The Rosary Response to the Extreme Abortion Position

It’s a Mad, Mad World

There are many concerning events transpiring in the United States right now. I subscribe to CatholicVote’s The Loop email newsletter and the headlines I read just seem to get crazier by the day. The best satire and comedy writers can no longer compete with the unbelievable things people do in the name of fairness, equality, and freedom.

What has really blown out of control are issues related to abortion after Roe vs. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court. There is growing violence against Catholics and pro-life organizations. And this isn’t just vandalism or random attacks from confused individuals — it’s coming from various levels of government. Most recently, a prominent pro-life leader’s home was raided by the FBI and he was arrested at gunpoint. His alleged crime? He pushed someone while protecting his son in front of an abortion clinic. It should concern everyone that no one at the highest levels of government thought these actions went too far.

Christian Persecution on the Rise

CatholicVote tracks the number of churches attacked since 2020. There have been 218 attacks since May 2020 with 80 of them coming in the last four months since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision was leaked.

Few people have been arrested in relation to these attacks and the police, FBI, and government officials are ignoring calls to seriously investigate and condemn these attacks mostly perpetrated by a group called “Jane’s Revenge.” As a thought experiment, do you think the government would have such a lax response if 200 mosques were attacked? What about 200 Planned Parenthood offices? I bet it would be the #1 story on the cable news networks if this were something other than Christan or pro-life buildings being attacked.

Law Enforcement as a Political Tool

It’s a dangerous precedent when governments don’t equally enforce laws. A vandalized or fire-bombed church should get the same level of investigation as any other building. When groups don’t get equal protection under the law, the law becomes arbitrary and turns into a political tool. The government is implicitly signaling, “if you don’t fall in line with our policies, maybe the law won’t be there to help you when you need it.” Some of the ugliest points in history occurred in societies where the law was applied differently to different groups.

As we get into elections, there are many abortion-related bills in many states. In a way, this is good and was one of the main points of reversing Roe vs. Wade. There should never have been a one-size-fits-all federal law governing abortion but it should be something figured out at the state level by the citizens. The pro-life movement had a victory at the federal level, but now we have to take the fight at the state level. We have states like California that want to push abortion access to extremes. Join in this Rosary novena to stop CA’s Proposition 1. Even if you don’t live in CA or the United States, a life is a life and needs protection. God will hear you even if you don’t vote in California.

They Know Not What They Do

Now, any website can post articles complaining about the sad state of affairs. But RosaryMeds is not any website. Let’s take a look through the lens of the Rosary. I can’t help but think of the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery when I read news of people creating such ugliness and chaos because they don’t like or understand someone’s beliefs. Jesus was crucified because those in power felt threatened by his teachings. And those in power today feel threatened when they no longer control an issue like abortion at the highest levels of government.

On the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When I read about these vandals and domestic terrorists attacking pro-life organizations or politicians pushing extreme abortion laws, I try to understand that they don’t truly understand what they are doing. They are so caught up in the “us vs. them” tribalism that they fail to understand the pro-life position or the states’ rights ruling of the Supreme Court. Jesus prayed for those crucifying him. Jesus calls us to pray for the conversion of those who show so much hate. When we call upon God to help us, there is no soul he can’t touch.

Yes, The Rosary is The Weapon

Christian Confusion

There was an opinion piece by Daniel Panneton in The Atlantic trying to associate the Rosary with Christian extremism. I’m not linking to the article because I would rather not give it a higher search engine ranking. But many Catholic publications have mentioned it. I think it’s important to learn what many people visualize when they think of practicing Catholics. We need to be aware so we can defend ourselves and also pray for those who hate the Church.

Atlantic Article Blasts the Holy Rosary as ‘An Extremist Symbol’

As far as Catholic hit pieces go, this one was poorly written. It reads like Mr. Panneton did an internet search for “guns” and “rosary” and wrote down what he saw in 5 minutes of reading. He saw words like “weapon”, “breach”, and “legionaries” and took them literally. I bet he thought he stumbled upon a goldmine of information about the dirty secrets of Catholicism and couldn’t wait to share them with his readers. Unfortunately for him, the Rosary’s military roots are not only well known but celebrated.

