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.

Blessed Are Those Who Believe Who Have Not Seen

I read this article on Catholic Exchange about the miracle of the “Dancing Sun” at Fatima on October 13th, 1917. On that day, 70,000 people witnessed the sun moving around the sky as if it was dancing. There is no scientific explanation about the event and believers and skeptics both witnessed it. The article said the following:

The sun moved around in a curious fashion. It became very bright and seemed to move around as no one had ever seen it. The best way to describe it was a “dance of the sun.” This day has been called “the day the sun danced.” 70,000 pilgrims witnessed the event firsthand. People from other villages also reported seeing the curious movement of the sun. Some were as far away as twenty-five miles. The event was reported in newspapers around the world and really cannot be doubted.

Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LCThe Day the Sun Danced Over Fatima

70,000 people! That’s a large athletic stadium filled to capacity. And yet many of us still have doubts about the existence of God, the power of faith, and following the teachings of Jesus. We doubt because we didn’t personally witness the event despite thousands of people saying it was true. It seems ridiculous that we discount the testamony of thousands of people because we didn’t experience it ourselves. If the events at Fatima don’t drive us to give Mary our full attention and really internalize Her desire for us to embrace Her son, Jesus Christ, what will?

I think of Fatima when I pray the Second Glorious Mystery of the Rosary — the Ascension. Many people saw the risen Jesus after His resurrection until His ascension into Heaven. But because we didn’t see Him with our own two eyes and it was nearly 2000 years ago (no smartphones and Twitter), Jesus’ ministry just doesn’t have a large impact on us. But should the fact that it happened so long ago really lessen the impact and importance of Jesus’ mission on Earth?

I think about the apostle Thomas who didn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he was able to personally see Jesus and touch His wounds. And Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). How many of us are like Thomas? Despite accounts from literally thousands, if not millions of people, over the ages, we still have our doubts about putting our lives entirely in God’s hands. We are like Thomas, clinging to our doubts because God hasn’t announced Himself in our lives to our satisfaction. That falls under the sin of pride — not accepting God’s ways but expecting God to conform to our expectations.

I also can’t help but think of the parable of Lazarus. The rich man, in the agony of Hell, asks Abraham to warn his sons about the consequences of not caring for those in need. But Abraham says that all they need to know has already been told to them through the prophets.

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Bible Gateway

How many of us act like the rich man and ask God to send some definite, irrefutable sign of His existence and love for us? I like to change the last verse a little by rephrasing it like this: “If we don’t believe in what is written in the Bible, expressed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or witnessed through countless miracles, we won’t be convinced if God hosted a podcast and posted selfies on Twitter.” We have all the signs and evidence we need to fully embrace God by embracing our faith. When you pray the Rosary, ask yourself, what is preventing you from fully embracing God?

Now look, I’m no saint and I often take my faith and God’s love for granted. I surely do not live each day with passionate faith that unquestioningly follows God’s Will. But when I pray the Second Glorious Mystery, I do remind myself that God has revealed himself countless times to humanity and I should take those signs as seriously as if God revealed them to me personally.

What the Fifth Joyful Mystery Tells Us about Patience

Do you often feel like God is taking His sweet time addressing your problems and concerns? Join the club. Looks like growing impatient with God is as old as the Bible itself. Abraham also got tired of waiting for God’s plan to come to fruition and see he tried doing things his own way. And in one of the mysteries of the Rosary, we see Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus in all the wrong places instead of the most obvious one.

This article on DesiringGod.org talks about how God told Abraham that his descendants will be as plentiful as the stars in the sky. But Abraham was already quite old and grew impatient waiting for God to fulfill His promise. Abraham tried things his own way only to find that it was not God’s plan. He was just too impatient to let God’s plan manifest itself. The article goes on to remind us that we do not see things as God sees them and that He has His reasons for letting things progress as they do.

