Honor God by Resting on Sundays

My wife was reading a book with one of my sons called The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. It’s a kids’ book of Bible stories. I listened to them read the first book which deals with the creation of the universe in the book of Genesis. I enjoyed a passage talking about why Sundays are a day of rest and we should treat them as such. The character asked why God rested if He’s all-powerful. Certainly, God couldn’t have been tired since He doesn’t have a physical body that needs rest. But God declared rest a good thing. Just as He created the world and animals for us, God created a day of rest, not for Him, but for us.

We live in a world where we try to cram so much into our days. In fact, there’s a new term that I think best exemplifies this tendency — rage browsing. Rage browsing is where we stay up browsing the internet late into the evening because we want to prolong the time we are awake doing something leisurely. It’s about us wanting to carve out time for ourselves in a world where it seems like someone else controls our schedules throughout the day. We want to put everything else aside to just relax.

Our faith tells us that we need to also carve out Sunday as a time to relax. This isn’t just good advice or some pandemic trend, it’s the Fourth Commandment.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

This Commandment not only covers our Sunday Mass obligation but commands us to rest as God did after creating the universe. This should be the easiest Commandment to follow. God is telling us to just stop working and relax.

The Rosary and Rest

Meditate on the Third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity. In the Nativity story, angels appeared to shepherds and told them of Jesus’ birth. They dropped what they were doing to go and honor Jesus. We should be like the shepherds and pause our busy lives for one day to honor God. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then let’s imitate God by resting as He did.

Exactly what it means to rest is subject to debate. An orthodox Jew doesn’t cook or operate any machinery on the Sabbath. I don’t think we need to take it that far. The general guidance is that you should make it a day of increased meditation and focus on God. I know for a lot of us, it’s difficult to cut the weekend in half when there is so much to do. You may have to rearrange and reprioritize work and tasks. Consider it a sacrifice that further honors God. Here are some ways to spend your Sunday that captures the spirit of taking a day to rest:

  • Abstain from large amounts of housework, but go ahead and tidy up things if it makes you more relaxed.
  • Throw some laundry in the washing machine if you must, but save the sorting and ironing for later.
  • Spend some time as a family. Go for a hike or play a game together.
  • Do some cooking or baking as a family and enjoy a brunch or dinner together.
  • Put away your electronic devices for a certain period of time.
  • Pray, read, or watch religious-themed media like Formed.
  • Discuss the day’s scripture readings and the Mass homily.
  • Just sit quietly, outside if the weather is nice. Silence is golden.
  • Call or visit with friends and family members, especially your parents.
  • Try to schedule classes and events on a day other than Sunday. Sometimes, this is unavoidable but try to keep Sunday as open as possible.

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.”

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.

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?

Don’t Lose Your Moral Bearings in the Darkness

Imagine you’re a pilot flying alone on a completely dark night with no instrumentation.  Envision how hard it would be to know your altitude, your level, and whether or not you’re about to crash into something.  In total darkness, with no visibility and landmarks for reference, there is a good chance the airplane will crash and burn.

Keep that airplane analogy in mind as you read this article about the Glamor of Evil by Dr. Gregory Popcak.  We all know about how we should avoid committing sin. That’s Catholicism 101; easy stuff. But you can also be seduced by sin without actively participating in it.  He writes:

Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.

Like the pilot alone in the dark, when we fixate on all the evil, darkness, and problems in this world we lose our moral bearings.  We can become disoriented in the darkness and start to lose hope, joy, and our faith.  We can no longer see the differences between good and evil because we’ve lost our spirital point of reference.  Our actions no longer seem to matter because we don’t see any goal or point to them.  Does it really matter what I do if everything is falling apart around me?

Being lost and aimless doesn’t usually end well.

Dr. Popcak tells us that we can’t let negative thinking completely envelop us.  Our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should act like a shining beacon, even in our darkest hours.  The beauty and goodness of our faith can provide all the guidance we need to find strength, peace, and maybe even happiness, even when our world looks nonredeemable.

When Good Things Turn Us Bad

I’m going to go one step further. It’s not just evil that can completely block us from whatever is good and godly. Neutral activities can also do the same. Consider social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle. On their own, there’s nothing sinful about them.  They allow us to stay updated on recent events and connect with each other. But for many of us, these seemingly harmless pastimes can consume 100% of our attention leaving room for nothing else. And when your world is completely consumed by Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, and MSNBC, you can stop seeing the genuine good in the world. You will either see a carefully curated goodness that isn’t real or you will just see everything as bad and hopeless and fall into despair.