Celebrating Victory

The Feast of the Rosary is October 7 which is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. Catch that? We honor the Rosary on the day of a military victory. Not only that, but many saints and our Holy Mother referred to the Rosary in military terms.

  • “The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.” – Saint Josemaria Escriva
  • “The Rosary is the Weapon.” – Saint Padre Pio
  • “The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell” – Mother Mary in one of her promises to those who pray the Rosary.

Hiding in Plain Sight

To think that we aren’t fighting a war against Satan shows just how well of an adversary Satan is. It’s been said that the Devil’s greatest weapon is making people believe he doesn’t exist. Those who pray the Rosary know that Satan exists and there are evil forces at work in our world. They are utilizing everything they can muster to protect themselves and others. And while people don’t like to think about wars, violence, and evil, they aren’t things we can just wish away.

I carry my Swiss Guard rosary, a concealed carry rosary license, read Into the Breach produced by The Knights of Columbus, and try to faithfully live according to the Church’s teachings. I don’t think that makes me an extremist, but our society and culture have become so twisted and confused that anything the least bit normal will appear fringe.

I actually carry both of these items

Going back to last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!… Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” It sounds like Jesus was ramping up his disciples for battle. However, the way Jesus wants us to fight this battle isn’t with physical weaponry. He wants us to use a much more effective weapon — prayer and faith in Him. The Church, from its very start, knew it was going to have to fight for people’s souls. That’s not extremism, that’s just Christianity.

The Rosary Is Not Jewelry

That being said, I will give this Atlantic piece some credit. Mr. Panneton talks about people glamorizing the Rosary by literally associating it with weapons by taking pictures of rosaries wrapped around guns. And while there is probably an extremely small group of people who do this, I think we all know someone in a much larger group who have rosaries hanging on their car’s rear-view window who never pray it. What these groups have in common is that they are placing too much value on the physical rosary and not enough on Rosary prayer.

The rosary isn’t a magic talisman that we wear or carry to ward off evil. Nor is it a chant that when said just right protects us from evil. The power of the rosary isn’t in the beads or words, but in what it enables. It helps us form a powerful bond with God who protects us from evil. Mary gave us the Rosary so we may better know her son, Jesus, and come to love him and his Church. If you have a rosary somewhere, make sure you’re actually praying it. Don’t miss this great opportunity to form a relationship with God and relegate the Rosary to a decoration.

Praying for your Persecutors

I’m going to leave you with some thoughts on the Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging at the Pillar. I always pray this mystery for those who hate the Catholic faith and try to lead others into hating us too. I also pray for the misguided and confused, like our lost brother, Daniel Panneton. I think of the soldiers who brutally whipped Jesus to the point of almost killing him. They were just following orders or didn’t really understand who they were torturing. When I read articles like the one in The Atlantic, I become mad but also sad because I see someone who needs Jesus. Mr. Panneton and his base need our prayers for the Holy Spirit’s intercession and their conversion.

The Scourging at the Pillar, by Belmiro de Almeida

And in a case of unintended consequences, the sale of “military” rosaries increased since The Atlantic ran that op-ed. I guess not every Catholic has an ammo box full of rosaries like Mr. Panneton assumed and we could always use more.

Why Abortion Activists Target Catholics

Why Catholics?

One of my goals for RosaryMeds is to draw connections between current events in the world and the mysteries of the Rosary. We do not pray the Rosary in a vacuum but in the context of world events. This is what makes the Rosary such a great and powerful prayer. The mysteries, while remaining the same, take on new meaning and value as the world and our individual situations change.

There is no event in greater need of our Rosary prayers right now than the pending Supreme Court decision in the United States of America that may transfer abortion law from the federal government to the state governments. The prospect of states being free to limit access to abortion has set off a firestorm of attacks against pro-life organizations. The largest target of these attacks is the Catholic Church. But why do pro-abortion activists direct so much rage toward the Church? This Catholic Exchange article, Why Abortion Attacks the Church and the Eucharist, sheds some light on that question.

Rosary Meditation

It’s time to get out those Rosary beads. The article alludes to the Third Sorrowful Mystery beautifully:

Abortion is a new crown of thorns for our Lord, as His innocent children are senselessly killed, the very people He came to save.