God has not forgotten us. It’s not that our requests are unimportant. He will answer them in his own time (which is also always the best time for us). He sees what we cannot see; he knows the potential dangers and snares he is protecting us from. While we’re waiting, God is with us. He aches with us, cries with us, comforts us. He meets us in our pain and uses all our struggles for our good. One day, we will thank him for everything that he gave us, and denied us, on this earth.

www.desiringgod.org

Nearly every Rosary mystery contains some aspect of waiting, the need to show patience, and putting faith in God’s plan. Look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus for three days. That’s three days of wandering around a large city asking, “have you seen our son?” I practically have a heart attack when one of my kids is out of my sight for a few seconds at a busy playground. I can’t imagine the sorrow and frustration Mary and Joseph must have felt.

Once Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, Jesus tells them that he was at the temple because it was His Father’s house. I often picture Jesus in this Bible verse as being confused about why his parents would even think of looking somewhere else. Why did they spend all the time searching when the most obvious place would be the temple?

And yet, how often do we overlook the obvious and look elsewhere for answers and solutions to our problems? Like Abraham, we get tired and frustrated waiting for God’s answers and so we look somewhere else for help. That could be a self-help book, a “get rich quick” scheme, or falling back on habits or addictions like food, alcohol, or drugs. We consult our friends on social media and look to politicians to “save us” from whatever challenges we face. And all that time, God is right there in the Church which we often ignore. Ironically, we have the patience to try 100 wrong solutions but not the patience to earnestly wait for God’s divine plan to manifest itself.

When we pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery, think about all the time either you or people you know spend searching in sorrow. If they seem to be looking in all the wrong places, pray for them that they may turn towards God through His “house,” the Catholic Church. And pray for those who maybe aren’t ready to hear God’s truth as it may seem too harsh. There is a whole generation of “Nones” that are wandering in sorrow because they don’t want to accept the realities of God’s truth or His plan that leads to eternal joy in Heaven.

As a software engineer, I can spend hours and even days tracking down a bug in a piece of code. I run all sorts of test cases, profilers, and debuggers. I send emails and texts asking questions and receiving information all in an attempt to fix the bug. Often, the hours spent debugging result in a one-line code change. And once I find the solution I marvel about how obvious it was and wonder why I didn’t come up with it faster.

And so it is with our faith. When we look back on our lives, many of us will wonder why we spent so much time and energy finding joy in all the wrong places when it was right there in God’s grace. We will realize that the answer or “secret to life” was revealed to us every Sunday at Mass. Or God whispered it to us whenever we prayed to Him. Why did we not have the faith and patience to let the true plan, God’s plan, play out? Don’t look back at your life regretting the 100 “short cuts” to happiness that just got you lost. Start or continue on the true path, God’s path, so you won’t have regrets. You will have to be patient, but it will be worth it in the end.

Holiness is the Goal

I read this article on Catholic Exchange about how we should never give up striving for holiness. The author, Constance T. Hull, echos many of the same thoughts as Matthew Kelly in his book that I reviewed, The Biggest Lie in Christianity. Essentially, both talk about how life is made up of moments where we decide either to act holy or sinfully. Of course, the goal is to decide to make each moment a holy moment. Mrs. Hull makes these fine points as we strive for holiness.

  1. We cannot do it alone. It is only through Christ that we achieve holiness. In other words, apart from Christ holiness is not possible and it doesn’t even make sense. How can you be holy without dedicating the moment to Jesus Christ?
  2. We will fall daily. There will be times when we choose not to act saintly. It’s important to realize when we fall so we can analyze why we made that decision and how to not repeat it in the future.
  3. We must get back up. We can’t dwell on our sins. When Jesus forgives us through Reconciliation, He puts our sins behind Him. And we must put them behind us too and not let them lead us into despair.
  4. Seek forgiveness immediately. Part of putting our sins behind us to make forgiveness a priority. This means prioritizing the Sacrament of Reconciliation and setting things right with the people we’ve hurt through our sins.
  5. Holiness is the goal. It’s not just priests and nuns that must live holy lives. We are all called to be saints and we all have the ability to live as saints. But that doesn’t happen by accident. We have to make it a priority.

