The Importance of Spiritual Health

There are many different dimensions to every human being. The most obvious is our physical dimension. This is seen by how healthy we are and whether our organs are functioning normally. There’s our cognitive state — how well our brain accepts and processes information. We have an emotional side — the way we cope with different situations. And there is our spiritual state reflected by our relationship with God.

Dealing with illness

An illness of any one of these aspects needs to be addressed. When we’re sick we need to seek proper treatment. If we suffer from emotional issues, we need to get help. Or, if we see someone we care about sick or unhealthy, our love for them prompts us to help them get the treatment they need.

Unfortunately, while many of us take our physical, mental, and emotional health seriously, we too often let our spiritual health deteriorate. When we don’t pray, attend Mass, receive the sacraments, and commit sin, we become spiritually ill. And if we commit a mortal sin, we spiritually die. These spiritual illnesses and deaths are just as serious as any physical illness. And yet, we don’t treat them as such.

There is certainly a pandemic of spiritual illness. We see this in the declining numbers of Mass attendance or the number of people who don’t believe in the core tenents of Catholic teaching like the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I think this spiritual illness is also the cause of general unhappiness and anxiety for many people. God designed us as physical AND spiritual beings. We cannot be fully happy when we live contrary to God’s design. Unfortunately, no amount of leisure or exercise can address the damage inflicted by an unhealthy spiritual lifestyle.

Think about how quickly we jump onto physical health trends or cures to illnesses. People commit themselves to all sorts of diets, supplements, and workouts to stay healthy. Or, if we’re physically sick, we seek a cure to return to normal, often at great cost. We are willing to put in so much time and effort to take care of our physical needs. But many times we don’t prioritize our spiritual needs. How do we get started living a spiritually healthy life? Fortunately, to restore yourself to full spiritual health, all you need is a few minutes with a priest in a confessional.

Miracles all around us

When someone in a state of mortal sin receives the sacrament of reconciliation he is spiritually resurrected from the dead. It is every bit as miraculous as someone physically dead coming back to life (think Lazurus). Or someone with venial sins going to confession is every bit as healed as someone miraculously cured of a physical illness. Just because we don’t see these healings and resurrections with our physical senses doesn’t make them any less real. Day after day, the Holy Spirit is healing and bringing people back to life through the sacrament of confession.

Miracles in the Rosary

Whenever I think about miracles, the Second Luminous Mystery comes to mind. Jesus’ ministry was full of miracles, mostly around curing people of physical illness. Also, people who were lost or steeped in sin came back to life spiritually in their encounters with Jesus. The spiritual healings may not have been as flashy as the physical miracles but were actually more significant. Their eternal souls found new life. When we encounter Jesus in the sacrament of confession, let’s also remember and marvel at the miracle taking place.

The motivation for this article comes from the current discussion over people, particularly politicians, receiving communion in a state of mortal sin. While they may say how important it is for them to receive the Eucharist, they should instead be focused on first receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. As Catholics, we need the benefits of all the sacraments the Church offers, not just the ones that are convenient to us. If those in a state of mortal sin are looking for strength through God’s grace, they first have to desire a spiritual resurrection. When we pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery, let’s ask God to direct those in mortal sin to Confession before receiving Him in the Eucharist.

Sorry for the long delay in new content on RosaryMeds. I was having issues logging into my account and it took me a while to get to the root cause — an update to my computer’s security software was blocking my login attempts. Next time I need to remember to pray to Saint Isidore!

Dealing with Disasters: 2nd Luminous Mystery

We’re living in times when everything looks like a disaster. We’re hearing about nightly riots in major cities like Portland and Philidelphia. Covid cases are spiking worldwide with no near term cure in sight. Some places are considering shutting down public spaces once again. We are deeply divided and worried over the US presidential election. On a personal level, many of us worry about our financial and emotional wellbeing from sheltering in place for such a long time. This does seem like a hopeless time.

