Defeating Pride With The Rosary

The next of the seven deadly sins we’re looking at is pride.  Many consider pride the worst of the seven deadly sins and also the foundation of the other sins.  Pride means putting your wants and importance before anyone else’s authority.  And what is a sin?  It’s putting your desires in front of what God wants.  When we sin, we knowingly act without regard to the consequences because we don’t accept any other law beyond our own.  According to C.S. Lewis, it’s pride that leads to every other type of sin because it’s the anti-God state of mind.

Pride is so deadly because, by its very nature, it remains hidden.  As Fr Dwight Longenecker puts it in his article on Catholic Exchange:

This is why pride is so deadly, because it is the one sin that hides itself so effectively. The proud person, by very definition, does not realize he is proud. If he realized he was proud he would repent, but it is pride which keeps him from seeing that he is wrong or sinful in any way. Pride is a very difficult sin to do anything about because the proud person will even go so far as to admit that he is proud, and that makes him even more “right” than he was before!

The Scriptural Connection

Look at how blinded the Pharisees were by their own pride that they could not accept Jesus’ teachings.  They dwelled on their own self-importance and their understanding of God and the Law that they couldn’t accept the teachings of a poor carpenter from Nazareth.  They criticized everything Jesus and His apostles did from breaking certain Mosaic laws to ministering to sinners; acts their pride did not allow them to do.  So indebted to their pride that the Pharisees didn’t even come to believe after witnessing Jesus’ countless miracles.

We turn next to Saint Paul, or rather Saul before his conversion.  Saul was a Roman Jew who persecuted the early Christians.  He was so blinded by pride that he refused to accept the teachings of the apostles to the point of killing them (poor Saint Stephen).  Saul justified what he was doing by claiming it was God’s work.  In reality, he was just keeping the status quo where the power of the Law was taught and enforced by those who believed they were important and holy enough to wield it.  Ironically, God physically blinded Saul on the road to Damascus to humble him.  That event led to his conversion.  Once a humble servant of God, Paul was able to preach God’s Word throughout the world because he could let go of his own self-importance.  He teaches to this very day through his various letters in the New Testament.

The Rosary Solution

Humility is the heavenly virtue that counters pride.  The humble heart thinks of others and understands and appreciates others’ talents and strengths.  It also allows us to put our faith in God by recognizing His authority over us.  The humble heart accepts Gods law while the prideful one fights and rebels against it.

Humility is the fruit of the First Joyful MysteryThe Annunciation.  Mary proclaims, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) when hearing God’s plan for her.  She doesn’t consider herself high and mighty as a prideful person would.  She doesn’t see God choosing her as some sort of award or even something to brag about.  Instead, she sees herself as the humble servant called to do God’s Will.  She doesn’t complain about God messing up her life’s plans.  Instead, she realizes that God’s plan is the best plan even if it’s unconventional.

Humility also shows itself in the Third Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crowning of Thorns.  It is a time when Jesus is mocked or tortured.  At that time, He could have proven Himself as the Son of God by performing any number of signs.  Jesus could have said that He didn’t have to take any more abuse from lowly humans since He was the Messiah.  But Jesus humbly lived out God’s Will by enduring mockery and torture.  Humility sometimes means suffering in doing what is right instead of constantly asking “Why me?  Am too good for this type of treatment.”  We should take Jesus’ example in the Third Sorrowful Mystery and always accept God’s plan for us even when it’s difficult or doesn’t make sense.

Ask yourself, are you humbly accepting God’s plan for you or is your pride causing you to rebel against Him?  Are you depressed or saddened because you have a hard time accepting God’s Will?  Ask yourself, is that your pride talking?  Humility isn’t something to fear.  It means greater freedom and comfort knowing that you are putting your life in the hands of some greater authority.  And what better authority to place your life than our loving God and His Church?

