Finding Hope When the World Hates You

Bad News

There seems to be so much unhappy news lately. But more than that, there is so much anger, rage, and despair as well. It’s more than just people getting angry over world events; we’ve been doing that for generations. What’s more concerning is seeing how people vilify each other and tear each other apart in reaction to the news. Whether it’s the tragedy in Afghanistan, laws in response to Covid19, pro-life laws, or California recall elections, I see more than just disagreement; it’s hate. It’s hard going through my day knowing there’s so much hatred towards my faith and morals.

For example, look at what’s happening with the heartbeat law that recently passed in Texas. It’s a law protecting human life. The people who support it have a noble intention — all human life is sacred and deserves protection. And yet, the pro-abortion crowd characterizes pro-life supporters as tyrannical monsters on par with the Taliban (while trying to downplay what the actual Taliban is actually doing). They hate us because we don’t condone murder. I don’t want to get into the details of this law. I could pick any headline (or better yet, events that don’t make headlines because they don’t fit the media’s narrative) and it will lead to the same outcome — people attacking each other over deeply held beliefs because they don’t align with someone’s political agenda.

Read this opinion piece in the Washington Post by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone. It’s about the Catholic Church’s history of defending civil rights when it was culturally unpopular. He makes a comparison between those events in the 1950s and what is playing out with abortion now. But if you have the stomach, look at a few of the 8,000 comments. You will see post after post of people attacking the Catholic Church, pro-lifers, conservatives, and anyone who doesn’t ascribe to a specific liberal, woke agenda. As a Catholic, it’s hard to read these comments and not become depressed that there are so many people out there who don’t just disagree with me but hate me because of my morals and faith.

Age-old Persecution

Is this rage and persecution of the faithful new? Unfortunately, it goes back thousands of years. Let’s take a look at Psalm 73. It’s a long one, but worth reading. King David asks why God allows such terrible things to happen to His flock, the faithful who follow him. Read and meditate on this.

Why, God, have you rejected us so finally?
Why this rage against the sheep of your flock?
Remember those you have gathered,
those who were yours from the beginning.
The stock you redeemed to be your own possession;
the mountain of Zion, where you chose to dwell.
Turn your steps towards the final devastation:
the enemy has laid waste the sanctuary.
Those who hate you have roared
in the midst of your flock.
They have set up their emblems,
taking the place of your own.
They have raised their axes high,
hewing the wood.
With hatchets and axes
they have hewn down the doors.
They set fire to the sanctuary,
profaned and trampled your tabernacle.
They said to themselves, ‘Let us crush them
once and for all.’
They burned to the ground
every shrine of God in the land.
Our emblems have vanished,
our prophets are gone,
and none of us knows any more.
How long, O God, will the enemy deride?
Will he insult your name forever?
Why do you keep your hand away?
Why do you fold your arms?
God is our king since the beginning,
he has given us help throughout the earth.

Universalis: Afternoon Prayer (None)

I couldn’t help but think of Christians now and how our beliefs are being constantly profaned and trampled by politicians, the media, and anyone with a Twitter account. While King David may have been talking about physical tabernacles, sanctuaries, and emblems being destroyed, we can think about the spiritual, ethical, and moral emblems of Christianity that are under attack now. The powerful are destroying not structures (although look at the vandalism happening against churches), but people’s spirit and will to follow God’s Will.

Finding Hope

What’s my takeaway from all of this? Is there any message of hope? Can I see the rage over Texas’ pro-life law or the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and find something positive? You bet! I take comfort that King David saw similar events thousands of years ago. And yet, those faithful to God remain. The world has never been a welcoming place for God’s people whether they be Jewish or Christian. And yet, God has never allowed those forces to completely overwhelm and destroy the faithful. The hate and persecution will always be there, but so will God’s protection of His Church.

I know it sucks that we live in such difficult times. It’s even worse if these events directly affect you. Knowing that God protects His flock as a whole is little comfort if you’re personally suffering. I believe that the Church will live to see another day but that doesn’t make the insults sting any less. But that’s how martyrs are made — seeing that we are part of something larger than ourselves and committing to it, even onto death. We should take comfort and maybe even some honor knowing that we live for something greater than a politician, political party, or social fads. We live for a Church that God has protected for thousands of years. And while we may bend, He will never let us break. We endured when King David lamented in Psalm 73 and we will endure now.