When I chose the Third Sorrowful Mystery as my mystery to focus on in 2022, I never thought we, the people of this world, would be adding so many figurative thorns to Jesus’ crown in such a short period of time. Every time we sin, attack, or dismiss Church teachings and God’s Truth, we weave new thorny stems into this crown. Let us pray the Third Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary in sorrow for all the sins we commit against Christ our King.

We should also pray for the conversion of those who are attacking pro-life organizations and Catholic churches. Like the Roman soldiers who created a crown of thorns, I think many of these activists/terrorists don’t fully understand what’s going on. The soldiers and many of the Jews got caught up in mocking and then crucifying Jesus and probably didn’t give what they were actually doing much thought. I think the same goes for those who are attacking churches. They are being whipped up and acting without much thought on what exactly they’re doing.

The situation is going to get ugly in the near future for Catholics and pro-life advocates. Let us remember that things got ugly for Jesus too in his Passion. But all that ugliness eventually led to God’s glory. Let us continuously pray that the same happens to us.

Free Will and the Nature of Suffering

I’ve read many articles lately about suffering. It’s probably the cold, dark January weather that makes people dwell on the nature of suffering. Perhaps it’s the ending of Christmas celebrations that depress us a bit. Or maybe it’s that we’re going into year three of Covid craziness. Suffering is confusing. Why does suffering exist? Couldn’t God have created a universe where no one suffers?

I break down suffering into two broad categories. There’s the suffering brought about by nature often referred to as Acts of God. Think earthquakes, hurricanes, and typhoons. Or illnesses like cancer or Covid. Perhaps it’s more mental like depression or severe anxiety. I discussed this type of suffering in a previous article. We essentially attach ourselves so deeply to earthly comforts and the status quo that we suffer when something unexpected occurs.

Suffering By Our Actions

The second type of suffering is that brought about by decisions that either we or other people make. This type of suffering is essentially cause and effect such as:

  • Over eat = get sick
  • Don’t get enough sleep = feel tired
  • Get punched in the face = ouch!
  • Drive recklessly = crash
  • Insults and taunts = hurt feelings and sadness

Why did God give us free will knowing that such freedom would lead to self-inflicted suffering? Sometimes it feels like our lives would be better without so much freedom. How nice would it be if we couldn’t do anything that would hurt ourselves or others? But God didn’t do that. In His infinite wisdom, God made free will an essential part of His plan although He knew that it would lead to some suffering. He preferred a world with free will and some degree of suffering to one with no suffering and no free will at all. God’s perfect plan involves us to live in an imperfect world.

God desires us to be free above all else. He wants us to use that freedom and intellect to understand what is right and wrong. God set up the world so that we can see what is right and freely choose that course of action. God does not desire us to be slaves with no choice but to obey Him. Historically, it’s often the weak kings and leaders that resort to totalitarianism to keep people in line. But that is not what God desires. Good kings set up a kingdom where people will want to follow them. God, being King of the Universe, wants us to choose to honor and follow Him without coercion.

Unfortunately, we too often ignore what is good and use our free will to do the opposite. And that is where suffering creeps into our lives. We don’t follow our God-given intellect and commit sin. Suffering is the result of us choosing sin over following God.

Fortunately, our freedom swings both ways. We may choose to turn away from God but we can choose to return to Him, first through the Sacrament of Confession and then through the other sacraments. That is the beauty of free will — when we choose to honor God after choosing sin, He will always welcome us back. He doesn’t reject our choice to follow him nor does He hold a grudge.

Suffering in the Rosary

Let’s look at our 2022 featured Rosary mystery — The Crowning of Thorns. We have a choice to make every day — how will we honor God? Will we use our free will to make good decisions that bring us into closer communion with Him? Or will we dishonor Him through sin causing suffering? Jesus physically suffered when the Roman soldiers dishonored him by placing a crown of thorns on his head. We cause suffering when we dishonor Jesus by not seeing him in our brothers and sisters.

We need to choose our actions wisely. Much of the suffering in this world comes from peoples’ choices. With so much suffering at the hands of so many, it seems futile to think we can reduce it. I know I’ve said this story before, but when a fellow monk asked St. Francis what he could do to make the world more peaceful, St. Francis asked him to close the door softly. Basically, St. Francis was teaching that it’s the small choices and actions we make every day that affect our world. A world with less suffering starts with us choosing to honor God in all that we say and do.

