Virtue
In the Fourth Joyful Mystery, it’s hinted that Simeon and Anna spend all their time in the temple praying. Scripture also says that Simeon was a “righteous” man. Put those two concepts together — always praying in the temple = righteous. If we want to be clothed in virtue, we need to be constantly practicing our faith through prayer, attending Mass, and receiving the Sacraments. These are all necessary practices if we are to know what is virtuous and find the strength to live righteously.
Ready to Forgive
Picture Jesus on the cross in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. The criminal on his right asks Jesus to “remember him.” He’s essentially asking Jesus for forgiveness which Jesus readily gives. Even in his suffering on the cross, Jesus asks God to forgive the people who are crucifying him. Jesus shows us that we must always be willing to forgive regardless of circumstances or transgression.
Ruled by Peace
Picture Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemene in the First Sorrowful Mystery. Jesus was scared about his coming Passion and Crucifixion. He prayed multiple times that he would do God’s will. The Gospel writers then show everyone losing their minds — Pharisees yelling for Jesus’ crucifixion, apostles scattering in fear, and mobs of people crying or taunting him. And yet, through all of this chaos, Jesus remains calm and level-headed. He had peace about him even when he had every reason to be upset. Peace is the result of earnest prayer, learning God’s will, and asking him for the strength to do it.
Steeped in Scripture
When I was in a summer college seminar, my roommate read the Bible every night before falling asleep. At the time, I thought this was a strange practice. Reading the Bible routinely seemed like something only priests did, not 21-year-old college students. Later in life, I learned the importance of learning the faith through the Bible, Catechism, and other Church writings. When meditating on the Fourth Glorious Mystery, I think about how Mary was assumed into Heaven and helps guide us closer to her son, Jesus. In her apparitions, she instructs us to read Scripture so that we may grow closer in communion with Jesus.
The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” When we pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist, let us remember to give thanks that Jesus is present in our lives. He’s more than just a person who lived 2,000 years ago. He’s here with us today, teaching, healing, and guiding us closer to God. Of the billions of years the universe has existed, we should be thankful that we live in the relatively small sliver of time that humanity has known God through Jesus. And we should be thankful that we have an opportunity to rest in Jesus’ presence whenever we pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
There you have it. Five traits and five Rosary mysteries. Hopefully, these mysteries will remind you to practice these traits. Ask God to strengthen you and everyone in the areas you need help.
Add Some Activism to Your Lent
I’ve heard many times that during Lent, you should not only give something up but also do something extra. Maybe that’s extra prayer time. Maybe it’s a commitment to attend Stations of the Cross each week or adoration. Perhaps you vow to make amends with someone or receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. Here’s something else you can add to your Lent — political activism!
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to superglue your hands to the road to block traffic all the while screaming “Jesus loves you!” This is something much easier and legal — write letters on pressing social issues to Congress. CatholicVote provides this page where you can write to Congress about bills touching on various moral and ethical issues.
Current bills open for public comment include:
- Pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
- Submit an Official Comment to Tell HHS Not to Weaken Conscience Protections
- Tell Your Senator to Vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
- Demand Action on Attacks Against Catholic Churches
On the Loop podcast, they urge people to write in their own words. They will carry more weight than ones coming from a template. You never know, perhaps your words will touch the right politician at the right time and nudge them to act appropriately. Unleash your inner writer and let the government know that there are people who want their freedoms protected instead of being attacked.
Listening to the Least of Us
Jesus was no stranger to speaking the truth to power. In the Fifth Joyful Mystery, we see him talking to the elders in the temple as a young boy. They had every reason to dismiss him. After all, when was the last time you gave a child your complete attention? Usually, I smile and nod because what excites a young boy probably doesn’t excite me. But they were captivated by his words and hopefully transformed by them.
Jesus shows us that the truth knows no age restriction. The truth knows no status or education. The apostles went forth preaching in Jesus’ name and they were comprised of fishermen and a tax collector. I encourage you to lay down some truth to our elected representatives. They need to hear from all of us that these issues are important to us.
My apologies to my non-US readers for such a US-centric post.