Finding Perspective


In these times of trial, I like to meditate on the Second Luminous Mystery, the Miracle at Cana. I think about how running out of wine at the wedding was a disaster. Sure, it’s not a Covid19 sized disaster, but for a wedding, it would be a big deal. However, even if Jesus never performed the miracle of turning water into wine, I’m sure the bride and groom would have been just fine. Sure, there might have been some temporary embarrassment, but there are worse things in life than running out of wine at your wedding.

We can look at this Rosary mystery and ask ourselves whether we are making a bigger deal out of the challenges in our lives than need be. Are we giving situations more importance than is warranted? While we should bring all our concerns to Jesus, we don’t necessarily have to give them all equal weight. And perhaps Jesus answers our prayers, not by eliminating life’s challenges, but by telling us not to worry so much about everything.

Don’t Expect Miracles

At the wedding, Jesus solved the wine shortage problem in his first public miracle. Remember, at this time Jesus wasn’t yet known as a healer and miracle worker. He hadn’t yet gained popularity where people flocked to him for miracles. We take it for granted that when Mary told Jesus about the wine shortage that he was going to solve it through his divine powers. But that maybe wasn’t what people were expecting at Cana. But Jesus saw it fit and appropriate to perform a miracle in that case.

In these uncertain times, we too can always hold out hope in miracles. But we shouldn’t expect miracles or only look for a specific outcome. God has a way of intervening in the way He sees fit; sometimes with a miracle and other times without. We need to put our faith in God’s plan; that it will ultimately lead to joy and freedom even if there are disastrous moments. Remember, at the wedding, they weren’t running low on wine. They ran out of wine. So for a moment, there wasn’t just an impending disaster, but a real disaster. And maybe we too have to live through a few real disasters ranging from a few minutes to a few days, months, years, or decades. But God won’t allow for those disasters to ultimately triumph, especially if we call on Him to help us.

Indirect Miracles

The headwaiter didn’t know that Jesus turned the water into wine. From his perspective, no miracle took place. Maybe that’s the same with us. God may be performing all sorts of miracles but they are in ways we don’t experience directly. In chaos theory, big events can find their roots in simple actions that follow a long and complex chain of events. Miracles can act the same way. A small miracle can have a huge effect elsewhere but through the chain of events, that small miracle may not even be noticed because it’s so far detached from the outcome. I think many times, we are like the headwaiter — we experience miracles without even knowing it.

I’m sure we all have anxieties and worries that we want God to solve. But contemplate the Second Luminous Mystery when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Consider that God may be answering your prayers and performing miracles in subtle ways. Or maybe He’s telling you to have faith and a little patience in His plan. Maybe He’s telling you that your disasters aren’t really disasters or at least aren’t as big as you’re making them out to be.

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.”

Jesus’ Miracles — Brining Joy to All of Us

I know this is a tad late given that the Sunday Gospel reading about the Miracle at Cana was several weeks ago. But the way I see it, we should be visiting this mystery at least once a week when we meditate on it in the Second Luminous Mystery. So any insight, no matter when it is given, should be valuable.

In his homily, my priest made a rather insightful observation about this Rosary mystery. Jesus’ miracle at the wedding at Cana was turning water into wine. In doing so, He saved the hosts from the embarrassment of running out of libations too early in the feast. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ first public miracle involved prolonging a celebration? It wasn’t healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, calming seas, or other more life-changing miracles. Essentially, Jesus kept the wine flowing to keep the party going. Jesus’ first miracle was bringing a little more joy into the world.

Joy is really at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He came into this world so that we may better know God. Through Jesus, God was no longer this distant, impossible-to-understand entity. Rather, he was a human in Jesus. He ate with us, spoke to us, prayed with us, and celebrated with us. Jesus encapsulated all the love, peace, and joy already contained in God but presented it in a way we could understand. It’s no wonder that Jesus’ first miracle was keeping a celebration going because that was exactly why God manifested Himself through Jesus — so that we may continue to celebrate His peace and love. Jesus kept the party at Cana going by turning water into wine. But God kept the joy flowing by manifesting Himself as a human through Jesus Christ.