Praying for Those who Hate You

As Jesus instructed us, pray for those who hate you. I can’t imagine the suffering that so many people carry with them because of their hatred. What’s worse is that much of their anger and hate isn’t based on reality, but false narratives and characterizations by people with ulterior motives. Those who spread lies to advance their interests also need our prayers. If you want to find peace in a world that hates you, you need to pray! It’s that simple.

While I don’t usually associate with Twitter, I found this post interesting.
Sue Perkins 💙 on Twitter: “Who shook the jar? https://t.co/Gzm26UTopH” / Twitter
Before you get upset over someone’s post attacking a deeply-held belief, ask yourself, “who’s shaking the jar?”

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.

Pray for Abortion Supporters to Convert Them

The focus at the end of January is on protecting the unborn.  January 22nd is a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and it’s bookended by pro-life marches on both coasts of the United States and throughout the world.  As I read news about pro-life rallies, the comment sections are usually littered with both support from pro-lifers and derision from the pro-abortion crowd.  It’s easy to feel frustrated when pro-life marches get no attention while other, smaller marches plaster headlines.  I want to try to explain the mindset of the pro-abortion lobby and tell you a way we can turn them around.

It seems pointless to try to argue or debate someone who is pro-abortion with scientific evidence or even basic ethics. For many of them, abortion rights will always be nothing more than a woman’s right issue.  Don’t get me wrong, women’s health and rights are important.  But the abortion issue covers so many other important issues of science, ethics, and morality.  When human life is at stake, it’s disingenuous to ignore sound ethical and scientific arguments.  Unfortunately, that is where we find ourselves because too many people are willing to accept and publicize the pro-abortion lobby’s limited scope of the issue.

English: Anti-abortion demonstrators taking pa...
English: Anti-abortion demonstrators taking part in the 5th Paris March for Life (Marche pour la Vie) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For pro-aborts, the abortion debate does not and cannot go any further than women’s rights. If they entertained even the slightest idea that abortion goes far beyond a woman’s right issue, they would have to confront questions that they would not have adequate answers to. They avoid this reality by making the abortion issue as tightly scoped as possible. This way, any pro-life argument becomes nothing more than an attack on women’s’ health or rights.  Any other argument is out of bounds and gets ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.

Think of the abortion debate like this. Imagine trying to describe the sport of snowboarding to people who have lived in a desert their entire lives and have never seen snow (let’s also assume no access to a television or internet). You can talk about the gear, the technology, the mechanics, and the fun of it all you want. They will just not understand you. They don’t have a frame of reference or any way to compare what they know from their experiences with what you’re describing. The same goes for the pro-life vs. pro-abortion crowds.  The abortion supporter does not see the issue beyond “a woman’s right to choose.” A pro-lifer might as well speak a foreign language or be from another planet because a pro-abortion advocate looks at the issue completely differently.

This is where prayer comes in. When words fail, prayer succeeds. You may not be able to debate, argue, or reason with pro-abortion supporters, but you can pray for them. The Holy Spirit has a way of breaking through where words, reason, and logic fail. The Holy Spirit talks to the soul in a language that is beyond linguistics. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need to come up with a convincing argument or coerce people into agreeing with Him. This is going to sound odd, but because the Holy Spirit can work outside of human logic, He can open people up to logic. In short, the Holy Spirit can help someone who never thought of abortion as a life issue start to see it as one. And when that wall falls down and the scope broadens, the logic, reason, and morality of pro-life argument can begin to take hold.

We pro-lifers need to perform these one-two punches. Reason, debates, and even 100,000+ people marches are not enough. Neither is retreating from the public square into the silence of prayer. It is prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to break down walls that will make the logic, debates, and marches that much more effective and ultimately triumphant.

And if you don’t believe me, just look at all the people who used to be pro-abortion supporters or Planned Parenthood employees who became pro-life advocates.  I have a hard time believing that it was reason and debate alone that steered these people away from the abortion industry.  The takeaway — no matter how fruitless the marches and prayers appear, they matter.  Keep it up.

Pope Francis Said What? — Contraception and Catholic Doctrine

Pope Francis. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

As well intentioned Pope Francis seems to be, he sure can generate a lot of misunderstandings of Church doctrine. I think it’s important to call out these instances and try to clarify them. After all, I don’t want the secular media, who aren’t the most Catholic friendly, having the final word interpreting the pope’s words.