How to Resist Satan Like Jesus in the Desert
Before I begin, my apologies that my posts always seem to follow various Sunday readings and feast days, not lead. That’s for two reasons. First, I try to avoid creating yet another deadline to meet. The pressure is off if I don’t have to publish an article by a certain date. Second, I usually draw inspiration from other articles and homilies around that feast. Since I try to make my thoughts universal, I hope you find them useful regardless of how far away they are from the event I’m referencing.
Let’s turn toward the readings from the first Sunday of Lent. They all revolve around temptation and sin. In the First Reading, we hear about Adam and Eve succumbing to temptation by eating the forbidden fruit. The Second Reading and Gospel then recount how Jesus defeated Satan by resisting temptations and redeeming us. In the desert, after fasting for 40 days, Jesus defeated Satan three times. We’re going to take a closer look at each temptation and how we can similarly defeat Satan through the Rosary.
The First Temptation
In the first temptation, Satan tries to use Jesus’ hunger after fasting for 40 days as a way to gain power over him. He dares Jesus to turn a stone into bread. Satan appeals to Jesus’ basic need to eat as a way to cause him to fall. Think of how easily Jesus could have turned a stone into bread and the strength he had to muster to resist. And notice how Satan isn’t asking Jesus to do something intrinsically evil. This is how Satan often tempts us — by suggesting something that isn’t outright sinful and easy to fulfill. That gets us started going down the path where we do Satan’s bidding instead of God’s Will.
Consider the First Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony in the Garden. Jesus was at a low moment in his life before his arrest and crucifixion. His spiritual state mirrors his physical exhaustion when being tempted by Satan in the desert. In both cases, he finds strength by calling on God through prayer. Like Jesus in the garden and in the desert, we should always remember to call on God for strength and guidance when we are facing “low” moments in our lives. Those are the moments when Satan will opportunistically tempt us with something seemingly benign as a way to get a foothold of control. We need God’s help to resist the temptations Satan lays before us.
The Second Temptation
In the second temptation, Satan tries to undermine Jesus’ faith in the power of God by asking him to throw himself off a cliff to have angels catch him. He challenges Jesus to “prove himself” as the Son of God. Ironically, Jesus does prove himself by rejecting Satan’s challenge. Jesus shows that Satan has no influence over someone when he is closely connected to God. Anyone in this state of grace has no need to prove God’s power as it will be self-evident in your resolve to resist sin.
Think about Jesus during his Crucifixion in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. You have people around him doubting his divinity. The condemned man next to Jesus, in a very similar manner to Satan in the desert, tells Jesus that if he’s the Messiah, to save him and himself. Maybe the same thoughts went through the other man on the cross, but he had enough faith to ask Jesus to humbly remember him. One person demanded proof. The other asked for mercy and forgiveness. We are like the people gathered around Jesus on the cross. Do we doubt God’s abilities and demand proof or have faith in his awesome power?
The Third Temptation
In the third temptation, Satan tries to appeal to the human desire for wealth and power by offering Jesus all the wealth and power in the world. This is rather naive of Satan to assume that Jesus would have the same weaknesses as us. Like in sports, Satan knows that Jesus has defeated him and this is his last chance to try to cause Jesus’ fall. Maybe he couldn’t see past his own selfish desire for power to see that Jesus isn’t motivated by the same thing. There’s no logic, philosophy, or appeal to Scripture in this case. Satan hopes that appealing to greed might eek him a victory. Of course, this last desperate attempt fails.
The fruit of the Third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity, is detachment from worldly possessions. Satan is ever present trying to turn us away from God by appealing to our base desires — greed, lust, sloth, and gluttony. For those less prepared to battle Satan, these are powerful tools that Satan wields to control someone’s soul. This is why praying the Rosary, receiving the sacraments, and forming a tight relationship with God are so important. Satan cannot wield control over us via our base desires when we are focused on the higher desire of living in God’s grace and, one day, Heaven.
