Are We Punishing Ourselves?

Seeking the “Different”

All too often we seek the “different” because it seems more exotic and impressive. Consider weddings. It’s seems no longer good enough to have a ceremony followed by an enjoyable reception. No, you have to find things to make your wedding stand out — lavish locations, over-the-top decorations, exotic animals, and confetti cannons. Or you can’t go on a regular vacation. It needs to be something you can post on Facebook to make your friends envious.

This need to do something different and exotic didn’t start with Facebook and Twitter. It goes back to the Old Testament. In the book of Kings, generations of kings of Israel followed other gods. I think part of their motivation for doing this was that they wanted to be the king that did something new and progressive. Why follow that old-fashioned God who delivered people out of Egypt with his antiquated commandments when you can worship a more modern god like Baal? Because these pagan gods didn’t actually exist, the kings could attribute anything they wanted to them — any rule and practice would be okay in the eyes of the deity of the day.

Rejecting God

Fast forward thousands of years and look at our current situation. It isn’t too different than Israel in the Book of Kings. Governments and groups try to promote everything progressive and reject anything traditional. They want to take what has worked for generations and throw it out to try something new. Like the couple getting married or an Israelite king, they want to be remembered for doing something novel and unique. They don’t want to follow their predecessor, even if what they did worked, because they aren’t making their mark on history. Furthermore, they don’t want to be bounded by the existing rules but make new ones that are more malleable.

Let’s look around at what all these new progressive ideas have brought us as a society. Are we better off having adopted more woke progressivism and rejecting traditional ideas of marriage, stable families, gender, and even logic? Has tearing down time-tested traditions and institutions made us happier? Based on news headlines, I think people are generally less happy now than in previous generations. What’s changed? Do you think the devaluation of spirituality in our lives plays a part?

In the Book of Kings, terrible things happened to the people who rejected God. In some cases, it was due to God’s punishment. But I also think much of the misery came from the people’s rejection of God’s Commandments. If the Israelites rejected God and His commandments against stealing, adultery, murder, lying, etc. do you think they were happier as a result? Does that sound like a society anyone wants to be part of? Are we happier in a world that has rejected many of those same commandments? Seems like God doesn’t need to punish us when we’re doing a great job punishing ourselves.

The Rosary Connection

Let’s look at the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple. When I first started praying the Rosary, I always contemplated the meaning and value of tradition with this mystery. Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus in the temple as was tradition. They understood the importance of staying connected to the past as a means of grounding themselves spiritually. They acknowledged the role God plays in all our lives. By presenting Jesus in the temple, Mary and Joseph acknowledged that it was God and His Truth, not human institutions, that would form Jesus.

Fast forward to the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. Jesus still observed the Jewish customs such as the Passover. While many claimed that he disregarded the Mosaic law, he explained that he was fulfilling it; bringing the people back to its true meaning. He wanted people to follow God’s commandments, not to be miserable, but to find joy and happiness. He didn’t want people to be blind rule followers, but instead people who treated each other kindly and honored God. If they could do that, they would find greater peace, joy, and happiness than they had ever known. But like the kings of the Old Testament, many people still insisted on doing things their way, not God’s way.

When you think about the sources of unhappiness in your life, ask yourself if they are due to breaking away from God’s plan for you. Are you rejecting God in favor of what is new, hip, and socially acceptable? Are you rejecting teachings that have brought true happiness to millions of people over thousands of years because they seem difficult or irrelevant? Are you happier as a result?

Having Faith in God’s Plan

Anyone who is around children knows that they don’t always follow good advice. Sometimes, when I see my boys making things more difficult for themselves, I offer suggestions to improve the situation. It might be providing them a better way to resolve a conflict or a nicer way to ask for what they want. But despite me only wanting what’s best for them, sometimes their stubbornness or their lack of understanding has them doing things their own way which often leads to further hardship.

One of my goals for 2021 is reading the entire Bible. I bought a special Bible from the Augustine Institute for the task. It’s divided into 365 sections with Old and New Testament readings each day. I’m currently on Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and I’ve noticed a few things about how the Israelites continually didn’t listen to God to their own detriment.