While the pope’s supposed twitter war with Donald Trump has garnered a lot of attention, he also made statements about the use of contraception to combat the Zika virus in South America.  This didn’t get the amount of attention it deserves as it will live well beyond a few tweets between a presidential candidate and the pope. I fear the media will quote this in the future whenever the Catholic Church and contraception are mentioned.  Here’s the specific part of the transcript I want to focus on (bold is mine):

Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain): Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”

Pope Francis: Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Here’s the problem. Did Pope Paul VI actually permit nuns in Africa to use contraception? Pope Francis’ argument hangs on the premise that a previous pope had a doctrinally sound reason for doing so. Surely, Pope Francis can refer to some papal document from Pope Paul VI supporting this position right? But it looks like the pope has been hoodwinked by a Catholic urban legend. I came across a great article by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf that examined the root of the “Pope Paul VI permitted nuns to use contraception” myth.

English: picture of pope paul VI Español: foto...
English: picture of pope paul VI Español: fotografia del papa pablo VI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I encourage you to read the entire article, the tl;dr version is that the scenario of nuns in Africa using contraception was written as a hypothetical example in a theological article about the principle of double effect that was published two years before Paul VI became pope. Like any urban legend, it starts based on some actual event and then little changes to the details are applied.  Like a game of telephone, eventually the story the persists is nothing like the original. There’s even a similar version of this story except it’s St. John Paul II instead of Paul VI and Bosnian nuns replace African nuns.

I understand why the New York Times or the Washington Post may mistakenly report this myth as fact. After all, they probably think Nancy Pelosi is an authority on Catholic doctrine. But I would hope that the pope would be better informed and not repeat an urban legend as truth. What’s worse is that while the words attributed to Paul VI or St. John Paul II are myths, the words of Pope Francis are not. He actually said them and believes that they are rooted in Catholic teachings. I fear that over time the Paul VI myth will be replaced with Pope Francis’ own words.  After all, who needs to keep a myth alive when you have the words straight from the pope’s mouth?

The pope’s off the cuff statements create a challenge for those who want to show the world the reality, truth, and beauty of the Catholic Church.  When the truth in areas like contraception are blurred, it waters down the appeal of authentic Catholicism.  Going back to the book, Rome Sweet Home, that I wrote about recently, part of the reason the Hahn’s left the protestant church was because they started to see inconsistencies and too much gray area in the doctrine.  They saw the Catholic Church as an unwavering rock of well reasoned, biblical doctrine that created an opportunity to truly live in the fullness of God’s grace.  Catholic doctrine may not be the easiest to understand and follow, but at least it’s true.  Speaking of rocks, the office of the pope should be acting as the doctrinal cornerstone as Jesus commanded Peter.  That is why Pope Francis’ interviews, where he creates a lot of confusion, bothers me so much.  When the pope gives off the cuff comments, I feel like he weakens the divinely appointed role and power of the papacy.

Retable de l’Agneau mystique

Whenever I think of Church doctrine, my thoughts go towards the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.  I think that one of the reasons God assumed Mary into Heaven is because her duties as our mother extended beyond her earthly life.  God chose her to be our mother for all ages to come.  And like a good mother, Mary desires us to know our faith and see its depth and beauty.  There is so much misinformation out there about the Catholic Church, both intentionally and unintentionally spread.  It’s our responsibility to learn all that we can so we aren’t led astray into a false or watered down sense of our rich faith.  Holy Mary, we pray to you for guidance to learn as much as we can about the Heavenly Kingdom you so greatly want us to enjoy.  Amen.

What’s in a Name? Cecil the lion and the Natural Law

I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news.  I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time.  Why this case got so much attention beats me.  I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.

Over at CatholicAllYear.com, Kendra wrote an article titled Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion.  She recognizes the human need to acknowledge universal truth in a world that tries hard to suppress it.  She writes:

A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.

The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.

Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.

Here’s my take.  People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history.  Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder.  This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.

This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion.  Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost.  Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed?  Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow?  We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes.  We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know.  We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers.  It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it.  In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.

Early ultrasound
Dr. Sam Livingston, a promising young physician, killed and harvested for his organs

The RosaryMeds Prescription

Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on.  Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44).  It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy.  This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception.  We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.

English: Statue of the Visitation in the Churc...
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s dive deeper.  What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions?  What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong?  The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind.  When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil.  This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.

We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God.  When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth.  We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.


 

Notice anything different on the RosaryMeds home page?  More news on the new Meditations link coming soon.

