Reading the Bible in a Year… Again

Bible in a Year

In 2024, I’m reading the entire Bible again. Longtime RosaryMeds readers, you may remember that I did this back in 2021. I think reading the Bible is something we should revisit periodically. Hopefully, I’ve grown in spiritual maturity since 2021 and so I’ll learn new things on this next reading.

When I first read the Bible in a year, I used the physical copy from the Augustine Institute. It was good, but I felt like the explanations and meditations that accompanied each day were too shallow. This time, I’m using the Ascension app and listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz read the Bible. The great thing about this one is that Fr. Schmitz provides much more in-depth commentary on the day’s scripture passages.

Build Strong Reserves

I’m starting my Bible reading now. I know there will be days in 2024 when I won’t be able to listen or read my Bible. I will have busy days or times when I just won’t have the energy to focus. It’s a good idea to have a few days “banked up” to stay on track. This is good advice for reading the Bible in a year and for many tasks and goals in life — get started early and build up reserves.

Building up reserve strength is also why we need to continuously pray the Rosary and receive the sacraments. As Mary promised, praying the Rosary builds up our armor against Satan. The more we pray, the stronger that armor will be. She promises that we’ll never be conquered by misfortune. We need to pray the rosary, not just when times are tough, but also when times are good to prepare ourselves for those tough times.

Thankfulness in all Circumstances

One point that many people don’t understand is that Mary doesn’t promise that we will never encounter misfortune or be tempted to sin if we pray the rosary. It’s important to understand that Satan is always out there trying to lure us away from God. And the world is an imperfect place where misfortune happens. What Mary does promise is that we’ll never be CONQUERED by misfortune and temptation. Why? Because we will have built up strong spiritual reserves through the rosary.

The second reading for the third Sunday of Advent provides a good roadmap on how we should approach prayer — pray without ceasing and in all circumstances, give thanks. The second part is difficult to follow, especially when times are tough. My lector workbook says that we should offer thanksgiving IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. When we pray, we must remember to thank God for seeing us through both the good and bad aspects of our lives.

Pray the Rosary early and often.

How to Pray the Rosary All Day Long

Feynman’s 12 Problems

On the Art of Manliness website, I read this article about Renaissance man, Richard Feynman. It talks about how he always kept 12 problems to solve in the back of his mind. They ranged from the very random to the very complex (he was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist after all). He didn’t deliberately try to solve these problems. Rather, he had insights going about his day that helped him slowly get closer to solutions. Even if he didn’t completely solve a particular problem, he enjoyed the process of thinking about it.

Feynman’s “12 problems” is one manifestation of the ongoing projects many of us have. Maybe you have a car you’re restoring that you tool away at a few hours every week. Maybe you’re building something in the garage or restoring an old piece of furniture. Or you’re like me and discover new ideas to write about. But any of us can make prayer into an ongoing project that we work on throughout the day.

The Rosary as an Ongoing Practice

I often do something similar to Feynman’s 12 problems with prayer and the Rosary. As I go about my life at home and at work, I come across various articles, shows, books, and podcasts. Many times, those articles remind me of aspects of Rosary mysteries. I can then integrate them into my Rosary meditations. They provide me with “prayer fuel.” This way, I’m not praying the Rosary in a vacuum of thoughts.

For example, I may read the daily Gospel and then listen to a meditation about the value of patience. That provides meditation content for when I pray the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary whose fruit is patience. One practice, reading Scripture, reinforces the other practice, praying the Rosary. This practice doesn’t need to confine itself to drawing exclusively from spiritual sources. I draw inspiration for Rosary prayer from secular news, books, and shows. My life provides fuel for my prayers and conversely, my prayers provide fuel to face the challenges in my life.

Facing Your Day through the Rosary

This is what I meant in my books’ introductions about the Rosary being the lens through which I see the world around me. No matter the situation, there’s probably a Rosary mystery I can look to that will provide me with guidance or comfort. This is why daily Rosary prayer is so important. You need to constantly add new thoughts and experiences to your prayers so they will grow with you. In a way, the 20 Rosary mysteries act like spiritual scaffolding. What you build on top of it will be uniquely personal because everyone has different experiences.