Adam and Eve

Some of you astute Biblical scholars may ask what about the case of Adam and Eve? God designed a paradise for them. Wasn’t His design to have humans live with no suffering? I would argue that a world without suffering was the intent, not the design. For Adam and Eve to truly have free will, there would need to be a choice to make. Without choices, could one really claim to have free will? Furthermore, God created a world outside of the Garden of Eden; a world of hardship and toil. I think that God’s design included free will and consequences for not honoring His commandments as Adam and Eve unfortunately demonstrated. He didn’t desire Adam and Eve to suffer no more than he desires us to suffer. But like physics, our actions have reactions. Sin brings forth suffering. Virtue brings forth grace.

You had one commandment!

2022: The Year of the Third Sorrowful Mystery

I’m going to try something a little different with my Rosary prayers starting this year. In addition to my daily Rosary prayers, I’m going to dedicate this year to a single mystery. I’m going to pray that decade every day. Each year, I’ll change the dedicated mystery. That means I’ll have a different mystery to pray for the next 20 years! And who knows, maybe some future pope will introduce more extending my run.

I see dedicating a year to a particular Rosary mystery like how the Church dedicates years to a particular theme. For example, 2021 was the Year of Saint Joseph. As someone who loves the Rosary, I think each year should be dedicated to a particular mystery and thereby providing an opportunity to dive into deeper contemplation. Approaching a mystery every few days is great, but reliving the same mystery every day is even better.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery

This year, I’m choosing the Third Sorrowful Mystery, The Crowning of Thorns, as my dedicated Rosary mystery. I think it’s important to ask myself every day, “How will I honor Jesus in my words, thoughts, and actions?” The soldiers crowned Jesus with scorn, contempt, and mockery in this mystery. This is how they “honored” Jesus.

I think this year is a good time to reflect on what I say and do. Do I honor God and not mock Him or make light of His importance? How am I treating others? Am I seeing Jesus in everyone and treating others with dignity, respect, and tolerance? Or am I like the Roman soldiers and choose to honor people with scorn and contempt?

Seeing God in Others

Honoring Jesus by treating others in a Christ-like way is difficult because people are difficult. Often, we want to respond to people in a similar fashion to how they treat us. Yelling begets yelling back. Insults breed more insults. Anger spawns anger. The key to living the Third Sorrowful Mystery is to not respond in the manner we are being treated, but in the manner Jesus would respond. Watch this short clip and see how Jesus responded to people who hated him.

Is it easy to act in a Christ-like way? Of course not. And that is why I’m contemplating the Third Sorrowful Mystery every day in 2022. I’m going to ask myself where I succeeded in seeing Jesus in others and where I fell short. Did I repay hatred with more hatred in thoughts and actions? Or did I make an effort to understand why someone may have acted a certain way in a difficult situation and let go of any thoughts of rage or retribution?

I invite you to join me in this year of contemplation of the Third Sorrowful Mystery.

How to Have Joy in the End Times

Fear of Loss

In 1992, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the New World, the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise was released. It wasn’t a great movie but there was a scene that stuck out in my memory as I was listening to Sunday’s readings at Mass. The Spaniards created a colony complete with buildings and a church made of stone and brick. It was quite modern and luxurious compared to the straw huts the natives lived in. But then a tropical storm hit wiping out all buildings and structures. It was devastating to the Spaniards who had devoted so much time and materials to their earthly paradise. The natives, having simple dwellings adapted for the environment, rebuilt their homes quickly and moved on with their lives.

This scene from Conquest of Paradise showed me the dangers of attachment to earthly luxuries. Inversely, it showed the freedom of living simply. Many of us spend so much of our lives accumulating things. Even if you’re not wealthy, you still have much to take care of — a dwelling, a car, clothes, phones, TV, etc. We also are concerned about our bank account balances, jobs, and bills. We live with the anxiety of losing these things and facing difficult times. Unfortunately, our media and politicians feed on this fear by promising they will provide security or that their opponents will take everything away.

End Times

In this past week’s readings, we catch a glimpse of the end times. These readings often conjure up images of darkness and suffering. And for many of us, it brings to mind the loss of our comfortable lives of readily available food and entertainment. Many of us can’t imagine a day when our phones don’t work, there’s no food at the market, and our hard-earned money disappears or is worthless. We fear that the lives we’ve spent a lifetime accumulating will disappear.