Doubting God in the Bible

It wasn’t God’s intent to have the Israelites wander the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt. But when they arrived in the promised land, the Israelites’ scouts said they weren’t powerful enough to fight the current inhabitants. Their lack of faith in His plan angered God and that is why He told them they would not be able to enter the land for 40 years. Despite God telling the Israelites that He was with them, they kept acting like they were on their own without God’s guidance and protection.

We can look at the Israelites in the Old Testament and say, “I would have been different; I would have trusted God’s plan.” But that’s what St. Peter told Jesus. He was ready to follow Jesus to his death (Matthew 26:35). And then, when things got real and Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he knew him! All the apostles fled and hid in fear despite all they had witnessed. Like the Israelites, the apostles just couldn’t let go of their rational, human way of looking at God’s plan. They clung to that doubt that even God has limits.

Our Doubts

And what about us? Let’s face it, the world isn’t in the best shape right now. Do we think that Covid-19 is a problem even too big for God to solve? Sure, we may pray to ask God to help those suffering from the pandemic. But how much confidence do we really have in God’s ability to lead us through these challenging times? We proclaim that God is all-loving and all-powerful. But how much confidence do we put in those words?

The Rosary

Look at Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. God told him he would not die until he saw the Messiah. The Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah for generations. How easy it would have been for Simeon to dismiss this proclamation and write it off as a moment of insanity. And yet Simeon didn’t doubt God’s plan like the Old Testament Israelites. He faithfully prayed in the temple waiting for Jesus’ arrival.

Fourth joyful mystery Resources

When we pray, let’s really put our faith in God’s ability to do anything no matter how far-fetched it may seem. Maybe, if enough of us really show that level of faith, any number of miracles can happen. Think about all those people Jesus cured. What did he say? Often, Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” Where there is faith and humble openness to God, miracles flourish. Maybe we can change the world for the better if we all did a little less doubting in God and have more faith in His unlimited power.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Piety

One aspect of parenting I find incredibly difficult is trying to teach my kids to do the right things on their own. I don’t want to have to continually nag them to clean their room, not to interrupt when someone is talking, say “please” and “thank you,” and all those other little things that create peace and pleasantness. It’s an ongoing challenge to instill in them a sense of wanting to do the right thing and to see that it makes life so much better for everyone.

This brings me to the final gift of the Holy Spirit — piety. This is the wanting or longing to do God’s Will. It’s not living the faith out of fear or responsibility, it’s wanting to do God’s Will because we desire to live in God’s grace. It’s wanting to go to Mass, pray, and receive the sacraments, not out of a sense of obligation or under penalty of sin, but because we want a close relationship with God. Piety builds on those other gifts of the Holy Spirit, understanding and wisdom, to know that there is nothing better than living in God’s grace. Piety instills that longing to live in that grace and ultimately, in joy.

I think there’s a reason why we are called God’s children and we call him “Father.” When it comes to our interaction with God, we can act childish at times. We do things because we are told to. We often go to Mass or pray before meals because we feel the Church nagging us into it. Like a child reluctantly cleaning his room, we do these things without joy. We do them begrudgingly because we don’t understand the bigger picture. If we did see it, we would gladly go to Mass, pray, and sacrifice like the saints because we would understand that not living in God’s grace is not living at all. We need this gift of piety to see through the drudgery of spirituality and see it as the path to true joy and happiness.

Piety in the Rosary

Let’s look at St. Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Like many people, I picture St. Simeon as a fragile old man who lived a difficult life. He spent all his time in the temple praying only to finally see the baby Jesus before dying. Many of us might see that as a pointless life. But God is challenging us to see our faith differently in this mystery. We should see Simeon as leading an exceptional life — one that is centered around forming a relationship with God. We should see the joy that comes through piety because it’s a life filled with God’s grace instead of fickle worldly desires. For all we know, Simeon may have come to the temple every day joyful in his encounters with God through prayer. And we too can find joy being with God through prayer.

We should also remember that Mary guides us towards a life of piety. As Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery), she desires everyone to enter into God’s kingdom. That means living in a way that is centered around God. How do we expect to live with God in Heaven if we never make an effort to live in His grace on earth? Fortunately, Mary is constantly guiding us toward God. She bridges the gap between us and God through her messages and apparitions throughout history and her mediation between humanity or Her son, Jesus. When we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery, let’s remember to lay our struggles living a pious life at Mary’s feet and earnestly seek her help.