Enter the Rosary

The mysteries of the Rosary help us lead holy lives. I could pick any of the twenty mysteries and discuss how they touch on one of the aspects of holiness mentioned by Matthew Kelly or Constance Hull. Let’s look at a few. Think about how God calls you to holiness when you meditate on these mysteries.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple, always reminds me of our quest for holiness. This mystery is a story of loss, agony, and ultimately finding Jesus. And that’s what life is — a continuous cycle of losing Jesus through sin, suffering, and ultimately coming back and finding Jesus in His father’s house, aka the Church and Her sacraments.

I also can’t help but think of the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of Heaven and His call to conversion, and meditate on our call to holiness. Matthew Kelly explores this a lot more, but a central theme of holiness is allowing God to totally transform you. It’s not a minor change here, and a tweak there. Jesus asks us to dedicate our lives to conversion. That means changing from one thing to something completely different. We can’t be both saintly and worldly. We have to choose what we want to be and actively convert our actions from worldly ones to holy ones. Remember Mrs. Hull’s words — conversion to holiness is the goal for all us.

Lastly, let’s look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost. Mrs. Hull said we cannot become holy on our own. And that is why we have the Holy Spirit to guide us on our quest towards holiness. We need to be conscious of how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives as it will often be subtle. It won’t be through a burning bush, a booming voice in the sky, or an apparition. The Holy Spirit acts by providing opportunities to act holy, or implanting a quick thought on doing something nice, or providing a sense of peace and thankfulness towards God. We have to be open to the small ways the Holy Spirit nudges us towards holiness.

God gives us all of the opportunity and many tools to becomes saints. Are you taking advantage of all of them?

Holiness Is Possible

There’s a saying in the creative world that the artist is his own worst critic. Many people, when seeing the results of their efforts, focus on the flaws. A painter only sees a shade of color that is slightly off. An actor remembers that one line that didn’t quite deliver the emotional impact he wanted. A musician dwells on that missed note that no one else noticed. A software developer, see a working computer program, instead dwells on a few lines of code that feel hacked together. We all have our faults that gnaw away at us leading us to doubt our abilities.

What about our spirituality? How accurately do we see our ability to live in holiness? Do we think we have the ability to live holy lives? Or do we only see the challenges and limitations and think holiness isn’t possible? This is the exact question Matthew Kelly asks in his book, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler since he clearly states it in the first chapter. The biggest lie in Christianity is that holiness isn’t something we can achieve. And that lie has had a negative cascading effect on the world.

Buy it now on Amazon

Buying into the lie that we cannot be holy has prevented many of us from even trying. We look at the lives of the saints and think, “I can’t be like that.” And so we skip Mass, skip prayers, and go along with the secular crowd. Why choose a challenge that can only end in failure? And that’s the type of thinking Satan wants us to fall in to. If we give up on holiness we become susceptible to his influence.

Now, of course, the book (which is an easy read by the way) goes into detail on exposing the lie that we cannot achieve holiness. Holiness is possible. Matthew Kelly explains that we need to practice what he calls holy moments — small instances when we act holy. We can start small with one or two holy moments per day — saying prayers, making a sacrifice, doing something nice, etc. We can then expand the number of holy moments. And guess what happens when you chain together enough holy moments? You have a holy day! Then a holy week, holy month, and guess what? You now have a holy life! And what happens when multiple people live in holiness? A holy world!

