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

Any Time is an Ideal Time for Prayer

We all know someone who feels like they need to invest a lot of time and money before starting a new exercise regiment. Before doing that first squat, they need to buy the right shoes, clothes, activity tracker, weight set, and videos. It’s only when they feel like everything is in place that it’s the right time to start exercising. In the meantime, they pass up doing a few pushups, taking a walk, or many other exercises because they aren’t as good as the ideal workout they want to start.

I think the same thing can be said about the prayer life of many of us. We tell ourselves, “I’ll start praying seriously, attend Mass, and go to confession when…” And that when is often some sort of demand — when God gives me better health, when God gives me that job I’m applying for, when God helps me find someone special in my life. We constantly make excuses why now isn’t a good time to start investing in earnest prayer and spirituality. We tell ourselves that we have too much on our plate, we don’t feel well, we don’t know the right things to say, or we haven’t purchased the right prayer book and rosary.

In Learn to Profit From Your Spiritual Trials,  Archbishop Luis M. Martinez writes about how any time is the right time for spiritual unity with God. He said:

The best rule for the spiritual life is this: to receive, moment by mo­ment, whatever God sends us and to persevere at all cost with our soul united to God, in spite of all vicissitudes.

I like this idea of taking advantage of the current moment to build a stronger relationship with God. You don’t need to wait for the perfect time because the perfect time doesn’t exist. Bishop Martinez talked about how life is complex and “God affects us with the most varied invitations of grace and the Devil with his ceaseless solicitations to evil.” In other words, in every moment there are opportunities for prayer or excuses for not praying. Waiting for the right moment to start praying could be the Devil trying to lead you away from God’s grace. The Devil wants you to delay prayer until you find the ideal conditions because he knows you’ll never find them.

Your Rosary Meds

Look at the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation. By all accounts, Mary was taken by surprise by the Angel Gabriel’s proclamation that she was to be the Mother of God. We can picture many of us, in that same situation, probably thinking how the angel’s announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time. Many of us would come up with a list of excuses and tell the angel that while we’re on board with God’s plan in theory, to come back in a few years when we’re better prepared.

We pray the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary to ask God for the awareness to take advantage of every opportunity to draw closer to Him in prayer. We need to imitate Mary and accept God’s Will even if His timing doesn’t align with our expectations. We need to ask Him for strength to see past all the excuses and realize that the perfect time for prayer is now. It doesn’t have to be an ideal time and place. It can be a single Rosary decade, meditating on a Gospel passage, or saying a few prayers. They can be said at home, in the car, on a work break, or in bed. A prayer, when said earnestly, makes any time and place an ideal one.

Referring back to my previous article, Jesus took every opportunity to pray even when He found himself in less than ideal situations. In the First Sorrowful Mystery, we think about how Jesus knew His life was going to be taken in the most painful way possible. Many of us, when facing a huge challenge or sorrowful situation often run away from prayer. We do this because we are angry with God for putting us in a difficult situation or we don’t see the situation as an opportunity to build our relationship with God. Bishop Martinez said this:

How many souls think in times of desolation, as I have so often said, that all is lost, and that their spiritual life has gone to ruin! Invariably the exact opposite is the truth. If, in those moments, we would come to see with clarity the value of desolation, perhaps we might even cease to suffer, and then desolation itself would lose, at least to a great extent, its efficacy and worth.

It’s an odd Mobius strip of cause and effect. The best time to grow closer to God through prayer is when we are facing a challenge. Through prayer, that challenge or difficulty might be lessened. The more frequent the prayer, the greater the faith. And with greater faith comes a clearer perspective of life’s challenges and they can become smaller and less daunting.

In my life, perspective has been God’s greatest gift to me since I started praying the Rosary. The world around me hasn’t miraculously changed because I started praying the Rosary. But how I see the world has. I think I can better put the events of my life into perspective. I try not to worry about the small inconveniences in life and let them derail me from living how God wants me to live. And I also know that the “big” things in life are ultimately in God’s hands. The more I pray, the better perspective I have and the less life’s challenges worry me.

Not praying or delaying prayer is like wearing a blindfold. Every little inconvenience can be blown out of proportion because you have no sense of perspective. Or you may be blind to the fact that you aren’t living as God wants. Take the blindfold off by praying. You don’t need to wait for the ideal conditions to get started. Any condition can be turned into the ideal condition for prayer if you choose.

The Tragedy of Having Too Much Stuff

I was listening to the soundtrack to the movie, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, the other day. It isn’t a great movie although it has a terrific score. It’s a telling of the story of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of North America. But I’m not reviewing that movie in this article. Instead, there’s a scene from the movie that I want to explore on how it relates to Jesus’ teachings and the Rosary.

