How the Rosary Helps us Avoid Sloth

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

Boredom with Spiritual Life

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

Dr. Mike Scherschligt, Daily Rosary Meditation Podcast

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

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

How Sloth is Killing Us

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

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

How to Combat Sloth through the Rosary

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

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

Bosch reminds us where sloth ultimately leads us

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

The Importance of a Purposeful Life

An Alien World

Over my vacation, I read the science fiction novel, Return from the Stars, by Polish author Stanislaw Lem. This was the second time I read the novel. When I read it 20 years ago, it didn’t connect with me. However, now I see many parallels with the direction our society is headed with the one depicted in the novel. I think this book is worth exploring through the lens of faith.

Return from the Stars echoes many themes explored in Adulous Huxley’s Brave New World or the movie Logan’s Run. Lem tells the story of an astronaut, Hal Bragg, returning from an intergalactic space mission having only aged 10 years while 127 years passed on Earth. His experiences on this new Earth are like stepping onto an alien planet. Society has completely changed because people live without crime and fear due to a procedure everyone receives at birth which removes humanity’s tendency towards aggression. Robots handle all the dangerous work leaving humans to spend their lives pursuing leisurely activities.

The Tragedy of Comfort

It may seem like a utopia to live in a world without injury, crime, and fear. If you don’t know of any other way of life, a world of war, crime, and toil would seem downright barbaric. However, what type of life is it where your sole purpose is to exist and consume? There is nothing to achieve or fight for. That drive towards improvement via challenging yourself no longer exists. In the novel, this world drives astronaut Hal Bragg to the edge of insanity as he declares, “They’ve killed the man in man!”

We are starting to see the development of such a society depicted in the novel. It’s one bathed in the glowing screens of smartphones. One can spend his whole life watching TikTok videos and streaming Netflix, ordering everything online at the click of a button, and no one daring to tell him, “You should be doing more with your life.” As Hal realizes almost immediately, it’s a life without purpose. Humanity has regressed, not progressed. We are little more than packs of animals dressed up in the comforts technological advances bring.

Return from the Stars stays mostly in the sociological changes to society. It avoids explicitly exploring the political and religious structure of such a society. But I think Lem leads the reader to a similar conclusion that Hal discovers — such a world creates a shallow and meaningless life. Ironically, it is through our hardships and toil that we forge strong connections with each other and God.

Why We Need to Toil

Our lives need to include that spirit of adventure, danger, and toil. There needs to be a sense that we are working towards something. Specifically, we need to have that drive to always be working towards living in God’s grace and eventually spending eternity with Him in Heaven. And that requires hard work and taking risks to achieve something more than what we currently have. It means being thankful for what we have, but knowing that it’s incomplete.

Hal laments that humanity lost the will to explore the stars to instead bask in the immediate comforts technology and science brought them. I think the same sentiment can be said for faith. We lose that sense of urgency to practice our faith in an easy, “safe” world. Why is it, after a huge disaster like the 911 attacks, churches were full to the brim the following weeks? I think, when our sense of comfort is disrupted, we evaluate what is truly important and invest in it. Unfortunately, the last major world event, the Covid pandemic, made it even easier to seek comfort rather than seek God.

Seeking God through the Rosary

Mediate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Picture Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus after they learned he was missing. They searched for three days in sorrow. Imagine the sense of urgency and determination they must have had looking for their lost child. Everything else took a back seat to find Jesus. Their search required dealing with fear, sorrowful, and hardship. But in the end, their persistence was rewarded when they found Jesus in the temple.

Look how tired St. Joseph looks

We too should show that same level of focus and determination to find Jesus in our lives. I’m not saying that you neglect other responsibilities such as work, family, and community for your faith. But we can’t become so comfortable that we lose the willpower to serve and honor God. We always need to remember that we have a mission and it’s not to watch Netflix and Disney+ (which I recommend you boycott on principle). To be fully human, we need to strive for something greater than what we have. We need to strive to deepen our love for God and our faith.

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.

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.

Increasing Despair

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.

Just One More Day: The Fifth Joyful Mystery

I coach youth soccer. I often see my players give up easily when something doesn’t come naturally to them. Someone may have a hard time passing the ball across the field. Or maybe they don’t dribble as well as some of the other players. So after having the ball stolen from them a few times, they want to stop playing because they’ve decided soccer isn’t their sport. They don’t understand that anything new will be difficult but they will get better if they stick with it. But it’s not just children that have a hard time staying with something that is difficult. Adults fall victim to this urge to give up when times are tough too.

I think many of us give up way too easily in the face of hardship. When facing a challenge, we may pray a Rosary or go to Mass and ask God for help. For many of us, the only time we pray earnestly is when we are facing something difficult. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But often we tend to think we’re holding up our end of the bargain with God and He better answer quickly. If God doesn’t deliver, we get upset believing that the whole prayer endeavor was pointless and give it up.