Coping with Controversy with the Rosary

These are unsettling times for the Catholic Church in the wake of abuses and cover-ups at the highest levels of the Church.  It’s hard to learn about such corruption by people who are supposed to be spiritual leaders in a Church that espouses such high moral values.  It can also shake your faith in an institution that is supposed to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

The cardinals and priests are spiritual leaders, but they are also human.  They carry the same weaknesses as you and I.  Those weaknesses include lust for power and the tendency to sin.  Unfortunately, people move up through the ranks in the Church the same way they do in business or politics.  They know what to do and what to say to move up the “corporate” ladder.  It’s a ladder that is ascended via politics, not neccessarily holiness and virtue.  While we hope that those who lead the Church focus on practicing a high level of virtuous behavior, increased power and authority often has the opposite effect.  Fortunately, our Catholic faith is made up of more than the collective virtue of those who lead it.

I’m not going to tell you to ignore what’s going on at the higher levels of the Church.  Ignoring the issues is what got us into this mess in the first place.  We, as a community of believers, must confront and address these issues.  But at the same time, we must remember that the cardinals, bishops, and even the pope, aren’t the center of the Church.  The Church is not solely a human institution.  It’s a divine institution with the Holy Trinity at its core.

When we pray, we don’t pray to the pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests.    We pray to God!  It’s an infallible and all-loving God that is the center of our faith.  The clergy are servants of God to guide us.  Our perfect God works through His imperfect vessels.  And no amount of human corruption can weaken God.  No amount of corruption can weaken His love for us and our desire to live in His grace.

Humans sin and we have to be accountable for our actions.  What I will call the political side of the Church will go through hard times in the near future.  But if you keep the right perspective, you will understand that the Church is far more than the sum total of virtue and sins of the clergy.  She hasn’t survived and flourished over the centuries because of clerical virtue.  She’s flourished because it’s God’s Church which can’t be destroyed by the inherent weakness of Her followers.

I think about the current difficulties the Church faces when I pray the Third Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — Jesus Crowned with Thorns.  I picture Jesus, battered and ridiculed.  I then think about our Church and how battered She is right now; ridiculed by the behavior of those who are supposed to honor Her.  Like the Romans paying fake homage to Jesus with a crown of thorns, we have clergy mocking Jesus by using His Church as a means to acquire riches and power and succumb to sinful weaknesses.

Christ Crowned with Thorns (Marten van Heemskerck)

But from the weakness, Jesus was ultimately triumphant.  There is an element of hope throughout the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  We know that Jesus’ Passion ends in joy and triumph in His Resurrection.  And we should know that the Church will ultimately be triumphant because that is what scripture and our faith tell us.  As we confront these dark times ahead, remember that the true center of the Church is Jesus Christ.  Our faith is built on Him, not on the imperfect, fallible humans who run it.

Striving for Manliness, the Catholic Way

Did I miss a memo from the Vatican? I feel like I keep coming across this theme of becoming a better Catholic man all over the place. First I found it on Catholic Exchange when I wrote 12 Ways to be a Better Catholic in 2016. Then a friend sent me a video about the need for authentic Catholic manliness. Was there some sort of synod or papal document released recently on this issue? Or is it the Holy Spirit gently giving me hints that this is a topic I should write about?

If you don’t feel like reading and just want to veg out for a bit watching a video, here is the one my friend sent me about authentic Catholic manhood:

A few thoughts.  I really like the part in the middle that asks, if you can’t resist all those little temptations how are you going to resist and protect yourself and others from the big ones?  This concept of mastering the small things to prepare for the big ones ties into why I keep pushing on the idea of regular rosary prayer.  I think we all encounter those moments of big crisis, temptation, despair, etc. at some point in our lives.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.  How much harder will overcoming those large challenges be if you haven’t proven to yourself that you have mastered the smaller ones?  How much more difficult will it be to pick up that rosary in your hour of need if you’ve never prayed it?  It’s the regularity of prayer and self-mastery which makes the big challenges in life manageable.  It’s the difference between seeing a large mountain from the base camp vs. already being 90% to the summit.  Start the climb now, whether it means resisting those small sins and temptations, fasting, or praying the rosary so that you won’t be starting from the bottom when life throws a mountain of challenges your way.