Holy Moments in the Rosary

When I think of holy moments when I pray the Rosary, I think of Veronica in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus carrying His cross. Veronica is the woman who wiped the face of Jesus during His passion. I consider it a pure holy moment. It was something small and mostly ineffective in relieving Jesus’ suffering. But she showed courage standing out from the crowd and possibly incurring the wrath of both the Roman soldiers and Jewish authorities to help someone in need the best she could. We may scoff and criticize the futility of Veronica’s actions. But who knows how many people she converted in that single action. Perhaps her example eased the fear others in the crowd may have been feeling at the time. And maybe many of those people went on to become one of the many of disciples that formed the early Church.

Matthew Kelly wants us to understand that there is no act of holiness too small. They all can have an impact, especially when combined. And there is no challenge too great that we can’t overcome if we leave ourselves open to God’s influence. When you pray the Rosary and meditate on the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, remember that we can all act like Veronica and stick out from the crowd. But first, we have to want to stick out from the crowd. It’s not easy to break out of our routines but that is exactly what God calls us to do. And that is why we pray the Rosary — asking Mary for her help to follow God’s plan. When we have as powerful of an intercessor as Mary, holiness is not only possible, it’s inevitable.

God’s Time is not Our Time

Lent is a great time to contemplate about the time scale God operates on. As I said in my previous post, our time frame isn’t God’s time frame. The way we look at time vastly differs from how God looks at time. What seems long to us — a day, a year, a decade, a lifetime, and even multiple generations is a passing instant compared to God’s eternal view of time. The entire age of the universe is but a grain of sand in God’s hourglass.

Lenten Challenges

I think back to fasting on Ash Wednesday. To me, it felt like a long day because I had small meals with no snacks in between. Throughout the day I kept looking at my watch. Was it lunch yet? Was it dinner? When can I eat again? Should I go to bed so this day will end? When you’re hungry, time seems to slow down to an almost unbearable pace. But you know what? The day of fasting eventually came to an end. I woke up the next day and was fortunate enough to eat a satisfying breakfast.

I gave up alcohol for Lent. I’m not a big drinker but I do enjoy an ice cold beer on the weekend or a glass of red wine with dinner. So 40 days without a social cocktail seems like a long time. The wine bottles in my house will be taunting me until April 21. But I have to remember that it’s only 40 days. Much like fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Lent will pass and I’ll be able to enjoy my weekend bottle of beer again.

Can’t have any of that sweet, sweet Duff.

Throughout Lent, we can begin to understand the finite time frame we live in and the infinite one of God’s. Much like our Lenten sacrifices and fasts, this life will come to an end as well. And all our suffering, both minor and major, will be over. And then hopefully we’ll enter into eternity in Heaven. Our lives may seem like a long time to many of us especially if we want God to immediately answer our prayers or perform a miracle. But God does answer our prayers, even if the answer for many of us is, “wait until Heaven; you don’t have to wait long.”

The Rosary

Let’s look at the Rosary, particularly the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. Picture Jesus carrying His cross. It must have seemed like an eternity of pain and suffering as He was whipped, beaten, and fell multiple times. The human side of Him must have wanted all that suffering to end instantly. But Jesus also understood that to God and His divine plan, Jesus’ suffering was ending instantly compared to the eternal majesty He would obtain in His resurrection and ascension into Heaven.

We may find ourselves feeling like we’re in a similar situation as Jesus carrying His cross. We may have challenges with our health, family, money, faith, or addictions. Relief never seems to come despite how hard we try and how much we pray. But God assures us that it will come to an end, even if it’s not in this life. We must remember that a lifetime of suffering is an instant compared to the eternal joy of Heaven. Like Jesus carrying His cross, we have to get back up and continue doing God’s will in this relatively short time we have in this life.

The 40 days of Lent may seem like a long time, especially if we’ve given up something that we really enjoy or taken up a practice that is hard to do. But let’s treat it as an opportunity to better understand how God works. Lent comes to an end in the joy of Easter. Just how joyful Easter feels depends on how hard we work on focusing on our faith during Lent. Think of Lent and Easter as a microcosm of life and eternity. Much like Lent, our lives will end. And it’s really not that long of a time we have so we must make the most of it. And when we do, we can enjoy living in God’s grace, both during Easter and in Heaven to come.