Towards the end of the movie, after the Spaniards established a colony on an island in the Bahamas, a massive tropical storm hits and destroys nearly everything the settlers had built. Their grand church, houses, and other structures lay in ruins. Meanwhile, the natives, having been through such storms in the past, didn’t lose much given the simple structures that they could easily rebuild.

This scene demonstrates that the more stuff we surround ourselves with, the harder it becomes to part with it. The storm was a tragedy for Columbus and the settlers because they had invested so much time, energy, and other resources to bring the comforts they were used to into the new world. But the natives didn’t feel a huge sense of loss because they didn’t have a huge worldly investment for the storm to wipe away.

The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus warning against the acquisition of worldly goods. He tells the rich man to give all that he has and follow Him (Matthew 19:16-24). He talks about the man who builds bigger barns to store his crops only to die the next day (Luke 12:13-21). Whether it’s the movie 1492 or the Gospel, the message is clear. The more stuff you acquire, the more attached you are to this world and the harder it will be to detach yourself from it. Eventually, it’s not you who owns stuff. Rather, more stuff masters over you. And with all that stuff in your life comes the worries of losing it or the pursuit to acquire more. Where is there room for God’s grace?

Now it’s not like I live a Spartan existence. Like many modern households, I surround myself with television, computers, smartphones, and other things. But I try my best to remember that they are just things. I try to keep the perspective that my life will actually be just as happy and fulfilling if those things went away (and maybe even happier). When I pray, I ask God for the strength to not let my possessions own me. That’s easier said than done, but that’s where daily Rosary prayer comes in.

When I think of detachment from worldly goods, I pray the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion. I remember that Jesus taught us that we should store Heavenly goods, not worldly ones. All the wealth and possessions in the world mean nothing if you don’t leave room for God’s grace. When I do find myself focusing too much on “stuff” I ask God to help convert that worldly focus to a Heavenly one.

Let’s face it, our pursuit of possessions is a form of greed, one of the seven deadly sins. The opposing virtue is charity. When I pray the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation, I think about Mary’s charitable act of helping her cousin, Elizabeth, in her pregnancy although she was pregnant as well. She made the effort to think beyond her needs and desires to help someone else. When we meditate on this Rosary mystery, let’s think about how we can be more charitable in our lives, not only with monetary donations but also with our time and talents. We ask Mary to help us counter our greedy vices with charitable virtues.

The First Secret of Spiritual Warfare: Total Trust in God

Imagine if Jesus invited you on a personal spiritual retreat for three days. Just three days, 1-on-1 with Jesus. Think of what you would learn! Imagine how renewed and unwavering you faith would be after that experience. Saint Faustina had exactly that experience in 1938. But she didn’t keep what she learned to herself. She wrote down 25 secrets she learned so all of humanity could benefit from this unique experience. Do you have the faith to take the words of this saint seriously as if you personally heard them from Jesus? I want to explore many of the secrets of spiritual warfare through the lens the holy Rosary. Let’s look at the first secret.

Never trust in yourself but abandon yourself totally to My will.”

In this first secret, Jesus sets the foundation for the subsequent ones. All these secrets revolve around practicing humble faith. It’s having the faith that leaving everything in God’s hands will see you through all the challenges and hardships in your life and eventually lead you into God’s heavenly kingdom. It’s following God’s Will even when it seems ridiculous or difficult.

Naturally, Jesus is the embodiment of completely trusting God’s plan. When he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (First Sorrowful Mystery), He said “not my will, but your will be done” (Luke 42:22). He put his life entirely in God’s hands. And while that may have led to physical suffering and death, it ultimately led to Jesus conquering death and opening the gates of Heaven for us all. Jesus didn’t redeem us all by doing his will, but God’s Will.

We fight battles every day. We fight against the temptation to sin. We also fight the temptation to be lazy in our faith which leaves us vulnerable to Satan’s influence. We need all the help we can get. But when we try to do things our own way, we are like a soldier ignoring the well thought out plan and charging out on our own only to be cut down by gunfire. God is our general in this spiritual war and we need to listen to Him. God tells us to trust Him and that when we do, true joy and happiness will come either in this life or our eternal life with Him in Heaven.

This faith doesn’t come easy and this is where daily Rosary prayer is so important. We need to meditate on the faith Jesus showed in the First Sorrowful Mystery. Or the faith that Mary showed in the First Joyful Mystery. We need to take the words and experiences of the saints seriously, as if God was telling them directly to us.