As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, it’s important to not allow ouselves to fixate on what is ultimately unimportant. I know we want to buy presents, decorate our homes, and participate in all the other traditions associated with Christmas. But we can’t let the commercial side of Christmas blind us to the true meaning behind it. Because when you obsess over what to buy and what you want to receive, you leave yourself open to the sins of greed, envy, and even wrath. Want an example?  Look no further than the annual chaos around Black Friday and how people lose their moral bearings fighting over TVs and toasters.

The Rosary Connection

Look at the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.  I’m talking about darkness and the light in this article.  Well, in this mystery you see Jesus’ clothes literally become dazzling white (Mark 9:3).  And that, of course, got the apostles’ attention.  When you meditate on this Rosary mystery, ask yourself, is Jesus a dazzling beacon of love, hope, and goodness in your life?  Does He shine brighter through the darkness keeping you morally oriented toward His teachings?  If not, maybe you need to turn around or take off your blindfold.  Jesus is always present in our lives.  If you don’t see that “light” in the darkness, ask Mary for guidance when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, Her Assumption.  She wants nothing more than to guide you through the darkness to Her son.

Also, when you pray the Third Joyful Mystery, think of the wise men traveling through the desert to pay homage to Jesus.  They would have been wondering around aimlessly and hopelessly if it weren’t for a star to guide them.  Again, you have a point of light, a referrence point, which guided the three wise men to Jesus. Are you following the signs in your life which lead you to Jesus?

Saint Joseph — Our Model for Perseverance

Poor Saint Joseph. Even on his feast day, which we celebrated earlier this week, the news was all about Mary and Jesus. The Gospel reading was either the story of Joseph almost divorcing Mary or the Finding of Jesus in the Temple which is the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the rosary. He’s not exactly cast in the best light in either story. It would be like your friends coming to celebrate your birthday by telling everyone that story about the time when you almost left your wife over some marital problems or that time when you left your child in a large city coming back from a vacation.

Flash forward to the Nativity which we celebrate when we pray the Third Joyful Mystery of the rosary. Again, Joseph is a side character in those events. While he makes up 1/3 of the Holy Family, in most accounts he’s a background character.

But God teaches us a valuable lesson in the person of Saint Joseph. There is the lesson of remaining faithful even when life does not turn out exactly how you envision. I’m sure Saint Joseph did not anticipate telling people a story that stretched credibility about how his wife-to-be become pregnant. Nor did he probably want his son born in a stable so far away from his home. And he probably wasn’t too happy learning that they needed to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod‘s wrath. I’m sure, like many of us, Saint Joseph probably wanted a “normal” life but it just never seemed to be in the cards for him.

And yet, Saint Joseph did whatever he was asked to do or what needed to be done given the circumstances. He did not question, complain, or rebel. He is the example of following God’s Will no matter where it may take you because of the intrinsic happiness that comes from serving God. At many times, Saint Joseph could have acted in a way that would have made his life easier and happier.  He could have divorced Mary and found himself a more normal life as a carpenter. But that would have been a shallow, temporary happiness because nothing outside of God’s grace can be anything but that.

We too often find ourselves in a situation that is far different than what we expect or want.  Maybe we have a hard time finding a job or hate the job we have.  Maybe we dream about and desire a lot of nice things that we cannot afford.  Maybe our family life is challenging or feels unfilling.  Maybe we have illnesses or limitations that prevent us from leading a “normal” life.  But all of us, no matter who we are or what are circumstances may be, have one ability we can exercise if we choose — to follow God’s plan for us.  It may not lead to the easiest life or the one you have always envisioned, but it’s the one most aligned with God’s Will.  And ultimately, that’s the best life to lead.

If there was ever a patron saint of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” it would be Saint Joseph. When you find yourself in difficult times or if your life just hasn’t worked out the way you thought it would, pray to Saint Joseph for strength and guidance.  Think of him as your spiritual drinking buddy who can sympathize with your problems and can give you advice even if it’s just, “be strong, stay the course.”

What Rosary Prayer Teaches us About Initiative

This Sunday’s Gospel (10/30/16) comes from Luke:

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

What I find most interesting is how St. Luke makes specific mention of Zacchaeus’ short stature and how he climbed a tree to see Jesus.  He could have just as easily started this story with “Jesus encountered a tax collector named Zacchaeus.”  Why the inclusion of the tree climb?