Piety is all about saying “yes” to God. This is no better represented in the Rosary than in the First Joyful Mystery. Mary whole-heartedly said yes to God. It wasn’t a “yes” born out of fear. After all, God isn’t some tyrant demanding strict obedience. He gives us the freedom to say “no” but provides us an overly abundant number of reasons to say “yes.” Piety is about having the wisdom and right judgment to weigh a pious life against impiety and see that the pious life wins out in every way.

Piety: The Easier Path

Going back to getting children to do the right thing. Often, I try to show my kids that doing the right thing is easier than doing the wrong or lazy thing. Keeping a clean room means that toys and books don’t get broken or lost. Sharing means that everyone gets more toys and games to play with. Going to bed on time means more rest and more energy.

The same is true with leading a pious life; it can lead to more joy. When we want to follow God, we choose not to follow Satan and fall for his lies. We then avoid a life of sin and avoid vices like greed, gluttony, envy, and anger. All of those choices, while maybe providing short term pleasure, lead to long term unhappiness. In short, it’s a bad investment of our time and energy. Piety is such a small investment but leads to the biggest payoff — a life in God’s grace and an eternity in Heaven.

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.

Strength Comes From Humility

Balancing humility and pride can be difficult. On the one hand, many of us desire confidence and independence. As an adult, you strive to provide for both yourself and maybe a spouse and family. In the family or at work, you need to be dependable. People need to have confidence in you. You need to project a sense of strength. But you can’t go too far down that road and fall into the sin of pride. You need to keep in mind that you can’t do everything on your own and that you’re part of a greater community made up of people who can make their own contributions.

Humility is seen almost like a negative trait because it conveys a sense of weakness. It requires you to admit that you can’t do everything. You must admit dependence on others. And yet, it’s through humility that God pours his grace on us. One of the best examples is the Holy Family. In her article, Grace is Given to the Humble, Debra Black quotes Fr. John Tauler about Mary:

She became one spirit with God, and she was taught by Him; for she resigned herself as a fitting instrument to His dear Will, in fervent love for His glory. She was poor in spirit, and always bore herself in God with deep humility and self-annihilation; for she had no desires, no will, and was as passive, as though she were uncreated. And thus an entrance was made for God into her spirit, soul, and body. 

Fr. John Tauler (14th century)

Mary was an empty vessel filled only with God’s grace, both spiritually and physically through giving birth to Jesus Christ. Her humility was a complete dependence on God. But that total submission didn’t make her weak. On the contrary, God was able to work through Mary and raise her up as Queen of Heaven and our Mediatrix. Mary shows that it’s through humility, not pride, that one achieves true greatness.

Also notable for his humility is Saint Joseph. Little is said about him in the Gospels. As a husband and father, he was the traditional head of the family. And yet, he was humble enough to understand that God had made special plans for his wife and child. Saint Joseph needed to show strength to step aside and have Mary and Jesus take center stage in God’s great plan. While there’s no mention of this in the Bible, I would have to imagine this would have been hard for Joseph to give up a role society expected him to have.

The Rosary Connection

Lessons in humility abound in the Rosary. And they all have to do with people letting go of their pride and earthly desires to allow God to work through them. First, look at the Visitation. Mary could have acted like a worldly queen upon learning that God chose her to bring the Messiah into the world. I’m sure many of us would flaunt how we were God’s chosen one. But Mary goes out to help her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s first act as the Mother of God was to be in humble service to someone else.

This role of service carries on through the Fourth and Fifth Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Mary is Queen of Heaven. But the focus of that exultation isn’t Mary, but Jesus. In her many apparitions, Mary’s focus isn’t on herself but on her Son. She desires all of us to form a close and loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and is willing to help us however possible. Again, Mary’s greatness is not through what she does herself, but through which her humility allows God to work through her.

Finally, consider the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Presentation in the Temple. Think about both Simeon and Saint Joseph. Simeon shows great humility and patience. He devoted his life to serving God and for that, he was able to hold the infant Jesus before his death. Also remember Joseph, the silent protector in the background of Mary and Jesus’ life. He may not have been “showy” as the head of the family but he was humble enough to accept God’s role for him.

What do We Learn?

