Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Counsel

Spiderman has a superpower called “spidey sense.” He can sense danger before any of his physical senses detect anything. This allows him to quickly move out of harm’s way and he looks like he can move at supernatural speeds. This power is akin to a Star Wars Jedi having lightning-quick reflexes because they can use the Force to see things moments before they happen.

The Holy Spirit gives us a spiritual superpower through the gift of Counsel. Counsel allows us to judge rightly what to do in a particular circumstance. It’s our spiritual “spidey sense” that tells us if something seems right or wrong morally. Counsel truly is a supernatural gift because we can sense right and wrong at a young age before we can explain them. For example, most of us haven’t read or memorized every law in the Catechism. And yet, we know what is good and what is evil without this academic knowledge. That’s the gift of counsel working in our lives.

God imprints a natural law onto everyone’s heart. Natural law is our ability to intrinsically deduce morally correct behavior. And while we all may have the natural law imprinted on us, the gift of counsel amplifies it. It takes a sense that we all have and makes some of us more aware of the moral dangers around us. And when we are more aware of them, we can use the gift of wisdom to act correctly.

Counsel in the Rosary

When you pray the First Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Baptism, remember to pray for all of those who are born again in Christ but maybe need to be reminded of what it means to be Christian. Their awareness of natural law may be diminished. We need to pray that they receive the gift of counsel. Or maybe, God is calling us to evangelize more to our brothers and sisters that may have fallen away from their faith.

Likewise, praying the First Luminous Mystery is a good time to also pray for all our brothers and sisters who have not been baptized. God has imprinted His natural law in their hearts as well. They too could use the help of the Holy Spirit in the gift of counsel. After all, when more people, regardless of religion, have a better sense of right and wrong, we all benefit. We can all live in a world that is more peaceful with people who are more pleasant to be around.

Remember the gift of counsel when you meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation. Remember how counsel is an almost supernatural ability? Think about how Elizabeth, without being told, knew that Mary carried Jesus, the Savior, in her womb. All she did was hear Mary’s voice and she “was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:42). Counsel not only gives us the ability to sense what is wrong but also heightens our ability to feel God’s presence in our lives and respond joyfully.

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the gift of counsel. It will help you move to follow God’s Will on a more instinctual level; almost automatically. We already have so much to remember and worry about in our lives regarding work, family, health, finances, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if following God was something we did more naturally? Wouldn’t it be great if instead of wondering, “Is this the right thing to do?”, we knew it is the right thing to do. That’s what the Holy Spirit gives us through counsel.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Fear of the Lord

As we continue meditating on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we turn our attention to a gift that is often misunderstood — Fear of the Lord. When we think of the word “fear” we often think of it as something negative. But in the context of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, we can replace the word “fear” with “awe” or “wonder.”

Fear of the Lord is the feeling of amazement before God, who is all-present, and whose friendship we do not want to lose. There are two kinds of fear: the fear of a servant and the fear of a child. Of the two, childlike fear of God is the more noble and beautiful. It urges the soul to avoid even the least sin in order not to displease God, our loving and caring Father. Fear of the Lord is that childlike fear which causes us to dread no misfortune so much as that of a displeasing God, making us flee from sin as the greatest evil. The Saints were animated by childlike fear and love for the Heavenly Father and were ready to die rather than break His holy law by willful sin.

https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/the-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit-and-how-to-use-them.aspx
Jesus said we all must be like children. Maybe He meant we must keep a sense of childlike wonder and awe.

A Motivation to Evangelize

Fear of the Lord inspires us to hunger for souls the same way Jesus does. We see how many people aren’t aware of the preciousness of our relationship with God. That makes us sad, and it motivates us to help them see the great gift. We are motivated to evangelize.

https://www.fromtheabbey.com/keys-chapel-christian-prayer/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit-empower-our-adventure-gift-of-fear-of-the-lord/

This is a great manifestation of this gift. However, while many of us want to help others, often we don’t know how. But this is where another gift from the Holy Spirit comes in, the gift of knowledge which we discussed previously. It’s that gift that tells us how to help others to appreciate God’s greatness. Understanding helps us show, either through words or example, why prayer and celebrating Mass is so important. We want others to fear NOT having that close relationship with God as much as they would fear not having their spouse or loved one.