McDonald’s will survive but their sundae machine will still be broken

It is this human weakness towards earthly comfort that Jesus preached against. It’s what these end times readings address. To summarize, they revolve around the stripping away of all those earthly luxuries to live in the freedom Christ provides. The end of our worldly comfort doesn’t have to frighten us. Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospel that we will find greater treasure and comfort in Heaven than whatever the world can provide. He doesn’t want us to worry over the temporary loss of physical things because it will mean that the coming of something far greater is near.

The apostles at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion exemplify our fear of loss. They probably enjoyed their status of being close to Jesus when he was the rock star. But they scattered when “things got real” upon his arrest. They didn’t want to give up their status of being close to Jesus the celebrity and have everything, including their lives, taken away. I think we can all relate — it’s easy to say you love God and have total faith in him when life is good. It’s much harder when life starts to fall apart.

The Rosary Connection

When you meditate on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the crucifixion, think about how Jesus gave up everything worldly to follow God’s will. Jesus is the Christ, and yet he suffered a terrible death because he understood that God’s kingdom and the salvation of humanity are infinitely greater and more substantive than anything physical. The only worldly things Jesus had left at the end of his life were the cross, a crown of thorns, and nails driven through his body. He asks the same of us when he tells us to take up our cross and follow him. He implies that we must give up what is worldly as he did.

Does giving up everything sound impossible? If it does, you’re in good company. It was initially impossible for the apostles too. They just weren’t spiritually mature to understand the greater glory of God’s kingdom. But when they did understand it, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they gladly took the path that Jesus took — giving up everything worldly for God. The saints also took similar paths. And Jesus asks the same of us.

I’m definitely not there yet. I’m more like the apostles at Jesus’ crucifixion, not them after his resurrection. I can hardly go an hour without indulging in some luxury whether that be some screen time, coffee, or a snack. But it’s something that I do try to work towards through periodic fasting from food or screen time. I want to have that maturity to see the freedom and joy that comes from detaching from my “stuff.” It’s still a long road and I do stumble. But with God’s help, I do hope to have that outlook that Jesus asks all of us to have — total trust in God and living for His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

If You Want God, You Have to Put in the Effort

No Effort, No Goals

I coach youth soccer. My team is composed of 6 and 7-year-olds, many of whom this is their first time playing organized sports. Unfortunately, today’s kids don’t spend as much time playing sports as previous generations. The reason this is unfortunate is that they miss out on working hard towards something that is a little outside their comfort zone. The other day, my team didn’t score many goals in our game. However, they also seemed uninterested in playing that day. They sort of wandered around the field without that drive or that passion to play their best. They wanted to score goals and win but didn’t want to put forth the effort to make it a reality.

I think adults can often act the same way when it comes to their spirituality. We want to form a deep connection with God, but we don’t want to put in the work needed. We wonder why it feels like something is missing in our lives and why it seems so unfulfilling. Or we look at the terrible news and get depressed or frustrated with the state of the world. But at the same time, we don’t pray, don’t participate in Mass, or receive the Sacraments. We want God to do something, just as long as that “something” doesn’t require extra effort from us.

Effort Rewarded

Let’s look at two women who exemplify what it means to put in effort in serving God and ultimately being rewarded for that effort. It meant that their earthly lives would be upended. They would face ridicule, sorrow, and a lack of earthly freedoms. They had a choice — would they put their faith in God and make the adjustments and sacrifices necessary to find greater joy and happiness? Or would they choose the easier, worldly path?

The first woman who had a choice to make was Bernadette Soubirous, better known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. By all accounts, she was just a normal girl from a poor family in France. But she then had an encounter with the Virgin Mary who asked her to return to the grotto where she was appearing and eventually build a chapel there. Whatever plans Bernadette had for her life came to an end when she accepted Our Lady’s requests. She became the subject of ridicule and much scrutiny from church and government authorities. She later entered a convent and died from tuberculosis. Saint Bernadette led a challenging life but she never stopped making an effort to serve God by doing what our Mother Mary asked of her. Like other saints, she put in the effort to form a meaningful relationship with God because she understood the value of doing so.