God gives great strength to the humble. Because humility leaves room in our hearts for God’s grace. In a way, humility is us actively setting aside room for God. We make a choice to put aside pride, greed, our busy schedules, our worries, and our earthly desires for God. We admit that there are things that only God can provide. We can’t find them on Amazon.com or any store. But leaving room for God means we are leaving room for that which will ultimately make us the strongest, most confident, and happiest.

Pride and personal holiness mix about as well as oil and water. Where our ego is, little if any room is left for God. What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ but to be someone who fills himself totally with God in order to bring him within the reach of everyone. But what union, grace or friendship with God can there be in a proud soul? What fervor, what degree of holiness? There is no possible compromise between God and a proud soul – either the soul would have to let go of itself, or God would have to stop being God.

Regnum Christi

Rosary Prayer as a Process

When I look around my house, I see all sorts of bins filled to the top with toys and games. They belong to my boys and they’ve accumulated them over years of Christmases and birthdays. And besides the initial week or two of excitement, many of them go untouched for months. My thought is that because most of their toys are gifts, they don’t have any real emotional investment in them. But God help me if I throw one of their drawings or worksheets into the recycle bin. I’ve had to empty entire trash bins looking for my son’s random stick figure drawing or worksheet.

My little parenthood story outlines a greater insight into human behavior. We tend to value things more as we invest more in them. That could be an investment of time, money, memories, emotional energy, etc. What about our faith? Does the value of our faith increase the more time we spend in prayer? I certainly believe it does. And I’m sure those of you who pray the Rosary daily will attest to that as well. God designed faith as a process that we work on our entire lives.

Why does God choose to make our faith a multi-step process and not something more instantaneous? Why did Jesus heal certain people one at a time and not the entire world in one fell swoop? Or why do miracles come to a few and not to everyone who requests them? Like anything important, there’s value in the process. Things that are just given to us with no effort on our part aren’t as valuable as the things we work hard for.

When we make an effort to develop our faith, it becomes more valuable. Jesus didn’t come into this world to just give away faith. He knew that people wouldn’t value it if He did. Instead, He showed the benefits that came from having a deeper faith almost as a way of encouraging people to work harder at it. Remember, God gave us free will to choose whether to follow Him or not. But that’s not a binary decision. We also have the freedom to choose how much effort we want to put into our relationship with God. Hopefully, through Jesus’ teachings and example, we know that it’s important to invest in our faith development because it’s worth it.

In his article, No Soul is Too Far Gone, Francis Chan writes this about the power of perseverant prayer when he talked about praying for 30 years for the conversion of his childhood friend. Not only did the target of the prayers benefit when he was eventually baptized, but so did the person doing the praying as his faith must have grown through 30 years of prayers and intentions.

There is tremendous power in perseverant prayer. God is not like us; he is not bothered by his children asking for the same thing over and over. He is pleased by the faith demonstrated when we pray and pray for someone to be saved.

When we understand the consequences of rejecting Christ, and we are filled with love for another human being, persistent prayer should be the natural response. To this day, I still have questions about how the decreed will of God meshes with the effectiveness of my persistent prayers. For now, I’m more than content to obey and pray. Though I’m still uncertain how it works, I have seen it work. Meditate with me on Luke 18, trust the words of Christ, and then pray with sincerity and expectation.

Looking at the Rosary, I think about the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple. I think of Saint Simeon, a pious man whom the Holy Spirit promised would see the Messiah before his death. And while it doesn’t say how long he waited, I always picture it being many years. In that time he must have prayed regularly building up his faith in God’s promise. How much stronger was Saint Simeon from a lifetime of devout prayer than if God had immediately fulfilled His promise?

In the eyes of God, even the oldest and wisest are like infants. We must seem like babies whenever God hears us complain about why He’s not answering our prayers. What we do not see or understand is that He does hear us and answers our prayers. But it’s according to His plan, not ours. It’s by His timeline, not ours. We must understand that we often need time to grow and mature in our faith. And when we put in that time and effort, we see that God answers our prayers in a manner far better than if we would have received it immediately.

The Pope’s August 2018 Intention — The Treasure of Families

Take a look at the news and ask yourself, do politicians generally support laws that promote or limit family freedoms?  What importance do current laws and legal rulings place on traditional family structures?  Think about rulings trying to redefine marriage, the limiting of rights parents have over how to best raise their kids, and just the overall societal devaluing of marriage’s role in promoting a stable, peaceful, and strong society.