Another area I want to explore is why there is a cultural aversion to Catholic (or just spiritual) manliness.  Why is being strong in faith not considered manly?  I think part of it is that faith requires humility.  It requires acceptance that you cannot conquer every challenge on your own but need God’s help.  And like out of every cheesy romantic comedy, REAL MEN DON’T ASK FOR HELP!  Unfortunately, as the movie earlier in this article points out, so much of our image of manhood is shaped by popular culture, not by real interaction with real people.  So we develop this warped view that having a spiritual side somehow makes you weak.

"Put that map down! I know where I'm going."
“Put that map down! I know where I’m going.”

Okay, hopefully you’re reading this knowing that popular culture has the concept of manhood all wrong.  But how can the rosary show us what true manliness is?  The answer should be clear as most of the rosary mysteries revolve around Jesus.  What example is he setting before us?  I’m going to focus on the Sorrowful Mysteries given the challenges Jesus faced.  After all, it is in the times of great hardship that our true character shines.

  • First Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus prays for help and for a different fate but also accepts God’s Will.
  • Second Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus endures suffering.
  • Third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus endures humiliation.
  • Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus repeatedly falls but gets back up and moves forward.
  • Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus asks for God’s forgiveness for those who were crucifying him.

What picture do the Sorrowful Mysteries paint of manly virtue?  Humility, sacrifice, perseverance, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, and conviction.  Those are the attributes everyone, men and women, are called to show.  To steal the quotation from the opening of the movie, “You were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”  And greatness comes from embracing your faith and imitating Jesus, not just when it is convenient, but when it is overwhelmingly challenging.

Come on, you all thought of Tim Tebow when you thought of men praying.

We pray for those facing huge life challenges.  But we also pray that we all build up our spiritual strength by praying, faster, receiving the sacraments, and avoid sin.

5 Ways You Can Keep Religion Relevant

I came across this article the other day on the Drudge Report about how Americans are becoming less religious.  It read:

“The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God, while still high compared with other advanced industrial countries, slipped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study.  The percentage of Americans who pray every day, attend religious services regularly and consider religion important in their lives are down by small, but statistically significant measures, the survey found.”

Other headlines also found on Drudge:

  • Fatal rush-hour shooting near Penn Station
  • ZombiCon shooting leaves one dead
  • COPS: Thief stole operating room table from hospital!
  • CITY OF HATE: Breast-feeding mom mugged in Manhattan park…
  • COPS: Man killed for grabbing last piece of chicken at dinner

Anyone else making a connection here?  I’m not saying that correlation equals causation and that a loss of religion directly contributes to a raise in tragedies.  After all, the world has never really been a pleasant place.  However, I don’t know about you but I feel like the world is really falling apart at an accelerated pace.  I’m not just talking about large world powers colliding in global conflicts either.  I’m thinking more on a micro scale to individuals.  People seem to be much angrier and unhappy.  Everyone seems to fly into a blind rage at the slightest offense or inconvenience.  Or people are retreating into their own little worlds where they just don’t give much thought about their actions and who they may affect.  And this isn’t just me observing this.  Studies are showing a rise in death rates among middle aged, white Americans due to suicide and substance abuse.

 

While the decline in religion may not have a direct causation to the world’s problems, I bet that a return to religion would help alleviate some of them.  In these dark times we need to pray for those who do not practice their faith whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.  Or we need to pray for those who have twisted their faith into something that it is not.  We do live in dark times globally, but for many, individually as well.  And so we can look at Jesus’ example in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary for how we can approach these dark hours.

First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...

When the world or our individual lives feel like it’s in a downward spiral, we need to follow Jesus’ example and turn to God in earnest prayer like he did in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We ask God for the strength to endure whatever is ahead.  Keep in mind that Jesus was still arrested and crucified despite his prayers.  Those prayers didn’t result in God removing hardship but helped Jesus find strength.  Maybe he found comfort and courage talking to God in prayer, like a child holding a parent’s hand when they are scared or upset.  And so we can also find comfort talking to God in prayer in a world hostile to hearing and living the truth.

Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

When I think of all the anger and misery in the world, I wonder how much of it is self inflicted because people have turned away from their faith.  How many people find themselves unhappy for reasons they can’t explain because they stopping listening to the source of truth for true happiness, Jesus Christ?  We pray for those who suffer because they have turned away from their faith.  May they find that practicing their faith can provide the answer to their unhappiness and suffering.

Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns

The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus because they did not understand him or his teachings.  And so we find ourselves in a world that mocks Jesus and his truth because they do not know him.  Fewer people are taking the time to know Jesus through living their faith and turn to practices that dishonor him such as premarital sex, pornography, substance abuse, lying, cheating, stealing, cursing, and greed (to name a very small few).  We pray for a realization of the effects our actions have on others and a conversion of heart to Jesus’ truth.

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

How hard must it have been for Jesus to carry his cross among a crowd of people, many who supported him and many who had turned against him.  As we journey through this world, let’s not be discouraged by those who are mean to us, attack our values, or wish us harm.  Rather, may we find strength in those who want us to keep fighting the good fight, get up when we fall, and continue living our faith.  While it may seem like the Church is beaten down and her critics are winning, so did it seem like the Romans and pharisees had their victory the many times Jesus fell under his cross.  But we all know that in the end, Jesus found strength in his weakness and those who tried to hurt him ultimately failed.

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

Christ on the Cross cropped. Crop of old Mass ...

So many people stood before Jesus at the cross mocking him.  Today, so many people stand in front of his Church and mock her by living contrary to the truth.  But when the centurion, a Roman, at the cross witnessed Jesus’ death, he exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  Jesus, at his death and supposed victory of the pharisees over him, showed a glimmer of the victory that was yet to come by converting the heart of an unbeliever.  And so we hope that through our tireless example of living for Jesus we too can turn even the most hardened skeptics into believers.

Politicians: They Know Not What They Do

In my last article I discussed how the state of American political discourse has descended into a war of bill branding and news soundbites rather than discussion on Constitutional principles.  Specifically, I noted that large negative response many liberal politicians had on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.  Now it’s time to separate RosaryMeds from your run of the mill “this is what’s wrong with the world” blog.  While others report and complain about politics, I’m going to offer a solution — a prayer.  Specifically, let’s look at a mystery of the rosary for guidance in these worrisome times.

English: A cropped version of Antonio Ciseri's...

When I read about just how zealously many politicians elevate the role of abortion in our society I think of the Third Sorrowful Mystery — The Crowning of Thorns.  I think about how the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus in such a cavalier and dismissive manner.  Although they weren’t Jews, they must have known about the countless miracles Jesus performed which should have ringed warning bells that this wasn’t some mere criminal they were scourging and mocking.  The soldiers, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and everyone else involved in crucifying Jesus must have had some inclination that they were playing with fire by so brashly mocking the Son of God.

When I think of the Patty Murrays, Nancy Pelosis, and Harry Reids of our government, I wonder how many of them deep down in their consciences know that they promoting a great evil by backing the pro-abortion lobbies.  Like the Roman soldiers that mocked Jesus, do they have some inclination of the seriousness of their actions?  If their promotion of abortion isn’t born out of pure ignorance, do they know they are playing with fire by acting contrary to their faiths and natural law?  Like the soldiers who got caught up in the moment of mocking Jesus, are some politicians so caught up in scoring political points with their base and lobbyists that they never stop and consider the ramifications of what they are doing?

When you pray the rosary, especially the Third Sorrowful Mystery, pray for those who so brazenly mock Jesus’ teachings for worldly gain.  Pray for their conversion and an awakening to the damage their behavior creates both to themselves and others.  Pray that you personally always remember Jesus’ teachings and not get caught up in behavior that runs counter to it.  It can be so easy to casually mock Jesus through seemingly little sins.  But those little sins can really add up and over time derail you from the path God sets before you.  Be aware of your behavior and find the courage to ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever you act contrary to your faith.

Our Prayer

Forgive those Lord who misrepresent Your teachings and hide Your truth in darkness.  We pray for their conversion much like how You touched the heart and mind of your servant, St. Paul on the road to Damascus.  May those who harm so many in their blindness of earthly ambition end up saving 100 times as many souls in their conversion.  We also pray that we may never take Your truth for granted and casually ignore it.  Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary, please give us the strength to honor our Lord Jesus Christ with a crown of good works, love, and charity and avoid crowning Him with the thorns of sin.