Full-body relic of Bernadette Soubirous. The photograph was taken at the last exhumation (18 April 1925). The saint died 46 years before the photo was taken; the face and hands are covered with a wax coat.

Think about Mary in the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. On Catholic Exchange, Romano Guardini has this to say about Mary’s decision in the Annunciation:

The lesson of the angel’s message alone should suf­fice for every one of the faithful who reads it aright; it is not the announcement that the divine decree was to be consummated in her, but the question of whether she agreed that it be so. This instant was an abyss before which one’s head reels, because here stood Mary in her freedom facing the very first decision on which all of salvation depended. But what does it mean when the question “Will you help the Savior’s coming?” coincides with the other question, “Will you become a mother?”

Why We Linger on Mary in the Rosary (catholicexchange.com)

I don’t think Mary’s plans included becoming an unwed mother to God. And then after Jesus’ birth, her earthly life wasn’t any easier. It was a life of concern and sorrow that we meditate on when we pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary Rosary. But Mary was ultimately rewarded when she was crowned Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery). She knows the value of doing God’s Will better than any other human. As Queen of Heaven, she is willing to help all of us find that strength to make that effort as she did so that we all may live in the joy of Heaven.

Spirit Willing, Flesh is Weak

When God comes knocking at your door with His plan for you, are you going to reject Him because it is difficult? Has God ever not rewarded those who make the effort to follow Him? If we truly believe that God offers us something 1000x better than anything we could create on our own, why do we have such a hard time committing to Him?

Think about the apostles in the First Sorrowful Mystery. I think we can relate to them. Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with him and instead they all fell asleep. These are the future leaders of the Catholic Church! And they knew Jesus was the Messiah and yet they still couldn’t muster the effort to pray with him or stand by him when he was arrested. They must have enjoyed being some of the chosen few to journey with Jesus when he was curing people and riling up Pharisees. But when things got tough, they couldn’t follow through. They wanted the honor of being apostles without making the sacrifices.

There’s Still Time

What about us? When God asks us for one hour a week to celebrate Mass, are we too tired or too busy? Do God’s requests interfere with a football, baseball, or soccer match? Are we like the apostles, wanting the benefits of being close to Jesus but lacking the will to do what he asks?

The good news is that there’s always time. The apostles may have shrunk away from Jesus’ calling in the Garden of Gethsemane but they made up for it after Jesus’ resurrection. They went to the far corners of the known world preaching Jesus’ Gospel and most of them gave their lives doing so. So maybe you haven’t mustered the strength to follow Jesus. The beauty of our faith is that Jesus always offers us a way to “get back into the game.” We can always receive Reconciliation, go to Mass, and pick up those rosary beads. Jesus will accept anyone willing to put in the effort whether they have 100 years left in his life or 1 minute.

A Church Asleep

We all want to do the right thing. We all want to be considered good people. But doing what is right and what is good has become a difficult, if not risky, lifestyle choice. In the aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic, we’re now experiencing what I’ll call the woke wave. We have groups trying to redefine what is right and good in ways that run counter to Catholic teachings. And while the Church has always been under assault, the Covid19 pandemic has weakened our ability to defend the truth.

Constance T. Hull, in her Catholic Exchange article, Christ’s Call For Us to Stay Awake, paints a rather bleak picture of the state of the Catholic Church. But you can’t deny her truthfulness. This Covid19 pandemic has weakened many of the faithful because we have lost touch with the cornerstone of our faith –– the celebration of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass.

COVID-19 has led many Catholics to wrongly believe that watching Mass on Sunday is good enough. I was saddened to see how abysmal the Easter turnout was at my own parish this year. The highest feast day of the year and there was plenty of room to spare at all of the Masses. This is what happens, however, when we spend a year telling people to stay home, or worse, that Mass isn’t a priority, but those shopping trips, family gatherings, group events, and even riots are acceptable over and above the sacramental life.

Constance T. Hull

The Importance of Catholic Identity

My wife and her family are from Poland. We joke that when you marry into a Polish family, you must become Polish yourself and raise your kids to embrace all things Polish. They express a strong cultural identity and sense of pride that rubs off on you. It was that identity that kept their culture alive when they weren’t a country and invaded by both Germany and Russia in the 20th century. Through hardship and sacrifice, they preserved their identity even when others tried to wipe it away.