I challenge you to make the Rosary something persistent in your day. When you consume media and information, try to think about what Rosary mysteries they relate to. When you pray the Rosary, draw on all your experiences and present them to Mary. Feynman may have had 12 problems always on his mind to keep him engaged but you will have 20 mysteries!

Time-boxed Rosary Prayer

I changed my morning routine recently so I can make progress on my next book (there’s nothing like it out there; you’re going to love it). Instead of waking up early to pray the Rosary, I work on writing. I pray the Rosary throughout the day as time allows.

The challenge with praying whenever inspiration strikes me is that I don’t always have my beads with me or they aren’t convenient to pull out of my pocket such as when I’m driving or working around the house. I sometimes try to just keep the count in my head or use my fingers. But it’s amazing how quickly I can lose count when I’m multitasking. Losing my spot counting to ten may seem silly, but it happens quite often.

My solution to my elementary school counting problem is simple — pray the Rosary based on time, not count. I look at my watch or a clock, note the time, and pray a decade for 5 minutes. It’s not a hard 5, more like around 5 minutes. I may pray a few more Hail Marys or maybe a few less. But I probably average out to 10 Hail Marys. Realistically, at 5 minutes per decade I’m probably praying more than if I counted.

The beauty of this method is that I don’t get into prayer acceleration. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I’m counting anything, whether it be Rosary beads or exercise reps, I tend to accelerate as I get closer to the end. It’s almost instinctual to want to cross that metaphorical finish line quickly when it’s in sight. With the time-based Rosary method, I removed that urge to speed up. I pray at a constant pace; no shortcuts.

The other great aspect of the timed Rosary prayer method is that it frees me to just meditate while praying. Again, I can’t explain it, but not counting beads makes the experience feel less like checking something off my TODO list and more like quality time with God. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Family Rosary Prayer Ideas

This one is for you parents out there who are trying to pray the Rosary as a family. I prefer to say the Rosary alone either when I wake up or before going to bed. Trying to wrangle the kids took away much of the meditative and restorative value of the Rosary. But at the same time, it’s also important to teach children to love praying the Rosary, especially during Lent.

Here are some of Janele Hoerner’s ideas for praying the Rosary as a family.

  1. Build up to a full Rosary a day! One decade a day 5 times a week is a full Rosary a week.
  2. Say 1 decade 5 times throughout the day!
  3. Forget English – teach your children a new language!
  4. Listen to the Rosary to follow along – do not just say it yourself!
  5. Make it a cuddly atmosphere!

I have some of my own as well.

  1. Involve signing. Every fifth Hail Mary is sung.
  2. Include Scripture reading and/or a little discussion about each Rosary mystery. This gives everyone some more context and you’re not just saying prayers in a vacuum.
  3. Go around the room and have everyone state an intention or thanksgiving at the start of each decade.
  4. Don’t make the Rosary a form of punishment. It may be tempting to have kids pray a decade when they do something wrong so they can think about it, ask for guidance, or calm down. But they’ll just start associating the Rosary with being in trouble and that won’t lead anywhere you good.
  5. Strive for quality, not quantity. I think it’s better to have one good decade, with Scripture, intentions, and focus than to race through five decades on autopilot. Over time, you can increase the number of decades said in one sitting.
  6. Be excited about it. Children can sense their parents’ emotions. If you aren’t excited about Rosary prayer, how do you expect your children to be excited?
  7. Normalize it. Make Rosary prayer part of the daily routine. There is less chance of pushback if isn’t seen as “extra prayers.”

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.

The Importance of Asking God "Why?" through Rosary Prayer

Sometimes we face challenges in life that call for a little honesty with God. But this is something many of us, myself included, are often hesitant to do. If we’re angry or upset about something, we often don’t want to put that at God’s feet. I feel like I would be offending God by questioning His divine plan. After all, what gives me the right to complain to God about His plan for me; the perfect plan that ultimately leads me to Heaven?