If you want to read a great analysis of Jesus’ temptation in the desert and the reality of Satan in our lives, I highly suggest reading Fr. Robert Spitzer’s Christ Versus Satan in Our Daily Lives. It’s the first book of a trilogy that I’m currently reading. He does such a great job of laying out the reality of Satan’s influence through the eight deadly sins and the ways we can fight against them. I’m sure many of the ideas in this article were inspired (and maybe unintentionally used) by his book.
Study Hints That Mass Attendance Can Prolong Your Life
I hope this comes as no surprise to those who take their daily Rosary meds, but do you know there’s a correlation between practicing faith and happiness? Inversely, those who do not practice their religion formally have a higher mortality rate than those who do. This is why it’s so important to make your faith a priority in your life.
I have a quick disclaimer before jumping into this article. I frequently talk about Mass attendance. But I’m using it as shorthand for actively practicing your faith. Since the Mass is the pinnacle of the Catholic faith, I call it out specifically. But Mass is one component of the Catholic Church that is combined with prayer, devotion, and sacraments.
MarketWatch summarized a paper (sorry, I can’t find a link to the actual source) authored by researchers from multiple universities. They observed that groups that showed a decline in religious adherence experienced increased mortality rates while the general trend steadily declined. This hit non-practicing, middle-aged, white Americans without a college degree the hardest.
States that experienced larger declines in religious participation in the last 15 years of the 20th century saw larger increases in deaths of despair.
The Consequences of Missing Mass
I bring up this study because we live in an era where people dismiss the benefits of formal religious practices. This widespread attack on formalized religion has real consequences. Consider the millions of people who lived in misery and despair because they bought into the cultural lie that organized religion is a lot of superstition and bigotry. Think about the people trying to find meaning in their lives but don’t consider stepping into a church. After all, religion’s only goal is to limit your freedom and fun right?
I’m not saying that everyone who attends Mass on Sunday and prays daily has a long, easy life. There are still bills to pay, people to feed, bosses to please, and health concerns. But God wants to help us through all these challenges whether they are self-imposed through sin or just part of living in this world. But we have to humbly come before God and ask for his help. He will answer and guide us through his son, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, our Mother Mary, and the saints and angels in Heaven. But he doesn’t force himself in our lives. God gives us the freedom to not ask for his help and he’ll respect our choice. But we have to admit that our choices have consequences.
I constantly tell my boys that they wouldn’t pass up a free cookie or treat. They wouldn’t pass up easy extra credit on a school assignment. They wouldn’t pass up extra screen time. So they shouldn’t pass up asking God for help in their struggles, both big and small. No one can provide better help than an all-powerful and all-loving God. But that’s exactly what people are doing when stop attending Mass, praying regularly and essentially cutting out God from their lives.
Why do People Miss Mass?
Maybe it’s pride that keeps people away from practicing their faith. They don’t want to admit that they need help in their lives. Perhaps they can’t admit that our social and political “leaders” (yes, I’m using scare quotes) cannot solve all their problems. Maybe they feel their friends will ostracize them if they dare step into a church or admit the Christian dogma has value. And let’s not forget the role Satan plays in convincing people that practicing their faith isn’t important. The pandemic was a banner time for him.
People need to fill that void with something. For some, it may be mindless entertainment — YouTube and TikTok videos or binge-watching Netflix. For others, they turn to vices like alcohol, drugs, and various manifestations of the seven deadly sins. Others may fill that void with more wholesome activities — exercise, reading, education, community involvement, time with friends, and hobbies. But an adult softball league will never be an adequate replacement for the Eucharist.
Helping Lost Souls
The data shows what many of us know intuitively — we are lost when we don’t actively practice our faith. Meditate and pray for those who are lost when you pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery. Remember how Mary and Joseph searched in sorrow because they lost Jesus? Now think of all of those souls in this world who are miserable because Jesus is missing in their lives.
Now consider that the Holy Spirit may be asking you to help guide some of these lost souls back to their faith. This is a daunting prospect for many of us. It’s easy to pray for increased parish participation. But it’s much more difficult and scary to actively bring people back to Mass. That may be what God is asking of you. You may be the answer to someone’s prayer. In bringing people back to the Chruch, you may not only save a life but help save a soul.