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Jesus didn’t hold anything back. He didn’t sort of follow God’s Will. He put his life entirely in God’s hands. And that is what Jesus tells us to do through the first secret of spiritual warfare recorded by Saint Faustina. Sort of following God’s will is like wearing armor with a crack. It’s better than nothing but Satan can still exploit that weakness. For your soul, let God completely protect you. When you pray the Rosary, ask yourself and meditate on these questions.

  • Are you trying to live according to God’s Will or your will?
  • Are you taking the time to pray and listen to God?
  • Are you holding anything back from completely following God?
  • Are you receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation to better let go of your earthly desires and sins and instead desire whatever God has planned for you?

Breaking Out of The Routine Through Prayer

Someone I know has a son who has some issues interacting with others. It’s nothing serious but he does sometimes live in his own little world and doesn’t respond well to directions. One morning when she was at her wit’s end, this mom decided the two of them would go to a church to pray. It’s something they don’t usually do. But she thought it would be a great idea to “break out of the routine and try something different.”

There were a few things that I liked about this story. First, I thought the notion of going to church and praying to break out of the routine was a fascinating idea. It reminded me how we so often go through our day without including God. We encounter challenges, experience triumphs, and have many things to be thankful for. And yet, instead of including Him in our day, God is an afterthought. Many of our routines do no include God which is a shame. How many of our challenges could He help us with if we only asked? How much better would our days be if we included God in the routine?

I also liked the idea that when times were tough for this parent, instead of running away from God, she ran towards Him. She didn’t blame God but instead asked for His help in prayer. I’m sure there were some moments of asking “why?” But she approached God as a source of help, not someone who many of us wrongly see as the source of our hardships. The world brings about hardship. God brings comfort in that hardship.

When I pray the Rosary and think about how we must break out of any worldly routines, I meditate on the First Joyful Mystery. I don’t think any of us can say that Mary’s life was routine after the Annunciation. Everything changed both for her and for us. Mary’s “yes” to God changed her life. I think we need to also say “yes” to God so that He may change our lives. While it’s true that God will be with us through our lives whether we ask Him to or not, it helps immensely when we are receptive towards Him. We have to break out of our routine of work, hobbies, housework, etc. and remember to include God in our lives. And this is best achieved in the stillness and quietness of prayer.

We also can’t run away or blame God for the hardships in our lives. Jesus didn’t blame God for His Passion and Crucifixion. Instead, Jesus asked for God’s help through prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that God was asking a lot from Him. And sometimes God asks a lot from us. But God doesn’t abandon us. He will help us if we have the awareness to ask for His help.

Life isn’t easy. But we make it much more difficult when we try to tackle life’s challenges on our own. God is always there ready to help us. All we need to do is take a break from our busy routines and talk to Him in prayer.

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 DesiringGod.org 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.

www.desiringgod.org

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.

Rosary Meditations with Mary’s Magnificat

A Marion prayer that I often overlook in my daily prayer routine is Mary’s Magnificat. It contains Mary’s words when she visited her cousin Elizabeth in the Visitation which we meditate on in the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. The text is as follows.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed,

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.

Amen

On Catholic Exchange, this article discusses how the Magnificat is another great Marion prayer to meditate on especially since it focuses on praise and thanksgiving for all God provides us. Not only does the prayer’s text itself come from an event recalled whenever we pray the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, but many of the themes in the Magnificat are reflected in other mysteries as well. Let’s take a look at a few.

When I pray the Third Joyful Mystery, The Nativity, I often meditate on how the shepherds in the field came to Jesus after angels announced His birth. I think about how they took time off from their work to rejoice. And this is Mary’s tone in the Magnificat; one of joy and thanksgiving. She talks about how God has done great things for her and how she’s blessed.

nativity scene

Do we take time out of our day to thank God for all He has done for us? Or are we only focused on life’s challenges asking God to make things easier? Do we think about how Mary’s life, as blessed as it was, wasn’t easy? And yet she still rejoiced in what God gave her. And did the shepherds ignore the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth? No, they went and rejoiced at Jesus’ manger. Do we take time out of our day to rejoice in what God has provided us, both the big and the small?

The middle portion of the Magnificat reads like the Beatitudes. Mary proclaims how the proud will be “scattered” and the humble “lifted up.” In essence, those humbly living for God’s kingdom will be the ones who will eventually find happiness in Heaven. And that is a core theme of the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus proclaims the greatness of His Father’s kingdom and asks us all to convert from our prideful, earthly ways to heavenly ones.