I think the Catholic Church is under assault and many seek to wipe it off the globe. But the difference between the assault on Poland in the 20th century and the current assault on the Catholic Church is that Poland didn’t have smartphones and streaming video services. When armies march on your cities, you take notice and fight back. When there was a new season of The Mandalorian, we let the woke movement march right over us. We’ve become so pacified by our digital devices that many of us don’t realize that our faith is under attack. Poland had to face armies marching in and taking over its cities. The current attack on the Catholic Church is much more subtle but more dangerous.

Catholics are seeing the result of decades of soft teachings. We’ve been so afraid to talk about the truth that when the truth came under attack we didn’t know how to defend it. Worse, many of us didn’t even care to defend it. When was the last homily where you’ve heard your priest mention mortal sin, hell, the need to go to confession, the sanctity of marriage, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist? The Mass just became another streaming show on our phones and TVs and was one that many of us skipped in favor of The Queen’s Gambit.

A Church Asleep

Constance Hull compared the current situation to the apostles, asleep in the Garden of Gesthemenme while Jesus prayed before his crucifixion.

As He prays in agony to the Father, the Apostles fall asleep. Our Lord warns them to remain awake so they may not undergo the test. In other words, stay alert and spiritually prepare for we don’t know the hour of His return or testing. We don’t know exactly when persecution will come upon us and we as the Church will once more enter into Our Lord’s Passion. The Apostles continue to sleep despite Our Lord’s warnings for they were overcome with sorrow. The hour He repeatedly warns them about comes much quicker than any of them expect, so they flee.

Constance T. Hull

The world was unprepared when the pandemic first hit. We didn’t have the emergency infrastructure to combat it. We scrambled to find masks, ventilators, etc. Like the apostles, many Catholics were caught off guard too. Our spiritual infrastructure wasn’t prepared for the battles we now find ourselves in. We so readily embraced taking a vacation from our spiritual responsibilities that when the woke movement came in with their assault on core Catholic teachings, we were asleep like the apostles.

Your Rosary Meds

When you meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, ask yourself how you’ve been asleep this past year during the pandemic. Have you made an effort to go to Mass in person if you’re not in a high-risk group? Have you contributed financially to your parish if you have the means to do so? Have you put your faith in God’s ability to perform miracles in this pandemic?

Even if we’ve fallen short, we can take comfort in the fact that the apostles abandoning Jesus was part of God’s divine plan. Yes, it led to the physical tragedy of Christ’s death. But it also led to his glorious resurrection just as Jesus said it would and a renewed sense of faith in the apostles. Being asleep, physically in the garden, and then spiritually after abandoning Jesus became a wake-up call for the apostles. And wake up they did. They came back with renewed faith to evangelize and change the world.

Staying spiritually “awake” is challenging

Pray that we too, while we may have been asleep, like the apostles, during this pandemic, that we can bring the world back to Christ Jesus. We may have been scared like the apostles, but we also must have faith that all of this is part of God’s plan. The apostles needed to be asleep and abandon Jesus for God’s plan to manifest itself. And so we must have faith that all that is transpiring with the pandemic, the woke wave, and the assault of Catholic values will lead to an ultimate good that God has already mapped out for us.

What Shall We Do With Jesus the Messiah During Easter?

With Covid cases dropping in many places around the world and more people being vaccinated, I’m starting to hear how things will get back to normal again. Unfortunately, looking at the empty pews in the church at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, for many people normal means going to Mass only at Christmas and Easter.

We aren’t the first ones to look at the post-Easter Sunday as a return to secular normalcy. Some of the apostles also believed that they would resume their lives prior to following Jesus. Peter talked about how he would go back to fishing (John 21:3). In a way, it did seem like Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were just a moment in time for the apostles much like how Easter Sunday comes and goes for many of us without a lasting effect.

Simon Peter told them, “I am going fishing.”

Of course, Easter Sunday isn’t just a single day of prayer and celebration before resuming our normal lives. In fact, the Easter season lasts 50 days. Much like how Lent is 40 days of preparation, Easter is 50 days of celebration! That should be 50 days of continual prayer, reading scripture, and giving thanks to God. It’s not a time to go back to normal and forget about God until Christmas.