It is easy in this time of pandemic to cast aside our need for God and lose that sense of childlike awe. After months of illness, restrictions, and lack of community, many of us might want to say, “forget it, I’m just going to party with reckless abandon since I’m doomed anyway.” But this is the time when we need this gift of awe the most. We need to fear that our current situation might allow Satan to pull us away from God. It’s not that we explicitly tell God to go away. It’s that in our fear and depression, we just lose that sense of awe, stop seeing God’s importance, and then stop fostering our relationship with Him. We need this gift, this motivation, to fear the Lord and fear His absence in our lives now more than ever.

Fearing the Lord in the Rosary

Think about the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary — The Transfiguration. Imagine the awe Saint Peter, James, and John must have felt when they saw Jesus transfigure into pure holiness before their eyes. This must have solidified their understanding that as apostles they were in God’s company when they were with Jesus. And yet, that sense of awe still faded, at least temporarily, during Jesus’ Passion when they abandoned Him. It shows why this sense of awe is a gift as it’s something we as humans can have a hard time maintaining on our own.

Now think about the Fifth Luminous MysteryThe Institution of the Eucharist. I wonder how many of the apostles truly understood the incredible miracle that was occurring before them at the Last Supper. Or did many of them eat and drink the Eucharist without a true sense of awe of what Jesus offered them? How many times have you received the Body and Blood of Jesus at Mass with a sense of awe over the miracle taking place? Or are you more on autopilot because Jesus isn’t bodily present getting your attention like the Transfiguration?

We really have two awe-inspiring events between the Transfiguration and the Last Supper. It’s easy to stand in awe at a miraculous event like the Transfiguration but harder to see the awe in the Eucharist. For many of us, the Eucharist is something we experience every week so that fear of the Lord’s awesomeness is lost. When you pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, remind yourself of the great gift God gives us through the Eucharist. Ask the Holy Spirit to increase your fear in God so that you can see God in all the big and small He manifests Himself in your life.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Knowledge

Some of us, when confronted with a crisis, know what to do. Think about emergency personnel like paramedics, nurses, and doctors. When there is a medical emergency, they jump into action. If they are at a restaurant and someone collapses, they jump in and help. Other people, while wanting to help, freeze up. Will they make the situation worse by getting involved? Are they able to make the right decisions in that situation? It’s not that their inaction means they don’t care. It’s just that they don’t know what to do.

The ability to act correctly, especially in spiritual matters, is another gift from the Holy Spirit — the gift of Knowledge. It “enables a person to judge rightly concerning the truths of faith in accordance with their proper causes and the principles of revealed truth” (Catholic Straight Answers). While the gift of wisdom is the desire to follow God’s Will, knowledge is the ability to do so. If the gift of understanding is the “why” behind following God’s Will, think of knowledge as the “how.” Even more than just knowing what to think, do, or say, knowledge is also the confidence that what you’re doing is in line with God’s Will. I see so many people on the Catholic Answer Forums asking, “Did I do the right thing when I …?” Knowledge reduces that doubt and scrupulosity.

Knowledge in the Rosary

Consider the Third Luminous Mystery of the RosaryThe Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion. With the gift of knowledge, we can see what comes from God’s Kingdom of Heaven and what does not. We then can make good, knowledgeable decisions to embrace what is Heavenly. If our current desires are for what is earthly, then using knowledge to change our priorities is the process of conversion. When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery, ask yourself whether you are seeing what is Heavenly and making decisions to embrace them.

Next, consider the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — The Carrying of the Cross. Think about how many people stood by and watched Jesus carry His cross. Many of them might have wanted to help Jesus but they didn’t know how or they were afraid of what the soldiers might do. However, Veronica found the inspiration and courage to stand out from the crowd to wipe Jesus’ face, giving Him a moment of relief.

One of the ways the gift of knowledge manifests itself is knowledge of how to help others in spiritual matters. Many times, we want to help others when we see them struggle or when they are in despair but we don’t know what to do. We are like the onlookers during Jesus’ passion. The gift of knowledge will help us know the right things to say or do. We will be like Veronica — inspired to find a way to help others in need.