Rosary Prayer as a Process

When I look around my house, I see all sorts of bins filled to the top with toys and games. They belong to my boys and they’ve accumulated them over years of Christmases and birthdays. And besides the initial week or two of excitement, many of them go untouched for months. My thought is that because most of their toys are gifts, they don’t have any real emotional investment in them. But God help me if I throw one of their drawings or worksheets into the recycle bin. I’ve had to empty entire trash bins looking for my son’s random stick figure drawing or worksheet.

My little parenthood story outlines a greater insight into human behavior. We tend to value things more as we invest more in them. That could be an investment of time, money, memories, emotional energy, etc. What about our faith? Does the value of our faith increase the more time we spend in prayer? I certainly believe it does. And I’m sure those of you who pray the Rosary daily will attest to that as well. God designed faith as a process that we work on our entire lives.

Why does God choose to make our faith a multi-step process and not something more instantaneous? Why did Jesus heal certain people one at a time and not the entire world in one fell swoop? Or why do miracles come to a few and not to everyone who requests them? Like anything important, there’s value in the process. Things that are just given to us with no effort on our part aren’t as valuable as the things we work hard for.

When we make an effort to develop our faith, it becomes more valuable. Jesus didn’t come into this world to just give away faith. He knew that people wouldn’t value it if He did. Instead, He showed the benefits that came from having a deeper faith almost as a way of encouraging people to work harder at it. Remember, God gave us free will to choose whether to follow Him or not. But that’s not a binary decision. We also have the freedom to choose how much effort we want to put into our relationship with God. Hopefully, through Jesus’ teachings and example, we know that it’s important to invest in our faith development because it’s worth it.

In his article, No Soul is Too Far Gone, Francis Chan writes this about the power of perseverant prayer when he talked about praying for 30 years for the conversion of his childhood friend. Not only did the target of the prayers benefit when he was eventually baptized, but so did the person doing the praying as his faith must have grown through 30 years of prayers and intentions.

There is tremendous power in perseverant prayer. God is not like us; he is not bothered by his children asking for the same thing over and over. He is pleased by the faith demonstrated when we pray and pray for someone to be saved.

When we understand the consequences of rejecting Christ, and we are filled with love for another human being, persistent prayer should be the natural response. To this day, I still have questions about how the decreed will of God meshes with the effectiveness of my persistent prayers. For now, I’m more than content to obey and pray. Though I’m still uncertain how it works, I have seen it work. Meditate with me on Luke 18, trust the words of Christ, and then pray with sincerity and expectation.

Looking at the Rosary, I think about the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple. I think of Saint Simeon, a pious man whom the Holy Spirit promised would see the Messiah before his death. And while it doesn’t say how long he waited, I always picture it being many years. In that time he must have prayed regularly building up his faith in God’s promise. How much stronger was Saint Simeon from a lifetime of devout prayer than if God had immediately fulfilled His promise?

In the eyes of God, even the oldest and wisest are like infants. We must seem like babies whenever God hears us complain about why He’s not answering our prayers. What we do not see or understand is that He does hear us and answers our prayers. But it’s according to His plan, not ours. It’s by His timeline, not ours. We must understand that we often need time to grow and mature in our faith. And when we put in that time and effort, we see that God answers our prayers in a manner far better than if we would have received it immediately.

Don’t Lose Your Moral Bearings in the Darkness

Imagine you’re a pilot flying alone on a completely dark night with no instrumentation.  Envision how hard it would be to know your altitude, your level, and whether or not you’re about to crash into something.  In total darkness, with no visibility and landmarks for reference, there is a good chance the airplane will crash and burn.

Keep that airplane analogy in mind as you read this article about the Glamor of Evil by Dr. Gregory Popcak.  We all know about how we should avoid committing sin. That’s Catholicism 101; easy stuff. But you can also be seduced by sin without actively participating in it.  He writes:

Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.