The Rosary

I know you might find it strange meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries during the Easter season. But I think we can meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery and the question posed by Pontius Pilate. It’s a small question, but worth extra thought.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

Matthew 27:22

Pilate’s solution was to let the people crucify Jesus. In other words, get Jesus out of the way. By getting rid of Jesus, Pilate thought he would rid the world of his teachings so things can get back to normal. The Pharisees would stop being called hypocrites. They wouldn’t bother Pilate about matters of little interest to the Roman empire. The people would go back to following the Mosaic Law instead of following Jesus’ teachings and questioning the Pharisees.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

Many of us act the same way after Easter Sunday. We just want to get Jesus out of the way and return to the status quo. Maybe it’s because we’re fatigued from 40 days of Lent and fasting. Or perhaps you didn’t fast during Lent and don’t want the Easter season to continually remind you how you fell short of your goals. Or you don’t want to think about going to Mass every single Sunday, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, praying, and all that other stuff the Church “makes” us do. Some of us, even the most faithful, want to get Jesus out of the way because Jesus’ way is a difficult one.

In this season of Easter, let’s not think of our faith as a burden and something to be avoided. Put yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the first disciples and think of the joy they must have felt when they learned that Jesus had risen. Were they confused and maybe a little scared? Probably. Did they immediately understand what it all meant? Not really. We may also be confused about what Jesus’ rising from the dead means to us. But like the early Church grappling with Christ’s resurrection, we have this whole Easter season to ask ourselves what we should do with Jesus.

Owning Lent

I’m always telling my kids that they need to show responsibility and ownership or someone else will. For example, owning their toys and games means not breaking them, putting them away, and not losing pieces. If they don’t take responsibility for keeping them functional, they will get lost or break. Or I may accidentally throw out a random, loose piece or someone will step on and break something carelessly left on the floor. The lesson being taught is that one way or another, something is going to happen to those toys and games. It’s better to be the one in control rather than leave it up to others.

Similarly to responsible ownership of things, we also have to own our faith. What I mean by that is that we need to actively manage or participate in it. But it’s something we often fail at. We sort of float through life, going to Mass on Sundays and saying a few prayers but not much else. When we go to Mass, we go into autopilot with the responses and listen to the priest the same way we listen to someone giving a lecture or presentation. We’re there physically but absent spiritually. And many times, we don’t go out of our way to attend Adoration or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Basically, we don’t give our faith a lot of thought.

Don’t be a Simon

We are often like Simon of Cyrene. He was forced into helping Jesus carry the cross. I like to think of him as someone who was there because he was curious about what was going on. He wanted to see who Jesus was and what was this big deal about him. I think he had no other plan than to passively watch the day’s events unfold. And the next thing he knew, the soldiers picked him out of the crowd and made him shoulder the weight of the cross. That was probably something unexpected and unwelcome.

Jesus said that we all must carry our crosses. But we have a choice. We can either choose our crosses or someone else will thrust one on us. In this season of Lent, we have many “crosses” to choose from. We can fast, abstain, and increase our prayers and charity. But the key is to actively invest in these practices to more fully embrace our faith and increase our love for Jesus. Otherwise, we become like Simon where hardships are thrust upon us.

In not embracing the faith, we may avoid the relatively minor crosses of Mass, prayer, fasting, etc. But we give up so much more. We lose the joy that comes from celebrations like Easter and Christmas and even Sunday Mass. Without the lows of fasting and the highs of celebration, we live in a flat desert of spirituality. We don’t feel connected to God or protected by Him. We are left to our own devices to face our often harsh world and the snares of the devil.

Active Faith in the Rosary

Compare Simon to Mary in the Second Joyful Mystery. She made a conscious decision to travel while pregnant and help her cousin Elizabeth. She wasn’t passive after the Annunciation but actively decided to serve others. It was probably an uncomfortable journey and a lot of hard work. But it was an active choice. It was a “cross” Mary wanted to carry.

Don’t let this Lent pass by. Own it. There’s still time to make a plan on how you want to make this time different and special. If you don’t already pray the Rosary daily, resolve to do it for the remainder of Lent. Make a plan to read Scripture daily, or fast, or visit a church and sit silently in prayer. Don’t be a Simon and think you can just observe Jesus at a distance. Be like Mary and the saints and actively embrace him.