Finally, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption. I’ve always said how the Assumption was a sign of God’s special plan for Mary after her earthly death. And that plan was for her to guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. She guides us in acquiring knowledge of Jesus and His love for us. God has provided us so many tools so that we may know Jesus — the Mass, the Bible, sacred tradition, and countless documents. And we also have guides like Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the saints to help us better know Jesus.

Inspired by Mary and the saints, we should take the opportunity to better know Jesus. We should read the Bible, papal encyclicals, and the Catechism to cultivate our knowledge of our faith. Our small investment in learning our faith will then be compounded by the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary. With that knowledge, we will be able to better discern what is Heavenly and what is not and take comfort in the fact that choosing what is Heavenly will lead to ultimate joy and peace in God’s grace.

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.

Get More from Rosary Prayer by Praying in a Church

While earnest prayer is good no matter the location, praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament is particularly beneficial. But why is that the case? After all, if God is everywhere and hears our prayers, why should we make an extra effort to go into a church and pray or attend Eucharistic adoration? In his book, Transforming Your Life Through the Eucharist, Fr. John Kane explores this great mystery and majesty of the Blessed Sacrament. An excerpt was published on Catholic Exchange titled Why We Pray Before the Blessed Sacrament. A word of warning, this is not a light read. Fr. Kane’s words are dense and packed full of ideas. It would be to your benefit to read this article a few times. You may even want to read a small section and meditate on it.

In the Holy Eucharist, Christ is not only the food of our souls, but also the companion of our exile. The human heart yearns for the sweet consciousness of companionship. The Divine Presence in the tabernacle fully satisfies this natural longing, for God alone can fill the heart.

Christ fulfills His promise of continued companionship by laying hold of this universal law of His own implanting in our nature. In the Blessed Sacrament, through the unmistakable signs of our Lord’s nearness, we experience the most thorough enjoyment of His companionship.

Fr. John Kane

My daily routine involves stopping by a church after dropping my kids off at school in the morning. There, I pray the Rosary, read the daily readings and other prayers. It’s hard to explain, but I feel so much better praying the Rosary in church than at home. I think Fr. Kane nails down why. The Blessed Sacrament is Jesus! Naturally, of course, we will feel more comforted and satisfied praying in Jesus’ presence.

I highly encourage you to take up the practice of making time to pray in a quiet church in front of the tabernacle. It’s a great practice that acts as a prayer multiplier. It helps center your day around Jesus. Honestly, the days when I can’t make it to church to pray are days where I feel a bit “off” because I haven’t grounded myself praying in Jesus’ presence. Give this practice a try and see for yourself how beneficial it is.

The Miracle of Endurance

It’s only human to compare the challenges and difficulties in our personal lives to the highlights of others. We feel envious on social media seeing the supposedly glamorous lives our friends lead. It seems like all my friends are enjoying perpetual vacations and attend parties every day. Meanwhile, I’m working long hours and need to pay yet another high water bill. I think, “it’s just not fair!” Why do good things happen to everyone except me?

When I pray the rosary, the same thoughts come into my head when I pray the Second Luminous and the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. When I meditate on the Miracle at Cana I ask God to bless those with the miracles they need (or at least I think they need). Maybe a family member or loved one needs the miracle of healing. Maybe someone needs the miracle of repairing a broken relationship. Maybe someone needs a miracle of steady employment. But instead, I often feel like God answers these requests with a cross. Instead of a miracle like at Cana, He gives us a cross like Jesus in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.

It seems unfair that God has these two sides. On one hand, He is capable of miraculous acts of healing and blessings of good fortune. But on the other hand, it feels like He’s leaving us on our own to struggle under our crosses. Why does God give me a cross when I need a miracle? We believe that God hears and answers our prayers. We pray the Memorare with the promise of Mary’s intercession. But where are my miracles? Why don’t I see God stepping into my life to help me through life’s challenges?

The nature of God’s intervention and His miracles can be seen in Jesus’ Passion. When Jesus carried His cross, there were in fact miracles taking place. The fact that Jesus found the strength to get back up and carry the cross to His crucifixion is a miracle. It’s miraculous that Jesus forgave the people who crucified Him before He died. Think of the Centurian who said, “Truly He was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). How many others came to believe in Jesus on that sorrowful day? That seems rather miraculous to me. And of course, when you take the long view as God does, Jesus’ Passion led to His resurrection, the empowerment of His disciples by the Holy Spirit, and eventually the spread of Christianity around the globe.