Like the pilot alone in the dark, when we fixate on all the evil, darkness, and problems in this world we lose our moral bearings.  We can become disoriented in the darkness and start to lose hope, joy, and our faith.  We can no longer see the differences between good and evil because we’ve lost our spirital point of reference.  Our actions no longer seem to matter because we don’t see any goal or point to them.  Does it really matter what I do if everything is falling apart around me?

Being lost and aimless doesn’t usually end well.

Dr. Popcak tells us that we can’t let negative thinking completely envelop us.  Our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should act like a shining beacon, even in our darkest hours.  The beauty and goodness of our faith can provide all the guidance we need to find strength, peace, and maybe even happiness, even when our world looks nonredeemable.

When Good Things Turn Us Bad

I’m going to go one step further. It’s not just evil that can completely block us from whatever is good and godly. Neutral activities can also do the same. Consider social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle. On their own, there’s nothing sinful about them.  They allow us to stay updated on recent events and connect with each other. But for many of us, these seemingly harmless pastimes can consume 100% of our attention leaving room for nothing else. And when your world is completely consumed by Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, and MSNBC, you can stop seeing the genuine good in the world. You will either see a carefully curated goodness that isn’t real or you will just see everything as bad and hopeless and fall into despair.

As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, it’s important to not allow ouselves to fixate on what is ultimately unimportant. I know we want to buy presents, decorate our homes, and participate in all the other traditions associated with Christmas. But we can’t let the commercial side of Christmas blind us to the true meaning behind it. Because when you obsess over what to buy and what you want to receive, you leave yourself open to the sins of greed, envy, and even wrath. Want an example?  Look no further than the annual chaos around Black Friday and how people lose their moral bearings fighting over TVs and toasters.

The Rosary Connection

Look at the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.  I’m talking about darkness and the light in this article.  Well, in this mystery you see Jesus’ clothes literally become dazzling white (Mark 9:3).  And that, of course, got the apostles’ attention.  When you meditate on this Rosary mystery, ask yourself, is Jesus a dazzling beacon of love, hope, and goodness in your life?  Does He shine brighter through the darkness keeping you morally oriented toward His teachings?  If not, maybe you need to turn around or take off your blindfold.  Jesus is always present in our lives.  If you don’t see that “light” in the darkness, ask Mary for guidance when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, Her Assumption.  She wants nothing more than to guide you through the darkness to Her son.

Also, when you pray the Third Joyful Mystery, think of the wise men traveling through the desert to pay homage to Jesus.  They would have been wondering around aimlessly and hopelessly if it weren’t for a star to guide them.  Again, you have a point of light, a referrence point, which guided the three wise men to Jesus. Are you following the signs in your life which lead you to Jesus?

Why Men Especially Need Mary

As we approach the end of the year, I took a look at all the articles I saved and filed under “write about the Rosary connection to this someday.” Well, someday is now. It’s time to clean house. Since I’m on a Marion kick lately with the release of my latest video on the benefits of effective Rosary Prayer, let’s talk specifically about how men’s spiritually is completed through Mary.

In his article, Mastering Manhood Through Mary, Matthew D. Pride talks about how God created male and female to complement and complete each other. He explains how man and woman are made in God’s image, but so is their union. In other words, while man and woman are a reflection of God individually, their union creates another unique image of God.  Therefore, Mary is the spiritual complement to men.  He writes:

Mary is the Immaculate Conception, the New Eve, perfectly complementary to every human male. As the New Eve, Mary is our helper, perfectly compatible with every human male and yearning to help us master manhood to become who God called us to be in our families, in our marriages, and in society.

Spiritually, women form this unique reflection of God through their union with Jesus Christ. But what about men? Yes, of course, men can also have a deep spiritual bond with Jesus. But Mary offers us what I’ll call a better fit for men to come to Jesus. Since men and women are hardwired to complement each other, it makes sense that God would provide both sexes a spiritual complement to come to Him.