Fear Not! RosaryMeds is Alive and Well

Last week I posted an article that looked like a takedown notice from the Department of Justice. It appears many of you thought the notice was real. Part of my intent of writing that article was to grab your attention and maybe even have the post go viral (which unfortunately didn’t happen). I wrote that article in response to some concerning news articles I read. Instead of jumping straight into commentary and risk just going into a snarky rant, I decided to write the fake takedown notice to set the stage (pretty clever huh?).

First, I have some thoughts about the responses I received regarding my fake takedown notice. The fact that so many people thought that it was real struck me as very concerning. I find it alarming that many people believe that the government is taking legal action against people simply stating their religious beliefs. I would like to think that in saner times people would have immediately noticed the ridiculousness of such a post. That tells me that for many, the loss of religious freedom isn’t something that may happen one day but is already here.

Also alarming then is that we are just allowing the loss of our religious liberty without putting up much of a fight. If my article was real as many people thought it was, then besides of few “that sucks” or “really??!!!” comments, people just moved on with their lives. After all, who do you complain to? Is it really worth anyone’s time and energy to make a lot of hay over some obscure blog site being targeted by the US government?  Do you really want to stick your neck out and potentially being singled out for government harassment? Not that I want marches on Washington D.C. over RosaryMeds, but I wonder how many little nibbles the government can take into our religious liberties before we find that it’s gone entirely.

Yeah, that will show 'em we're serious.
Yeah, that will show ’em we’re serious.

Now let’s back up to what originally prompted me to write the satirical takedown notice.  After the Supreme Court made its gay marriage decision back in June, I immediately saw numerous commentaries suggesting reforms on religious institutions that object to gay marriage.  These commentators want to see the removal of tax exempt status for religious institutions and banning government aid to private colleges that object to gay marriage.  This is on top of the fines the government is already imposing on businesses (bakers primarily) who have a religious objection to participating in a gay marriage.

One of the main selling points of gay marriage was that it wouldn’t affect religious institutions or people who have a religious objection to it.  I heard over and over how the Catholic Church would never be forced to perform gay weddings.  And while that may technically be true, it seems like what was being muttered secretly by gay marriage advocates was “the Catholic Church will never be forced to perform gay weddings because the government is going to shut them down.

This should all seem like a rerun (or a reboot) of ObamaCare.  When it passed there were plenty of assurances that Catholic hospitals would never have to perform abortions or employers would have to provide abortive contraception coverage.  And yet millions of our tax dollars go to Planned Parenthood and the HHS Contraception Mandate has gone to the courts multiple times (thankfully the courts repeatedly rule in favor of religious liberty).  It’s still very unclear whether ObamaCare does fund abortion considering that the Executive branch has a habit of unilaterally changing the law when convenient.  It seems like assurances that religious beliefs will be respected are just platitudes and don’t carry much weight once the law is passed.

“The government is taking away our freedoms. Change the channel!”

Whether it’s gay marriage or health care, the trend is clear — we are entering a period of increased hostility to organized religion, especially Catholicism.  I believe that many in power would love nothing more than to see Christian organizations vanish and to scare Christian people from publicly voicing their faith.  The political class loves the idea that something is right or wrong based on whether they can convince enough people to vote and pass a law or mandate.  They hate the idea that there are universal truths that exist outside their power to change when it’s politically advantageous.  And that is why they will use any cause, whether it be health care, gay marriage, immigration, gun control, assisted suicide, etc. to rally people against religious truths.  Because if religion can be relegated to a church for one hour on a Sunday, politicians can pass all sorts of crazy laws without being bothered with people bringing up the moral implications.

This isn’t about Catholics wanting to codify our beliefs into law.  It’s not specifically about gay marriage or health care.  This is all about Catholics (and religions in general) fighting to preserve our God given right to our religious beliefs without being persecuted by the government by having our livelihood threatened.  The last time I checked, there was no Constitutional amendment repealing the First Amendment which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

5 Ways the Rosary Offers Relief from Today’s Headlines

Meditation ideas on the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary for dealing with all the troubling news the world is encountering right now.

Lately there has been a lot of news that has many people thinking the world is falling apart. We hear of people suffering from natural disasters across the globe, atrocities committed by groups like ISIS across the Middle East, silly presidential election news (Trump?  Hillary Clinton’s favorite ice cream flavor?), and troubling social/political news about Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and ObamaCare. Basically, if you’re looking to get worried and upset about something, you don’t have to look much further than your Facebook news feed to grow a few gray hairs.

