Just One More Day: The Fifth Joyful Mystery

I coach youth soccer. I often see my players give up easily when something doesn’t come naturally to them. Someone may have a hard time passing the ball across the field. Or maybe they don’t dribble as well as some of the other players. So after having the ball stolen from them a few times, they want to stop playing because they’ve decided soccer isn’t their sport. They don’t understand that anything new will be difficult but they will get better if they stick with it. But it’s not just children that have a hard time staying with something that is difficult. Adults fall victim to this urge to give up when times are tough too.

I think many of us give up way too easily in the face of hardship. When facing a challenge, we may pray a Rosary or go to Mass and ask God for help. For many of us, the only time we pray earnestly is when we are facing something difficult. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But often we tend to think we’re holding up our end of the bargain with God and He better answer quickly. If God doesn’t deliver, we get upset believing that the whole prayer endeavor was pointless and give it up.

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days in sorrow. What if they had given up after one day of searching? Now I’m sure Jesus would have grown up just fine since he is the Son of God. But Mary and Joseph would have regretted not looking a little harder for their lost son. But as any parent knows, finding a lost child is too important to just give hope after a short period of time. They kept searching and hoping despite the fruitlessness of the first days of searching. And they finally found Jesus.

What makes praying to God frustrating in times of difficultly is that we don’t know when or how God answers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a chart we can look at to know when God answers our prayers. It would be convenient if we could look up the Catechism and see that one Rosary novena will yield a small request being granted within two weeks. But that’s not how God works. For some, it’s three days in sorrow, for others it’s three decades.

As much as we don’t enjoy hardship and sorrow, they are powerful tools that draw us closer to God. In realizing our sorrow and asking God for help, we also acknowledge our dependence on God. We realize that true happiness is something that comes through Him, not in our worldly institutions or through our own actions. Furthermore, in prayer, we may receive comfort, strength, and grace in ways we don’t even realize. We may be so focused on God wanting to address a particular sorrow, we overlook the other ways He may be answering us. At the very least, God may be giving us increased strength to endure our hardship for another day.

We have to realize that God’s timeframe and overall goal is much different than ours. We may hope or expect an answer in a matter of days. But it may be months, years, or an entire lifetime before we get an answer. But what’s a single lifetime in God’s grand plan? Even the most terrible human suffering will be looked at as a trivial inconvenience compared to the eternal happiness of Heaven. God often answers our prayers by putting us on a track towards Heaven. That may not require eliminating our worldly problems. The saints understood this and endured many challenges and sorrows because they knew that God was helping them and others achieve lasting comfort in Heaven.

When you feel impatient or hopeless over life’s challenges, meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery. Think about how Mary and Joseph didn’t give up finding Jesus and neither should we. And often, like Mary and Joseph, we’ll find Jesus and relief from our suffering in the most obvious of places — our Father’s house, the Church.

Pray the Rosary this October

Yeah! October is finally here. Besides the prospect of Holloween candy at the end of the month (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!), October is the month of the Rosary.

I’ve been on a bit of a Fatima kick lately. I’ve listened to an audiobook on it as well as watching a children’s series on Formed.org. And I’m going to watch the recently-released Fatima movie. What all of these accounts have in common is the focus on the Rosary.

When Mary appeared to the children at Fatima, she told them to pray the Rosary every day. Think about the weight of this request. This is coming from the mouth of the Queen of Heaven. Mary is the Mother of God. When she asks us to do something, it’s important and we better do what our Heavenly Mother tells us.

This October, pray the Rosary every day. It’s what Mary wants from us so that we can keep Jesus close to our hearts. I’ve collected Rosary resources from across the web on this website that can help you keep the Rosary fresh and engaging. If you need more of a reason than our Heavenly Mother requesting that you pray the Rosary, also consider the many benefits of praying the Rosary:

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. The Rosary will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death, they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of my only Son Jesus Christ.
  15. The devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Reprioritizing Rosary Prayer

As much as I would like life to go back to normal, we are still far off from returning to any form of normalcy. Many of us have seen drastic changes to our educational, social, professional, and family lives throughout 2020. It will take time for society to return to 2019 norms. And while this may not have made headlines, the largest disruption of 2020 for many of us was to our prayer lives.