In that light, here is Pope Francis’ intention for August 2018:

Universal – The Treasure of Families

That any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

I think it’s obvious that governments in general, and individual politicians specifically, are acting increasingly more hostile to the traditional family ideal.  Much of it comes from politicians knowing that people need to be part of a close-knit unit.  But unfortunately for politicians, the original close-knit unit, the family, acts as a political ideological wall.  It acts like a wall because parents can act as a political filter and are usually a much closer role model for their kids.  But if politicians can chip away or tear down that wall, they know that people will seek the guidance from another community, one where the politicians wield more control — the government.

Politicians are human and have human weaknesses.  Many are greedy and seek increases in political power.  When they obtain that power, they want to keep it and grow it.  That endeavor becomes easier when they have more control over the population.  One such lever to increase control is to reduce the influence of a mom and dad.  In other words, as the independence of the family goes down, the influence of the government increases because it fills that decision-making, rule-enforcing vacuum.

Once again, we have the Catholic faith taking the now counter-cultural view of promoting the value of the traditional family.  In a world where there is a separation of church and state or an open hostility towards religion, then where else but the family will people learn and love God?  When Pope Francis asks us to pray for the protection of the family, he does so to our benefit and ultimate happiness.  It’s through the family that parents pass their love of God and the importance of faith to their children.  It’s that love of God and reliance on Him and His grace that people find strength and motivation to not only endure life’s challenges but prosper and find a meaningful peace.

The Rosary Connection

The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation in the Temple, is a wonderful Rosary mystery to reflect on the value of family.  In this mystery, Mary and Joseph impress the importance and value of living their faith and passing on those traditions to Jesus.  I find it interesting that of all the events in the Gospel, this one made the cut of being worthy of a Rosary mystery.  Our Mother Mary obviously wants us to understand the importance of family and sharing in God’s love with one another.  Following the pope’s intention, let’s remember to pray for politicians, economists, and employers as well in respecting the importance of family.

Remember, the pope is asking us to pray for a group of people (politicians) that are currently skewing in an anti-family direction.  We are essentially praying for a change of hardened hearts.  Pray for the people in power when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  Remember that Jesus’ message wasn’t always well received, especially by the authorities in the Sanhedrin because it challenged their power.  So too, does a free and independent family challenge modern politicians’ power.  After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles also encountered a lot of hostility establishing the early Christian Church.  Saint Stephen was even martyred on the order of Jewish officials (Saul, later Saint Paul, being one of them).  We too are called to the same mission as the apostles — spreading Jesus’ teachings to everyone, especially the powerful who may be hostile towards them.

Priests are People Too — Pope Francis’ July Intention

I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered this uncomfortable situation when you were young — running into your teacher outside of school at a restaurant, bank, or supermarket.  I was often confused on how I should act because there was a person who was an authority figure in one context but a “regular person” in another.  It was hard seeing my teacher as anyone other than my teacher.

As I  got older, I realized how isolating that must have made teachers feel if their encounters outside of school with students were so awkward.  To many of the people in their lives, they would only be that red pen using, sticker distributing, detention giving teacher.

The same goes for priests.  Growing up, I always viewed priests, not as regular people with hobbies and interests, but as men who spent all their time conducting Mass, teaching, visiting the sick, and praying.  In my mind, they didn’t watch sports, read non-religious books, play musical instruments, or browse the internet.  Nor did they have normal faults that I could relate to like impatience, selfishness, greed, laziness, etc.  Like teachers, my interaction with priests always felt awkward because I couldn’t figure out how I should act around them.  After all, how do you act normally around someone who has heard all your sins in the Sacrament of Confession?

Pope Francis’ July 2018 intention is for priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.  It’s important to understand that priests lead hard lives.  In many instances, they are away from their friends and families and the area where they grew up.  They are always on call for emergencies like administering the Sacrament of Healing to the sick or need to counsel those who are having difficulties in life.  I’m sure that they would appreciate some normalcy in their lives.  It’s not that they want to get away from their vocation, but instead, not have people act awkwardly around them because of their vocation.