To me, praying the rosary is all about gaining perspective. And I think everyone could use a little perspective right now. I try to remember that the world has never been a perfect place and has been marked by problems both natural and man made. However, we live in a time when news has never been more accessible which means we get more bad news at an accelerated pace. Or we get a distorted view of the scope of outrage or support on any given issue. But thinking society is falling apart isn’t new.  Mankind has always had its share of problems.

Picture back to the time Jesus lived. If Facebook existed then people’s walls would have been filled with complaints about cheating tax collectors, Roman occupation, and corrupt pharisees. Furthermore, people were probably praying for the same types of solutions we pray for today.  Something to the tune of “Please God, make all our problems go away.”

Jesus did not come into this world to magically change the world with a wave of his hand.  He didn’t make all the Jews’ problems go away. But he did answer the people’s prayers. He did that not by making things easier but by challenging people to look beyond the troubled state of the world and their immediate, physical needs. He wanted them to concentrate more on the state of their souls rather than the actions of Cesar.  For example, he told the rich man to look beyond earthly wealth and to gain riches in Heaven by being charitable (Mark 10:17-31).  He said that those who are persecuted in this world will find glory in Heaven (Matthew 5:10).  He said that we all have to take up our crosses in this life so that we may find comfort in the next (Matthew 16:24-27).

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Glorious mysteries of the rosary and meditate on gaining a more heavenly perspective instead of dwelling so much on the today’s troubling issues.

#1. Live for something more than this earthly world

The First Glorious Mystery is about Jesus rising from the dead.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that our earthly death is not an end.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death was only a transition from his earthly life to his true, heavenly one.  Jesus’ rising proved that there is so much more to us than the physical realities of this world.

When we think about all the injustice, death, and suffering in this world we should remember that none of it will persist after our earthly death as we rise to new life in Jesus’ kingdom.  And while a lifetime of pain and suffering may seem like an awfully huge cross to carry, it isn’t even a measurable instant of time compared to the eternal joy and happiness Jesus prepared for us in Heaven through his resurrection.

#2. Pray for those have fallen

The Second Glorious Mystery is about Jesus ascending into Heaven.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and will judge the living and the dead.  This is important to understand because we need to pray for the repentance and conversion of those who live in sin and cause so much scandal, misery, and unhappiness.  It may seem easy to complain and become stressed over others’ misdeeds.  It’s also easy to ignore them and focus only at our own salvation.  But we do need to pray for them and always be an example to the world of Jesus’ Truth.  Because everyone, including those who live in sin, will one day stand before the Lord with their sins in plain view.  Since we are called to love one another, we should do whatever is possible so that everyone, saint and sinner alike, will enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.

#3. Let the Holy Spirit guide you

The Third Glorious Mystery is about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension.  We live in a difficult world but we can look to the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and courage to persevere and maybe even change the hearts of others.  I don’t think any of the apostles would have thought that they were going to change the world when Jesus first called them to put down their nets and become fishers of men.  But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit they did just that by boldly venturing out and spreading Jesus’ truth.

We too may not think that there is much we can do when we see what appears to be impossible situations to fix or the deep seated hatred in people’s hearts.  But the Holy Spirit does give us the power to live according to Jesus’ truth and to lovingly bring people into God’s grace.  Like when Jesus was here in this world, he did not provide a quick fix to humanity’s problems.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit won’t give us a quick fix either.  But if we have faith and let the Holy Spirit guide us, we can personally thrive and bring others to know Jesus Christ.

#4. Follow our mother Mary’s roadmap for happiness

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is about Mary’s assumption into Heaven.  God had a very special plan for Mary and her assumption shows just how revered and elevated she is.  She was not only set aside to be the vessel through which God would manifest himself in human form, but she was also set aside to be our guide and mediatrix after her earthly death.  Like with the Third Glorious Mystery, the perspective we should gain from this mystery is that Mary is always there to help guide us closer to her son’s love.  She has appeared many times with a message of hope, love, and a call to action for conversion.  Over the generations, she has laid out a roadmap of prayer, fasting, and repentance which we should follow.  While it’s easy to get down and think nothing we do can do that will make much difference, Mary says otherwise.  And we should all listen to our mother.

