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.

The Value of Not Praying for Specific Outcomes

I’m going to talk briefly about politics. I know, I can hear the collective groan from you all because you’re sick and tired of everyone talking about the US elections. But please, stay with me as this ties into Rosary prayer and faith.

I can’t tell you who is going to win the presidency or which party will control the Senate after November 3. But one thing is certain — there will be a large group of people unhappy with the results because their side lost. And there were be others ecstatic because their side won. Some people will think their prayers were answered while others will ponder why God ignored them and would allow such an outcome. What is playing out in 2020 has happened thousands of times throughout human history.

Regardless of the winner, now is the time to learn this important lesson — we shouldn’t pray by asking God for a specific outcome to our concerns. That’s missing the point of prayer and reduces God to the role of a genie. Instead, we should ask God to give us strength, patience, and understanding to live with the outcome. The outcome of an election is manmade, but how we deal with it can be aided through God’s grace. God doesn’t favor one political party over the other. He sees all of us, whether we are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. as His children.

Like a parent watching children quarrel over a toy, God will let us fight and argue without intervening in some large, magnificent way. Because from God’s perspective, what we argue about in this world isn’t all that important. Yes, even something as worldly important as the US 2020 general election isn’t significant universally. Who we choose as president of the United States is minuscule in importance compared to the state of one’s soul. That is what matters most to God and should be of the utmost concern to us.

It’s not that I don’t care about the outcome of the election. I do. And I’m concerned about the direction the United States could go in after this election. But when I meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, I think about Jesus in the garden asking God to let this cup pass over him. Jesus asks God to find a way for salvation that doesn’t involve pain and suffering. And I pray that the outcome of this election doesn’t result in increased hardship and suffering. But Jesus also said that he would do God’s Will. I too ask that I will remain faithful to God’s plan for me regardless of how the world changes.

Let’s also think about the Fifth Luminous Mystery and the institution of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist and Holy Mass, Jesus is present with us. No matter how the world changes and what hardships we encounter, He is with us. We can always find him in the Mass. He is always waiting for us in the stillness of a church to come and pray. Even if governments try to inhibit our ability to visit Christ in the Eucharist, it’s nothing the Church hasn’t endured before.

I know this is a big ask. But please don’t put all your energy and focus into an election. Don’t stake your happiness on a particular outcome. Don’t give Biden or Trump all-consuming power over your emotional wellbeing. Don’t be a slave to the 24-hour news cycle trapping you in an emotional whirlwind to bump up ratings. The sure bet is to put your faith in God. In other words, “vote” through your actions that you want to send your soul to Heaven. That is way more important than endlessly worrying about who we send to the White House.

Include God in Your Suffering

My interest in ClickToPray ebbs and flows. Currently, it’s flowing and I’m using it to pray daily. The daily prayers are easily digestible and provide good ideas for further reflection. This morning’s prayer had a typo which at first confused me and then got me thinking. Without the typo, I probably wouldn’t have given this prayer much further thought. But with it, I started thinking about whether I’m including God in my daily struggles and triumphs.

I give thanks to the Lord for this new day, for this new week. All of these are opportunities for Christ to come to me, to receive his Spirit. In the face of situations of suffering that I do not understand and have difficulty accepting, I ask the Lord not to stay with me. I know that in your presence I will find peace. I offer my day for the Pope’s intention for this month. Glory Be…

https://clicktopray.org/august-3-morning-2/

It’s the “I ask the Lord not to stay with me” that contains the mistake. I’m sure the author probably meant to type “now” instead of “not.” But let’s consider the sentence as written. Ask yourself how many times, in the face of suffering, do you ask God not to be by your side? We may not tell God explicitly to go away, but we also might not ask Him to stand by us either. In other words, maybe we ignore God as we go about our business. We go to FaceBook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and maybe our family to voice our frustration in a cry for help. But how often do we include God with the challenges we face?

After reading this I thought about Jesus in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. I thought about His example of how we should act in the face of difficulty and suffering. Jesus didn’t complain to His disciples or vent about how he was being unfairly treated. Instead, Jesus asked God for the strength to do His Will. And while God didn’t save Jesus from a gruesome crucifixion, He gave Jesus the strength to endure.

The next time you’re facing a challenge or suffering, remember to include God in your circle of friends and family. Ask Him for help. It may not change the situation, but God may change the way you approach that situation. As the daily prayer says, He will give you peace.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Understanding

I’m going to explore the next gift of the Holy Spirit — understanding. Understanding is closely related to wisdom as well as knowledge. It shares many of the same attributes as wisdom such as engaging one’s mind. If wisdom is the desire to seek the truth, understanding helps explain the “why” behind those truths.