Zacchaeus being called down from the tree. Fro...
Zacchaeus being called down from the tree. From book: The Life of Jesus of Nazareth. Eighty Pictures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zacchaeus did not let his short height dissuade him from seeing Jesus.  Instead, he did whatever he could because seeing Jesus was important to him.  And because of his conviction and conversion, Jesus gives Zacchaeus the gift of salvation.  Zacchaeus’ introduction shows us that we all have our limitations and hardships in this life.  And yet, we must find a way to “see” Jesus in our lives despite life’s challenges and distractions.  When seen through this lens, Zacchaeus’ story sounds more like this popular teaching from Jesus:

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Might as well add, “Climb and you will be seen.”

I think many times we let our situation dissuade us from truly embracing and practicing out faith.  I know I often fall into the thinking of, “well, I’m not a priest,” to justify times when I have not tried hard enough to further my relationship with Jesus.  It is so easy to blame work, health, family, or financial difficulties for not praying more often, not going to Mass, not receiving the sacraments, and not being charitable.  But as Zacchaeus’ story indicates, those are excuses and not very good ones at that.  We need to make our relationship with Jesus a priority and do whatever it takes to receive His grace.  Sometimes the road will be easy but other times we need to be like Zacchaeus and think outside the box.

Zacchaeus’ story ties nicely with the Third Joyful Mystery of the rosary — The Nativity.  The shepherds in the fields dropped what they were doing to go praise the newborn savior.  I previously wrote about how risky it was for shepherds to leave their flock.  But they understood the importance of seeing Jesus much like Zacchaeus.  They did not allow doubt or concern over their jobs dissuade them from encountering Christ.

English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Me...
English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. Español: Portal de Belén en la Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires Français : Crèche de Noël dans la Cathédrale métropolitaine de Buenos-Aires (Argentine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we pray and meditate on the Third Joyful rosary mystery, let us ask God for strength and maybe even a little knowledge to break out of our routines and doubts so that we can truly encounter Jesus.  He’s there; always waiting for us and will welcome us into communion with Him.  But maybe we just need to get over our worries and maybe put a little more effort to go to Him.

5 Ways the Rosary Prepares Your Soul During Advent

It’s that time of year again.  My house is all lit up like a homing beacon for lost aircraft, my browser history is 99% Amazon.com, and Santa is watching my boys’ every move.  It’s Christmas time!  But it is also New Years.  I’m not talking about January 1st.  I’m talking about a new liturgical year that kicked off with Advent this past Sunday.  It’s a time to not only prepare your traditional Christmas cookies, but also time to prepare a place in your heart and mind for Jesus.  Let’s look at the five Joyful Mysteries of the rosary for ideas on how you can supersize your Advent.

#1. In the Annunciation, Mary accepts God’s plan for her.  She said, maybe still afraid and confused, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  This Advent, meditate on what God is asking of you.  You never know what God may ask of you or when.  Advent is a great time to prepare a spot for Jesus Christ in your heart so that you’ll be able to show the same courage Mary showed when God comes knocking on your door.

#2. In the Visitation, Mary exercises God’s grace by helping her older cousin Elizabeth in her pregnancy.  Advent is a time when we can prepare ourselves to best receive God’s grace through good works of kindness and charity.  Remember that in helping others, we are recognizing Jesus in our brothers and sisters.  When we comfort those less fortunate, we are comforting Jesus.  In this season of preparation, make room for Jesus in this world and provide him the comfort, respect, and honor he deserves by providing others comfort, respect, and honor.

Second Advent Week
Second Advent Week (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#3. In the Nativity, we see shepherds leaving their posts to give homage to the baby Jesus.  Later, the wise men traveled far to honor him.  Both these stories show that people were willing to drop everything and go through some hardship to see Jesus.  In Advent, consider adding a few spiritual challenges like making sacrifices and fasting, receiving the sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and trying to attend extra Masses.  The Christmas season is a fun time, but remember that is is also a spiritual time.  Imagine how much more joyous Christmas will be if you not only prepared your house and completed your shopping list, but also kept a space for Jesus in your heart and mind by making small sacrifices for him.

#4. In the Presentation in the Temple, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph become one family in the eyes of God.  This mimics how we have a physical birth but also a spiritual one through the Sacrament of Baptism.  Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, but the Holy Family was unified under God in the Presentation of Jesus.  Advent is a good time to prepare a place in your heart for your family.  I know many of us have strained relationships with our families, either immediate or extended.  Maybe a family member has hurt you or you have hurt them.  Make Advent a time for family unity and peace.  Pray and meditate on how to best tear down any walls that separate you from your family.  Not only will it bring peace to your soul, but it will make Christmas dinner so much less awkward.