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days in sorrow. What if they had given up after one day of searching? Now I’m sure Jesus would have grown up just fine since he is the Son of God. But Mary and Joseph would have regretted not looking a little harder for their lost son. But as any parent knows, finding a lost child is too important to just give hope after a short period of time. They kept searching and hoping despite the fruitlessness of the first days of searching. And they finally found Jesus.

What makes praying to God frustrating in times of difficultly is that we don’t know when or how God answers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a chart we can look at to know when God answers our prayers. It would be convenient if we could look up the Catechism and see that one Rosary novena will yield a small request being granted within two weeks. But that’s not how God works. For some, it’s three days in sorrow, for others it’s three decades.

As much as we don’t enjoy hardship and sorrow, they are powerful tools that draw us closer to God. In realizing our sorrow and asking God for help, we also acknowledge our dependence on God. We realize that true happiness is something that comes through Him, not in our worldly institutions or through our own actions. Furthermore, in prayer, we may receive comfort, strength, and grace in ways we don’t even realize. We may be so focused on God wanting to address a particular sorrow, we overlook the other ways He may be answering us. At the very least, God may be giving us increased strength to endure our hardship for another day.

We have to realize that God’s timeframe and overall goal is much different than ours. We may hope or expect an answer in a matter of days. But it may be months, years, or an entire lifetime before we get an answer. But what’s a single lifetime in God’s grand plan? Even the most terrible human suffering will be looked at as a trivial inconvenience compared to the eternal happiness of Heaven. God often answers our prayers by putting us on a track towards Heaven. That may not require eliminating our worldly problems. The saints understood this and endured many challenges and sorrows because they knew that God was helping them and others achieve lasting comfort in Heaven.

When you feel impatient or hopeless over life’s challenges, meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery. Think about how Mary and Joseph didn’t give up finding Jesus and neither should we. And often, like Mary and Joseph, we’ll find Jesus and relief from our suffering in the most obvious of places — our Father’s house, the Church.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Understanding

I’m going to explore the next gift of the Holy Spirit — understanding. Understanding is closely related to wisdom as well as knowledge. It shares many of the same attributes as wisdom such as engaging one’s mind. If wisdom is the desire to seek the truth, understanding helps explain the “why” behind those truths.

When I think about understanding, I think about my kids. I find it easy to resort to an authoritarian mode where I expect them to blindly follow my instructions. But it is far more effective to have kids understand the reason behind my requests rather than resorting to “because I said so.” Without understanding, we are in a mode of “because I said so” with God. Our Catholic Faith is reduced to a set of rules we follow merely to stay out of Hell. It’s the gift of understanding that elevates us to follow God because we can see the sound reasoning behind the rules.

Understanding allows us to see the world as God does in a limited way. We cannot comprehend all that God does, but the gift of understanding allows us to partially know and better appreciate God’s plan. The gift of understanding provides us that insight into God’s plan, and hence, passionately follow it as the saints do. Understanding is what moves us beyond obeying God because He’s the ultimate authority figure into wanting to follow Him because we know it’s ultimately beneficial to us.

Understanding in the Rosary

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery, Finding Jesus in the Temple. A young Jesus is asking and answering questions amongst the learned scribes and scholars. God doesn’t impart the gift of understanding solely through learned scholars. In this mystery, it came through a child. God has a tendency to pick unlikely messengers whether it be Moses in the Old Testament, Jesus, Saint Peter and Paul, and numerous other saints. God often imparts understanding through unusual means. When you pray this mystery, ask yourself, are you open to all the ways God is speaking to you? Maybe He wants you to better understand Him and you’re not open to the way He delivers His messages.

Another great Rosary mystery that focuses on understanding is the First Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden. Jesus begged God to find a different way to redeem the world but ultimately said He would do God’s Will. Jesus understood that God has a reason behind everything He does and allows to happen. Logically, we may not comprehend it or even agree with it, but it’s that gift of understanding that allows us to joyfully obey. It’s not blind obedience rooted in fear, but one where we know that what God asks of us is to our benefit.

Finally, contemplate the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion. On the cross, one criminal challenged Jesus to save them all from death. The other criminal humbly understood who Jesus was and didn’t dare question why Jesus didn’t save Himself or them. He simply asked Jesus to remember him. That’s the root of understanding — not treating God like some sort of genie who gives us what we ask for. Instead, it’s understanding why God does what He does and seeing the greater good that comes from it.

Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God.

Summa Theologiae (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3)

Understanding is not easy. Like children, we often want to do things our way and resist any authority that tells us otherwise. This is why understanding is a gift since it’s not something easily obtained by ourselves. But it’s important to understand the “why” behind our faith. Everything we believe and do as Christians has a reason. The more we understand those reasons, the happier we will be doing God’s Will.