The Dangers of Making Assumptions
The Right Stuff
For those who don’t know, I’m a big fan of movies and television. I worked in visual effects and feature animation for close to 20 years. It’s almost a family business as I have ancestors that worked both in front of and behind the camera throughout the 20th century. I’m going to look at certain scenes in movies and see what they can teach us about practicing our faith.
I’m taking a look at The Right Stuff. It’s a classic about the Mercury space program which put the first Americans in space and tested the science, math, and engineering needed for the Apollo program. You may recognize names like John Glenn and Alan Shepard and you certainly can’t forget those dazzling reflective space suits.
In one scene in the movie, the astronauts’ wives meet each other for the first time. They talk up a storm with a lot of small talk. Everyone that is, except John Glenn’s wife, Annie. After the meeting, one of the wives commented to her husband about how unfriendly and snobby Annie is. Some thought that Annie just sat there silently as if she was better than everyone else and the pleasantries were beneath her.
What the wives didn’t know was that Annie had a speech impediment and stuttered. She was very self-conscious in social situations, so she remained silent. She was shy, not snobby.
The Danger of Assumptions
This scene from The Right Stuff reminds me of how we so often make assumptions about others. Our assumptions aren’t always true. Someone who is short-tempered may be so because he didn’t get any sleep the night before because he needed to deal with a family emergency. Maybe someone drops out of an event at the last minute for personal reasons, not because they didn’t like who was attending or how it was planned. Perhaps someone didn’t talk to you after Mass, not because he’s mad at you, but because he has to be somewhere else soon. People have many reasons for acting as they do and they may not be for reasons you assume.
Contemplate on the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. That stretches all believability. I’m sure Mary and Joseph caused quite a scandal in their village and everyone probably had their version of the story which probably didn’t include a virgin pregnancy. Even Joseph had a hard time believing in the truth and was ready to divorce Mary before an angel intervened.
Imagine an alternate reality where Joseph divorced Mary or she was stoned to death for being pregnant outside of marriage. It would have been a reality where Jesus, as we know him, did not come into the world. You see, this is what happens when we assume too much about people — we spin off into this alternate reality based on our false narrative. How many times do you dwell on something someone said or did without knowing the facts? We may destroy a desirable outcome by filling in what we don’t know or understand with a false narrative.
Let God Fill in the Blanks
At the same time, we can’t always assume the best. Some people are naturally ill-tempered, mean, flakey, or dishonest. People do bad things. We are all sinners after all. And this is where prayer comes in. We have to ask God for help to help separate reality from our own fiction. It’s okay if we don’t understand people and their motives and circumstances. God will steer us in the right direction if we come to him in prayer and humbly ask for his help when we don’t know how to deal with certain individuals.
God may not answer us as dramatically as he did with Saint Joseph in the form of an angel in a dream. But he does talk to us and may nudge us into the right action. It may be something subtle like you asking someone if everything is okay instead of being angry with him. It may require you to take a step back and cut someone a little slack. When we don’t know something, it’s best to ask God to help fill in the blanks.
The Gift of a Prayerful You
Are you still looking for Christmas gifts? I have a simple idea. Give the gift of a prayerful you. A household fueled by prayer is a joyful one. It’s something anyone can give, from the very young to the very old.
I’m not talking about giving someone a card saying, “My gift to you is that I’m praying for you.” I think that would rub many people the wrong way. They will think that you are cheap, forgot to get them a gift, or that you’re using a gift as an opportunity to comment on your spirituality. I’m thinking of a different direction when talking about the gift of prayer.
I suggest that you consciously commit to prayer in the final days of Advent, Christmas, and beyond. Let’s face it, Christmas may be joyful but it’s hardly peaceful or relaxing. There are all sorts of chaos — family, shopping, dinners, and parties. For those traveling, it’s dealing with accommodations you may not be used to such as crashing on your in-laws’ coach because that’s the only place to sleep. Maybe you’re alone because you have to work or your family lives far away. Routine, daily prayer can help you experience joy during the busy Christmas season.