The Rosary Connection

Vocation is a central theme of the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  In this mystery, God calls Mary to a very specific life.  And that’s what a vocation is — a calling.  Mary responds with a humble yes with an idea that her vocation would be difficult even without full knowledge of what she was accepting.  And so it is for priests who freely enter the priesthood with an understanding that it will be a difficult vocation but probably not fully realizing it until they’ve lived it for years.  The Annunciation should teach us to really discern our vocation and once we say yes to it, to work as hard as we can to make the most of it.  We should be mindful that priests, as learned and experienced as they are, are also discovering new aspects of their vocation and can benefit from the lay faithful’s support.

Moving on to the Fourth Joyful Mystery — the Presentation.  There are many vocations at play in this mystery.  We see Mary and Joseph living their vocation as husband and wife and parents to Jesus.  The presentation shows that they are committed to raising and teaching Jesus their faith.  It’s a model that all parents should imitate — that we are responsible for teaching our children the Catholic Faith.  This means setting a good example and actively practicing our faith.  In keeping with Pope Francis’ July intention, it also means educating our children on religious life and the important role priests play in our spiritual development.  Parents should be open to the idea that their sons may have a calling to the priesthood and help them explore that vocation.

Another important person in the Fourth Joyful Mystery is Saint Simeon.  In the Gospel, all that is really said about him is that he was a righteous man who spent most of his time praying in the temple after the Holy Spirit came to him with a promise.  Doesn’t that sound like the call to the priestly vocation?  Saint Simeon’s life revolved around prayer and he was one of the first to introduce the world to the Chosen One, Jesus Christ.  This parallels the role of priests — introducing the lay faithful to Jesus.  But Saint Simeon’s life must have been difficult; one of solitude and uncertainty.  When you pray this mystery, think of the solitude your parish priest may feel as he works on bringing Jesus to his congregation.

Finally, think of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus carrying His cross.  Jesus was exhausted and close to death as he fell three times and could barely walk.  I think priests must feel the same way at times — exhausted by the years of living their vocation.  We need to be like Veronica; making an effort to comfort and support the priests we know in our lives.  It can be something as simple as inviting a priest you are close to (like the one who married you, baptized your children, etc.) out for coffee or breakfast; something “normal” and relaxing.

What will you do?  Stand on the side like so many people did when Jesus carried His cross?  Or make an effort to let priests in your life know how important they are and that you appreciate their sacrifices?

How the Rosary Increases Our Patience with God and Others

The Rosary is a prayer that requires an above-average level of patience.  It’s long, repetitive, and doesn’t have a narrative like reading Bible passages.  Admit it, you’ve zoned out more than a few times praying the Rosary haven’t you?  I know I certainly have.  The motivation for the RosaryMeds website and my books is to make the Rosary a more engaging and less monotonous prayer.  But when it comes down to it, you just have to work up the motivation and put effort into praying it effectively.  No amount of websites, books, and videos can substitute for the will to pray the Rosary and the patience to allow it to transform you.

In this post, I want to focus on the value of patience and how it relates to the Rosary.  There are two ways the Rosary helps us grow in patience.  First, there are many Rosary mysteries that teach patience as a core value.  When you meditate on these mysteries, ask Mary to help you grow in patience.

  1. First Joyful Mystery: Saint Joseph‘s patience with God’s plan for his wife, our mother, Mary.  Imagine learning that God has a completely different life prepared for you that will be much more difficult and confusing.  It takes a lot of patience to accept God’s Will when it conflicts with your desires or expectations.
  2. Fourth Joyful Mystery: Saint Simeon‘s patience with God’s promise that he would one day see the Chosen One.  He did, but only at the end of his life.  Talk about needing patience for God’s plan to come to fruition.
  3. Second and Fifth Sorrowful Mysteries: Jesus enduring the scourging and insults during His Passion and Crucifixion.  He kept silent while soldiers beat Him and the authorities interrogated Him because He knew it had to be done to bring about our redemption and salvation.  He was patient onto death because it was God’s Will.

Jesus in Pray
Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second way the Rosary helps us grow in patience is the act of praying the Rosary itself.  It’s not an easy prayer and takes time and energy to pray correctly.  But that focus and perseverance you practice in Rosary prayer translate into increased focus and perseverance in other aspects of your life.  It is practice for dealing with annoying coworkers, parents, or uncooperative children (parents, you know what I’m talking about right?).