I have a five-year-old son. He’s constantly asking why? But my answers always seem to be followed with yet another why? As a parent, that can be frustrating. But I often forget that I’m an adult who understands more about the world than a five-year-old. The why? isn’t he complaining or questioning me. It’s him trying to better understand the world around him. And maybe my answers are equally confusing. That is why he might continually ask the same question until he gets an answer that finally clicks with him.

The same can be said with our prayers to God. We do not have the knowledge or perspective that God has. And so we are left continuously asking Him why? Why did this person have to die? Why is my child sick? Why am I having problems at work? Fortunately, unlike the all-too-human parent, God has infinite patience with us. He doesn’t mind the why’s? and will always give an answer, whether we ask one time or a thousand times.

It’s that dialog with God that is the key. We need to continuously come back and ask God for help and voice our questions, frustrations, and thanksgivings. This is what makes daily Rosary prayer such an effective tool. The Rosary is one of the best ways to lay out all our concerns, frustrations, and worries and then listen to God’s response through meditating on the life of Christ via one of the twenty mysteries.

Many people complain about the repetitiveness of the Rosary. But take a closer look at this complaint. Most of us need to hear the same explanation repeatedly before it starts to make sense. We are like my five-year-old always asking why? We have to approach our problems, concerns, and thanksgivings from different perspectives. We have to search for that angle where God’s response will finally start to make sense. While there are only twenty mysteries, each one has multiple dimensions to be explored and pondered. We can come to those mysteries with the same problems repeatedly and each time, possibly gain just a little more insight into what God is telling us.

Sometimes, my five-year-old asks the same question because he didn’t listen to my initial response. His mind jumps from topic to topic and he often asks new questions before listening to an answer to the first ones. That can be true about our prayers too. I know I can race through Rosary mysteries without stopping to listen to God’s response. Remember, the Rosary isn’t some sort of point system where you level up by saying a certain number of Hail Marys. You pray the Rosary partly for help and guidance. And you’ll get those but you have to first slow down and listen.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong continuously asking God why? He won’t take offense because He understands that you are only trying to understand His plan. Don’t be discouraged if His answer doesn’t come easily. God’s perspective is infinite while ours is finite. It will take time to even understand a sliver of how you fit into God’s big picture. Keep up the prayers and make sure you slow down to listen to what God is telling you.

Get More from Rosary Prayer by Praying in a Church

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

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

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

Fr. John Kane

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

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

Putting the Rosary Ahead of Chitchat Before Mass

When I was in high school, I constantly saw people copying each other’s homework in the morning the day it was due. These typically weren’t the slackers either, but the honors students. They were the ones often overloaded with school work and extracurricular activities. There was this unspoken agreement that if someone could copy a few math problems one day, the other person could get a quick peek whenever he was short a few answers.

No one ever approached me to copy my homework. And it wasn’t because my answers were incorrect. They knew that my answer was going to always be “no.” At times I felt bad telling a friend who was at practice till 6 pm and had three hours of homework that they couldn’t look at my work. It felt unfriendly. But not participating in these cheating rings was the right thing to do.

This brings me to what I witness every Sunday before Mass. I see so many people chatting with each other. And these are regular Mass attendees who should know better. But there’s this idea that Mass doesn’t begin until the organist hits that first key and everyone stands.

Pope Francis tells us we need to resist this temptation to visit before Mass. He said:

“When we go to Mass, maybe we arrive five minutes before, and we start to chitchat with those in front of us,” the Pope said Nov. 15. However, “it is not a moment for chitchat.” “It is a moment of silence for preparing ourselves for dialogue, a time for the heart to collect itself in order to prepare for the encounter with Jesus,” he said, adding that “silence is so important.”

Pope Francis

I think many of us are afraid of coming across as unfriendly if we don’t chat before Mass. We think the person sitting next to us will think we’re snubbing them or are mad at them. But going back to my high school experience, do you know how many people gave me a hard time or put a lot of pressure on me for not letting them copy my schoolwork? No one. Deep down I think they knew I was doing the right thing and that copying someone’s work was wrong. They weren’t going to give me a hard time showing the behavior they wanted to show as well. The same goes for being silent before Mass starts. People understand that silence is correct pre-Mass behavior and won’t take offense if you don’t partake in the chitchat.