When I think about understanding, I think about my kids. I find it easy to resort to an authoritarian mode where I expect them to blindly follow my instructions. But it is far more effective to have kids understand the reason behind my requests rather than resorting to “because I said so.” Without understanding, we are in a mode of “because I said so” with God. Our Catholic Faith is reduced to a set of rules we follow merely to stay out of Hell. It’s the gift of understanding that elevates us to follow God because we can see the sound reasoning behind the rules.

Understanding allows us to see the world as God does in a limited way. We cannot comprehend all that God does, but the gift of understanding allows us to partially know and better appreciate God’s plan. The gift of understanding provides us that insight into God’s plan, and hence, passionately follow it as the saints do. Understanding is what moves us beyond obeying God because He’s the ultimate authority figure into wanting to follow Him because we know it’s ultimately beneficial to us.

Understanding in the Rosary

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery, Finding Jesus in the Temple. A young Jesus is asking and answering questions amongst the learned scribes and scholars. God doesn’t impart the gift of understanding solely through learned scholars. In this mystery, it came through a child. God has a tendency to pick unlikely messengers whether it be Moses in the Old Testament, Jesus, Saint Peter and Paul, and numerous other saints. God often imparts understanding through unusual means. When you pray this mystery, ask yourself, are you open to all the ways God is speaking to you? Maybe He wants you to better understand Him and you’re not open to the way He delivers His messages.

Another great Rosary mystery that focuses on understanding is the First Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden. Jesus begged God to find a different way to redeem the world but ultimately said He would do God’s Will. Jesus understood that God has a reason behind everything He does and allows to happen. Logically, we may not comprehend it or even agree with it, but it’s that gift of understanding that allows us to joyfully obey. It’s not blind obedience rooted in fear, but one where we know that what God asks of us is to our benefit.

Finally, contemplate the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion. On the cross, one criminal challenged Jesus to save them all from death. The other criminal humbly understood who Jesus was and didn’t dare question why Jesus didn’t save Himself or them. He simply asked Jesus to remember him. That’s the root of understanding — not treating God like some sort of genie who gives us what we ask for. Instead, it’s understanding why God does what He does and seeing the greater good that comes from it.

Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God.

Summa Theologiae (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3)

Understanding is not easy. Like children, we often want to do things our way and resist any authority that tells us otherwise. This is why understanding is a gift since it’s not something easily obtained by ourselves. But it’s important to understand the “why” behind our faith. Everything we believe and do as Christians has a reason. The more we understand those reasons, the happier we will be doing God’s Will.

Showing Humility in Times of Crisis

In my previous article on humility, I quoted Fr. John Tauler about how Mary was an empty vessel ready for God to pour His grace into Her. I’m going to continue discussing humility as I believe we are living through events that are calling us towards greater humility. And through greater humility, we can find peace in God’s grace.

On DesiringGod, David Mathis talks about how the early Christians practiced humility through trials and persecution. He says:

We don’t teach ourselves to be humble. There’s no five-step plan for becoming more humble in the next week, or month. Within measure, we might take certain kinds of initiatives to cultivate a posture of humility in ourselves (more on those in a later article), but the main test (and opportunity) comes when we are confronted, unsettled, and accosted, in the moments when our semblances of control vanish and we’re taken off guard by life in a fallen world — and the question comes to us: How will you respond to these humbling circumstances? Will you humble yourself?

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-do-i-humble-myself

I like the idea that humility doesn’t happen in a vacuum; that there needs to be some sort of outside source prompting us to respond with humility. In other words, it’s easy to think we are humble if there are no outside factors forcing us to act otherwise. Right now, there is a huge outside factor forcing people to choose whether or not to act humbly — Covid19. How can we use this current pandemic to respond to Jesus’ call to humility?

Previously, I discussed how our pride can fill our hearts and minds leaving no room for God’s grace.  Humility is accepting that we need God in our hearts if we’re to find true peace and happiness.  But it’s not just a pride-filled heart that can block us from living humbly.  Our fears and anxiety can block God just as easily as pride.  We need to avoid letting our fears build in a way that leads us to believe that we face these challenges alone or God is powerless to intercede.

Covid19 is the factor that really tests our humility.  It’s easy to say we’re humble when there’s no challenge.  But when there is widespread fear and panic, we now need to make a choice.  How much are you going to let fear and anxiety occupy your heart and mind and how much are you going to leave open for God to work within you?