Remember the miracle at the wedding at Cana the next time you feel burdened by the Church’s “rules.” Remember that the heart of our faith is joy and happiness. Jesus didn’t come to oppress. He didn’t force anyone to love, honor, and celebrate with Him. So why all the rules? The rules help us better receive the joy that Jesus offers. Similar to how guests at a party need to act appropriately for all to enjoy themselves, we need to live in accordance with God’s laws to find the most joy. We can’t be party crashers — ruining the party God invites us to. We don’t want to cut ourselves off from genuine joy and happiness for that momentary yet shallow thrill of acting selfishly.

The next time your pray the Second Luminous Mystery, thank God for giving us the opportunity to embrace the genuine happiness that comes from fully living our Catholic faith.

Conquering Envy Through the Rosary

Let’s talk about sin, specifically, the seven deadly sins (also known as cardinal or capital sins).  Theologians in the early Church devised a list of sins that form the foundation for other sins.  Think of it like the taxonomy, or classification, of sinful behavior.  By reducing sin to a small list, teaching about sin and virtue became easier in the early Church because priests could teach people simple “do this, avoid that” style rules.  The seven deadly sins as we know them today were formalized by Pope Gregory I in 590 AD and later expounded by Saint Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica.  For those of you who never saw the movie Se7en, the seven deadly sins are:
  • gluttony
  • lust
  • greed
  • pride
  • sloth
  • wrath
  • envy
This article is going to focus on envy.  In the age of social media and instant communication with others, it’s so easy to suffer from envy.  We see people’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts about their fantastic vacations, cute families, crazy parties, and glamorous lives and it’s difficult to not feel envious.  We fixate on the nice car our neighbor bought or the slightly larger TV that is in his living room.  Unless you live in a completely isolated environment, it’s difficult not to see the blessings others have around you and not feel just a bit envious.

The Scriptural Connection

Of course, envy isn’t anything new.  In fact, envy plays a prominent role in the first book of the Bible when Cain killed his brother Abel.  Cain envied his brother because God favored Abel’s offering over his.  What I find interesting is God’s response to Cain’s anger: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance (mood) fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” The Bible doesn’t say how much effort Cain put into his offering to God.  Maybe he held something back and didn’t put forth his best crops for God but kept them to himself.  Maybe Cain was lazy which lead to a small harvest.  God basically challenges Cain to do better and work harder.  But instead of accepting the challenge, Cain fixated on his brother’s good fortune to the point of murdering him. That is why envy, when not addressed, is such a deadly sin.  It can grow and spread like cancer.  It then cuts us off from others because all we see in others are our own desires.  We don’t see others as our fellow brothers and sisters but more like a store’s windows displaying what we want but cannot have.  It reduces people to the summation of their possessions.  Many of the deadly sins are interconnected since we can see envy being related with pride (everything centered around what I want), greed (always wanting more), and wrath (hatred because you have what I want).

The Rosary Connection

Father Ed Broom wrote an article on Catholic Exchange about what we can do to combat envy.  It’s worth a read.  But of course, the Rosary also teaches us about envy and how to fight it.  Let’s look at the Second Luminous Mystery — the Miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  What does that have to do with envy?  Let’s consider God’s miracles and blessings.  When others receive them, are you happy for them or do you envy them?  For me, one person’s unexpected blessings can bring about feelings of envy and resentment.  I ask why other people have all the good fortune.  Or, why has God saddled me with more hardship than someone else? Of course, feeling envious is the wrong way to look at God’s blessings and miracles.  To start, someone receiving a miracle or blessing doesn’t take any blessings away from you.  God’s grace is not a zero-sum game where someone receiving grace deprives someone else of his.  God has infinite power and hence, can dole out infinite grace.  When others encounter miracles, Father Broom says we should thank God for all the blessings and miracles He performs in our lives.  Yes, we may not have the cushy job, a huge bank account, a nice car, or a great phone.  But we are alive and able to praise God by living the day as virtuously as possible.  God gives us the miracle of a new day of infinite possibility.  Don’t squander it by being envious of others. Let’s also look at the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation.  Each Rosary mystery has an associated “fruit.”  You can think of fruits like the lesson taught in each mystery.  For the Visitation, the fruit is “Love thy Neighbor.”  Of course, loving your neighbor is the opposite of envying or being jealous of your neighbor.  Father Broom states that praying for those whom you envy will help fight that envy.  It does this by taking that sinful fixation and transforming it to a healthy one.  Your focus is on asking God to help you instead of being jealous of others.  Fighting envy difficult, but so was traveling to Elizabeth’s home for Mary.  She did it out of her love for her cousin.  We too must take up that difficult challenge of fighting envy with love, prayer, and kindness (which is one of the seven heavenly virtues that combats envy).