There is a lot of depressing news out there. Of course, COVID 19 is the leading headline. But there are also racial, political, economic, societal, and climate concerns. Personally, because of poor air quality due to fires in my area, I haven’t been able to go outside for any meaningful length of time. That has taken a toll on my mental state. These headlines can become all-consuming because they are the only view into the world many of us have if we’re sheltering in place.

I think the reason news headlines affect our moods more than ever is that practicing our faith has become disrupted. Many of us can’t go to Mass or receive the sacraments. We start to digest all this news with a lack of spiritual perspective that usually comes through prayer. It’s God who helps us face this often cruel and challenging world with words of hope. He tells us through prayer that everything will be okay if we put faith in His divine plan. When we don’t see things through this spiritual lens, everything starts to look more hopeless and pointless.

I’m not proud of this, but my Rosary prayer hasn’t been very consistent in the last few months. I took a summer vacation from praying. My summer wasn’t great; it was a large slog of work and parenting. We didn’t have any exciting vacations and my kids didn’t have their usual camps. My anxieties were only amplified by the lack of daily prayer. I dwelled on things that I would normally shake off as no big deal. Because I wasn’t grounded in prayer, my wellbeing was at the mercy of the latest headline.

Starting last week, I rebooted my Rosary prayer routine. Now that my kids are back in school (remotely), I’ve arranged my schedule so that there is time in the morning to pray the Rosary. I integrate light exercise and stretches between decades followed with a cup of fresh coffee to wake me up. I start the day in a much better state when I’ve had some exercise, coffee, and the Rosary.

I had a choice. I could either lament the state of the world or I could change my routine. I chose the latter and that has made a difference. Of course, my day is still challenging. But I’m slowly finding that physical, mental, and spiritual energy to face those challenges. Restarting Rosary prayer hasn’t been a silver bullet, but it helps. And from the “silver linings” department, because of COVID, my parish has started live streaming all Masses, including daily ones. I’ve started participating in those daily online Masses increasing my spiritual reserves for the day.

As we approach October, the month of the Rosary, I suggest changing your routine to include the Rosary if you aren’t already praying it daily. It might make all the difference for you and those around you to include Mary and her son, Jesus Christ, in your day. Like a trusted friend, lay forth all your anxieties at Mary’s feet and ask for her intercession. You will be amazed at what she will do if you approach her humbly asking for help.

Rosary Prayer Resources for the Month of May

Naturally, in this month of May, we should turn our attention towards Rosary prayer. In our current situation, Rosary prayer takes on an even more important role. While skeptics will balk at what I’m about to say, our Rosary prayers and intentions are as essential as masks, ventilators, disinfectant, and a revived economy. Much like how all the masks and ventilators are keeping people alive and safe physically, our prayers are keeping us safe and strong spiritually. And what good is physical health without spiritual strength? We need both.

I’ve linked prayers that Pope Francis has asked us to pray at the end of every Rosary. Mary has always been a powerful intercessor throughout the ages. She loves to bring us closer to her Son, Jesus Christ. And what better way to show that love than bringing peace and comfort in times of distress.

The Vatican published a free ebook with prayers and homilies for difficult times. Naturally, anything papal isn’t going to be a light read. But please try reading a few pages every day this month in conjunction with the Rosary and additional prayers. Because a world united in prayer can’t be miserable and hopeless no matter what virus or situation we find ourselves in. The world has always been a tough place but the one constant through the ages is people finding peace and ultimately joy through God’s grace.