Imagine a Christmas when everyone is fueled by prayer. I see it as one where people don’t flip out because they didn’t give or receive the correct presents. It’s enjoying a conversation with Grandma Josephine despite the fact she burnt the apple pie (again). It’s about talking to your sibling about your shared interest in movies instead of arguing about politics. It’s a time when people just roll with inconveniences instead of turning into monsters. That is what a prayerful Christmas can look like.
Picture Mary in the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. The fruit of this mystery is loving your neighbor. Despite being pregnant, Mary traveled far to be with her cousin Elizabeth. It was probably rough and uncomfortable for Mary. And yet, the Bible speaks of the joy both felt when they encountered each other. Maybe there was some complaining over the long journey, but it was overshadowed by joy. Imitate Mary and Elizabeth by focusing on the joy of Christmas instead of the hardships.
Regardless of your circumstances, Christmas can always be improved with daily prayer. Carve out time to pray the Rosary and let Mary help you see the joy that God places all around you.
The Artificiality of Social Media
The Decline of Social Media
With Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, there’s been a lot of media coverage about social media in general. Many, including myself, think that we’ve reached “peak media” and will see a decline in the use of social media in the coming years. I hope this will open the door for more authentic interactions between people and also a reconnection with faith and prayer.
This may be anecdotal, but I haven’t logged into Facebook in months. I’ve tapered off posting to my Facebook Rosary Prayer channel. When I look at the traffic coming into RosaryMeds from social media, it’s a sliver and hardly worth the effort to post. Facebook is starting to feel like an old mall with space for rent, seasonal “pop-up” stores, and a few people wandering around. Granted, FB still has millions of active users, but it’s nowhere close to what it was a few years ago. It’s no surprise that Facebook has laid off many workers.
The same trend is starting to happen on Twitter. As much as news outlets and politicians want to make a big deal of Elon Musk changing Twitter, I think most people could really care less who’s barking on the service. For years, Twitter has enjoyed a large amount of influence where a tiny group of people could influence companies and politicians. That led to a very toxic “cancel culture” and later a tsunami of wokeness. I think it’s a good direction if Musk’s Twitter is a much smaller virtual town square if agitators and their followers leave the platform.
A Fading Fad
I bring up Facebook and Twitter because I think they are examples of a fad that is starting to decline. When social media first came onto the scene, people were excited because it offered the ability to connect with old friends and provided shared experiences across the world. But now its artificiality and social manipulation are starting to show. Social media is a lot like a microwave “TV” dinner. They were all the rage when first introduced because they freed people from spending time in the kitchen preparing meals. Microwave meals offer convenience, but they are processed and artificial. Much like how people prefer a home-cooked meal, we’re also looking again for more authentic social experiences the Facebooks of the world fail to provide.
In addition to people once again returning to face-to-face communication and being physically present, I think we’re starting to realize that our faith isn’t something we can “phone in.” A key aspect of Christianity is that we are all part of one body united in Christ Jesus. That body doesn’t function when its members are separated and isolated from each other. Much like how Facebook and Zoom can’t replace an in-person conversation, virtual Masses cannot replace physical presence at Mass.
Why Physical Presence is Important
I’ve talked a lot about the need for people to return to Mass. Besides the importance of receiving sacraments, it is needed to have a vibrant community. You need people physically present to serve as lectors, cantors, altar servers, and Eucharistic ministers. But you also need to physically walk by food donation bins or a Christmas giving tree to see that there are those in need of your charity. You need to talk to someone after Mass to learn that a parishioner is sick and is in need of prayer. You need to be there so that someone new to the parish or new to the faith sees that there is a physical community of brothers and sisters. These examples are why we cannot have an energetic parish or a rich faith over Zoom.
Think about Jesus’ ministry and the thousands of people who followed him. People felt drawn to physically be in his presence and learn from him. God could have chosen to continue to teach us via private revelation and through prophets. God could have “uploaded” all of Jesus’ teachings to humanity. But he didn’t because he knew the value of physical presence and community. People not only found comfort in being close to Jesus but also in being close to one another.