The same principle applies to our lives. While we might see endless hardship, we may overlook that God gives us the strength to endure another day. That is another day to do good, to help others, and pray for those who need it (like souls in Purgatory). It is another day to receive God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s another day to receive our Lord through the Eucharist. In essence, every day God gives us the miracle of time. And that time is an opportunity to bring ourselves closer to God.

I know we all want the overt miracles like the changing of water to wine at Cana. And we bemoan hardships like a natural disaster, sickness, losing a job, poor finances, etc. But those hardships are just the results of physics, chemistry, biology, economics, etc. They aren’t things that God necessarily needs to save or relieve us from. In the long view that God takes, they will pass much like how Jesus’ pain in carrying the cross passed. We may bend, we may fall, but if we stay close to God, He won’t allow us to break. God leads us through all our challenges if we have the faith to let Him. And when all is done in this life, we can stand before God and He will welcome us into His Kingdom of Heaven. And that is truly miraculous.

I’ll leave you with the words from a famous poem, Footprints in the Sand. I think it sums up nicely that God does perform miracles in the hardest parts of our lives even when we don’t know it.

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Catholicism: Benefits Outweigh the Burdens

I came across this article about how priests are held to higher moral standards than a layperson. Because a priest is Jesus’ representative here on Earth via his vocation, he needs to be held to a higher standard. But I want to take this one step further. Are Catholics in general held to a higher moral standard than a secular person? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Why would someone want to practice a faith that adds more burdens to his life?

The Catholic Exchange article, The Holiness of Priests Makes the Entire Church Holy, talks about how priests are in persona Christi—in the person of Christ. This grants them great power. But to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. A priest must be that much more devout because he’s a greater target for Satan and he’s responsible for the sins of his congregation.

St. Anthony Mary Claret said it would be better to leave a town without a priest than to have one who is unworthy. “If God does not send me men who are truly called, God himself will have to take care of the men and souls by means of his angels. A call is God’s gift. I must not bring the unworthy into the sheepfold to destroy it instead of tending it.”

When we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember to pray for priests. We promise to follow God when we’re baptized. But priests have a responsibility to guide us in our journey. They have an awesome responsibility to lead us in the right direction by teaching God’s Truth. A priest that doesn’t take that duty seriously or abuses his position not only harms himself but harms those he leads astray. Priests need our support and prayers.

What about laypeople? Do we also have more of a burden of holiness than a secular person? After all, we skip Sunday Mass and we’ve committed a sin. But someone of a different religion is not committing a sin when they don’t go to Mass if they were never taught that rule. Other religions can essentially follow God’s natural law while Catholics have to follow all these other additional rules. Doesn’t that seem a bit unfair?

This question over Church rules relates to my previous article about the “Nones” who reject traditional spiritually because they just see it as a collection of rules, burdens, and responsibilities. Why follow a religion that tells you that everything you want to do is wrong? Isn’t it better to find a religion (or create your own) that doesn’t punish someone for being who he wants to be?

What the Nones miss, either when talking about the additional responsibilities of a priestly vocation or being a practicing Catholic, are the tremendous benefits of Christianity. God bestows His grace on you. He lays out a path for you to eventually spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Everything about God is about finding joy. And that’s something that magic crystals, breathing exercises, and new-age spiritualism can’t match.

To find joy in any relationship, you have to follow some rules. You can’t have a meaningful relationship with a spouse if you’re selfish, uncaring, manipulative, or abusive. You have to put forth the effort to make the relationship flourish even if that means taking on some additional responsibilities. And the same goes for Catholicism. To have a meaningful relationship with God, you have to make an effort to make the relationship work. And that means committing yourself to follow God’s laws and understanding how they lead to eternal happiness.

When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember that Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom of Heaven. Finding joy in Heaven should be our main goal in life. We acknowledge that it will have its burdens and challenges but we ask our Heavenly Mother Mary for guidance and intercession. We pray the Rosary so that we may see how God’s grace is well worth any sacrifices we make or burdens we bare.