It’s Okay to Fall: That’s How God Builds Us Back Up

Jesus is a hard act to follow. Sure, we meditate about His human nature like how He was scared at the Garden of Gethsemane. We hear about His suffering and crucifixion. But Jesus is the Son of God; someone with super-human abilities that he demonstrated throughout the Gospels. Surely he must have had super-human abilities to deal with the suffering. We may profess that He was human in all ways but sin, but it’s still a difficult concept to fully believe. I think many of us hold to this notion that Jesus, while human, was stronger than we can ever be. We believe that our suffering must be greater than His because we don’t possess His divine faculties.

This idealized, almost magical view of Jesus leads to many of us having a hard time fully believing in God’s great plan. The Church teaches us that God doesn’t give us a larger challenge than we can handle. But when those challenges become too much, we start to question whether God expects too much of us. Is God overestimating our abilities? We can feel that God is even more distant because He doesn’t appear to understand us. We aren’t Jesus and yet sometimes we can feel that God expects us to act just like Him.

How can we live up to Jesus Christ Superstar?

This is why I appreciate the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. It lays out a template on how we can realistically imitate Jesus. When I meditate on this mystery, it tells me that it’s okay to fall under the weight of life’s challenges. Jesus fell multiple times under the weight of the cross. At one point He even needed help carrying the cross from Simon of Cyrene. Jesus, in all his perfection, had a hard time physically doing God’s will.

We will also have hard times in our life. We will have times when we feel like everything is knocking us down and the weight of our crosses is crushing us. And as much as we may not want to admit it, that’s okay. That’s us imitating Jesus.

Sometimes, life needs to knock us down so that God can build us back up. We have to let go of our preconceived ideas of how life should be so that we can leave room for God to work His grace. And for some of us, God needs to be more forceful by giving us a large, seemingly insurmountable challenge. And we may ask “why God?” or even become angry with Him. But at least we’re talking to God in these cases and starting a dialog.

In Jesus Walks with Us Even When Our Cross is Too Heavy, Jeannie Ewing talks about her struggles raising a daughter with severe medical conditions. She admits that there were times when it felt like God was putting too much on her. She lays out a road map for dealing with the crushing pain. And like many other programs, it begins with acceptance. She writes:

Begin by telling yourself that the burden you are carrying is too much for you to bear. It is more than what you can handle. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed of this, as if you have somehow lost the possibility of sanctity in your very human experience. Acknowledge your hurt.

Building a Spiritual Reserve

Look at the ordering of the Sorrowful Mysteries. The Agony of the Garden comes before Jesus took up His cross. The ordering is significant. Jesus didn’t begin praying to God when He fell under the weight of the cross. He prayed to God before His arrest. He asked God for the strength to do His will before the challenges set in.

We should take Jesus’ prayer example to heart. We need to pray and talk to God before the challenges of life occur. We need to prepare ourselves for whatever direction life takes us. This is why daily Rosary prayer is so important. It allows us to build up a spiritual reserve that we can tap into when life gets difficult. We need to meet God halfway. He’ll be there with us when life’s difficulties hit us in force. But we need to also be with Him; drawing on a close relationship with Him.

Faith — the building should never stop

The other great part of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is that there’s a flip side to it. We may be the Simon or Veronica to someone’s suffering. Someone may be praying to God for relief from sadness, pain, and suffering. But God’s answer may be to call on us to respond and help that person. We may be the miracle someone is praying for. But again, we have to be constantly praying so that we can hear God and respond to what he’s asking us to do. Sometimes God calls us to be a hero. But are we listening to the call in prayer?

We are the answers to other people’s prayers

Disclaimer

Here’s the lawyer disclaimer. When I talk about falling, I’m not talking about falling into sin. Jesus never said through his preaching or his actions that sinning is okay. He understood that we have a tendency to sin and he gives us the gift of Reconciliation for that. When I talked about falling in this article, I’m referring to feeling crushed under the weight of life’s challenges or trying to follow God’s plan.

The Tragedy of Having Too Much Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Secret of Spiritual Warfare: Total Trust in God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Out of The Routine Through Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.