Presence in the Rosary
Meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and its connection to faith and community. Consider that Mary and Joseph valued their sacred traditions and made efforts to praise God as written in the Law. They physically went to the Temple to offer sacrifices and present Jesus. Similarly, God commands us to be physically, mentally, and spiritually present in our faith. Remember, we profess that we believe in “one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church.” “Catholic” means “universal.” We’re not meant to practice our faith in isolation.
Consider the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. Jesus performed his first public miracle at a wedding where many gathered. I like to think that where many gather, miracles happen. Of course, the biggest miracle takes place every Mass — the transformation of bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood. But that miracle requires presence to really have a transforming effect. Miracles need witnesses. Otherwise, they are just stories. That is why people aren’t as inspired by miracles that occurred centuries ago. And that is why a live-streamed Mass or a virtual parish is a poor substitute for physical presence.
Now that we’re halfway through Advent, take a moment to ask yourself how present you are in your faith. Has Advent been mostly secular for you revolving around gifts and decorations? Now is the time to really make this season meaningful by consciously centering your day around the coming of Jesus. Be present.
The Importance of Self-Control
I recently read We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst. He explores the cultural shifts in our views around self-control. This is a secular book so you won’t see much on Church teaching except some implicit connections that those who are religious tend to exercise more self-control. Nor is it a self-help book trying to push some 12-step program. It’s just an honest look at self-control and whether its declining value in our world is a good or bad thing. Naturally, I read it thinking about how self-control is linked to our faith and what the Rosary can teach us about this topic.
We have to endure a world of temptation and excess our ancestors never had to. Think about how convenient life is for the modern person. Most of us have nearly instant access to an abundance of calories, entertainment, and things. We don’t have to go for long periods of time between meals. Food is either a supermarket trip, fast food run, or pantry raid away. And with smartphones and the internet, we aren’t lacking options to occupy our time or buy anything our heart desires.
Our minds and bodies aren’t designed for this modern level of excess. Think about our primitive ancestors. They would need to fast for days between hunting animals. So when they did come across food, they consumed as much as they could because they didn’t know when the opportunity to consume more calories might be. As for entertainment; forget about it. They were too busy trying to stay alive. But if they could find some downtime, they took full advantage of it since they needed the rest to conserve energy.
Humans evolved amongst scarcity. Surviving when resources are scarce is our default setting. So our minds and bodies are working as designed when we indulge in tasty food or relaxing activities. The becomes problematic because we are surrounded by food and leisure 24/7. But our bodies don’t know that and are slow to adapt to the last few decades of changes (a blink in evolutionary terms). We need to override our default mode in this world of abundance. We need to show self-control.
Catholicism and Self-Control
Our Catholic faith helps us develop this sense of self-control. Think about the 7 deadly sins — gluttony, lust, envy, wrath, greed, sloth, and pride. For the most part, the root cause of these sins is a lack of self-control. It’s a failure to control our appetites, desires, and wants. The Church acknowledges and teaches that self-control is about resisting temptation and avoiding sin. This helps us stay healthy physically, but more importantly, spiritually.
Of course, showing self-control isn’t simple in the age of excess. We live in a world that affirms just about every vice. Lust, greed, and gluttony are celebrated as people being free to embrace whatever lifestyle they desire. The world isn’t going to honor your efforts to live on the straight and narrow. In fact, it will mostly like shame you for following conventions it sees as authoritative and fascist.
Self-Control in the Rosary
We can turn to the Rosary for guidance on self-control. When we look at the 7 deadly sins, the root sin is pride. Our pride is what justifies our lack of self-control. Pride is what puts our wants and desires ahead of anyone else’s. It tells us to ignore those voices telling us to exercise self-control. The virtue that counters pride is humility. Naturally, Mary is our model for humility. Meditate on the First Joyful Mystery. Picture Mary putting aside her own desires to do God’s Will. Humility means allowing God to guide us. Self-control and humility are about looking beyond your immediate wants and acknowledging others’ needs. Those “others” are our friends and family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ himself, and our future self.