#5. In the Finding of Jesus of the Temple, Mary and Joseph traveled for many days just assuming Jesus was with them we he really was not.  This reminds me of the modern mindset that assumes we are close to Jesus no matter what we do.  In preparing for Christmas this Advent, stop assuming and start examining.  How central is Jesus in your life?  Have you done anything that has moved you away from God’s grace that requires the healing power of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Even if you don’t have any mortal sins on your conscience, ask yourself what you have done to honor Jesus.  Advent is the start of a new liturgical year.  So like a New Year’s resolution, Advent is a time to analyze where you are in your faith and make a spiritual resolution to improve it.

Need a little more help getting into the right spiritual mood this Advent?  Try downloading my free rosary guide.  Or purchase my rosary meditations book on Amazon.com.  Heck, maybe all you need is a little coffee to wake you up.  I have you covered.

5 Ways the Rosary Helps us be Thankful Every Day

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...
English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the United States, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It is a time to give thanks for all that God has given us. And yet for many, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of be thankful about. Family, financial, spiritual, work, and global worries are in abundant supply. But for one day out of the year, we manage to push those aside and focus on our good graces. But that’s one day. What about the other 364? Here’s five ways the rosary can help you be thankful every day.

The Third Joyful Mystery

For thousands of years and hundreds of generations, people’s notion of God was one of a supreme being that was very distant and often very angry. The God as the Israelites knew him was a god of rules, laws, and punishments. But we have the grace to have what millions of people never had — God made man through the being of Jesus Christ. When we pray this mystery, give thanks that we have the opportunity to know God as someone who walked with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and died for us. Unlike millions of people who lived before Jesus’ birth, we have a face to put on God. And while we may be removed from Jesus by nearly 2000 years, we should rejoice that we have the benefit of coming 2000 years after Jesus’ birth, not before.

The Fourth Luminous Mystery

English: Transfiguration of Jesus

Following a similar theme from the birth of Jesus Christ, how lucky are we that God humbled himself and took on a human form so that we can come to know him more intimately?  As we see with Jesus’ clothes turning dazzling white and God’s voice telling the apostles to listen to his son, we get an idea of the majesty in Christ.  Jesus could have come into this world floating down from Heaven in dazzling glory as witnessed in the Transfiguration.  But he didn’t.  And we should be ever thankful about that.  Jesus, the human, wasn’t “God Lite” who wasn’t any less approachable or mysterious as God himself.  No, he was a human like all of us who we could relate with and listen to his teachings in plain, not intimidating speech.  Of all the ways God chose to manifest himself, we should give thanks that he chose the person of Jesus Christ.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery

I always associate the Finding of Jesus in the Temple with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Mary and Joseph’s searching for Jesus and then finding him in his father’s house is a nice analogy to how we rediscover God’s grace, which we lose through sin, through Confession.  But where does thanksgiving come into this mystery?  I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that every day is a day to live in God’s grace but also another opportunity to rediscover that grace through Confession if I’ve lost it (either in part through venial sin or whole through mortal sin).  Once you die, you no longer have that ability to seek forgiveness.  Be thankful that no matter how deep in sin or despair you are, as long as you can draw breath you have an opportunity to rediscover God’s grace and achieve the same glory in Heaven as the saints.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

How can we not be eternally thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice for our sake?  Through his crucifixion, Jesus redeemed all of mankind for the disobedience of Adam and Eve — the original sin.  We are thankful that through his sacrifice, Jesus made Heaven a possibility for all humanity, something that wasn’t open to us before.  Humans failed God through Adam and Eve and we continue to fail through sin.  And we would live in despair if there was no way to set things right.  And that is exactly what Jesus’ crucifixion was — setting things right that were once broken.

The Fourth Glorious Mystery

How fortunate we are that God set aside Mary to serve a special role, not just in her earthly life, but in her heavenly one too.  She was assumed into Heaven and acts as our mediatrix to her son, Jesus.  But what do we mean by mediatrix?  That’s just a special way of saying that Mary is our spiritual lawyer (but with a heart).  Like how a legal lawyer helps us navigate the often confusing laws and regulations, Mary helps us navigate the often difficult spiritual waters.  She helps us understand what is not understandable — God.  We should be thankful that God, knowing that we need some help understanding his truth, set aside Mary to act as our guide.