#5. Remember that you are protected

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is Mary’s coronation in Heaven.  We have to understand that there are evil force at work.  And Satan and his minions are playing the long game where they want you to focus all your energy on this world in the hopes that you will be led astray and become his slave for eternity.  He wants you to “go with the crowd” even if what is popular in modern society goes against God’s plan.  Or he wants you to fall into despair, blame God for all that is wrong with the world, and turn away from your faith. But Mary is a powerful queen who reigns in Heaven.  When we accept and live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom then we fall under Mary’s protection against evil and Satan’s influence.  No matter what transpires in our world we know that we will have protection for what matters most — our eternal soul.

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.

I stand with Archbishop Cordileone

Huzzah to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone!  For those of you who don’t live in the California Bay Area, the Archbishop has come under attack for clarifying specific teachings of the Catholic faith that high school faculty in the archdiocese must not publicly confuse or contradict.  You can read the full text of what will be included in the teachers’ handbook.  However, you might as well recite the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments because that’s basically what the archbishop is asking teachers to uphold in Catholic high schools.

This additional wording to the faculty handbook has caused quite a stir.  Archbishop Cordileone was already under attack from various groups because of his vocal stance on traditional marriage in the very liberal Bay Area.  Now many are upset because of his request that high school teachers not confuse or dilute the teachings of the Catholic Church in Catholic schools.  He’s not asking teachers to be saints or even practicing Catholics, but merely keep in mind who their employer is and what is expected of them in the workplace.  But in today’s world, asking Catholic schools to espouse Catholic teachings is considered controversial.

Crackers!

Let’s back up and look at other work environments.  Suppose I worked at a factory that made crackers.  I would have to follow the guidelines outlined by my employer and not do things that harm my company or consumers.  I couldn’t modify the cracker recipe to my liking.  I couldn’t tamper with the machinery.  I couldn’t sabotage or undermine the company because I personally don’t like the crackers being made or I prefer a different company’s crackers.   I would be fired for such things.  Most of us would be fired if our employers caught us saying anything nasty about them on social networks.

Now look at Catholic schools.  What is their product?  I would say it’s a Catholic education.  So employees (the teachers) have a duty to produce the best possible product for their employer.  Teaching personal opinions that are contrary to the Church’s teachings or watering them down sabotages that product and undermines the employer.  In other professions, such behavior would land you a pink slip.

I can sympathize on how difficult it must feel to work for an employer you may personally disagree with.  Or it may be tough to accept rules that have always been in place but never really clarified or enforced.  But no lay person has ever been forced to work at a Catholic school.  Working at a Catholic school truly is a vocation because teachers generally make less money and benefits than their public school counterparts.  And some people, who may be great teachers, just won’t flourish and be happy working under a Catholic employer.  Like with any form of employment, you have to ask yourself if it’s truly an environment you want to work in or if there is something else that would be a better fit.

My Story

I completely understand what Archbishop Cordileone wants to avoid.  I went to a Catholic high school with a very confusing Catholic identity.  It was a great school and didn’t do anything in open defiance to Catholic teaching.  But the focus on a truly Catholic education was missing. We had a one priest and one nun so there wasn’t an overt Catholic presence on campus. Furthermore, many masses on holy days of obligation were optional and held in the morning before classes started. Good luck getting a teenager to school on time, let alone an hour early. The masses that were held with the full student body were more like mandatory choir concerts as no one would be actively participating except those singing. High school students are just at that age where expressing faith isn’t very cool and doing so makes you about as popular as the student who sits in the front row of the class, raises his hand for all the questions, and gets A’s on all the tests.

I really wish there was a strong statement like the one delivered by the archbishop when I was in high school. I think a lot of students would have benefited from going to a Catholic school rather than a secular school (in practice) that had mandatory religion classes. Since espousing the Catholic faith wasn’t a priority at my high school I learned that it wasn’t something I should make as a priority in my life.  I basically bought into the idea that faith was something practiced in a church on Sundays and shouldn’t be made public out of the fear of offending someone. It took me a long time to realize the joy and freedom that comes with actively participating and celebrating the faith because of my experience attending a high school with a muddled Catholic identity.

I was in high school before the internet took off and no one had ever said the words social network.  Now we live in a world where there is a constant drumbeat of ideas that run counter to the Catholic Church’s.  I applaud Archbishop Cordileone for not allowing the Church’s core teachings to be drowned out by popular culture.  If the world is screaming and attacking the Church, the Church has every right, even duty, to shout back.

Do you stand with Archbishop Cordileone?  Take 30 seconds to sign this petition.