What the Fifth Joyful Mystery Tells Us about Patience

Do you often feel like God is taking His sweet time addressing your problems and concerns? Join the club. Looks like growing impatient with God is as old as the Bible itself. Abraham also got tired of waiting for God’s plan to come to fruition and see he tried doing things his own way. And in one of the mysteries of the Rosary, we see Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus in all the wrong places instead of the most obvious one.

This article on talks about how God told Abraham that his descendants will be as plentiful as the stars in the sky. But Abraham was already quite old and grew impatient waiting for God to fulfill His promise. Abraham tried things his own way only to find that it was not God’s plan. He was just too impatient to let God’s plan manifest itself. The article goes on to remind us that we do not see things as God sees them and that He has His reasons for letting things progress as they do.

God has not forgotten us. It’s not that our requests are unimportant. He will answer them in his own time (which is also always the best time for us). He sees what we cannot see; he knows the potential dangers and snares he is protecting us from. While we’re waiting, God is with us. He aches with us, cries with us, comforts us. He meets us in our pain and uses all our struggles for our good. One day, we will thank him for everything that he gave us, and denied us, on this earth.

Nearly every Rosary mystery contains some aspect of waiting, the need to show patience, and putting faith in God’s plan. Look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus for three days. That’s three days of wandering around a large city asking, “have you seen our son?” I practically have a heart attack when one of my kids is out of my sight for a few seconds at a busy playground. I can’t imagine the sorrow and frustration Mary and Joseph must have felt.

Once Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, Jesus tells them that he was at the temple because it was His Father’s house. I often picture Jesus in this Bible verse as being confused about why his parents would even think of looking somewhere else. Why did they spend all the time searching when the most obvious place would be the temple?

And yet, how often do we overlook the obvious and look elsewhere for answers and solutions to our problems? Like Abraham, we get tired and frustrated waiting for God’s answers and so we look somewhere else for help. That could be a self-help book, a “get rich quick” scheme, or falling back on habits or addictions like food, alcohol, or drugs. We consult our friends on social media and look to politicians to “save us” from whatever challenges we face. And all that time, God is right there in the Church which we often ignore. Ironically, we have the patience to try 100 wrong solutions but not the patience to earnestly wait for God’s divine plan to manifest itself.

When we pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery, think about all the time either you or people you know spend searching in sorrow. If they seem to be looking in all the wrong places, pray for them that they may turn towards God through His “house,” the Catholic Church. And pray for those who maybe aren’t ready to hear God’s truth as it may seem too harsh. There is a whole generation of “Nones” that are wandering in sorrow because they don’t want to accept the realities of God’s truth or His plan that leads to eternal joy in Heaven.

As a software engineer, I can spend hours and even days tracking down a bug in a piece of code. I run all sorts of test cases, profilers, and debuggers. I send emails and texts asking questions and receiving information all in an attempt to fix the bug. Often, the hours spent debugging result in a one-line code change. And once I find the solution I marvel about how obvious it was and wonder why I didn’t come up with it faster.

And so it is with our faith. When we look back on our lives, many of us will wonder why we spent so much time and energy finding joy in all the wrong places when it was right there in God’s grace. We will realize that the answer or “secret to life” was revealed to us every Sunday at Mass. Or God whispered it to us whenever we prayed to Him. Why did we not have the faith and patience to let the true plan, God’s plan, play out? Don’t look back at your life regretting the 100 “short cuts” to happiness that just got you lost. Start or continue on the true path, God’s path, so you won’t have regrets. You will have to be patient, but it will be worth it in the end.

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?

Saint Dominic: Model of Humility

I recently completed reading Saint Dominic and the Rosary by Catherine Beebe.  Saint Dominic’s life was a saintly one in every sense of the word.  He practiced the saintly virtues of humility and patience throughout his life.  We should also practice these virtues during Advent as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth and reflect on the life of the greatest saint, our Mother Mary, who is the paradigm of patience and humility.

Catherine Beebe’s book walks through Saint Dominic’s life from his early childhood through his holy death.  Keep in mind that this isn’t an academic or rigorously historical book.  It contains conversations and events that I’m sure came from second and third hand sources or were created in an attempt to better explain aspects of Saint Dominic’s personality.  But that in no way takes away from the motivational and inspiring power of this book.  Personally, I want to learn about Saint Dominic’s virtues, not a dry day-by-day historical account of his life.

According to the book, Saint Dominic strived for sainthood his entire life.  He always oriented himself towards bringing people closer to God.  When he was a young priest traveling through Spain, he was never too tired or busy to preach to the Albigensian heretics and try to convert them.  He lived humbly, never indulging in earthly delights.  In fact, he never ate more food than what he needed to stay healthy.  Even the order he founded put their faith in God to provide for them as they relied entirely on people’s donations of food, clothing, and other provisions.