Want to provide a clear sign that you’re not going to participate in idle chitchat? Simply put down the kneeler and pray the Rosary. Trust me, no one is going to strike up a conversation with you when they see you on your knees praying the Rosary. And that is the type of preparation Pope Francis wants from us. We are taking the time to converse with Jesus and listen to God.

And what if you are the sort of person who likes to chat before Mass? In this season of Advent, I suggest trying to break that habit. Get on your knees and pray the Rosary too. Advent is a time of preparation and making room for God in our hearts. And that is exactly what we do when we pray the Rosary.

I love coming into a quiet church and praying. There is something so motivating walking into a crowded church and yet it is whisper quiet with pews filled with people praying. It makes me want to pray. And you know what? I usually find plenty of time for chitchat after Mass, outside the church. It’s a matter of priority. Your dialogue with God needs to come before the chitchat with your friends.

Rosary Hack: The Importance of Breathing

Zoom! That’s what many of us do now right? Zoom through everything? After all, we have to make every second count. Why waste time reading the full book when you can listen to the condensed audio version at 3x speed? Why watch a series over the course of months when you can binge watch it in a weekend? Waiting in line at the market for a few minutes? Might as well pull out the smartphone to read a few posts.

Everything in our lives seems to revolve around processing as much information and entertainment as quickly as possible. And who can blame us? There is a lot of information to take in. We live in an age where the entire history of human knowledge is available at our fingertips 24 hours a day. And new discoveries and media content are produced faster than we can possibly consume it. So we implement all these life hacks to just try to keep up.

This mindset of racing through information can also creep into our spiritual life. We may explore what hack can we apply to finish Rosary prayer in 15 minutes instead of 30 and still get all its benefits. To channel my inner Han Solo from The Force Awakens, that’s not how the Rosary works! There isn’t any way to hack the Rosary to race through it and still receive its many benefits. In fact, just the opposite is true. Any Rosary hack is intended to slow it down to receive maximum benefit. At its core, the Rosary is a meditative prayer. You can’t speed up meditation.

That's not how the force works  | THAT'S NOT HOW THE ROSARY WORKS | image tagged in that's not how the force works | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

In an article on Catholic Exchange titled Interceding for Others by Praying the Rosary, Father Edward Looney talks about a great Rosary hack to make it a more meditative experience — praying a Rosary litany. A litany is the practice of inserting a small phrase or intention after you say the fruit of thy womb Jesus in the Hail Mary. A litany was a practice proposed by Saint Louis de Montfort, an authority on the practicalities of Rosary prayer. It helps keep us focused on the mysteries by breaking us out of the autopilot mode we can sometimes get into when we repeat the same phrase. Fr. Looney goes on to suggest many different intentions we can offer up to God while praying the Rosary. Of course, I’ve written entire books with that very purpose — to provide intentions and prayers for those who pray the Rosary.

I like the idea of a Rosary litany as a means of slowing down Rosary prayer. If you don’t have a litany, here’s another hack you can employ– pause and take a deep breath after saying the fruit of thy womb Jesus. We so often forget that the Hail Mary is two sentences (angelic salutation and call for intercession) and tend to just merge them together. By taking a pause, even a small one, it helps us remain focused on the prayer.

Why is the pause so important and helps increase the value of Rosary prayer? Like knocking over a domino, it starts a chain reaction of events that deepens our relationship with Jesus. Let’s look at the chain of events that follow a pause.

  • You pause because you know you shouldn’t rush through Rosary prayers.
  • You remember that you shouldn’t rush Rosary prayers because the Rosary is a meditative prayer.
  • What do you meditate on? The life and teachings of Jesus Christ and ask Mary to intercede for us.
  • Why is the life of Jesus so important? Oh yeah! He is God made Man who came into this world so that we can have a closer relationship with Him.
  • How do we forge a closer relationship with Jesus? By knowing and following His teachings reflected in the Rosary.

That whole chain of contemplation and meditation stems from taking one small breath. Now that’s what I consider a great prayer hack!