It takes humility and faith to accept something we cannot experience with our physical senses. In fact, God asks us to do more than just accept His will. We must fully embrace it with a sense of joy. Mary wasn’t tepid in her response to God’s calling and neither should we. We may not know the details of what God has in store for us, but we do know that His plan ends with us joining Him forever in Heaven. And that knowledge alone should be more than enough to make us excited over embracing our faith to the fullest.

The Catholic Exchange article ends with talking about the difference between happiness and joy. The Magnificat is a prayer of joy. Mary didn’t say she was happy, she said she was joyful. She must have known that her life wasn’t going to be easy after accepting God’s calling and it wasn’t always going to be happy. She did experience periods of great sadness such as witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion and death which we meditate on in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery.

We too will experience challenges and unhappiness; some more than others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t live joyfully knowing that God has made a place for us in Heaven. We can live joyfully by seeing all the blessings He has provided us that we may otherwise overlook in our daily lives.

I encourage you to pray the Magnificat daily, either before or after the Rosary. I think it will help flip the mentality that many of us have which is focusing mostly on our hardships and asking God to help us. The Magnificat will provide balance because we’ll also see all that God does provide and blesses us with daily. There’s a saying in the classic 80’s movie, Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I think the Magnificat conveys something similar — “life moves fast and if you don’t slow down and appreciate God’s blessings, you could miss them.”

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?

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.

God Didn’t Create Us to Live in Fear

When I read the Catholic Answer Forums, I sense a lot of fear in the questions people post. There’s the fear that they or a loved one is going to Hell. Or the fear that God does not hear them. Or the fear that they are following the wrong religion. There’s fear that they are praying incorrectly or that they aren’t following proper protocol making their prayers null and void.

There is a lot of confusion about why the Catholic Church preaches what it does. And the media and pop culture doesn’t help any. If you only knew about the Church based on how She is portrayed on TV, movies, and memes, you would think that it’s all a bunch of arbitrary rules made up by old men to make people miserable. You would think that the Church likes nothing more than setting a standard so high and illogical that only the super spiritual 1% will make it into Heaven while the rest of us are doomed to Hell.

“Oh no! What if I sit on the wrong side of the church during Mass?”

How do you combat that fear? First, you need to acknowledge that what you’re fearing isn’t real. Just look at Third Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. The angels said fear not to the shepherds and that they come to bring glad tidings. Does that sound fearful to you? Does that sound like the greeting of a vengeful God that wants fearful submission? To me, that sounds more like a loving God reaching out to us so that we can embrace Him through Jesus Christ. As I said in an earlier post, Jesus didn’t need to come into this world as a baby. He could have just manifested Himself as an adult. But God chose to take the form as a baby maybe as a way of making Himself more accessible and less fearful. What’s a more innocent and unthreatening person than an infant?

Before you get carried away and start living however you want because God is some pushover, think again. Yes, the Church lays out rules we need to follow. But they are the rules you would expect of any close and loving relationship. For example, is treating your best friend, spouse, or family member with love and respect some sort of impossible standard? No. It’s something we do because we want to (or at least we should want to). The same goes with our Catholic faith. We follow all sorts of rules and customs because we want a close relationship with God.

Now there is protocol to follow like how to make a good confession and properly receive the Eucharist. But again, think of these things like spiritual etiquette. They are learned behaviors that should just be second nature for us. After all, do you fear eating dinner? There’s a lot of things to remember — how to use a napkin, chew food politely, don’t spill or knock anything over, etc. I bet most of us follow these protocols without a second thought and certainly not with a sense of fear. Following the Church’s rules and protocols should feel similar. Much like how there are social conventions that we learn to follow, there are spiritual ones as well. Remember, God didn’t create these rules as some sort of trap for us to fall into so He could punish us. They exist so that we can have a fuller and more meaningful relationship with God.

The takeaway is that God loves us and wants us to be joyful in His grace. The guidelines, protocols, and commandments of the Church best foster that relationship. In other words, the Church is trying to help us find true happiness, not hinder it. That can be difficult to see in an age of false information. That makes prayer and receiving the sacraments all the more important so you can see the Catholic faith and God’s love for us for what it clearly is.

Here’s a tip if you still feel nervous and fearful about following the Catholic Faith. Read and learn the faith. I think we tend to fear what we don’t know or understand. Our minds fill in gaps with all sorts of nonsense. To prevent that, read the Catechism. Read books and websites by great Catholic authors. Fill your mind with knowledge about why the Church teaches what She teaches so that you don’t make up a Church that doesn’t actually exist beyond a few stupid TV shows and movies.