It is this total giving of self that is the main theme throughout
Catherine Beebe’s book.  And I think this is also why our Mother Mary choose Saint Dominic to bring Her Rosary into the world.  She too, was a total servant of God; putting aside Her wants and expectations to completely accept God’s plan for Her.   That is what God wants out of a saint — a complete and willing submission to His Will.  When I say “submission” I’m not talking about it in that dominating sense of the word.  I mean that we willingly put our lives into God’s hands with faith that He will lead us to true happiness.

You have to be humble to be a servant to God.  Humility is the virtue which defeats pride.  And pride is the sin of centering your entire life around your wants and desires.  You can’t put yourself into God’s hands while centering your life around what you want at the same time.  You have to choose.  Likewise, saintly behavior requires patience.  It’s a lifelong journey of trusting in God when times are either good or bad.  You can’t say you’re devoted to God and then bail on Him at the first sign of hardship.  Is it easy?  Of course not.  But where do you think the phrases patience is a virtue and patience of a saint come from?  Being a saint isn’t easy but it’s the life God calls all of us to live.

The Rosary Connection

Look at Mary in the First Joyful Mystery.  She showed great humility placing Her life in God’s hands in the Annunciation.  Now move on to the Fifth Joyful Mystery.  Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for several days “in sorrow.”  Imagine the patience Mary had to show and not give up hope of finding her lost son.  We can learn from Mary that even when times are difficult, we need to show patience for God to show us the way.  It is in that quiet patience that God will show us the way out of hardship.


Lastly, I want to point our a really useful Rosary resource —  I found that book about Saint Dominic on and, like a library, I was able to check it out as an ebook.  If you do a search for “rosary” on the site, you will find all sorts of books, newsletters, pamphlets, etc.  Many of those are out of print and you cannot find anywhere else (which is the whole point of why we have  If you’re looking for some new Rosary material, give a look (and support it with a donation if you find anything of value).

Why You Need Contemplative Prayer Right Now

With only two weeks left before Christmas, many of us are feeling that last minute pressure to finish shopping (or start it) and finalize plans.  Did you get the right presents?  Did you forget to send a Christman card to someone important?  Will the package you ordered be delivered on time?  There are so many questions and concerns spinning around in our heads right now.  And that is why it’s the perfect time to stop and engage in some contemplative prayer.

In my recent presentation, I emphasized how the Rosary is a meditative and contemplative prayer.  And this makes sense given its origin — our Mother Mary.  In the Gospel, Mary is a woman of few words.  Instead, she is always listening and observing what Jesus is saying and doing.  In so many instances, the Gospel talks about how she keeps things in her heart.  She is humble and reserved taking the role as God’s servant.  She is the paradigm of contemplative behavior.  And likewise, her gift to us, the Rosary, is modeled after her contemplative nature.

Here are some examples of how you can use contemplative prayer to great effect.  This Advent, in addition to a morning Rosary prayer, I’ve taken up reading from a daily prayer and reflection book.  By front-loading my day with prayer and scripture, I have plenty to think about and meditate on when I find some quiet downtime throughout my day.  Jonathan B. Coe, in his article on Catholic Exchange, calls the combination of scripture and Rosary prayer a “contemplative canvas that renews the mind and facilitates an open-handed generosity in life.”  If your day is a blank canvas, how are you painting it?  And you filling it with holy thoughts and actions fueled by the Gospel and Rosary?

One of the Advent reflections I read stressed the importance of silence and clearing your mind of all the holiday distractions.  Remember, Jesus’ birth wasn’t a grand event in the physical sense.  It was a quiet one that took place in a stable or cave in some small, out of the way village.  And even today, the commercial grandeur of Christmas drowns out the whisper-like presence of Jesus’ birthday.  It is only in the stillness of meditative prayer that we block out the noisy world to truly appreciate the heart of Christmas.

Lastly, I recently finished reading a biography on Saint Dominic, through whom Mary gave the world the Rosary.  He traveled throughout Europe in his life.  And wherever he went, when he had free time, he visited a church or cathedral and prayed.  That routine of filling part of the day in contemplative prayer can be said of any number of saints.  God desires all of us to saintlike behavior as that is the quickest means to internal happiness in His kingdom.  And so, maybe we should take a cue from the saints and also fill some of our lives with meditative prayer.  For example, after I drop off my son at school, I stop by the church to sit quietly and pray.  Maybe you can find time to attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Try attending a weekday Mass or just sit quietly in a Church for a few minutes.  Or maybe, just lay still in bed when you wake up and spend a few minutes in prayer before starting your day.

Think about Mary’s contemplative behavior in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  When the shepherds came to Jesus talking about angels announcing His birth, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19).  Upon finding Jesus in the temple and hearing Him say that he needed to be in His Father’s house, she treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).  Are you talking regularly with God through prayer and treasuring His response in your heart?

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