Not an Old Lady’s Prayer

After my latest presentation on the Rosary, many people commented on how nice it was to see men embrace and share their love of Mary and the Rosary.  These comments, while said with the best intentions, saddened me a little.  Many still consider the Rosary a women’s prayer, or to put it in a less politically correct term — an old lady’s prayer.  But this characterization of the Rosary completely misses the point and ignores centuries of history.

The Rosary is a weapon, a weapon of war both physically and spiritually.  Soldiers prayed it before the Battle of Lepanto and several other battles.  It gave Saint Dominic strength to combat the Albigensian heresy.  More recently, it gave Saint John Paul II the strength to fight the evils of Communism.  Countless saints did heroic acts with the help of the Rosary.  We should pray it daily before doing battle against sin, temptation, and our own weaknesses.  Does that sound like an old lady’s prayer to you?  If men are called to know God through Mary then men need to take up the Rosary.

The Rosary Connection

When you pray the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, The Annunciation, remember that God created Mary for a very specific and special purpose.  She was immaculately conceived so she could be a clear, unblemished window to Jesus.  God’s plan for Mary was more than just give birth to Jesus and then get out of the way.  If that was the case, Jesus could have just emerged mysteriously out of the wilderness as an adult as there would be no need for Mary.  The fact that Mary was part of God’s plan tells us something.  We should utilize the gift God gave us through Mary who willingly said she would be the servant of the Lord at the Annunciation (Luke 1:38).  God wants all men to know Him through our Mother Mary.

Pope’s November Intention: Use the Language of Love

Pope Francis’ November intention is “In the Service of Peace: That the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.”  Here’s a snippet of Deacon Ted Penton’s reflection on the pope’s message (the full article is found on Zenit).

Jesus didn’t allow Peter to defend him from an arrest by use of the sword. Nor did he call down legions of angels to save him from the Romans who tortured and executed him. Instead, he submitted to death on the cross. In some mysterious way, the Father used the death and resurrection of his Son for far greater purposes than any of his followers could have imagined. As Pope Francis eloquently stated, “In the silence of the cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.”

This reflection ties in nicely with my previous post about the sin of pride and the virtue of humility.  I also called out Jesus’ Passion as a time of peaceful and humble acceptance of God’s plan for us.  Jesus showed us that humility is the language of love that Pope Francis refers to in his November intention.  Because when we are humble we let God speak through us.  His words are not filtered and drowned out by our pride.  They aren’t muddled by our limited human minds.  Even when our intentions are good, we still don’t possess the ability to see the “big picture” and construct the same language of love and dialogue that is as effective as God’s Word.

There’s another aspect of the November intention I want to discuss.  We can’t confuse peaceful dialogue with weakness.  All too often, we have this notion that love means letting others roll over us and do as they like.  But look at Jesus’ example.  He was all loving but He was certainly no pushover.  He was unrelenting in preaching God’s truth and never backed down.  He never told sinners that their actions were okay.  But He did teach them what God desired for them and forgave them.  He did this in a loving way that drew people closer, not further away.  We too should imitate Jesus.  We don’t shy away from preaching God’s truth but we must do it in a way that also shows God’s love.

Jesus forgives the adulteress.

When we pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom and Heaven and His Call to Conversion, let’s keep the pope’s November intention in our hearts.  Let’s remember to make an effort to convert any of our ways that create conflict into ways that create and foster God’s love.  It’s not an easy journey letting go of our almost instinctive nature to fight hostility with hostility.  But think about Jesus being scourged and how difficult it must have been for Him not to fight back in a hostile way.  Ultimately, Jesus “won” because humiliation, torture, and death was not the end.  He found the strength to endure all of that out of His love for us.  We pray the Rosary this month asking God for that same strength to see that it is love, not hate, that will ultimately win and convert souls.