But what’s so important about patience?  Patience is often referred to as a virtue.  But why?  In other words, what’s so bad about impatience?  Why is it bad if you have a low tolerance for people making mistakes or not giving everything their 100% best effort?  This Catholic Exchange article frames patience as a reflection of our relationship with Jesus:

Simply by reminding ourselves that we’re being patient not primarily for the sake of the person who is irritating us, but as an expression of our love for Jesus. Following Him often means putting up with people, events, and situations we’d prefer to avoid entirely.  This effort is very valuable, for, as St. Katherine Drexel noted, “The patient endurance of the Cross — whatever nature it may be — is the highest work we have to do.”

Patience is tied to humility.  What is impatience but a lack of humility for God’s plan and our desire to change our circumstances immediately?  Patience is admitting that we cannot change everything to suit our desires but instead we must let God’s plan for us and others play out.  Patience means telling God, “I may not like this situation but I will put forth the effort to endure it because it is Your Will.”  Patience is an admission that our lives and circumstances are in God’s hands.  Instead of wishing that they be different, it is our opportunity to respond to our circumstances as Jesus taught us.

The next time you feel like putting down the Rosary because you feel like you aren’t getting anything out of it, take a small pause and tell Mary you will be patient with Her and her gift and then continue praying the Rosary.  She promises miraculous things through the Rosary which we often lose sight of in our impatience of repeating Hail Marys and Our Fathers.  Don’t let impatience prevent you from obtaining all that God desires for you.

What Jesus’ Arrest Tells us About Those Critical of the Church

One of the aspects of the Passion narrative that initially confused me was Judas’ betrayal with a kiss. Why was the kiss to identify Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane necessary? Wouldn’t the soldiers sent to arrest Jesus know what he looks like? After all, they arrested Jesus because of the threat He supposed posed. This was the man who had been preaching and healing throughout the region and the authorities had wanted to arrest for some time. Jesus was basically public enemy #1 on the Pharisees‘ “most wanted” list. Why then, did the Jewish authorities need Judas to pick him out in the small group gathered in the garden?

To me, the answer to this question is yet another question — did the Pharisees really know Jesus?  The Pharisees knew that there was this person traveling around the region criticizing their authority.  He was a person the people loved despite not following the Mosaic law.  And that’s all the Pharisees bothered to learn about Jesus.  Did they actually listen to His teachings and think about what He was saying?  It looks like the Pharasis dismissed Jesus’ teachings outright without even thinking about them.

Since the Pharisees and their followers never took the time to really understand Jesus, they didn’t know who to look for to arrest.  To them, Jesus was a faceless agitator.  Those who arrested and ultimately crucified Jesus didn’t really know Him and that is why they needed one of His disciples to identify Him.

When we read about Jesus’ arrest or meditate on His agony in the garden when we pray the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, we should ask ourselves whether we are making the time to try to understand Jesus.  Are we praying daily and trying to know His Will and ask for the strength to follow His teachings?  Or are we like the Pharisees and see Jesus’ teachings as an impediment or inconvenience in our lives?  Do we dismiss Jesus because we aren’t taking the time to understand what He is trying to teach us?

When I read articles that are critical of the Catholic Church or make fun of Her teachings, I think about the Pharisees that Jesus encountered.  Popular media criticizes the Church because they do not understand the Church nor do they want to make an effort to learn.  In their minds, the Church is some arbitrary and controlling patriarchy telling people what they can and cannot do.  They don’t see the centuries of reason and logic that go all the way back to Jesus who taught what He taught out of love.

The Pharisees and the Herodians Conspire Again...
The Pharisees and the Herodians Conspire Against Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, the Joyful Mysteries also have a lot to say about not dismissing God’s Church without understanding Her.  Like Mary and Joseph in the Annunciation, we need to have a willingness to trust God’s plan even when it runs contrary to our plans.  Or jump to the Fourth Joyful Mystery and look at Saint Simeon and his devotion to God.  When we pray the Rosary, remember to pray for those who act like the Pharisees — those who criticize the Church without the desire to understand Her.  I honestly believe that with enough prayer, the most critical of the Church can become Her most fervent supporter.  Don’t believe me?  Look up “Blessed Bartolo Longo.”