Morality Clauses and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

In my last post I talked about how Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco was battling opponents over his additions to the high school teachers’ hand book about leading a Catholic example while on the job.  He wrote a fantastic clarification about why he added the new clauses and what he hopes to accomplish.  You can read the full letter at Catholic Minority Report.  I know that for many of you who don’t live in the archdiocese of San Francisco, or even the USA, the details of this battle may not hold much interest.  But like many things in life, this controversy does tie back to the rosary (and hence the RosaryMeds website) and provides some thoughts for meditation.  Let’s take a look at the Joyful Mysteries.

First Joyful Mystery

I said in my previous post that teaching at a Catholic school is as much of a vocation as it is a career.  I do think God calls people to use their talents specifically at a Catholic school instead of a secular or public school.  The First Joyful Mystery is all about vocations and reflecting on how God calls us to follow the path He sets before us.  We may have our doubts about God’s plan, similar to Mary questioning the angel Gabriel about how she could become the mother of God since she was an unwed virgin.  But like Mary, when we put our faith in God’s plan for us, no matter how outrageous it may seem, He will bestow upon us the graces to triumph.  We pray that we all reflect on our vocation and do what God asks of us even if we have our doubts.

Second Joyful Mystery

To me, the Visitation is primarily about ministry.  I’ve said in many past articles how Mary had every right to feel like she was a queen to be pampered and honored because she was to become the Mother of God.  But instead she headed off to the countryside proclaiming how she is the handmaiden of the Lord.  Her initial instinct was to go out proclaiming the glory of God when bestowed with God’s grace.  Similarly, Catholic schools are a ministry as well.  They are a place where young minds come to learn, not just reading, science, and mathematics, but also about what it means to be Catholic.  We pray that we remember to show what the Catholic faith professes through our words and actions in a direct, unambiguous way.

Third Joyful Mystery

The birth of Jesus revolves around the theme of humility.  God humbled himself by not only taking shape in the imperfect human form, but also as a lowly peasant.  And yet, through this unexpected person came God’s perfect revelation as taught by Jesus.  I think the archbishop is asking teachers and also the entire Catholic community in the archdiocese to show a lot of humility for the Church’s teachings as revealed by Jesus Christ and handed down over the years by the Magisterium.  It is difficult to accept and promote teachings that you may personally disagree with or are contrary to societal norms.  I’m not just talking about high school teachers either.  We all probably have a hard time accepting some of the Church’s teachings.  When we pray this mystery of the rosary, we should ask God for the humility to accept His perfect teachings although we may have an imperfect understanding of them.

Fourth Joyful Mystery

Jesus’ presentation in the temple focuses on adherence and obedience to the law.  Mary and Joseph waited the prescribed forty days before taking Jesus to the temple.  They also offered a sacrifice of turtledoves as was the custom.  Later, Jesus insists that John baptizes him although Jesus needed no purification.  When I think about many of the objections over the additions to the faculty handbook, I see an absence of the respect of an ancient institution.  The Church hasn’t been secretive about her teachings over the last few millennia nor has it dramatically changed them.  And yet so many people complain about the archbishop’s request to honor the sacred traditions of the Catholic Church in a Catholic school.

When we pray this mystery, we should remember that the Church is an institution that teaches what it teaches for a reason.  Church Scholars have pondered and written brilliant defenses for the Church’s teachings and its rituals over the years.  These “rules” and doctrine of the Church are not arbitrary but are insights into the natural law imprinted on our hearts.  By following those rituals and taking them seriously we follow in Jesus’ footsteps when he, who is the Law, also respected the Law.

Fifth Joyful Mystery

When I think about Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the temple I recall Jesus’ words about needing to be in his father’s house.  What is amazing to me was Mary’s reaction of not understanding what Jesus meant.  What!??  An angel came to Mary and told her she would be the Virgin Mother of God!  Angels proclaimed his birth.  Wise men followed a star and paid homage to him.  What part of Jesus being special does Mary not yet understand?

This painting is on display at the Kunsthistor...
This painting is on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) in Vienna, Austria (site). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I think about those protesting the archbishop’s words I also wonder what part of teaching Catholicism at a Catholic school are they not understanding?  Through all the prayers, Masses, retreats, and religion classes, how are the archbishop’s words, which are essentially the Apostles’ Creed, something new and shocking?

Like the other mysteries, I pray this one for an understanding and acceptance of the Church’s teachings.  I also pray that I see those teachings even in the most unlikely of places.  The scholars were amazed by the knowledge of Jesus Christ as a young boy.  It goes to show that God tries to teach us in many different ways.  We should look for God’s Truth not just in the readings on Sunday, but everywhere around us.  Even a letter of clarification from the archbishop may hold wisdom and offer new insights.