A World on Fire

There has been so much happening at the intersection of politics and religion lately (it’s a block down the road from the intersection of crazy and truth).  We have the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, abortion standoffs, international issues in the Middle East, Obamacare’s HHS mandate, scandal after scandal, and immigration reform debates.  Political developments seem to come in so fast that if I took the time to write in depth about any one issue, a dozen more would come to the forefront before I could publish it.  So I will leave it to the political news sites to report on the details of these stories.  They have the resources and the audience to go into much more detail than I ever can.  I will stick with what I know — rosary prayer and meditation.

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Overwhelmed by all the bad news lately?

I think it is so easy to read the current headlines and get discouraged.  One would think that the world is on the brink of falling apart completely.  What is wrong or evil are considered virtues.  What was once thought of as good and decent are now seen as hateful and intolerant.  Common sense seems to be in rare supply.  Humanity appears to be in a tailspin from which there is no recovery.  But that type of thinking assumes that the current state of the world is somehow drastically different from the past.  It assumes that there was a time when all was good and peaceful in the world and that recent conflicts are the exception to history.  But can you think of a time in human history when everything was fine?  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the world has always been a violent, hostile, and illogical place, especially towards truth, values, and faith.

If you want to see how cruel this world can be to those of faith, you don’t need to look any further than the mysteries of the rosary.  First start with the easy ones — the Sorrowful Mysteries.  Each mystery shows how humanity treats the source of truth and love, Jesus Christ.  He’s betrayed in the First Sorrowful Mystery, scourged in the Second, crowned with thorns in the Third, carries a cross in the Fourth, and is crucified in the Fifth.  Not exactly a pleasant view of how humanity treats people of faith is it?  You can look at other mysteries too if you want to see how hard it has been to live morally.  When you pray the First Joyful Mystery, imagine how difficult it must have been for Mary, an unwed teenager, to learn that God called her to bear His Son.  Meditate on the Third Glorious Mystery and picture the apostles locked in a room out of fear of being found and killed by those who crucified Jesus.  History shows that following God’s plan often presents more challenges and defeats than victories.

End the end, we win!
How does it end? We win!

So what are we, as people of faith, to do?  Do we cast off our religious values and embrace the trends society embraces?  Do we hide our faith so that we don’t offend anyone?  Do we go on the offensive and use every dirty trick in the book to force a better world?  Again, we only need to look as far as the rosary.  When confronted with the difficult challenge of God choosing Mary to bear His son, she humbly puts her faith in His plan.  The apostles, when confronted by a hostile world, found strength in the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s Word.  And Jesus, in the Sorrowful Mysteries, endured the torture and insults the world flung at Him.  Even at His lowest moment in His Passion, Jesus never stopped loving and forgiving.  Jesus practiced what He preached even in His most difficult moments.  And so God calls us to act like Mary and say yes to His plan even when in conflicts with the social norms of our society.  We must remember, like the apostles, the Holy Spirit empowers us to proclaim God’s Word.  And Jesus calls us to imitate Him and live according to His truth despite the suffering the world will heap upon us for doing so.

It isn’t all suffering and defeat.  To end on a positive note, remember that this world and our lives are only temporary.  The entirety of human history is but a blink of an eye compared to the enormity of the afterlife.  The problems and turmoil of today, while they may seem large to us now, are nothing compared to the joy and happiness of Heaven.  That isn’t to say that we can turn a blind eye to this world and its problems.  But we must keep everything in perspective.  We fight the good fight but our goal is Heaven, not this world.  Remember, the crucifixion isn’t the last rosary mystery.  We have the entire Glorious Mysteries after that where Jesus conquered death and prepared a place for us in His kingdom.  Our end is not tied to a Supreme Court ruling or the HHS mandate.  Our end is not summed up by bills, laws, and elections.  Our final end is praising God forever in Heaven.  Keep that in mind the next time you read the Drudge Report and feel like throwing your chair out the window in despair.

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