When you pray the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, remember that even Jesus was scared of doing God’s Will. He asked God to change the plan. But Jesus also understood that God’s plan would ultimately lead to joy, not just for Jesus in conquering death, but for all humanity. We have been redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and the gates of Heaven are open to us all. Jesus shows us how we must focus on God’s Will and not become discouraged by the relatively small burdens it places on us.

The Nones Don’t Get It and It’s Our Fault

I read an article from the LA Times titled How millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals. And it made me angry, both with society and also how we, the Church, have failed to connect with a generation of young adults yearning for authentic spirituality. The article discusses how the under-40 crowd has replaced traditional religious practices with astrology, crystals, and tarot cards. Not only is this a shallow replacement, but it’s also a dangerous one since these practices lead towards the demonic and occult.

“This is a worldwide, but certainly American, trend toward heterodoxy — toward individuals cooking up their own spiritual or religious stew and cooking it up their way,” Burklo said. “You’re seeing an aggregation of disaffiliation, people coming up with their own meaning-making and their own personal spiritualities.”

— Jim Burklo, senior associate dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at USC

Religious stew? Cook it up your own way? To me, this sounds like code for “I want to do what feels good and everyone has to accept it.” This is like a child saying he wants to only eat candy and drink soda and his parents must agree that it’s a healthy choice. Look, I would love it if we could do whatever made us feel good. But that’s not how the world really works.

The food equivalent of new-age spirituality — sweet but not good for you.

The Church knows how the world, and what lies beyond this world, really works. And that is why it teaches a very specific doctrine. This doctrine has its root in God and been interpreted over centuries by great scholars. I’m sorry, but when it comes to defining good and evil, I’ll take Saint Thomas Aquinas over what some 20 year old chooses to believe. Yes, much of what the Chruch teaches is hard to believe and even harder to follow. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Telling your child he needs to eat a balanced diet may sound harsh to him, but it’s what any loving parent would do.

At its best, these new forms of spirituality are shallow and pointless. The article talks about someone who puts on 90-minute breathing and meditation classes that many see as a cross between yoga and therapy. So, are all those people praying the Rosary and meditating in front of the Blessed Sacrament holding their breath? Prayer can have every bit of the calming and relaxing aspects of these breathing classes but it also has an extremely powerful element — God. God is listening, He is responding, and He is reaching out to you. He wants to form a close and loving relationship with you. It’s not just you breathing into a void. Given the choice between diving inward into my own thoughts through new-age breathing or venturing outward towards God through prayer, I choose God every day of the week.

Worse, these new-age, DIY spiritualities are incredibly dangerous. They are Satan’s means for luring you away from the truth; away from God. He wants people to put their faith in anything but God because he knows they’ll be weaker and more susceptible to his influence.

Think about the soldiers in the military. Their drill instructors are hard on them because they know the seriousness of the job. If the instructors let recruits do whatever they felt like and made them “happy” by telling them soft, sweet words of affirmation, those recruits wouldn’t be ready for combat. The same goes for us in the spiritual battle we take part in every day. The Chruch can be hard on us but it’s for our own good. It’s so we harden our defenses against Satan.

Worse yet, we as a universal Catholic Church need to take some responsibility for the rise in the “Nones” — those yearning for something spiritual but turning away from traditional teachings. The article talks about how people moved to new age spirituality because they didn’t like the binary aspects of traditional religion. They didn’t like how the Church told them that certain aspects of their lifestyle were wrong and sinful.

But this is our failing because that means they were never explained why certain actions are wrong, dangerous, and ultimately lead to great sorrow. They just heard “don’t do that” without context. In a way, we as a Chruch haven’t put in the required effort to explain that just because we sin doesn’t mean we aren’t loved. We haven’t shown them the vast array of tools the Church has to keep them on a path of joy such as the Rosary, the intervention of our Mother Mary, the intercession of the saints, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, etc.

Holy Spirit, guide us in bringing the “Nones” back home to God’s grace

Let us turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance when we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. We meditate on Jesus’ Baptism and recall our baptism. We recall the baptismal promises that were made and we renew at Mass. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts and minds of those who do not believe the Church has what they yearn for. We pray for priests; that they make an effort to teach the truth and reach out to those who don’t understand the Church’s teachings. And we pray for the strength to go out and live and share Jesus’ teachings so that we may also convert those who have fallen away from greatness, beauty, comfort, and joys of the Catholic faith.

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?