How the Rosary Helps Us Avoid “Everlasting Sin”

 

“’Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.’”

This passage from the Gospel of Mark confused me until recently.  We talk about an all loving and merciful God so how can there be an unforgivable sin?  How can the God that created everything from nothing not have the capacity to forgive everything?  When I was younger, I asked myself, “what if I already committed this unforgivable sin and not know it?  Is the rest of my life pointless because God has already told St. Peter to not allow me into Heaven?”

Fortunately, the unforgivable sin doesn’t work like that.  This isn’t some sort of gotcha or fine print in Catholic doctrine that God will use to keep you out of Heaven.  It’s simply a way of restating that a sin will remain unforgiven if you never ask for forgiveness.  This Catholic Exchange article does a good job of breaking down the unforgivable sin into six aspects:

  1. despair
  2. presumption
  3. impenitence
  4. obstinacy
  5. resisting truth
  6. spiritual welfare

Do you notice a common theme in these?  As the CE article states:

In every case analyzed above, we can determine that the only way any sin is truly unpardonable is if the person remains unrepentant. The reasons, as we have sorted through, vary from envy to despair. Each is caused by a hardness of heart, which is directly opposed to meekness. Meekness is that beatitude that mollifies and softens what has become calloused by deep, unhealed wounds. Our models for meekness, of course, are Jesus and Mary.

How does the Rosary teach us about meekness and avoiding behaviors that lead to an unforgiven sin?  Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery and the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days after losing Him in the caravan.  They did whatever they needed to do to find Jesus.  We too must do whatever it takes to find Jesus when we lose Him by sinning.  We can’t have a hardened heart or the presumption that Jesus is okay with our behavior.  We must acknowledge our wrongdoings and come back to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Think about the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary and Jesus’ miracle at Cana.  We see Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and turn potential disaster (a wedding without booze, oh no!) into overflowing joy.  That miracle is a great metaphor for what happens to our souls in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  God, through the Holy Spirit, takes our broken, damaged soul and miraculously transforms it into a pure one filled with hope, joy, and grace.  Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle at Cana.  And, whenever we enter that confessional, we ask Him to perform a miracle too.

Next we turn to the Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary — the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Why is a hardened heart such a grave offense?  Remember, the Holy Spirit is one part of the Holy Trinity.  So rejecting the power and authority of the Holy Spirit is rejecting God.  And what’s mortal sin but the total rejection of God?  By thinking that God can’t or won’t forgive us, we reject His supremacy over His creation.  We are saying that we, the created, are capable of actions that are beyond God’s control.  When we pray this Rosary mystery, let’s not only think of the Holy Spirit as our guide but also remember that He’s also God as part of the Holy Trinity.

Finally, the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crucifixion.  There’s actually two things to consider.  First, Jesus is so willing to forgive that He asked God to forgive the ones who crucified Him.  For most of us, our sins will probably never be as grave as murdering God’s begotten Son.  If God can forgive that, He can forgive anything we do.

Also, the criminal crucified next to Jesus simply asked Jesus to remember him.  And Jesus proclaimed that the criminal would be with Him in paradise.  Again, ask Jesus anything with a meek and humble heart and Jesus will respond.

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I’ll end on a more light-hearted note.  Here’s a clip from The Simpsons about the limits of God’s power.