I know many people ask in these uncertain times, why doesn’t God do something?  And we all look to the sky hoping that God will just make this virus disappear.  But looking for a global miracle may be missing the point.  We should instead be looking internally and seeing how God is working with us individually.  This is our opportunity to build our relationship with God through prayer and letting Him work in us and through us to build true happiness. Let’s not look only for a worldwide miracle in this time of hardship but also for the greater miracle of God’s grace transforming a humble and willing heart.

Look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane which we pray in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.  Jesus was afraid of what was to come.  But he didn’t let that fear entirely consume Him.  He took His situation as an opportunity to turn to God in prayer.  Jesus was humble enough to understand that He wasn’t facing His crucifixion alone and was left to His own devices to find a way through it.  Instead, Jesus put his faith in God’s plan for Him to see Him through.  Similarly, we should remember that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands, not our own.  That should actually give us a sense of peace knowing that an all-loving God ultimately is in control, not a virus and society’s response to it.

Remember, the Covid19 virus is a mix of biology and chemistry.  It is just one of many diseases or natural phenomena to worry about.  It’s also one of the many ways we can become distracted and not achieve the full humility that God asks of us.  At least Covid19 has our attention while many of the other distractions in our lives can go unnoticed.  Now that it has our attention, ask yourself whether you’re going to allow it to spark an interest in making yourself more humble by making more room in your life for God to work in you.

Any Time is an Ideal Time for Prayer

We all know someone who feels like they need to invest a lot of time and money before starting a new exercise regiment. Before doing that first squat, they need to buy the right shoes, clothes, activity tracker, weight set, and videos. It’s only when they feel like everything is in place that it’s the right time to start exercising. In the meantime, they pass up doing a few pushups, taking a walk, or many other exercises because they aren’t as good as the ideal workout they want to start.

I think the same thing can be said about the prayer life of many of us. We tell ourselves, “I’ll start praying seriously, attend Mass, and go to confession when…” And that when is often some sort of demand — when God gives me better health, when God gives me that job I’m applying for, when God helps me find someone special in my life. We constantly make excuses why now isn’t a good time to start investing in earnest prayer and spirituality. We tell ourselves that we have too much on our plate, we don’t feel well, we don’t know the right things to say, or we haven’t purchased the right prayer book and rosary.

In Learn to Profit From Your Spiritual Trials,  Archbishop Luis M. Martinez writes about how any time is the right time for spiritual unity with God. He said:

The best rule for the spiritual life is this: to receive, moment by mo­ment, whatever God sends us and to persevere at all cost with our soul united to God, in spite of all vicissitudes.

I like this idea of taking advantage of the current moment to build a stronger relationship with God. You don’t need to wait for the perfect time because the perfect time doesn’t exist. Bishop Martinez talked about how life is complex and “God affects us with the most varied invitations of grace and the Devil with his ceaseless solicitations to evil.” In other words, in every moment there are opportunities for prayer or excuses for not praying. Waiting for the right moment to start praying could be the Devil trying to lead you away from God’s grace. The Devil wants you to delay prayer until you find the ideal conditions because he knows you’ll never find them.

Your Rosary Meds

Look at the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation. By all accounts, Mary was taken by surprise by the Angel Gabriel’s proclamation that she was to be the Mother of God. We can picture many of us, in that same situation, probably thinking how the angel’s announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time. Many of us would come up with a list of excuses and tell the angel that while we’re on board with God’s plan in theory, to come back in a few years when we’re better prepared.

We pray the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary to ask God for the awareness to take advantage of every opportunity to draw closer to Him in prayer. We need to imitate Mary and accept God’s Will even if His timing doesn’t align with our expectations. We need to ask Him for strength to see past all the excuses and realize that the perfect time for prayer is now. It doesn’t have to be an ideal time and place. It can be a single Rosary decade, meditating on a Gospel passage, or saying a few prayers. They can be said at home, in the car, on a work break, or in bed. A prayer, when said earnestly, makes any time and place an ideal one.

Referring back to my previous article, Jesus took every opportunity to pray even when He found himself in less than ideal situations. In the First Sorrowful Mystery, we think about how Jesus knew His life was going to be taken in the most painful way possible. Many of us, when facing a huge challenge or sorrowful situation often run away from prayer. We do this because we are angry with God for putting us in a difficult situation or we don’t see the situation as an opportunity to build our relationship with God. Bishop Martinez said this:

How many souls think in times of desolation, as I have so often said, that all is lost, and that their spiritual life has gone to ruin! Invariably the exact opposite is the truth. If, in those moments, we would come to see with clarity the value of desolation, perhaps we might even cease to suffer, and then desolation itself would lose, at least to a great extent, its efficacy and worth.