Look at Simeon and Anna in the Fourth Joyful Mystery. They exemplify restraint and dedication. They spent their lives in the temple praying and waiting for the Chosen One. Think about the level of self-control and patience they must have had. Simeon didn’t give in to their immediate desires but instead focused on what was promised to him — the privilege of seeing Jesus before he died. God promises us Heaven. But like Simeon, we have to show self-control and patience by not giving in to our sinful desires. We have to invest in our future selves that will enjoy the fruits of God’s kingdom. That “investment” won’t always be easy and might take a long time to bear fruit.
Self-control may be a dirty word in today’s culture. But we have to see it for what it really is — putting aside desires that aren’t physically, mentally, or spiritually healthy for us. This is why praying the Rosary, receiving the sacraments, and going to Mass are so important. They amplify this need for self-control, patience, and humility in a world that has practically drowned them out with messages affirming any vice you can think up.
The Harmful Effects of Not Attending Mass
The Dam Has Cracks
I think many people are feeling the ill effects of not attending Mass or attending virtually. Some of my friends, who I used to see all the time at Sunday Mass, have stopped going regularly. And while they may not think they feel any different by not attending Mass, I see changes in their personalities and general happiness. This may be due to other circumstances, but not having the Mass as the spiritual anchor makes dealing with life’s challenges all the more difficult.
Skipping weekly Mass is like a leak in a dam holding back water. As you skip Mass, more “cracks” tend to develop because the overall integrity of the dam is compromised. None of those cracks may be huge and individually, they don’t threaten the dam’s overall stability. But when combined, all those small cracks threaten the dam’s overall integrity causing it to fall apart.
The dam in this parable is our faith. On the dry side is our soul. The water being held back is all the influences in this world. It’s a mixture of sins and emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, joy, doubt, and calmness. Our faith acts as a barrier protecting ourselves from the torrent of sin and emotion. But as those leaks start to form, those sins and emotions start to manifest themselves more in our lives. If there are too many leaks causing the dam (our faith) to fail, those “waters” of sin and emotion will completely flood and destroy our lives.
No Joy, Only Anxiety
From my personal experience, I’m starting to see spiritual “cracks” in some people. I notice a greater sense of anxiety and unhappiness in those who stopped attending Mass regularly. They tend to complain about everything in their lives. Every inconvenience is a crisis requiring someone to blame and be punished. They have replaced joy with anxiety.
We’re also seeing this general anxiety play out over the internet. Something happens locally in one part of the world, and the next thing you know, the Twitterverse is in an uproar. There are millions of people whose lives are affected by what’s on social media or the 24-hour news cycle. Without the Mass, they’re losing the ability to counter-balance the craziness of the world.
Many of us couldn’t go to Mass during the Covid lockdowns or we attended virtually. Most of us didn’t have a choice. But that was a crack in our faith that needed immediate patching. And thank God, many of us did fix that crack. As soon as the churches opened, we were right back in those pews. But there are a significant number of people that developed more spiritual “cracks” by not returning to the Church. The tragedy is that they may not see how their absence from the sacraments and the Catholic community contributes to their fears and anxieties.
We have challenges in front of us to bring people back to their spiritual home and the greater Catholic family. We have to compete with endless entertainment options, less free time from school and work, and government and media hostile to religion and our values.
Related: Is Discipleship More Challenging Today? Five Modern Hurdles to Ministry | Desiring God
Related: What’s the role of religion as social trust unravels in American public life? — GetReligion
Loving our Neighbor with the Rosary
What do we do now? I suggest starting with meditating on the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation. This mystery’s fruit is loving our neighbor. Mary went out and helped her cousin Elizabeth despite being pregnant herself. We too should help our brothers and sisters in Christ who have fallen away from the Church recently. We need to pray because we need Mary’s help in approaching this delicate topic. We can’t just get into peoples’ faces and start quoting the Catechism. Prayer will help us know what route to take. It may mean working with your parish pastor or finding the right words in a conversation. Prayer also will allow the Holy Spirit to work within people’s souls.