It’s an odd Mobius strip of cause and effect. The best time to grow closer to God through prayer is when we are facing a challenge. Through prayer, that challenge or difficulty might be lessened. The more frequent the prayer, the greater the faith. And with greater faith comes a clearer perspective of life’s challenges and they can become smaller and less daunting.

In my life, perspective has been God’s greatest gift to me since I started praying the Rosary. The world around me hasn’t miraculously changed because I started praying the Rosary. But how I see the world has. I think I can better put the events of my life into perspective. I try not to worry about the small inconveniences in life and let them derail me from living how God wants me to live. And I also know that the “big” things in life are ultimately in God’s hands. The more I pray, the better perspective I have and the less life’s challenges worry me.

Not praying or delaying prayer is like wearing a blindfold. Every little inconvenience can be blown out of proportion because you have no sense of perspective. Or you may be blind to the fact that you aren’t living as God wants. Take the blindfold off by praying. You don’t need to wait for the ideal conditions to get started. Any condition can be turned into the ideal condition for prayer if you choose.

The First Secret of Spiritual Warfare: Total Trust in God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Out of The Routine Through Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholicism: Benefits Outweigh the Burdens

I came across this article about how priests are held to higher moral standards than a layperson. Because a priest is Jesus’ representative here on Earth via his vocation, he needs to be held to a higher standard. But I want to take this one step further. Are Catholics in general held to a higher moral standard than a secular person? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Why would someone want to practice a faith that adds more burdens to his life?

The Catholic Exchange article, The Holiness of Priests Makes the Entire Church Holy, talks about how priests are in persona Christi—in the person of Christ. This grants them great power. But to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. A priest must be that much more devout because he’s a greater target for Satan and he’s responsible for the sins of his congregation.

St. Anthony Mary Claret said it would be better to leave a town without a priest than to have one who is unworthy. “If God does not send me men who are truly called, God himself will have to take care of the men and souls by means of his angels. A call is God’s gift. I must not bring the unworthy into the sheepfold to destroy it instead of tending it.”

When we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember to pray for priests. We promise to follow God when we’re baptized. But priests have a responsibility to guide us in our journey. They have an awesome responsibility to lead us in the right direction by teaching God’s Truth. A priest that doesn’t take that duty seriously or abuses his position not only harms himself but harms those he leads astray. Priests need our support and prayers.

What about laypeople? Do we also have more of a burden of holiness than a secular person? After all, we skip Sunday Mass and we’ve committed a sin. But someone of a different religion is not committing a sin when they don’t go to Mass if they were never taught that rule. Other religions can essentially follow God’s natural law while Catholics have to follow all these other additional rules. Doesn’t that seem a bit unfair?

This question over Church rules relates to my previous article about the “Nones” who reject traditional spiritually because they just see it as a collection of rules, burdens, and responsibilities. Why follow a religion that tells you that everything you want to do is wrong? Isn’t it better to find a religion (or create your own) that doesn’t punish someone for being who he wants to be?

What the Nones miss, either when talking about the additional responsibilities of a priestly vocation or being a practicing Catholic, are the tremendous benefits of Christianity. God bestows His grace on you. He lays out a path for you to eventually spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Everything about God is about finding joy. And that’s something that magic crystals, breathing exercises, and new-age spiritualism can’t match.

To find joy in any relationship, you have to follow some rules. You can’t have a meaningful relationship with a spouse if you’re selfish, uncaring, manipulative, or abusive. You have to put forth the effort to make the relationship flourish even if that means taking on some additional responsibilities. And the same goes for Catholicism. To have a meaningful relationship with God, you have to make an effort to make the relationship work. And that means committing yourself to follow God’s laws and understanding how they lead to eternal happiness.

When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember that Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom of Heaven. Finding joy in Heaven should be our main goal in life. We acknowledge that it will have its burdens and challenges but we ask our Heavenly Mother Mary for guidance and intercession. We pray the Rosary so that we may see how God’s grace is well worth any sacrifices we make or burdens we bare.

When you pray the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, remember that even Jesus was scared of doing God’s Will. He asked God to change the plan. But Jesus also understood that God’s plan would ultimately lead to joy, not just for Jesus in conquering death, but for all humanity. We have been redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and the gates of Heaven are open to us all. Jesus shows us how we must focus on God’s Will and not become discouraged by the relatively small burdens it places on us.